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Part Three  - The new Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

The purpose here is just to see how the new Planning Framework addresses some of the key issues raised in this submission. Planning implies a view about the future and because there is so much evidence that we should be preparing for a new economic and environmental order, it is worth seeing how planning should be done in future.

26   Where is the plan?

The NPPF highlights the need to have a plan as the basis for any and all developments.

“12. This National Planning Policy Framework does not change the statutory status of the development plan as the starting point for decision making. Proposed development that accords with an up-to-date Local Plan should be approved, and proposed development that conflicts should be refused unless other material considerations indicate otherwise. It is highly desirable that local planning authorities should have an up-to-date plan in place.”

The failures of COYC to agree a plan undermines the many statements which have emerged during the whole planning process to imply that the Germany Beck land is in some way allocated or officially ordained to become housing.

27   The Roles of Planning

The important roles of planning are set out in the Framework. Not proceeding with the present plan would appear to satisfy all of the defined roles rather better outcome as defined by these roles:

·         The economic role – A section of the landscape is ready to deliver economic benefits as a piece of preserved heritage. A revised plan can focus on the adjacent University and its strategic role in providing long term economic benefits. Housing suited to the needs of the neighbourhood should be considered in this new environment, rather than allowing a profit-maximising solution for the developer (see Rowntree trust and Barker reports cited earlier). The community is granting the permission and should have its requirements identified, discussed and addressed. At the very least, there should be an economic assessment of how best to use this area so that the question can be answered.

·         The social role – Germany Beck supports a strong, vibrant and healthy community with good housing, education, transport and recreation space. Building 600+ houses will not enhance this community and will overload many facilities. There is scope for organic growth to which the components for a healthy, happy society can grow.

·          The environmental roleThe Framework talks aboutcontributing to protecting and enhancing our natural, built and historic environment; and, as part of this, helping to improve biodiversity..’ Many of the points made earlier suggest that the proposed development with destroy or undermine the environment. There is nothing in the plans and layout offered to suggest that they have looked and solar gain, water conservation, ground-source heat pumps and other technologies advocated by the Framework.

 

28     Planning principles

And there is more clear guidance: We are offered 12 planning principles against which the poor performance of the present plan can be measured:

1.       Planning shouldbe “genuinely plan-led, empowering local people to shape their surroundings, with succinct local and neighbourhood plans setting out a positive vision for the future of the area.”

My proof of evidence submitted to the public inquiry detailed how poorly this had been done. The developers have continued with their policy of giving very short notice of their occasional displays. The idea that they have empowered local people to make their contribution is laughable. The local population have not been  offered any choices. Where are the alternative voices seen or heard?

The present proposals have a detrimental impact on the beneficial aspects of the village aspect as set out in the recent VDS representation.

The process needs to start again if this principle is to be applied. It completely misses the point of this first principle if the locals are only allowed to comment on some details of the design. As noted throughout the forgoing paper, the planning process has been so flawed and has overridden all local views that it cannot be amended  – The imposed vision has no local legitimacy and must be reviewed.

Paragraph 65 adds a little confusion allowing the incompatible design to be overridden but then goes on to propose that heritage and environmental issues can be restored to resort any decision not to approve housing layouts:

 

2.       The second principle says planning can “not simply be about scrutiny, but instead be a creative exercise in finding ways to enhance and improve the places in which people live their lives,..”

The applicant have already caused the loss of amenity by distraining a community asset and fencing off  the claimed common land, so that it is no longer be easily used for dog walking, joggers and the BMX off road riding that has been characteristic of the area for at least 15 years. Where are the enhancements for the community?

 

3.       The third principle includes the comment that “Every effort should be made objectively to identify and then meet the housing, business and other development needs of an area, and respond positively to wider opportunities for growth. “

At the time of the public inquiry, it was evident that releasing this land would be premature. I attempted to discover why the site of Tang Hall School has not being included in the available ‘brown field site’. I had been moved off my allotment to prepare for the new school and then on almost the last day of the inquiry, we were told that the allotment would not be needed. (My attempts to discover what was going on were frustrated by the device of claiming that the information was provided by a sub-contractor of COYC.)

An objective assessment is vital to cover all of the issues raised by this principle. How many and what type of housing is needed now? Where is it needed? The business growth potential offered by an internationally significant heritage site, plus economic projections and an imaginative audit of the housing requirements has to be undertaken before deciding how to ‘respond positively’ to the opportunities presented by Germany Beck.

4.       Planners sometimes need a crystal ball since it invites one to judge what will be considered good and appropriate design for future ‘occupants of land and buildings’. Let us at least see some evidence that there has been an attempt to anticipate future needs – I converted a house to allow me to care for aging parents and perhaps we should be constructing houses that are suited to such use.

5.       The next principle seems to be a clear call to take account of the VDS prepared for Fulford. It should be evident that the present plan fails to fulfil this principle comprehensively with the present plan for the access-road junction, the constructions over and along the Green Belt land, the blocking of the vista of the Minster from the countryside adjacent to the ring road.

“take account of the different roles and character of different areas, promoting the vitality of our main urban areas, protecting the Green Belts around them, recognising the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside and supporting thriving rural communities within it”.

6.       This principle requires planners to be imaginative and realistic when recognising the changing climate, and flood risks. So much has been said before about the comprehensive failures to address this issue that I will not rehearse them here. And the NPPF goes on to emphasis the role of floodplains in principle nine:

“promote mixed use developments, and encourage multiple benefits fromthe use of land in urban and rural areas, recognising that some open landcan perform many functions (such as for wildlife, recreation, flood riskmitigation, carbon storage, or food production)”.

Nature has provided enough evidence in recent months of the need to take heed of these two principles. The conclusion is clear - any plan must be reconfigured to move it away from the beck and onto land that will not flood for the next century.

7.       The seventh principle is another clear failure of the present plan which want development to

“contribute to conserving and enhancing the natural environment and reducing pollution. Allocations of land for development should prefer land of lesser environmental value, where consistent with other policies in this Framework”.

The failure to recognise the vital role that Germany Beck play in linking the SSSI of Fulford Ings to the Heslington hinterland has been stubbornly ignored and the specific destructions of wildlife and habitat have been noted earlier. The beck must be left undisturbed by any development if this principle is to be followed.

It is shocking that the plan has been allowed to reach this stage because of the many rules that were ignored. These have been crystallised in the new planning framework: “.. the proposed development on land within or outside a Site of Special Scientific Interest likely to have an adverse effect on a Site of Special ScientificInterest (either individually or in combination with other developments)should not normally be permitted.” There must now be a proper assessment of the needs of the related environments and the way it is interconnected. Much information on this subject has already been submitted and must no longer be ignored.

8.       Principle 8 encourages “the effective use of land by reusing land that has been previously developed (brownfield land)” and the City has much of this to offer. Such time has elapsed that this must become a consideration.

9.       See 6

10.   Principle ten deals with heritage:

“… conserve heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of this and future generations”.

This is yet another injunction to move the development away from the beck so that future generations can appreciate the momentous events that too place along the beck in 1066. The unrestricted public access that already exists to the site is a unique gift which future generation must not be denied by burying it beneath a road.

Principles 11 & 12 relate to the fullest possible use of public transport and healthy activity. The absurd arrangements for bus access has been discussed along with the inevitable need to amend the access plans if the site is ever occupied, the present transport plan is so obviously unworkable. The loss of the many footpaths in open country is a clear breach of principle 12 which the applicant’s plan cannot adequately replace with a reduce number of artificial countryside walks.

In this context, para 65 of the NPPF is also relevant:

“Planning policies should protect and enhance public rights of way and access. Local authorities should seek opportunities to provide better facilities for users, for example by adding links to existing rights of way networks including National Trails.”

Summary

Is it possible to offset all of these failures against the quantified benefit to the local and wider community? These principles provide a proper agenda for such a debate. We need to have a proper debate about how to provide relevant housing, and boost then sustain our economy. It is irresponsible to proceed with this plan without addressing the many principles.

29   Proactive action on flooding

Paragraph 94 says “Local planning authorities should adopt proactive strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change, In line with the objectives and provisions of the Climate Change Act 2008, taking full account of flood risk, coastal change and water supply and demand considerations.”

And this is emphasised in para 99. “Local Plans should take account of climate change over the longer term, including factors such as flood risk, coastal change, water supply and changes to biodiversity and landscape.”

And “Local Plans should apply a sequential, risk-based approach to the location of development to avoid where possible flood risk to people and property and manage any residual risk, taking account of the impacts of climate change, …”

Para 100 even anticipates that there are some existing plans that might need to be revised in the light of revised recognition of flood risks : “where climate change is expected to increase flood risk so that some existing development may not be sustainable in the long-term, seeking opportunities to facilitate the relocation of development, including housing, to more sustainable locations.”

30   Noise pollution

The guidance about noise has been clarified in the framework document.

“Planning policies and decisions should aim to:

avoid noise from giving rise to significant adverse impacts27 on health and quality of life as a result of new development;

mitigate and reduce to a minimum other adverse impacts27 on health and quality of life arising from noise from new development, including through the use of conditions;

recognise that development will often create some noise and existing businesses wanting to develop in continuance of their business should not have unreasonable restrictions put on them because of changes in nearby land uses since they were established;28 and

identify and protect areas of tranquillity which have remained relatively undisturbed by noise and are prized for their recreational and amenity value for this reason.”

It was one of the few times when the planning inspector seemed to attend to the problem introduced by this application when the problems of noise that will be broadcast from the access road was discussed. The tranquillity of the local cemetery beside the planned access road should have been utterly unacceptable as nobody could defend it at the public inquiry and the expert hastily summoned to suggest how it could be mitigated did not convince anybody – Nevertheless, the inspector went along with the flawed plan offered.  Attempts to raise the road above the recognised flooding levels will only exacerbate and spread the noise pollution to the whole southern part of Fulford village.

31   Agricultural land use

Finally, there is also the injunction that “Where significantdevelopment of agricultural land is demonstrated to be necessary, localplanning authorities should seek to use areas of poorer quality land inpreference to that of a higher quality.” I am not aware that any such assessment has been undertaken.

32   World Heritage application

I wrote to register an objection to the exclusion of the battlefield of Fulford from the City’s unsuccessful application for World Heritage status because it is potentially one of our heritage ‘jewels’. My reading of the failure of this application is in part due to failure to emphasise the diversity of heritage possessed by the city.

The conscious destruction of such an important heritage assets as the battle site will count against the city when another application is submitted. The Framework recognises that not every part of a heritage area can be preserved but the reputation of the city will be badly damaged if it countenances any damage to the battlesite.

The present plan has failed to address so many issues and distorted the planning process (part one) leaving many substantial issues still needing to be resolved (part two) that it must not be approved. The NPPF provides a good set of rules, principles and guidance for making a plan for Germany Beck.

 

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The author of the content is Charles Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com   Last updated April 2015

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