3 February 2018 Newsbrief 15 Where we go next
Newsbrief no 12, issued last December, reported the decision of Lancaster City Council to approve the Local Plan, including the proposed development of the garden village at Bailrigg. At the foot of this Newsbrief is a short report on this Council debate. As we said in Newsbrief 12, the Council’s decision to approve the Local Plan is by no means the end of the road for our campaign. This Newsbrief sets out the next stages in the planning process and what we think CLOUD should now do to oppose the unnecessary development at Bailrigg garden village.
CLOUD General Meeting
The CLOUD Management Committee met on 23rd January to discuss our future campaign. We agreed that a General Meeting of all CLOUD members should be held to discuss our next steps and take the key decisions for our actions over the coming months.
The Management Committee is aiming to hold this meeting in late February. At the City Council debate last December we were informed that a revised version of the Local Plan would be published this February. We want to wait until this plan comes out before fixing the meeting date. This will give us all the opportunity to read it and see whether there are any significant changes from the draft plan we objected to 12 months ago.
As soon as the revised Local Plan is issued we will contact you again about the date and venue for this General Meeting. We’ll also issue the agenda for the meeting and our proposals to take the CLOUD campaign forward.
In the meantime we welcome any suggestions you may have for what we should do next. There will be every opportunity to raise such points at the General Meeting.
Expected Events through 2018
We expect that the main events regarding the Local Plan and Bailrigg garden village will be :
February 2018 - revised Local Plan is due to be published by Lancaster City Council in early February.
6 week public consultation follows publication of revised Local Plan.
May 2018 - Local Plan, together with the objections against it, goes to Central Government, probably in May.
Mid 2018 - Planning Inspector appointed to consider the Local Plan and the objections to it.
October 2018 - Likely time for Planning Inspector to hold public hearings on the Local Plan.
Final decision - some time after the end of the public hearing.
Lancaster City Council debate on the Local Plan - 20th December 2017.
There was a large turnout of CLOUD supporters to listen to the Council debate in Morecambe town hall. We filled all the seats in the public gallery and made our presence known! The standard of debate wasn’t high. A small number of Councillors did speak out against adoption of the Local Plan, raising concerns over the impact of the 22 November 2017 floods and the ‘suspect’ figures for future population growth in Lancaster. Their proposal to delay adoption of the Local PLan until early 2018, when flood assessments and revised figures were expected, was rejected. The view of most Councillors seemed to be that approval of the Local Plan was well overdue and it was better to get it out now, even if it had to be revised later.
Before the start of the debate, the Council heard 3 addresses from local residents. One was from Janet Taylor from Lune Valley Flood Forum. She called for a re-assessment of strategic flood risk across the NW of England in light of global warming and recent floodings. Matt Barnes addressed the Council on the issue of the existing poor air quality in Lancaster due to traffic congestion and how much worse this would be with the extra traffic flows from Bailrigg garden village. Mark Salisbury, speaking on behalf of CLOUD, summarised the objections right back to our petition of 12 months ago. Here’s the text of his address :
TEXT OF 5 MINUTE SPEECH FOR 20 DECEMBER 2017
Back in April councillors were not able to debate the issues raised by our petition against the Local Plan which was presented to Council. Drop-in sessions since then have provided the public with little additional information - and no reassurance. Public concern has only been heightened by the severe flooding on 22 November.
First, please note the large scale and certain impact of the proposed Bailrigg Garden Village. The plan is to construct 3500 and eventually up to 5000 houses on green fields near Galgate, a village of 1200 houses. Existing local services - such as schools and GP surgeries in south Lancaster, and indeed the Royal Lancaster Infirmary - are already at crisis point. Fire, police and ambulance services are also already overstretched. And yet at the drop-in sessions the planners only offered vague assurances on how these vital needs would be addressed.
Moreover, roads in Lancaster are already congested. The garden village would add to these problems, especially along Ashton Road and on the A6, the routes into the city centre. It is already officially acknowledged that traffic at the Pointer roundabout where they meet is, I quote, ‘above capacity’, hence the congestion. But more serious than queues are the scientific studies which on the A6 corridor and in town have shown high levels of air pollution, with consequent health risks. More traffic is inevitable and will only make matters worse. Rapid bus transport and a cycling superhighway are aspirations, not solutions.
Second, the draft Local Plan concentrates on the provision of additional housing, rather than the extra jobs which Lancaster really needs. The plan envisages 13-14,000 new houses by 2031, but only 9,500 new jobs. Why would so many people want to move to Lancaster when there aren’t going to be jobs for them? What impact would such a large influx have on employment prospects for existing residents? A 2012 City Council report analysed the reasons people had for moving out of Lancaster. Poor employment prospects were by far the single largest cause, cited by half the respondents. What is needed here is more affordable housing, not the kind of up-market properties which will largely be constructed by developers in a Garden Village.
Third, the cost. To service the Village, it is estimated that £90 million needs to be spent largely on changes to Junction 33 and two crossings of the railway, but not including a proposed road and a bridge over the Lancaster Canal to connect the Garden Village to Ashton Road. The road infrastructure alone would make this the most expensive of the 14 garden village schemes announced by the Government. So does this scheme really offer value for money for local and national taxpayers? Lancaster City Council has been committed, since the early 2000s, to the regeneration of Morecambe. Now that the Bay Gateway is open this could at last be achieved - to the benefit of the whole city. There is also the potential for further business development and the building of affordable housing on brownfield land. Such costed alternatives should have been presented, so that Lancaster residents could compare their merits to what is claimed for the Garden Village.
Fourth, flooding has been for years and obviously remains a major threat to people’s lives and well-being. People in Halton, Bowerham and Hala, as well as Galgate, made that abundantly clear after the recent terrible floods. Because of climate change, we know it is going to get worse. A huge investment in flood protection is already needed, not least to control the Burrow Beck, a cause of much damage upstream - and downstream it runs through the Garden Village site. But such measures, though necessary, would not provide flood security for homes in Galgate. These were not swamped by Burrow Beck but by the River Conder and the Whitley Beck.
In sum, councillors have before them a Local plan. If adopted, it will change irreversibly this city, and especially harm areas in south Lancaster. I therefore ask councillors to consider whether, in all honesty, they have before them enough data on employment prospects, on housing needs, on projected traffic flows, on air pollution, on flood risks and on infrastructural costs. Are you really in a position to make the informed judgements which we, the public, expect of our elected representatives?