• Mary Breakell

Newsbrief 10 CLOUD speech for Lancaster City Council debate 19 December 2017

On 20 December 2017 at 6.00pm  at Morecambe Town Hall there is a full meeting of Lancaster City Council. The major item on the agenda is the Local Plan and Councillors will be voting on it. This of course includes Bailrigg garden village. 1. There is still time to write to your City Councillor outlining your objections to the garden village and urging them to vote against the Local Plan.Find your City Councillor 2. Mark Salisbury will be making a 5 minute speech, on behalf of CLOUD,  as a result of the petition raised against Bailrigg garden village in the Spring. For those who became involved later in the year here is the background I understand there are also to be expert speakers on the issues of flooding and air quality. 3. Do please come to Morecambe Town Hall on 20 December from around 5.30 to show your concern and to lend support to the CLOUD campaign.  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 to5000 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?

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