Newsbrief 86 Calls for pause to allow proper consultation on HIF Funding
Updated: Aug 17
Newsbrief 86 August 14th 2021 CLOUD and Lancaster Civic Society express concern over Consultation Process on the South Lancaster Growth Catalyst
1 What is at stake?
The Government is offering £140m via the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) for the road infrastructure 'to release the land' for housing, but the total estimated costs are £261m and the bid is linked to 9,185 houses over 25 years.
Overview of costs and funding
1 Jt33 reconfiguration: Estimated cost £105.1M; to be funded by a combination of HIF (70%) and Developer Contribution(30%)
2 Link road to Bailrigg Garden Village, underpass of West Coast Mainline, bridge over canal Estimate Cost : £65.7M to be funded by HIF
3 The rest - bus rapid transport, Lancaster Gyratory System, remodelling for cyclists, cycle super highway, second bridge over the canal, 2 primary schools and a secondary school, expanding GP provision, interest costs: Estimated cost £90.4m to be funded by developer contributions which are underwritten by Lancashire County Council loan ; Other finance includes City Council contributions, and other grants.
Total Cost £261.2
There is a £121m gap between the HIF grant and the total costs. This is to be covered
Developer Contributions £98m - underwritten by Lancashire County Council loan
City Council Contributions £9m
Sundry Grants £14m
With £30.8m of developer contributions going to fill the gap in the Jt33 funding what will be left for affordable housing and other vital amenities?
Crucially the £140m is linked not to the 3,500, as in the current Local Plan, but linked to 9,185 houses in South Lancaster over the next 25 years. This we were told would create enough developer contribution, through the roof tax, to cover gap between the grant and costs.
2. Public Briefings
There have been two hastily convened public briefing sessions on 5 August and 11 August 2021 with Lancaster City Council, ahead of a vote by full Council on the 25th August, on whether to sign the legally binding collaboration agreement regarding the HIF money with Lancashire County Council by 30 August 2021. So far no Lancashire County Council briefing has been arranged.
At the briefings Caroline Jackson, the Leader of Lancaster City Council and Jason Syers Director of Economic Growth & Regeneration laid out some of the thinking and issues behind what is being called the biggest decision for Lancaster for a generation.
Several CLOUD members joined these public briefing sessions on the South Lancaster Growth Catalyst. We welcomed the opportunity these sessions provided to learn more about SLGC and to ask questions. This was the first public event, relating to it, since the announcement by government on the Housing Infrastructure bid in March 2020.
Our overwhelming conclusion from the briefing sessions is that they raised more questions than Council Officers were able to answer in the limited time available. In addition, it is now clear to us that approval of the HIF bid is being sought with undue haste and before important questions on risk and viability have been publicly answered. As recently as the March 2021 Council meeting the petition from local residents on the subject of JTP’s master-planning was debated. The outcome on that occasion was unanimous agreement by Councillors 'That Council notes the substantive issues raised by this petition and requests that the Director for Economic Growth and Regeneration engage with the sponsors of the petition to address their concerns. In particular, this engagement should provide an analysis of the responses provided by local residents during the current master-planning process and, as appropriate, explanations where the responses have not informed the masterplan.
Full council is asked to mandate that consultation on the subsequent South Lancaster Area Action Plan should include structured questions and provide feedback to those registering comments/objections.'
It is clear to us that the public consultation on SLGC and the HIF bid, while welcome, has not met the standards set out in this Council resolution.
As a result the inadequacy of the consultation process for this enormous decision for South Lancaster, both Lancaster Civic Society and CLOUD are contacting all Lancaster City Councillors asking for a
postponement of the 25 August Full Council meeting until proper public consultation can take place. There remain too many unanswered questions for a rushed decision.
These relate to::
the standing of the 9,185 and impact on future local plans
Impact of 25 years of Construction traffic on South Lancaster
The full carbon impact of road building on Climate Emergency
Affordable housing - we don’t believe the HIF bid will help to provide social housing
The financial risks from escalating costs or a rise in interest rates, uncertainties of developer contribution, and the remaining uncertainties surrounding the HIF money
The lack of robust transport data
The many unanswered questions including why the rush, how does building roads and houses help biodiversity?
Viability assessment. We are pressing for this to be made public
Here is a link to the CLOUD letter to all Lancaster City Councillors Click on this link for the letter
3. Lancaster Civic Society Press Release
Following the two briefing sessions Lancaster Civic Society issued a press release calling for a pause to allow for proper consultation. While recognising the need for the resolution of transport issues in South Lancaster, they cannot understand why it has taken until August for there to be any public consultation. After all this is one of the most far reaching decisions Lancaster City Council has ever taken. They fear the predetermination of future local plans, for the next 25 years. This is because the City Council will be obliged to build 9,185 houses. This scenario was unlikely to have been foreseen by the Planning Inspector when he submitted his report on the Local Plan, outlining that Bailrigg Garden Village would be in the region of 3,500 houses.
Here is link to Lancaster Civic Society Press Release.
4. CLOUD Press Release
CLOUD has also issued a press release and are causing for a pause to allow proper consultation. Our concerns also relate to the indecent haste and lack of warning for the first of the briefing meetings on 5 May. How can 2 days be enough notice to ensure a wide range of the public are in engaged? We felt the two meetings raised more questions than answers and left the range of issues outlined above to be resolved. We are also requesting consultation with the Lancashire County Council, whose representatives were not present at the two briefing sessions.
Here is a link to our Press Release
5. Do remember there is a Public Meeting on Climate Impact of jt 33 reconfiguration :
Building roads and houses creates more traffic and a lot of carbon will be emitted in their construction. Prof. John Whitelegg estimates that 137,200 tonnes of CO2 will be emitted just from the road construction. Lancaster City Council has declared a 'Climate Emergency' and set a target of 2030, but there is no assessment of the impact this will have on the target.
6. A petition has been launched today 17 August 2021 :
Are you concerned about the imminent vote by Lancaster City Council which links £140m for road building to 9,185 houses in South Lancaster? Do you feel that the consultation has been rushed and inadequate? This petition is your chance to voice your concerns before it is too late Do sign and share as widely as possible
5. Keep contacting your Councillors, the Leader of the City Council and the Chief Executive of Lancaster City Council.
You might also contact Lancaster’s County Councillors if you are concerned, as we are, with the lack of consultation.
Mary Breakell on behalf of the CLOUD team