Posted by: swinemoor | September 12, 2015

We Want Southwood!

Beverley Guardian Letter of the Week 14 August 2015

Beverley Guardian Letter of the Week 14 August 2015

In a slight departure from the usual subject matter of this blog, Beverley’s common lands, we at NSH will take a look at the East Riding of Yorkshire’s ’emerging’ Local Development Plan and the masterplans for the South of the town. Whilst these do not affect any of Beverley’s commons directly, the masterplans do not include an area of land, with the suggested name of ‘Southwood’ that was mooted as Beverley’s sixth common, and a buffer between the ever-growing town and Hull’s urban sprawl.

Southwood, was first mooted during the 1980s when the road that eventually became Woodmansey Mile, the original Beverley southern bypass, was proposed. However, it never materialised and was really only resurrected in 2011 by the Beverley Renaissance Partnership, who proposed that the green spaces in the new proposed development areas South of the town be combined and coalesced into a contiguous area to be designated as new common. The East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Director of Planning, Alan Menzies, said at the time that the council would be willing to explore the issues with the Partnership, however, earlier this year it became obvious that the idea of Southwood had been dropped from the proposals. In June John Bird, Chair of the Beverley Renaissance Partnership, was again calling for a new vision for the town, including a new common to the South, when it became clear that only around 10 hectares of greenspace were to be included in the proposed development and this would be mainly playing fields in the flood zones and grassed areas on corners and along cycleways. This is far from the vision proposed by the Partnership and will do nothing to prevent Beverley merging with Cottingham and becoming just another suburb of Hull.

Letter Beverley Guardian 14th August 2015

Letter Beverley Guardian 14th August 2015

The proposals themselves, and the very high density of the housing proposed for the area, are causing a lot of disquiet in the town. On the 14th August there were two letters in The Beverley Guardian, articulating the points made by the Partnership regarding Southwood and the high density of the proposed housing in the Figham Springs area. Following this there has been a couple of consultation events, however, as ever, ERYC are not really listening to the people of the town. Attendees were told that the proposed development was a done deal and they could really only comment on the colours of the bricks in the development. This contrasts starkly with how ERYC deal with the developers who are trying to make wholesale changes to a planning permission that has already been granted by ERYC for Land East of Keldmarsh Primary School 13/02723/STOUT. The conditions imposed by ERYC involve the submission of an masterplan to ERYC , the prior construction of the spine road, wider access to the development area (with no ransom strips) and the provision of childrens’ play spaces, youth and adult provision. All of the above should be agreed before development proceeds but the developers want these conditions removed! These proposals are being fully consulted upon by ERYC, even though they involve a disbenefit to the community, yet the community itself can only ‘tweak’ things when they comment: the example given by the Planning Officers present being the colours of the bricks! Even the planning notice at the site does not tell the story: it tells you the numbers of the planning conditions but nothing about what is proposed, however, it does (we assume to fill space) tell you what ERYC’s role as an employer and service provider is! A brief summary of the proposed planning conditions to be removed would be much more useful in our opinion.

Keldmarsh Planning Notice

Keldmarsh Planning Notice

In order to ensure that ERYC engage in meaningful consultation on these related issues it is important to let ERYC know that you are not happy with what they are doing. We need to ensure that our voice is heard: Woodmansey Parish Council has offered no objection to the planning condition removals near Keldmarsh School, even though they allow development without the guaranteed provision of children’s play space and Youth and Adult provision. Woodmansey Parish Council is Chaired by Kerri Harold, who is also a Conservative member of ERYC, where she sits on the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee.

If you object to the removal of planning conditions at Keldmarsh School, please visit ERYC’s Planning Portal and make sure you state ‘object’ in your comments. Youth provision in the town is already poor and the building of new houses without additional provision will not improve the situation.

We at NSH would also like you to object to the Local Development Plan and this can be done by either signing Beate Willar’s petition or by visiting the link on ERYC’s website.

If you wish to comment on the plan directly, please use the contact addresses and emails on the ERYC page. Beate Willar also has exemplar letter you may wish to use (or edit) and this can be found HERE.

You can also help the campaign to address the deficiencies in plans for the South of Beverley by sending a link to the petition.
Only by doing this can we send a message to ERYC that we want Southwood, not unimaginative, chock-a-block developments that will cause Beverley to merge with Hull. A new common will ensure this cannot happen!
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Posted by: swinemoor | March 14, 2015

Misinformation and Machinations

The recent visit of Robert Goodwill MP (Conservative Under-Secretary of State for Transport) to the site of the proposed ‘new’ all singing and all dancing cycle path across Westwood does seem to have been used as a photo opportunity by Cllr Aird (Con) and Graham Stuart MP (Con) or should we just say The Conservative Party. Mr Goodwill was obviously begged to come all the way from…Scarborough for the photo opportunity but does he really know about the back story here? For that matter are Elaine Aird and Graham Stuart aware? Probably not: if they were, they would be well advised to keep their distance.

In brief these are the facts about the plan they are supporting:

These are the facts of this case: the rest is misinformation and spin. ERYC is a machine that is determined to set a land-swap precedent in relation to Beverley’s Common Lands: nothing else makes any sense. When a point ERYC makes is challenged, they just repeat it to a different audience in the hope that someone will listen to them. It appears that this time they have! If they really wanted a dual-use cycle way, they would have consulted properly in 2012 and the existing path could have been improved in less than 12 months. However, this is not their real aim: their aim is long term and unwritten – it is to set a precedent to allow development on the East side of Westwood – nothing more, nothing less.

If you don’t believe us: just look at the pictures on the HU17 article: the speakers all want a ‘new cycle route’ but over their heads there is are two signs saying it already is a cycle route! It just needs resurfacing, that’s all!

Posted by: swinemoor | February 7, 2015

Kerri and Petitions

Bev Guardian 9 Jan 2015Whilst reading back issues of The Beverley Guardian, we at NSH came across this gem from Councillor Kerri Harold on page three of the 9th January issue.

In this snippet Kerri Harold is asking for people to sign a petition to save the Lincoln Arms pub. We at NSH think this is a bit rich as Cllr Harold is a member the East Riding of Yorkshire Council: a council that ‘lost’ a petition signed by many of her constituents fighting against the construction of Swinemoor Hospital on a green field site to create the so called ‘Folly on the Lane’. Mrs Harold was strangely quiet about the loss of this petition, however, in this case she is clearly of the belief that the ERYC will support her campaign to keep the Lincoln Arms open.

Mrs Harold did not support her constituents who wanted to preserve Beverley’s green spaces and their wonderful medieval wet grasslands in 2009 but it’s good to know that this time Mrs Harold is supporting those who would prefer a modern watering hole.

Posted by: swinemoor | September 28, 2014

Consultation is the Key

In the week when the Scots voted narrowly to stay within the United Kingdom, it seems appropriate to bring up the subject of consultation in relation to the plans to widen the existing cycle lane along side the B1230. According to the Department for Transport, public consultation with key groups early in the process can be particularly useful. However, in this case this clearly did not happen as the only consultation that took place in advance of the first application in December 2011 was with Sustrans and the Pasture Masters, who raised no objection. There is no evidence from Mr Elliott’s judgement that any wider consultation was undertaken and, in view of the nature of much of the evidence presented, many of the issues raised could have been dealt with through detailed consultation with interested parties. However, that said, Mr Elliott granted permission for the development but recommended that ERYC first sort out the legal difficulties regarding cycling off the highway (para 31).

How did ERYC go about this?

20140917 Bev Advertiser

Beverley Advertiser 17 Sept 2014

Once again there was a complete lack of consultation: the first we heard of the reincarnated proposal in 2014 was the botched erection of notices in and around Hurn Common in January. This was followed by the revelation that Molescroft Parish Council had not been told of ERYC’s plans and the initial objection of the Pasture Masters, which was only withdrawn after ERYC had gone back on the their word saying they were going to grub-out an ancient hedge bank and mature trees, after initially saying they were going to retain them (see Beverley Advertiser article above).

20140919 Bev Guardian B Willar letter

Letter Beverley Guardian from B Willar 19 Sept 2014

 

These plans were not published on ERYC’s website because they were too big and it would take too much time. We at NSH take this to mean they were hoping to push this through under the radar, i.e. without consultation. This is the theme of many letters in the Beverley Guardian (see B Willar’s letter left).

It is clear that ERYC have not followed ‘best practice’ in engaging with the public and, depending on the legal vehicle they are intending to use, they need to undertake different levels of consultation. If ERYC are intending to designate a new cycle track under The Highways Act 1980 then public consultation is not a legal requirement. Nevertheless, in all cases it is strongly recommended that extensive consultation is carried out (DfT 2012 p. 55). If they intend to use the Cycle Tracks Act 1984 to convert the footpath to a cycle track then public consultation is a mandatory requirement; the use of permissive rights is not recommended and nor are Section 106 agreements (DfT 2012 pp 56-57).

In view of this, NSH call on ERYC to begin the entire process again with full consultation right from the get go, so that a consensus solution to the above impasse can be found, where the integrity of Westwood is maintained, no precedent is set and a new cycle lane that does not cross the B1230, with its concomitant dangers, is constructed.

Surely this is achievable in the 21st Century?

Posted by: swinemoor | September 19, 2014

Byways and Highways

In reply to a series of comments made by GKT, we at NSH believe that it is important to clear up any ambiguity regarding the legal status of the existing dual use footway/cycleway alongside the B1230. We do not wish to be drawn into a debate about the necessity of a resurfaced and adequate cycleway as we have already said, however, we also feel it is important to deal with misinformation when it is promulgated and set the record straight.

Wheres the path map

Figure 1: Screenshot of B1230 status as cycle lane (Byway) from Where’s The Path (wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm) Contains Ordnance Survey Data. Crown Copyright and Database Right 2014.

The current path is designated as a Byway under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 as a Restricted Byway: in other words you can cycle, ride horses and walk along it but you cannot drive a motorised vehicle. The remainder of the B1230 is designed as Highway. The status of the existing path on the Council’s Definitive Map as a byway is confirmed by the fact that ERYC have uploaded their most recent digital copy of this map to the Where’s The Path website, where it appears as a route (see Figure 1). The path is also clearly signposted (Figure 2).

Now that that it is clear that the existing path is a cycleway, you again have to ask why the ERYC just did not resurface it and maybe, in the process, make it a tad wider: they would probably have gotten away with it. The reason does not lie in road safety as ERYC state ad nauseum: if it were, they would not be proposing two crossings of the B1230! A look at some of the research HERE clearly shows that cycle lane road crossings (and cycle lanes adjacent to the roadway where two-way cycling is permitted) are more dangerous than cycling on the roadway itself. Many local authorities are now taking such cycle lanes out for safety reasons. Why then is ERYC persisting with a 2m cycle way across Westwood?

B1230 Byway signs

Figure 2: Byway and Cycleway signs on B1230 (picture taken 19 September 2014)

 

 

We at NSH believe that the reason has nothing to do with cycling or cycling safety or guidelines: if it had they would have followed the DFT’s Guidelines and consulted with stakeholders before designing the path: they didn’t and still have not in any meaningful fashion, preferring legal sleight of hand as an approach to getting their way by setting a precedent for land swapping in relation to Beverley’s common lands. No other reason makes sense: from the selective application of guidelines, through the unsubstantiated claims about cycling safety to the the exorbitant cost, ERYC are hell bent on achieving a land swap. Cycling and cyclists are merely pawns in a game. Wake up and smell the coffee and fight these proposals: a much better cycle lane with no road crossings is possible with goodwill from all sides. There is precious little of this coming from ERYC.

Posted by: swinemoor | September 14, 2014

Westwood Hospital Development to go ahead

Residents who objected to the P J Livesey development of the Westwood Hospital Site have now been written to by ERYC saying that their views were taken into consideration but planning permission has now been granted. It is good to know that views were taken into account, however, one suspects these views held less sway than the big bucks being paid to develop the site. Such is the way of it in Beverley, where things are decided well in advance of the public actually having a say. Take for instance an article in the Beverley Advertiser in July (when the decision was effectively made to grant planning permission) where that shy, retiring (if only) member of ERYC’s Planning Committee, Councillor Bryan Pearson, was setting out his stall in respect of the then recent decision of the Planning Committee to defer granting permission to develop the Beverley Westwood Hospital site. In this article Mr Pearson said that the site had been awaiting redevelopment for nine years. To NSH’s knowledge the site was occupied by the NHS until 2012 and the decision to build a hospital at Swinemoor Lane was only first mentioned in 2008! As with many planning matters in Beverley, the dates don’t add up. As Beverley residents we need to know who knew what and when with this development and with the linked Swinemoor Lane development: there is an all pervading smell of fish surrounding both of these decisions.
B Advertser 20140709

Beverley Advertiser 9 July 2014

Additionally in this article Cllr Pearson mentions that, the East Riding, as a council, have ‘their arm up their back’ when developing brownfield sites, such as that at the former Westwood Hospital Site and (by implication) cannot realistically refuse planning permission. However, what Cllr Pearson does not mention is the problem with developing THIS brownfield site is entirely the fault of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council who, rather than supporting the redevelopment of a new hospital on this site, instead encouraged the then Primary Care Trust (PCT) to apply to build a new cottage hospital on greenfield, flood-prone land on Swinemoor Lane. Mr Pearson is well aware that they were serious irregularities in the way that this application was handled by ERYC and, at the time, supported calls for an enquiry into the way that ERYC had dealt with the PCT and their enquiries as to a suitable site to build a new hospital.
In view of this we at NSH find it a bit rich that Mr Pearson is now bemoaning the the fact that the site is brownfield and that access through narrow streets will be required in order to develop it. This was inevitable once the ERYC had granted planning permission for the other developments on the site and directed the PCT to apply for the Flood Zone 3a Swinemoor Lane site. Councillors cannot complain about being boxed-in by regulations and policy when they themselves engineer the very conditions that box them in! This is symptomatic of the problems we are having in Beverley: a complete lack of forward thinking. If we had even some of this we would not be building a bypass in the wrong place, closing an essential level crossing, encouraging development on congested Swinemoor Lane and building on flood-prone and greenfield land.
Come on Mr Pearson, show some leadership and listen to your constituents who are fed-up with the way that ERYC are systematically destroying the character of the town. If you do not, many of these constituents will not be casting a vote for you next May. These issues will not go away and cannot be kicked into the long grass.
Posted by: swinemoor | September 13, 2014

Cycle Lane Saga – The Truth

On July 30th there was article in the Beverley Advertiser titled ‘Controversial bike path plans blocked by families’.

Firstly we at NSH would like to say that it is NOT the bike path that is controversial, it is the plans.

Secondly, reading the comments in the article by Abigail Smeaton you would think there was no cycle path: there is!

So what is all the fuss about?

Well the fuss is not about the upgrading of the cycle path (it should in all honesty have been done years ago) it is the way that ERYC have gone about this, their intransigence in this whole affair and the amount of money all this is costing us local Council Tax payers. Wheeling (no pun intended) a few people out to support ERYC’s plans does nothing to enlighten anyone as to the small print nor does it help the debate. It merely serves ERYC in their aim to create a precedent to allow them to destroy our beloved Westwood, using local people and cyclists as an excuse.

Bev Adv 20140730

Beverley Advertiser 30th July 2014

Why do we say this? Sadly, as with everything involving the ERYC, things are never simple and this saga is no exception and to understand the existing situation, you need to go back to 2011. Three years ago the ERYC made a request of the Planning Inspectorate to widen the cycle lane adjacent to the B1230 and gave a number of reasons why, including safety. The Planning Inspector agreed to this request but he did say that, in terms of road safety, the ERYC had not demonstrated a need. He also said that the widened cycle path would remain part of the common (where cycling is prohibited), therefore, if they did construct it, it would be illegal to cycle on it. Following on from this ERYC did nothing for two years.

In January this year, notices began to appear on parts of the common saying that land was to be swapped in Molescroft parish so that land could be taken from Westwood to widen the cycle path. However, the notices were placed in only a few select locations (not where they legally should have been), details of the application were not made available to the public and Molescroft Parish Council were not consulted on these plans.  Once this was discovered, concerns were raised about why ERYC were acting in this secretive manner and the whole process began again, this time with ERYC consulting Molescroft Parish Council. ERYC’s plan was to swap a small area of playing field land at Longcroft School for the land lost to the widened cycle lane.

Distrust

ERYC’s secrecy up to this point created an atmosphere of distrust. This was compounded when ERYC went back on their word to keep the trees and ancient boundary bank dividing the ‘swap land’ from Hurn and this culminated in the Planning Inspector, who would need to agree the land swap, decided that a public enquiry was required. At this point ERYC began contacting objectors to their plans by phone and email in an attempt to get them to withdraw their objections to the plans. Many of these objections had nothing to do with any cycle lane, they involved the removal of an ancient boundary hedge and setting a precedent for development on the common by permitting land being swapped in another parish for land being lost in St Mary’s parish. ERYC had succeeded in conflating the issue of the cycle path widening and land swapping. Was this their aim?

There is no doubt that the widening of a cycle lane will be popular, however, it was the linking of this to the more technical aspects of land swapping and the secretive behaviour of ERYC that has led to the polarised situation that we are in now with one set of residents in Walkington pitted against another set of residents in Beverley. This polarisation is benefiting nobody but ERYC who have succeeded in dividing two groups of people who are both unhappy about the actions of ERYC: one because they want an improved cycle lane and  the other because ERYC are acting secretly and underhandedly in trying to damage the integrity of Westwood common. If ERYC were really serious about improving the existing cycle lane provision across Westwood, it would have been much better if they had gotten everyone together right from the get go so a compromise could have been reached that would have been inclusive, avoided land swaps, and ensured that best possible cycle lane was constructed in good time, with the minimum of cost and delay. This is best practice (see purple box in Figure 1) yet ERYC chose not to follow this route. Why and how much is this all costing?

Whys and Wherefores?

Scheme Development Process

Figure 1: Typical Scheme Development Process (Department for Transport (2012) Local Transport Note 1/12 Shared Use Routes for Pedestrians and Cyclists. p 8.)

For anyone who has visited the route of the B1230 across Westwood, it is quite obvious that there already is a signed cycle path along the road, i.e. ERYC are NOT putting in a NEW cycle path. Before anything was done, there was some discussion about upgrading the existing cycle path to Sustrans standards, i.e. 2m wide as it is dual use with pedestrians, and whether this could be done without anyone noticing. It is currently 1.5m wide. If this work had just been done, as was agreed by the Planning Inspector in 2012, would it have been noticed? Probably not. However, the legality of using the additional 50cm would be questionable, however, again would anyone notice and who would prosecute them? These are questions that need to be answered, however, it is ERYC’s contention that, as a result of this, they had to regularise the legal situation by swapping land in Molescroft parish. However, this does not explain why they tried to do this under the radar nor why the new, improved cycle path will still include two road crossings, necessitating cyclists getting off their bikes and crossing the B1230. It also does not explain why the ERYC are making such a song and dance about complying with Sustrans guidelines on this relatively quiet path when they have sub-standard paths everywhere else and no path at all to Bishop Burton and the college there.

Suspicions

It is these questions that have led to the distrust of the council in this whole debacle and this suspicion is raised by the complete lack of comment from our elected representatives on the council, who are clearly leaving the flack to be dealt with by their officers. The latter have also fallen short of expected standards in the way that they have contacted objectors and by making changes to ERYC’s plans, after the deadline for comments on the proposed land swap had closed and the disrespectful way they have referred to objectors in some correspondence. These objectors are the same people who pay their Council Taxes and, therefore, these officers salaries. The council’s secrecy and attitude raised suspicions in the town and this led to the realisation that the swap of land in Molescroft parish for the area of the widened cycle path would set a legal precendent that could allow the swapping of agricultural land in Walkington or Bishop Burton parishes for prime development land on the Beverley side of Westwood. This suspicion was first aroused in the Westwood Hospital temporary road debate and has been reinforced by the determination of ERYC to engineer the current situation rather than seek a compromise. Make no mistake, if ERYC succeed in setting this precedent, land will be taken from the  common on the Beverley side: the York Road salient is vulnerable: land between the York Road and Hurn would also be at risk. This is the prize at stake and big money is involved. We, as residents of the town, need to support the Pasture Masters as Guardians of the Commons and head-off any such threats before it’s too late. We cannot rely on our elected representatives to do this as they have been mute on this issue to date. In spite of claims that they love our commons, their actions clearly demonstrate otherwise.

The Current Situation

The above is a synopsis of where we are now and how we got there. However, this is not the full story. ERYC have now told the Planning Inspector that they have decided to drop their application to swap land at Longcroft School: objectors have been written to by Defra to this effect. However, once again behind closed doors, ERYC have pressurised the Pasture Masters into agreeing to another land swap, this time for the site of Fishwick’s Mill. This is the small area of land behind Minster School, that everyone knows already belongs to Westwood Common [more on this shortly]. This will no doubt set-off another drawn out battle, costing ERYC tens of thousands of pounds. Surely a compromise is in order: is 1.5m wide really too narrow for a cycle lane across Westwood?

The Cost

This is perhaps the most worrying aspect of this whole saga. To date we know that the cost in terms of legal fees is at least £5,700 however, this does not include the following:

  • The staff time involved in printing and posting the notices around Hurn Common, on two occasions;
  • The staff cost in preparing the case and advertising these notices in the local press;
  • The staff cost in answering objectors’ comments and telephoning and writing to them individually;
  • The cost of looking into the legality of removing the hedge and bank at Longcroft School;
  • The cost of arranging the site visit to determine the status of the above hedge;
  • The cost of preparing the legal case for the Planning Inspector;
  • The cost of preparing the legal case to take to Public Enquiry;
  • The staff cost in preparing a new application for the site of Fishwick’s Mill.

A Freedom of Information Request has failed to answer any of the above questions as the ERYC has said it does not account for staff time separately. However, a cursory examination of the above clearly demonstrates that to date ERYC’s legal shenanigans have cost a fortune, certainly in the many thousands of pounds. Is this the correct way for a cash-strapped local authority to behave? Probably not but what we can we do about it? We at NSH believe that it is now time to put an end to this saga and for all sides to sit down around a table and compromise. By doing this we can achieve an upgraded cycle path at least 1.5m wide without setting any dangerous legal precedents. Indeed, if we use the £200k ERYC have set aside for this project, it should not prove impossible (if there is enough goodwill) to have a cycle path without any road crossings: this would be safer than one that is 2m wide with crossings. If you agree with this, please contact your local ERYC ward councillor, pushing for this. Only if we all work together as citizens can we achieve a sensible compromise here: ERYC are clearly not interested: they have their own agenda.

Posted by: swinemoor | July 20, 2014

Cycle Lane Information

A series of Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) have shed some light on the cost of widening the cycle lane alongside the B1230 and, in view of the cash-strapped pleas emanating regularly from ERYC, the figures are revealing.

In their first response, ERYC say that the legal costs to the date of the FOI reply letter (27th June 2014) have amounted to £5,800. However, this does not include the costs of the staff time that has been put into this application. This has involved letters to objectors, posting notices, advertising, correspondence with the Planning Inspectorate, discussion and correspondence with the Pasture Masters and now a Public Enquiry. This cannot be cheap and in all likelihood is a large multiple of the £5,800 spend to date.

The second request was made to try and get to the bottom of the involvement of Sustrans in the plans and has revealed that there are no grant monies coming from them and that the full cost of the ‘widening’ will be borne by the council.

So, in other words, ERYC are spending somewhere in the region of £1/4m to widen a cycle track by 50cm along the B1230, when they could just resurface it for a fraction of the cost. Anyone using the cycle path will still have to cross the road near the golf course: the most dangerous part of the entire journey. That said, there has never been an accident involving a bicycle on this road!

Does anyone really believe that ERYC care so much about cyclists that they are willing to spend £250k from their own stretched budget for the benefit of cyclists, who will still have to cross the road? No, of course not. The real reason lies elsewhere and it revolves around setting a precedent for inter parish land swapping.

Nothing else in this sorry (and expensive!) tale makes sense…..

 

Posted by: swinemoor | June 28, 2014

A Denial of Free Speech

This week the ERYC have written to those who have registered an objection to P J Livesey’s amended proposals for the Beverley Westwood Hospital site.  Once again, with ERYC, it is not what they do much of the time but the way that they do it! On this occasion they have written to Objectors saying that the Planning Committee will determine the case on 3rd July 2014. The letters sent out were dated 25 June (See Figure 1), therefore, ERYC are only giving objectors a week in which to prepare for the planning meeting. This is for an application that had a petition signed by more than 7,000 signatories, large numbers of amendments to their proposals on ERYC’s labyrinthine website and hundreds of letters from objectors and supporters. Is this reasonable?

Planning Meeting Letter

Figure 1

As if this were not enough, ERYC have decided that, if you wish to object (or support) the application, you will only be given five minutes in which to speak. Yes, five minutes and, wait for it…  Only one person will be allowed to speak and this right is granted on a first come, first served basis. This, in the opinion of NSH, once again makes a mockery of free speech and is designed to allow the development to go through ‘on the nod’ from the Planning Committee on whom sits the East Riding Ward Councillor for the site, Cllr Bryan Pearson. This exercise raises some points which we at NSH believe that Mr Pearson needs to be aware of before he votes. Mr Pearson is a Conservative, one of nine in Beverley (and one of nine out of twelve who sit on the Committee) , who, if you read the Beverley Guardian, do not appear to be representing their constituents by not turning down excessive green field development around the town. In the case of this development, there has been considerable disquiet among his constituents yet his party has determined that it is acceptable, in terms of local democracy, to rush this application (which was made in November 2013) through planning with one week’s notice only allowing one person (how were they chosen one wonders?) to speak. This is bad enough but, sadly, there is more. On the 16 June the ERYC wrote to all those who commented on the proposals to say that amended proposals from P J Livesey were now available for viewing on ERYC’s Planning Portal (see Figure 2). The closing date for comments on these is 30 June 2014. In addition the Agenda for the day says that the application for Listed Building Consent should be ‘approved’ and for full planning permission be ‘deferred’. However, it also delegates this power to a council officer pending the signing of a Section 106 Agreement. In other words this application will not be coming in front of the Planning Committee again and this is your last chance to comment on it.

Figure 2

Figure 2

What ERYC have done, therefore, is provided the Planning Committee with a 190 page summary of the planning application before the closing period for comments. In other words, if you comment on the application now, they will not form part of the paperwork submitted to the Committee members in advance of the meeting? This is a denial of free speech and makes a travesty of the planning process in the East Riding. ERYC used a similar approach to push through an underfunded, cottage hospital on flood-prone land a few years ago and now they are up to it again. Come on Mr Pearson, stick up for your constituents. It is only 11 months to the council election and it’s about time you and your 8 colleagues started standing-up for the people of Beverley. This application cannot be pushed-through without proper scrutiny. The people of Beverley need to have their say in public. To do anything else is a betrayal of their democratic right to free speech. This application raises all sorts of concerns from natural history through built heritage, overlooking through to drainage. It cannot be given on ‘the nod’. It needs to go to a full public enquiry. We at NSH would ask that you call for one next week, if you do not you risk being punished at the ballot box in May 2015. We will not forget…..

Posted by: swinemoor | June 14, 2014

It’s a Scandal!

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) have decided to progress their application to widen the cycle lane along the B1230 Keldgate Road and this is currently with the Planning Inspectorate’s Common Land Team in Bristol. However, in spite of the fact that the closing date for comments on this application has passed, the ERYC have been pursuing their goal through writing to objectors directly, telling them that, in order to progress the land swap necessary to offset the loss of land to the cycle path, they will be applying to themselves to ask for permission to grub out the hedgerow shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Ancient Hedgerow and Trees

This is in essence a summary of where we are now but the legal knots that the ERYC are tying themselves up in and the cost to local Council Tax payers is something that ERYC have ignored in all of this and this is something that can no longer be swept under the carpet, as it is the duty of a public body to ensure that our money is well spent. This cannot be demonstrated in this case and there is a strong suspicion that something else is driving the ERYC here that has nothing to do with cycle lane provision and a lot to do with future development opportunities on the Beverley side of Westwood.

Back in 2012 the ERYC made an application to the Planning Inspectorate to construct a cycle lane on the North side of the B1230, Keldgate Road, across Westwood. There were many objections to this proposal and these were dealt with by Martin Elliott the Planning Inspector allocated the case. In his judgement Mr Elliott agreed with the ERYC’s proposals but said that, even when the new cycle lane was constructed, it would still be illegal to cycle on it as it would be part of the common lands (and subject to their bylaws) and not the highway. He also pointed out that the Secretary of State had no power to overturn these, therefore, in effect, cycling on the new cycle path would be illegal. Mr Elliott also made a comment that seems to have been ignored in much of what has happened since: namely that the ERYC had not demonstrated that there was a need for the cycle lane at all.  In the end the ERYC did not actually do anything and instead made a new application to construct the cycle path in January of this year.

The substance of this application is that the ERYC wish to construct a new cycle lane from the end of Cartwright Lane to Westwood Gate on the B1230, Keldgate Road. Following advice from Sustrans, the ERYC have determined that this lane needs to be 2 metres wide, i.e. 50cm wider than the existing footpath alongside the main carriageway. It was pointed out earlier this year that this would, once again, require the Council taking land from the common and that this would mean that additional land would need to be found in compensation elsewhere. Rather than accepting alternatives, such as resurfacing the existing footway (it is already designated as a byway) or painting cycle lanes on the carriageway as they have done elsewhere in the town, the ERYC decided that they would swap school playing field land at Longcroft School for the land that would be lost alongside the B1230.

This opened a whole new can of worms in terms of objections and it was pointed out that the existing hedge separating the school grounds from the common was a parish boundary with a hedge and ditch and was, therefore, protected by the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 and could not be removed. All of these points were made to IPENS who deferred their decision on the land swap until they had heard back from ERYC. Subsequently ERYC wrote to IPENS stating that they had no intention to remove the existing hedgerow and this would remain as the parish boundary but within the area of Hurn common, should IPENS accept their proposals. This was the situation when the window for commenting on this case closed last month.

Figure 2 ERYC letter 4 June 2014

Since then the situation has become somewhat murkier. Even though the window for comments has closed, ERYC have been lobbying hard behind the scenes making phone calls and writing letters to objectors with the intention of getting them to withdraw their opposition to ERYC’s plans. In response to this pressure, it appears that the Pasture Masters have caved-in somewhat as they have apparently (taking ERYC’s word for this – see Figure 2) now agreed to the land-swap on the condition that the hedgerow is removed as, with it in place, the swap land is effectively unviable.  In view of this the ERYC has now apparently written to all the objectors saying that they now wish to remove the hedgerow after all and will be making an application to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to have this ancient hedgerow grubbed-out. According to the letter, the LPA will be arranging a site visit to determine whether the hedgerow is ‘important’ in terms of the Hedgerow Regulations 1997. What the letter does  not say is that the LPA and ERYC are one and the same organisation and no site visit is needed as the hedge is a parish boundary and predates 1850. In other words ERYC is applying to ERYC to remove a hedge and then organising an unnecessary site visit to say the hedge is not important (when it is!) so that ERYC can decide it can be removed. Talk about wasting public money and making a mockery of our legal system! And remember, all of this has happened after the window for comments has closed and before IPENS has ruled on the case! Is this really the way a public body should behave?

In effect ERYC want to build a cycle path alongside a road where there is no demonstrable need along which it will be illegal to cycle. To do this they will lose an area of school playing field, so they can make an application to themselves to cut down trees and grub out an ancient  hedgerow. All this with public money! In short, it’s a scandal.

At this point it doesn’t really matter whether you think a cycle lane alongside the Keldgate Road is a good idea or not. Wouldn’t it be better if they built one alongside the York Road to Bishop Burton? This road is much busier and is used by students and commuters. Could they not repair the cycle path between Beverley Parklands and Cottingham? This is in an appalling condition. What about painting on green sections as they have done elsewhere in Beverley? Apparently no, because it is a 40mph zone, yet a cursory glance at Google Earth will reveal that Woodhall Way has these lane markings and is also a 40mph zone. Why is it that a cycle lane has to be built here and why is it that it has to be 50cm wider than it already is, requiring a land swap that in turn will require the the loss of part of a school playing field and an ancient hedgerow? Does anyone really believe that (notoriously stingy) ERYC would go through all of this for a mere cycle lane? We at NSH do not believe so: something much bigger must be at stake.

The real prize here is the potential to develop the western edge of Beverley and change the character of Westwood forever. We have already seen this happen to the ‘Medieval Landscape’ of Swinemoor for dubious reasons that had less to do with patient need and more to do with grubby local politics. If IPENS agree to the land swap, ERYC will have set a legal precedent whereby land in one part of the common can be exchanged for land in another part of the common; even land in other parishes. It is this that is the real goal. Of course if asked, ERYC will deny this but the facts speak for themselves. Our representatives in County Hall are hand in glove with developers: every week there is a new development proposed and when a developer steps out of line what happens? Nothing. The land inside the new bypass will be developed: we all know this and we also know that developers covet any land that has a view of Westwood. This was the real reason why the hospital could not remain where it was: the land was just too valuable. The same is true of the East Riding College site and a number of schools in the town will doubtless be next. Once  this precedent has been set, the York Road frontage to Pasture Terrace will become developable and an ambitious developer is likely to apply for outline planning permission because they can compensate for the loss of common land here by buying some in return in Bishop Burton or Walkington Parishes.

Many readers of this blog may think that this is an exaggeration but, if you do, ask yourself two simple questions:

  1. Does the council really care about cyclists this much and, if so, why only cyclists that use this road and not the York Road or the cycle track to Cottingham or the cycle lanes that disappear randomly in the town?
  2. Why have our elected councillors been so deafeningly silent on this? Despite their protestations about championing Westwood in the face of parked cars, on this issue they have nothing to say…nada!

If you would like to oppose this hair-brained scheme by ERYC to swap land, please write to:

Steve Parker, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, County Hall, Beverley HU17 9BA quoting the reference COM544 or, if you prefer, you can find an exemplar letter in MSWord format HERE.

Remember, it is not necessary to swap any land to build a cycle path: all ERYC has to do is resurface the existing byway.

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