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.


Responses

  1. Words fail me. Something is rotten in the ERYC…

  2. I completely agree that this is all done with the intentions of developing the area. We moved to Beverley last May and when we visited Longcroft School and I enquired about the state of the junior school considering upper school was having a make over I was told that no money would be spent on the junior building as it was ear marked for being sold and redeveloped along with land around it.

    Councils appear to be a law to themselves!!

    • Sadly I have to agree with you. I moved to Beverley a few years ago and I have never known a Council like ERYC, who routinely follow their own agenda and ignore their voters. However, they seem to get re-elected every four years. In Beverley, nine out of nine East Riding Councillors are Conservative; the Governing party that is wasting OUR money on this fiasco!

  3. Woodhall way as very expensive paint job and they still ride illegally on the pavement

    • I suspect it met some target or other and that was the intention. As far as ERYC is concerned: job done!

  4. Disgraceful, but nothing surprises me with ERYC. Look what they did to swinemoor, they’ll be after figham next!!!#keepourpastures

    • We shall see but remember, in the past the local council did use a section of Figham to dump sewage on – nuff said!

  5. […] 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 […]


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