Posted by: swinemoor | May 12, 2014

Spring has Sprung

Finally the Swifts have arrived! It seems to have taken an eternity this year but they have arrived just in time to take advantage of the insects that accompany the cattle, which have also now finally made an appearance.

Whilst the winter in Beverley was mild (very mild!) this year, Spring on Westwood was not all that early. Indeed the Swallows, whilst being reported down South as early as February, only finally made an appearance over Westwood on the 21st April: precisely the same day as in 2012 and 2013. That said they were seen in Tickton a week earlier. Other things too are either on time or late. The Blackthorn was late, flowering last month and, even yet, the Hawthorn is not fully in bloom here, although it is elsewhere in Yorkshire.

IMG_1642

Our native Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) in bloom showing its classic one sided, drooping clusters of blue flowers.

May is wonderful month with the eponymous flowers of the Hawthorn and the the fuzz of the Cow Parsley gracing the hedges of all our commons. However, secreted away here and there, there are hidden gems, such as the Goldilocks Buttercup. This is a rarer, more elusive woodland buttercup that is only found in Newbiggin Pits, unlike its more showy relatives which are colouring Westwood yellow at this moment. Another species indicative of woodlands found on Westwood is the Bluebell. This is a relict species from the time when Westwood was wooded and here and there it has clung on in amongst the thick grass swards of Westwood because they have never been ploughed. You will not find it everywhere but there areas, especially where the land is sloping, that this classic species of English woodlands can be found growing in a Yorkshire pasture!

Other woodland relict species, such as the yellow Lesser Celandine and the white Wood Anemone can also be found on Westwood, betraying its woodland past, although these have now passed their best this year. Next time you are out for a walk on any of our commons, take the time to look at what’s under your feet, you may be in for a pleasant, and colourful surprise.

Posted by: swinemoor | May 4, 2014

Councillor Pearson: Parking and Posturing

Councillor Bryan Pearson who, if readers are unaware, is a member of the Conservative Party was pictured on the front page of the Beverley Guardian on the 11th April 2014 (see below) complaining about motorists parking on Westwood all day, churning up the grass and causing problems for visitors. Mr Pearson then goes on to say that it is difficult to park in the town and that he will be contacting partners at Beverley Town Council and the Pasture Masters to stop the Westwood being turned into a giant car park each morning. Finally Councillor Pearson says that he observed the problems himself after a number of concerned residents got in touch with ward councillors.

Pearson Westwood Parking

Beverley Guardian 11th April 2014

We at NSH find this extraordinary: everyone living in Mr Pearson’s Ward is well aware of the parking problems on Westwood, however, Mr Pearson and his colleagues have only recently been made aware of them it would appear. Do these councillors not know what is going on our common lands? It would seem not as Mr Pearson and his colleagues have been noticeably silent on the other issues facing Westwood and Hurn, namely the development at the former Westwood Hospital site (and the associated temporary road) and the proposed cycle path and land swap. What has Mr Pearson said about these issues? Nothing.  Nada.

In view of this, NSH are taking a cynical approach to Mr Pearson’s latest comments. This issue, whilst live, is of lower importance than the others on which he has had nothing to say. There is a suspicion of posturing here in advance of the local elections next year, jumping on the bandwagon so to speak.  In the past this blog has praised Councillor Pearson for standing up for what is right, this time however, we are more cynical as it is the party that Mr Pearson is a member of that introduced and then extended the parking zone in the town that has led directly to the parking problems on Westwood Road. To make matters worse it would appear anecdotally that most of those parking on Westwood each morning actually work at County Hall!!

In other words, the ERYC do not need to liaise with the Town Council and the Pasture Masters on this issue, they can fix it themselves by removing the controlled parking zone or by introducing a free park and ride service for their own employees. Go on Councillor Pearson, tell your political masters this. They may not wish to hear the truth but your constituents would and, you never know, they may reward you for your candour in May 2015.

Posted by: swinemoor | April 25, 2014

The Cycle Lane Saga Continues

The latest deadline for submitting comments on the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s (ERYC) proposals to put in a cycle lane along the B1230 has now passed but the good news is, if you have not already done so, you will have another chance to object as the latest deadline is the 15th May.

To update you, the ERYC are, in the face of opposition from a number of organisations including the Civic Society, maintaining they followed the rules in making this application, however, as time moves on it is becoming increasingly clear that they have not done so. For example, the ERYC continually insist that they have posted notices of their intention to swap land along the B1230 for land at Longcroft School at all the entrances to the common (a legal requirement), however, this is not true. Figure 1 is a picture of the chained entrance to Hurn Common taken in March. This clearly shows there is no notice displayed at this point (although there was at Norfolk Street and Gallows Lane) yet the ERYC continually maintain that there was.

Longcroft Entrance to Hurn

Figure 1: Inviting entrance to Hurn Common from Longcroft School: notice lack of ERYC notice detailing land swap proposals.

In a slight of hand worthy of Colonel Gaddaffi, the ERYC have also written to objectors to their proposals who made the point that they were not published on the ERYC’s Planning Portal. In these letters they have the temerity to say that they decided not to upload them because the documents were too large! In other words, it was too much effort to be bothered to tell the people of Beverley what they were up to. The level of arrogance in the responses received from the council is astonishing and is not healthy in a democracy.

For those of you who think that a cycle lane is a good idea, think again. The game here is not the creation of a cycle lane for the protection of local residents. If this were the case, the ERYC would be constructing one between Beverley and Bishop Burton: home to a college that is a significant local employer and has over 2,000 students. Ironically here there is enough space within the existing highway footprint so there would be no need for a land swap! The fact that they are not doing this is instructive and, as readers of this blog have suggested, has more to do with the setting of a precedent than public safety, i.e. if they can get the principle of a land swap past the Planning Inspectorate then the door is open for future land swaps on Hurn and Westwood. These could be proposed by developers and supported by the ERYC and might involve the loss of land on the Beverley side with a corresponding increase in common area in Walkington and Bishop Burton parishes.

Is this what we in Beverley want: yet more development on green field sites, threatening the setting of the town and the character of the town, which is being lost before our eyes? If you do not want this to happen, you must support the Civic Society and others and object to this cynical proposal by writing to the Defra Planning Inspectorate at: commonlandcasework@pins.gsi.gov.uk quoting reference COM544. Alternatively you can write to the Case Officer at:

The Planning Inspectorate, Common Lands Casework Team,Zone 3/25, temple Quay House, Bristol BS1 6PN

 

Once again, our commons are under threat from OUR council. Help save them by objecting to the ERYC’s proposals and tell your local councillor why you are doing so.

Posted by: swinemoor | April 2, 2014

Bats, Bad Press and Prosecution

P J Livesey, the developers of the former Westwood Hospital site have submitted amended plans for the site to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council: so says a letter from Peter Ashcroft dated 31st March 2014. The relevant documentation is now on the ERYC Planning Portal, however, it is very difficult to find the appropriate documents in amongst all the other documents pertaining to the application. The best way appears to be using the date 28th March, however, the most recent documents are not sorted in date order (or any order for that matter!) so it is a very time-consuming exercise.

A quick(ish) review of the documentation reveals no real changes to the application in terms of demolition proposals or tree cutting although it is refreshing to note that the access route over Westwood pasture appears to have been abandoned. Ground levels are still a concern although there has been some movement here and, sadly, all the drainage is still to be discharged into the combined sewer.

Whilst some of this is good news, it is concerning that there is no mention of bats in the amended proposals in spite of the fact that there are at least two known bat roosts in buildings scheduled for demolition. The Local Planning Authority cannot grant planning permission until firm plans for dealing with the impacts on these species have been agreed and have passed the ‘three tests’. Saying that a Natural England licence will be applied for is not enough under planning law.

It would appear that in the case of bats, P J Livesey have form and have been prosecuted for destroying bat roosts in the past, without having applied for a licence (which may not have been granted). This is not the only example, they also got their fingers burned in Crewe in 2008.  If Livesey’s do eventually develop the Beverley Westwood site, we at NSH hope that they act within the law and work with the bats on the site in a sensitive manner and not with the cavalier attitude they have shown elsewhere.

Posted by: swinemoor | March 26, 2014

Drainage, Damage and Dereliction of Duty

A visit to Figham (and Lund) commons last weekend should have been a lovely spring walk but alas it was spoiled by the drain-clearing activities that have recently taken place.  Drain clearing is a necessity in a pump-drained catchment, such as at Figham Common, but it can be done in an environmentally sensitive way, however, on this occasion it was not. It has been done in a wanton and destructive manner and, what’s more we, the taxpayer, have footed the bill.

Lund and Crack Willow

Figure 1: Lund Common, Beverley Parks Sewer and Crack Willow­ (yellow circle) © Google Maps 2014

The drain in question is the Beverley Parks Sewer (BNH053) and is maintained by the Beverley and North Holderness Drainage Board. This organisation was formed in 1766 (or 1798) which would seem a very long time ago, however, one of the Crack Willow (Salix fragilis) trees they have butchered (see Figure 1) during the course of  ‘sludging’ this drain is a lot older than the IDB in all its previous guises (see Figure 2). This tree had survived more than 200 years of previous drain de-silting but this time, presumably under the instruction of the Beverley and North Holderness IDB, it has not.

Crack Willow desecrastion

Figure 2: Ancient Crack Willow tree cut into pieces during over-zealous sludging operations on the Beverley Parks Sewer

Under the Land Drainage Act 1991 (Section 61A) , Internal Drainage Boards (which are public bodies and NOT private clubs) have a duty to further the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty and the conservation of flora, fauna and geological or physiographical features of special interest. In addition under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (Section 40) Every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity. Indeed in its own Policy Statement the Internal Drainage Board say:

When carrying out works, be it maintenance or improvement….. we will aim to: –
a) avoid any unnecessary or long-term damage to all the natural habitats
b) take appropriate opportunities to enhance habitats.

In this case it would appear that Beverley and North Holderness IDB have not complied with their own Policy Statement and avoided any unnecessary damage (although they had done so for the previous 200 years), nor have they taken any appropriate opportunities to enhance habitats. They have also not followed best practice by only cutting one bank at a time nor, it would appear, have they made any attempt to conserve biodiversity. Why not?

IDBs

The reason may lie in the archaic way that drainage boards are governed. They are made up of members who are elected by the ratepayers and, if special levies are payable, by local authority appointees who are allowed to hold a majority of one. This is important as the ratepayers are so called because they pay drainage rates to the IDB at an amount set, effectively, by the amount of land they own in the drainage district: the number of votes they have at elections is determined in the same manner. As a result many of the board members in any drainage district are the largest landowners: in the case of the Beverley and North Holderness IDB see for yourself.  Boards that raise ‘special levies’ from the local council  are, in effect, spending money they have not contributed themselves, i.e. public money and, in order to ensure that their members do not spend this money on works that benefit themselves and not the wider public, the local authority has the right to appoint board members under Schedule 1 Pt. II para. 6(1) of the LDA 1991.  In the case of the Beverley and North Holderness IDB the current make up of the board is shown HERE.  Sadly, you will notice that the East Riding of Yorkshire Council has not taken up its allocation in terms of board members, leaving the local landowners in charge of spending our council taxes.  How much do they spend? The answer is £285,409.78 of local council tax payers money, nearly 60% of the total income of the board.  The question needs to be asked of ERYC, why are they not taking up their allocated members on the board to ensure that public money is being spent in the public interest? However, that is an argument for another day….

The Works

The works undertaken have caused unnecessary damage to the Beverley Parks Sewer and the adjacent wetlands of Figham and Lund Commons: it would be interesting to find out what pre-works surveys were carried out on the watercourse and the riparian vegetation for protected species. Great Crested Newts Triturus cristatus are known to be in the area yet the works were done just when they are coming out of hibernation. The veteran trees damaged may have held bat roosts and there is a high likelihood that there were Water Voles Arvicola amphibious along the drain.

 

Crack Willow

Figure 3: Smashed 250 year old Crack Willow and downstream culvert

In answer to the above, no doubt the reason would be given that the works were necessary to avoid flooding, however, there is a waterfall from a culvert under the A1174 that discharges into the drain between Lund and Figham Common so any flooding could not have propagated upstream and flooded the road but would instead have flooded the wet grasslands of the common, as it has done for centuries. Nevertheless the Beverley Parks Sewer was widened and deepened. Would this reduce flooding? Unlikely as any flooding of the A1174 would be much more likely to be the result of the constriction in channel width caused by the culvert under the road and, on the commons themselves, the same effect is clearly evident (see Figure 3). Here you can see that the drain has been widened and the tree damaged in the process, however, the effect has been to create a long pond as the flow of the (now widened and deepened) drain is  being restricted by the 16″ diameter culvert downstream.  Indeed this picture was taken on the top of  a similar culvert and there were a number of these along this stretch of the drain. In other words, the flow in this drain cannot be increased by widening it and deepening it as it is being restricted by the capacity of the culverts, not the drain! This means that the environmental destruction that has been carried out along the Beverley Parks Sewer (see Figure 4) was completely unnecessary and was a waste of public money. Incidentally the drain is now filling in again (due to the low flows and ponding) with sand from the works on the Beverley Southern Relief Road!

Lund damage

Figure 4: Arisings from drain spread on rushy pasture (foreground) and severe damage to a 200 year old crack willow (background)

The nature of this work, how it was carried out and who paid for it raises very serious questions about the behaviour of public bodies in and around Beverley. There appears to be a cavalier attitude which is characterised by the phrase ‘the end justifies the means’. As a result we, the public, are left to pick up the bill for the construction of a sub-standard hospital on flood-prone land, the loss of street trees, the building of a new bypass nobody wants and the piece by piece damage to the countryside and wildlife surrounding the town. All of this under the watchful eye of ERYC whose job it is to preserve Beverley as one of the best places to live in the UK. Instead they seem intent on turning the town into a suburb of Hull or worse, a dormitory town that has lost all its character.

We need a council that looks after the interests of its council tax payers, does not consent to building ‘cottage hospitals’ on floodplains and ensures that Internal Drainage Boards are answerable to those that fund the majority of their activities by taking up their seats on the board. Only by doing this will they ensure our wildlife and environment is not damaged and public money is spent in the public interest.

 

Posted by: swinemoor | March 15, 2014

The Risks of Reseeding

According to the Beverley Advertiser (see below) the Pasture Masters are considering reseeding large parts of the Westwood Pasture because of damage caused by vandals driving cars across Westwood during the night. The latter activity is deplorable and, if anyone sees this happening, they should take the registration number and report the offence to the local police immediately. Only by doing this can we prevent this ‘plague’ from spreading.

Beverley Advertiser 12 March 2014 p. 3

Beverley Advertiser 12 March 2014 p. 3

That said, reseeding the pasture is not something that should be considered lightly and, if the Pasture Masters claim the Single Farm Payment for this land, they are likely to be in breach of the General Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC) of this scheme. Indeed, we at NSH believe that the spreading of the pasture with crushed limestone in 2012 was a breach of these regulations, however, this was so unsuccessful in terms of the existing pH, that in practice it made no real difference. This latest proposal is of much greater concern as the area involved is very large (20% of the area) and is likely to do much greater damage to the unimproved and semi-improved swards that make up the majority of Westwood.

The GAECs for permanent pasture are a requirement of the Single Farm Payment Scheme (SFPS), claimed by over 90% of farmers in the UK and, in all likelihood, the Pasture Masters. These say that before any area of semi-natural grassland greater than 2 hectares is improved to raise the level of agricultural production, an Environmental Impact Assessment  of the proposals is required. Since the majority of the grassland on Westwood is semi-natural in nature with large areas being species-rich, the current proposal by the Pasture Masters to undertake this activity on 20% of Westwood (c. 60 ha) is clearly caught by the regulations.

In view of the above, we at NSH would strongly suggest that the Pasture Masters obtain professional advice before undertaking this work, to ensure that they do not threaten the floristic interest of the swards on Westwood. If they do not, and do not get permission from Natural England before they carry out the reseeding exercise, they risk a stop notice being served on them, the loss of their Single Farm Payment, fines and prosecution.

The Pasture Masters have for centuries acted in the interests of the people of Beverley and, on this occasion they clearly believe that are doing so again. However, damaging the existing sward and risking prosecution, however inadvertently, is clearly not acting in the public interest. The risk from ploughing to the buried heritage on Westwood is obvious, however, the risk to the floristics in the sward is less so (especially from top-dressing) but equally severe. We at NSH would recommend that, before undertaking this exercise, they contact Natural England and find out where the the archaeologically and botanically sensitive areas are. For the latter, a useful first reference would be the maps in the back of Barbara English’s Beverley Pastures book. By doing this, the sensitive areas can be avoided and the damage done by cars (idiots) rectified: any new proposals should clearly not involve breaking the surface and will require a bespoke seed mix.

Posted by: swinemoor | March 14, 2014

Blunders and Boundaries

The land swap proposed by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council in exchange for the construction of new cycle lane alongside the Keldgate Road (B1230) is now rearing its ugly head again as the closing date for comments before Defra makes its decision on this is rapidly approaching (17th March 2014).

As mentioned previously, it is almost impossible to find out very much about the ERYC’s proposals as they have been deficient in the placement of notices informing the public of their plans and they have not consulted the Pasture Masters or other interested bodies regarding their proposals since 2011. That said, they have now been so kind as to provide a line on a small scale map at County Hall showing where the exchange land is, however, they have told no-one that the map is there and the scale of the map prevents the exact land parcel from being identified although we at NSH believe that it is in the area defined by the circle in Figure 1.  In other words, within the boundaries of Longcroft School.

Figure 1: Area where land swap proposed by ERYC is situated. © Google Maps 2014

Figure 1: Area where land swap proposed by ERYC is situated.
© Google Maps 2014

Today the Open Spaces Society have objected to this proposal as the ERYC have not followed the correct procedure and the swap land is in a different parish to the rest of the Beverley Pastures. This means that, under the Beverley Commons Act, the Pasture Masters cannot administrate it and another method needs to be found in order to facilitate this. In addition, it is difficult to get to (see Figure 1), especially on race days and it is separated from Hurn by an ancient bank with a hedge and trees sitting atop it. This bank forms the parish boundary and is of great antiquity so removing it (and the associated trees and hedgerow) would amount to yet another loss to the heritage value of Beverley for the short-term benefit of the ERYC.

There are those who feel that a cycle path would be a good idea and the ERYC should be supported, however, the fact is, that even if the land swap were approved, the law changed to move the parish boundary and the highway extended, it still would not permit the riding of bicycles as in 2012 the Planning  Inspector who looked at the previous application for a cycle path by ERYC said:

The Council have presumed that as a consequence of an application under section 38 of the 2006 Act the Secretary of State has the power/authority to consent to the provision of a cycle track.  They state that if consent is granted then the cycle track would become a highway and the bylaws would not affect its use.  However, the granting of the application will only provide for the consent for the physical works identified in the application and will not result in the dedication of a highway or permit cycling on the common [Elliott 2012].

So what this boils down to is that ERYC are trying to sneak through under the radar a proposal to swap land from the existing area of Westwood in order to create a cycle track upon which it will still be illegal to ride a bicycle. Why is this? Once again we at NSH are suspicious that this is not a blunder but another attempt by the ERYC to set a precedent which they can use  in the future. It is also interesting to note that our elected representatives have nothing to say on this matter, however, this week a number of them have appeared on the front page of the Beverley Advertiser complaining about the parking restrictions in the town and the problems they are causing. We agree Councillors Harold and Elvidge: the parking restrictions in the town were a blunder – by the governing party in the ERYC of which you are both a part! We at NSH would also go as far as to suggest that any road widening to permit a cycle lane will lead to additional car parking, either on the lane itself or on the opposite side of the Keldgate Road. This situation will only be exacerbated by the extensions to the parking zone you propose and will potentially put cyclists on the B1230 in even more danger in the future than they are now.

Posted by: swinemoor | March 8, 2014

York Road Parking Tickets

On the 15th of January this year a number of cars parked along York Road in Beverley were issued parking tickets by Traffic Wardens (‘blue meanies’) working for the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.  When questioned by local residents, the Wardens told them that the parking restrictions they were enforcing extended from the double yellow lines on the carriageway edge right up to the garden walls on the properties.  However, on a number of deeds this land is designated as ‘Westwood’, therefore parking there should be free all day.  These lines and the garden walls can clearly be seen on Figure 1.

Double yellow lines and garden walls on York Roiad, Beverley

Figure 1: Double yellow lines and garden walls on York Road, Beverley

Following residents’ complaints, the parking restrictions enforced here have now been lifted by ERYC saying a mistake had been made and residents have been told that they can now park on their frontage again.  Whilst this is good news, it once again demonstrates the unrelenting pressure that our commons are under from the local council who wish to extent their control over them.  The need for vigilance when protecting our commons is a matter for all those who love the town as we clearly cannot rely on our elected representatives to do so on our behalf.  That said, it is also important that we do not provide the council with an excuse that they can use in their attempt to exert control over the pastures and, in this regard, parking on Westwood is a cause celebre that needs to be addressed.

Posted by: swinemoor | March 8, 2014

Westwood Hospital Planning Application Update (or not…)

Figure 1: Screenshot of Westwood Hospital Planning Application Status on 8 Match 2014

Figure 1: Screenshot of Westwood Hospital Planning Application Status on ERYC website, 8 March 2014

According to the East Riding of Yorkshire Planning Portal the ‘determination date’ for this application has now passed (see Figure 1).  However, no notice has been received of a decision either in email or letter format, as is the norm. In truth it would be a travesty if the ERYC were to allow this application to go through with the number of holes and omissions there are in the submission.

As we have stated before on this blog, NSH believes that this application should be refused as it is deficient in terms of the built heritage of the site, the ground elevations, overlooking, ecology and drainage. In short, it is a dog’s breakfast! We suspect that the ERYC will defer the application at this juncture, allowing time for the developers to address some of the above concerns. Rest assured we at NSH will be watching developments here to ensure that there are no further encroachments on our commons and that any development is sympathetic to Westwood and those people and animals that use it for recreation or foraging.

Posted by: swinemoor | February 24, 2014

Comments on Westwood Hospital Application

Letter from Richard Lidwell in Beverley Guardian 13/9/2014

Letter from Richard Lidwell in Beverley Guardian 13/9/2014

The Planning Permission application by P J Livesey is now wending its way through the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s (ERYC) procedures – let’s hope this one has not already been decided behind closed doors and that, for once, the ERYC will listen to the people of Beverley and, at the very least, defer this application.

A read of the comments on the ERYC website is instructive and clearly shows the strength of feeling regarding the access route across Westwood, as well as the development itself. The application is due to be determined on the 7th March and we at NSH will keep you informed of any and all developments.

A trawl through the back issues of the Beverley Guardian revealed a prescient letter by Richard Lidwell, which was published in the aforementioned organ on the 13th September 2013, well before P J Livesey submitted their application for Planning Permission on 25th November. Mr Lidwell’s letter says it all; it raises concerns about the demolition of listed buildings, the over-development of the site, the lack of specificity in the plans and even the potential access route across Westwood.

Mr Lidwell’s letter ends with a plea to the developers, P J Livesey, asking them to go back to the drawing board and reconsider their plans for the site. What a pity they chose not to take Mr Lidwells advice. Let us hope, on this occasion, that ERYC do.

EDIT: Following a comment on this article from Joanne, who noticed that Mr Lidwell has commented on behalf of the Beverley Civic Society on the development, we at NSH felt that, for completeness, we should allow readers to view his comments HERE. Hat-tip to Joanne for spotting this!

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