Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Planning Committee

The agenda for today's meeting was particularly heavy, containing as it did the draft Strategic Housing Land Allocation Assessment. This document, 2cm thick, contains an assessment of every conceivable plot of land in the Borough capable of having more than 10 dwellings put on it in. It then tries to assess whether they're likely to become available and if it might be possible to develop in the next 15 years. It's been a mammoth task to produce and of course it contained plots which some of us would rather not see developed. There's no guarantee that they will end up with housing but there's a feeling of unease when the possibility is there on the page in black and white.
It includes the sites of the schools which may be moving or closing under the proposals for Building Schools for the Future, something which we in this ward were assured would not happen when we had early discussions on the subject. However much council officers protest that it's prudent and necessary to put the sites in there because they might become available but that nothing's decided, one can't help but feel that there's been some economy with the truth along the way.

Two difficult planning applications helped to prolong the meeting. One in Ingleby Barwick had several of us wishing we could do something to teach wayward developers a lesson but unfortunately planning committee doesn't have that in its remit! As a result the developer will be selling a house which has some quite severe changes in level in the garden and has less daylight in the kitchen than most people would want. The neighbours have to put up with a house which is higher than it should be and has an imposing gable wall facing their properties. All because the builder didn't comply with a basic requirement at the outset - to get the levels agreed before building. It's not rocket science, but some of these companies just think they can ride roughshod over the council and the neighbours.
The second tricky one was in our ward. 502-506 Yarm Rd is better known to long-standing residents as MPG. We were told today by the chairman of Preston Parish Council that it has been there for 70 years. I can vouch for the last 30 of them! Today it serves not just as a filling station but as a corner shop for local people. Sadly the economics of life today mean that the owners want to demolish it and build flats. Because I've been tied up with personal things over the last few weeks I hadn't spent as long studying it as I might have done. When I came to study the report on the agenda for today I was saddened to see that, despite lots of things which were obviously wrong on it, the planning officer had recommended it for approval. Eventually we agreed to defer it to see if a better design can be achieved. I'd like a lower density but I don't know whether that will be possible. I'm just not sure how popular 1 bedroomed flats will be, and I know that local people are worried that if they don't sell it will become a derelict eyesore. The garage isn't a thing of beauty but perhaps better the devil you know? I did permit myself a wry smile at the thought that the flats would be considered sustainable because shops are accessible by bus, but in order to build them the local convenience store would be demolished. Such is life in the planning world these days.

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