Monday, June 27, 2011

The Character of our area

A very interesting situation is developing in the Western Area of Stockton Renaissance.  In Yarm and Eaglescliffe there have been for some years a number of vociferous people who've opposed the indiscriminate "development" of large old houses and gardens into blocks of flats/luxury apartments.  At the height of the development boom we seemed to fight one battle after another, no time to draw breath between them, as one property after another was threatened.  Though it was a handful of people who made the running there were always lots of others in support.  We won some and lost some - Witham Lodge, subject to vandalism and arson, was demolished and replaced by flats.  So was The Garth.  Copsewood was saved from demolition but had a mini development built in the grounds.  Garages became flats and houses.  The Grange stands going to wrack and ruin.
But then the recession hit and developers realised that housebuyers didn't grow on trees.  The flood slowed to a very slow trickle.  Sighs of relief sounded, though mixed with warnings that this was only a lull.
Stockton Council started a Yarm & Eaglescliffe Area Action Plan, designed to protect and enhance the character of the area and to channel development to those parts where it was most suitable.  But it got bogged down in detailed discussions about exactly where the boundary should go and what should be allowed or encouraged.  All went quiet until a report to cabinet suggested that there was no need to continue as the points were all covered in bigger documents that carried more weight.  Everything stopped.
Earlier this year we realised that work had also stopped on these bigger documents because even more important ones needed to be revised.  As a result some people in our area became very very anxious and annoyed.  The Western Area Partnership Board debated the issue and decided to collect signatures on a petition asking the council to reconsider the matter.  Fired with enthusiasm the members of the board went off to collect signatures.
Months later, the number of signatures collected is much smaller than anticipated.  It seems that because there are no immediate developments threatening houses next door or nearby people are unwilling to get involved.  A long term strategy holds no interest for them.  Members of the board are contemplating different ways of getting the necessary decisions taken in Stockton Council.  Questions about what exactly is this character that we're so keen to preserve and how much development is acceptable or even desirable are being raised again.  The debate is going full circle.
Meanwhile in Long Newton the Parish Council is looking at how to do a Neighbourhood plan for their parish setting out their vision for the future.  Actually, they're getting on with it while the rest of us still debate.

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