Lutterworth East Update - Jan 2019
Hello all, and a Happy New Year!
Just a brief update to keep you in the loop.
My last post referred to a couple of meetings that were taking place, firstly with the East of Lutterworth SDA Community Partnership Group, and secondly with the planners who are pulling the master plan together. Well, as far as the second of these is concerned, Lutterworth Town Council will be meeting with the planners during week commencing 21st January, in order to establish what the latest plans look like, and to try to determine whether the recommendations and instructions given by the Inspector at last Octobers hearing have been heeded and included in any revision.
Regarding the first meeting, that of the gloriously titled "East of Lutterworth SDA Community Partnership Group", this was held on December 19th at the Harborough District Council offices. The Chairman of the group, District Councillor Phil King is the portfolio holder for Planning, and Lutterworth Town Council was represented by myself along with Cllr David Gair, and Cllr Geraldine Robinson and Cllr Janette Ackerley who are also Town Councillors attended in their roles as District Councillors. Cllr Johnathan Bateman attended for Misterton, however all other local councils were unrepresented due to what appears to have been a communication issue. We thought that the purpose of the group was to enable improved communication, however were pleasantly surprised when we found out that while it wasn't a decision making body, we would have the opportunity to scrutinise the plans and challenge the promoters throughout the whole process. The idea being that we could represent the views of all of the councils affected, along with the views of the community, and resolve issues prior to planning. Unfortunately, for this first meeting, the promoter (Leicestershire County Council) chose not to send a representative, so we were able to discuss the remit of the group at length, and discuss what we already knew abut the plans.
When the promoter of a scheme is also the County Council, it is easy to assume that anything and everything will be steam roller'd through. However, it is very much the view of Cllr King that the process will be absolutely transparent, that Leicestershire County Council MUST comply with all aspects of the Policy, and that there is a clear dividing line between Leicestershire County Council as a local government body, and LCC as the promoter of a development.
In terms of the Lutterworth East process that we will go through, Councillor King was of the view that this could possibly have a life of two to three years before construction commences.
The Local Plan process needs to be complete - the Inspector reports early in 2019, and provided that the policy changes that he has recommended have been included in the plan, the Harborough District Council vote for the adoption of the plan should take place towards the end of March 2019.
The planning process will then commence.
While the promoter can apply for planning at any time, and the indication is that they will enter planning towards the end of January 2019, the plan MUST comply with policy. If the policy has not been finalised, and the Local Plan therefore not adopted, the promoter runs the risk of having to repeat the planning application stage if their initial application does not anticipate all of the policy requirements. While nothing can be guaranteed, it is possible that the promoter will take this risk. Councillor King will be discussing this with them in order to ensure that they fully understand the risk that they are taking - apparently this is the first development of this scale that they have undertaken.
This will be a "hybrid" application, with the promoter being the lead body in areas such as roads, however they will then sell off sections of land to individual builders to develop the residential areas. This is quite interesting, as obviously the main issue that Lutterworth Town has is the problem of traffic through the town on the A426 Leicester Road. We are looking for the new development to reduce this substantially by providing an alternative route, so it is perhaps unsurprising that LCC are so against our views, given that the one thing that they are going to develop themselves is the road network!
Obviously the development will be driven by the masterplan which we will scrutinise in detail, and we can question and challenge all areas of this plan.
There will then follow a public consultation process, managed by HDC. This would take the form of a consultation at the beginning of the application, and then a further consultation when the plan is finally ready for a council decision.
If planning consent is not given, there is clearly an appeals process.
Assuming that planning consent is given,
detailed planning requirements would be sorted out
detailed analysis of development phasing would take place
reserved matters, such as housing details would be finalised
the design code (ie the "look" of the housing developments) would be established
Obviously, the longer the early stages of the process take, the more protracted the timescale. Therefore, if the promoter takes the view that they have a plan, it's a fait accompli and we have to accept it (as indications suggest that they are doing) then they could be in for a rough ride. Councillor King was less than impressed when I told him that the promoter was of the view that no further public consultation was required, and he agreed to address that point. We were given sight of a revised masterplan, which was updated 6 days after the Inspector's hearing, and while there are a few changes on it (replacement leisure centre removed, subtle change to the Spine Road, introduction of some sports pitches), it would not seem to satisfy the comments and recommendations made by the Inspector, and it certainly didn't satisfy the group around the table, including Councillor King. We stressed the need for relief of the A426, and that this could be done by re-routing the Spine Road. We stressed the fact that there was still an amount of B8 warehousing adjacent to the M1 within the plan, and that if it remained it must take some of the allocation of the 700k sqm that HDC voted to put in the Local Plan - ideally however it would be removed. We identified that the Community area was very small given the size of the development. We identified that an existing pedestrian underpass below the M1 was missing from the plan. We identified that the B1 and B2 employment areas had not been relocated north of Gilmorton Fields, as had been suggested at the hearing. If the Inspector sticks to his guns, it is unlikely therefore that this masterplan would be acceptable.
So, where next? During mid January, the revised policy L1 will be available, and members of the group will receive a copy to study. At our next meeting on February 27th, we will then be able to compare that Policy with the latest available masterplan, and start the scrutiny. We are all of the view that while we can't stop this particular juggernaut, we have the chance to re-direct it, change it's shape and possibly it's colour, and come up with something that works for all.
However, there is one final, yet essential step. Once we have done the analysis, we understand what the final proposal is, and we have confirmed that it meets the requirements of the Policy L1, we will talk to the wider community and explain what is being proposed, what our views are, and get feedback from the community around their issues and concerns. If we are to fight to ensure that this development is the best and right thing for Lutterworth, then we need to do so as a community, not just as a Town Council or some bloke with a website!
The next update will be after the meeting with the planners - I'll let you know what they say !!