Local Plan - The Latest Twist...
It's been a few weeks since the last update, but things have been happening and now is the time to let you know. There is bad news, and possibly some good news, so read on.
You may have heard that the Inspector's report in to the Local Plan has been received, and subject to some Main Modifications (ie changes that he wants in order to make the plan sound) he has approved the plan. This means that Magna Park gets extended, and the proposal for Lutterworth East gets the green light. Very disappointing, as at the Hearing last October he appeared to be a very straight guy who seemed to be concerned about the locality, was asking difficult questions, and was expecting the right answers to come back. He seems to have back tracked on a number of points, but there is nothing that we can do about that. I had hoped that he would have had the focus of "doing the right thing for the community" after his recent experiences - for those of you that don't know his name is Jonathan Bore, and in 2015 he was the Executive Director for Planning and Borough Development for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and he signed off the refurbishment, including cladding, on Grenfell Tower, much against the wishes of the local community.
However.....The next steps are that, on 25th April, the HDC Executive is supposed to vote to either recommend the adoption of the Local Plan, or reject it, and pass that recommendation on to the Full Council. They will then vote on it on Tuesday April 30th - if they vote to adopt, then it gets adopted. BUT. On Sunday I discovered that Harborough District Council had already published a document on their website - this document was the full Local Plan, and the title page stated that it was adopted on 30th April 2019. So, this was available over a week in advance of the published date, before the Exec had a chance to make recommendations, and before the Full Council had voted on it. It is no coincidence that the date on the document was the same as the date that the Full Council was due to vote. This is called "predetermination", it shows that the Council were not entering in to the process with an open mind and had determined to adopt the plan, and is illegal. The document is still available (surprisingly), and can be found here .
Myself and David Gair, a fellow Town Councillor, have as you know been fighting this subject for a while, and we had intended to go to the Executive meeting to see how they voted, and then report back. You should be aware that there are seven members that make up the HDC Executive, three of which live locally, namely Neil Bannister, Janette Ackerley and Jonathan Bateman. We wanted to see if they stood up for the views that members of the local community had expressed, where over 90% of people who responded to an on line poll on the Lutterworth Town Facebook page indicated that they are against the plans, or whether they voted with the Council.
All members are up for re-election on May 2nd (incidentally, David Gair is standing for Lutterworth East, and I would recommend him as a guy who cares for the area and works hard. Party Politics are NOT significant at this level - the important thing is that your Councillor works for YOU).
In advance of the meeting , we put together a document which demonstrated a number of good reasons why the local Plan should not be adopted, and planned to send that to the relevant Councillors - that document is detailed below for your information. However, given the situation regarding the predetermination, we have not only sent the document, but we have formally raised the predetermination case, stating that in our view any decision now taken by HDC regarding the Local Plan can only be seen in the light of the predetermination, and would therefore be illegal. We also take the view that any advancement of a planning application linked to the Local Plan would also come under the same predetermination rules. This issue has also been forwarded to our MP, Alberto Costs.
We will still attend the HDC Executive Meeting on Thursday, and we will also attend the Full Council. I will be reporting back to let you know what happens. HDC will probably try to brush this all under the carpet, however we will not let that happen, and if they do we will be reporting direct to the Local Government Ombudsman.
The script of our document to the HDC Executive is shown below. I'll be back to update you later this week.
HARBOROUGH DISTRICT COUNCIL EXECUTIVE MEETING
LOCAL PLAN 2011 – 2031
NON-ACCEPTANCE OF THE PLAN IN CURRENT FORMAT
The Inspector’s report in to the Local Plan has now been received, and is awaiting scrutiny by the Executive Committee of the District Council, who will make recommendations to the Full Council regarding its adoption.
There are a number of reasons why the Local Plan, as it is currently written, should not be adopted by the Council, and we would ask that the Council Executive take notice of these points.
Policy L1 – East of Lutterworth SDA.
During the consultation period regarding the Local Plan, over 200 responses were presented by the community, the vast majority of which were against the Local Plan as it stood, many pointing to the failure of the plan to provide clear traffic measures that would mitigate the adverse impact of the new development. It is clear that the Inspector has taken no notice of these points, and focusses instead on “planning principles” and “urban design considerations”, regardless of the impact on the existing community, a community who’s wellbeing is the responsibility of Harborough District Council.
The Inspector states that the new development must function as a sustainable urban extension to Lutterworth (106), which is permeable and well connected to Lutterworth, and requires appropriate traffic management and public realm improvements in Lutterworth Town Centre to facilitate the movement of pedestrians and cyclists (108). This refers to the ability to cross the A426 Leicester Road, a road that is already beyond capacity at peak travel times, a road that is forecast to experience a 26% increase in HGV traffic between now and 2036 (source: LCC Traffic Forecasts), and for which the Inspector offers no direction or solution. Indeed, he introduces a dichotomy. In one breath, he states that the proposed Spine Road will provide an alternative route between the A4304 and the A426, and he then states that “it is not intended to be a by-pass for Lutterworth Town Centre”, and “the plan rightly does not see the Spine Road as a relief road”. All of this, despite the fact that the forecasts are that the development will generate roughly 4,000 additional cars in the wider Lutterworth area (source: East Midlands Car Ownership per Household figures), there will be a 26% increase in HGV traffic at morning peak times, and there will be a similar increase in Light Goods vehicle figures at pm peak travel times. However, it doesn’t stop there. The Inspector then removes the requirement that the Gilmorton Road is closed to private traffic. This will mean that traffic from the new development will have a direct access in to Lutterworth Town Centre along Gilmorton Road, joining the A426 at a junction that is already over capacity. The only realistic forecast for Lutterworth is total gridlock in the centre.
The problem is that all of the design principles are focussed solely on the new development, and there is nothing within the Local Plan that deals with the consequences that will impact the existing development – it is merely expected to take the pain. There is an opportunity here to benefit both developments through sensible and sensitive design, yet the Local Plan, and therefore the proposed masterplan, is precluding this.
This aspect of the Local Plan cannot benefit the “one Lutterworth” approach, and it should not be approved.
However, it would be wrong to say that the Local Plan ignores traffic implications entirely. In Policy MH4 (Land at Airfield Farm, Market Harborough), MM33, allows for “…a financial contribution fairly and reasonably related to the development to mitigate the impacts of the scheme, where the impacts of the development taken cumulatively with other schemes would have a significantly adverse effect on the transport network”. In addition, Market Harborough gets protection from HGV traffic through the Market Harborough Transport Strategy 2016, which we understand recommends a 7.5 tonne weight limit within the realms of the town.
Lutterworth will experience a significantly larger development, and also has other schemes (namely the doubling in size of Magna Park) which will give a cumulative, significantly adverse impact on the area, yet there is no equivalent proviso to off-set the detrimental effects. There is a clause in the Local Plan (15.2.24) that states that “Following the completion of the Spine Road, traffic management measures and public realm improvements will be developed to remove or minimise the passage of HGVs through the centre of Lutterworth…”. How do Councillors expect this to happen? We already know that “…the plan rightly does not see the Spine Road as a relief road”. Given that there is no other routing available, either the Spine Road becomes a relief road (thus directing HGV traffic through the new development), or the traffic management measures cannot be implemented. And where is the proposal to limit vehicles to 7.5 tonnes gvw?
This simply does not work – the plan CANNOT be recommended for adoption.
Consultation and Public Support
In the Explanations (Extract), point 15.2.2 states that:
“In order that the SDA is developed in a way that complements and enhances the town and does not become an unwelcome accretion, it should be in accordance with a masterplan that is produced with the full engagement of the existing community of Lutterworth and which has the support of the population through a consultation processas part of either a Supplementary Planning Document, a Neighbourhood Plan or a planning application.”
People in Lutterworth, feel that they have been told what they are going to get, and have no say in the matter.
Over 90% of people reported in an on-line poll that they did not receive the leaflet from LCC advertising the “masterplan exhibition” in March, and were therefore excluded from the process.
Over 80% of people who were interviewed after the March “exhibition” said that they did not support the plans as they currently exist.
Over 96% in an on-line poll said that could not support the plans as they currently exist
As at 22ndApril 2019, 95% of the comments on the HDC planning portal regarding application 19/00250/OUT, which is produced in accordance with the Draft Local Plan, were objections. Many of these refer to the lack of transport and road considerations.
The Inspector stated in paragraph 18 that options in Scraptoft and Thurnby were not considered because they had “least public support”. So why is the lack of support in Lutterworth being ignored?
Residents of Lutterworth have not been engaged with the process, they have been told what they are getting, and all objections have been ignored. No changes have been made to the masterplan as a result of public opinion since it was first displayed in September 2018. This is not engagement, this is dictating.
As far as education is concerned, the plan states that “…at least a one form entry primary school to be open by the September before the completion of 300dwellings”. So, given that all local primary schools are full, where do the children from the first 299 dwellings go? Further, the Inspector added a comment that allowed the date of provision to be delayed! As far as secondary education is concerned, this entire topic is pushed out in to the future without further consideration. The ”promise” of money if required sounds very much like “the cheque is in the post”. There needs to be a sound plan, even if it does demonstrate that existing facilities could cope, although the fact that the main High School for this catchment area is already over-subscribed, the Frank Whittle School is closing, and the new developments created in Lutterworth over the last few years have still to produce their secondary school students, suggests that this may not be the case.
How does this help Lutterworth? All it does is present a ticking bomb for Lutterworth to have to manage in the future.
As far as the “Neighbourhood Centre” is concerned, the Local Plan paints a wonderful picture, but there are no guarantees. We already know from LCC that facilities will only be provided based on market demand and proven need – why haven’t HDC told the residents this? There is no guarantee of additional medical services on the new development – if existing facilities are used, that just imposes more traffic on the Gilmorton Road, which struggles now. As for “Greenways”, has anybody told the horse riders that use the current fields and bridle paths that they have been excluded from consideration, and that the new facilities will not cater for them?
The real facts behind the plan have not been made public – how can Councillors recommend them for adoption?
Policy BE2 – Strategic Distribution
What is meant by the term “District”? This is an important question. Given that the Local Plan is the Harborough DistrictLocal Plan 2011 – 2031, we assume that the word relates to the area under the control of HDC.
MM15 states that “Additional development of up to 700,000sqm …will be provided In the District. Additional development should form an extension of, or be on a site adjoining, Magna Park in the following locations:
380,000sqm already committed
320,000sqm on land north west of Magna Park
So, if the definition of “District” is correct, and the limit of development is 700,000 sqm, all of which is accounted for within Policy BE2, how can Councillors accept Policies BE1 and L1, both of which are contradictory to BE2?
In the Business and Employment section of Policy L1, the plan allows for 13 hectares of Storage and Distribution on land to the south of the A4304, adjacent to the M1 Junction 20. The Inspector has said that this land is not to be considered as specifically “non-strategic” Distribution (ie sites of less than 9,000 sqm), but is open to all B8 use. As we have seen, this is in direct contradiction of Policy BE2, which states that a maximum of 700,000 sqm is developed “in the District” and that this is at specified locations as discussed within policy BE2.
Therefore, either Policy BE1, BE2 or L1 has to change in order to remove this contradiction. The Local Plan does not stand scrutiny without these changes being made.
The Masterplan and Planning Application
While we accept that the Council is considering the Local Plan, and not the current planning application, there are issues here. The current application was submitted before the Inspector issued his report, and therefore cannot take heed of some of the comments that he has made. He specifically says that “…the approach contained in the policy and interpreted by the Connectivity Plan fails against the urban design considerations in Planning Practice Guidance, and unless it is properly addressed it calls in to question the soundness of the strategic site selection process, in which proximity to Lutterworth town centre carried considerable weight.” It must be noted that the Connectivity plan which supports the current application has not changed to any significant degree since it was proposed in September 2018. Therefore, if the Local Plan allows for this Connectivity Plan, or the planning process approves the Connectivity Plan, the soundness of the strategic site selection process is called in to question, which therefore raises serious concerns about the entire Policy L1, and in turn the Local Plan itself.
Councillors cannot, in all seriousness, approve a Local Plan that leaves such stones unturned, and potentially exposes the Council to delay and ridicule.
We believe that the above points are all substantial reasons why the Local Plan 2011-2031 should not be recommended for adoption at this stage. While we acknowledge that much time and money has been spent on the process to date, there are too many issues within Policy L1 and Policy BE2 to allow the Local Plan to move forward without amendment, and there is little or no assistance for the existing development to cope with the consequences that will come its way.
The pressing timescale of the May 2nd elections MUST NOT be allowed to drive through a Local Plan that has such serious flaws.