WHERE ARE WE WITH PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT?
As we enter 2014, we’re embarking on the fifth year of our opposition to plans for unnecessary and excessive development in Menston. I’ve been asked to reflect on where we are and what we’ve achieved.
First things first: thanks to our determined, united and well-informed opposition, to great generosity from residents and to continually taking Bradford Council to task for their repeated breaches of Planning Law and procedures, the fields at Bingley Road and Derry Hill ARE STILL green fields – as they were and as they should remain!
Uninsurable houses in Menston
Secondly, the Planning Permissions which have been granted are based on failure to recognise the flood risk, on those fields and elsewhere in Menston, and attention is being increasingly drawn to the impracticality of building houses where they will flood and when they won’t be insurable.
Thirdly – and wonderful news – Bradford Council has been told (as if it wasn’t obvious) that Rombalds Moor and its slopes are part of the South Pennines Moors Special Protection Area and, as such, are protected from development as a Natural Character Area and a wildlife habitat. Accordingly, they are subject to the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (the “Habitats Regulations”) and Article 6(3) of the (European) Habitats Directive 1992. In recognition of this protected status, the number of housing units planned for construction in Wharfedale has been reduced from 4500 to 2500. In the specific case of Menston, that means the plan for 900 housing units has been reduced to a maximum of 400.
Too many houses
It remains the case that 400 extra houses for Menston is still excessive. The plans for Derry Hill and Bingley Road would account for 309 of that total, but Bradford Council is being challenged as to the basis for its conclusion that Bradford District will need to build 42,500 new homes in the period to 2030. There’s no independent evidence to support that conclusion, since the figures on which that target is based were supplied by a property development company (GVA) which has, of course, a vested interest in seeing the largest possible number of homes constructed since it is involved in the negotiations and in assisting the construction companies.
Menston Community Association, MAG and the Parish Council are united in opposition to the current plans for development on the basis of flood risk, inadequate drainage, the existing traffic problems which would be exacerbated, the lack of secondary school places for Menston children, the absence of local jobs which increases commuting for work, and the potential damage to Menston’s village character. These organisations are assisted by the research facilities and wider perspective provided by Wharfedale & Airedale Review Development (WARD) which continues to lobby for protection of our green spaces and Green Belt [www.WARDyorkshire.org].
File of evidence to the Ombudsman
A file of evidence relating to Bradford Council’s breaches of procedure and deliberate refusal to examine the evidence we’ve put forward has been accepted by the Local Government Ombudsman for further investigation and, simultaneously, a complaint has been lodged with Bradford Council providing evidence that Councillors on the Planning Panel were denied access to evidence, not given full information, had their questions dismissed as irrelevant and were pressurised into voting for the development plans. Our MP, Philip Davies, is asking for an Adjournment Debate into Bradford Council.
So, those of us directly involved have been toiling away through 2010, 11, 12 and 13 – and we admit we haven’t always been able to keep residents well-informed – can now see that our efforts are productive. Bradford Council is now being tasked to justify proposals for high-volume development in Menston and Wharfedale when its city areas are semi-derelict and to bring forward evidence that it has acted properly in presenting and processing these Planning Applications.
There is scope for modest levels of new construction in Menston but, in accordance with the principles of localism, such plans have to reflect the character of our area and the genuine needs and preferences of residents. Our representatives have never been allowed (to date) a real opportunity to influence this process, but we detect a change in circumstances. Instead of being continually on the defensive, perhaps we can soon start advancing positive proposals based on our interaction with you and reflecting your concerns and aspirations for this lovely community of Menston.
Your continued support necessary
Your continued support – vocal, financial, moral and motivational – is necessary, so that we can stop Bradford Council bullying us and start listening. Keep an eye on the village notice boards (of which we hope there will soon be more), on the posters on the window of the newsagents at Lane Ends, and on the websites [that is: menston.org, menstonvillagewharefedale.com and WARD] and expect an update at the February Forum, which is your chance to ask further questions and express your views.
Meanwhile, on behalf of all of us trying to defend our village and its character, thank you for your support to date and we hope you’re enjoying the festive season