Five reasons given by the Minister why Derry Hill and Bingley Road developments in Menston should not go ahead

Philip Davies MP

Philip Davies MP

Yesterday’s post on the House of Commons Adjournment Debate in which our representative, Philip Davies MP, set out Menston’s case against the proposed housing developments on Bingley Road, and Derry Hill, has been incorporated in this post to carry forward the links to a transcript of the debate and to the BBC iPlayer video of it (see the end of this post). Philip rightly did not dilute his argument by concentrating on the lack of infrastructure in terms of transport, health and education, which we in Menston know to be other very good reasons not to build several hundred more houses in Menston.

Stephen Williams MP

Stephen Williams MP

However, the Minister, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Stephen Williams, (Lib Dem) did, in setting out Government policy, give five very powerful reasons why the developments should never have been given planning permission.

The local plan

Mr Williams stressed, on several occasions, that an “up-to-date local plan, prepared through extensive public engagement, sets the framework in which decisions are taken, whether locally by the planning authority or on appeal. All areas should have some form of development plan”. Menston has no such plan, as has been discussed at Parish Council meetings on more than one occasion, the reason given being that it was too much work and would take too long to prepare. This may well be true, but it has clearly set Menston at a disadvantage.

“Powerful case” said Minister

Although the Minister said at the outset in response to Philip Davies’s “powerful case” (the Minister’s words) that he could not comment on specific cases, eg, the proposed Menston developments, he did – in setting out Government policy – give five commanding reasons why the proposed Bingley Road and Derry Hill developments should not go ahead. The only question remaining is how to stop them now that Bradford council has given the go-ahead.

The only concrete proposal given by the Minister was a Judicial Review, as he put it, a “last resort”, though he did suggest that Philip contact Ministers and other authorities with the ‘suggestion’ that something might be done if new evidence showed the BMDC decisions to be flawed (eg Prof Rhodes’s most recent research – see the post dated 5 June). Philip has told us that he will be taking up the Minister’s suggestions: “My intention is now to follow up with the Minister, as he suggested, providing him with all the expert evidence that Prof Rhodes has commissioned and produced. I will ask them to review this evidence – which I believe is overwhelming – and to let me know what steps they intend to take to address it – both at a national and local level”.

Communications from other communities

Since publishing yesterday’s post we have received communications from other communities, as close as Ben Rhydding and as far away as Cornwall, from people ranging from local councillors to highly qualified experts in flooding, indicating that Philip Davies’s contention that the Menston situation is of national importance is absolutely correct.

The five reasons

The five reasons given by the Minister for which, according to national policy, the Menston developments should not go ahead are as follows (annotions in bold, italics, etc have been inserted for clarity and are not part of the official transcript):

1. ” … sustainable development means granting planning permission unless the adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits or specific policies in the national framework that indicate that development should be restricted. These specific policies include building on the green belt or in areas where there are designated heritage assets and flooding … … most development in the green belt is inappropriate and should be granted permission only in very special circumstances, and that green belt boundaries should be reviewed only in exceptional circumstances through the local plan process. National policy equally sets out how planning must take account of the different roles and character of different areas, recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside, and take into account all the benefits of the best and most versatile agricultural land … “.

2. ” … In respect of the historic environment, local planning authorities should set out in their local plan a positive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment. In doing so, they should recognise that heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource and that they should conserve them in a manner appropriate to their significance … “.

3. ” … We have been very clear that we expect councils to follow the strict tests (re flooding) in national policy, and that where these tests are not met, that new development should not be allowed … “.

4. ” … or a proposed development cannot be made safe, it should not be permitted. The framework is also very clear that residential development should not be allowed in functional floodplain where flood water has to flow or be stored … “.

5. ” … a site specific flood risk assessment has to be undertaken to demonstrate that development will be safe and resilient—for instance, through flood defence or raised ground floor levels. That should not increase flood risk elsewhere … “.

Links to the debate (from yesterday’s post)

For the next six days you can view Philip Davies’s speech and the Minister’s reply on BBC iPlayer by going to the link below. Note, however, the video includes several hours of proceedings of which the ‘Menston’ part is the final half hour, so to view just this go to a point 7 hours 29 minutes into the video.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b045pgdm/house-of-commons-05062014

The whole of these proceedings is recorded and available in Hansard but this is not an easy read. The transcript can be read a little more easily by clicking on the following link to a page on this site ADJOURNMENT DEBATE, HOUSE OF COMMONS, 5 JUNE 2014. For speed, editing has been minimal but this post will be augmented by some comment in the very near future.

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