Waterhills “too big for protected status”
A last-ditch attempt to save an area near Waterhills from development might fail as planners say the area is “too large” to qualify for a special status.
Caistor Town Councillors were last night (Thursday, March 10, 2016) given a progress report by the Mayor, Carol Mackenzie, and Town Clerk Helen Pitman, who had met West Lindsey planning officials a few hours before.
Their meeting followed a decision by the town council to try to present “a robust case” for the land to be designated as Local Green Space in the Central Lincolnshire Draft Local Plan.
The Caistor Neighbourhood Plan, which supports development on the land due to its proximity to the town, was supported by voters in January. It is thought the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan and the Neighbourhood Plan would be given equal consideration by planning officials.
A planning application for 72 homes to be built on some of the land – which is off Brigg Road – was submitted in 2014 and the outcome still has to be decided, councillors were told. The meeting heard it had been delayed pending reports, but the precise reasons for the delays were unclear.
At first, it was suggested that the application would come before the planning committee in April “without further consultation,” reported Ms Pitman.
“We asked for more consultation, particularly on drainage,” she said. “The Planning Officer was not present and we could not get an updated report, but it was then suggested that it could go out to consultation and put before the planning committee in May, rather than have it carried out by a delegated decision.”
“Obviously, we made our case very clear that it has to be done properly,” added Cllr Alan Caine, who is Chairman of the town council’s planning committee.
“They did say they would look at it now as a matter of urgency,” said Mayor Mackenzie.
Cllr Michael Galligan asked why it had taken so long for the application to be decided.
“The Planning Officer was not there, so he could not answer,” replied Ms Pitman.
“Did the Planning Officer not know you were coming today?” asked Cllr Galligan.
Ms Pitman said she didn’t know, but Mayor Mackenzie stressed that it was “a very positive meeting.”
The Town Clerk then referred to the council’s attempt to seek Local Green Space status for the land. “One of the issues is: what do they consider is a ‘vast tract of land’?” she said. “The document says you cannot protect a vast tract of land. There is no written maximum, but in West Lindsey’s opinion, the whole of Waterhills would be considered too large to protect. If there is to be protection of any kind, it would have to be designated for a smaller area, not from Riby Road to Brigg Road.”
In October, when considering whether an area between Brigg Road and Hundon Walk was suitable for development under a Draft Local Plan consultation, town councillors had unanimously voted to oppose development there.
Several individuals, who were not acting together, contacted the Citizen in January calling for a delay in the Neighbourhood Plan referendum to allow for more research about Local Green Space. One supplied a copy of a “toolkit”, written by Cheshire West and Chester Council, on how to apply for the status.
The toolkit states that an area which has already been given environmental designation cannot gain Local Green Space status.
While the Citizen does not have a strong opinion on whether land near Waterhills is suitable for development, it does support open and informed debate.
To that end, this morning (Friday, March 11), the Citizen asked the Town Clerk whether any part of Waterhills has already been given an environmental designation? If so, did that mean a case could be made for the remaining area to become Local Green Space on the grounds that it was smaller?
Ms Pitman replied: “Council agreed at the February meeting to seek Green Space designation for the entire area of Waterhills and as clerk, I have been tasked with researching a robust case to submit to the Local Plan at its final consultation in April.
“In the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) it states that vast tracts of land will not be considered appropriate for designation but nowhere does it stipulate what is considered to be vast. Therefore, clarification was sought from planners involved in production of the Local Plan and it was their conclusion that the whole area ie from Brigg Road to Riby Road is too large.
“At present there is no protection given to any of Waterhills, other than it is in an Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) and, as such, is included in Policy LP17: Landscape, Townscape and Views in the emerging Central Lincolnshire Local Plan. I have obtained an environmental report which notes that part of ‘upper’ Waterhills is a Local Wildlife Site, designated by the district council but this does not in itself necessarily prevent development, only acts as a material consideration to be used when determining a planning application.”
In the toolkit (see below), “LWS” is given as an example of an environmental designation. If LWS stands for “Local Wildlife Site”, then it would indeed appear that part of Waterhills already has an “environmental designation.”
Link to the toolkit: http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjx5e-_jq_KAhVGtxQKHdnLAA8QFggzMAM&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk%2Fyour%2520council%2Fpolicies%2520and%2520performance%2Fcouncil%2520plans%2520and%2520strategies%2Fplanning%2520policy%2Fneighbourhood%2520planning%2Fidoc.ashx%3Fdocid%3Dd246f706-40be-4f20-8aed-11d562c1d3c3%26version%3D-1&usg=AFQjCNFEvvaCvwBbt5VK-KJ8JZuMZG7X2Q