Caistor Citizen

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Screen-grabs of comments written by Caistor residents on Facebook have been forwarded to planners amid concerns about how the Yes vote in the Neighbourhood Plan referendum might be perceived.

The Caistor Citizen wrote to planners earlier this week regarding an outline application to build 72 homes off Brigg Road.

Its concerns are about representation, rather than the merits of the application.

The action was sparked by a comment made by Deputy Mayor Michael Galligan at the monthly meeting of Caistor Town Council last Thursday (April 14, 2016).

Cllr Galligan appeared to indicate that he had voted Yes in the referendum because he thought by doing so it would give Caistor Town Council a greater say over the 72-home application.

He was later asked to confirm whether the Citizen had understood his comment correctly. He replied yes.

Asked whether there was potential for planners to interpret the Yes vote as support for the 72-home application, he said, “I’m afraid now that might be the case.”

A re-reading of comments on Facebook leading up to the referendum revealed there was widespread confusion among townspeople about the implications of a Yes vote with regard to the application.

One aspect of the Neighbourhood Plan that alarmed residents was the scrapping of Policy No. 21, which stated that development on Waterhills would be resisted.

An independent examiner recommended that the policy be deleted because he said its wording was confusing, and would make development more likely, not less.

The examiner pointed out that there was a procedure for protecting areas from development by seeking Local Green Space status, but the Neighbourhood Plan had not done so.

Caistor Town Council is currently seeking to have Waterhills, and other land between Hundon Walk and Brigg Road, designated as Local Green Space under the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan.

However, it is uncertain if this would lead to a situation where two planning documents directly contradict each other.

Aware of heated debate among residents, the Citizen wrote to West Lindsey District Council in January to ask if the referendum could be delayed to explore further the option to seek Local Green Space status. The answer was no.

About 20 comments were “screen-grabbed” by the Citizen this week and forwarded to West Lindsey District Council to illustrate the widespread confusion about the implications of a yes vote.

One – not made by anyone with a connection to the Citizen – had also called for voting to be delayed to explore the examiner’s recommendations in more detail, while others asked directly if a yes vote would mean building on Waterhills. The debate progressed to a discussion about whether land between Hundon Walk and Brigg Road constituted “Waterhills”. Residents were repeatedly advised that the 72-homes application was already a live application that would be judged on its own merits, but that a Yes vote would give Caistor Town Council more power to decide future applications.

The day before the referendum, district councillors Angela Lawrence and Owen Bierley put out a statement describing the Neighbourhood Plan as “definitely the plan that the residents of Caistor wanted.”

“It is unfortunate that a minority have used the referendum to promote a side issue which is another debate entirely,” said the statement.

Screen shot 2016-04-20 at 14.16.29

 

Cllr Alan Caine went further, saying there had been “a deliberate campaign to fog, obscure and generally confuse residents.” He added, “The Neighbourhood Plan is long term and is a package of policies for the whole of Caistor. If rejected, it leaves Caistor without a say.”

Earlier today (Wednesday, April 20, 2016), the Citizen spoke to a leading member of Caistor Civic Society. When asked if he had believed a referendum Yes would give Caistor Town Council a bigger say on the 72-homes plan, he answered, “Well, we all thought that, didn’t we?”

He added, “The Neighbourhood Plan stated a desire to build within 800m of the Market Place. But that was just one consideration. It wasn’t the only consideration.” He added that he thought development on the other side of the A46 might be an alternative.

Asked if he considered the area off Brigg Road suitable for a smaller scale development, the Civic Society member added, “It’s not about the number of homes. It’s about the site.” He was giving his personal opinion, and not speaking for the Civic Society.

Residents can comment on the outline application for 72 homes at http://docs.west-lindsey.gov.uk/WAM/createComment.do;jsessionid=CC6F39CDDC6BE84D6496A7A9BCBD6DD9?action=CreateApplicationComment&applicationType=PLANNING&appNumber=131181

They can also view the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan, which is currently undergoing a public consultation, at http://central-lincs.objective.co.uk/portal/central_lincolnshire

Another way for the public to express their views or ask questions might be to attend the Annual Town Meeting on Wednesday, April 27, at the Town Hall Arts Centre at 7pm.

4 thoughts on “Waterhills: Facebook comments sent to planners

  1. I’m not sure what the council can possibly do with 3rd party comments that residents put on Facebook? To be fair those comments are nothing to do with the council, they are people’s individual and personal opinion. I didn’t vote because of what I read on Facebook but by reading the neighbourhood plan and making up my own mind. Surely others did too?

  2. Also the Citizen’s own well balanced article in January clearly explained why the 72 home application was likely to go ahead ‘irrespective’ of the referendum outcome and the same article highlighted that the neighbourhood plan supported development in ‘lower waterhills’. This was well writen and made it pretty clear, more so than the Facebook comments in my opinion

  3. Thank you for your observations. It is not known what consideration can be given to Facebook comments, if any. The copies were sent to illustrate that some individuals were campaigning for a Yes vote, believing that this would give Caistor Town Council the power to reject one particular planning application. It is believed planners will now interpret the Yes vote as evidence of the town’s support for it.

  4. Thank you for doing that Shona, I notice your submission has been added to the application documents online for our perusal. I wonder why they have allowed this application to languish on the planning departments desk for over two years when further reports asked for have not been submitted within that time. Surely it should have been thrown out? Why not?

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