Sunday, 19 January 2014

So much for localism!

Back in 2012, David Cameron announced new guidelines for planning which, he claimed, gave more power to local communities to determine their own future.  He specifically stated, when interviewed by the BBC, that existing protected spaces and green belts would continue to be protected; it was about giving more power to local communities, not taking away their rights.

So, let's see how that worked out in practice.  The local planning professionals produced a local plan, designating the fields as a protected open area.  The local community made it clear that we did not want to lose the fields, the planners agreed it was an inappropriate and unnecessary development, our local elected representatives said it was a bad idea and refused consent to build houses on Hempshill Fields and destroy this unique heritage site.

Then the developers put in an appeal to the central government and the inspector, who is in no way answerable to the community, and who also confirms it is a bad idea and will cause all kinds of problems, reducing the quality of the environment, increasing already excessive traffic levels, ruining the historic setting of Hempshill Hall...and then decides that, on balance, in accordance with central government policy the developers need to make a fast buck, overrides her own conclusions and those of the community and gives in to the appeal.

Not that it is any consolation, but we are not alone.  Apparently this is going on all over the country.  It is not that communities are necessarily objecting to each and every prospective development, it is that there is no sense any longer regarding where those developments take place.  Hempshill Fields has been sacrificed, not because it was the best place to build houses, but because the people who owned it wanted to make a quick profit.  Indeed, there are any number of more appropriate places to build more than enough homes to meet the central government imposed quotas, including brownfield sites nearby.

So much then for any notion of localism and our enfeebled planning system.  It is becoming little more than a pathetically weak obstacle to developers' greed, not a constructive way of shaping our environment.  Why bother spending local taxpayers money producing a local plan, if all you have to do as a speculator is to throw a load of money at influential consultants and lawyers to appeal to central government to get it over-ruled?  Eventually you will get your way.  After all, you can submit as many applications and appeals as you want; you only need one of them to succeed.  The community on the other hand, apart from having far fewer resources, only has to lose once and we cannot appeal. 

This is a very one-sided form of justice!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Make your voice heard - it's not too late!

Back in March this year I received a letter from Boxtowe Council notifying me that the application to cover Hempshill Fields in new houses had been refused.  I was, along with many others, rather pleased that they had listened to the concerns of the community as well as the representations from other interested bodies and, in line with their previously stated policy, decided to retain these green fields as a protected open space.

Somewhat foolishly I thought that was it and we could all relax, safe in the knowledge that we and our children could continue to enjoy the fields forever.

Then came the sting in the tail, for on 9th July, Broxtowe informed us that it was far from over; the developer had lodged an appeal against their decision to the Secretary of State. 

An inspector has now been appointed to make an independent assessment of the case for permitting the development.  That means we all need to once again make our collective voice the inspector this time.  Unfortunately I was on holiday when all this happened so have only just got round to posting this blog.  However, many others have been active in writing in to oppose the development. 

It is still not too late for you to add your letter as the closing date for representations is 19th August (this coming Monday). 

To save you time looking up the details:
  1. The page on the right ("How to comment on the developer's appeal") gives details of how to respond on line or by post and includes links to the relevant documents.
  2. The attached letter from Graham Allen MP explains why we are against the development; you may find it useful to select the specific points you want to include in your letter.

So if you were wondering how to spend a rainy weekend...get those letters in!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The speculator's response

Daniel Holmes left the following comment on the previous post:

"Just wanted to let you know that this community asset that you keep talking of is actually private property.
And if you actually looked at the detailed plans on the planning website
It clearly shows provisions for the tramway and that the land has had all relevant surveys done and is not deemed as being at risk of flooding. I"

He then deleted it, but I think it deserves a response anyway. 

Just because something is privately owned does not mean it is not a community asset.  There are any number of historic buildings, open spaces and other resources which make our world a better place and add to the enjoyment of the area by all of us even though they are in private ownership.  These are community assets.

Hempshill Hall is perhaps an appropriate example of a rather less selfish attitude than yours from the owners who have invested substantial amounts of time, money and effort to restore the derelict building to a state where we can all enjoy viewing it across the fields and from the adjacent paths, and it is just this community asset which you seem so keen to destroy for short term profit.

As regards the remainder of your comment, I think that those of us who actually live in the area would take issue with the flooding risk, having witnessed some rather spectacular flooding over the past few months.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Deadline extended

Good News!

The deadline for submission of comments on the revised planning application for the desecration of Hempshill Fields has been extended to 25th February.  Actually I may have misread the notice first time around as the deadline of 25th applies to neighbours only. 

Whatever, this gives us another couple of weeks to get those objections registered...again.

Whilst they may have tinkered around with the number of houses and width of the tramway, the revised application does nothing to address the key point which is that Hempshill Fields is a valuable community asset and no amount of tweaking will save the fields for posterity.

If they do eventually build all over the fields it will be interesting to see what they tell prospective purchasers about the likelihood of a tramway being built right past their front door, or of the delightful lake frontage every time it rains heavily.  And in case you were wondering, if they build sewers to serve the new homes (which I fear they will have to), when it floods it will not just be rainwater which fills the streets!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Not another application!

I don't believe it (as someone once said)!  Another revised application with a slightly reduced number of homes proposed and some utterly pointless token gestures such as "preserving the historic context of the barns" by leaving out a single house in the new development.  Well you would probably be able to see the back of the barns, but it hardly constitutes "preserving" anything, least of all any historic context. 

When will the developers realise that it is not about horse trading over widening the tramway, leaving out a plot here or there or tarting up the play areas...we are objecting to the destruction of a beautiful green open space forever.

Anyone with an ounce of sensitivity to the community who saw the ecstatic expressions on the faces of dozens of children (and adults) enjoying the recent snow would realise that selling all this for a quick buck on land speculation is a pretty poor swap.

Unfortunately, although this time it is a revision so previous objectors should have been notified, the deadline for comments is tomorrow; try and get your objections in if you can.

Link to the application is here.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

In case you hadn't noticed...

The developers submitted a new planning application back in September last year.  Not, you will notice, an amended version of the one which raised so many objections, but a completely new one.  Actually the only real difference was to include a somewhat implausible tram route right through the middle of the development.  I am sure people buying shiny new homes have "tram passing right past my front door" high on their list of priorities, right up there with "right next to one of the busiest, noisiest roads in Nottingham" and "under six feet of water when it rains".

However, leaving all that aside, it meant that those of us who had objected to the original application and who were informed by the council that we would be updated on any developments, were not notified because it was a new application.  A bit sneaky, but that's the way the system works and I guess what we should expect from an experienced property speculator.

Fortunately, many of us did notice the new application and submitted objections, much along the lines of our previous ones, notwithstanding a reduction of proposed dwellings from 139 to 125 to make space for the tramway. 

If you want to see the objections from Nottingham City Council and our local MP, Graham Allen, their letters are linked on the right hand side.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Victory…the first battle at least

Some time ago now, 19th June to be precise, I received a letter from  Broxtowe Council informing me that the developers had withdrawn their application to desecrate Hempshill Fields.  Great news I thought and like the rest of us, breathed a huge sigh of relief that the nightmare was over and we could relax, safe in the knowledge that we could look forward to enjoying the fields for years to come.

Unfortunately, I overlooked the small print saying that the developers might resubmit their application once they had come up with a plan which overcame our objections.  Just how they hope to come up with a plan which allows them to build houses and at the same time leave the fields as open space I find it hard to imagine, but there we are.

Now it seems that Broxtowe Council is in the process of publishing a new “Core Strategy” which amongst other things aims to identify suitable land for building 6,150 new homes.  So, unless we are careful, it is possible that this new plan might designate Hempshill Fields as a suitable location, despite our objections and the previous strategy.

So, once again, we need to make it clear that not only do we want to keep Hempshill Fields as open space now, we want it for our children too.  The plan is on the council’s website

You can have your say until Monday 23rd July.

That is only a week away, so we all need to do some thinking and writing as soon as we can.  Once again, if you are unsure exactly what to say, you might want to take a look at the representation submitted by our local MP, Graham Allen, which is shown as a link on the right.  This also outlines how to complete the online forms.