Tag Archives: Gloucestershire Highways

Pamington Lane Development: Latest news & comment

Starveall 10The Application for the Pamington Lane development finally reached the Planning Committee at Tewkesbury Borough Council at its Meeting this morning.

During a debate which lasted well over an hour, many of the Committee Members discussed the Plans and there was significant agreement with many of the points that I raised on behalf of Residents when I spoke.

Despite many additional points being raised by Committee Members about the clear lack of joined-up thinking in terms of the impact that all of the developments along the A46 are going to have on a road network, which is already far too busy, it became clear that because none of the organisations or agencies such as Gloucestershire Highways or the Highways Agency have raised any objections, there was – in planning terms – no robust reason for the Committee to refuse.

The Committee voted to permit the Application – under delegated authority – on a margin of 7 votes to 6.

I have since been made aware by Residents who attended and were watching from the Public Gallery, that Members who during the debate said that they would not support the Application going ahead, actually didn’t vote – or ‘sat on their hands’.

Sadly, the fact remains that the Joint Core Strategy which arguably prioritised Cheltenham and Gloucester’s development needs way above those of people who live in Tewkesbury Borough, has failed Pamington even before it has been rubber stamped by the Government.

We can only hope that no more significant development applications are submitted from within the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward – even in outline form – before the Secretary of State reaches a decision – hopefully be in the Autumn. Otherwise, these too are likely to be built without any real regard to the wider impact that they will have on our Community.

Many additional houses will also be built which were never projected within the JCS Plans. These are extra homes that will almost certainly only be added to the significant number of houses already set to be developed, rather than be included within.

We should perhaps not forget that the number of houses now planned for development in Tewkesbury Borough would never have been so high in the first place if we had developed a Strategy for Tewkesbury on its own, during a process which would clearly have been much shorter. By now, it will almost certainly have been complete and in all likelihood have prevented the Pamington Lane Development from going ahead.

Who should we thank for that?

Starveall Farm: Planning Policy and the centrally-derived system of deferral, qualification and elimination is putting Local Planning Decisions in the hands of bureaucrats and gives a lie to Localism…

Pamington Residents await Members of Tewkesbury Borough Council's Planning Committee on 4th February 2014.  Members Granted Planning on a majority of 9 to 8

Pamington Residents await Members of Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Planning Committee on 4th February 2014. Committee Members Granted Planning on a majority of 9 to 8

‘Localism is nothing but words’ is a phrase that many people living in Pamington will no doubt be using for a considerable time to come after Tewkesbury Borough’s Planning Committee voted by a narrow margin earlier today to permit the construction of a Chicken ‘Farm’ at Starveall.

After a lengthy debate in which nearly all Members of the Planning Committee asked questions, commented or debated the Plan, it was clear that the decision would be close.

Pamington Residents who attended and commented to me afterwards had not expected to hear 2 different Members tell the Committee that there was in effect no point in objecting because the Plan would go through on Appeal anyway. They had certainly not expected to see some Members of the Committee choosing not to vote and I can certainly understand why they were frustrated and felt completely let down when the Decision was then made on a majority of 9 votes to 8.

I have made little secret of my concerns about the arbitrary nature of the Planning System and the way that a centrally derived policy of deferral, qualification or elimination can effectively dismiss the decisions of Local Planning Committees themselves.

But irrespective of what different Government Agencies, Authorities or NGO’s have to say regarding their very subjective views concerning the relationship of proposals with their own Policies, the reality is that no voter or member of public – who doesn’t have knowledge of the System –  is expecting any decision but that of the people they Elected to represent them, to carry the overwhelming weight in a Planning Decision. Circumstances that would actually reflect localism in their literal sense if not its truest form when borne out.

Having followed the Plans for this Site since I first received documents outlining the proposal from the Applicant’s Agent in 2012, through Parish Council and Public Meetings, right up until I attended the Site Inspection Panel Meeting on the 23rd of January, I had no doubt that I would speak when the time for a Decision came, and this is what I said to the Planning Committee this morning:

“It would to my knowledge be quite correct to state that other than the Applicant himself, Residents and Businesses from the area are universally against this application and what it represents in terms of the blight on the landscape, the environmental considerations, the potential related impact upon flood issues in the locality and beyond, and the access issues which all accompany a sizeable commercial project which is unquestionably profit led.

Let me be clear in saying that I am not against business, commerce or any private enterprise doing the best that it can with the resources that are available to make the very best of the opportunities that are open to it. I am however against any enterprise doing so when there will be a direct and negative impact upon the quality of living for others or a potentially serious escalation in the threat of injury or harm to the public which cannot be justified for any purpose other than for a savvy business to make money and because distantly set central government legislation simply allows them to do so.

Many of us are simply struggling to understand how the junction from Pamington Lane on to the A46 by Ashchurch Camp can be considered to be safe for the access and egress of what may be some of the biggest heavy goods vehicles which are permitted on the UK’s roads without very specific exemptions. Members will have surely noted the pictures provided by residents of a vehicle of similar size and proportion pictured to these at this junction which is on a stretch of road as notorious for existing safety concerns as it is for the accompanying traffic volume issues which I understand may already be critical to the viability of several high profile sites in the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward within an implemented JCS.

Put simply, nobody who knows this site locally believes this junction is safe for this kind of commercial traffic to access Pamington even now, and that’s before absolutely anything else gets built.

The rising volumes of traffic on the A46 which will inevitably come with the developments that residents in this Ward are having to contemplate even without including the proposal here today will make serious accidents all the more likely, and that is before the introduction of what will be heavy goods vehicle manoeuvres of a seriously traffic flow-obstructing and visibility reducing nature.

Surely Members will recognise that local knowledge; what is in effect situational objectivity, and common sense must override the tick-box, distant and highly subjective approach which is arguably being employed by the Highways Agency who – let’s face it, are not best known for their touchy-feely nature or for employing any discernible level of collaboration with key stakeholders.

Take any allowance given to the emotional buy-in that will remove value from the arguments of local people and the fact still remains that neither this Junction nor Pamington Lane are suited to the proposed level of heavy goods traffic use which will come with Planning being approved and would therefore be likely to suffer a significant reduction in road safety for all users as a result.

Before I conclude, I believe that it should also be of great concern to this Committee that by granting approval to this application, I understand that Members will also grant de-facto approval for the construction of an extensive roadway to the site with no less than 5 passing places between Pamington lane and the farm, which are sufficient to accommodate vehicles of such a size.

Such permission will see the destruction of what is arguably little more than an historic green lane which has existed and given pleasure to local people for many generations. I now understand that approval will lead it to be bulldozed and gravelled over simply because it is a public right of way and because Gloucestershire Highways can authorise such a construction for its entire length and up to a width of 30 Feet at any point, should they choose to do so. What exactly is fair to everyone but the applicant about that?

Mr Chairman, I appreciate very well how the Planning system works and the interpretive nature of the Members responsibility which is all too often misinterpreted by those who innocently perceive that the buck always stops within these four walls.

However, applications such as this illustrate just how flawed a system is that has the ability to allow applications like this to gain approval just because planning is effectively based on a London-generated, one size fits all mentality.

The reality is that whilst different, to the residents of Pamington, building a chicken farm at Starvall is as real as the threat from building on floodplain to residents living in Tewkesbury Town or building on the Greenbelt to people who have homes around Churchdown.  Local people are expecting local decisions to reflect this.

I ask all of you to consider what I have said closely and to reject this Application, which is not in the interests of the majority of the people who reside, work, run businesses or travel through this parish and is not in the interests of the people who already have homes and lives in this ward or in the future may do so.”

I remain firmly of the view that local issues that only affect local people should be dealt with at local level, unless there is a matter of genuine national interest which overrides them.

Sadly and most regrettably, this didn’t happen today.

Adam’s related Blogs:

Flooding: A truly democratic system should allow for changes in Planning Legislation which will limit the damage which future flooding events have the power to cause

A Chicken Farm in Pamington may suit the needs of one business, but will do little to bolster the quality of life for anybody else living there

A new Sainsburys for Ashchurch could be a great addition to the local economy; but a development like this needs to consider each aspect of the impact it will have on the lives and businesses it will affect and not just the effort it takes their customers to shop.

Sainsburys proposal to build a new store off Junction 9 of the M5 on the A46 at Ashchurch has certainly started to stir the thoughts of many in the area and not least of all amongst Residents within the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward which borders the site.

With significant housing development sites proposed within the Options of the ‘Preferred Option for a Joint Core Strategy’ (JCS) in the area, some could argue that Sainsburys are undertaking a timely and highly opportune step. Others are already drawing battle lines upon the damage which they speculate such a store would inflict upon the businesses and economy of central Tewkesbury and it is perfectly natural that such concerns need not only to be aired, but considered properly too.

As a local Elected Member, I am concerned about the impact that such a Store would have upon the lives of people living within my Ward, but also recognise that there would also be many advantages to the development coming to the area, not least in terms of the reduced travel requirement for the many local people who currently shop at the Tewkesbury Road Store on the A4019 in Cheltenham – a point not lost upon Sainsburys themselves, who readily placed information boards about the Project for their customers within the entrance of that Store.

Perhaps my biggest concern right now would be the public perception that the JCS will be adopted and that as such, the closure of Ashchurch Camp is not only a foregone conclusion, but also imminent – which at the time of publishing this Blog, it most definitely is not – and that nearby Fiddington is also sure to become host to yet another urban sprawl of the soulless nature you need only travel a few miles to witness at the North of Bishops Cleeve in the Homelands Developments.

Whilst there is a big question to be answered regarding the continuing growth in out-of-town supermarkets, I am considering this specific Proposal in terms of its impact upon the immediate area itself and therefore in isolation, rather than as part of the considerably more complicated issue of retail market share, the growth of supermarket chains and what this will mean for us all in the future. I will perhaps talk about this in a different entry.

On a practical level, study the Plans which Sainsburys have submitted to Tewkesbury Borough Council and you will quickly note that proposed changes to the A46 could create absolute mayhem with the construction of a roundabout which is clearly planned with more focus upon entry to the Store than it is in consideration of the flow of traffic in either direction.

With the Plans making no mention on the impact of additional traffic and a questionable change to traffic flow on an already difficult staggered Northway and Fiddington junction with the A46 – only part of which is light controlled – one has to wonder just how much consideration has been given to the already hideous traffic problems that we already experience, not least of all since the Highways Agency added light-controls onto Junction 9 making peak-time travel in the area a monotonous task to say the least.

On the upside, the addition of a Supermarket which really has been thought out in terms of its impact upon local infrastructure and the wider community would also bring a variety of benefits to a customer base which would go way beyond Tewkesbury and in all likelihood bring shoppers to the area who would not currently travel there and perhaps leave the M5 for any other reason.

With fuel prices keeping us all very concerned, the arrival of a new Petrol Station opposite the BP Site would certainly drive local prices down and potentially create other opportunities for smaller businesses to attract the passing custom into Tewkesbury itself which will be drawn to such a facility.

Those concerned about businesses in Tewkesbury could well be right about a loss of jobs and business closures and neither event would be one that I would wish to see in any event. But a Sainsburys in Ashchurch would arguably facilitate a massive net gain in employment, not least of all for those people seeking part-time work that may currently be impractical to consider with a shortage of this type of work available on such a scale locally.

Looking at the Plans and what they will mean for local people, on balance, a Sainsburys which has been built in consideration of its impact on the wider community – and not just within a few yards of the front gate, could well prove to be a significant boost for the area.

Whilst there are questions that require answers and issues to be resolved, working with the Company now to address these concerns to the satisfaction and mutual gain of all would perhaps be a very sensible plan indeed. It is after all in Sainsburys interests to be seen to support the communities which ‘feed’ custom into it’s Stores and Tewkesbury Town businesses could do a lot worse than to discuss the role of a new Store within the local economy in parallel with the Application Process, even as they make their arguments for its rejection.

As a local Borough Councillor representing Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff, it is in fact Highways issues that concern me most of all as the Application goes forward. I see nothing good coming to the Residents I represent from the road changes as they have so far been proposed and would go as far to say that it would not be good news for anyone who uses the A46 and roads that join from the Business Parks, from Fiddington, Northway or in fact Tewkesbury itself.

If Sainsburys are serious about winning support, they will have to raise their game considerably in considering the traffic and community issues that its construction would generate and demonstrate to us all that they have done so. The Store could prove be a great addition to the local economy; but a development like this needs to consider each aspect of the impact it will have on the lives and businesses it will affect and not just the effort it takes their customers to shop.