When An Open Space Becomes A Credibility Gap !

There were two big items at the Development Committee last Thursday.

The first was an application by David Wilson Homes for 176 homes at the “Christmas Tree Farm” site in Hawkwell.

Last year the District Council refused a similar scheme on the grounds of poor design. So David Wilson Homes had a two-pronged response : they would appeal to a government inspector, but also a prepare a new scheme in case they lost their appeal.

In the end the inspector gave them permission for their original scheme. But David Wilson Homes had spent time and money drawing up improved plans with better architecture, and also spent time with local opposition groups. They pledged that they if the District Council gave permission for the new scheme, they would build it instead of the original one.

So really the committee was very likely to approve the improved scheme , and it did. But there was one issue still needing discussion – the open space that would lie in the middle of the site between sections of houses. How would it be maintained?

The ward councillors Christine and John Mason wanted it in public ownership – for example, owned and managed by the District Council. So they asked that the planning approval to be amended slightly to allow the council the option to have the land.

This was totally in line with what the Tory Leader of the Council Terry Cutmore had said at last Full Council when asked a formal question by Chris Black. Cllr Cutmore said:

“he saw no reason for any new public open spaces created to remain with developers,”

However, on Thursday , Cllr Cutmore wasn’t in favour of the District Council even considering having this open space, and the Mason’s attempt was voted down! It makes you wonder if it is worth asking questions at full council, under the present administration. It also makes you wonder about other open spaces in the future….

PS if you want to read the full question and answers on this at Full Council, here they are:

Questions by Members
Pursuant to Council Procedure Rule 12.2, questions had been received from Cllr C I Black as follows:-
(a) Of the Leader of the Council:-
“Policy CLT5 of our Core Strategy begins:-

‘New public open space will be required to accompany additional residential development, having regard to local current and projected future need. Standard Charges may be applied to developments as necessary. In particular the Council will seek the incorporation of a significant amount of public open space to accompany new, and be integrated with existing, residential development in the west of Rayleigh…..’
The creation of Sweyne Park was one of the major successes of the District Council in the last 30 years, and the future of the park has been safeguarded by placing it in the ownership of the National Playing Field Association. (Now known as ‘Fields In Trust’)
Does the Council plan to protect new open spaces created under CLT5 in the same way as with Sweyne Park, and transfer the ownership of them as quickly as possible to Fields In Trust, whilst continuing to manage them ourselves?”
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The Leader, Cllr T G Cutmore, responded as follows:-
“I agree with the general presumption outlined in the question and at this point in time cannot see any reason to change a policy which, as Cllr Black states, has been successfully applied over a number of years. However, there may be other opportunities available at the time to look at other organisational trust arrangements and /or work with the Parishes/Town Council/local residents on such arrangements which guarantee that public open spaces remain as such in perpetuity.”
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By way of supplementary question Cllr C I Black asked if any discussion had taken place with Fields In Trust in relation to new spaces created under CLT5 to move them away from ownership by developers.
The Leader confirmed that he saw no reason for any new public open spaces created to remain with developers, as indicated in the response to the original question.

This post has already been read 4 times since Aug 2nd 2015

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