Minutes of the LVRA monthly meeting Monday 10th September 2018

David Rhodes

Minutes of the Meeting held at 19.30 hrs. on Monday, 10 September 2018 at the Top Club

Present: Karen Hawden (Chair), David Hempsall (Secretary), Darryl Nugent (Treasurer), Bob Nicholas (Footpaths Officer), David Rhodes (Social Media and Liaison Officer); K Ainsworth, M Ainsworth, S Ainsworth,  B Ashworth, D Ashworth, J Ashworth, C Bagley, R Ball, Cllr A Barnes, A-M Barnes, D Bartlett-Smith, K Bell, R Bell, G Blunt, I Booth, M Booth, M Booth, P Booth, I Boucher, C Bower, V Brailey, E Brelsford, J Brelsford,  S Bristow, C Broadbent, A Buckley, D Burns, A Caine, I Cardy, A Corkin, D Corkin, D Cornforth, K Cornforth, K Crompton-Harris, J Cronshaw, M Cutting, U Cutting, N Davidge, A Dawson, J Dawson, S Dewhurst, M Dop, J Dougherty, L Edge, D Ewart-Jones, K Farmer, D Firth-Powell, D Fletcher, S Forsythe, B Fox, R Fulton, B Gerken, S Glenholmes, D Green, L Green, B Greer, J Grogan, M Hargreaves, J Harrison, M Haworth, C Henry, R Heys, K-A Higham, N Holt, P Holt, M Hoole, J Hooley, D Isherwood, D Isherwood, K Iveson, N Kelly, M Kelshaw. S Lawson, S Lewis, S Lloyd, E Makin, G Marlow, S Marlow, T McKee, S McKittrick, G Meeks, P Meller, J Mulvee, H Munro, P Murdoch, K Nicholas, J Norris, C O’Connell, A O’Malley, C O’Malley, L Pearson, F Pilkington, D Pilling, J Pilling, S Pilling, S Place, N Prestwich, A Pugh, R Reston, K Riding, P Riding, J Riley, J Rumsam, S Rumsam, N Rushton, A Saunders, N Scholfield, S Sengül, D Smith, B St John, D Stansfield, H Stansfield, P Stansfield, J Stott, A Sunderland, J Taylor, N Taylor, P Taylor, M Waite, E Walton, B Watson, N Wells, A White, C Whiting, P Wood, K Woods, S Woods (plus 9 others).
In attendance: Adrian Smith, Principal Planning Officer with Rossendale Borough Council, S….

  1. Presentation on the Draft Local Plan [August 2018]

1.1          Karen welcomed Adrian and invited him to address the meeting.
1.2          Adrian said that the process of consultation had begun the previous summer, the aim being to set out a 15-year plan for housing, industry and retail in the borough, including policies for protection.
1.3          It was central government which had set out the framework for planning and attendant consultation.
1.4          In 2017, Rossendale Borough Council (RBC) had set out its ideas in its Strategic Housing Assessment which provided for 165 new homes to be constructed each year: many comments had been received leading to some sites being dropped; issues such as subsidence or highways meant that 891 units had to be removed from the plan.
1.5          At the same time, central government was making changes to figures for national demand which resulted in a reduced demand being made on RBC to 212 homes per annum, amounting to a total of 3,180 new dwellings over the 15-year period.
1.6          Whilst central government had done much to strengthen protection of the Green Belt, in Rossendale, this was a restricted area to the south of Rawtenstall; the LVRA’s area of operation (AoO) is not part of the Green Belt; none the less, a further 7 sites had had to be removed from consideration.
1.7          The result of central government’s thinking was to strengthen the policy of considering (1) brownfield, (2) greenfield, and (3) Green Belt sites; so RBC had re-visited its plans, particular considerations including housing densities and brownfield sites.
1.8          Past development on brownfield meant that such sites as remained often had complex issues to be addressed, including contamination, flood risk and access; such sites as remained were insufficient to meet total demand, so RBC had had to turn next to consider greenfield sites.
1.9          Whilst some greenfield sites had had to be taken out, an appraisal meant that four sites had been put in to try to meet the housing demand.
1.10        Distribution in Rossendale had majored on Bacup with 1,000 new dwellings; there was limited scope in and around Rawtenstall (Reedsholme and Hollins); in Haslingden, development had focused on Industry because of relative ease of highways access, whereas housing provision was low; in Whitworth, Natural England had secured the removal of two proposed sites in the Green Belt.
1.11        Planners had had to look again at the LVRA’s AoO and, in particular, at the area around the Top Club and behind Commercial Street; accepting the undertaking given in 2009 that the west of Burnley Road would be protected from development, landscaping would mitigate issues; the same was true of the area around Swinshaw Hall where an open area would maintain a view of what was an historic asset; in the plan, 189 dwellings would be provided on 2 large and 3 smaller sites.
1.12        Adrian said that the primary school wished to expand; access issues in and through Rawtenstall were understood; no sites in the borough were perfect; none the less, RBC had to plan for housing and employment in the AoO: the plan included upgrading Crawshawbooth, including extending car parking by removing the derelict WCs; some thought was being given to making the village a conservation area and to a riverside cycleway alongside the Limey Water.
1.13        In its publication version, residents were invited to comment: the six week consultation would conclude on 5 October 2018 and comments should address three headings: (1) the plan’s soundness (i.e.was it based on good evidence and good advice? Could RBC have consulted neighbouring authorities to seek a transfer out of net housing?); (2) the plan’s legal conformity (i.e. had RBC followed the appropriate procedures?); and (3) had RBC fulfilled its Duty to cooperate (i.e. talking to neighbouring authorities not just about housing but also retail and employment; Bury and Rochdale had both approached Rossendale to take some of their demands; had Natural England, English Heritage [now known as Historic England] been consulted)?
1.14        All evidence and comments submitted would be bundled together unedited and sent to the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol; it was expected that an independent inspector would begin work on the submission early in 2019; s/he was bound to consider the whole submission and an examination in public would ensue at which invited spokespersons could amplify/clarify issues for the Planning Inspector; the PI would then aim to produce a report in 3-4 months; if the plan was likely to be rejected, then that would be made plain very early on; otherwise, there may be further consultation on specific points, amendments to the report made and RBC would be bound then to accept what was outlined in the report in its final Local Plan.
1.15        If RBC did not have a Local Plan, demonstrating inter alia a 5-year reserve of land available for housing, then there would have always to be a presumption in favour of a developer.
1.16        Adrian completed his presentation and agreed to take questions.

  1. Questions to Adrian Smith
2.1 Q How many homes were planned for the site behind Commercial Street and how many would be classed as “affordable”?
  A ±80 with 30% affordable; details would be a matter for negotiation with any developer.
2.2 Q Given the plan’s commitment to densities and types of construction being sympathetic to the local area plus the 300m principle applying to public transport access, wasn’t it inevitable that wholesale building would follow, destroying Loveclough’s identity as a village, merely reinforcing its becoming a dormitory settlement?
  A Loveclough’s identity was well understood; whilst there would be development on allocated land, the remainder would be protected and if a developer wished to build on this, a particularly strong case would have to be made; the problem for RBC was topography; Rossendale was a borough of villages and few towns, so pressure was on RBC; Loveclough was both attractive and viable for developers whereas Bacup was less attractive and RBC was likely to be challenged anyway over its majoring on development in Bacup.
2.3 Q Rossendale and Accrington were already very congested; weren’t roads a major issue?
  A Roads were indeed a massive issue for RBC; work was going on to try to identify a major scheme for funding; a total resolution of Rossendale’s traffic problems was impossible; what was proposed for Loveclough would involve not only commuting south but also commuting north to Burnley; proposals for Loveclough would impact less on the road network than other possible sites; infrastructure involved a huge debate but central government had told local authorities that they had to bite the housing bullet.
2.4 Q In inclement weather, residents used the A682 Burnley Road to park (to ensure their ability to get to work); how could this be mitigated?
  A The issue was well understood; access issues required very detailed attention; the Planning Inspector would have to decide.
2.5 Q Didn’t the proposals mean that Loveclough would become a building site for the next 10 years?
  A The average builder constructs 4-6 houses per annum; most developers want to build at least 30 houses per annum; at Hollins, a small group of operatives had been retained, leading to very slow and piecemeal development; “affordable” would include social, rental, part ownership, starter (involving a 20% price subsidy); detail would be a matter of discussion with prospective developers.
2.6 Q How was “affordable” arrived at?
  A It was defined in terms of local average earnings, embodied in the Strategic Housing Annual Assessment; the figure was computed on the basis of research amongst ±700 residents.
2.7 Q Could residents see the clarity they needed in the plan so far as schools, doctors and dentists were concerned? A further 400 cars and 300 children would have to be accounted for.
  A A gyratory system for traffic was needed; by 2024, there would be significant problems with traffic, adding to existing ones with a number of identified junctions and discussion with the Highways Agency over these was ongoing; on schools, developers were expected to contribute to school plant development according to an established formula.
Alyson Barnes added:
RBC had no choice but to put in place a plan; Version 1 had been the result of 10 years’ work and had had to be abandoned when the rules of the game changed; since then, ideas and proposals had been in and out of the subsequent draft plan; there was pressure on residents but if RBC did nothing, then commissioners would simply impose a plan; hence the need to develop a viable, 15-year plan.
In the past, Rossendale had been badly served on infrastructure: Hollins was a good example of “how not to do it”; to provide a 15-year strategy would require development to be systematic, not piece meal.
The reduction in central government demands of RBC from 5,000 to 3,000 houses was something; but 3,180 was still too many; the Planning Inspector had a statutory obligation to heed all comments and was the final arbiter; with a plan, proposals such as the site south of Commercial Street (which would be better concealed than previous plans for sites west of the A682) would be more robust, underpinned by an agreed plan; RBC was vulnerable if it didn’t devise a plan.
2.8 Q Notwithstanding issues over schools, doctors, dentists et al., wouldn’t developers home in on Loveclough rather than Bacup where the crime rate was high? In Bacup, what about the site of the old cinema?
  A The cinema was listed; planners had to try to achieve balance in their proposals, irrespective of council tax; on schools, developers were expected to contribute and discussions with LCC as the responsible authority were on going; so too with the health authority; on infrastructure issues, there would be – and had to be – a delivery plan involving telecoms, highways et al; whereas RBC was planning 15 years ahead, United Utilities, for example, had only a 5-year planning cycle; the Planning Inspector would necessarily make personal visits to inspect sites.
2.9 Q As RBC was boxed in by central government, there appeared little that local residents could do; so what have local politicians and our MP done to feedback on what is right for LVRA’s AoO?
  A Alyson Barnes replied that meetings had been held with the Housing Minister and Jake Berry; she agreed that there needed to be more local discretion but, at present, pressure on RBC was unprecedented.
Adrian added that at present, planners had identified sites for 2,900 new homes; so the target of 3,180 had yet to be met.
2.10 Q Was there any joined up thinking between local and national government on access, such as the A56/M66?
  A Highways England ostensibly promoted development whilst managing the network (which involves keeping vehicles off the road to avoid congestion issues); HE’s current 5-year plan for 2020-2025 includes addressing the perennial problem at Simister; any scheme to turn the A56/M66 intro an expressway would cost £30-40,000,000 at today’s costs; ideas were being generated on the railway.
Alyson added that there had simply not been the investment needed in transport in the north; re-opening the rail link would appear in the forthcoming northern transport strategy.
2.11 Q Had any thought been given to extending the Metro north? Commuters clogged up parking, taking the Witchway to work as this was cheaper than taking a car into Manchester.
  A Options were being considered; a business case had to be put; other commuters parked in Rawtenstall and then took the bus.
2.12 Q Was there any notion of affordable housing being offered first to local people? Wasn’t the inclusion of Loveclough in proposals a last-ditch effort to reach he required total?
  A Locals would receive some consideration on affordable housing; within the coming 5-year timeframe, RBC had a willing landowner and developer interested in implementing the plan.
2.13 Q Would “affordable” housing construction conform to what was required of existing residents: natural stone, green slate, wooden windows?
  A Being adjacent to a conservation area, new buildings would have to be compatible; just how was a matter for negotiation with any developer; the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) is clear but this is not yet embodied in the Local Plan.
2.14 Q Is there anything that can be done to prevent land-banking?
  A RBC is obliged to demonstrate that it has a 5-year supply of land available for development which includes some with Planning Permission; permission currently lapses after 3 years; there were issues with some sites but, in practice, little can be done to get such sites with permission developed.
2.15 Q Can those who have planning permission be coerced, rather than being allowed to move on to new sites?
  A The Letwin inquiry is looking into this; the interim conclusion is that it is owners who are hanging on to land rather than developers; in Rossendale, there is little evidence that land is being banked.
2.16 Q What of proposals for housing around Swinshaw Hall?
  A An area to the front would be left empty to allow a clear view of what is a historic asset to remain uninterrupted.
2.17 Q On access issues in the Swinshaw Hall proposal, what consideration may be given to residents’ thoughts?
  A The Local Plan needs to set out arrangements for access, parking and speed limits in the vicinity; housing design will necessarily have to reflect the stone-built structures round about; Heritage had insisted on the open area in front of the Hall being protected.
2.18 Q What consideration had been given to the impact on wildlife and on those walking their dogs?
  A There would necessarily be some impact; the proposed cycle lane along the river bank would be designed to minimise any impact; the plan has to considered fauna; requests for dog-bins would receive consideration; LVRA had made a significant contribution on the footpath network.
2.19 Q On what was proposed for the Swinshaw Hall site, one side was devoid of any access?
  A Land would be designated for access; the whole site would include an internal road network.
2.20 Q As against 15- and 5-year plans, who controls development in our area?
  A Historically, RBC has never met its housing targets; this has resulted in a one-year penalty; therefore, RBC has in effect to demonstrate a 6-year supply (i.e. 1400-1500 homes) in the first 5 years of the plan; RBC has to take developers at their word; if RBC doesn’t deliver, then it will be penalised even more; central government will override; hence it was important that residents write in with their comments to ensure the Planning Inspector hears everyone.
2.21 Q If central government can coerce RBC, why not force developers on to brownfield sites?
  A Alyson replied that funding to develop brownfield was no longer available; remaining brownfield sites in the borough were unviable.
2.22 Q What about the negative impact of development on existing house prices?
  A This could not be a consideration in the Local Plan.
2.23 Q What about drainage? Areas of the borough are prone to flooding; so to what extent was this a determinant of viability?
  A This is a good point; there was ongoing liaison with the Environment Agency and with United Utilities; the dredging work at Clowbridge was an example of cross-agency cooperation; the issue was taken very seriously and a sustainable scheme, underwritten by the EA and UU was important.
2.24 Q Had the sports pitch been considered for development?
  A It had but it was protected as a recreational area.
2.25 Q What consideration had been given to sites to the east of the A682 where what was proposed would mean that some existing properties would be overlooked by properties 5m higher? How would existing homes be protected?
  A This was an important point; resolution would be a matter for detailed design, though some would abut on to gardens; all developments on allocated land would have to go through full planning procedures and detailed design considerations were integral to the process.
Alyson added: if any planning application couldn’t address such issues, then it would fail.
2.26 Q Whilst it was understood that RBC couldn’t do nothing, what was acceptable? The NHS, education and highways had all had budgetary cuts; where was the money for the plan to come from?
  A On roads and road access, developers had to pay for access to the highway and proposals had to be feasible.
Alyson added that RBC would look to central government funding (which is awarded on a competitive basis).
2.27 Q What about the Broadleys’ site?
  A Alyson said proposals were in for 93 units of housing; in discussion, it was felt that in adding to the traffic issue, this did not add up.
2.28 Q Given Adrian’s assertion that Loveclough was more immediately attractive to developers than Bacup, wasn’t it inevitable that Loveclough would become a building site for the first five years of the Local Plan’s implementation?
  A Developers would indeed descend on Loveclough as it was more lucrative than to do so in Bacup.
2.29 Q What about houses empty in Rossendale?
  A Whilst 1400 homes remained empty in Rossendale, these could not be factored in to the Local Plan.
2.30 Q What would be the mix of housing types as between detached, semi-detached and terraces? On the space behind Commercial Street, 90 detached houses could equate to 120 terraces.
  A The Housing Market Assessment would identify the need for specific housing types: Rossendale had a large stock of 2 bedroom properties; there was a shortage of semi-detached; the Local Plan would seek a mix; any desire on the part of developers to build profitable 4- and 5-bedroom homes would be a matter for negotiation; variety on a site would be required to make it viable.
2.31 Q Wouldn’t new housing simply bring in additional population, rather than having locals re-locating within the borough?
  A There could be no control over inward migration; in discussion it was felt that this did nothing to look after existing local people.
2.32 Q Why not prioritise areas for development?
  A The Planning Inspector would say that this fails to demonstrate RBC’s having a 6-year supply of land for development; but the point could be made in comments.
2.33 Q What can residents do?
  A Alyson replied that residents should respond through the LVRA as some things in the Plan will simply not be right; residents could not simply say “No” to everything as that will result in the Plan’s being thrown out by the Planning Inspector; infrastructure was vital as, in the past, Rossendale had never been anyone’s strategic priority; residents needed to be heard to attract funding; there had been a long-term failure to invest in public transport; discussion of the railway revolved around Rochdale’s leasing the railway line to the East Lancs Railway; supporting a re-opened railway line would require an additional 40,000 houses.
2.34 Q Appreciating RBC’s being between a rock and a hard place, should our MP – via RBC – made aware of residents’ feelings?
  A Yes.
2.35 Q What about the bus service?
  A Alyson said that this was a wholly different conversation but outlined her views on the sell-off of the bus company; because of legislation in the 1980s, competition between companies was fierce and profit margins were as little as 2%.

2.36        Karen thanked Adrian for his presentation; this was greeted with warm applause.
2.37        The meeting adjourned for 10 minutes.

  1. Conclusion

3.1          13 residents re-assembled to discuss the next steps: it was AGREED that LVRA should produce information and guidance materials for distribution to all households, urging them to respond to the proposals contained in the Local Plan; ACTION by Officers.
3.2          In addition, Chris Wilding offered to produce appropriate posters; this was AGREED; ACTION by David H and Chris.
3.3.         The meeting concluded at 21.42 hrs..