Saturday, 23 November 2013

Kelsall’s Plight

Our local councillors, CWAC and our politicians have been completely powerless to stop speculative developers ruining the green heart of our beautiful village.

In 2012 the government had a good idea:  Proactive communities, who know much more about the local area than centralised planners, could decide where the best place to build and what types of houses, businesses and infrastructure is needed to sustain a vibrant living environment.  Kelsall whole-heartedly embraced the opportunity to develop a local plan that is now nearing completion.  Many people who care about our community have given 100s of hours of their own time to make this plan.

We were pleased that the Government had proclaimed that “localism is king” when it came to planning.

We’ve been very clear about our needs and the whole village has signed up to the plans.  We have discovered that we are an older than average community with more expensive houses that young families cannot afford.  Older residents have no places to buy in the village if they want to downsize from these large homes.  We desperately need 2 - 3 bedroom “second stepper” and retirement homes.

We would like to develop the village along the Chester road between the Royal Oak and the Co-op, close to village amenities and in an area that won’t block out the beautiful views and low rise “mixed up” nature of our village.  We don’t want to build around the edge of the village because that would mean much more car use and give Kelsall a much more “built up” feeling from the bypass.

Most importantly we want to keep the green heart of the village next to the Lord Binning and school for recreational and educational space.  As we grow we will need a new school and we don’t want to put this on the edge of the village for the same reasons as we’ve stated above.

But there was a problem.  In 2012 the government also scrapped most of the planning law that had been built up over many years.  They wanted house building to happen to kick start the economy so they developed a new framework for planning to work with.  Amongst other things the framework says that if a local council does not have enough plans for houses there is a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”.  The developers have taken this to mean that they can pretty much build anything anywhere until the council is able to sign off their plan.

The problem is that despite years of dithering, CWAC still haven’t got their plan together.  In fact they’ve been so inept that the work they have done to show how many houses are required has been challenged in court and the developers won.  They cannot use this work now to defend our communities from naked profiteering.

So now we have 123 new houses planned for our village, in areas expressly against the wishes of our community that we know will cause traffic chaos at school and mean that school expansion will not happen on Flat Lane.  We benefit from walking our kids to school and build our community on those conversations at the school gate.

The last developer to try their hand is Roland Homes.  They want to build 11 four and five bed homes on Willington Lane at the bottom of Kellsborrow way.  In July our councillors unanimously rejected this scheme for a number of reasons.

Firstly the developer doesn’t own this land.  The price they pay for the land will depend on the types of house they build.  They’ve claimed that because the land is so expensive and difficult to build on they can only afford to build “an executive ghetto” as one councillor described it.

We need smaller homes that will fit in with Kelsborrow Way and respect the landscape.  The developer in claiming it can’t afford to do this is therefore offering CWAC a sum of money to build these homes elsewhere.  These will not be in Kelsall!

Secondly the councillors were very unhappy with the size and scale of this development.  It looks like it’s in an urban environment with tiny gardens and is of a standard design used recently in Runcorn.  These crammed in houses that dwarf those around them will overlook the neighbours.

So we have a situation where a landowner is demanding a price that means we don’t get the houses we need in the village and instead CWAC is given money.

The landowner wins, the developer wins, CWAC wins but the community yet again looses our one chance to become more sustainable.

We are not against developing our village.  We are completely against greedy people muscling in to reduce the sustainability of our village.

We cannot blame the landowner or the developer – they are driven by profit and not considerations for us.  The government and CWAC have sleepwalked into ruining our village and have not done their job of protecting us.  Localism is now dead in our village and those residents who invested so much time into the plan feel defeated, deflated, depressed and thoroughly let down.

CWAC should be ashamed that they have not done their job or resourced the planning department effectively to deliver what we pay them to do.  Someone should resign over this.

Kelsall residents action group

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