Menston, as a village, must now start the long push back on the planning applications granted for 300 houses on Bingley Road and Derry Hill Farms; given to developers with a ‘heavy heart’ at the Shipley planning panel, at the end of February 2012.
The community, is united in feeling utterly abandoned by the ‘public service’ planning officers at Bradford Metropolitan District Council (BMDC). Especially, in relation to the extremely serious potential for uncontrolled flooding on both these sites: flooding that will adversely affect existing homes which have long contended with the natural ‘wetness’ of Menston’s geological position. The central issue is groundwater flooding; BMDC, as the statutory authority, has an inimitable duty to complete a full risk analysis, prior to allowing any planning application to proceed. This is even more imperative, given that BMDC’s own, district wide, Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment from June 2011, clearly identifies that 25-50% of Menston , including these two farms, falls within the highest risk category for groundwater flooding. This has not been done.
So, where does this road back to a town call ‘well being’ start? This weekend, a newsletter has been delivered to 2,000 homes in the Parish of Menston. It outlines what each individual community member needs to do to prevent permanent harm, and invites them to gather at a village forum on 8th May.
The village will be ‘fighting back’ on four fronts, which need hefty funding; particularly to enable the ‘people’ to have a barrister represent them against the ‘might’ and ‘wealth’ of the developers and their legal teams. In the reading of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), currently going through parliament, the Government have done nothing to redress the fact that developers have an unlimited right of appeal over developments, but, local communities have none – unless they go to the expensive lengths we have having to employ. Unfortunately, the community right of appeal was removed from the legislation. In no small part due to effective lobbying by the large development companies who suggested that it would encourage ‘nimbyism’.
Our first approach, as has been reported in the Wharfedale Observer, has led to the Department for Communities and Local Government ‘calling in’ the papers from BMDC, to determine if a full review by central government is required. Solicitors representing Menston have written to all Ministers concerned, highlighting the procedural irregularities, misdirection and failure to include material reports on the risk of flooding: imploring the Department to instigate a full review of the situation.
Our second approach, is to prepare for our own Judicial Review; for which we will need a barrister(s). This will allow us to present all the evidence that has been ‘overlooked’ in the process so far, to an independent Judge who has the power to quash planning permissions.
Thirdly, we must, of necessity, take steps to protect the current homes vulnerable to increased risk of flooding from the Derry Hill development – if it goes ahead. This affects eight house; homes that people have worked hard to pay for. Thus, on their behalf, the community will seek a civil injunction in the courts to prevent the water run off from using the present single, small, culvert system; which we have been assured by our legal advisors, is unlawful under both planning law and civil law.
Our last stand, to protect our small village, is our village green application for the Derry Hill Farm land. This land, has been used ‘without let or hindrance’, for lawful pastimes by our community for over 30 years. We have a date for the Village Green Public Enquiry , which starts on 13th August 2012, and is likely to last for 4 days.
It is very difficult for a community to have a real voice under the present system where housing targets are taken from the Replacement Unitary Development Plan which in turn, has cascaded down from the Regional Spatial Strategy . This situation may be improved under the new NPPF if communities put together their own ‘evidenced based’ neighbourhood plans to support a council Local Plan.
However, that lies in the future for us; the bottom line for ‘the now’ is that Menston needs to raise up to £100,000 to fund our plan. We are asking everyone who cares about our village and its future to help – an onerous task for a village of only 2000 homes. However, if we are successful in our actions, some of this cost will be reimbursed. What price our little piece of England?
The road back, begins here !!