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The Localism Bill

Paul Newman Homes (PNH) - Valley Farm Development

26/07/11 FoE will fight for grassland -   Leighton Buzzard Observer

 

 July 2011 update:

We have used the remaining money raised from local residents to fund two letters from our Planning Consultant on the wildlife laws, which raises serious concerns as to whether it would be legal to grant planning permission. The limited number of surveys and lack of impact assessment of the effects of the development on protected species such as bats means that the Inspector does not have the full knowledge to be able to make a decision as to whether it would be lawful according to the Habitats Regulations and therefore he is unable to grant permission.

Our planning expert was responsible for a landmark case when Cornwall County Council had granted permission for a landfill site and started building it but because adequate bat surveys had not been done, the planning permission was overturned by the high court.

If there was masses of mitigation and a full impact assessment that really looked at the effect on the local bat population so that we could be sure that there was net loss of biodiversity then we would not be objecting but there is no evidence of this and Valley Farm fen in rich in species rich meadow land and fenland which are both important habitats for bats. The importance of the area to wildlife is support by the Greensand trust and by the wildlife Trusts.

 

Planning Consultant Charlie Hopkins' letter to Planning Inspectorate - July 2011

Letter to Planning Inspectorate with Ecology Evidence - July 2011

 

4 February 2011

An appeal by the developers has been announced. It will be going before the planning inspectorate in July. Both Aylesbury Vale and Central Beds are opposing the development.

 

South Beds Friends of the Earth will be strongly opposing this because:

  • The area contains species rich meadowland and ancient hedgerow which support a wide range of wildlife

  • We have lost 90% of our species rich meadowland in the UK since 1970 UK.

We have already produced two expert reports to support this and are hoping to raise the money to employ an expert on wildlife laws, especially bats, for the public inquiry. Our reports show so far that it would be contrary to European laws on wildlife to go ahead with the development in its current form and with its current survey work. We are hoping to raise the money for an expert to appear at the Public Inquiry. We have some money ring-fenced for this that we have kept in case PNH appealed but we will need considerably more to pay for an expert to appear at the Inquiry.

 

If you would like to make a donation please contact SB FoE Treasurer Ken Barry 01525 372036.

 

We support new housing if the biodiversity of the area can be replaced, the housing has renewable energy and very good bus & cycling links to the town centre, railway station and green spaces. It would be very difficult to ever replace the biodiversity by Valley Farm Fen and therefore we oppose it.

13 August 2010

Aylesbury Vale District Council refuses permission for development - (PDF from AVDC site)

Planning Application and Decision - (Central Bedfordshire website)

Conditions or Reasons for Planning Application Refusal - (Central Bedfordshire website)

 

16 May 2010

Paul Newman Homes Planning Application  

The Leighton Buzzard Town Council held their Planning Meeting on the 12th of May chaired by David Hopkins. Paul Newman Homes was informed of the meeting; the official documents were on show, but for some reason they decided not to defend their proposal. Opinion was that they were not confident after their rebuttal at the Examination in Public, but decided to try again, as they had invested a considerable amount of money on the application.

The public were invited to speak to renew their objections to this opportunist application. Tom Daley of Derwent Rd stated his opinion that the cosmetic changes did not improve the plan and Rob McAlister of LOUD supported his comments.

Councilor Brian Sadler asked if South Beds Friends of the Earth had commissioned further information on the protection of Bats; the meeting was advised that we had commissioned a second report which outlined the Legal Implications that must be adopted, rather than the builder using a wait-and-see approach then reacting to what they find. They were further informed that placing Bat boxes on trees was not the answer and that the report was strong enough to make the planners think again.  Details of the original and second report have been sent to the planners at AVDC and South Beds, together with our objections. In addition, SBFoE would defend their comments at the forthcoming Planning Meetings at AVDC and Central Beds Council.

After listening to the objection, the Councilors were invited to give their comments: the result being a unanimous NO VOTE to Paul Newman Homes.

Martin Probert (14/5/10)

As expected, PNH have renewed their interest in the above, after withdrawing the previous plan, citing it was done after advice from Aylesbury Vale District Councils (AVDC) Planning Officers. 

On March 10th 2010, AVDC discussed their Core Strategy at an Examination In Public (EIP) meeting which was attended by South Beds Friends of the Earth (SBFoE), where the areas for housing build and infrastructure had been identified but needed approval for overall suitability.

The examination by Geoff Salter, Inspector, included a request from PNH that their site be added to the plan, stating exceptional circumstances that are mentioned in the South East Plan. These included insufficient allocation of land, shortage of social housing and the fact that Valley Farm was not a protected area. Salter said his task was to approve the whole of the Core Strategy and was not prepared to add an additional site which would delay the Strategy.

He was surprised to find, when questioning PNH, that instead of waiting for his comments, they had slid the application in under the door. Needless to say he was not impressed, seeing it as being opportune, telling them that they must discuss it with the local planning inspector, as he was not the right person, nor was it the right meeting for this type of request.

The revised plans have now been submitted, advising that after public consultation, they have answered all the objections, which should make it more acceptable!!!  SBFoE are totally opposed to this to this unsustainable development, which is not even supported our own council. Detailed reports on Biodiversity and Green Infrastructure by Philip Irving and a Bat report have been re-submitted; to AVDC (responsible for the housing) and Central Beds (responsible for the access road onto Derwent Rd), which have swelled the written objections to nearly 1000 - many thanks to those who wrote and marched.

Current activity is to attend The Planning Meeting at LB Town Council when we should hear/see if they are still committed to a no vote.  In May/June, Planning Meetings will be held at AVDC and Central Beds, where the public can state their objections.  SBFoE have been allocated a speaking opportunity at both of these, but the dates have not been agreed as yet. We are full of optimism, as there are so many logical reasons to reject this opportunist developer.

Martin Probert (8/5/10)

South Beds FoE are actively opposing the western Linslade development because the area is very rich in wildlife which cannot be replaced.

scroll down to read our commissioned reports

 

Due to the way that the fields have been carefully farmed without the intensive use of pesticides, the hedges are full of wild birds and the fields are rich in flowers, and there are lots of bats which are a protected species under European and UK laws. This bat report means that Aylesbury Vale legally cannot grant planning permission as not enough surveys in bats have been done.

The key paragraph is:

4.4 Legal and policy obligations under the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, the Habitats Directive, national planning policy and local planning policy require the local planning authority to refuse planning permission for this proposal as i) the proposals have the potential to adversely affect important bat populations, ii) the ES does not outline the extent to which these bat populations will be affected and iii) there is no evidence to support the effectiveness of any of the proposed mitigation measures.

REVIEW OF ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENT OF THE WEST LINSLADE URBAN EXTENSION IN RELATION TO BATS (Chiroptera)

A report prepared for South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth

by Ian Davidson-Watts PhD, HND (Distinction), MIEEM, MIBiol, C.Biol.

 

PROPOSED WEST LINSLADE URBAN EXTENSION (WLUE)

An Assessment of the Role of Valley Farm in Local Biodiversity and Green Infrastructure Networks

Prepared on behalf of South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth by ecologist Philip Irving

 

 

 

2009 - Archived for reference:

Thank you all for attending the meeting

on Thursday 11th December.

LB Observer article

Jan 2009 - Linslade Western Development

We now have a list of actions if we want to stop the housing...

Step 1

Immediate action

 

Letter Writing

letter writing tips

  • include your name and address

  • keep it brief and to the point

  • stick to the facts

  • be polite 

  • avoid becoming emotional
  • request a reply
  • keep a copy

i)  Write to Andrew Selous MP

Andrew Selous MP, who chaired the meeting, has promised to pass on letters of objection to the secretary of state Hazel Blears. He advised that we write individual letters which are well-argued and non-emotive. The secretary of state has to reply to letters if they come via Andrew Selous, however, if you write directly to the secretary of state you are unlikely to receive a reply. Email: selousa@parliament.uk

post: House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

 

ii)  The consultation period has closed, but continue to send your objections to: ian.coates@gose.gsi.gov.uk at the Government Office for the South East 

This is to make the Government office aware of the strength of public feeling - again make points as practical as possible, not emotive, i.e. land being in Aylesbury Vale, biodiversity value of the land etc.

The government office works on the deeply held assumption that developers can pay for everything and a new development will solve all the towns problems. They argue that many issues like traffic could be resolved if the developer produced and paid for solutions such as public transport.

This why we need to describe the congestion issue as factually as possible, and explain the existing public transport situation, and to ask whether it is practical and good planning to assume that the developer can pay for the huge improvements to public transport that would be needed to stop a large increase in car use (and therefore carbon emissions) as well as the other needs such as schools and GPs.

 

Step 2

Write to Aylesbury Vale District Council

Objections should be sent by April 14th

Cllr Paternoster, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning

and/or

Mr A Barker, Area Planning Officer

AVDC
66 High Street
Aylesbury
Bucks HP20 1SD

Read documents prepared by the Environmental Dimension Partnership on behalf of Paul Newman New Homes, on the Central Bedfordshire website

 

click here, and input

09/0176

in the case number box

Step 3

Raise £4,000 for environmental report

Donations can be sent to:

Ken Barry, Treasurer

97 Bideford Green

Leighton Buzzard LU7 2TJ

Cheques payable to ‘South Beds FoE’

Charlie Hopkins' letter to GOSE

 

Ecological Assessment by Philip Irving

South Beds FoE oppose Western Linslade development on wildlife issues

click here for details

 

South Beds Friends of the Earth is a group of local volunteers who are affiliated to the national organisation of Friends of the Earth (FoE) which has 232 local groups across the country.

Although we receive information and some advice from national FoE we receive no financial support for our expenses.

We desperately need donations so that we can raise £4000 to pay for detailed legal advice from EarthRights solicitors (who stopped a quarry in Cornwall which was rich in wildlife becoming a landfill site), and for an expert on bats, Dr John Altringham, Professor of bio mechanics at Leeds University. We can then send the reports to the government office so that they understand that this is a really serious breach of European and UK laws.

 

12/11/08  Estate plans for Linslade cause an outcry  See article
08/07/08  Developers plough on with 1,000-home plan  See article

27/05/08  New plan for 1,000 homes in Linslade   article

A NEW developer has thrown his hat into the ring with an announcement this week of plans to build 1,000 homes in Linslade.  Paul Newman Homes say their scheme is still in the early stages, but the plan will utilise land west of Derwent Road that is outside the protected Green Belt.  The development would come in addition to the 4,000 homes already being built in south Leighton.

The Countryside behind Bideford Green over Valley Fen is very beautiful and rich in wildlife. Fenland is very rare in Buckinghamshire. Before the bypass was built there were ancient oak trees and it was a very tranquil and beautiful area. The hedges are full of Greenfinches and Bullfinches as well as many other varieties of bird and animals, including bats*. The fields are full of flowers as Mr Kimble, the Valley Fen farmer, rarely uses herbicides.  Many people regularly walk over this area, in spite of the new bypass cutting through a number of footpaths, and it makes a huge difference to their quality of life.

A planning application for a petrol station on the Linslade bypass was refused after many protested that it would be inappropriate in such a pleasant rural setting. We are now going to have a cycle and pedestrian bridge over the by-pass at Wing Hill, which would not have happened without an excellent campaign by local people and Friends of the Earth.

* Bats are a protected species under European and British Law. Most biodiversity is in decline, but protected species such as bats are some of the most at risk and that is why they are heavily protected.  It is a criminal offence to disturb a bat roost. In order to do so you have to have a licence from Natural England. The council should grant planning permission only with the full knowledge of the implications on protected species.

 

Your chance to really influence the changes in Leighton

The government plans require 26,000 new houses in Leighton-Linslade, Luton, Dunstable and Houghton Regis before 2021, with more to follow before 2031. Major fears are that the new houses will be built without the necessary supporting infrastructure, much local countryside will be lost for ever and our roads will become ever more congested.


South Beds Council is currently drawing up a new local plan that will shape the future of all planning aspects of Leighton, including housing. Green belt land will lose its protection so that thousands more homes can be built around the town.
These plans will either restore Leighton Buzzard or destroy it.  SBFoE accept that some limited development could generate better bus services and new leisure facilities but we believe the numbers being discussed are excessive and we are strongly opposed to the 43,000 houses in South Bedfordshire, as these numbers are beyond our environmental limits.

 

In a recent statement, Tom Nicols, South Beds Council portfolio holder for planning and development said: "We encourage constructive guidance and would welcome input on both unsuitable and suitable sites for new housing. The government has the power to enforce the number of new houses but any developer with ambitions to build in the area will have to work within our Local Development Framework."

see South Beds Council LDF guide

 

What is your main concern with the town's growth?

What do you like about Leighton Buzzard? List the qualities you most enjoy about the town and air concerns about the likely irreparable damage.

What do you value about life in Leighton? Are you already saddened by changes which you can only imagine will get worse?

Do you feel there is a strong sense of community, and would this be destroyed by huge development?

List the proactive policies which may help in the town, for example, ask for plans to deal with:

Congestion management/traffic lights

School run - should schools have supervised drop-off & collection points

Improved, regular or evening bus services

Free parking in town

Lower business rates for town centre trade

Cottage Hospital

Safer pavements & cycle-ways

Leisure facilities for children & teens

A new cinema

Green spaces; parks & playing fields

Inform the council of your wishes to be consulted and involved in the consultation process.

The following are Friends of the Earth policies which ideally we would all like to see improvements on, or policies written up in the Local Development Framework:

 

Energy efficiency

Renewable energy

Carbon neutral housing

Investment in rail, buses & cycle-ways and cuts in roads budget

Food waste & glass (more recyclables) collection

Protection of green spaces, parks and wildlife habitat

Local produce and better range of shops to keep people shopping in town

See background page for research and ideas