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News  »  Parish Council response to County Plan



   Parish Council response to County Plan    November 1, 2012



 

 

 

Durham County Local Plan – Preferred Options – September 2012

 

Representations on behalf of Gainford & Langton Parish Council

 

Policy 1 Sustainable Development

Gainford & Langton Parish Council would fully support the aims and objectives for sustainable development as outlined in Policy 1.  The Parish Council would specifically express its support for  the following Criteria for assessing sustainability:

“h.  Make the most effective use of land, buildings and existing infrastructure, re-using land that has been previously developed wherever possible , provided that it is not of high environmental value”;

“i. Promote sustainable, well designed and accessible places that enhance local distinctiveness, contribute to regeneration of deprived communities and degrade environments, respect the setting and character of place”;

“j. Conserve and enhance the quality, diversity and local distinctiveness of County Durham’s towns and townscape and villages and landscapes…”

“l. Reduce flood risk, incorporate flood protection and alleviation measures…”

“p. Promote inclusive and cohesive communities and encourage community involvement  in the design, development  and management of places and by delivering safe, well-designed and accessible places that meet identified need and are adaptable to changing needs…”

 

The Parish Council would also support the statement in Criterion S that the Plan should “protect the productive potential of  the County’s agricultural land…”, however it considers that this criterion should be reworded to refer specifically to the guidance, outlined in Paragraph 112 of NPPF that where development on agricultural land in necessary local planning authorities should “seek to use areas of poor quality land in preference to that of high quality land.”  High quality agricultural land is sometimes referred to as  the ‘best and most versatile agricultural land’  which is defined in NPPF as Grades 1, 2 and 3a.

 

This is a particularly important consideration because, as can be seen from the extract from the Agriculture Land Classification 1:250,000 Plan at Figure 1, most of the land around Gainford lies solidly within a much larger area of Grade 2 Agricultural Land within the Tees Valley.  It can therefore be classified as ‘ best and most versatile’ and in line with guidance in NPPF the local, planning authority should first seek to identify  sites of a lower productive value to allocate for housing development, and only seek to identify Grade 2 land where there is no appropriate alternative. 

 

The Parish Council considers that the high quality farm land around the village should be afforded the highest protection from development  especially when there is an alternative, previously developed site available for development, in an equally sustainable location on the edge of  the built up area of the village, i.e. St Peter’s, that could more than adequately meet the village’s housing needs during the Plan period.

 

Further representations are made on this specific topic in relation to Policy 30

 

Figure 1 Agricultural Land Classification (Blue = Grade 2

 

 

Policy 2 Spatial Approach

Gainford & Langton Parish Council  would generally support the Spatial Approach and settlement hierarchy  detailed in Policy 2 which excludes Gainford from the list of 12 Main Towns and 23 Smaller Towns and Larger Villages proposed as the main focus for future development in the County. 

 

The Parish Council accepts however that it will also appropriate to deliver further development in other smaller settlements, in line with criterion B of Policy 2 the County Plan, to meet their social and economic needs and/ or contribute towards regeneration. Such development must however be commensurate with the size of the settlement and its role in the settlement hierarchy.   In terms of Gainford the Parish Council recognises that the village will need to evolve over time and accepts that an element of new housing within the village, so long as it is  of an appropriate scale and sensitively designed and located,  will contribute towards securing the village’s future vitality and viability. 

 

The Parish Council would however question whether Gainford is correctly categorised as a ‘Local Service Centre’ within the Settlement Hierarchy and whether it might more correctly be categorised as a ‘Larger Village’ given the small scale of the resident population, the restricted range of shops, services and community facilities, the limited public transport service (hourly services  only to Darlington and Barnard Castle) and lack of employment opportunities available to local residents within the village. 

 

The lack of employment opportunities in the village and its poor public transport connections, allied to the high cost of public transport to the nearest main employment areas such as Darlington, means the village cannot realistically be described as a sustainable location for those individuals and families on low incomes and requiring affordable / subsidised rent housing.

 

Policy 4 Distribution of Development

Gainford & Langton Parish Council notes the Distribution of Development  detailed in Policy 4 and that , in line with Policy 2, Gainford is not identified as one of the ‘Smaller Towns and Larger Villages’ in West Durham explicitly listed in the Policy as a location for an explicit housing allocation.  Only Middleton in Teesdale, Stanhope and Wolsingham are identified as such in Policy 4.  The Parish Council supports the County Council’s decision not to include Gainford in this listing.

 

Policy 15 Neighbourhood Planning

Gainford & Langton Parish Council welcomes the introduction of the Neighbourhood Plan regime and has the intention of preparing  a Neighbourhood Plan for Gainford as soon as possible.  In this respect therefore it is important  that the Local Plan must not prejudice the preparation and outcome of this document by  imposing on the local community any decisions, in terms of the location and scale of future development in the village, that conflict with the decisions and aspirations of the Parish Council and local residents. 

 

As highlighted in its representations in relation to Policy 2 the Parish Council acknowledges that  in order to support  the social and economic needs of the village in the longer term an element of additional housing development in or on the edge of the village will be necessary to help retain population and attract new residents. The Parish Council would also agree, as stated in Policy 15, that any Neighbourhood Plan must reflect the spatial approach and strategic polices of the Local Plan including any specific site allocations.  

 

However it is equally clear that the Durham Local Plan is, for at least the next year or so according to the County Council’s Local Development Scheme, still at  an early stage of preparation with no firm decisions having yet been made that would commit the County to adopting specific site allocations, especially where such allocations have no strategic implications.  The current document simply identifies the ‘preferred options’,  identified  by the Council on the basis of its current evidence base, and the opportunity exists to challenge these preferred options and suggest alternatives that better satisfy the aims and objectives and policies of the plan.

 

The Parish Council wants to ensure that any site specific allocation proposed for the village is appropriate in scale and location and delivers the maximum benefit for the village with the lowest possible impact in terms of its character, appearance and the level of amenity enjoyed by its existing residents. 

 

To this end therefore the Parish Council objects to the County Council’s proposed allocation of land North of Neville Close, Gainford for housing development  to seek to impose a large scale site specific housing allocation on the village (HA114) without proper consideration of the more sustainable alternative available (i.e. St Peter’s) and without the explicit support of the Parish Council and local residents.  Such an allocation would prejudice the Parish Council’s ability to deliver a Neighbourhood Plan that would more closely align with both its and residents’ aspirations for the village

 

Policy 16 Development on Unallocated Sites

Gainford & Langton Parish Council recognises that in order to provide the opportunity for Parish Councils or other neighbourhood forums to come forward with development proposals, through their Neighbourhood Plans, that are additional to the specific allocations in Policy 30 of the Plan it is necessary for the Local Plan to be flexible.  The decision not to identify fixed settlement or development limits for individual settlements is therefore an important element in providing Parish Councils with the necessary flexibility to develop their own polices and proposals using the Neighbourhood Planning route.

 

The down side of a lack of defined settlement or development limits to individual settlements is a lack of certainty for local residents and the potential, should no Neighbourhood Plan be forthcoming, for increased pressure from ad hoc development proposals on the edge of such settlements.  It is imperative therefore that if this approach is to be adopted by the County Council the adopted local plan policy context must be sufficiently robust to prevent such ad hoc development  especially where Neighbourhood Plans are in place.

 

The Parish Council is not convinced that Policy 16 achieves this aim even with the additional policy support provided Policy  36 Development in the Countryside.  The supporting text to Policy 16 would suggest that the criteria listed would mainly apply to development within existing urban areas, development on previously developed land and/or conversions of existing buildings.  However there is nothing to say that the Policy could equally apply to all greenfield land on the edge of settlements.  As a result the Parish Council would request the addition of a further criterion against which development proposals will be assessed namely:

“l. Would not involve development in the open countryside as defined in Policy 36”

 

Policy 36 would also need some minor modification to support this change – see representations on Policy 36.

 

Policy 17 Sustainable Design in the Built Environment

In line with representations in connection with Policy concerning the need to ensure, in line with guidance in NPPF, the on-going protection of the ‘best and most versatile agricultural land ( i.e. Grades 1,2 & 3a)  Gainford & Langton Parish Council would request that explicit mention is also made of this requirement in Policy 17 as the protection of such a valuable resource for the benefit of future generations is a key element of securing sustainable design in the built environment.

 

As a result the parish Council would suggest the insertion of an additional Criterion e.g.

“w. Avoid development on high value agricultural land ( Grades 1,2 and 3a).”

 

Policy 18 Local Amenity

Gainford & Langton Parish Council would support  the aims and objectives  of Policy 18 which is aimed at protecting the amenity of people living or working in the vicinity of proposed development.  The Parish Council would however request that both ‘surface water run-off’ and ‘highway safety’ are added to the list of impacts detailed in the Policy.  Planning permission will not therefore be granted for developments that would result in problems of surface water run-off or additional highways safety problems for local residents.

 

Policy 30 Housing Allocations

Gainford & Langton Parish Council objects to the inclusion of site HA114 Neville Close as a proposed housing allocation in Policy 30 – see Figure 1. 

Figure 1

 

 

The Parish Council objects to site HA114 for the following reasons:

 

  • The site much larger than is needed  to meet the village’s reasonable housing  needs over the Plan period. 

Policy 30 states that the site has a size of 1.6ha  and a potential capacity of 30 dwellings.  This is wholly at odds with the guidance given in Policy 35 Density of residential Development  which states that the average density that the County Council considers appropriate for peripheral location is 30 dwellings per hectare.  On this basis the site is likely to deliver some 48 dwellings.  This assessment is supported by the plans prepared by Partner Homes in connection with the recent pre-application public consultation exercise which showed 20 dwellings on approx. 1/3rd of the site.

 

It is also noted that the Plan would require 25% of any future dwellings on this site to be ‘affordable’.  This ‘requirement’ figure relates to the whole of the West Durham sub area and  is extrapolated from the County wide SHMA.  It is not a result on any explicit survey of housing needs within Gainford Village.  From the Parish Council’s more detailed understanding of  housing  needs,  and the existing supply of affordable homes within the Parish, it does not consider that there is any need for the provision of further affordable housing in Gainford over the Plan period.  The requirement to deliver further affordable housing in the village would therefore only have the effect of meeting the affordable housing needs generated by other settlements in West Durham, in which case the more

 

sustainable solution would be to allocate sites for housing development/ affordable  housing in those settlements where the need has arisen.

 

The County Council  needs to take these factors fully into account  before any attempt to confirm the allocation of site HA114 for housing development.

 

  • The site cannot be accessed safely

The Local Plan Appendices suggest three alternative points of access, one from Academy Gardens (via North Terrace) and two from Neville Close ( via Eden Lane.).  The Parish Council do not consider that any of these options would provide a safe and satisfactory access to site HA114. 

 

Concern is expressed about the ability of North Terrace to safely accommodate additional traffic bearing in mind  its narrow width, the fact that for much of its length, and especially close to its junction with the A67  parked cars prevent the free flow of traffic and effectively restrict traffic to a single file.  The Parish Council understand from Durham Constabulary, and from local knowledge of parishioners that small scale ‘shunts’ and  other accidents and conflicts are a regular occurrence on North Terrace.  The Parish Council is therefore concerned  that attracting additional traffic onto this route would exacerbate this problem and potentially lead to more serious incidents/accidents in the future. The alternative option for new housing suggested by the Council i.e. St Peter’s  would not give rise to such conflicts and would provide the opportunity for further traffic calming at the entrance to the village with resulting  wider benefits to the community.

 

Concern is also expressed about the ability of Eden Lane and Neville Close to accommodate additional traffic.  Both Eden Lane and Neville Close are narrow residential streets with significant on street parking resulting in the road being effectively single file for large parts of the day.   Eden Lane at its junction with the A67 is also little more than 4 m wide and only just wide enough for two cars to pass.  This gives rise to right turn traffic from the A67 queuing on the A67 whilst traffic exiting Eden Lane clears the junction.  Neville Close is also a narrow ‘estate road’ with significant on-street parking as a result of the combination of family homes and the design of the properties with most units only having one in-curtilage/ off street parking space, as a result of the restrictive parking standards previously adopted/imposed by Durham County Council at the time this development received planning consent. 

 

Furthermore the number of properties already served by Eden Lane already exceeds 140 units with no alternative access being available.  The lack of an alternative or even an emergency access, and therefore the inability for emergency vehicles to access the estate in the event of an accident or blockage e.g. at the Eden Lane / A67 junction, gives rise to concerns for the future health and safety of residents.

 

Before the Council can proceed to confirm the allocation of this site for housing  it must comprehensively demonstrate therefore, to the Parish Council’s and residents’ satisfaction, that the site can be access safely and satisfactorily and development will not give rise to additional delay, conflict and safety problems. If this cannot be demonstrated that the proposed allocation of this site for housing would fails the sustainability tests in Policy 1 and other polices in the Plan

 

  • Drainage Issues

Residents of Neville Close experience significant flooding of their gardens and driveways as a result of surface water run-off from the land to the North of Neville Close i.e. site HA114. The soils in this area are understood to be predominantly clay with limited ability to absorb and drain away rainwater.  Works by residents to intercept and attenuate the resulting surface flows have not proved effective.  Concern is therefore expressed about the potential impact  that additional housing development and the increase in the amount of  new hard non permeable surfacing (roads, roofs etc.) on this site would have the amenities of neighbouring properties. 

 

Before the Council can realistically consider any allocation of this site for housing development it is imperative therefore that it provides a fully costed drainage assessment  demonstrating clearly  that foul and surface water run–off from housing development on this site can be fully attenuated and that such works will address the flooding problems experiment by residents of Neville Close.  The study should also demonstrate that any properties on site HA114 would themselves not experience flooding from  the open agricultural land to the north.

 

It is however anticipated that  any such study will demonstrate that  whilst there may be an engineering solution, probably involving substantial on-site storage of surface water from the site, the cost of such works will be significant and that they would call into question the viability of this site for housing development, especially ‘ affordable housing’.

 

Before the Council can proceed to confirm the allocation of this site for housing  it must comprehensively demonstrate therefore, to the Parish Council’s and residents’ satisfaction, that the site will address existing surface water flooding problems at Neville Close, will not give rise to further problems and that any development will itself not be subject to surface water flooding problems.  If this cannot be demonstrated that the proposed allocation of this site for housing would fails the sustainability tests in Policy 1 and other polices in the Pla

 

  • Loss of Grade 2 Agricultural Land

The County Council as part of its assessment procedure for identifying sites for housing allocation does not appear to have given due weight, if any weight at all, to the fact that housing development on site HA114 would result in the loss of Grade 2 agricultural land (see Figure 1 overleaf).  Grade 2 agricultural land is defined as being some of the best and most versatile agricultural land in the country and  NPPF advises that  local planning authorities should seek to use areas of poorer quality land in preference to that of high quality.  The allocation of this site for housing development contradicts Policy 1 of the Local Plan and NPPF especially when there is a previously developed site available and suitable  for housing development on the edge of the village ( i.e. St Peter’s) that has the support of the Parish Council and residents.

Figure 1- Agricultural Land Classification (Blue = Grade 2)

 

 

 

 

Gainford & Langton Parish Council would instead, in line with its Parish Plan, seek the allocation of the St Peter’s site for housing development  ( see Figure 2) for the following reasons:

 

Figure 2 – St Peter’s

 

  • St Peter’s is previously developed land and its development for housing would not result in the loss of valuable high grade agricultural land;
  • The allocation of the St Peter’s site in the Local Plan for housing would give positive early encouragement to the owners/ developers to actively pursue  the demolition of the existing buildings and their replacement by a range of modern house types aimed at best meeting the future needs of the village over the plan period
  • The demolition of St Peter’s will get rid of an eyesore that occupies and prominent gateway location to the village has a deleterious effect on the setting and character and appearance of the village and the nearby Conservation Area;
  • New housing development , so long as it is carefully designed with good attention to detail, layout and materials  will positively enhance the entrance to the village and the setting, character and appearance of the Conservation Area;
  • The demolition of  St Peter’s will remove  a range of derelict buildings that over the years have become the focus for vandalism , anti-social behaviour and public nuisance.
  • The St Peter’s site has direct access to public transport  services on the A67 and is within easy walking distance of the health centre, village hall, local pubs, shops etc. In terms of overall accessibility St Peter’s occupies a more accessible location for housing development than the County Council’s preferred option of Site Ha114 Neville Close.
  • The St Peter’s site can be safely access and readily drained.
  • The development of St Peter’s for housing will not give result in, nor exacerbate  any existing surface water flooding or highways safety problems, in the village  but will help address some of these issues by providing the opportunity for additional traffic calming at the entrance to the village thereby slowing down traffic in the village itself.
  • There is developer interest.  As the Council is aware Kebbell Homes have recently consulted on a scheme from the demolition and redevelopment of this previously developed site.  This exercise encouraged the active involvement of the Parish Council  and local residents in the design of the scheme and the Parish Council has previously expressed its support for the replacement proposals

 

Overall the St Peter’s site, as a result of its precisely developed status, its highly accessible location, and the benefits that would accrue to the character and appearance of the village and the Conservation Area from its demolition and redevelopment  offers the most sustainable option for meeting the village’s future housing needs over the Plan period.  It is far superior to the Councils’ preferred option of site HA114 and the allocation of St Peters for housing development under Policy 30 would much more closely satisfy the stated vision, objectives and spatial strategy of the Local Plan and the individual polices within it.

 

It is accepted that the St Peter’s site is slightly divorced from the main urban area of Gainford village however it has always been physically and functionally part of Gainford and the residents of any new housing on this site would undoubtedly  contribute to the overall vitality and viability of the village.  Furthermore, as outlined above,  it is also the case that residents of any housing on the St Peter’s site would not be any further away, in terms of walking distance, from the main facilities in the village, than residents of dwellings on the land north of Neville Close.

 

Finally the Parish Council welcomes the proposed de-allocation of the St Peter’s site as an employment allocation.  This allocation, as shown in the Teesdale Local Plan, is wholly out of date, impracticable and non-viable, and should carry no weight in the County Council’s  consideration of what is the most appropriate future of the St Peter’s site.

 

The County Council’s Preferred Option of allocating  site HA114 for housing development does not appear to be soundly based in terms of the overall vision, objectives and policies detailed in the Local Plan.  It is difficult to see how the County Council can possibly justify in planning terms the allocation of site HA114 for housing given the existence and availability of the St Peter’s site and the support for the latter from the Parish Council and local residents.  The parish Council

 

would therefore explicitly request that Site HA114 is deleted and site at St Peter’s, identified in Figure 2, is allocated for housing development – approx. 30 units for delivery in the short term.

 

Policy 31 Assessing Housing Need

It is noted that Policy 31 would require 25% of any future dwellings, on  any sites over 0.2ha in Gainford, to be ‘affordable’.  This 25% ‘requirement’ figure relates to the whole of the West Durham sub area and  is extrapolated from the County wide SHMA.  It is not a result on any explicit survey of housing needs within Gainford Village.  From the Parish Council’s more detailed understanding of  housing  needs,  and the existing supply of affordable homes within the Parish, it does not consider that there is any need for the provision of further affordable housing in Gainford over the Plan period. 

The requirement to deliver further affordable housing in the village would therefore only have the effect of meeting the affordable housing needs generated in other settlements in West Durham, in which case the more sustainable solution would be to allocate sites for housing development/ affordable  housing in those settlements where the need has arisen.

 

Policy 32 Housing Exceptions

Where planning applications are proposed for housing development on the basis that they are justified under Policy 32 as a  ‘rural exception’  then Policy 32 must make it clear that such application will be required to fully demonstrate that a local need for that affordable housing exists within the ‘host ‘ settlement. 

 

As outlined in representation to Policy 31 Gainford & Langton Parish Council does not consider that a specific need for more affordable housing exists to meet the needs of Gainford, yet the SHMA suggests there is still a wider unmet need in the West Durham sub area.  It is not acceptable to  justify such ‘rural exceptions’ on the basis if the wider need, any justification  must be settlement specific.

 

Any further affordable housing in Gainford would therefore only have the effect of meeting the affordable housing needs generated in other settlements in West Durham, in which case the more sustainable solution would be to allocate sites for housing development/ affordable  housing in those settlements where the need has arisen and where such development may be more sustainable because residents would  have better access to employment opportunities and good quality public transport linkages

 

Policy 36 Development in the Countryside

In order to make the Council proposal to make the  removal of settlement/ development limits from villages effective and still make it possible for the County Council to properly control future ad hoc proposals for development outside the urban areas of villages, and yet still allow Parish Council to encourage development though their Neighbourhood Plans, Policy 36 needs to be tightened up.  This can best be achieved through a rewording of criterion ’a’ to read as follows  :

“The land is allocated for development in the County Durham Plan and Neighbourhood Plans”.  This will ensure that there is a clearer guidance as to what is open countryside and what is not

 

Durham County Local Plan – Preferred Options – September 2012

 

Representations on behalf of Gainford & Langton Parish Council

 

Policy 1 Sustainable Development

Gainford & Langton Parish Council would fully support the aims and objectives for sustainable development as outlined in Policy 1.  The Parish Council would specifically express its support for  the following Criteria for assessing sustainability:

“h.  Make the most effective use of land, buildings and existing infrastructure, re-using land that has been previously developed wherever possible , provided that it is not of high environmental value”;

“i. Promote sustainable, well designed and accessible places that enhance local distinctiveness, contribute to regeneration of deprived communities and degrade environments, respect the setting and character of place”;

“j. Conserve and enhance the quality, diversity and local distinctiveness of County Durham’s towns and townscape and villages and landscapes…”

“l. Reduce flood risk, incorporate flood protection and alleviation measures…”

“p. Promote inclusive and cohesive communities and encourage community involvement  in the design, development  and management of places and by delivering safe, well-designed and accessible places that meet identified need and are adaptable to changing needs…”

 

The Parish Council would also support the statement in Criterion S that the Plan should “protect the productive potential of  the County’s agricultural land…”, however it considers that this criterion should be reworded to refer specifically to the guidance, outlined in Paragraph 112 of NPPF that where development on agricultural land in necessary local planning authorities should “seek to use areas of poor quality land in preference to that of high quality land.”  High quality agricultural land is sometimes referred to as  the ‘best and most versatile agricultural land’  which is defined in NPPF as Grades 1, 2 and 3a.

 

This is a particularly important consideration because, as can be seen from the extract from the Agriculture Land Classification 1:250,000 Plan at Figure 1, most of the land around Gainford lies solidly within a much larger area of Grade 2 Agricultural Land within the Tees Valley.  It can therefore be classified as ‘ best and most versatile’ and in line with guidance in NPPF the local, planning authority should first seek to identify  sites of a lower productive value to allocate for housing development, and only seek to identify Grade 2 land where there is no appropriate alternative. 

 

The Parish Council considers that the high quality farm land around the village should be afforded the highest protection from development  especially when there is an alternative, previously developed site available for development, in an equally sustainable location on the edge of  the built up area of the village, i.e. St Peter’s, that could more than adequately meet the village’s housing needs during the Plan period.

 

Further representations are made on this specific topic in relation to Policy 30

 

 

Figure 1 Agricultural Land Classification (Blue = Grade 2)

 

Policy 2 Spatial Approach

Gainford & Langton Parish Council  would generally support the Spatial Approach and settlement hierarchy  detailed in Policy 2 which excludes Gainford from the list of 12 Main Towns and 23 Smaller Towns and Larger Villages proposed as the main focus for future development in the County. 

 

The Parish Council accepts however that it will also appropriate to deliver further development in other smaller settlements, in line with criterion B of Policy 2 the County Plan, to meet their social and economic needs and/ or contribute towards regeneration. Such development must however be commensurate with the size of the settlement and its role in the settlement hierarchy.   In terms of Gainford the Parish Council recognises that the village will need to evolve over time and accepts that an element of new housing within the village, so long as it is  of an appropriate scale and sensitively designed and located,  will contribute towards securing the village’s future vitality and viability. 

 

The Parish Council would however question whether Gainford is correctly categorised as a ‘Local Service Centre’ within the Settlement Hierarchy and whether it might more correctly be categorised as a ‘Larger Village’ given the small scale of the resident population, the restricted range of shops, services and community facilities, the limited public transport service (hourly services  only to Darlington and Barnard Castle) and lack of employment opportunities available to local residents within the village. 

 

The lack of employment opportunities in the village and its poor public transport connections, allied to the high cost of public transport to the nearest main employment areas such as Darlington, means the village cannot realistically be described as a sustainable location for those individuals and families on low incomes and requiring affordable / subsidised rent housing.

 

Policy 4 Distribution of Development

Gainford & Langton Parish Council notes the Distribution of Development  detailed in Policy 4 and that , in line with Policy 2, Gainford is not identified as one of the ‘Smaller Towns and Larger Villages’ in West Durham explicitly listed in the Policy as a location for an explicit housing allocation.  Only Middleton in Teesdale, Stanhope and Wolsingham are identified as such in Policy 4.  The Parish Council supports the County Council’s decision not to include Gainford in this listing.

 

Policy 15 Neighbourhood Planning

Gainford & Langton Parish Council welcomes the introduction of the Neighbourhood Plan regime and has the intention of preparing  a Neighbourhood Plan for Gainford as soon as possible.  In this respect therefore it is important  that the Local Plan must not prejudice the preparation and outcome of this document by  imposing on the local community any decisions, in terms of the location and scale of future development in the village, that conflict with the decisions and aspirations of the Parish Council and local residents. 

 

As highlighted in its representations in relation to Policy 2 the Parish Council acknowledges that  in order to support  the social and economic needs of the village in the longer term an element of additional housing development in or on the edge of the village will be necessary to help retain population and attract new residents. The Parish Council would also agree, as stated in Policy 15, that any Neighbourhood Plan must reflect the spatial approach and strategic polices of the Local Plan including any specific site allocations.  

 

However it is equally clear that the Durham Local Plan is, for at least the next year or so according to the County Council’s Local Development Scheme, still at  an early stage of preparation with no firm decisions having yet been made that would commit the County to adopting specific site allocations, especially where such allocations have no strategic implications.  The current document simply identifies the ‘preferred options’,  identified  by the Council on the basis of its current evidence base, and the opportunity exists to challenge these preferred options and suggest alternatives that better satisfy the aims and objectives and policies of the plan.

 

The Parish Council wants to ensure that any site specific allocation proposed for the village is appropriate in scale and location and delivers the maximum benefit for the village with the lowest possible impact in terms of its character, appearance and the level of amenity enjoyed by its existing residents. 

 

To this end therefore the Parish Council objects to the County Council’s proposed allocation of land North of Neville Close, Gainford for housing development  to seek to impose a large scale site specific housing allocation on the village (HA114) without proper consideration of the more sustainable alternative available (i.e. St Peter’s) and without the explicit support of the Parish Council and local residents.  Such an allocation would prejudice the Parish Council’s ability to deliver a Neighbourhood Plan that would more closely align with both its and residents’ aspirations for the village.

 

Policy 16 Development on Unallocated Sites

Gainford & Langton Parish Council recognises that in order to provide the opportunity for Parish Councils or other neighbourhood forums to come forward with development proposals, through their Neighbourhood Plans, that are additional to the specific allocations in Policy 30 of the Plan it is necessary for the Local Plan to be flexible.  The decision not to identify fixed settlement or development limits for individual settlements is therefore an important element in providing Parish Councils with the necessary flexibility to develop their own polices and proposals using the Neighbourhood Planning route.

 

The down side of a lack of defined settlement or development limits to individual settlements is a lack of certainty for local residents and the potential, should no Neighbourhood Plan be forthcoming, for increased pressure from ad hoc development proposals on the edge of such settlements.  It is imperative therefore that if this approach is to be adopted by the County Council the adopted local plan policy context must be sufficiently robust to prevent such ad hoc development  especially where Neighbourhood Plans are in place.

 

The Parish Council is not convinced that Policy 16 achieves this aim even with the additional policy support provided Policy  36 Development in the Countryside.  The supporting text to Policy 16 would suggest that the criteria listed would mainly apply to development within existing urban areas, development on previously developed land and/or conversions of existing buildings.  However there is nothing to say that the Policy could equally apply to all greenfield land on the edge of settlements.  As a result the Parish Council would request the addition of a further criterion against which development proposals will be assessed namely:

“l. Would not involve development in the open countryside as defined in Policy 36”

 

Policy 36 would also need some minor modification to support this change – see representations on Policy 36.

 

Policy 17 Sustainable Design in the Built Environment

In line with representations in connection with Policy concerning the need to ensure, in line with guidance in NPPF, the on-going protection of the ‘best and most versatile agricultural land ( i.e. Grades 1,2 & 3a)  Gainford & Langton Parish Council would request that explicit mention is also made of this requirement in Policy 17 as the protection of such a valuable resource for the benefit of future generations is a key element of securing sustainable design in the built environment.

 

As a result the parish Council would suggest the insertion of an additional Criterion e.g.

“w. Avoid development on high value agricultural land ( Grades 1,2 and 3a).”

 

 

Policy 18 Local Amenity

Gainford & Langton Parish Council would support  the aims and objectives  of Policy 18 which is aimed at protecting the amenity of people living or working in the vicinity of proposed development.  The Parish Council would however request that both ‘surface water run-off’ and ‘highway safety’ are added to the list of impacts detailed in the Policy.  Planning permission will not therefore be granted for developments that would result in problems of surface water run-off or additional highways safety problems for local residents.

 

Policy 30 Housing Allocations

Gainford & Langton Parish Council objects to the inclusion of site HA114 Neville Close as a proposed housing allocation in Policy 30 – see Figure 1. 

 

Figure 1

 

 

The Parish Council objects to site HA114 for the following reasons:

 

  • The site much larger than is needed  to meet the village’s reasonable housing  needs over the Plan period. 

Policy 30 states that the site has a size of 1.6ha  and a potential capacity of 30 dwellings.  This is wholly at odds with the guidance given in Policy 35 Density of residential Development  which states that the average density that the County Council considers appropriate for peripheral location is 30 dwellings per hectare.  On this basis the site is likely to deliver some 48 dwellings.  This assessment is supported by the plans prepared by Partner Homes in connection with the recent pre-application public consultation exercise which showed 20 dwellings on approx. 1/3rd of the site.

 

It is also noted that the Plan would require 25% of any future dwellings on this site to be ‘affordable’.  This ‘requirement’ figure relates to the whole of the West Durham sub area and  is extrapolated from the County wide SHMA.  It is not a result on any explicit survey of housing needs within Gainford Village.  From the Parish Council’s more detailed understanding of  housing  needs,  and the existing supply of affordable homes within the Parish, it does not consider that there is any need for the provision of further affordable housing in Gainford over the Plan period.  The requirement to deliver further affordable housing in the village would therefore only have the effect of meeting the affordable housing needs generated by other settlements in West Durham, in which case the more

 

sustainable solution would be to allocate sites for housing development/ affordable  housing in those settlements where the need has arisen.

 

The County Council  needs to take these factors fully into account  before any attempt to confirm the allocation of site HA114 for housing development.

 

  • The site cannot be accessed safely

The Local Plan Appendices suggest three alternative points of access, one from Academy Gardens (via North Terrace) and two from Neville Close ( via Eden Lane.).  The Parish Council do not consider that any of these options would provide a safe and satisfactory access to site HA114. 

 

Concern is expressed about the ability of North Terrace to safely accommodate additional traffic bearing in mind  its narrow width, the fact that for much of its length, and especially close to its junction with the A67  parked cars prevent the free flow of traffic and effectively restrict traffic to a single file.  The Parish Council understand from Durham Constabulary, and from local knowledge of parishioners that small scale ‘shunts’ and  other accidents and conflicts are a regular occurrence on North Terrace.  The Parish Council is therefore concerned  that attracting additional traffic onto this route would exacerbate this problem and potentially lead to more seriou

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