Newsletter 7

Keep It Green 2014
Newsletter 7# – 9 April 2014
This is an interim update following receipt of the Freedom of Information act (FOIA)
responses and the Keep It Green 2014 Group meeting with Planning Officers from
Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (BMBC) on 4 April 2014.
FOIA Requests
The FOIA responses were received a few hours before the Group was due to meet the
officers from BMBC. The information had to be reviewed quickly, therefore, in order that a
list of questions could be constructed for the meeting.
It has to be said that there wasn’t much in the responses to the FOIA requests, primarily
minutes of meetings with Strata. In the FOIA responses, BMBC stated that they had had
to edit the documents supplied, to remove commercially sensitive information. In the
meeting, however, they said that there had been no need for this. There were no signs of
edits or “redactions” in the documents.
We will need answers from BMBC about the contents before we are in a position to report
further on the information. Suffice it to say that there has been, and continues to be
significant contact between BMBC, Strata and various consultants concerning the land in
question.
Meeting with BMBC
In the few minutes before the meeting started, we were briefed by Angela Smith on an
informal meeting she had attended with Dan Jarvis and Strata, at the request of Strata,
when they found out about our approach to BMBC.
Strata apparently indicated to Angela Smith that their work is speculative and they would
be glad to talk to the Group at any time.
Once in the conference room, after general introductions, Angela Smith opened by noting
the meeting with Strata and that they had stated their willingness to listen to the Group’s
concerns. She then made a very firm statement that she is against development of the
Green Belt in principle.
BMBC outlined the processes they and Sheffield City Region (SCR) are following, none of
which was new information to us. They noted that the timing of applying for funding for the
M1/Claycliffe Link Road was outside their control. They had had to get their proposals in,
to ensure they did not miss a funding opportunity. Although it is understood that no
funding will be available before 2015, there is evidence that the design for this road is well
advanced. We did not get the opportunity to probe this, however, for reasons noted below.
As far as developments are concerned, they stressed that they are looking at all sites in
the Borough before finalising their plans.
The copy minutes received from BMBC indicated that meetings have been held with Strata
and their planning consultants Spawforths, over a number of months.
BMBC Planning Officers are currently working on two important documents – a Green Belt
Review and a housing demand/sites review. The time scale for the first is not known, but
the latter should be available to the public in the week commencing 7 April 2014. At the
time of writing, there is no sign of the second review on the BMBC’s consultation web page
– we will have to make some enquiries. Naturally, we will be very interested in seeing both,
when available.
The Planning Officers stressed that the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment
(SHLAA) was an exercise to identify where sites for housing may become available. This
information then feeds into the Local Plan, where they will select sites from the SHLAA list
to suit what they think they need to meet their overall jobs/housing objectives. These were
summed up in the meeting as 14,000 jobs in the short term (38,000 long term), with
associated housing provision.
The Planning Officers were asked what was meant by “Executive Dwelling” and whether
there was a serious demand in Barnsley. The Planning Officers admitted that there was no
definitive answer to this. Angela Smith indicated that she is keen to maximise social
housing, for which she feels there is a more serious need. Whilst stressing that she was
against the development of Green Belt land in general, she felt that, if it has to be
sacrificed, it should be for social housing.
The big news was that the commencement of the Local Plan consultation process has
been put back to September 2014, (ie three months delay). This will knock on to the
subsequent actions (see below).
There is clearly a lot of activity on the proposals for the M1/Claycliffe Link Road and
surrounding Green Belt land. We asked if similar effort is being expended in other parts of
the Borough and they confirmed that this is the case. Similar work is ongoing with
“interested parties” (not residents, note) concerning developments at M1 Junction 36 and
the Goldthorpe area in particular.
The Group expressed concern about the “law of Unintended Consequences” of poor
planning decisions, where putting industrial units close to housing and shops had led to
blight. The BMBC officers noted this point. It was also strongly put to them, that whilst
there is plenty of talk of “stakeholders”, the most important stakeholders (which in our
opinion are the existing residents) will be left to live with the decisions of the Council and
that their concerns are being ignored. The BMBC officers also noted this point.
The BMBC officers realise the strength of feeling about planning issues, in this case the
loss of Green Belt, and described a process they call development of a “Statement of
Common Ground”. This is where both sides of a planning dispute agree a list of the points
all parties agree on, to enable negotiation to be concentrated on the disputed aspects of a
planning application. The BMBC officers referred back to the earlier point about Strata
being willing to talk to the Group, which they would encourage.
However, the Group responded by stating quite clearly that to even consider talking to
Strata would be an admission that the Green Belt is “for sale” and that we were not
prepared to go along with this approach. In any event there is currently no valid planning
application.
Before the Group had the opportunity to raise the list of questions arising from the
Council’s response to the FOIA request, BMBC stated that the meeting had been
scheduled to last only one hour and that they had other appointments to go to. Angela
Smith also noted that she had another appointment.
The BMBC Planning Officers suggested that the list of questions should be put to them in
writing and they would provide answers. In view of the restrictions on available time to
raise the questions at the meeting, the Group agreed to do this. This will help the Group to
have a more detailed look at the FOIA responses and, contrary to what has been the case
in the past, we have a promise by the BMBC officers that they will respond.
What happens next?
The list of questions has now been submitted to BMBC. An acknowledgement has been
received, indicating a response date of 30 April 2014.
The new outline time scales for BMBC’s preparation of the Local Plan are as follows:-
• Consultation on the draft document commences September 2014;
• Further consultation on the published version in Spring 2015;
• Submission Late 2015
• Examination in Public Spring 2016/Adoption November 2016.
A further meeting with BMBC Planning Officers may be needed when a response to the
Group’s questions on the FOIA responses has been received.
Ian Preddy
9.4.14

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