Future Of Green Belt Land Hangs In The BalanceIn the Barnsley Chronicle edition of 27 May 2016, there was an article about the recent report on the Publication Version of the Local Plan (LPPV) – copy attached. The comments of the Cabinet Spokesman (Place) are worth examination.

We have commented before on the lack of transparency in the way that the council had prepared the draft version of the Local Plan (DLP) and that the consultation procedures were flawed, as evidenced by the council having to commit a further £250,000 of Council Tax payers money earlier this year “……….to ensure the final version is robust to be approved by the Planning Inspectorate” to quote from that earlier council report.

The Cabinet Spokesperson (Place) is quoted in this latest article as saying “We have had 5,000 responses which they have replied to. It shows that we are listening to the public out there”.   It seems that quoting the 5000 figure is intended to impress. What it actually says is that the Council realised that the DLP was a disaster of a document, hence the need to commit more financial resources and time to seek to improve it.

The new document is virtually identical to the last one, apart from a few sites being switched, added or removed.  We understand that the Green Belt Review, in particular, is unchanged.  This can hardly be deemed “listening to the public”.

A widely-expressed criticism of the DLP consultation was the poor communication process, which resulted in another consultation on the Council’s “Statement of Community involvement”.  It remains to be seen what lessons have been learned, when the Council’s publicity plans are published.

The article reports that three quarters of the borough is proposed to be retained as green belt under the plan (ie, 75 percent, down from 77 percent “only” a 2 percent reduction)

What this fails to mention is that the proposals in reality are taking approximately 13.5 percent of what could be described as accessible Green Belt close to, or within the Barnsley Urban Area, from those communities for whom it provides the green lungs of open spaces, recreational facilities, quality of life, a home for wildlife etc., etc.

Clearly the council has determined that there are different shades of green within the borough.

What the Cabinet Spokesperson (Place) also fails to mention in the article is that the Council has afforded developers a head start in the local plan process, to the exclusion of the communities who live in those areas.

For instance, requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) have revealed that the Council has been talking to developers for more than two years and that clear plans are already in place to develop proposed site MU1, the area of green belt which separates the distinct settlements of Pogmoor, Gawber, Redbrook, Barugh Green and Higham resulting in excessive Urban Sprawl, the very thing which the green belt is supposed to protect local communities from.

This appears to be contrary to the comments made by the council’s head of planning in the article.  He says “Some of the Green Belt [sites] identified are quite big parcels …”.  He then goes on to talk about “… areas you can in-fill…”.

His comments about methodology being used to look at “areas you can fill in” being the operative words.

In the Green Belt Review (unchanged), the existing Green Belt appears to have been subjected to contortions and inconsistent reasoning all aimed at getting one particular site into the hands of developers.

Clearly the methodology needs to be challenged for what it is:  A report written by the development market for the development market, based on pre-determined political ambitions.

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