A 2,000-home new town at Earswick, a freight depot at Askham Bryan and new solar farms on York's outskirts are among proposed additions to York's draft local plan. You have until Wednesday to make your views known. STEPHEN LEWIS reports.
You might think you've been here before. Well, you haven't.
Last year, City of York council consulted on its draft local plan.
It's a hugely important document, which will shape the way York develops over the next 15 years and beyond.
It identifies sites on which to build up to 22,000 homes by 2030; areas for industrial and commercial development; potential travellers' sites and wind farms; and much more.
Now the council is consulting on the local plan again. Deja Vu? No.
Because what you are being asked for your views on this time are things that have been added to the draft plan (or simply changed) since the last consultation.
There are some pretty significant additions in the 'further sites' consultation, as it is known, including:
- setting aside land for a 2,000-home 'new town' at Earswick
- a potential new 17-acre extension to the Elvington Industrial Estate
- changes to the proposed 4,200-home 'new town' at Whinthorpe
- changes to a proposed 720-home development north of Haxby
- a proposed 'freight transhipment centre' at Askham Bryan (an attempt to get fewer delivery lorries coming into York city centre)
- land at Dunnington no longer considered appropriate for a travellers' site, but a new area of land identified for a potential 7-pitch travellers' site at Elvington
- a 69-acre site for continued expansion of the University of York's Heslington East campus
- land for a 37-acre employment/ commercial development just south of the designer outlet off the A64 near Naburn
- two proposed 'solar farms', one at Knapton Moor on the Wetherby Road, and one just south of Towthorpe Common
The 78-page main consultation document also lists many smaller additions/ changes, including extra sites for housing, new public green spaces, and so on.
Opposition parties have criticised York's ruling Labour group for being too keen to build on green belt, and for over-estimating the number of new homes the city needs.
Council leader James Alexander remains unrepentant, however. "All other political parties in York are against realistic measures to tackle our homes crisis and only Labour is supporting new homes being built in York. To the other political parties I ask where would you build the homes?"
You don't have much time left to make your own views known. The 'further sites' consultation period ends on Wednesday - so you have just two days to comment.
Once the consultation process is over, the draft plan will be amended to include many of the proposals suggested in the 'further sites' consultation. A final draft of the amended local plan will then go out to consultation again later this year, probably in the autumn, before being submitted to Whitehall for approval. If approved, the local plan could be formally adopted by 2015.
- To see the local plan 'further sites consultation' document, visit www.york.gov.uk. Alternatively, you can view documents at West Offices or in libraries across York.
To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org, use the comment button on the 'current consultations' section of the council's website, or write to FREEPOST RTEG-TYYU-KLTZ, City of York Council, West Offices, Station Rise, York YO1 6GA
Here is what York Civic Trust and opposition politicians have had to say about the local plan and the 'further sites' consultation
York Civic Trust
The Trust is keen to see a local plan adopted. "Not since 1956 has this been the case and it is about time we had some certainty in the planning process," it says in a statement.
However, it is concerned about the sheer amount of new housing proposed. "Estimates for growth and the requirement for so much extra housing is based on little or no factual evidence. It is all guesswork."
The Trust is also concerned about the amount of development that would be on green belt.
There should be more emphasis on 'city centre first' development, it says.
"It is natural that developers will choose the easy option, rather than building on city centre brownfield sites, so the plan must give priority to the likes of the teardrop site behind York Station, otherwise these areas will remain a blight for generations to come."
The Trust is also worried about the consequences of building near to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), in particular Askham Bog, which could be "irreversibly damaged if the proposals at Moor Lane ... go ahead. We will press for this site to be withdrawn from the Local Plan.
"Also the large settlement at Whinthorpe, which with over 5,000 houses has a footprint larger than Tadcaster, gives us concern on many fronts, not least its proximity to the Tilmire Marshes, another SSS1. If this town is to be successful, it needs to take the form of a self-sufficient community, along the lines of the ‘Garden-City’ movement. A comprehensive masterplan is vital.
"The large developments proposed to the North and that adjoining Earswick will also have significant consequences, not just for the adjoining neighbourhoods, but have a serious impact on shared services and infrastructure. There is no evidence that these have been thought through."
WITH their draft local plan, Labour seem determined to bulldoze ever more of York's precious green belt, warn York Conservatives.
Despite a huge number of objections when the draft plan was initially consulted on last year, the 'Further Sites' document adds a host of extra sites earmarked for potential development, the city council'sTory group says.
These include a 2,000-home 'new town' at Earswick, a number of smaller developments along Boroughbridge Road which have a significant cumulative impact, and a proposed freight depot at Askham Bryan, says Conservative group leader Cllr Chris Steward.
"Labour often try and brand criticism of their plan as being against having a Local Plan," he says. "This is not true. We support having a plan but the plan as proposed represents too much development.
"We do not believe it represents the vision of York’s residents at large, rather that of a few Labour councillors. Furthermore the failure of the current plan to be deliverable and truly address York’s needs increases the likelihood of it being rejected by the planning inspector. "We are clear York needs many more homes, but continue to favour brownfield sites over taking the near 2,000 acres of land out of the green belt that Labour are wanting to."
Conservative councillors say they welcome the removal of the Dunnington Travellers site from the plan. "But Labour have not learnt from the mistake as they turn the focus to a potential inappropriate village site in Elvington," Cllr Steward says. "We are also concerned about the emergence of solar farms in a number of locations and the Freight Consolidation Centre proposed at Askham Bryan."
York needs more houses, but Labour’s plans to build 16,000 on the green belt and increase the size of the city by 25% are misguided, say Liberal Democrats in York
"If these plans were to go ahead the character of York, its suburbs and nearby villages would be lost forever," says Cllr Keith Aspden, leader of the city's Lib Dems. "Places like Haxby, Huntington, Copmanthorpe, Heslington and Heworth Without would be transformed.
"Growth on this scale would be unsustainable. It would put an intolerable strain on local infrastructure, such as roads, health services and schools while York’s green belt would be bulldozed. "
Labour talk about economic ‘competitiveness’, but have not even said where the jobs will come from to employ the city's growing population, Cllr Aspden says.
"York should compete with Leeds and Newcastle, but it needs to compete by developing its distinct character and protecting what makes the city special.
"It is York’s character that attracts so many visitors each year, attracts businesses to invest, and is why people want to live and work in the city. This can’t be lost to unfettered expansion. We need sustainable growth.
"Labour need to listen to local residents and set realistic housing targets which address the current shortfall of homes and follow realistic predictions of economic and population growth."
The draft local plan attempts to cram too much development into York, says Cllr Andy D'Agorne, leader of the city's Green group. "We share the concerns of many York residents that more affordable housing is needed – to buy and to rent - but we do not believe this is the right way to go about it."
An assessment of the amount of new housing needed in York, prepared for the city council by Arup, makes clear that the extra 22,000 houses proposed over 15 years is a ‘policy choice’, not related to local need, Cll D'Agorne says. "This ‘high growth scenario’ reflects a projected growth rate of 14.5% - almost double the rate for the UK and more than double the projections for Yorkshire and the Humber."
The amount of land identified means that York's green belt would need to be totally redrawn, he says. "Large areas of high quality agricultural land will be lost; special nature conservation sites such as Askham Bog and the Heslington Tilmire irrevocably damaged; and York's identity and setting as a small historic city threatened by a totally unsustainable pattern of development around the outer ring road."
There is no evidence the proposals can be delivered in a sustainable way, there are no plans for adequate public transport , and the local plan does not put enough emphasis on climate targets or the need for energy-efficient homes, Cllr D'Agorne says. "The plan 'talks the talk' on sustainability but includes few requirements to make it happen."
On top of that, making greenfield sites available for development from day 1 means that more costly brownfield site developments such as York Central and Hungate will be undermined, he says.