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Closing shots fired as decision looms
8:43am Thursday 17th May 2012 in Letters
I HAVE just learned that the major application for the huge development in Huntington is going to the planning committee today without a clear officer recommendation.
This is probably the most important application to come before the council for many years, yet the officers have failed to give clear guidance.
As a former chief planning officer, I find this deplorable and nothing short of moral cowardice. Of course it is for elected members to make the final decision, but it is also the professional duty of the chief officer to give a recommendation to approve or refuse. That is what they are paid for.
Given this abject failure, I hope we can expect the early resignation of the officer from a post they are clearly unworthy to occupy.
I also fervently hope that the committee will have the sense to reject this horrendous application which could do so much to destroy the retail vitality of this wonderful city of York.
Michael Gwilliam, Norton, York.
• PLANNERS are to be congratulated for admitting they don’t know what to recommend about the proposed Monks Cross expansion. They are wise to do so. They need only look at the predictions made by their predecessors.
When Monks Cross and Clifton Moor were first on the agenda, the experts were predicting that out-of-town shopping would strangle the city centre. Yet a few years later York was proclaimed the ninth most sought after retail location in the UK and shopping was bringing in an extra £100 million a year. The city-centre traders who are behind the opposition to Monks Cross also predicted disaster when Clifton Moor and Monks Cross were built.
Planners cannot be certain any more than the critics can be. Shopping habits are changing and anyone who believes we can retain the city centre as it is now is deluding themselves.
Ask yourself this: why are big developers prepared to invest in Monks Cross while in the past ten years they have not been interested in putting money into Coppergate? The future lies in the development of the city centre as a distinctive retail and leisure destination, as many other historic cities in Europe have done.
Patrick Kelly, East Mount Road, York.
• COUN JAMES Alexander (he of the failed bid to sell off Clarence Street car park) now thinks that refusing planning permission at Monks Cross will send a “York is closed” message to business – “big” business, perhaps.
Can he please try telling this to the host of small and medium businesses in the city centre which will see their trade dissipate?
Mary Portas produced an excellent report on behalf of the Government on how to rejuvenate town and city centres. It would appear that Coun Alexander has read this and decided to do the exact opposite. Could it be Labour Party hubris?
Further development at Monks Cross or anywhere else on the outskirts of York will further condemn this city to a “Polo mint” existence for its residents – all on the outside and nothing in the middle. Do we really want this to happen?
Finally, can the Labour Party please find a safe seat for Coun Alexander to occupy at the next Parliamentary election?
Neil Raw, Oriel Grove, Clifton Without, York.
• JAMES Alexander mentions that if the stadium and two superstores are turned down it will send out a “disastrous” message that York is closed for business.
Why? Surely it sends out the correct message. It sends out the message that York wants to do what is right for the city as a whole.
Why should it stop investment in the city? It will just show how Yorkshire is leading the way in how to do things properly.
Invest in the empty areas of York first: the teardrop site, the Terry’s site, the Nestlé site, the British Sugar site, the soon-to-be empty Del Monte site, the empty Piccadilly sites.
Invest in the city centre first, invest in an historic city, invest in people and their local jobs, in the process not losing the character of a beautiful city.
Save the green belt, protect green-field sites so York can become self-sufficient, making use of the good agricultural land to feed and protect us from climate change, drought and flooding.
York is open to sensible business that wants to protect future generations.
Sally Hawkswell, Heslington, York.
• THE proposed Oakgate development is not a huge out-of-town shopping complex. It is the creation of two new flagship stores with a range of community facilities attached.
The new stores may draw away some custom from the city centre. Two independent studies have said that this may be as little as six to eight per cent, if at all. The new development may cause the development of Coppergate2/Piccadilly to be re-evaluated, although this is nowhere near the planning stage.
The refusal of planning will definitely result in York City FC going semi-professional, the cancellation of their youth and community/school programmes, the subsequent job losses and the necessary selling of Bootham Crescent, leaving the club homeless.
York City Knights’ future will definitely be compromised as the city council has previously stated that it couldn’t commit to Huntington Stadium in the long term.
The city’s athletics club would lose out on a move to upgraded facilities. Enhanced community facilities of all-weather 3G pitches, health centre and learning centre would not be built.
The estimated 1,000 jobs would definitely not be created and the boost to the city’s economy would not be enabled.
In modern terms this is a “no-brainer”. Planning permission must be given.
Ben Howard, Aspen Close, Pickering.
• NEVER a fan of bureaucracy and its administrators, for once I think that the council’s planning department is correct in not recommending aye or nay for the Monks Cross development.
With passions high on both sides, and any neutral being able to see that each have valid arguments, it is only right that the elected councillors have the responsibility of making this crucial decision. Whichever way they go, they are the ones who will eventually have to answer to the residents.
Geoff Robb, Hunters Close, Dunnington.
• I HAVE already expressed to the city planners my objections to the Monks Cross development on the grounds that large stores such as John Lewis should be in the city centre so as to keep the city centre vibrant and support local businesses, particularly small shops.
There are many questions left unanswered, particularly the costs of running the community stadium and also the number of new jobs to be created which seems to fluctuate from 300 quoted by John Lewis and 1,000 quoted by Oakgate, the developers.
There is also the problem of increased traffic, which is of concern to the council’s own transport section who quote there could be up to 4,000 extra traffic movements on Saturdays. In the interests of the city this development should be rejected.
David Mothersdale, Elmfield Terrace, York.