North Avenue development UPDATE
Update at 29 October 2015
The following Update is based on a report made to the Darley Abbey Society's Open Meeting, on 28 October 2015, which was well attended.
It seems a long time ago since the Residents' Meeting was held on 22 July to discuss opposition to the Planning Application being considered at that time.
That Application was rejected, replaced almost immediately by another one for which the City Council web-site facility for Public Comments closed on 21 October. The timing of the most recent Application did not make it feasible to hold another Residents' Meeting, and so this 'Update' is to let Darley Abbey Society Members and Residents know what has been happening, and what is planned.
What has been happening
We have succeeded in making residents aware of the most recent Application, and this has resulted in a substantial number of responses submitted to the City Council. We think it is unlikely that anyone would have predicted that representations would have been made in such large numbers and of such high quality, so soon after the campaign against the previous Application. The message really must now be 'out there' that Darley Abbey residents are vigilant, and will not tolerate attempts to submit a detrimental development through the Planning process in the hope that we will not notice it, or in the hope that we are all suffering objection fatigue. If anything, the content and tone of the comments submitted recently to the City Council suggest that residents are increasingly angry that proposals are being submitted with little regard for the sound arguments against them, and are adamant that they should not succeed.
Sincere thanks to all who have taken the time and trouble to submit letters of objection. It is good to see that residents, our Councillors, and our MP, are of one voice, and this makes clear that the Darley Abbey Society is legitimately supporting the wishes of our wider community in pursuing matters as we have.
As Planning Applications are highly technical matters, the Darley Abbey Society also commissioned the updating of Expert Reports to address Heritage, Transport, and Engineering matters, so as to ensure the Planning Officers and the Planning Committee would have the benefit of comments specifically relating to the current Application. The updated Reports have been submitted to the City Council, and can be seen on the Planning Website.
The Expert Reports and their updating have been funded by contributions from the 'Fighting Fund' (set up as requested by the Residents' meeting on 22 July), plus a contribution from the Darley Abbey Society reserves.
The current proposals seek approval for Access (all other matters being 'Reserved' for a later Detailed Planning Application). The Expert Reports have identified considerable problems with the current proposal: the technical impossibility of creating an access road which would create a major blot on the landscape; the lack of proper Impact Assessment on the World Heritage Site (which should have been undertaken by the Applicant); and a failure to address traffic/safety issues raised previously for the junction of South Avenue Church Lane; all undermining the case for the granting of consent for the proposed Access. The Expert Reports also carry forward other areas of difficulty which are still relevant from previous Applications.
What is planned
A Committee Meeting of the Darley Abbey Society was held last evening, 26 October, when it was agreed that:
1. In advance of the Planning Committee meeting (for which a date has yet to be set) we would liaise with Cllr Jack Stanton:
To establish the date of Planning Meeting and co-ordinate representations at it;
To lobby for proper consideration of the traffic issues for South Ave/Church Lane which were not addressed in the consideration of previous Applications; and
To emphasise the need for a comprehensive refusal notice to minimise risks of/risks from an Appeal.
2. Beyond the Planning Committee meeting we would work:
To monitor future Appeals and/or Applications;
If necessary to liaise with potential partners in objection (e.g. Derwent Valley Mills Partnership etc) to co-ordinate and fund next steps;
If there is an Appeal, to liaise with an experienced planning officer so as to benefit from his kind offer of support based on his experience as an Inspector;
Assuming there is either an Appeal or another Application, to develop an action plan to suit; and
To undertake appropriate fund raising to meet anticipated needs – in the knowledge of why funds are needed, for what, and how much.
There may be conflicting ideas as to the best way forward, and we hope that residents will feel that the above plans are appropriate, necessary, and proportionate to the current circumstances. If circumstances change then we will need to change our plans.
It is our firm wish to be open with members and residents about our intentions, and to ensure that all are aware of what we are doing and why. The DAS Committee therefore agreed that we would support these activities with ongoing publicity, to keep members and residents in the picture and seek additional support as necessary.
Until the current Application has been considered by the Planning Committee, it is the wish of the DAS Committee that our actions and communications be led by a sub-committee in the hope that, in this way, we can achieve focus, flexibility, and consistency of approach. The sub-committee will be chaired by Graham Bennett (who chaired the Residents' Meeting in July), and membership will include Helen McCoy (DAS Treasurer), and Chris Hall who represented the Society at the previous Planning Committee meetings; it is also hoped that David Dickie will join the sub-committee, his previous help having included the identification of the Heritage Expert, and the timely commissioning of the Transport Expert so that traffic movements were assessed at an appropriate time of day, during school term time.
The report was received with interest by the Open Meeting; some suggestions were made for additional lines of enquiry to strengthen the case, and no revisions were proposed to the general approach outlined above.