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Sowerby Gateway gloom

Added on: 15th July, 2011

Sowerby Gateway gloom Add Comment

News supplied by The Thirsk Weekly News www.thirskweeklynews.com

Sowerby Gateway gloomWill future generations see this as the time when national government and the planners stitched us all up, ran rings round the councillors, and local government signed a death warrant for a historic market town and village?Castlevale, the would-be developers of Sowerby Gateway, see it as a vision, but for hundreds of local residents it is a nightmare: 920 or so new houses built on agricultural land over the next 14 years, accompanied by small industrial buildings and other works. How would you tempt people out of their homes on a gloriously warm and pleasant evening to crowd and jostle their way into Sowerby Parochial Hall? Answer: a public meeting called by Sowerby Parish Council to enable local people to ask questions of District Council planning officers and express their views. The Hall was packed, maybe 250 people, with every seat taken and some of us standing round the walls, or sitting on the floor. Assistant Director of planning for both Hambleton and Richmondshire Councils, Mick Jewett, drew the first heckles and gasps of the evening by seeking to establish the terms of reference in a way that people didn’t want. “The planning policies have been set,” he declared, “and there is no intention of renewing them.” One lady from the audience hit a very large nail squarely on the head by demanding to know whether the Council was there to serve people. A cry of “we live here – why are you inflicting this on us?” drew cheers. For many there the fact that Sowerby and Thirsk had been chosen, along with Northallerton, to take the bulk of new development was a nonsense, and a nonsense they had not supported. Unfortunately, it became clear that nonsense though it may be, it is a well-woven nonsense. The fact that an overwhelming number of people in a locality vehemently oppose a planning policy is irrelevant. It has happened. I asked myself how this could have come about. I think it is something like this.The previous, Labour, government created a thing called a regional spatial strategy - part of the problem in dealing with planning is that planners do not speak the same language as the rest of us. This strategy required councils to plan for new homes, in order to meet the national housing shortage. Hambleton jumped to it, getting a pat on the back from the Planning Inspector in the process. The planners are adamant that they “consulted” local people. This of course is the Council who consulted about car parking charges...What went wrong at “consultation” stage is that the Council was promoting an entirely different scheme. Gateway was a rejected non-runner, so no one needed to bother about such a daft idea. Then things changed. The preferred scheme fell through, and it was Gateway’s turn. To read the rest go to: http://www.thirskweeklynews.com

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