Friday, November 12, 2010

Local Planning Document Defective

In a rare case of them actually turning down a development Lib Dem councillors are crowing at how they appear to have 'saved' the Queen Edith pub from demolition at yesterday's South Area Committee.

Normally they hide behind the rigidness of the planning rules, the quasi-judicial planning process and their fear of the (exaggerated) cost of rejections going to appeal and being awarded to the appellant. However, in this case the Lib Dems seem to have rejected the application (10/0815/FUL).

Planning decisions currently can only be made with reference to national and local planning guidelines. The Lib Dems in Cambridge are responsibile for our own local plan but the plan is defective. It offers:
  • No protection for pubs.
  • Inadequate defence for Cambridge's distinct heritage and low skyline.
  • A crazy rule limiting the number of parking spaces permitted per new dwelling to less than one.
This last rule is building in huge transport problems for the future, when we've got enough parking problems as it is. The new development in the station area will introduce no new parking, causing even greater problems around Rustat Road while new developments across the city are making local parking problems worse and worse all the time.

This is just the start of the problems. With 'affordable housing' quotas limiting housing for those in the middle band Cambridge is quite simply a planning disaster zone. Conservatives have been battling the Lib Dems over planning for years, both centrally and in clashes in Lib Dem-held wards like Trumpington. We won't stop holding them to account.

Meanwhile we'll see if the Queen Edith really is saved or if a new application is forthcoming or an appeal is lodged. It is frustrating when large pub companies and breweries try to argue that planning permission for housing is justified on the basis that they haven't been able to run a good business - let a smaller business or independent publican have a go!


Martin said...

"the plan is defective. It offers: No protection for pubs"

Erm, since when were Conservatives into intervention in the market and distortion of the planning system in this way?

It seems even more an odd statement given opposition to the community's campaign against the principle of Tesco being in Mill Road..

(Personally I'd rather see protection of both pubs and local shops.)

Andrew Bower said...

Hi Martin,

Since when were Conservatives for abolition of the planning system? Did you not see "Saving the Portland Arms" and the Conservative campaign to save the Great British pub?

We did support concerns over transport with Mill Road Tesco and the potential use of the Conservative-supported Sustainable Communities Act to protect the character of Mill Road. Where was your evidence to the claim of 'opposition'?

As indeed many of the opponents of the Tesco plan themselves claimed when challenged with the accusation of being merely 'anti-Tesco', we were not against the principle of Tesco of course. I've never been convinced that Tesco was a threat to anything other than the Co-Op.

Andrew Bower said...

P.S. What do you mean by 'distortion of the planning system'? The planning system is by definition a form of intervention and it is necessary to protect character and amenity in our towns and villages. But it has problems which need fixing.

I should also add to broaden understand for those that don't recognise our diversity that some Conservatives were indeed against the Tesco store in principle as well as practice.

And while I'm at it, a common misunderstanding is that we favour big business over small business. On the contrary, we understand how small business is the engine for growth and good for the country. It is the socialists who traditionally like big businesses because they can stitch up big corporatist deals (see Hayek) with the unions and the government. The fact that socialist hotheads like to smash up the HQs of big businesses says more about their lack of intelligence than anything else.

John Lawton said...

It's easy for you to criticise the restraint on new parking spaces, but I'd like to know how you think the city can cope with the increased number of cars, which we assume the owners will use, if parking spaces are allowed to expand in line with the number of properties? Public transport has reliability and cost problems. Your colleagues on the County don't have a great reputation for dealing with the transport issues of the city, are you any different?

Andrew Bower said...

People don't buy cars just because they have empty parking spaces. And the lack of parking spaces doesn't stop people from having cars, as can be seen in Coleridge ward and indeed every other part of the city.

This is the fundamental problem with what idealistic approach taken by the Lib Dems - they seem to thing that if you make it hard to park that people won't have cars. The same sort of fantasy led them to believe that building 12,000 homes on the airport would be a good idea.

Richard Taylor said...

Mr Bower has told me, via Twitter, that he learnt of the deliberations at the committee via my live tweets from the public seating area. (They've banned me filming, but not banned me tweeting (yet!))

I have written an article on the determination of the Queen Edith Pub planning application at the South Area Committee meeting:

The Liberal Democrats at the South Area Committee briefly debated the city wide planning policy and appeared to come to the conclusion that on a city wide basis their party had been wrong not to have explicitly included pubs in the definition of community facilities, the protection of which can be a valid consideration when considering a planning application.

There are many more flaws with Liberal Democrat planning policy in Cambridge than Mr Bower has been able to cover in his article. To give just a couple more examples - they're allowing the city to be extended with mile up-on-mile of estate-land rather than ensuring mixed-use extensions of the city. They're promoting private enclaves, including an exclusive "university quarter" in North West Cambridge; and they're raising one-off development taxes which they're frittering away and failing to spend on permanent assets such as new green space.

Andrew Bower said...

Richard, you are quite right on those additional points about the Lib Dems' planning machine.

I was intending to write something anyway the next day, knowing I'd hear about the decision from triumphant Lib Dem blog posts or press releases but it was great to be able to follow and interact real time during the meeting without having to attend it all.

Chris Howell said...

Have to say the decision on the Queen Ediths pub application did nothing to dampen my cynicism as to how the Lib Dems do planning, or indeed the affect of having area committees decide applications - not that I would disagree with the outcome!

Equinox said...

Tricky one this one - being a creature of the Whitehall jungle I try to stay out of local planning spats.

My issue is about getting more local people involved in planning decisions - especially given the push that's coming from Central Government.

I don't pretend to have any solutions, so I'll throw my questions into the pot:

1) How can we make people more aware of up-and-coming planning applications that are coming their way?
2) How can we ensure that the planning process allows people to input at the DESIGN stage rather than saying yay or nay at the approval stage?
3) How can we ensure that people have sufficient knowledge of the planning system to ensure that their considerations can be taken into account?

I "FoI'd" the Council several years back on the Belvedere monstrosity, asking them what discussions it had had with the rail companies before approving that development of commuter mansions. "None" was the answer.