Planning for the Future

White Paper on proposed changes to the planning system

The White paper put out for consultation proposes a radical change to the planning system. That consultation ends on the 29 October.

First you can read the White Paper by clicking here

However a summary of the 84 page pdf file may help.

This is the HM Government version:

The current planning system is complicated, favours larger developers and often means that much needed new homes are delayed.

We’re proposing a new system which is easier for the public to access, transforms the way communi-ties are shaped and builds the homes this country needs.

The changes will mean more good quality, attractive and affordable homes can be built faster – and more young families can have the key to their own home.

In the new system local areas will develop plans for land to be designated into three categories

:• Growth areas will back development, with development approved at the same time plans are pre-pared, meaning new homes, schools, shops and business space can be built quickly and efficiently, as long as local design standards are met.

• Renewal areas will be suitable for some development – where it is high-quality in a way which meets design and other prior approval requirements the process will be quicker. If not, development will need planning approval in the usual way.

• Protected areas will be just that development will be restricted to carry on protecting our treasured heritage like Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks.

Communities will be consulted from the beginning of the planning process and help shape the design codes to guide what development can happen in their local area.

The reforms will mean:

Much-needed homes will be built quicker by ensuring local housing plans are developed and agreed in 30 months down from the current 7 years it often takes.

Every area to have a local plan in place currently only 50% of local areas has an up-to-date plan to build more homes.

The planning system will be made more accessible, by harnessing the latest technology through online maps and data.

• Valued green spaces will be protected for future generations by allowing for more building on brownfield land and all new streets to be tree lined.

The planning process to be overhauled and replaced with a clearer, rules based system. Currently around a third of planning cases that go to appeal are overturned.

A new simpler national levy to replace the current system of developer contributions which often causes delay this will provide more certainty about the number of affordable homes being built.

• The creation of a fast-track system for beautiful buildings and establishing local design guidance for developers to build and preserve beautiful communities.

• All new homes to be ‘zero carbon ready’, with no new homes delivered under the new system needed to be retrofitted as we achieve our commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

A Response:

As part of the White Paper a series of questions is put to the reader with a request to respond. These can be posted or email to in the following ways:

  1. Go to the website https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future

2. Alternatively you can email your response to the questions in this consultation to planningforthefuture@communities.gov.uk.

3. If you are responding in writing, please make it clear which questions you are responding to. Written responses should be sent to:

Planning for the Future Consultation,

Planning Directorate, 3rd Floor, Fry Building, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF.

My Response:

NB. Each question comes with some possible response options.

1. What three words do you associate most with the planning

system in England?

!

2(a). Do you get involved with planning decisions in your local area?

[Yes / No]

Yes

2(b). If no, why not?

[Don’t know how to / It takes too long / It’s too complicated /

I don’t care / Other – please specify]

3. Our proposals will make it much easier to access plans and contribute your views to planning decisions. How would you like to find out about plans and planning proposals in the future?

[Social media / Online news / Newspaper / By post /

Other – please specify]

Planning applications and all relevant details should appear on the public planning authorities website. It is inappropriate to outsource such information to private company facilities whose continuity is uncertain, whose objectives are not aligned with public service and which are NOT inclusive. Surprisingly 33% of the population are not on any form of social media and 4% do not have access to the internet (ONS 2020).

Email could be offered as an additional service alongside the continued use of the postal service to ensure complete inclusion within a neighbourhood.

Much disparagement is made of notices on lampposts, etc. Their function is to aleft other interested parties to what is happening in their area, many people are interested in developments that do not directly impact on them. They have a broad concern for the town\village where they live. How will they be informed?

Build on firm foundations rather than scrap everything unless it can be distributed over the internet.

4. What are your top three priorities for planning in your local area?

[Building homes for young people / building homes for the homeless /

Protection of green spaces / The environment, biodiversity and action

on climate change / Increasing the affordability of housing / The design

of new homes and places / Supporting the high street / Supporting the

local economy / More or better local infrastructure / Protection of

existing heritage buildings or areas / Other – please specify]

1. Increasing the affordability of housing

2. More and better local infrastructure

3. Protection of green spaces, biodiversity and the environment

5. Do you agree that Local Plans should be simplified in line with our proposals?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

No

They do not make sense in our area or, I would suggest in most rural areas. These would be designated as either ‘renewal’ where ‘small sites within or on the edge of villages’ would be developed – on what basis? Or as ‘protected’.The only difference between a renewal zone and a growth zone appears to be scale. Does that mean any plot that comes available could be built on as long as the development criteria in the Local Plan are met? Local communities would have no ability to either plan where sites should and should not be developed only their scale and design.

In Bunbury we are surrounded by open countryside that currently is protected from development. Where development does take place is identified and agreed through consultation with the local Planning Authority. (Cheshire East). Under these proposals no such ‘protection’ is available to ‘open countryside and farmland. Only in ‘Protected Zones’ is there any possibility of building into a local plan the option of saying NO to development. As the white paper states “There would be a statutory presumption in favour of development being granted for the uses specified as being suitable in each area”. The ‘uses’ are of course defined tin the new ‘Use Classes’ none of which cover open spaces or open land. They are Use Classes of buildings (commercial or Public). The Local Plan can only specify use in terms of those ‘Use Classes’ and cannot protect any land from development outside of Protected Zones.

The White paper does mention in the definition of ‘Protected Zones’ “ areas of open countryside outside of land in Growth or renewal area.” Who makes that decision? What consultation will be held on open countryside question? These are critical questions in our village that the Local Plan would not be able to answer. If the Local Plan, with local consultation, can decide to place open countryside into the protected zone with much reduced development objectives then villages may be protected from cherry-picking developers and productive farmland can be retained.

Where is the parallel discussion about the protection of farmland from development and the need to maintain our own food supply? Not a word.

Who gets to make these ‘zonal’ decision? Yes the Local Authority in the first place in consultation with the public (Stage 1) but the HM Inspector can simply override that decision (Stage 4).

The suggested Alternative of combining Growth and Renewal Zones is much worse. Such an approach is highly threatening to the retention of village character.

The other suggested Alternative of limiting automatic permission to land in the Growth Zone while retaining the power of the local authority to identify where and what permitted development may take place in the renewal zone, is acceptable. As long as it retain the current feature to allow citizen representation as part of that decision-making process.

6. Do you agree with our proposals for streamlining the development

management content of Local Plans, and setting out general development management policies nationally?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

I agree that repeating Government policy in Local Plans is a waste of time

But Local Authorities should retain a level of flexibility to set development management policies that do not duplicate NPPF policies.

7(a). Do you agree with our proposals to replace existing legal and policy tests for Local Plans with a consolidated test of “sustainable development”,which would include consideration of environmental impact?

No.

The inadequate detail provided makes it very unwise to go down this path. The UK is the most environmentally impoverished country in Europe. (On target? Five environmental challenges for 2020 and beyond – HoC report 2020)

‘Sustainable Development’ can become meaningless without a clear definition that has teeth. Currently it is little more than a ‘catch phrase’ trotted out to justify yet another development in ‘walking distance’ of ‘facilities’ (a shop and bus stop).

7(b). How could strategic, cross-boundary issues be best planned for in the

absence of a formal Duty to Cooperate?

Restore the duty to co-operate.

8(a). Do you agree that a standard method for establishing housing requirements (that takes into account constraints) should be introduced?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

No

1. The problem in our village is delivery and provision of affordable housing. Only 50% of the houses with permission to build in the last 5 years have been built. Make it hurt to cling on to land that has been granted permission and not used. This is the cause of house shortages. Developers do not want to build affordable houses in our village to meet real need. Their objective is maintain the profitability of the development. That means NOT building if it impacts on market prices.

More details needed on the Housing Delivery Test to make any judgement. Why? Delivery is OUR problem, in the South you may have other issues.

2. Centralisation of housing need calculation into one algorithm is inappropriate. Needs vary across the country and this approach is just unnecessary in Cheshire. We have land supply.

3. Preferred option is:

It would be possible to leave the calculation of how much land to include in each category to local decision, but with a clear stipulation in policy that this should be sufficient to address the development needs of each area (so far as possible subject to recognised constraints), taking into account market signals indicating the degree to which existing needs are not being met’

8(b). Do you agree that affordability and the extent of existing urban areas are appropriate indicators of the quantity of development to be accommodated?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

No

‘Affordability’ is yet another weasel word in the lexicography of development. It just means small houses that get smaller as the local house prices rise. We have ended up with some of the smallest houses in Europe. In Bunbury we have ‘affordable’ houses that have a smaller ground floor footprint than the garage space on adjacent ‘market’ properties.

‘Urban area’ as a criteria for permitting more development? Big gets bigger? I’ll leave that to the residents of towns to explain.

9(a). Do you agree that there should be automatic outline permissionfor areas for substantial development (Growth areas) with faster routes for detailed consent?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

A cautious yes.

I want Growth areas clearly defined with a focus on brownfield sites and protection of green spaces and avoidance of massive ‘monochrome’ sterile environments.

9(b). Do you agree with our proposals above for the consent arrangements for Renewal and Protected areas?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

Yes

But only if ‘Open Countryside’ is included in the Protected Areas.

9(c). Do you think there is a case for allowing new settlements to be brought forward under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

YesBut these are the exception not the norm, provided legislation is clear that they can’t be used to override local planning decisions or to build in areas of open countryside.

10. Do you agree with our proposals to make decision-making faster and more certain?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

Appropriate speed is good. But it is not the most important requirement of a planning process. An open democratic process is more likely to yield a good decision. It is the quality of the decisions that emerge that is the criteria to judge the system. Speed is easy if you ignore everybody. Authoritarian governments claim speed is a virtue of their approach but end up with corruption and terrible decisions.

It is not the local authorities that are to blame to the degree the White Paper suggest. From my experience it is just as frequently developers errors, changes of mind, lack of experience, etc. that slows and delays the system.

11. Do you agree with our proposals for accessible, web-based Local Plans?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

Yes

Cheshire East has offered web based access to all planning information for sometime. You seem to suggest that this is a rare experience. Really? No recognition of what Local Authorities have already invested in their systems despite dramatic reductions in their budgets.

I have never heard of ‘PropTech’ before and as you don’t really explain what it is or its putative role I cannot comment. However experience of government involvement with IT firms and projects is not encouraging. Caution should be your watchword and my advice is to stay away from things you don’t really understand.

12. Do you agree with our proposals for a 30 month statutory timescale for the production of Local Plans?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

No

Again you are blaming the Local Authorities for the delays in the system. It is true the Local Plan takes about 7 years to complete but that is entirely due to to the heavy burden placed on the LA in terms of the work needed to meet all the criteria set by the Government policies, unclear methods of housing need, and meeting the demand of HM Inspectors. In your attempt to sort this mess out you are also throwing out the part of the process – making decisions on individual planning applications – out as well. It is that part of the process the citizen engages with as it represents his/her right to participate in decision-making that directly impacts her/his life.

Stage 1 represents the only stage at which citizens might get some say. Their expertise and motivation is often limited to the immediate area where they live. Will they engage with such broad based planning? In Bunbury the strongest engagement derives from residents impacted by the planning applications. Outside that ‘zone of impact’ other citizens do engage but at a less frequent level. This suggest that the particular rather than the general is what engages the citizen. And (s)he has only 6 months to engage and then his/her role has ended.

Stage 4 – It seems that the Inspector has too much power – “all at the inspector’s discretion”. This is likely to lead local resident’s losing faith in the system as the Inspector can simply choose not to listen to their concerns. The choice of inspector will therefore be key and this process needs to be defined. An inspector with political links or strong links to developers will lack credibility

This White paper represents an attempt to remove the citizens meaningful participation in planning decision-making just where it matters most.

13(a). Do you agree that Neighbourhood Plans should be retained in the reformed planning system?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

Yes
We have a Neighbourhood Plan in place that has served us well. We should make it clear that the Number 1 issue from residents is the number of houses being built followed by the housing mix. This section implies that NP’s will be limited to the design style which while a priority issue, is further down the list given below.. It is hard to reconcile the top down approach of this White Paper with the ability of a locality to influence how it is developed.

A NP that only addresses design style will be viewed as ineffective and no amount of digital tools will compensate for the disillusionment of 100 new homes being built on a greenfield site where we can only influence how they look. Clearly the government view NP’s as a mistake and the interference of citizens in the development of where they live is no-longer to be tolerated.

With our NP Bunbury has controlled the size of developments and their proximity to each other. Developers have respected the size constraint but with the support of inspectors attached and undermined the wishes of Bunbury citizens to avoid the formation of large conglomerations of new houses on the edge of the village. Active citizens were able to take their concerns to open planning meetings where with councillors and developers a democratic and open process was seen in action. That is real engagement

The White paper will strip away any pretence of serious involvement in local planning through the means of the creation of the NP – powerful motivating experience for the whole village -, automate consent on applications. Leaving the citizen devoid of democratic powers to influence anything but the choice of brick colours and style of roof.

If the White Paper seeks to engage the local population on a street by street basis then it will need to address the means by which the citizen can participate in decision about

  1. Housing numbers
  2. Housing mix
  3. Local infrastructure
  4. As well as Quality of Design

13(b). How can the neighbourhood planning process be developed to meet our objectives, such as in the use of digital tools and reflecting community preferences about design?

‘Digital tools’ is a vague term. We have websites with clickable maps, access to digitised plans and documents. Yes I am sure they can be enhanced. They do not however take the place of real democratic participation in making decisions. That is what engages citizens.

Of course citizens want to see what proposed developments might look like but more importantly the want a say in the number , distribution and type of those dwellings near them that directly affect their lifestyle.

14. Do you agree there should be a stronger emphasis on the build out of developments? And if so, what further measures would you support?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

YesThis really applies to larger developments but the principle of engaging a wide range of developers is one to be supported

15. What do you think about the design of new development that has happened recently in your area?

[Not sure or indifferent / Beautiful and/or well-designed / Ugly and/

or poorly-designed / There hasn’t been any / Other – please specify]

Locally we have small (15 or fewer homes) developments, they are very specific to the actual developer but largely they have been accepted by the local community. The houses are unremarkable but perfectly adequate and inoffensive, utilising the space allocated as well as can be expected.

16. Sustainability is at the heart of our proposals. What is your priority for sustainability in your area?

[Less reliance on cars / More green and open spaces / Energy efficiency of new buildings / More trees / Other – please specify]

So what does ‘Sustainability’ mean? Apparently it could be ‘ more trees’ or ‘less reliance on cars’. Did I miss the definition? So once again we meet one of those weasel words that people use to get round having to specify real things. What do I think it means in a partical way in Bunbury:

A decent public bus service that offers a real alternative to cars. That means serall journeys everyday that would enable travel to local towns and back again to support workers and shoppers, as well as recreational users. Rural concern are ignored by the urban focussed writers of this paper.

Children should be able to walk or cycle to and from school an other facilities in the village, in safety. Adults should also feel safe and encouraged to walk and cycle as government papers have indicated is their goal That means suitable pavements and speed limits (20mph) on cars that are enforceable. No on street parking, cycling parking facilities

A serious move to enable rural areas dependant on carbon fuels (oil boilers are common in Bunbury as we have no gas pipe to the village) to move to sustainable energy sources.

The encouragement of home based working where possible and consideration given to ways of reducing developments that simply increase traffic through the village to the detriment of the environment (noise and air pollution).

‘Best in Class’ broadband provision and appropriate levels of accessible computer terminals in local cafes or village halls.

Within the residential zones around the centres of villages the emphasis must move away from the domination of vehicles to prioritise walking and cycling in clean air and quiet movement.

17. Do you agree with our proposals for improving the production and use of design guides and codes?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

YesIn principle these codes are a good idea if the stimulate high standards. But as is common in the White Paper the focus is urban not rural. I propose that rural developments have a separate code. As mentioned previously most rural housing developments are small in size (less than 50 houses), we need cycle and walking routes within villages in order to access facilities such as GP surgeries, schools and shops. The code should therefore extend to linking a development with these facilities and not be limited to within the actual development itself.

18. Do you agree that we should establish a new body to support design coding and building better places, and that each authority should have a chief officer for design and place-making?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

Not Sure

Another quango stacked with political appointees to be the government bidding? Would we end up with better design or ‘Poundsbury style’ and fake Costwold? Appointments should be made by appropriate bodies and not the Minister. Unrealistic? Yes probable but on can hope that politisationn of our world has its limits.

19. Do you agree with our proposal to consider how designmight be given greater emphasis in the strategic objectives for Homes England?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

Yes

But it need to reflect both the wide variety of vernacular styles across England and the need to blend new and traditional and develop new styles. Beautiful can be modern.

20. Do you agree with our proposals for implementing a fast-track for beauty?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

No

Automatic consent is not a good principle in a democratic society where the outcome impacts directly on peoples quality of life. What is the style that Cheshire would go for anyway? We have a considerable diversity. Victorian polychromatic brick work, sandstone lintels, slate roof tiles, stone walls, carved soffits etc. Different villages have different mixes dependent on their history e.g. Historic estates have particular styles.

From the White Paper this sentence stands out as one I can support: To enable further tailoring of these patterns to local character and preferences, we also propose that local planning authorities or neighbourhood planning groups would be able to use local orders to modify how the standard types apply in their areas, based on local evidence of what options are most popular with the wider public.

21. When new development happens in your area, what is your priority for what comes with it?

[More affordable housing / More or better infrastructure (such as transport, schools, health provision) / Design of new buildings /More shops and/or employment space / Green space / Don’t know /Other – please specify]

In Bunbury the housing needs are for 2/3/4 bed homes and not the 5/6 bed executive house that dominate the developments. Currently we cannot get housing needs met.

The affordable housing that is built gets ever smaller in an attempt to make them actually affordable. They still remain unattainable on a mean salary of 25k. I know you are concerned about this but political ideology dominates thinking.

Redefine affordable housing in a meaningful way:

Rentable or shared ownership housing through (Housing Associations)

Mixed Housing with a range of need appropriate sizes

Infrastructure requirements are a function of size and social progress. The issue needs to be dealt with in its own right independent of the mix or ‘affordability’ of the development.

The Tory government under Harold MacMillan managed 300,000 houses a year under the 1947 housing Act that you so readily condemn. They did it with a massive expansion of Local Authority building as well as private developers each focussed on what they saw as their priority. But you will not do that and why? Perhaps a discussion with the ghost of Margaret Thatcher will explain.

22(a). Should the Government replace the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 planning obligations with a new consolidated Infrastructure Levy, which is charged as a fixed proportion of development value above a set threshold?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

No

Certainly the 106 Levy needs reform as it fails to deliver what communities want and they are too easily excluded from any benefit. However the proposed ‘reform’ is naive at best. As we have seen over the affordable housing debacle, developer will wriggle their way out of their obligations if at all possible. The number of affordable houses built has therefore fallen dramatically (CPRE 2019).

So no do not allow developers a way out of their obligations once agreed. Yes include the land value uplift as this will discourage ‘land banking’ but I remain concerned over that ‘threshold level’. Who sets that level? Where is the detail needed to make an informed judgement? So much here can be turned against the benefit of the community and used by the developer to avoid their social responsibility and enhance their profitability while claiming the opposite with evidence from cunning accounts that know the loopholes buried in the detail.

I also suspect the threshold would remove any levy to many rural communities from the small developments they may encourage.

22(b). Should the Infrastructure Levy rates be set nationally at a single

rate, set nationally at an area-specific rate, or set locally?

[Nationally at a single rate / Nationally at an area-specific rate / Locally]

Nationally at an area specific rate.

22(c). Should the Infrastructure Levy aim to capture the same amount of value overall, or more value, to support greater investment in infrastructure, affordable housing and local communities?

[Same amount overall / More value / Less value / Not sure.

Please provide supporting statement.]

More value

Evidence (see above) shows that the provision of ‘affordable.’ housing in rural areas has declined while profit (until the pandemic) have risen. Many developers also provide shoddy ‘little boxes’ and pay massive increases in ‘compensation’ to their CEO (Persimmon and others). So, yes we should expect more and make sure there are no loopholes or ‘tax breaks’ they can use to avoid them.

22(d). Should we allow local authorities to borrow against the Infrastructure Levy, to support infrastructure delivery in their area?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

No.
Councils should not be taking all the risk, it should be risk sharing with developers. The White paper proposes to collect on sale of the development, this favours the developer over the local community and the developer is taking no risk. I suggest that the infrastructure levy should be collected at a number of stages, i.e. on planning consent, during development and the end. You could incentivise developers to complete on schedule to avoid unnecessary delay.

23. Do you agree that the scope of the reformed Infrastructure Levy should capture changes of use through permitted development rights?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

Yes

All should contribute and thereby lower the burden on all.

24(a). Do you agree that we should aim to secure at least the same amount of affordable housing under the Infrastructure Levy, and as much on-site affordable provision, as at present?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

Not sure

As discussed above many developers are claiming they cannot deliver the affordable housing that was agreed at consent. Too often LA’s acquiesce in this to avoid the battle of accountants and lawyers with the resultant delays. This, as mentioned above, has resulted in a crash in the provision of ‘affordable’ and social housing especially in rural areas (CPRE survey 2019).

Seeking to maintain that situation is not want we want and one I am sure the White paper seeks to remove and return to the actually agreed provision at base.

However more affordable and social housing is an urgent matter in Bunbury and many other rural communities. The fail to provide adequate housing of this sort means local communities suffer a number of consequences. The forced dispersal of family generation, the inability to downsize in later life and the lack of accommodation for all the key workers who then have to live miles away and travel in causing additional traffic, pollution and expense.

24(b). Should affordable housing be secured as in-kind payment towards the Infrastructure Levy, or as a ‘right to purchase’ at discounted rates for local authorities?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

No

Another loophole to attract cunning developers and their accountants.

Build Affordable house to a set standards and targets based on need surveys in each area.

24(c). If an in-kind delivery approach is taken, should we mitigate against local authority overpayment risk?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

Yes

Share the risk

24(d). If an in-kind delivery approach is taken, are there additional steps that would need to be taken to support affordable housing quality?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

Yes, yes, yes!

We must have better standards in all housing but especially in social and affordable housing. The lack of proper enforceable standards is a disgrace and has resulted in the smallest houses in Europe.

25. Should local authorities have fewer restrictions over how they spend the Infrastructure levy?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

Not sure

Currently Bunbury does not directly benefit from the 106 Levy as Cheshire East takes the money and uses it on affordable housing and infrastructure. Moe push on infrastructure would benefit communities generally.

25(a). If yes, should an affordable housing ‘ring-fence’ be developed?

[Yes / No / Not sure. Please provide supporting statement.]

Yes

Critical to all rural communities.

26. Do you have any views on the potential impact of the proposals raised in this consultation on people with protected characteristics as defined in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010?

Community engagement is complex. Why you believe some sort of digital revolution is going to improve matters is the sort of lazy, cheap idea that people without real knowledge of community come up with. Direct personal involvement where opinions are sought and responded to in meetings exhibitions. Social media used by activist to engage might have some impact with some sections of society but not all.

November Parish Council Notes 2019

Bunbury Parish Council Meeting – 13 November 2019

A member of the public thanked the Parish Council for the superb organisation of the bonfire and firework display on 5 November.

Policing Issues

The Chairman reported that the future policing for the village on Remembrance Sunday is under threat due to resourcing issues. The Chief Police Officer has given notice that this will be the last year but the Police Commissioner has stated that he is keen to see such police support continue.

The Parish Council had received a list of police surgeries for the area; all held outside the village with the nearest being at Calveley.

Highways

The wording for marking on the road outside the school to identify a bus/taxi bay is still under discussion at Cheshire East Council. The erection of the parking sign for the village is also still with Cheshire East Council.

Planning Matters

19/4983N Brook View, Sadlers Wells, Bunbury CW6 9NU

Single storey rear extension, single storey link and partial garage conversion with associated alterations – Proposal for the current large garage next to the house to have a 2-bedroom extension plus a garden room at the rear. The Parish Council noted that this is a proposed extension to a recently built house and questioned the conversion of a garage to accommodation. The Parish Council did not object to the proposal but agreed to draw the Planning Officer’s attention to a recently built separate garage being linked to the main house with the addition of 2 bedrooms.

Decisions made by Cheshire East

19/3985D 21/08/2019 South (CE) Delegated Agenda Bunbury

Refused Decision Date: 29/10/019

Land off, Oak Gardens, Bunbury

Proposal Discharge of conditions 6,7,9,12,13 &;14 of existing permission

16/2010N approved under appeal; Residential

Development of 15 dwellings with associated works at Land at Oak Gardens, Bunbury, CW6 9QN

The Parish Council heard that most conditions had now been met with the exception of Condition 14 – site levels to include a full site survey across site and adjoining gardens – still remains outstanding.

New Housing Development in Bunbury

Strutt and Parker had contacted the Parish Council to update them on the two approved housing developments at Vicarage Lane and Bowes Gate Road. They are currently in consultation with Cheshire East Council concerning their proposal to move all the social housing element from the Bowes Gate Road development to Vicarage Road with the potential for the whole development at Vicarage Road to be affordable housing. The Parish Council agreed to ask the Ward Councillor to obtain more information from the Planning Officer involved and report back.

Pedestrian Issues within the village

A proposal for a pavement on a current strip of land on School Lane is under consideration following the offer of the land by the owner. The Parish Council is still awaiting advice from Cheshire East Highways on the feasibility of constructing a pavement in that location.

Playing Fields Report

The recently repaired ceiling following a water leak was showing signs of further leakage and the builder would be contacted. The Wednesday Club has asked if it will be possible to site another bench near the Pavilion for elderly walkers to sit on. The Village Day Committee had agreed to fund the bench. The potential for the replacement of the Pavilion building in the long term was discussed and initial research work would be done, including costing and funding of other village buildings such as at Eaton/Cotebrook.

Brantwood, School Lane

The Borough Councillor had spoken to a family member of the owner of Brantwood in the centre of the village and been advised that the property had now been sold subject to contract. The person also undertook to contact Environmental Health to look at the pest infestation that had been reported.

Parish Councillor’s report

A Parish Councillor had been contacted about the development at Greenway, Wyche Road not complying with planning requirements concerning the erection of screened glass and had used plain glass instead. The Parish Clerk agreed to obtain the details and contact Cheshire East Planning to clarify the situation.

Large pot holes were reported outside the new Duchy development on Wyche Lane with the suggestion that the developer should re-instate the road. The Parish Council would contact the developers direct to raise the issue.

Cheshire East Council is undertaking a consultation on its proposed 4-year budget proposals – 2020-2024 and the Parish Council agreed to respond to the consultation.

Correspondence

An e-mail has been received about a drainage problem outside a house in Wyche Lane. The Ward Councillor was investigating the problem.

Bonfire Night

The successful Bonfire Night made an income after expenditure of £1,117.

Christmas

The Christmas tree would be erected on 1 December. Crewe Brass band had confirmed that they would be attending the carols round the tree and an extra speaker was being purchased for the event.

Hill Close Development Starts

latest Site Plan for Hill Close Development

Many of you will be aware that work has now started on the Hill Close site. Land clearance and basic infrastructure work begun  with large mounds of topsoil appearing across the area. Rough hardcore has been laid on an initial section of the access road. Further hedge removal work can also be seen where the site is close to the house on Hill Close.

Ground clearance starts on the Hill Close site. November 2018

Iinfrastructure and land clearance start on site.

 

Can the children of Bunbury Walk or Cycle to school?

 

Walking is our natural way to get around. We are made for walking and running. Using it to get to school is a step in the right direction to a healthy lifestyle. It’s also pollution free and doesn’t cause congestion. We hear all the time about how overweight1 our children are and how important it is they take more exercise. But do we make it easy for them to walk safely to school? As parents of the current generation of school children you were probably one of 70% who walked to school. Now it is less than 50% of children who enjoy the experience. And that has happened in one generation. Most (43%) children are driven to the school gates. The result is congestion, stress, air pollution and a lost opportunity.

The reality for many parents is that it’s a rush to get to school on time and on to work. The car makes this a lot easier to manage. But with that comes the loss of the opportunity to take some exercise that fits seamlessly into our day. Nonetheless, we need to encourage walking and cycling to school and try to remove barriers that discourage parents and children. So what are the reasons that people give for not walking and cycling around the village?

Safety usually comes top of the list. Young people aged between 11-15 are more likely to be killed or injured on the roads than any other group. In total that has meant that 69 children under 15 years of age were killed in 2016 (the latest year for data). That is about 0.0006%. Of course every death especially at this age is a terrible tragedy. The risk is very small. The data does show that ¾ of the accidents happen when children are going to and from school. Clearly the longer ‘tail’ after 16:00 hours represent children out and about, probably on their own for much of the time.

ROSPA2017

Safety is improved in our village if linked pavement routes are available. Roads without pavements deter many walkers. They were fine in a horse and cart age or when motorised traffic was rare and tended to be slower and noisier. Now that traffic is much more intense, faster and inclined to consider other (slower) road users as a hindrance. As a walker, I have also found that traffic is getting quieter and therefore more difficult to anticipate its approach while out of sight. I don’t think or at least hope its not because I’m getting hard of hearing! More electric cars will make this even worse. On narrow roads the little space some drivers give to other road users is anxiety inducing!

So how do children from Upper Bunbury get to school? They could walk down Wyche Road from the Church (having cut through the church yard for safety). Then either continue down Wyche Lane or in dry weather cut across the footpath to join the Lane again by the entrance to Jubilee fields. From here the route is more complex. No pavement continues to the school either down the right-hand or left-hand side of  triangle. So, if children make it this far their parents may consider it too risky for them to walk on their own and they may need to be accompanied. And that make’s the decision to drive the kids in the car to school much more likely.

We need to ensure those safe routes to and from school exist and link up so that any child and their parents can walk to school safely. This would mean:

1. Pavements along Wyche Lane – all the way on at least one side of the road.

2. Pavements on both sides of the triangle to minimise the need to keep crossing the road.

3. Pavements on both sides of School Lane to the school.

4. Pavement or protected zone for pedestrians to access the Co-op, butchers, Village Hall and Nags Head at the centre of the village.

This still leaves the walk from Upper Bunbury via the two routes – Wyche Road and Vicarage Lane unresolved. Wyche Road is very narrow. A standard width pavement would make it impassable for most traffic. Alternatives would be to make it ‘Access only’ with a speed restriction perhaps as low as of 10mph.

As for Vicarage Lane the best solution is a footpath just inside the hedge on the field side. This is would be a difficult option to achieve. Short to medium term the only solution is to make it safer with a speed restriction and calming infrastructure.

That brings us to the issue of speed restrictions. I believe, with evidence, that creating a reduced speed zone around the centre of the village would go a long way to making the village more walker and cycling friendly and safer. You will find additional comments on the topic of 20 mph in the other articles listed in this menu so I shall not repeat them here. But it is the combination of linked pavement routes, speed restriction (20 mph zones) and the possible use of protected zones, that will enable more to walk and cycle safely around the village.

1Over 30% of children in the National Y6 classroom are overweight or obese. And it gets worse as the years pass. (Local Government Association analysis of Public Health England May 2018)

Tarporley says 20’s plenty

Have you been to Tarporley recently? I hadn’t been for a few weeks so it made a pleasant surprise to find a rash of 20 mph signs round the town. The High Street and many of the side roads and residential streets have speed limited to 20 mph.

 

Tarporley goes for 20 MPH

 

We have known for some time that Chester & Cheshire West has adopted the ’20‘s Plenty for us ';; policy. Many residential streets around Chester have the 20 mph signs up already.   Now it seems they are extending the scheme to other towns around their area. This is great news and helps to strengthen the pressure on Cheshire East to adopt this policy.

It was good to see that a number of the candidates in the recent election were also prepared to come out in support of the campaign. It was also raised as an issue at the last Parish Council meetingA member of the public asked if this policy would help the village rebalance the needs of pedestrians and cyclists relative to those in vehicles.

 

 

The Active Community or ‘the fit the brave and the desperate’

 

This phrase ‘Active transport’ has recently made its appearance in certain government publication. It boils down to reference to walking and cycling, avoiding lifts where possible and replacing ‘sit-down’ transport by using our bodies to get about. These should be the normal way of getting about for our everyday needs. How do we make that a reality for everybody?

Firstly, we need a change of attitude. We need to agree that in Bunbury we would prefer people to cycle and walk rather than take the motor vehicle.

This simply recognises that allowing an ever increasing number of motor vehicles to be used for personal transport is having and will increasingly have an impact on the health and well-being of residents.

In a recent government publication Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (2017). What this document seeks is

1. Walkable communities

Walking is the bedrock of every trip we make. We walk to the car, bus, bike, etc. At the end of that stage we again get out of the car and bus and off the train and bike.

The statistics (2002-2016) on walking show a strong decline in the numbers, with a (-13%) distance walked, a  (-10%) time spent walking  and (-6%) in the number of walks. To put that in perspective, In 1974 70% of children walked to school, today under half (48%) usually do.

Studies show more people bike and walk in communities where improvements have been made, such as adding safer pavements, pedestrian crossings, and protected bike lanes. In addition, when people move to neighbourhoods that are designed to promote physical activity and active transportation, they tend to spend less time in their cars and more time walking. Making walking easier can also help communities by improving safety, increasing interaction between residents, improving local economies, and reducing air pollution.

  1. So what makes a community walkable?
  2. A calm centre with valued shops and services mostly within 5 minutes walk.
  3. A clustering of mix housing so people can get to centre easily and quickly
  4. Public spaces where people can gather, pass the time of day, and play.
  5. Pavements, footpaths that allow and encourage residents of all ages ad abilities to be out and about
  6. Key streets are speed controlled
  7. Zones where walkers, cyclists and drivers mix need to ‘highlighted’;. Evidence suggests that in such zones drivers are careful and courteous.
  8. A connected network of walking routes that encourage and support this activity.
How does Bunbury measure up?

Bunbury is  a dispersed village that grew out of three ‘hamlets’ so a network of links is all the more important. No paved footway links Upper and lower Bunbury. There is the footpath the Square, Wyche Road across to the Wyche Lane opposite the Jubilee Field entrance. Part of the path is across the field cropped by the local farmer. It is muddy at time and dug up at others. A real path along one side of Vicarage Lane would be better.

No pavement links the centre of the village to any other. It is, intentionally or not, a shared use zone of cars, lorries, HGV (local building deliveries), cyclists and of course the pedestrian.

Walking to school from  Bunbury Lane, Upper Bunbury, Lower Bunbury (via Wyche Lane) must be done on the road. Where pavements exist they are intermittent, requiring frequent road crossing  as well as periods of road walking. The route to school can also suffer from occasional  blockages. This was the state of School Lane in January this  year. It is on the school side of the School Lane. Although there is no proper path it is the side many use as a (muddy) footpath runs along the this section of the road. After heavy rain this side is blocked.

Puddle blocks one side of road to school

One puddle but two road crossings when walking to school

Before getting to the puddle  the children and other walkers will have had to negotiate the section past Bunbury Cottage. With cars parked along the hedge side next to Brantwood Cottage traffic is pushed over to the ‘walkers’ side’ of the road. A regulation pavement could fit down this route but it might mean the end of parking on the opposite side.

 

 

Action point: How can we make it safer to walk to the village shops? Why is it not possible to have pavement access right to the centre of the village and to the school from the three main directions. ?

2. Cycle friendly streets:

It is said that in the UK it is only the “fit, the brave and the desperate” who dare to cycle. While in the rest of Europe 20%+ journeys are made by bike is not uncommon. Despite the recent surge in cycling as a sport the UK has a very low level of cycling as a means of transport to work, the shops, or other utility uses. Why?

The Guardian asked people what stops them cycling. The top ten reasons were:

Bad driving – cars dominate the road. Drivers are seen as ‘passing too close, shouting abuse at cyclists when they move to the centre of the road, and generally driving too fast.

Dangerously designed roads – a road network that has for decades designed out cycling.

Substandard infrastructure

Perception of danger fear of having an accident keeps many people out of the saddle. It’s safer than playing tennis but that’s not how people see it.

Lack of facilities no showers at work or places to securely park bikes at work, the shops and at home.

They have had an accident – obvious reluctance to return.

State of the roads– potholes, potholes, rough repairs and dangerous road edges on country roads.

Not being in Germany or Netherlands – some have seen how they do it better abroad!

Rain and hills well the weather is rarely extreme but the rain and the lack of flat lands can put some off riding! But is this very different from Germany or Northern France?

By 2025 the Government want to double the numbers cycling  (Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (2017)). Bunbury already has lots of  people cycling through the village. Tilley’s coffee shop is a very popular stop for many cyclists out from Crewe or Chester. The real question for Bunbury is how many of our residents use the bike for recreation or transport? Certainly, you will find a number of recreational cyclists around the village often in informal groups and if you are quick you may catch sight of a few visiting the shops of a morning. on their bikes. Of course this is all incidental to the fact that there are no facilities specific to the needs of cyclists. Car parking spaces are provided outside the Co-op but nothing for the cyclist to chain his or her bike to let alone a cycle park. We (yes, I admit I am one!) make do.

 

 

 

 Puddle blocks one side of road to school

20’s Plenty for Bunbury

No pavements

Look no pavements!

 

Like many other friends of Bunbury, I like to use the local shops. Coming from Wakes Meadow this involves a short journey, crossing roads about 4 times. To be fair on some occasions I don’t cross the road by the Chapel where the pavement runs out, but continue on the same side walking on the road. The truth is, nobody can get to the shops without walking on the road.

The same is true for children attending the primary school in School Lane. If you start from Upper or Lower Bunbury then to get to the school you have to walk on roads. OK, I hear you say that’s not a problem in a rural village like Bunbury. These days Bunbury is a pretty busy village especially in the morning and at the end of school.  We want children to be able to walk to and from school safely with or without a guiding hand. Most walkers and cyclist would also like to get around safely and quietly. For along time is has been the norm to put the interests of pedestrians well down the pecking order when it comes to spending tax payer money. However, this does have consequences.

Today we have a health crisis stemming (in part) from lack of activity with 1 in 3 children in year 6 suffering from overweight or obesity and about 40% of adults failing to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. The air we breathe has also become a source of anxiety as we learn that it is full of pollutants that can shorten our lives. We need to make it safe and easy for people get out and enjoy walking and cycling around Bunbury.

How can we improve matters?

The government, in its recent publications ‘Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy’  say:

We want to build on these successes and make walking and cycling the natural choices for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey.

And this they state will:

….for society as a whole, it means lower congestion, better air quality, and vibrant, attractive places and communities.

Sounds great but how do we help the process along?

One way would be to make the walking and cycling environment friendlier and safer. Putting the pedestrian in pole position and making vehicles passing through the village slow down and give priority to those not in cars. Yes, I can hear the car fans rising in mass to objection. Many drivers do take great care and are considerate. What I’m arguing for is that within the narrow limits of the residential area of the village it is time to give the walker and cyclists a bit more consideration. One suggestionmeans introducing a lower speed limit. Bare in mind that where those pavements don’t exist vehicles can drive up to 30 mph.

The 20’s Plenty Campaign

The ’20 is plenty for us’ is a campaign to encourage the wider adoption of zones where all traffic is limited to a maximum of 20 mph. Chester and Cheshire West have adopted the scheme and will be rolling it out over the next year. The Wirral and Lancashire are also committed LA’s in the Northwest.

A new National Speed limit

The 30 mph speed limit was introduced in 1934 on the back of what we would call today ‘gut feeling’;. The evidence did not exist. Nearly 130,000 people were casualties on our roads in 2016. Of those, the biggest group (over 105,000) were on 30 mph roads (DfT – Reported road casualties 2016). Going to 20 mph makes collisions more survivable (dependent on age) with about a 20% reduction of casualties.

Lower car speeds also encourage more people to walk and ride as much of the fear of fast traffic has gone. The health advantages are well documented but a commitment to promote more healthy ‘every day’ activity is not apparent. We need a culture more in keeping with the times and is prepared to put the priority on walking and cycling rather than driving everywhere.