Not surprisingly, the submission of the outline application for the proposed Standen housing development has occasioned extensive and fevered comment.
Once again, however, I feel we need to remind ourselves of some basic facts if the borough is to successfully navigate its way through what continues to be a frenetic and challenging period in planning policy.
Last week’s headline “massive housing plan unveiled” is disingenuous to say the least and the crude front page mock-up from CRAG (Clitheroe Residents Action Group) is misleading in its presentation and appearance. The closely-built, uniform mass housing pattern is a complete distortion of Ribble Valley Borough Council’s future vision for the site in terms of layout and integration within the borough.
The Standen proposal has, moreover, been in the public arena for over 18 months and there is nothing new or hidden in this. It has been consulted upon throughout the Core Strategy process, been publicly debated, agreed at Planning Committee and full council, and a public exhibition about the application was held in Clitheroe in September.
Mr Rush talks of “no infrastructure provision” in the proposals. The direct contrary is the case. Indeed the whole point in having a strategic site such as Standen is that it is possible to achieve significant infrastructure guarantees, which is difficult in smaller ad-hoc developments, and the current proposals include a primary school, a sustainable drainage system, sewers, footpaths, cycleways, as well as new utility and telecommunications services and retail, service and community facilities. Equally we should not forget the plans include significant affordable and elderly housing and junction improvements at the accident blackspot where Pendle Road meets the A59.
It is unsurprising that CRAG should wish to proceed in this way, but I have to wonder if Mr Rush’s position as chairman of CRAG is sometimes at odds with his political ambitions locally as a UKIP campaigner?
All councillors in Ribble Valley understand only too well how difficult it is to balance the clearly stated objectives of preserving the rural nature of Ribble Valley with the mandatory requirements of Government to allocate future housing development. After much consultation our Core Strategy has been submitted and we hope will be approved.
The fact remains, however, that not only is the figure of 4,000 houses over 20 years likely to be the minimum acceptable, but the strategy will be a significant achievement by the council in that it will represent our best policy tool for the future to contain and control the unbridled development plans that currently inundate us.
I understand public concern about the Standen proposal and the Core Strategy. Equally, however, I feel entitled to request residents to understand the huge difficulties faced by councillors in relation to these matters. The council has to work within the constraints imposed by Government – it simply does not have a choice.
Within that, however, we remain absolutely determined to preserve the unique nature of Ribble Valley and ensure that future development is sustainable and proportionate.
Coun. Stuart Hirst, Deputy leader of Ribble Valley Borough Council