LTC response and press release on the Secretary of State decision to allow the Bloor Homes appeal on the Viaduct site.
The Town Council is extremely disappointed that the Secretary of State has found in favour of Bloor Homes and that the damaging single access to the viaduct site development is to go ahead.
The council took up rule 6 status at the inquiry after Herefordshire Council officers decided not to defend their own Planning Committee’s decision to refuse the application on access grounds.
In her report the inspector acknowledged the high degree of public objection to the access proposals but discounted it by stating: “I am aware that the proposed development was subject to a large number of objections and in a poll of local people most people opposed it. However, local support or opposition to a scheme is not in itself a reason for granting or refusing planning permission.”
LTC’s case focussed on four main concerns, however the inspector concluded that:
· The station junction WOULD NOT be significantly over-capacity in servicing an additional 625 homes and 3 hectares of employment land; ·
A second access WOULD NOT provide any discernible benefit;
· The AONB and community of Wellington Heath WOULD NOT be significantly affected by rat running; and
· Traffic directed through the centre of Ledbury WOULD NOT impact significantly on the conservation area.
Cllr John Bannister said: “Everyone can see that the previous inquiry decision to allow the blighted Barratts development was wrong. We think this inspector has made the wrong decision here too. Unfortunately, it appears that the serious shortcomings of the both these developments are something that the town and local residents will just have to live with. Unlike the people who have foisted them upon us.”
Whilst supporting a pedestrian link to the site through the old canal tunnels in the railway embankment, the Town Council raised safety concerns at the lack of lighting and poor visibility. However, the inspector considered these concerns to be ‘unreasonable’. Cllr Elizabeth Harvey said; ”Given the tragic events of recent days in London, we stand by the concerns that we raised during the inquiry and make no apology for wanting to improve the safety of people using walking and cycling routes.”
The county’s failure to deliver homes elsewhere in Herefordshire was an important factor in the inspector’s decision. She remarked: ”there is substantial shortfall in the 5 year housing land supply, and this adds substantial weight in favour of the proposed development.”, concluding that: “I do not consider that the delivery of housing on other sites within Ledbury should reduce the weight afforded to the delivery of housing on the appeal site.” On costs, the inspector dismissed Bloor’s application for costs against LTC on all points except the time taken to consider the concerns raised on the safety of the pedestrian route. The level of these costs has yet to be agreed.
EDITORS Access to the development site was always intended to go under the viaduct and this was written into the draft Core Strategy. Such an access would have required land owners and developers to pay Network Rail for permission to pass a road under their viaduct. However, planning officers made a last minute agreement with the land owners to make an access off the Bromyard Road a possibility thereby avoiding the need for what would have been a significant payment.
Bloor Homes were given the opportunity in October 2019 to reconsider Bromyard Road access by Herefordshire Council’s Planning Committee which they rejected. The Committee refused the application in December 2019.
In February 2020 the Solicitor to the Council refused to defend the committee decision following Bloor lodging their appeal.
In March 2020, Ledbury Town Council, backed by a 97% support parish poll that the access proposed was not satisfactory, and its own independent traffic report which demonstrated that the appellants figures were questionable, took up rule 6 status to fight the appeal on behalf of the town.
The full decision by the Secretary of State, recommendations from the Inspector and commentary on costs can be found here: https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/info/200142/planning_services/planning_application_search/details?id=171532&search-term=viaduct Contacts for comment: Mrs Angela Price: Clerk to Ledbury Town Council email@example.com Cllr John Bannister: Chairman of Planning Committee firstname.lastname@example.org Cllr Liz Harvey: Ward Member for the development, Deputy Mayor of Ledbury email@example.com Cllr Phillip Howells: Adjacent Ward Member for the development Phillip.Howells@herefordshire.gov.uk
Lobbying Secretary of State (SoS)
If you would like to lobby the SoS on this issue by email – please see below the recommended text for a letter. NOTE: It is very important to our case that we stress we are not against the development itself, just against it coming forward with a single access only off the Bromyard Road. Thank you for your assistance.
Dear Secretary of State,
Reference: Ledbury Viaduct Planning Appeal
Please reject this planning appeal so that a better access solution can be achieved for this development site. The single vehicle access proposed by Bloor Homes to a development of 625 homes and 3ha of employment land on the viaduct site to the north of Ledbury is UNSATISFACTORY.
- It fails to deliver a safe and satisfactorily functioning junction at Ledbury station.
- It fails to make best use of the local road infrastructure.
The consequential traffic loading:
- will have a detrimental effect on the highway network.
- will result in harm to the town’s conservation area.
- will cause damage to the adjacent Malvern Hills AONB.
For at least 35 years this land block has been planned to come forward with a primary southern access directly onto our existing bypass. Such an access would minimise the detrimental impacts of the current appeal proposal and is entirely feasible.
More than 80% of the total housing and more than 104% of the affordable housing targeted for Ledbury to deliver by 2031 has already been committed to through planning applications approved since only 2015. Any delay in bringing this particular site forward, will not jeopardise or hamper growth for our community.
As a community Ledbury positively welcomes satisfactory and sustainable growth. Please support our ambition to achieve the sort of development that your government states is its aim of the current planning white paper.
All we are asking for is that our community is actually allowed to exercise a meaningful voice in how development comes forward in our neighbourhood.
I am aware you live in Herefordshire and therefore I would like to request that you visit the site before making your decision.
In addition, I would like to say: [Please add your own points here]
[Name, Address, Postcode]
Viaduct development appeal inquiry update report
Ledbury Town Council ED&P meeting Thursday 8th October
Councillor WP members Cllrs Bannister, Harvey and Howells
Viaduct development appeal inquiry completed in September 2020
In December 2019, the County Councillors of Herefordshire Council’s Planning Committee refused a Ledbury Viaduct site development application from Bloor Homes to build 625 homes and business units on the grounds that the application had not proven the proposed access was ‘satisfactory’.
Bloor Homes appealed against the decision. Initially it was believed Herefordshire Council was going to defend the appeal, and two planning officers came to speak to LTC and confirmed that HC would robustly defend the Planning Committee’s decision, but subsequently officers withdrew from the appeal on the advice of the Council’s Solicitor/Monitoring Officer.
Ledbury Town Council made the decision to step into the vacuum created by Herefordshire Council’s withdrawal from the appeal process. This decision was taken based upon: the democratic decision of the County Planning Committee; support from a poll of Ledbury residents which showed 95% agreed the access was not satisfactory; the fact that over 400 letters of objection were received by HC; and an independent traffic assessment demonstrating that Bloor’s highway designs were flawed,.
The Council requested and was granted ‘Rule 6’ participant status by the Planning Inspectorate. Rule 6 status means you are considered to be a full participant in the inquiry process. Rule 6 parties are sent copies of the documents submitted by the other main parties. They are entitled to appear at the inquiry and to cross-examine other participants. Their witnesses can also be cross examined by the appellant (Bloor).
Ledbury Town Council was already creating something of an historic precedent by being alone in defending the case under Rule 6 status. Normally a larger planning authority works alongside the usual smaller Rule 6 participant such as LTC. This was to be a real-life David v Goliath project.
There were a number of vital implications of the Rule 6 decision:
- Putting together a team. The delegated Working Party consisted of three LTC Councillors and experienced local residents including some from Wellington Heath, a community also very concerned at the impact the viaduct development will have on their lives. The WP then had to identify and instruct a barrister through a solicitor and recruit professional consultants to act as key witnesses. It was not only Councillors, but also the Clerk and office staff who provided essential support to the WP throughout the long months of the inquiry. Tasks included:
- Making provision for the cost of defending the appeal – the provision currently sits at £105,000 from the council’s general reserves
- The production of inquiry documents which had to be submitted to a strict timetable. These documents included an overall Statement of Case (SoC), a Statements of Common Ground (SoCG) and then forensically detailed Proofs of Evidence (POEs).
- Preparing for the inquiry and, if a witness, attending, presenting evidence and facing cross-examination.
The Town Council’s case had 4 elements each requiring a POE and witnesses to present them. These were: for traffic (with two consultants employed one for Highways/Signal Design and one for Traffic Modelling), planning (Cllr Harvey as the witness), the Malvern Hills AONB (a consultant employed) and the Ledbury Town Centre Conservation Area (Cllr Phillip Howells as the witness).
The hearing was delayed due to COVID-19 which added to the complexity faced by all participants. The inquiry was originally scheduled as a 4-day hearing held in May at Ledbury Rugby Club. However, the inquiry was changed to be one of the first to be held online using Microsoft Teams. The hearing was scheduled to take place 13-17 July. However, by the Friday only highways evidence from all parties had been heard. Consequently, the inquiry had to be adjourned and a further session was scheduled for 22-25 September.. Running online in total over 9 days there were significant increases in time demands and cost for all participants, which had to be reflected in the Town Council making increased provision from reserves during the process.
The outcome of the inquiry will not be known for several weeks at least. The Inspector must make a report, and this would usually decide the result. However, in this case – at the request of our MP – Bill Wiggin - the appeal has been ‘called-in’ by the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, who can accept or reject recommendations made by the Inspector in taking the final decision at the highest level of elected representation at which dich a decision can be made.
Although knowing this would a demanding exercise, the inquiry process was far more challenging, intense, stressful and complex than could possibly have been fully understood in advance. It presented a very steep learning curve for the Town Council in addition to a number of the team facing restrictions on their activities and actions due to Covid. Nevertheless, the case was managed and conducted with independently acknowledged competence and professionalism by the team. Whatever the outcome, LTC represented itself and the town with great credit.
The council’s own planning barrister, Andrew Parkinson from Landmark Chambers, said the team “did an amazing job”. Local landscape expert and our witness for the AONB, Carly Tinkler, said: “Most people have no idea what’s involved in preparing for and appearing at a public inquiry: I do it for a living, and it’s gruelling. For ‘volunteers’ to roll up their sleeves, step up to the plate and successfully compete on a level playing field with professional ‘experts’ is an incredible achievement.”
The Town Council now hopes our MP Bill Wiggin will continue to strongly support the concerns raised on the community’s behalf and we also stress that it’s now really important that local people lobby both Bill Wiggin and the Secretary of State requesting in writing that the appeal against Herefordshire Council’s Planning Committee decision be rejected and that the planning application in its present unsatisfactory form be refused.
The Town Council will produce a more detailed report on the whole process and outcome once the final decision has been announced.
Inquiry (Viaduct Housing Development) Live Screening on 13/07/2020
As many of you are aware, following the decision by Hereford Council, not to defend the Viaduct Housing Development in Ledbury, Ledbury Town Council have been awarded Rule 6 Status in respect of the proposal for one access to the site of over 600 dwellings.We have received notice that the Inquiry will take place on-line the week commencing 13 July 2020 and is expected to be completed by the end of the week, with the final decision being made by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick.
To ensure all interested parties have access to the Inquiry Ledbury Town Council will be arranging for the Inquiry to be screened live to anyone who would like to watch the proceedings, but that may not have the technology to do so. Therefore, we will be screening the Inquiry in the upstairs of the Royal Hall, Top Cross, Ledbury. The Royal has recently installed a stair lift which will ensure all residents should be able to access the room and watch the proceedings.It is hoped that any third parties’ participants who do not have the technology to take part in the meeting will be able to do so from the Royal Hall.
For more information please contact the Town Clerk on 01531632306 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Virtual Inquiry Information 01/07/2020
PRESS RELEASE 13/05/2020
VIADUCT DEVELOPMENT SITE INQUIRY
As many residents will be aware Ledbury Town Council have been awarded Rule 6 Status in respect of the appeal brought forward by Bloor Holdings Ltd in respect of the refusal by Hereford Council to allow the development at the Viaduct Site in Ledbury to proceed with a single access into the proposed site.
In March Hereford Council took the decision not to defend their position in respect of this appeal and as Ledbury Town Council had previously held a Parish Poll on this issue with a resounding “NO” to the proposed single access the took the decision that they should continue to fight this issue on behalf of the residents of Ledbury and other surrounding parishes.
A date had originally been set for the hearing to start on 28 April, however due to Coronavirus this date was not upheld as new arrangements for the holding of such inquiries needed to be considered. Following a conference call involving all parties a timetable was agreed with the final documentation due to be submitted on 22 May 2020.
The Working Party, consisting of a mix of Councillors, experts and local residents, has been working tirelessly to get their various submissions into the Planning Inspector, albeit with some extension being permitted on the deadline dates for all submissions.
To this end the Statement of Case and the Statements of Common Ground have now been submitted and an extension of 22 May has been extended by the Inspector to Friday, 5 June for the submission of the Proofs of Evidence, with an anticipated start date for the Inquiry being the week commencing 13 July.
Whilst the Town Council have expressed concerns over the inquiry being held by virtual means, they accept that the Inquiry cannot be put on hold indefinitely and that the Inquiry is likely to be held via virtual means. However, they have indicated to the Planning Inspectorate that consideration should be given to all those who may wish to speak as a 3rd party on this matter.
Once the council has more information on how the Inquiry will be held and how any residents who are interested in speaking as 3rd parties, or following the proceedings we will provide more information and anyone who is interested in taking part as a 3rd party and would like more information on how to do this, please contact the Town Clerk on the email below.
Ledbury Tow Council
Letter to postpone planning application 171532 - Land North of Viaduct, Adjoining Orchard Business Park, Ledbury, Herefordshire
PRESS RELEASE 13/12/2019
“On Wednesday, 11 December 2019 Hereford Council Planning Committee to consider an unamended application by Bloor Homes in respect of the development at the Viaduct in Ledbury. Ledbury Ward Councillors and Town Councillors were present and spoke on their disappointment that Bloor had not been prepared to give review their application in respect of a second access to the site.
The proposal to reject the scheme, which went against officers advice, was made by Councillor David Summers with 10 councillors backing the proposal, 3 against and 1 objection, thus the outcome of the meeting was that the Planning Committee rejected the application.
Councillor Dan Vesma, Chair of the Environment Development & Planning Committee at Ledbury Town Council said "I am grateful to the planning committee for their resilience in once-again turning down this ill-conceived scheme, with such poor access. I hope the developers will now listen to the people of Ledbury, and go back to the drawing board."
Ledbury Town Council would like thank all those residents who attended the meeting on Wednesday and who have supported the Town and Ward Councillors throughout this process.”
Angela Price PSLCC, MICCM, MIWFM
Ledbury Town Council
PRESS RELEASE 13/11/2019
Hereford Council Planning Committee met today to determine the Viaduct site access proposals. As Ward Members for Ledbury Councillors Howells and Harvey gave tremendous and detailed speeches against the proposed single access, along with Councillor I'Anson who spoke about the positive aspects of the site. Councillor Bannister of Ledbury Town Council also put a case along with a Councillor from Wellington Heath and a member of the public, with many more members of both Ledbury and Wellington Heath attending the meeting to support those speaking against the application. The result was that the Planning Committee voted unanimously to DEFER a decision on the development proposals, with a request that the developer comes back to the committee with a modified proposal to add a second access under the viaduct. This is another victory for Ledbury Town Council and their strategy of robust protection of the interests of Ledbury people and our future environment. Councillor Vesma, Chair of Ledbury Town Council Economic Development & Planning Committee added "This is a second significant victory for Ledbury in as many weeks. I am immensely grateful to Councillor Bannister for representing the town at the meeting, and to our County Councillors for helping to ensure that developments around Ledbury are not allowed to proceed without thought to the quality of life of those of us who call it home. Once again, the people of Ledbury made their voices heard so loudly on the issue of a single access to the site that they simply couldn't be ignored. Well done everybody!" 13 November 2019 Contacts for Editors Angie PriceTown Clerk – 01531632306- email@example.com
Traffic Assessment Report
Ledbury Town Council commissioned a Traffic Assessment Report in respect of the planning submission submitted by Bloor Homes for the development of 625 dwellings on the Land North of the Viaduct
Planning number : P171532