2 responses from Mr and Mrs Andy and Lisa Chant (Individual)
1. Mr and Mrs Andy and Lisa Chant (Individual) : 13 Jun 2008 14:29:00
A typed or handwritten document was submitted. This has been scanned and can be downloaded below:
2. Mr and Mrs Andy and Lisa Chant (Individual) : 3 Jul 2008 16:39:00
Please write your comment or explain your reasons for supporting or opposing this part of the Report. You may also wish to refer to the tests of soundess in the glossary of the Preferred Options document before making your comments.
This response is set out in the form of an open letter as I feel it the best way to illustrate the key points that need to be taken into consideration in finalising the core strategy.
There are four fundamental areas where I believe the preferred options are ill conceived, have not properly reflected the needs of the area and which need to be more properly addressed in the final core strategy.
Much has been made of need to provide an adequate supply of housing for local people and the local workforce. There has also been much comment in the press and elsewhere regarding the current imbalance in the housing market caused by second home owners.
In the absence of significant new employment in the area the strategy must address current local housing needs as its priority. This it fails to do. Comments in the recent issue of South Lakeland News identified that only 400 new affordable houses are required outside of the National Park. This need is in stark contrast to the 8,800 new homes envisaged in the preferred options paper.
Any additional housing (over and above the affordable homes) will need to be commensurate with and located near sources of new employment. I deal with employment below but all of the preferred options promote housing development in areas that would conflict with rather than support the generation of new employment.
As the strategy focusses on Kendal and other areas close to the Lake District National Park boundary and aims to build many more houses than are required by the local community, it is clearly designed to build housing for second home owners and retirees to the area. This is directly opposed to the feedback you received, and which you quote in your consultation document, and will further add to the drivers for local young people to leave the area once their education has been completed or face a future based on renting accommodation being unable to access the housing market.
In order to support local economic sustainability, new housing needs to focus on areas that will support new employment. This requires development in areas close to the main transport arteries and not in ‘green gaps’ nor between Kendal and the National Park.
If new housing is built close to the National Park boundary it will be marketed and sold as lifestyle housing and will attract second home owners and retirees who quite reasonably will be willing to pay a premium for this location. Such building will exacerbate the shortage of housing for local people by further pushing up prices. Developers will generally seek to build higher density developments with much lower prices in areas which are close to the main road links and sources of new employment. In contrast, they will generally develop low density ‘executive’ housing in other areas and if this is allowed will place further strain on the existing infrastructure. This will eventually lead to a requirement to upgrade the infrastructure on the back of an increase in the population consisting largely of economically unproductive people. This does not make economic or strategic sense.
Transport and congestion
One of the benefits of our area is that we are served by good road links to the east of Kendal principally the M6 and the A591 connecting to it. There are also good rail links at Oxenholme to the West Coast mainline. In contrast Kendal suffers from the classic traffic congestion caused by a town split by a river.
In the Kendal area, mistakes have been made recently in allowing commercial development to take place in the Shap Road area. This is the worst area for commercial development as it requires that all associated traffic passes through the town to get to the site. Future sites for commercial development need to be more readily accessible to the M6 and A590 which means on the east and south sides of Kendal.
To propose significant development in areas such as Burneside and to the west of Kendal will only exacerbate the current traffic problems. The Burneside area can currently only just support the levels of traffic related to the activities of James Cropper Limited. To build more houses in this area would increase the traffic flow either through Kendal town centre or on the single track road connecting Burneside to the A6.
The mistaken commercial development on this side of town has already become a principal driver of the case put forward by those in support of a Northern Relief Road. This project itself is aspirational, will never be delivered and would represent a ridiculous waste of resources but the proposal itself does effectively illustrate the detrimental impact that poor planning and the ill conceived development in areas such as Shap Road can have. The £30 million or so that such a scheme would cost would be much better spent on the development of a business park close to M6 which is vital to attract inward investment to the area. The core strategy must be consistent with economic development requirements which will require housing development closer to the motorway and which itself should only be built once new employment opportunities have been secured to support it.
Business and Economic Development
Tourism is without doubt the backbone of the local economy and development in the area should support this industry and not hinder it. There is however, a real danger of the area becoming far too heavily reliant upon tourism as so many of the traditional employers have moved out or shut down. In any event, the capacity of the National Park to accommodate increased tourism is finite. Therefore it is critical to the future prosperity of the area and the ability of local residents to afford housing that other employment opportunities are developed.
The area has a number of selling points for businesses looking to relocate but high among them are the transport and infrastructure links referred to above, cheap commercial rents and the lifestyle that the area affords. The preferred options paper states that ‘Kendal is seen as an employment opportunity area primarily due to its relatively good communication links including the M6 and West Coast Mainline’. It is also the case that all five of the strategic employment sites identified in the preferred options are in the area to the south and east of Kendal. As such the proposed housing development options are currently inconsistent with economic development in this area and if not corrected will significantly increase congestion and commuter miles.
I am pressing for our MP to lobby the Government, which has a stated intention to relocate Government offices out of the South East, to consider the Kendal area for relocation. I feel that attracting this type of employment to the area is crucial to its future economic development. This type of relocation will require high quality office development which would also be attractive to other relocating businesses such as call centres, shared service centres and the like. This would concentrate a high number of jobs in a small area likely to be to the east or south of Kendal and the housing development plans need to better reflect this.
Business development near to the M6 can be supported by small scale housing development on the east and south sides of Kendal, Milnthorpe, Kirkby Lonsdale and Sedbergh. The preferred options focus too heavily on Kendal as the site for housing and overlooks areas such as Milnthorpe. Smaller scale housing development balanced between each of the areas above and only built once the employment opportunities have been secured would be a far more sustainable way of providing additional housing than the options set out in the strategy.
The core strategy must protect the landscape and countryside of an area which is essential both for tourism and also part of our wider responsibilities to future generations. These interests would be served by the National Park both expanding its boundaries and attaining World Heritage status. Housing and commercial development on the fringes of the existing, or future extended boundary, run counter to these ambitions. As I noted above, there has already been an ill conceived plan for a Northern Relief Road. One only has to look at the impact on the landscape of the recently constructed High and Low Newton By-Pass to understand what a Northern Relief Road would do to Burneside and the views and tranquillity currently enjoyed from the easternmost part of the Lake District National Park.
The character of the area is one of distinct small towns and villages. This means that protecting ‘green gaps’ and indeed other greenfield sites between urban areas is critical in order to preserve the character. Accordingly, I would urge you to consider increasing the number of ‘green gaps’ rather than building on those that currently exist. I am concerned that in your preferred options you are in danger of converting Kendal from a distinct market town into something of an urban sprawl by allowing it to consume hamlets and villages which are currently distinct.
When the landscape has already suffered the necessary scarring of the M6 and A590 I do not understand why future development would not focus more on areas with ready access to these roads.
In summary, I believe that the preferred options reflect an inconsistent approach to new housing and economic development. As currently drafted they will simply build many new homes for the benefit of retirees and second home owners and risk turning the area into a glorified theme park and retirement zone. Rather than building on existing ‘green gaps’ more should be designated. I am very concerned that the proposed strategy will also lead to increased traffic congestion, irreversible environmental damage and a loss of the unique character of the area. You are proposing too many new homes and need to scale back and refine the development proposals as outlined above.