Response from Mr Stuart Robertson (Individual)
1. Mr Stuart Robertson (Individual) : 24 Jul 2008 14:26:00
A typed or handwritten document was submitted. This has been scanned and can be downloaded below:
Please state as clearly as you can the exact part of the Report you are commenting on by quoting the page number (if known), paragraph number, option name or number, or the number of the map, figure or table.
THE LOCAL DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK (LDF) – MILNTHORPE AND ACKENTHWAITE, CUMBRIA
Do you support, oppose or have an observation about this part of the Report?
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.
1. Reference A set out South Lakeland District Council’s (SLDC) proposed LDF plans for Kendal, Ulverston, Grange over Sands, Milnthorpe and Kirby Lonsdale. The document also requested local consultation to ascertain if SLDC is “heading in the right direction”. As a resident of one of the areas under consideration for development, it is requested that SLDC considers my objection against the proposed plans for Milnthorpe and north Ackenthwaite before any case is made to central Government.
2. I would like to express from the outset my severe disappointment in the way SLDC has conducted its public consultation of the LDF to date. While the LDF may have been accessible on SLDC’s web site for some time, the commitment of SLDC to increase awareness of the LDF in the community of Ackenthwaite has been nothing short of woeful. The residents of Ackenthwaite were only informed of the LDF’s intensions when Reference B, was received by the majority of residents via post on 22 May 08. Additionally, the public display and consultation days organised on 28 Apr – 2 May and 19 – 23 May 08 at the Milnthorpe library, were not officially advertised to the residents of Ackenthwaite by means of post or public notice board in the village. This resulted in many not attending any of the consultation days and feeling shocked and surprised when the implications of the LDF were passed by “word of mouth”. Notwithstanding the limited notice many now have to voice their opinions before 30 May 08, the casual manner in which LDF has been raised in the local community, has simply failed the residents of Ackenthwaite. Furthermore, it does not give me personal confidence that the LDF is being administered in the best interests of the local population.
3. The reference details the challenges that SLDC faces in respect to local development inter alia:
a. the urgent requirement to create new housing to support an increasing population;
b. supporting the local economy by developing sites for business and increasing the range of higher skilled jobs in the area;
c. changes to farming practices and the need to diversify the local economy;
d. provide affordable housing for the younger members of the community to help sustain the local economy as the local demographic age continues to rise;
e. current high property prices in comparison to average wages;
f. ensuring accessibility of services to a dispersed pattern of settlement in the District;
g. ensuring the District remains attractive.
4. While the LDF aims to tackle these issues, I believe that SLDC’s current development plans for Milnthorpe, and in particular Ackenthwaite, will fail to resolve the problems identified above and at Reference A. In my local area, SLDC intends to accommodate circa 18 hectares of new residential and 9 hectares of new employment development (Reference A). The options for development detailed at Reference C, indicates that one such site under review is North Ackenthwaite (option 1.5.) and it is this option to build new housing in particular that I wish to contest along with plans for a new supermarket in Milnthorpe. I firmly believe that these two options are flawed on the grounds of their environmental and economic impact, and poor infrastructure to support current plans; especially with regards to transport. The following paragraphs expand the argument further.
5. SLDC acknowledges that the:
“character of the local area of the District remains essentially rural with towns and villages set in attractive landscapes….New development [LDF] is of high quality design based on a clear understanding of the local context, integrated with the surrounding areas creating a sense of place.” (Reference A, Page 3).
6. Development in north Ackenthwaite simply does not support this aspiration. Any building in North Ackenthwaite next to Kirkgate lane will destroy the current attractive landscape (Enclosure 1) forever and will fundamentally change the rural backdrop that forms the character of Ackenthwaite.
7. While SLDC’s commitment of ensuring town and villages are kept distinct from one another via the preservation of “Green Gaps”, I believe this will simply create a patch work of green wasteland between Milnthorpe and Ackenthwaite which offers neither social or economic benefit, nor will it sustain the current aesthetic beauty of the local countryside. Should north Ackenthwaite be developed, de facto, it will fail to maintain a “sense of place” or local identity.
8. I consider that if any urban expansion is required it should in the first instance, begin from the central hubs of the major towns and economic centres in the area, primarily Kendal and Ulverston. This is how the majority of cities and towns in the UK have naturally developed over centuries, rather than through forced development of rural communities which simply expands into increasingly more scarce country side. Current plans would create large residential commuter villages with inadequately developed infrastructure and would lack community spirit.
9. Should north Ackenthwaite be developed, the rising slopes of the Kirkgate lane area would also make any new houses highly visible from the surrounding area and would degrade the aesthetic setting of the monument on top of St Anthony’s Hill. This monument forms a key part of Milnthorpe, Ackenthwaite and Heversham’s heritage and identity. In any case, Reference C states that views of this monument should be “kept open”, hence the rationale for north Milnthorpe being a “non-preferred option”. Should building on north Ackenthwaite be approved, this would lack consistency in SLDC’s environmental policy given its stance in north Milnthorpe. Alternative low lying land plots could be easily identified.
10. Should housing be developed in north Ackenthwaite, the only realistic road to support such a project in the long term would be Ackenthwaite road. The current state of repair for this B class road can be seen at Enclosure 2. Not only is this road in a poor state of repair, but cannot be expanded within the hamlet of Ackenthwaite due to the positioning of current housing directly on the road. Any development in north Ackenthwaite would place an unsustainable increase in traffic levels on this road and would significantly reduce the quality of life and road safety of existing residents.
11. Interconnecting road links are also modest. The B6385, the main carriage way linking Ackenthwaite to Milnthorpe and to the M6, is a narrow country lane which is again in a poor state of repair (Enclosure 3). Despite being unsuited for heavy utility vehicles and HGV’s, the road is already overburdened with commercial vehicles using the route for access to Milnthorpe and the Main Line Industrial state. With the Crooklands canal bridge regularly suffering damage from HGVs resulting in frequent road closures, housing development will only increase commercial traffic in the short term, with residential traffic increasing in the long term. With the B6385 struggling to support current usage, it is difficult to image how it can support the LDF without significant investment and further impact on the environment and local residents; all of which add to weight to the environmental argument articulated above.
12. SLDC alludes to a:
“close working relationship with public transport operators ensuring a well-used public transport system” (Reference A, Page 3).
13. However, what this utopian transport system is or is likely to be, is not explained in any literature associated with the LDF. Unless such plans are made public, I for one can only treat this statement with scepticism as there is no evidence to suggest that such a “relationship” will be fit for purpose; in sum it is rhetoric. Unless a viable solution to transport is agreed before any development is approved, it is hard to understand how SLDC can assure the local population that sustainable public transport links will be in place to support the LDF’s plans or north Ackenthwaite.
14. The remaining infrastructure surrounding north Ackenthwaite would, in my opinion, not support any increase in its residential dwellings. In addition to my concerns regarding transport links, the complete lack of paving on Ackenthwaite road in particular would not support SLDC’s assumptions that development of north Ackenthwaite would encourage potential residents to walk into Milnthorpe, nor would it support the building of bus stops and shelters to encourage the use of public transport to reduce pollution.
15. The building of new housing would inevitably, and desirably, attract young families and children. With the local schools in the Milnthorpe area already at full capacity, it is hard to imagine how new residents to the area will have their educational needs catered for especially as Reference A fails to detail specific plans to expanding existing schools or build new ones. As such, new housing in north Ackenthwaite is viewed as currently unsustainable for the target demographic.
16. In terms of attracting and catering for any new influx of young families, Ackenthwaite currently does not have any social amenities such as a community centre, sports ground or fully functioning Public House. The creation of a large residential settlement without such infrastructure will not be attractive to potential buyers. Additionally, the lack of amenities could create an atmosphere of boredom amongst adolescent residents leading to youth disorder.
17. The LDF does make a commitment to building a new supermarket in Milnthorpe, presumable to support an increased local population. This seems to counter SLDC’s commitment in supporting Milnthorpe’s reputation for:
“specialist shopping….and a…successful attraction both for the local community and visitors”. (Reference A Pages 3 – 4).
18. The establishment of a supermarket in Milnthorpe can only have one effect. An increase in food product range and a reduction in prices at a large supermarket retailer compared to the local shops on Milnthorpe. While this unquestionably benefits the consumer in the short term, it would ultimately result in the closure or poor long term viability of the local and market retailers in Milnthorpe who cannot compete with the supermarket. In the long term the consumer will also be denied local produce direct from source via the existing town centre and market arrangements. It seems inconsistent that the SLDC on one hand is determined to support Milnthorpe’s existing retailers and character, yet on the other will encourage supermarkets into the area which will endanger their very survival. This intuitively makes the LDF seem incoherent and not integrated with Milnthorpe’s long term success as a vibrant market town, especially as adequate supermarkets already exist in Kendal and Carnforth.
19. Reference A outlines ten objectives of the LDF which supports its development plans. However, based on the concerns outlined above in terms of environment, transport and infrastructure, I would contest whether these objectives will be met by developing north Ackenthwaite and building a supermarket in Milnthorpe. Taking each contested LDF objective seriatim:
Objective 2 – To support the growth of the local economy and rural diversification. As articulated above, the building of a supermarket can only jeopardise the long term viability of local retailers and the market.
Objective 3 – To ensure that all development is sustainable and making prudent use of resources. Again the supermarket build does not support sustainable local retail development. My views on the environmental impact of north Ackenthwaite also question this objective’s use of rural land resources.
Objective 4 – To conserve and enhance the diverse character and local distinctiveness of the District. In terms of environmental impact, this objective fails on all fronts when considering a north Ackenthwaite development.
Objective 5 – To reduce the need to travel and make it safer and easier for the community to travel to jobs and key services by sustainable forms of transport. Without a well articulated plan in place, SLDC simply has no way of proving it can meet this objective at this moment in time. Current road connections also place this objective into question when considering the north Ackenthwaite plans. As this objective is a cornerstone of the LDF, it makes present plans appear disjointed.
Objective 6 – To develop vibrant and prosperous towns and villages. By building a supermarket in Milnthorpe the town centre retail structure and market would, in my view, simply vanish. Therefore this objective is not achievable under LDF.
Objective 8 – Encourage and support accessible and varied opportunities for leisure and recreational activities in order to promote healthy lifestyles. Reference A makes no mention of any plans under LDF to improve local leisure activities in Milnthorpe. Instead it intends to build on rural land in north Ackenthwaite which is regularly used by cyclists, joggers and walkers for outdoor pursuits. Present LDF plans for Ackenthwaite would reduce such opportunities, not enhance them.
Objective 9 – To protect and enhance existing community assets and ensure the provision of additional assets (such as health and education facilities) that improve community well being. Similar to transport, the Reference A details no convincing plan on how this will be achieved. Until one is conceived, any development in north Ackenthwaite can only be viewed as unsustainable.
Objective 10 – To ensure that new development contributes towards community benefit. The flavour of this paper so far clearly suggests that LDF plans for a supermarket in Milnthorpe and development in north Ackenthwaite will not improve the long term benefits of the local population on the reasons argued above. As such Objective 10 is not achievable.
20. While it is accepted that SLDC faces increasing pressures from central Government, an increasing population, high property prices compared to average income and the requirement to help sustain long term local economic growth, the proposed LDF for north Ackenthwaite and supermarket development in Milnthorpe, is flawed. The potential impact on the local environment, coupled with inadequate infrastructure and the resultant transport issues, are viewed as unsustainable and a threat to the community. Current LDF plans simply do not support SLDC’s core policies of protecting community well being or the historic environment . As such, I firmly believe the LDF plans for my local area are ill conceived and have lacked intellectual rigour in their design. I therefore, enthusiastically request that current plans to develop north Ackenthwaite and establish a supermarket in Milnthorpe, be abandoned.
S. T. Robertson.
1. North Ackenthwaite view of St Anthony’s Hill Including Monument.
2. Ackenthwaite Road and Dwellings.
3. B6285 State of Repair.