Response from Dr Ken Humphris, Kirkby Lonsdale Civic Society
1. Dr Ken Humphris, Kirkby Lonsdale Civic Society : 7 Jul 2008 14:13:00
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.
Local Development Framework
Comments from Kirkby Lonsdale & District Civic Society on SLDC’s Preferred Options Report
Options PO15 (Kirkby Lonsdale) and PO2 (Rural Areas)
PO 15 Kirkby Lonsdale
We are in agreement that Kirkby Lonsdale should continue to be treated as one of the Key Service Centres for South Lakeland. However, before looking at the “Preferred Options for Growth” we believe that the most careful and reasoned consideration must be given both to the quality and quantity of any new development being proposed, together with the implications for this small and architecturally distinguished small market town.
Having made a careful study of the evolution of the town, we believe that in 2003 there were approximately 865 dwellings. The LDF document quotes a figure of 99 for the number of completions or outstanding commitments 2003 to 2008. This sounds too high and we cannot reconcile that number with new dwellings in the town, but we will use it nonetheless. This means that the total number of dwellings built, or with permission to build, up to 2008 amounts to 964.
Our research shows that about 380 dwellings were built in the preceding 50 years ie between 1958 and 2008.
So we have :
Built before 1958 584 = 2-3 dwellings per year (from say 1700)
Built 1958 – 2008 380 = 7.6 dwellings per year
Proposed 2008 – 2025 230 = 13.5 dwellings per year
The proposed figure represents a dramatic, and we believe unsustainable, rate of growth, which would put unserviceable demands on school buildings, medical facilities, sewage treatment, parking, shops, and several already poorly resourced areas such as leisure facilities and other public amenities. Traffic would increase substantially. The growth in the past 50 years has taken place with very little in the way of new infrastructure, and this process is not sustainable.
We also note that Kendal is planned to have a much smaller percentage increase in its number of dwellings, and hence population, than Kirkby Lonsdale or any of the other KSC’s. Since there are regular demands made for more housing and employment land to be made available in Kendal, and little demand that we are aware of in Kirkby, this seems odd; indeed one of the five new business units adjacent to Kirkby Motors has still not been let after more than a year. It would be helpful to know the number of people on the Council’s waiting list for social housing in Kirkby Lonsdale.
Turning to the preferred directions for growth, we agree broadly with the overall areas identified for dwellings in the report, albeit for a smaller number than proposed, and with the analysis of the options. We feel that expansion of housing across the A65 is undesirable as it would result in a divided community, and would compromise some attractive green spaces.
It remains to be seen what provision will be made in the planning process for the infrastructure to support population growth, but it will of necessity have to be substantial. Assuming appropriare infrastructure is committed, then the Preferred Option chosen in the report, to utilise land to the west of Harling Bank, and potentially that to the south comprising the triangle of land between QES, the A65 and the B6446 Old Kendal Road, appears to be the least bad option. Harling Bank is the high point of Kirkby Lonsdale, and the undulating ground to the west rises still further. This suggests that great care would have to be taken in the design of any development to prevent it becoming overbearing on the town and detracting from its setting. It may be that some open space on the highest ground would be beneficial as a green buffer between the existing and new developments. Depending on the size of the development, an additional access road from the A65 will be necessary.
Our Committee feel they would need to see more concrete proposals for the design of dwellings and the accompanying infrastructure before they could give their support in principle to any of the Preferred Options.
There is room for a small amount of infill within the town if it is done so as not to impact on its character, and in particular that of the Conservation Area. The site of the present Auction Rooms is clearly one which if developed sensitively could improve that part of the town. We feel there is scope for small developments behind Robraine, and to the west of Back Lane north of Bridge Brow. Well designed dwellings, sympathetic to these locations, would improve the approach to Kirkby Lonsdale from the south along the A65. Similarly a well designed space at the other end of town opposite Booths Supermarket, taken together with the parking improvements already planned, would improve the approach from the north.
Whatever the number of dwellings, we accept the pressure for more affordable housing, and would expect robust and ongoing local occupancy requirements to also be put in place.
The amount of new employment land suggested in the LDF seems excessive to us. However we believe that whatever the amount, future commercial developments should be confined to land on either side of the A65 north of Kirkby Lonsdale, adjacent to existing and proposed new businesses. It is our view that development should be limited to B1 and B2, and that retail and warehousing and distribution are not permitted.
Whilst the timescale envisaged by the LDF extends only to 2025, we would like to suggest a further activity during that planning period to prepare the town for expansion beyond that time. Expansion further west beyond Harling Bank in future years would begin to create what in our view would be too uniform, massed and linear a development, so we believe consideration should be given to re-routing the A65 to the south of its present position, between Kirkby Motors and Stanley Bridge. This would then allow expansion to the south of the current boundary, without the town being bisected by traffic.
PO2 Rural Areas
We are in full agreement with PO2. Allowing small scale infill or conversion within, and adjacent to existing development boundaries seems sensible, as does developments for farming/land management reasons, and for small enterprises to assist rural diversification. The same conditions for the proportion of affordable homes and local occupancy should apply as in the Key Service Centres.
Summary of the Civic Society’s Views:-
1. The proposed number of new dwellings in Kirkby Lonsdale represents an unsustainable rate of growth for the town, which would have a detrimental effect on the nationally known character and amenities of the town.
2. Assuming major infrastructure improvements are made, then there is room for a lower level of dwellings, and SLDC’s Preferred Option could be the least offensive location. However the topography of the area means that great care would be needed in the design, in order to prevent the resulting development having an overbearing impact.
3. New employment land should be concentrated along the A65 to the north, and be of a nature sympathetic to the town.
4. We support the Preferred Option for Rural Areas.
5. Consideration should be given early in the next planning cycle to the cost and benefit of moving the A65 south of its present location, in order to support longer term growth of the town.