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[3rd March 2014]: Contamination on Radstock Railway Land - What's Next?
Mon, 03 Mar 2014 09:45:00 +0000
When BANES recently accepted the NRR/Linden planning applications for the railway land in Radstock, this agreement did not come without strings attached. For example, there were a series of conditions which the developers would have to meet before work could proceed and these conditions are currently being mulled over by the officers responsible at BANES.
The developers are not free to proceed
The key point is that these conditions have to be fulfilled and this means that those who care about the future of Radstock must be very vigilant. Contamination issues are far from resolved and stem from the wide range of industrial activities undertaken on the land when it was previously in use. The BANES Scientific Officer with responsibility for this matter has recommended that a number of conditions be applied. These include a further site investigation, submission and implementation of a remediation scheme, reporting of any contamination revealed during development and long term monitoring and maintenance. The officer also recommended that the Environment Agency are consulted regarding risks to controlled waters.
No serious work done on contamination issues yet
The problems about resolving the contamination stem from the failure of previous would-be developers to take proper measures when investigating. This matters because the current developer has based their work on the work done in 2005 which does not comply with the regulatory guidance for site investigations.
Can a poverty-stricken developer like Linden Homes shoulder the required expense?
In lay terms, this means that a potentially serious situation has not been investigated and must be looked at professionally and in depth before anything else can happen. For NRR/Linden Homes this must be uncomfortable news as Linden Homes has already pleaded poverty and says it cannot afford to pay the much discussed Section 106 money which developers are normally expected to contribute towards improvement and remediation to the general environment of a community which is subject to major development. Dealing with contamination is never going to be cheap - and until the full requirements of the conditions attached to the planning permission are met, there is no knowing how much more will be discovered and how much more it will all cost. Any developer who cannot provide funding for Section 106 could well find such expense prohibitive.
No short cuts must be taken
This is a site which, if the developer gets their way, will be covered with homes - any attempts to take short cuts which could result in people's living spaces being built on top of unknown contamination must be avoided at all costs.
[3rd February 2014]: They came, they saw and they rubber stamped
Mon, 03 Feb 2014 07:57:00 +0000
BANES Development Control says Yes to Wrecking Radstock
On Wednesday 29 January, the Development Control Committee (DCC) descended on Radstock and, in front of a substantial audience made up largely of people opposed to the proposals, did what they had always intended. They voted in favour of a set of planning applications from the NRR and Linden Homes which, if ever implemented, will do absolutely nothing to regenerate Radstock let alone protect the town's valuable natural and built environment. Between them, the members of the DCC and the handful of speakers supporting them failed to put forward a single substantive argument in support of the proposals.
BANES, NRR and Linden Homes fail to make their case and the developer (Linden) is laughing all the way to the bank
Radstock Action Group, whilst very disappointed in this result, are not surprised, neither do they think that this is, by any means over yet. Here we have a project which BANES and the NRR have repeatedly argued is absolutely essential for the regeneration of the town, which has at its core the provision of affordable housing for local people. They have failed to prove their case:
- Normal regulations require the provision of 35% affordable housing on this type of development - BANES has said that Linden Homes need only provide 25% and that it will all be OK crammed into the first stage of the 'development'
- In a scheme designed to bring affordable housing, one might reasonably expect to see a fair proportion of small starter units for young people and so on - BANES has acceded to the developer's proposal to include bigger units, presumably because they can make more profit on them
- Normal regulations require that the developer compensates the local community and provides amenities and facilities for them and newcomers in the new housing through an arrangement called the 106 agreement - this would include a contribution to the provision of additional school places, a contribution to the provision of youth services and to children's services - BANES has said that Linden Homes doesn't have to pay any of this as they, the developer, say they cannot afford to pay because the scheme is unviable in economic terms if they do have to pay. In other words, Linden Homes won't make a profit. In other words, it will be us, the council tax payers who will foot all the bills.
So, having repeated argued that this housing is desperately needed, BANES has caved in to all the developer's demands, completely ignoring the original reasons given for why this project should be located in the town centre with a road that will bring chaos to everyone in the town. Thereby ensuring that a Bath commuter dormitory estate of very dubious merit will blight the place which boasts so much potential and has so much going for it. Either affordable housing is needed or it isn't - BANES seems to have decided it isn't really a priority so why are they determined to go ahead in the town?
What's in it for Radstock?
If these plans go ahead, Radstock will have:
- A road no-one wants, which will seriously jeopardise local traders and other businesses and services and create a less healthy environment for everyone in the town
- Housing that will not prioritise local people
- A site which has contamination on an, as yet, unresearched scale, though everyone already agrees it is serious
- The loss of all the Victoria Hall parking and of much on-street parking with the provision of only 14 new parking spaces for the whole town
- Very little prospect of getting back a key asset - the rail link to Frome
- A housing estate where a valuable open space once stood
We are now going to be considering the decisions in detail and will be taking our next steps accordingly. Far from regenerating Radstock, this could lead to further decline - just as we are beginning to see some genuine improvements taking place.
[27th January 2014]: BANES final report on the planning applications for the railway land in Radstock
Mon, 27 Jan 2014 08:52:00 +0000
The full BANES report for the Development Control Committee scheduled for 2pm on Wednesday 29 January has been published. This 86 page document is now visible at: democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/documents/s29020/PlansList.pdf.
It contains some very dismal and alarming reading:
- Absolutely no ringing endorsements of Linden Homes and NRR's proposals
- A spineless willingness to accommodate compromises demanded by the developer on the grounds of maintaining their profits
- Professionals required to respond to the proposals giving only guarded and conditional support to what they are considering
- Admissions that this is the best that can be expected in the current circumstances
All in all, no-one could ever imagine such latitude being given to proposals for other parts of BANES, like Bath itself, for example.
NEW MAJOR ISSUES EMERGE - CLICK HERE TO READ THE ATTACHMENT FOR FURTHER DETAIL
Attached to this email is a very brief statement of some of the major issues to emerge from it. It is not a restatement of all RAG's arguments but picks up on some of the particularly striking new aspects of the whole process.
We remain totally opposed to the applications. What is so alarming is that, even within the terms set out by BANES, the whole set of proposals are beset by difficulties, failings and omissions - just go to any page of their report to see.
LINDEN HOMES PLEADS POVERTY - THEIR PROFITS MUST BE PROTECTED RATHER THAN FULFILLING THEIR OBLIGATIONS TO THE PEOPLE OF RADSTOCK
Just a couple of examples:
- Linden Homes, the developer, has argued that it should not have to pay the money that is normally required under what is called the Section 106 (see attachment for further detail and explanation). This money is aimed to provide improvements and compensate for the disruption and damage to the local community. Linden Homes say they can't afford it. So out go support for funding additional places for children who live in the new housing, improvements such as play areas and parks and so on- just see the attached for a bit more detail
- The housing proposal will result in a huge concentration of affordable housing in one very small area - this is a direct contravention of what is required
WHO WILL LOOK AFTER RADSTOCK'S INTERESTS?
In both of these cases and throughout the report, caveats and conditions underscore BANES' response. And yet, they are insisting on recommending that the proposals go through. Who will ensure that all the conditions are met, that all the additional work required prior to commencement is undertaken satisfactorily?
This situation would be absolutely unacceptable in areas other than Radstock which, should this development be undertaken, is destined to become nothing more than a second rate housing estate catering for out-commuters. Nowhere in the final report is there any evidence that it will lead to regeneration. Far from it, there is plenty of evidence that both the town centre conservation area and the natural surroundings will be irreversibly damaged - even BANES seems to agree.
Radstock is under threat from a cash-stepped developer and the local authority which wants to put housing at all costs into our precious town. BANES is flying in the face of all its own reservations, conditions and caveats and asking the Development Control Committee to agree the plans. It thinks it can getaway with it in Radstock. Regeneration is not part of the deal and the Development Control Committee should throw it all out - it is never too late to reconsider.
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