Letter - We should pay localism more than lip service

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I note the comment on the Letters page of 21/2/14 regarding the attitude of the Environment Agency to building on flood plains and agree that WMDC seems to be adopting the same policy of ‘buyers beware’.

As I have already written, I am deeply shocked that WMDC is prepared to allow profiteering by developers at the expense of local residents and regardless of the risks to their homes and businesses.

On another page of the same edition, there is an article with the headline: “A firm of town planners has secured a £140m deal which will transform Selby.”

The firm concerned is Spawforths, who are already working on the City Fields project in Eastmoor and another project in Newmillerdam. They are also behind the Horbury Benton Hill housing development, which was vigorously opposed by all the local neighbourhood groups, and have plans to install wind turbines at Woolley Edge, which are currently being robustly fought by residents of Woolley Parish. Do the directors not care about ‘localism’ and the ‘Localism Act’ which is supposedly the central plank of planning policy? A rhetorical question since they clearly don’t.

‘Buyers beware’ is a maxim which would certainly apply to their Selby project. I understand the development is on a flood plain in the loop of the River Ouse where “overtopping and inundation” is a very high risk.

As local councillors have confirmed, the river has repeatedly flooded at this point over the last 50 years.

I do have some sympathy with those local councillors and planning officers who try to introduce terms and conditions to mitigate the worst effects of developments. But what can they do in the face of a determination by the Government to allow them at any cost, and to allow developers to change set conditions apparently at will or simply refuse to implement them?

One thing they shouldn’t do is just ‘sit back and let it happen’, presumably in the belief that developers know every trick in the book and can afford expensive litigation in the High Court.

If a project has too many adverse impacts, planning permissions should be refused - not heavily conditioned in the nebulous hope the applicants can be trusted and the impacts minimised at some time in the future (and paid for by council tax payers!).

Above all councillors and planners should listen to the people they represent. The Localism Act has given local neighbourhood groups a voice. WMDC LPA should bite the bullet and fully embrace it along with the principle of ‘localism’ - members of the planning committee in particular. It is no good them carrying on regardless, deciding what should happen in wards other than their own when they know so little about local circumstances.

The Durkar development is one disaster too many.

James M Donlon

Durkar Low Lane