Comments on the Coldwaltham Parish Council Report for The Link Parish Magazine, October 2017

The attached PC report of the Sandham Hall meeting on 19th October for the Parish Magazine makes interesting reading, not least because it appears to give the views of the PC, who said that they would not be discussing and agreeing their views until the next PC meeting on 14 November. However, we have been urging them to act sooner and so they have!  Our group, our map and our comparative table are not mentioned by name but we are pleased that the PC urges everyone to use this information in their submissions to the National Park.
Comparative table correction.  One new revelation at the meeting requires a factual correction to our comparative table: Criteria No 15  “Cultural value of site?”  The suitability score for sites 2 & 3 should be decreased to low in view of their historic “fieldscape assart” status.  The final scores for site 3 & 4 are now 12 & 9 respectively. This makes very little difference to the overall score and it is worth noting that the National Park indicates in their “Settlement Context Study Sensitivity Analysis” map that they do not regard fieldscape assarts to be of cultural sensitivity and so they are unlikely to be seen as a constraint.
The PC statement that all four sites “have, to differing degrees more negatives than positive about them” is a good way to bring us all together but it ducks out of the important point that one site is far less suitable than the others. A small number of articulate neighbours of the new sites made passionate objections, including a number of unsubstantiated claims, about the wildlife and historic value of their local sites. We are all very fortunate that our village is surrounded by wonderful wildlife and anyone who lives next to a green field is unlikely to welcome houses instead.  The point that the PC have failed to acknowledge so far is that only site 1 has a very high wildlife value. We have considerable evidence that not only confirms this but also shows that the other 3 sites have low value by comparison.  There were also a number of exaggerated claims about the close proximity of the Stane Street Roman Road to sites 2 & 3 and to a lesser extent site 4.
It was the owners of site 3 & 4 who first suggested that a better approach would be a number of smaller sites integrated into the village instead of yet another separate Estate.  We recommended this approach to the PC and we are glad to see that they appear to be taking it up. It remains to be seen how potential future neighbours of even small groups of houses will respond to the prospect of new houses next door. It is also far from certain that the National Park will be willing to give up their easy, quick and dirty solution to new housing rather than work with our PC to develop a carefully integrated long term plan.The reason why the SDNPA is seeking to dump so many houses on Coldwaltham is simply because unlike the other two villages in the HDC area we are the only one where the PC did not produce a Neighbourhood Development Plan.
Guy Nelson said at the meeting that if anyone wants a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) then they should join the PC and do it. This begs the question why our PC is not willing to do it. It really will be essential to have a NDP  before the next housing allocation comes along in a few years’ time.  In the meantime, we have been advised by our Planning Consultant that it is not too late to have a Neighbourhood Development Order.  This could protect our Meadow and advocate alternative sites, but this can only be done by our PC. We must therefore urge them to take steps to protect our village, both now and in the future.