Penrith Beacon “safe from large-scale

Date: Friday 20th April 2018

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AN Eden Council masterplan for Penrith could pave the way for controversial development on parts of the town’s landmark Beacon — up to 8,000 new homes and a multi-million pound eastern bypass.

The council is preparing to unveil a draft masterplan in June which includes earmarking different areas for development up to the year 2050. For the first time, Beacon Hill, overlooking the town, is earmarked as a site for potential “sensitive and low density mixed use space”.

Areas behind the prominent landmark also look set to be marked for future “residential and education space”.

The suggestions have already drawn opposition from local landowners and at a meeting of the council on Thursday, one of them warned that the door has been opened for a “Center Parcs-style complex” on Beacon Hill. Adrian Hill, of Woodside Farm, Brougham, spoke at the meeting in Penrith at which councillors were asked to agree how to use a £250,000 government grant to explore growth plans for Penrith.

Mr Hill had previously circulated nine pages of concerns to councillors which set out design flaws with the eastern bypass and claimed Penrith’s new housing total could climb to 10,000 extra homes — equivalent to a “new town”, which would change Penrith’s character.

He wrote: “The idea of development on the Beacon itself is, in my opinion, inappropriate and likely to be opposed by Penrith residents.” He said the homes plans would have a “significant impact on schools, traffic, hospitals and GP services”.

But in an exclusive interview with the Herald, council leader Mr Beaty (Con, Skelton) said: “There’s not going to be any Center Parcs on the Beacon, I can definitely say that. That’s way, way off the mark — fake news.”

He said the council would not allow “large- scale, intrusive development” on the western side of the Beacon which faces Penrith, but conceded there could be “low density, sensitive development” on its eastern side. He said this would be for “amenity and leisure use” — but any proposal would be subject to the planning process.

Mr Beaty said: “That area is unofficially used by people for dog walking and even bike riders, and the current owner is concerned about that. They would like to, as far as I can tell, work with the people of Penrith to create more amenity use or leisure use on the Beacon. That’s what I have heard, but there isn’t any plan at the moment.” The ideas contained in the masterplan will go out for public consultation before a final version is put before the council in autumn.

John Harris, of the Brackenburgh Estate, told the meeting that four of the district’s major landowners were opposed to an eastern bypass. He and Mr Hill urged the council to focus instead on a southern relief road running from the A66 at Kirkby Thore to the M6 near Clifton and following the path of a disused Victorian railway line.

Mr Hill said: “The southern route would have enormous benefits to Penrith as it would avoid the issues of the construction of improved junctions at Kemplay and Junction 40. It would relieve Eamont Bridge and Clifton of lorry traffic and would avoid Penrith being surrounded on all sides by traffic.”

However, the meeting heard that proposals for a southern relief road had already been “discounted”. Such a scheme is considered by some to render the Temple Sowerby bypass defunct — just 11 years after £36.6 million was spent on it.

A southern bypass from the A66 at Kirkby Thore to the M6 near Clifton would require a costly and complex crossing over the west coast main line and the creation of another motorway junction between Junction 39 at Shap and Junction 40 at Penrith, which highways chiefs are said not to favour.

Of concerns about Penrith being “changed” by the council’s ambitions for the next 30 years, Mr Beaty said: “You get people now saying Penrith is dying. We get constant complaints that the shops aren’t full in New Squares. When you speak to those businesses who could fill those shops, they say they want to see more footfall in Penrith. They don’t feel they want to move into those shops because there aren’t enough people in Penrith.

“We want Penrith to be more vibrant, more prosperous and to have higher paid jobs, good quality housing and affordable housing, and that’s what this draft masterplan will show.

“There are opportunities for Penrith to grow and opportunities for Penrith to be prosperous. We’ll go out to consultation on this and if the people of Penrith don’t want to have that prosperity and development, then it can go somewhere else.”

He said people should not fixate on the idea of Penrith getting 10,000 extra houses, but added: “Even if you did get 10,000 houses in and around Penrith, that would only make Penrith the size of Kendal. We are not looking to build a huge conurbation. The developments you see in Carlisle will not happen in Penrith.

“One of the reasons we need to create a masterplan is so that a big developer doesn’t come along and create the type of mass market housing and large estates that you see elsewhere. We want Penrith to retain its market town feel and the emerging proposals are for villages to be created, rather than towns.”

On Thursday, the council agreed recommendations to use £250,000 of government funding to assess plans to further the local economy of Penrith until 2050 by developing a higher wage economy and delivering more quality housing by potentially developing land to the east of the town over the next 30 years.

Council chief executive Robin Hooper said the sum would not all be spent on looking at routes.

“The money spent on looking at routes is going to be very, very small. The money is going to be spent on looking at the impact of developments on the existing route, not just on the eastern route but also the southern route. But also on carrying out environmental impact assessments to see what impact residential development, employment developments and other aspects that need to be taken into consideration.

“We need to look at what the impact is going to be on increasing the residential population on the outskirts of Penrith through this Penrith villages concept and see what measures need to be taken in the future in order to accommodate the increased population in those areas.”

Penrith Chamber of Trade and Commerce president Stephen Macaulay said the council’s plans stimulated a healthy debate about the way the town’s economy could grow.

“I am sure businesses and the wider public will be keen to see and give their views about the assessments and evidence contained in the masterplan when the public consultation starts later this summer,” he said.

“Developing the right long-term plan for the future of Penrith not only ensures we can maximise the area’s future potential and deliver the right amount of housing, infrastructure and employment land needed for job creation, but will also lead to inward investment of our existing town centre which is a key aspiration of our members.”