Pressure group set up to fight masterplan proposals

Date: Friday 14th September 2018
Members of the Keep Penrith Special group make their feelings known outside the pop-up shop on Monday.
Members of the Keep Penrith Special group make their feelings known outside the pop-up shop on Monday.

A NEW pressure group has been set up to call on Eden Council to drop its controversial plans for new houses and building on the Beacon.

Keep Penrith Special says developments envisaged in the masterplan for the town, published last week, would “scar the Eden Valley forever”.

It launched an online petition on Monday, which has attracted 461 signatures so far, calling for the council to reject the proposals.

The masterplan, drawn up by consultants on behalf of the council, has suggested three new villages containing 5,560 new houses at the back of the Beacon. It also proposes a 73-hectare business park near Junction 41 and allowing building on the landmark Beacon.

The group said serious issues relating to roads, access and the topography of the area cannot be overcome and would only push more problems on to Penrith town centre.

Keep Penrith Special is headed by landowner Adrian Hill, of Woodside Farm, Brougham; Tatiana Harrison, whose family have farmed for generations at Maidenhill, Penrith; John Harris, of the Brackenburgh estate; and Matt Baxter, of Stagstones Road.

During the eight-week council consultation, the group intends to recruit more supporters and experts to scrutinise the council’s 100-page document. Mr Hill told the Herald: “Over the next two months of the consultation we are going to do an awful lot of work to look at the lack of logic in the council’s plan. The council think the masterplan is the elixir to all of Penrith’s problems —it is not.

“The existing roads across that area are immensely steep and already state that in winter conditions could be hazardous.”

Mr Hill said all the potential access roads from the proposed homes site into Penrith would have a gradient steeper than allowed under Cumbria County Council guidelines.

“You can’t change the topography, you can’t flatten the Beacon and Eden Council can’t change the weather,” said Mr Hill.

He said Fairhill Road, past the golf course, was “immensely steep” and led to a “tight” junction which would load more traffic on to “narrow” Scotland Road and Stricklandgate. Stagstones Road, where the Roundthorn Hotel is located, was also very “difficult,” for vehicles. The alternative route at Barbary Plains on to the A686 presented similar problems. There are also shortcomings in the proposed “spine road” connecting the three villages, he said.

Should a bypass be needed, it would have to go next to the new villages, putting off purchasers, said Mr Hill.

He said the homes would be on “high, exposed ground”, where access was blocked for five days last winter. A further 14 days saw roads in the same area accessible only by those with 4x4s. “This location does not lend itself to building this kind of settlement,” he said.

Tatiana Harrison said she sympathised with the need for Penrith to create more jobs and housing. But she added: “I don’t see how the chicken and egg situation works. Why does the council believe that a new population — equivalent to the size of Penrith already — would want to suddenly move here just because they have plonked houses on a hillside and created an industrial estate next to the M6?

“Where is the evidence for it? They have not cited any business that wants to move here. It’s fine to encourage existing businesses to expand, but if I was a business owner in Penrith town centre, I would be deeply concerned.

“This industrial estate could bring in either another out-of-town shopping centre or national companies who will undercut independent local businesses. With the forces of online shopping, I don’t think the council’s masterplan is the magic bullet.”

The group’s website is www.keeppenrithspecial.org. Its Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/keeppenrithspecial. The petition can be found at goo.gl/8xzNP1