What the public think

Date: Friday 14th September 2018

GRAHAM and Margaret Fairhall, retired to Roundthorn, Penrith, from West Cumbria a year ago.

Dr Fairhall is the former chief scientist for the Government-owned National Nuclear Laboratory. They purchased a “significant” property with an acre of land near Stagstones Road and now face being “entirely surrounded” by houses.

Before the couple bought the property, checks were carried out to see if any development was planned nearby. Nothing showed on the searches but they said they learned later, from former Eden Council chief executive Robin Hooper, that the plans for thousands of new houses would not have shown up because, at that stage, the masterplan was merely a council “vision” rather than an official plan.

Dr Fairhall said he is very disappointed and thinks there is no economic justification for the masterplan.

Awarded an MBE in 2016 for his research and development work in the nuclear industry, he said the masterplan’s assumption that nuclear staff could be among those to live in the new villages did not add up, as they would face a 100-mile round trip commute.

Dr Fairhall said: “The masterplan seems to be reliant on a nuclear industry but why would you live 50 miles away when you can live five miles away? Cockermouth tends to be about the limit for commuters.

“In my view, the industry won’t expand in West Cumbria beyond the size of the workforce that there is at the moment.

He added: “There’s a number of science parks on the west coast and all the companies who provide the infrastructure, support or consultancy move there, not to Penrith.”

Nuclear industry representatives often met in Penrith because it was on the crossroads for staff working at nuclear sites in the south, north, east and west. “They meet at places like the North Lakes Hotel because you have a railway station nearby, but they are not going to relocate to Penrith — absolutely not,” he said.

Mrs Fairhall added: “They need to build houses in the town centre where people need them. If you want to attract young people, they want to be in a town centre.”

BEEF farmer Hilary Bloomer lives with husband James on their “dream” farm off Stagstones Road.

Clutching copies of the masterplan, she said the council needed to focus on Penrith town centre, resolving issues such as parking and affordable housing. Mrs Bloomer said: “The real issue for me is the lack of infrastructure. Where is all the sewage from these houses going to go?

“Are they going to pump it back over the hill and when the pump breaks is it all going to back up into people’s houses? Or will they want to build a sewage works on my farm?”

She pointed out that the plan suggests siting a school next to a sheep dealer who deals with “thousands of sheep” and needed access at all hours. This would be incompatible with houses, villages or schoolchildren. She said: “Are these villages actually going to turn into sink estates? I used to live in Dumfries and they did this there and it killed the town. I realise these homes are not going to be built tomorrow but nevertheless it feels like a massive, massive rush. Something is being pushed through, and I don’t know what.”

Mrs Bloomer added that the council needed to host an emergency meeting because, by the time the consultation ended, councillors would not sit again until November.

DESPITE having followed the issue closely, Sarah Hiscoke, for Friends of Penrith Beacon, said she was surprised at the scale of the development proposed.

She said: “I thought it was going to be a fringe of the Beacon that was developed, a bit around the edges, but it’s not, it’s taking the heart out of the forest. It’s much worse than I ever imagined.”

She said the Beacon was a beautiful, iconic and unspoilt habitat and the group would oppose any proposals to develop it.

“We have hundreds of signed-up members already and 1,000 followers on Facebook. The Penrith masterplan Facebook page is not faring quite so well and on Saturday someone actually posted up the lyrics to Big Yellow Taxi — they paved paradise to put up a parking lot,” she added.

KYLE Summers, aged 20, of Penrith, called at the pop-up shop on Monday to find out more and said he was pleased to hear about its emphasis on affordable housing.

“We definitely need more affordable housing because the cost of houses in Carlisle is about half that of Penrith and a lot of people are moving up there because of that,” he said.

PENRITH resident Ian Dawson said he had found the pop-up shop useful — especially to see clearer versions of the maps, but had concerns about traffic congestion in the town.

KENDAL Calling promoter Andy Smith, who was in Penrith for meetings about next year’s festival, said: “My first impression is that this a good idea. So many young people move away from Cumbria and don’t come back until they retire. Affordable housing can help, but so can the arts and culture provision.”