IF this newspaper’s “postbag” is a guide, the controversy surrounding Eden Council’s masterplan for the development of Penrith over the next 30 years has stirred up a real hornets’ nest.
A large number of residents have put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to express their outrage at what the plan contains, particularly proposals to build more than 5,500 new homes on greenfield land behind the Beacon, which could lead to a doubling of the town’s population.
The council’s defence of the masterplan includes the assertion that an unspecified number of those new properties would be in the “affordable” bracket for local young people and families. And this week it has sought the support of some of the area’s leading businesses in pointing out the difficulties in recruiting staff because property prices are too high in Penrith.
The provision of affordable housing remains a top priority of the council — and the acquisition by its private company, Heart of Cumbria, of homes for rent on the Carleton Meadows development is a welcome move.
But the immediate needs of businesses will not be met by the creation of thousands of new homes decades from now. The council seems to be suggesting that people who do not embrace its vision for the creation of 7,000 new jobs in Penrith by 2050 are resisting growth. Largely they are not: they are concerned about the impact Eden’s plans will have on the town they cherish.
In light of the opposition to the present masterplan, it will be interesting to see whether, at the end of the consultation period, the council is willing to come up with a scaled back version which does not offend the majority of people who are going to have to live with the results.