Ruckus over village housing development

Date: Tuesday 18th April 2017

Sir, Some of your readers may have noticed a bit of a ruckus over Lowther’s attempt to dump a profitable housing development on Sockbridge and Tirril just a month or two before Eden’s new local plan rules it out for at least 15 years.

Why are the locals up in arms about this? Because it has nothing to do with local need. It flies in the face of national and local planning policy. It can’t boost local services and it certainly won’t create any.

The obvious thing for Eden Council to do is to stick with the policy it has been developing for the last seven years, at great public expense, and throw this application out because it is a cynical attempt to undermine local policy.

The next best thing to do would be to follow the best legal advice, which is to weigh up the costs and the benefits, and then throw it out because it goes against national policy.

So what are the benefits? Local housing need? We don’t know, because local need has not been looked at. Businesses? Two might benefit, but both are thriving.

One of those (the pub) could lose as much as it gains because tourists don’t visit housing estates. The dozen or so B&B businesses would lose out for the same reason. Farming (this is prime agricultural land in a farming village) obviously loses out.

The development is aimed at those putting a second home into their pension pots, so offcomers would benefit — but at the expense of everyone else. Net benefit? Nil. Except for the landowner and developer.

Adverse effects? Where is this site? It is bang on top of the highest part of Sockbridge. It is slap in the middle of a great view from a popular footpath, from where the proposed site looks wider than the greatest fell in Lakeland (Blencathra, as if you didn’t know) as well as directly under it.

For people driving towards Pooley Bridge the new estate would block the view of open sky at the top of the hill out of Sockbridge, and turn open countryside into suburb.

For those driving from Pooley, out of the national park, a wide housing estate would obliterate a great view of Beacon Hill and the Pennines. A hugely important visual gap in both directions would be blocked, and more greenfield becomes tarmac.

In planning terms, it would ruin the hamlet of Thorpe, and breach a western boundary to Sockbridge and Tirril that has been fixed for about 700 years and which survived huge village expansion in the 1990s.

It would overload the hopelessly inadequate infrastructure; there is no bus service to take people to work; there is no parking at the village hall; street parking is already a traffic hazard; and there’s no pavement at all on a blind corner on the way to Yanwath School.

National planning policy is perfectly clear. Significant development “should be focused in locations which are or can be made sustainable”. The council knows very well that Sockbridge and Tirril is not such a location.

Planning law says that if the adverse impacts of a proposal “significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits”, the proposal should be refused. Does Eden Council understand this, or even care? That’s what we want to know. The betting is that officers will recommend approval even though it makes nonsense of their own local plan. Yours etc,

RICHARD GRAVIL

Tirril Hall,

Tirril.