Kirkby Stephen anger over plan for hundreds of homes

Date: Monday 10th April 2017

ABOUT 80 people packed into a meeting of Kirkby Stephen Town Council, many of them to express their anger at Eden Council’s local plan, which outlines that 348 new homes should be built in the town over the next 15 years.

Concern was expressed that the town was being asked to accommodate an extra 96 houses which had originally been earmarked for Alston.

A planning inspector who had been tasked with making sure the district council’s plan was “sound” did not feel the allocation which had been attributed to Alston Moor was sustainable.

Kevin Hutchinson, Eden Council’s principal planning policy manager, admitted that the proposed increase in the allocation for Kirkby Stephen was “significant”, but the Government had decided that the building of new housing would be the economic driver for the economy.

The district authority had initially prepared a plan based on 200 new houses being built in Eden each year, but the planning inspector had indicated that at least 240 would be needed.

The town would be “ruined forever” should the amount of houses proposed be built in Kirkby Stephen, the meeting was told.

Fireman Craig Hall, of Park Terrace, said water run-off was a real problem in the town and he asked how this was going to be managed considering all the new housing which was proposed. “The drains cannot hold that water,” he said.

Dr. Ian Tod said Eden Council’s “intelligence was very weak” and that the proposed allocation for Kirkby Stephen could not stand up to close examination.

The meeting was told that traffic in South Road was “horrendous” at the moment and to make it worse, given the addition of all the new cars which would accompany the additional housing, would be “madness”.

Criticism was made at the meeting of an alternate plan, put forward by Tom Woof, director of planning for the Prospus Group, as it was deemed to be “impartial” as he was acting on behalf of private clients.

Former Methodist minister Phil Dew said he was “outraged and appalled” that this plan had been on display at a consultation meeting which had been held in the town.

Town council clerk Jeanette Cooper said Mr. Woof had asked if he could attend the open session and had been given permission.

“We are sorry that you feel that we were being dishonest. We were trying to be as open as we could be and give everybody as much information as we could,” said Mrs. Cooper.

Kirkby Stephen’s population could grow by more than 1,000 should an extra 350 houses be built in the timescale proposed.

Fears have been expressed that the town’s infrastructure could not cope with that increase in people. There is a severe lack of public transport and poor quality roads already, and it would add too much traffic for the town, the meeting was told.

A sub-committee was formed to formulate the town council’s response, which will be fed into interim consultation being carried out by Eden Council over its revised local plan.

The closing date for submissions is on Monday. However, a further consultation is then due to be held about the “major modifications” being proposed.