Friday, 26 February 2016

Coming home to roost

Nearly a year ago I wrote about a planning application for what most of us would regard as factory farming, a large - very large - poultry unit close to Sedgeford. It caused real concern to the local community on many fronts; the way the application was dealt with, the proposed use and the environmental impact. Like many things I subsequently lost track of what happened with it other than being aware that it didn't appear to have happened.

As is the way with these things, it hasn't been built but it definitely hasn't gone away. It's back and still causing substantial concern in its new improved 'reduced' form. I may be naive but my cursory inspection of the current application suggests that the reductions might soon be added back if it were approved. Indeed the changes are so simplistic that it requires little imagination to see what could eventually happen.

On the basis of the many well-researched and valid (in planning terms)  objections, it would be good to think it will not be approved but I am not holding my breath.  Objections on beauty, calm and the merits or otherwise of the proposed use sadly carry little weight, however strongly they are felt or expressed. Objections on grounds of conflicts with adopted plans and policies are of course considered - and there seem to be plenty here - but this kind of proposal does tend to keep coming back.

Closer to home, the long awaited car park for Burnham will reportedly be up and running by Easter. Just like the chickens this may be another project that will come home to roost. It has been talked about for a mere 50 years or so and unlike the poultry has (or had) the support of the community. Indeed in the published village plan it was one of the few projects that was generally wanted. It must therefore be disconcerting for the Parish Council who have suffered the slings and arrows of public comment during a very full and extended consultation to be now faced with justifiable - if after the event - concerns over safety in terms of its siting. The focus of these concerns is that the pedestrian connection to the village leads directly into the main traffic pinch-point at almost the narrowest point on the road where there is no footpath and no way of providing one.

The introduction of the parking restrictions that will accompany the car park - again the subject of a very full and extended consultation and negotiation - are now being seen as increasing the risk. Fewer cars parked on the road encourage faster speeds; the recent introduction of a 20mph limit seems to have actually led to more speeding in the bits where its possible and is pretty well impossible to enforce.

Hindsight is a marvellous thing, but listening to comments in a meeting earlier this week, it is clear that however full the consultation most people don't understand what a plan or project involves until it is actually there.  I suspect that if the whole project could be started again there would be some support for moving things round - siting the housing where the car park is, recreational space where the housing is, and parking where the recreational space is.  But that's with the benefit of hindsight and would probably have required another 50 years consideration.