The General Purposes Committee meeting which
sacrificed Old Farm Park and
three smaller areas to the concrete mixers seem to be a long time ago now but
the opposition put up by Labour and UKIP members should not go unrecorded.
Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) took the leading role, his questions on the minor sites were
• The original plan for this site “clearly appropriated some land for communal benefit”. It was “part of the planning conditions 21 years ago, should it be maintained for that purpose”.
• The report says “it would not be appropriate for a CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) contribution to be made however for Old Farm Park is is appropriate for a developer contribution to be made for play space. Why the contradictory advice?”
• The maps “tell us of the existence of alternative play provision but at no point do they ever tell the size of the pieces or the size of the alternatives”.
• The planning conditions would be “a material consideration and weighed in the balance including the [Council’s] policy position. It would not determine the outcome".
• The Council “is not aware of seeing anywhere that a CIL contribution would not be appropriate for any particular…” - Councillor Francis found the appropriate statement among the 1,282 pages - “we would need to have a look at the existing level of provision of play space within the area but an initial examination suggests a sufficiency. The likelihood is that we wouldn’t seek any contribution because the provision is acceptable”.
• “The size of the sites 21 years ago was 0·88 Hectares and if we agree this tonight we will have sold off 0·33 Hectares." (This was Councillor Francis’ summary of detailed individual figures provided by the responsible Council officer.)
• “Given those planning permissions that exist and the figures in the growth strategy will this still comply with the guidance on the number of persons per hectare for open space in the local area?”
• There is an acknowledged flood risk. “It is in a Category 3 flood plain, the highest category. [The guidance says] it can only be built on if there is no alternative. Are we happy?”
• “The objections state that the open space was a requirement of the planning condition. Was it?”
• Are we happy with the advice regarding the loss of trees?
• What are the sizes of the open spaces [on the existing development]?
• “There is a footpath running through the park, Is it a public right of way?”
• Will the parking bays on the site be removed?
• “The calculations in the report are based on the amount of space left after disposal and the latest GLA projection for population growth. They are not based on the growth strategy. The growth strategy will look at what new open space will need to be put into the area.” The nonsense of that potential reversal of policy was not lost on the public in the gallery.
• “On the flood risk we are continuing with the advice which is in the report.”
• The third answer was “the same as given for Wilde Road". Planning conditions take second place “to the Council policy position”.
• Trees could be replaced “by planting in neighbouring parks”. (Much cynical laughter from the public gallery.)
• The north side of Riverside Gardens is 1·16 Hectares, the south side is 0·32 Hectares. Ocean Park is 0·3 Hectares. The part to be sold is 0·03 hectares.
• The Chairman indicated he was not familiar with the footpath because he had not visited the site but it would be “redirected” if necessary.
• Parking is a matter for the Planning Committee.
After seeing all his questions on Wilde Road and West Street batted away with answers that were barely good enough and sometimes ridiculous, Councillor Francis turned his attention To Old Farm Park. At least we discovered that planning conditions are not really worth the paper they were written on.
As with the last GP report, the quotations provided are extracted directly from the recording but some have redundant words removed. Where the question or answer has been condensed very considerably the quotation marks are omitted.
One Hectare is almost 12,000 square yards.