Saturday, 30 January 2016

When is a field not a field?

      When is a field not a field?

 Easy answer? When it has houses on it! 


Manor Road field


After watching the process of a planning appeal this week against Barrow Council's decision to turn down the development by Story Homes at Manor Road, I despair of local people ever having a voice. Don't get me wrong, the process is all very fair and the inspector diligent in ensuring all parties have a chance to put their cases. However, the rigidity of the process eliminates the chance to rebut certain aspects because it can be objected to in terms of "new" evidence. Of course it isn't new evidence, but it's classed as new because it hasn't been introduced in the mountains of files and paper  accrued since the screening stage of the debate. Our little protest group-who has been active since day one, said our piece, but  when trying to correct some blatant misinformation re the historic value of this little field, we were slapped down by the opposition flatly. Sadly, the objection was upheld and we were unable to correct this.

Naturally, the developer has appointed a costly barrister-who believe me is thorough and uncompromising-and good. The council have appointed a very competent young woman, and as good as she is, you can bet your life the council couldn't spend the same type of money that the developer has. So, we already have an unbalance. Allegedly.

Maybe the appeal will fail. So where does that leave us? Well-maybe the land owner and the developer will pack in then and there. After all, 38 houses -neither here nor there to a big company like Story Homes. However, There is a great deal at stake here-for a start the landowner allegedly stands to lose a huge sum; pension fund, self-interest-whats one paltry field? But let us examine... I am using barrister speak here... let us examine,the possibility that the 38 houses are merely a subterfuge, a test case, a blind. Maybe... other land owners are sitting waiting in the wings for payday too. Who knows? There are lots of fields round there and those don't have the annoyance of being part of a conservation area. These being adopted would finally urbanise the whole of Rating Lane up to and including Manor Farm and with some clever planning an enterprising speculative developer would sweep that site up and extend his greedy reach behind and beyond. Of course this is all in my fevered imagination... nothing more than a conspiracy theory... I am a writer after all. 

In our real world, it could never happen. After all the land is protected with being close to the abbey. Isn't it? But then with set backs, buffers and planting I'm sure any new builds in those locations would enhance and improve the scrappy fields. Let's face it-they are "urban edge" (whatever that means)-they have power lines and walls etc (watch out Lake District-you have pylons and power lines too). So the superior (definitely NOT standard houses-because they will have decorative roundels, gables and sandstone facing-and you KNOW Barrow is crying out for a better class of housing-because we all apparently live in slums) will improve all this field stuff! And of course-I am sure there are no landowners queuing up with their hands held out-most of them are guardians of the land and take care to conserve it for the future generations-don't they?

I'm glad we cleared that up! It would be unbearable if the future of our green fields, heritage and countryside was at risk from the highest bidder. It would be unthinkable that a massive, wealthy developer, who can fund litigation up to the highest level would be able to overcome extensive local opposition and even the council's rejection of their scheme wouldn't it? If the council win- surely the developer will cease - if its only for 38 houses-wouldn't be worth the while-they've made their point anyway? However, if it goes further- until they finally win-then one must wonder what comes next, because you can take a good bet that it won't stop at 38 houses... and if in the meantime if the council is bankrupted... well, hey... it's only Barrow!

But of course...none of this is true... is it? It's all in my imagination... isn't it? Oh... and put me down for the house that overlooks the abbey!

The blog has been amended to remove speculation about Sixth Form College-apparently this is not owned by the LA (Cumbria) and no plans are afoot to cease the use of the site for education despite amalgamation with another college. This was written as a speculative piece and I apologise for the inaccuracy of that comment. On the other hand, it is a great relief that this is so as it means further speculative development is less likely because of access; though of course not entirely impossible.

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