More Barratt Homes sharp practice highlighted in sham planning application.

Local resident Kevin Harborow, took a little time to look into some of claims made by Barratt Homes in the planning application.  Sadly, it took no time at all to expose more cynical sharp practice in the application.  I use the term “sharp practice”, because there are simply too many issues to class Barratt Homes as careless or incompetent.  Kevin sent his findings onto the Council as an objection to the application, and with Kevin’s kind permission I’ve reproduced his fascinating  letter below.  Check out the facts for yourself and you decide; cynical sharp practice or innocent carelessness and incompetence? 


Highways.

One of the most difficult areas of the application is that of the highways, and how the proposed development will affect the current, and projected road use in and around the greater Trentham area up to the year 2025, and hopefully beyond.

It is quite clear that the figures submitted on behalf of the applicant are totally incorrect, so much so that the Public Protection- Air Quality Officer was unable to provide any recommendations until accurate and representative traffic counts have been obtained. The report highlights selective and possible manipulation of data. The applicant’s data was submitted to show their outcomes in good light even though it showed a completely false picture. This was I believe a calculated and cynical act to try and force the application through to acceptance.

 Junction of Meadow Lane and Longton Road.

The last application to build on the land failed following appeal in 2000. One of the reasons given was the single road access and exit, even though plans were submitted to widen the junction and road by demolishing properties on Longton Road. The house build numbers applied for were approximately half of the current application.

I have seen a rudimentary drawing on the application showing how the immediate junction is planned. It is believed that the developers intend to take land from the garden of 243 Longton Road in order to make the junction wide enough to allow two exits and one entry lane in Meadow Lane. Without full drawing and measurements it is not possible to see whether or not the plan is in accordance with the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges.

If it is intended to take the land from 243 Longton Road, then there needs to be a planning application to change the use of land and incorporate it into the road system. There has been no notification of such an application being made. This should be a separate application from the planning application 57901/FUL. It will affect people who may have not thought they would be impacted by the development of houses some 500 meters away and this application should be accepted as a feasible option before any consideration can be given to the 57901/FUL application.

There is nothing in the plan to say how the lane approaching the junction would cope and at what point the three lanes become operative. I live approximately 70m from the junction. Do the proposals mean that vehicles will not be able to park on our part of Meadow Lane so that the additional traffic flow is maintained? What about deliveries, and visitors? What about the Bathroom Business at the end of Meadow Lane? How will they get vehicles in and out of their premises?  The answer to this question, is that there is no answer to the question. It is just not addressed in the application.

Many other roads on the estate are narrow, and not suitable for the heavy plant and construction traffic which the proposed development would bring for the 5 to 7 years that the development is expected to last.

This is totally unacceptable on many levels. The safety of our community is paramount. Pedestrians both adult and children need to be safe. The increased level of heavy vehicle road use would potentially jeopardise this safety.  The increased noise level from the construction traffic, pollutants from their engines, and dirt being brought onto the estate on their wheels both on their entry and exit would be intolerable.

The proposed development would attract at least 500 cars. This is borne out by the provision of over 500 car spaces within the plans. The existing road network is inadequate to support the additional number of vehicles. This is both on and off the estate. Over 300 houses have been approved off Stanley Matthews Way. Over 250 houses have been approved at the Wedgewood site, and when Screwfix is completed, 600 more workers will be employed. These factors, combined with the increase of heavy goods vehicles arriving and leaving the Screwfix site, will mean an exponential rise in traffic using the roads in Trentham, and in particular the Longton Road, which if the plans go ahead will have yet another set of traffics lights to make the road into what will become a car park.

Travel Plan

I understand that it is incumbent on developers to submit a sustainable travel plan for their proposed development, but this particular plan appears to me to be based on hopes and wishes, and has no evidence to support its assertions.

Its aim is strangely hidden away on the last page of the 35 page document at 11.1.3 and says that the aim of the Travel Plan is to “maximise the potential of achieving and maintaining the lowest level of single occupancy car trips made by residents while encouraging the highest level of sustainable and active travel on as many journeys made per household as possible”.

Nothing contained within the plan is evidence based.  It is merely a series of statements and wish lists about what in an ideal world the author would like to happen.

In this ideal world, car usage would be minimalised in order to reduce congestion, lower carbon emissions, and make the roads safer for all users. Walking and cycling and use of public transport would increase commensurate with the reduction in car use.

Whilst these sentiments should be applauded, in the world we know in 2015, particularly in this demographic, more cars are using the roads, walking is not increasing, neither is cycling, and the use of public transport seems to be only increasing amongst those who do not have to pay for its use.

One only has to look at the queues of cars outside our schools at the start and end of the day and the lack of available car parking spaces on the local Aldi supermarket again particularly around the school start and end times.

Building a new housing estate on an already overcrowded single access road network with no addition entry or egress points will only increase car usage which is totally at odds with the aim of the Travel Plan as highlighted above.

If we look at the walking option, although it might be deemed acceptable to walk 1 kilometre to school, you ask a parent with a 5 year old, and a baby in a pushchair if walking that distance to take their child to school is acceptable particularly in inclement weather? You don’t need a PhD to guess the response.

That is of course if the school in question had the available capacity to accommodate the child. Certainly the school at Ash Green which would be in or around the acceptable 1 kilometre is full to capacity.

Cycling

The report makes much of the residential nature of Meadow Lane at 4.3.5. What it fails to recognise is that if the proposal goes ahead, the volume of traffic will be such that Meadow Lane will certainly never be able to be classed as good conditions for cycling.

I see many current child residents who cycle to school. I have never once seen one of them actually wait at the end of Meadow Lane to turn into Longton road to use the so called cycle routes. They all without exception ride on the pavement, over the canal bridge and then down the very narrow pavement that is below road level, causing a danger to not only pedestrians but themselves.

Just imagine a classroom of cyclists unable or not willing to wait at the newly installed traffic lights controlling the traffic at the junction with Meadow Lane and Longton Road, riding onto the pavement, and having to jostle for position with the hoards of new child pedestrians using the narrow footpath to make their way to school. I don’t think the NHS would cope with the aftermath!

As we talk about the so-called On Road Cycle Lanes on Longton and Trentham Roads, I feel it is important to say that these lanes are totally unfit for purpose. If you have never used them, as I suspect the author of the report hasn’t, then these lanes go for a short length of time then just fizzle out. The lanes in question are merely part of the road separated from the main carriageway by a white line. When they fizzle out the white line stops and the cycle lane is no more until it is reinstated some distance away, when road conditions favourable to the motorist, allow. If these cycle lanes are to be part of the mainstay of the Travel Plan, then heaven help those using them.

The local bus service is completely inadequate to even include in a “sustainable transport plan”.

It is stated that from the middle of the planned development it is an 11 minute walk to the nearest bus stop. What about from the far end of the development? How long does it take to walk to The Man in Space, or The Lea, where the Hanley bus leaves from and to? If you want to use the bus service on a Sunday then you have 3 to choose from. Not 3 services, but 3 buses. Now that is a service to stop all of these car journeys!

I have seen nothing in this travel plan to show that the new residents would be incentivised to not use their vehicles. It is all pie in the sky, probably dreamt up whilst doing some “Blue Sky Thinking”. It is not backed by any evidence, but with many fine and ideological words and phrases. It is a piece of politically correct gobbledegook, that is unfortunately totally unachievable.

As an aside, if the ideal of the developers Travel Plan is to reduce the number of vehicles using the already over crowded Meadow Lane, and its surrounds, why isn’t this plan rolled out to the current 373 households already on the Meadow Lane/Chessington Crescent Estate?

If this plan is to be afforded any credibility, then I would like to see evidence about similar plans for similar sized and located developments and their results in achieving the aims. Now that would make interesting reading.

Transport Assessment Report

This document contains much of the manipulated data, which has been discredited by not only resident objectors, but by an independent expert, and the City Councils own Public Protection- Air Quality Officer, and Highways department.

Much of the information in the document is contradictory. At 2.2.3 it states that approximately 500m to the south is the A5035 Longton Road, and yet elsewhere in the document it says the junction is approximately 470m. It says that the speed limit for the A5035 Longton Road is 40mph when it is actually 30mph. It says that cycle parking throughout the development will be provided in line with STCC’s parking standards. The STCC Urban Design & Conservation Team have stated in their consultation that “There appears to be little space for bicycle storage”.

The document extols the virtues of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) only in the area of that framework which it perceives to be beneficial to the application.

It says “At the heart of the NPPF is a presumption in favour of sustainable development”. So what exactly is Sustainable Development? The concept of sustainable development can be interpreted in many different ways, but at its core is an approach to development that looks to balance different, and often competing, needs against an awareness of the environmental, social and economic limitations we face as a society. Poor planning of communities reduces the quality of life for the people who live in them.   Instead of driving, switching to walking or cycling for short journeys will save money, improve health and is often just as quick and convenient. The use of public transport also reduces the reliance on driving.

So why is this proposed development absolutely not a “Sustainable Development”. That’s because its in the wrong place. It is too far away from local facilities, making car journeys inevitable.  The existing people living in the community, and the new ones would be subjected to intolerable delays at the unworkable signalled road junction which is proposed, not to mention the increased pollution from all areas which I have previously mentioned.  The demands on local facilities and services would be over capacity, and the infrastructure would not cope with the additional population.

The bus services that are descried as regular, are just that. They may be regular, but they are certainly not frequent, and three buses on a Sunday will definitely stop those unwanted car journeys.

The document talks about the distance from the centre of the site being 950m to the nearest bus stop on Longton road but with a footbridge it’s 400m to the bus stop in Pacific Road. The idea of a footbridge is dead and buried according to the developers. This is just another example of trying to manipulate the facts by putting in false or irrelevant information.

What is refreshing is the acknowledgement that the distance to Trentham High School is over 1.5km which they consider too far to walk, and consider that people would use other forms of transport. We all know that this means motor vehicles. This applies equally to the Aldi Supermarket and Dr’s Surgery in Brinsley Ave which according to their figures are all over 1.5km from the site.

The report quotes Paragraph 32 of the NPPF.

My reply to the bullet points in this paragraph are:-

  • The opportunities for sustainable transport modes cannot be taken up, because it is in the wrong place, and too far away from the facilities to encourage residents to walk, cycle, or use public transport.
  • The access is certainly not safe, and the use of the signalled junction will make it less so. Walkers and cyclists will be put at additional risk because of the 5-7 year development, and rise in vehicular traffic.
  • Improvements cannot be undertaken to limit the impact unless a new road was put in which would immediately take all the additional strain from the Meadow Lane junction and surrounding roads.

I find it most arrogant of the report when it says ” It is clear from the above that there is no imperative to alleviate all highway impacts of a development where solutions are not cost effective, particularly where development is located such that sustainable transport is a viable and attractive option for travel.” What they are actually saying is “We are prepared to create a problem, but not prepared to solve it.” They have acknowledged that sustainable transport is not a viable option when travelling to Aldi, Trentham High, and the Dr’s Surgery. Like most things in this document, they manipulate the data, and facts to suit their agenda.

Not wanting to repeat myself, but yet again at Section 5 they talk about Sustainable Transport.

As mentioned above they acknowledge that walking 1.5km is not an option. But then point to facilities within 2km walking distance.!

The document makes no mention of the NPPF paragraphs 58 & 64 to describe the negative effect it will have on the quality of the area, as so eloquently set out by the Urban Design & Conservation Team report. Neither does it mention the NPPF paragraph 11 Conserving and enhancing the natural environment which again is well documented in the report from Heritage, Design and Ecology. Many of the consultation documents which have been submitted, lists items of guidance in the NPPF which have not been adhered to by the application.

In short having read this document I will reiterate that it is not more or no less than a cynical attempt to selectively use the NPPF to brow beat the LPA to grant the application. There is so much wrong with the application that the LPA will have no choice but to reject it.


Ecological Assessment

An Ecological Assessment carried out by TEP in April 2014, forms part of the application. This assessment made several recommendations. The TEP report recommended that due to the number of features present which could support roosting bats and the good foraging and commuting habitat bordering the site to the east and west, further surveys are recommended in the form of bat transect surveys. It is recommended that three transect surveys are undertaken, one in spring, one in summer and one in autumn. These will determine the level of bat activity on site and identify if any further specific survey is required. In addition it will determine if any enhancement or mitigation measures are required within the final design.

Bat Survey

A Bat Survey including Assessment of Trees forms part of the application. This was carried out by ERAP on 20th August 2014. The survey report presents the result of a daylight assessment of the suitability of the trees and other features for the use of roosting bats on the land. The daylight survey was followed by nocturnal emergence and bat activity transect surveys.  Throughout the bat report ERAP continually point out how their practices are in accordance with the Bat Survey – Good Practice Guidelines 2nd Edition (Hundt), 2012.

The nocturnal emergence survey commenced at 2010 hrs and ended at 2120 hrs a total duration of 1 hour 20 minutes. The activity transect survey commenced at 2120 hrs and ended at 2220 hrs a total duration of 1 hour.

The ERAP Surveyors concluded that all of the trees present were classified as Category 2 or less with tree T6 having been downgraded from Category 1 because of the lack of bat emergence during the dusk emergence survey. The tree categories are fully explained in the report at Table 2.1., and Table 8.4 of the Bat Survey – Good Practice Guidelines 2nd Edition (Hundt), 2012.

It is important to note that the dusk emergence survey lasted a total of 1 hour and 10 minutes on one occasion. This lasted from 2010 hrs to 2120 hrs. Sunset was at 2026 hrs so the total time spent after sunset on the emergence survey was 54 minutes.

A bat of the Myotis species was recorded at tree T6 at 2113-2114 hrs. No emergence was seen, and it was therefore concluded that this bat entered the area from a wider area! The emergence study concluded at 2120 hrs, so it is possible that further bats of the Myotis species could have emerged from the same tree T6 up to 2136 hrs, which was 16 minutes after the survey was concluded. It is important to note that tree T6 is planned to be felled, and as mentioned above was originally designated as category 1 because of suitability for use by roosting bats.

At table 4.1 of the Bat Survey – Good Practice Guidelines 2nd Edition (Hundt), 2012. it says that bats of the Myotis species emerge from their roosts between 30 and 70 minutes after sunset, depending on which exact type of Myotis. The exact type was not recorded in the report so I presume it couldn’t be specifically identified. The Bechstein’s and Daubenton’s bats are both of the Myotis species and are both identified in the guidance to emerge up to 60 minutes from sunset. The Natters Bat again of the Myotis species emerges up to 70 minutes from sunset, so either of these specific species could have emerged from the Category 1 tree T6 during the period that was not being observed as the dusk emergence survey finished at 2120 hrs some six and sixteen minutes premature respectively.

Table 7.1 of the Bat Survey – Good Practice Guidelines 2nd Edition (Hundt), 2012. sets out the start time and length of transect surveys. This should be 15 minutes before sunset, and last for 2 to 3 hours.

Table 7.2 of the Bat Survey – Good Practice Guidelines 2nd Edition (Hundt), 2012. sets out the guidance for the Minimum recommended visit frequency and timing for activity surveys. If the land in question is classed as Low habitat quality then the scale of the site i.e. Medium sized sites requires one visit per transect each season. (spring, summer and autumn) That’s a total of 3 visits as originally recommended by the TEP Ecological Assessment as mentioned above.

Table 8.1 of the Bat Survey – Good Practice Guidelines 2nd Edition (Hundt), 2012. shows that all of the bats of the Myotis species that had the potential :-
i)          to have been on the site during the study and
ii)         to have emerged after the survey was completed,
roost in tree cavities and could easily have used tree T6.

Table 8.5 of the Bat Survey – Good Practice Guidelines 2nd Edition (Hundt), 2012 sets out the minimum number of presence/absence survey visits required to provide confidence in negative preliminary roost assessment results from buildings, built structures and trees in summer. Tree T6 was original classified as having high roost potential by the surveyors from ERAP. In this instance the guidance recommends 3 dusk emergence and/or pre-dawn re-entry surveys during May to September.  Even low to moderate roost potential which the category 2 trees would fall into should have 2 dusk emergence and/or pre-dawn re-entry surveys during May to September.
It is quite apparent that the Bat survey has not been carried out in accordance with standard survey guidance (Hundt, 2012) as ERAP allege at A iii of their report.
Quite clearly a minimum of 3 emergence and transect surveys should have been carried out at the site. Additionally the time on site for the one transect survey that was carried out was totally flawed. According to the guidance it should have started 15 minutes before sunset and lasted for between 2 and 3 hours. The actual survey stated 54 minutes after sunset, and lasted for 1 hour.

The identification of the Myotis species bat near to tree T6 between 2113 hrs and 2114 hrs should have rang alarm bells as the time of this sighting was well within the time scale for bats of this type to leave their roosts at dusk. It was sighted 48 minutes after sunset, for 1 minute. The survey ended 5 minutes later. It is therefore possible that further bats of the same species could have been seen emerging from T6 because there was a 16 minute study gap when the bats could have emerged.

This study and report supplied by ERAP and submitted with the application is quite clearly inadequate to support the application as required by the NPPF and recommended by TEP in their report. The conclusion the report draws are inaccurate because the data which they rely on is totally incomplete as highlighted above.

The LPA have a duty to give consideration to the three derogation tests as set out in the High Court Judgement Woolley v Cheshire East Borough Council. This is not possible without a full and complete bat survey.

The bat survey report produced by ERAP and submitted with the application is not fit for purpose, and should be discounted. A new survey which is this time in accordance with the Bat Survey – Good Practice Guidelines 2nd Edition (Hundt), 2012 should be required from the applicant so that the LPA can ensure that it complies with all of the necessary policy, law, and guidance, and informs them accurately of the situation on the land in respect of these important protected species.


Education

The planning statement submitted by PBA at 2.5 talks about the available education establishments which are in close proximity to the site. Of those mentioned in the report, with the exception of Ash Green, all of the others are outside the preferred maximum walking distance of 2000m as set out in the guideline ” Providing for Journeys on Foot”. This guideline is often quoted throughout various documents in the application, however in this pivotal document there are no mention of the guidelines, with the distances merely described as quite close. Quite close to what I am not sure, however they are certainly not quite close and in acceptable walking distance of the proposed development.

The Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) which is part of the application submitted by HardHat, claims that Governors and Head of Academy at Sutherland Primary Academy have welcomed the proposals as they believe development in this location may lead to extra pupils.  This is a completely untrue statement. I have personally made contact with the Head of the Sutherland Academy. His reply to the claim made in the application was:-

” I have spoken to the Trustees of our academy and we have not officially, or indeed      unofficially to the best of our knowledge, stated that we welcome any of the planned   developments within the immediate or wider locality.  Our stance is neutral.  As an         academy we do not currently have many spare places available to new children and my           understanding is that this is also the position of other local schools and academies.”

This statement was one of 4 in the summary of community consultation in Section 5 of the SCI which gave the impression that at least a quarter of the respondents to the consultation welcomed the proposal. That was quite false. Not only was it false but it was a blatant misrepresentation of the true facts. The Sutherland Academy Head, nor any of its Trustees had not offered any support for the proposals. The fact that this was misrepresented in this way is bordering on fraudulent.

The comments by Mr Barrie Morgan on behalf of SOTCC Education, sums up the availability of school places in the area where he says “this development will mean more school places are required in the area”.  The available school places are to capacity and the additional burden of 276 more house would not be catered for within the existing local school network.

The PBA Planning statement lists three good nurseries within approximately 2 km of the application site. Langtree Hall Children’s Nursery (0.7km) Wood Fold Fledglings Pre-School (1.5km) and Mrs Ogden’s Academic Day Nursery (1.9km). It is interesting to note that all of these three nurseries are no where near Stoke on Trent. They are all in and around the Standish area of Wigan Lancashire, and are 93.3km, 91.2km and 92.4km from the proposed site!

How can they get such important issues on the application so wrong?


Public Consultation

The first the residents of Trentham knew about the proposal was in September 2014, when a Company called HardHat who describe themselves as “a specialist property communications consultancy”, were fronting a presentation to explain the proposals for the construction of 266 houses on the green grazing land at the end of Meadow Lane/Chessington Crescent, Trentham Stoke on Trent.

As part of the Application process a Document entitled Statement of Community Involvement (SCI), Barratt Homes, and dated October 2014 was submitted. At para 1.1 it points out that ” This Statement of Community Involvement forms part of the planning application being submitted by Barratt Homes for 276 new family homes on land to the north of Meadow Lane/Chessington Crescent, Trentham.” (That is an extra 10 homes in addition to the original proposals)

This is clearly not the truth. This application was not submitted by Barratt Homes, as the application was submitted by Mr Kenton Whitaker on behalf of his Company Ascalon Properties, who according to their website own the land.

At para 1.3 it says that Barratt Homes has complied with the requirements of the Localism Act 2011 and Guidance contained within the National Planning Policy Framework. As Barratt Homes are not the Applicant, then they have no obligation to comply with either of these two requirements.

The Localism Act 2011 amends the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 at Section 61W, and puts the onus on the person making the application to carry out the consultation. Clearly in this instance, the person making the application, and the organisation who commissioned the consultation are not the same, and Ascalon Properties have clearly not complied with the Localism Act 2011.

Section 62 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as amended by the Localism Act 2011 explains how the results of the consultation should be included in the “Relevant Application”, and what account has been taken of the issues raised (Section 62 (80 (b)(c)).

Quite clearly the documents submitted, even if submitted by the applicant on behalf of Ascalon Properties, are insufficient to satisfy the legislation.

What is submitted at Part 4 and Part 5 of the report is a small part of the issues that were raised at the consultation presentation and subsequent feedback. Additionally there is nothing in the Application Documents that set out how the issues raised have been taken account of and considered as required in Section 62(8)(c) of the Act.

These omissions which include :-

  1. Overlooking/loss of privacy
  2. Loss of light or overshadowing
  3. Parking
  4. Highway safety
  5. Traffic
  6. Effect on conservation area
  7. Layout and density of building
  8. Design, appearance and materials
  9. Government policy
  10. Disabled persons access
  11. Proposals in the development Plan
  12. Previous planning decisions
  13. Nature Conservation

were not even mentioned in the SCI report. The only apparent support which was included in the report was from the Sutherland Academy, which as I pointed out above has found to be a complete fabrication and possibly fraudulent.

The comments in Parts 6 and 7 of the report are at best misleading, and at worst simply not true.

The website www.meadow-lane.com although still live has not been updated as the document alludes to.

There is nothing published on the website to say that any of the feedback had been taken account of, and in particular residents were not kept informed until the Application was submitted. Although the website remains live, nothing has been added since the day it went live, shortly after the September consultation. It still says in fact on the 12th February 2015 “that no application has yet been submitted to the Council and the plans are still in the early stages.”

This whole area of the total lack of recognition of the Community feedback, and their genuine thoughts, knowledge and truly held beliefs, and the fraudulent additions to it, are indicative of the way the developers whether it be Ascalon Properties, or Barratt Homes, are prepared to lie, and cheat in order to have the application accepted.

Without a full and frank and honest disclosure of the feedback/issues received and details of how account has been taken of these issues, then according to the Act the application is invalid.


Conclusions

At the time of writing, the objects to this proposal are mounting.  The list of objectors include:-

  • Trent and Mersey Canal Society
  • Inland Waterways Association
  • Design and Conservation Team
  • Heritage & Design – Ecology
  • Transport Network Services- Highway Structures-Surface Water Management
  • Environment Agency
  • Highways
  • Heritage & Design – Ecology

that’s not to forget the hundreds of local resident in and around the current Meadow Lane estate and other interested parties including the local Member of Parliament.

Much of the application that has been submitted contains data, and information, that purport to be fact, but on close examination is found to be at best inaccurate, and at worst a complete lie. Some of the application contains data and information that is just a complete lie.

The application has been submitted by Ascalon Properties, yet they are not mentioned on the Statement of Community Involvement documents as being interested parties. To the contrary Barratt’s themselves are mentioned as the applicants.

Many aspects of the guidance in the NPPF has not been followed, nor has the Core Spatial Strategy, and this development is just not sustainable on any level.

Many of the studies and reports suggested in various application documents have not been completed satisfactory, if at all.  Much of this work is required to make the actions of both the developers and the SOTCC lawful (Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.)

I would urge you to take all of the issues I have mentioned together with the issues raised by the consultees and other interested parties, and to recommend that the application be REJECTED.

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