MONSTROUS WIND TURBINE
- Wind Turbines
- Rochdale Canal
- Durn Apartments (Green Brothers' Vehicle Dismantling Site)
- Further Planning Decisions
MONSTROUS WIND TURBINE
We were very sad recently to learn of Peter Jackson's passing. Over the years Peter has been a strong supporter of our work locally in the Littleborough Civic Trust and was, for many of those years, our Treasurer.
It's important to record that the Civic Trust was not the only voluntary group to benefit from Peter's assistance and support.
Peter gave of his time generously and I personally valued his help and advice when faced unexpectedly with the task of preparing a financial statement for a Regional Association of Civic Societies in Yorkshire and The Humber.
Despite a heart problem that made a serious impact on his life in recent years, Peter lived with the condition and in what he tackled in public did not allow it to have a negative effect on his life.
Peter's advice was clear, concise and positive, particularly valued because he was prepared to explain why things had to be done "according to the book". From what I have written so far it will be no surprise why I found Peter a good friend, generous, helpful and good tempered.
Our thoughts go out to Barbara and family. Many others locally will miss Peter's cheerful support and encouragement. Thank you Peter for all that you have done for us.
Don Pickis, Chairman
26th February 2007
A study on the effects of the planning system on the UK economy by 'think tank' the Policy Exchange (www.policyexchange.org.uk) calls for an end to the tough planning rules that for decades have saved the countryside around London and other conurbations.
The most controversial suggestion in the report is that Green Belt land which for decades has protected fields and open space around towns and cities should be abolished.
Best Laid Plans: How Planning Prevents Economic Growth follows three previous publications in which the report's authors Alan Evans and Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich, have shown that most of the problems with the housing market - low supply, high prices, overcrowding - can be attributed to the planning system.
They conclude that the main objective of planning has been to limit the spatial extent of cities and that this artificial reduction of land supply has severe consequences for society, the environment and the economy.
Dr Hartwich speaking ahead of the report's launch said: "Political support for the policy of constraint is based on an exaggerated view of the degree of urbanisation in the United Kingdom: it is actually only about 10% urbanised. Germany for example, has a comparable population density but uses a higher percentage of land for development than the United Kingdom.
"The planning system in the United Kingdom has been intended to restrict physical development, reducing economic growth as a result.
"In particular, Labour have made it a matter of policy that 60% of any new housing should be built on so called 'brownfield' sites. This policy depends on, and results in, both high house prices and higher land prices"
The report's recommendations about green belt land echo those made by the economist Kate Barker last year when the Chancellor and the Deputy Prime Minister commissioned her to look at ways of tackling the shortage in housing supply and promoting economic growth.
She argued that developing currently protected land around cities would be less environmentally damaging than building elsewhere because people would have less distance to travel to work. But whereas the Barker report suggested that Green Belt policies should merely be reviewed, the Policy Exchange report goes further, saying that the national green belt policy should be abolished and decisions over the use of current green belt land should be handed down to local authorities.
However, given recent decisions by Rochdale MBC's planners concerning, for example, the Durn apartments, where their interpretations of proposed developments tended to favour the developers over local objections makes us very sceptical over handing the local authority further powers over precious green land.
However, the Policy Exchange report argues that additional housing needs could be satisfied by only giving up a tiny share of the green belt, and maybe even that would be unnecessary if the land that was set aside under agricultural policies (around 5 per cent of the total land) was used first.
The report's authors also suggest the introduction of a 'social cost tariff' forcing developers to compensate communities for the loss of undeveloped green land. This has echoes of the concept of 'Planning Gain', whereby the local authority can ask a developer to fund some item related to a development such as improvements in transport or other local services. We hope that SCT, if it is ever implemented, would provide more benefit to the community than Planning Gain appears to be doing so far.
Commenting on the report, Shadow Secretary of State for Local Government & Communities Caroline Spelman said: "Over the last fifty years, the Green Belt has been invaluable in protecting against urban sprawl and maintaining a green lung around our towns and cities.
"Yet I am very concerned that the Green Belt is now under a sustained assault from Gordon Brown and big business who want to cover it in concrete. Abandoning national Green Belt protection would open the way to environmental destruction on an unprecedented and unsustainable scale."
A group of local residents, the Friends of the South Pennines, has been formed to fight the wind 'farm' proposed for Crook Hill. Coronation Power have applied for planning permission to build 12 wind turbines on the hill, between Calderbrook and Wardle. At over 400 feet tall, these machines would be more than twice the height of Rochdale Town Hall's clocktower.
In a leaflet circulated to the people potentially most affected by the proposal, the group says "We have seriously considered all the arguments for windpower and we are in no doubt that wind turbines, built on land, produce very little electrical power, despite what their supporters claim. Take, for example, the wind turbine site at Coal Clough, near Cliveger, clearly visible from Blackstone Edge. The Renewable Energy Foundation (www.ref.org.uk) has data going back to April 2004 for this site showing that its average efficiency is just 24.6% of its stated capacity."
Also, as pointed out by Iain Gerrard in the last Newsletter, much of the power of any wind turbine is produced at times when it isn't needed, and surplus power cannot be stored.
There are clearly potential adverse effects on our environment, landscape and recreational open spaces if the wind "farm" is built, but one of the group's major concerns is the impact of the construction phase on Littleborough and its residents, particulary those in the Whitelees Road/ Calderbrook Road area. As Rosemary Jones points out in her letter in this issue, heavy construction vehicles will have to pass through this area, taking construction materials and turbines onto the moors and taking away tons of spoil. Friends of the South Pennines estimates 120 transport movements a day past St. Mary's Roman Catholic Primary School, the Fire Station, and on up through the restricted bends to the Trout Farm and St. James Church, with implications for people's safety, for noise, pollution, damage, and traffic disruption.
Despite all this disruption, little of value would be brought to the community. Virtually no local jobs would be created during construction, while completed windfarms provide no permanent jobs, merely needing periodic routine maintenance.
The group is urging people opposed to the development to join them in making objections to Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council's Planning Department or writing to our Member of Parliament Paul Rowen or one of the local councillors.
For further information on Friends of the South Pennines, contact Chris Edwards – firstname.lastname@example.org
The article last month by me and the notes in this month's edition more or less say it all. I can only add that there is now a campaign growing quickly to forestall the proposals for the re-applications for Crook Hill, Reaps Moss and Todmorden Moor. I say re-application because although the Todmorden Moor proposal is a new one the other two are the same as the Great Hill and Hogshead Law Hill applications of a few years ago which were decisively defeated. It somehow seems unfair that we should have to fight all over again for the same pieces of land and against our own government which is using taxpayers' money against us.
As stated in the article above, a new group has been formed, called The Friends of the South Pennines, to fight these intrusive proposals. The basic intentions of the group is not just to combat the present applications but to maintain and preserve the South Pennines from any and all destructive ideas, now and in the future.
It will soon have its own website which will probably go under the URL of www.friendsofthesouthpennines.org.uk. When it is up and running I'll put a link to it from our own website.
It was our belief that DEFRA had given in to pressure from various groups and MPs, including our own, Paul Rowen, and had removed its threat to reduce the grant-in-aid to British Waterways. Unhappily this is not the case at all.
I was only made aware of this very recently and had to do some research to convince myself that we had got it wrong. It is clear from the Inland Waterways Association website that DEFRA is incapable of assessing the damage it is inflicting on British Waterways by its arbitrary actions. It was intended that there would in total be three cuts in funding over the last year 2006 - 2007. The first, amounting to a reduction in grant–in–aid of 5% was made in March on the 'rocking point' between one financial year and the next. This allowed DEFRA in a mealy-mouthed way to pretend that that cut did not take place in the current year, but clearly at that late stage it could only affect the coming year's funding. The second, amounting to 7.5% took place in the summer and, as we have said before, was directly attributable to the mess DEFRA had made of distributing grants to farmers resulting in a huge fine from the European Union. The third, amounting to a further 2.5%, but never made because of the protests over the second cut, is the reason for the confusion. Outside of British Waterways few even knew of this third threat to funding and, when it didn't occur, and it was trumpeted as a U–turn by DEFRA it left us with the impression that we had succeeded in persuading DEFRA not to continue with its ridiculous and ill'thought'out decision concerning the summer cut.
So, we are back to square one, with all that means in terms of British Waterways being left with insufficient funding to maintain its canals. This is particularly so in the case of "our" canal, the Rochdale, because of its poor condition in many areas. It is in need of further works in order to provide a safe and working canal which, although estimates vary, will probably cost in the millions of pounds.
As I said in the last issue, however, that alone would not completely open the way forward for a properly funded maintenance programme for the Rochdale Canal. Water from a reliable source is needed to allow the use of the canal in a realistic and sustainable manner. British Waterways are doing little, if anything, to obtain this. Even if they did manage to get water they would be faced with the undoubted problems associated with increased use by boaters and the legacy of old, unreliable and sometimes dangerous locks and mechanisms.
If Littleborough, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Rochdale are to make anything of their desire to attract tourists to the area of the South Pennines the need for the canal is paramount.
It was regrettably necessary to attend the Planning meeting which considered this application despite having sent in a long letter of objection and despite a great amount of concern expressed by the Durn residents themselves. The Planners had once again recommended that the application be approved.
We spoke to the Planning Subcommittee on behalf of the Littleborough Civic Trust and the Durn Residents giving all the facts as we saw them and pointing out that there were numerous 'opinions' included in the Planners report. The Committee gave us their full attention and allowed us to complete our points even though we overran the usual allotted time of five minutes by a further four minutes.
Following this many of the Committee gave us their backing and all voted against the application.
The reasons for refusal were too great a density, too many storeys in height and inappropriate use of materials coupled with the position on the edge of the green belt and the concern over obstructed views of the countryside. Just the points we have been making and the points the planning department has been ignoring or even promoting the opposite view.
We do not wish to get at &39;loggerheads&39; with the Planning Department, but if they continue to favour applications which are demonstrably bad for the area and demonstrably bad planning, we feel we are left in an invidious position. We simply cannot carry on letting housing application after housing application go through. The planners appear to be living in a different country to ours, let alone a different part of town.
They simply can not be experiencing the daily traffic jams which are rapidly becoming an unavoidable part of life for Littleborough, or if they are they can not believe it has anything to do with them and their decisions. What on Earth are we paying for? These officers may wish to be 'objective' in their decisions (I would dispute this on the present evidence) but where they lead to bad planning i.e. dormitory towns, which by their very nature are sterile places to live, they must stand accused of being unable to carry out their proper functions on behalf of the Rochdale Borough and Littleborough in particular.
Following on the above it was expected that there might be some indication of a change in attitude towards future building proposals, but no. There have been two other applications at Stubley Mill Road and Charles Street, both very similar in nature, although not related in any way.
We hoped that our letters on both would be taken more seriously into account because the points of objection were almost identical: too great a density based on government recommendations and too tall at three storeys in height as no adjacent properties were more than two.
We can play with figures all day and there is always a great danger when relying on statistical evidence that the real planning considerations get lost. Nevertheless with the government recommendations for density of dwellings for new buildings at 30 - 50 per hectare and the Durn development having been turned down with a proposed density of 71, these two with densities of 107 and 120 were recommended by the Planning Department for approval and, more disturbingly, the Planning Subcommittee went along with this!
These were worrying decisions as they indicated an inability to control bad developments which would have a deleterious effect on Littleborough.
We were unable to attend the particular Planning meeting which considered these applications but had we done so it appears we would have been wasting our time.
Although the reasons for the approval of these applications are not straightforward, they appear to hinge upon a previously unknown Government planning guideline, which was explained by Lynne Schofield (the new Pennines Planning Officer) during site visits by the Councillors prior to the actual planning meeting.
Apparently, if a proposed development is in a town centre area and there is easy access to public transport (the application meets this criteria at Charles Street and Stubley Mill Road but not at Durn albeit the distance from the railway station is almost the same), then the 'normal' density level can be exceeded especially where existing properties already exceed it. (This is the case at Charles Street and at Stubley Mill Road). This means as far as we can tell that the quality and ability of the public transport to carry all these 'extra' passengers is irrelevant. It also appears to mean that where densities are already excessive, due to buildings being old and built prior to a time when matters such as overlooking, privacy and space around them were considered to be important, it's OK to worsen the situation.
How logical is that? Where's the good planning in that?
It was felt extremely unlikely that a Planning Inspector would on appeal uphold a decision to reject the two applications in the town centre area on planning grounds.
We have been reminded that a basic principal underlying all planning law is that anyone has the right to develop their land as they see fit unless they overstep a planning law. In our crowded country, where more of us are rubbing shoulders with each other than ever before, this is a principal in need of absolute change to one that starts with the precept that no one has the right to inflict their wishes on others willy-nilly without agreement.
The fact that these are apartment blocks, which will either appeal to itinerant workers who are not likely to stay in them for long and are likely to be commuting to work and for other purposes or, should couples take them, are fundamentally unsuitable for raising families in them, adds to our dormitory town status.
If someone can explain to us how any of this can be good planning we would like to hear from them, not least from the planners themselves!
Iain S Gerrard
From Councillor Rosemary Jones
Having suffered this winter from coughs and colds and things (I must get a flu jab in the Autumn!) I decided to use my inactivity by catching up on some reading – one item being the Civic Trust Winter Newsletter; although I must say I always read and enjoy these editions whatever my health.
So, here are some comments on previous articles:
Unlike the Secretary, I attended the exhibition arranged by Coronation Power at the Coach House and spent some considerable time not only looking at the pictures and maps but asking questions and formulating opinions. I am not against renewable energy, be it solar panels, photovoltaic cells or wind power and I confess to preferring by far my Scandinavian Wood Burning Stove to my gas central heating. The proposals by Coronation Power to place 13 or 14 wind turbines across the Local Authority borders of Calderdale and Rochdale Borough (i.e. Littleborough) is an "interesting" scheme. Did they think that if one Local Authority Planning Committee refused permission, the other one might approve? I decided, however to leave the highly technical considerations to the more learned and qualified in our community and ask about the construction of these modern day windmills. Where would the equipment come from, what route would the vehicles travel from the M62 to our moorland, how long would the construction take, etc? The map showed me that these huge 80 tonne wagons would come along Albert Royds Street to the A58 and straight along there to Whitelees Road (always assuming they could manoeuvre along our recently reduced road widths, bollards, etc!). The vehicles would leave the A58 and proceed along Whitelees Road to Calderbrook Road and Higher Calderbrook to Crook Moor.
Now my memory is not what it used to be, but waves of horror swept over me as I imagined 40 vehicles per day for nine months travelling this route (I think those were the figures). What impact would these vehicles have upon our already sensitive road surfaces? What would they do to our terraced cottages built in the 18th or 19th Centuries whose front doors abut the footway and would be therefore only about three metres from the wheels of these giants and, as I pointed out to the surveyors, they would pass at least two primary schools on route. The impact upon the families in our small community would be phenomenal.
Well, I'm not on the Planning Committee, so I am allowed to express an opinion and also to work quietly behind the scenes regarding other sites - Ealees, Akzo Nobel, Durn.
A more pleasing item of news revolved around Littleborough Station and Littleborough Historical and Archaeological Society. I was really sorry to miss the October meetings, but my interest in the Littleborough Station and work involving easy access is, I think, known to all. Recent vandalism, (Rochdale Observer, Saturday, 6 December) yet again prompts me to applaud and support proposals outlined in the magazine but also to remind Groups about the Pennines Township Grants Committee. Applications for grants that benefit the community are always welcome. The next meeting and final one for this Municipal Year is on 14 February and applications must be received one month before the meeting.
A brief comment about our shops: I confess that if I finish work quite late at the Town Hall and need some shopping I go to Asda, but I try and shop locally whenever possible and I often walk from home to and from the village. Our fresh produce, eggs, meat, vegetables, etc is second to none and items unobtainable in Rochdale Town can be found in Littleborough, e.g. jam pot covers! Coffee at the Coach House is a welcome break before the uphill struggle to Petts Crescent.
I have touched upon the problems of vandalism and would like to say that I have been negotiating for several months for a "Drop–in Centre" for youths in our village. This needs careful planning, appropriate insurance provision and several able–bodied and willing volunteers. Anyone interested in this project please contact me.
Finally, if it is not too late, may I wish the Committee and members of Littleborough Civic Trust a very happy, peaceful and healthy 2007.
Are you happy about the place where you live? Do you like the latest developments that are taking place? Two canalside beauties are planned at Durn and Ealees which are not a patch an the older, handsome stone buildings around or even the warehouses built to hold the goods carried on the canal. They might just as well be in the middle of the Sahara. Night clubs, huge hotels, giant pubs and yet more houses? What are they to do with our historic, attractive canal?
And how about the threats to our Urban Commons? Did you see the devastation caused by the start of putting 26 wind turbines on Scout Moor and read Richard Catlow's warning in the Rochdale Observer of Saturday 3rd February that this is only the tip of the iceberg? Crook Hill, Reaps Moss, Todmorden Moor and Denshaw are now threatened with similar destruction, despite the fact that applications for the first two sites, originally described as Great Hill and Hogshead Law, were turned down several years ago.
Are you happy with the latest plans to swamp Shawclough under yet another housing estate, once again where our health could be endangered by Turner Brother's tipped asbestos? Do you want the Healey Dell Nature Reserve disfigured with modern housing – or the green fields at Rainshore and Greenbooth, Norden? Pull the ugly, contaminated mill buildings down by all means, but let's have some breathing space, some air and light instead of more and more superfluous, unaffordable housing developments just adding to the environmental damage.
It's not just our local planners who have lost the plot. This government seems hell bent on redeveloping the United Kingdom as a collection of regional economic units geared to making money but no longer places for people to live. They don't see the older market towns with specialist shops, the small villages with terraced houses, schools, their own Post Offices, as pleasant places. They're out of date, no longer viable – get rid of them. As services for the young, the old, the sick and the poor are gradually whittled down to nothing, are we to resign ourselves to government by developers or shall we at least try to preserve some measure of democracy in this corner of our land?
Is it sensible to batter down small bungalows so that money can be made by rebuilding and selling four apartments instead? Must we destroy Victorian villas and gardens to cram 14 houses onto the land? Shall we replace every empty factory with vast complexes of totally unsustainable housing much too expensive for young families and not at all what most of us need?
What did John Betjeman say some time ago – "Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough, it isn't fit for humans now".* A Conservative government started the rot with its belief that those who have no money have no worth – who would have thought that Labour would finish us off? Ring, write, email your Member of Parliament! Refuse to vote for anyone who supports this present madness! It's 400 years since any kind of revolution in this country. Is it time to try again?
*The poem also contains the lines "Mess up the mess they call a town –/ A house for ninety–seven down / And once a week for half-a-crown/ For twenty years."
Appropriate, if rather overtaken by price inflation!
No man is rich enough to buy back his past.
Oscar Wilde 1854-1900
Anglo-Irish Playwright and Poet
It is rarely possible to carry the torch of truth through a crowd without singeing somebody's beard.
Dutch Art Historian
Some people get lost in thought because it is unfamiliar territory.
A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don't need it.
Bob Hope 1903-2003
Actor and Comedian
Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.
Philip Larkin 1922-1983
A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it is written on
Samuel Goldwyn 1882-1974
US Film Producer
1. Concentrate on the four small dots in the middle of the picture for about 30 seconds
2. Look at a blank wall near you (any smooth, single-coloured surface)
3. You will see a circle develop
4. Blink a few times and you will see a ... what?
Editor: Brian Walker