Development Control Manager
Planning Application No: 03/00582/OUT - Land at Shortbutts Lane
The Society wishes to make objections to this plan in the strongest terms. It seems to be representative of the worst kind of developer-led opportunism that has no place in a well-considered and well-ordered scheme of town planning. There is a serious lack of priorities in this outline application - the Society is well aware that the land is written into the Urban Capacity study but feels that it should have a last resort status in the development train, rather than being almost amongst the very first sites under consideration. In fact the Society feels that it would best to be wholly removed from this agenda in real terms.
The reasons are as follows:
The whole venture seems to be fraught with complexities and conflicts of interest at every turn in a way not previously experienced in such a modest development. Land ownership, historic connections, true status of land, pollution matters, traffic problems, open space and recreational use, intrusional development impact, memorial status, security and fundamental changes in planning law at a national level all have a bearing on this site. It would seem that it would be quite impossible for any Authority to be both fair and wise in resolving these complexities in a satisfactory way.
The landowners selling the land are either financially or politically gratified by this development, the objectors are not; in fact some will be disadvantaged in amenity and house value. It is questionable whether the sellers have the right to impose their will in this circumstance on others in such a complex series of issues but it is also clear that the authorities in their eagerness to respond to Government objectives and Council Tax gains will be making a highly short-sighted decision regarding the overall amenity of Lichfield. There is simply not that amount of urgency that would make this development necessary at this time, particularly as there are fundamental changes in the planning process at national level that could well undermine the wisdom of this decision. The Society feels that the proposal should be shelved on this account alone.
Another complexity and conflict comes from the plan being on the old canal site. At once this raises fresh issues - will building on this site conflict with the revival of the canal with its highly important recreational amenity and and tourism implications? If an infilled canal occupies part of the site, is the land now a Brownfield site rather than a Greenfield site? If the site is designated a Greenfield site then development is inappropriate to this highly contentious proposal, seeing that Brownfield sites should be given preference. If the site is designated as Brownfield then there is the possibility of land pollution and instability with the infill. All these questions must be resolved in some way before development can be contemplated.
Traffic raises yet another raft of problems, particularly in the short to medium term. Currently, Shortbutts Lane is heavily over-used. Any addition to traffic, over and above national increase, can only but have a damaging affect to the amenity of the area - especially when other nearby developments are taken into consideration. In general the area deserves to be returned to a much quieter traffic regime now and in the future. The Southern By-pass proposal is as yet no means assured - it still remains a paper proposal.
The present residents will be deprived of their immediate open space and will be subject to unwelcome intrusion by an over-intensive housing scheme with its inherent noise, busyness and light pollution, which is unasked for. Of equal importance is the loss of recreational value of the plan area which is very much used throughout the week - it is quite a favourite walk that any local authority would be proud, in the normal course of events, to hold up as an example and not to take as a crude development opportunity.
The intrusion into the Darwin Walk raises more issues of yet another kind. It is as much a coherent use of the whole site within a larger context of space as of general open space use. The Darwin Walk was never intended to be a series of passageways but a walk within a landscape; the plan reduces it to a kind of alley. It must be increasingly frustrating to the Trustees of the Darwin Walk to find that their project is continually under threat from this kind of encroachment. More importantly this part of the Walk has the function of a memorial in that the trees were planted as a mark of the relationship between children and grandparents, thus being highly significant to them personally; the individual tree within its individual space and individual associations. It is even more poignant that the late, great, creator of the Darwin Walk lived so near to this section with its very imaginative memorial factor. The development is a poor reward for the remarkable contribution of John Sanders to the life of the City. The plan is remarkably insensitive in riding roughshod over this factor with its narrow and squalid passage, hemmed in by houses; it sets a bad order of priorities for the future of the Walk.
Detail matters of access, house type and mix are irrelevant to the overriding unwelcome and unnecessary inclusion of this site for housing use. There are numerous other sites waiting to be used and the authorities are urged to look elsewhere for sites that would be less damaging to its reputation and more welcome to the people of Lichfield.