Sunday, 14 July 2013

Knowle: the Byes and when a 'meadow' is a 'park': part two

The story continues on from
Futures Forum: Knowle: the Byes and when a 'meadow' is a 'park'... 
The main issue being that the consultants Bennett Leisure & Planning (Belap) who produced the District Council's Open Space Study
would not acknowledge that there were 'problems' with the methodology used to determine how bits of Open Space are categorised... 

Queries last November to Belap such as this:  
I have been studying this report which EDDC have now incorporated into their Planning process and have a couple of queries about it which I hope you can resolve as they do not impinge on client confidentiality and are in the public domain.
1. You identify 14 types of open space but the charts of ha/1000 population on pages 33 and 85 do not show findings for the Natural and Semi-natural Open Space category. Can you explain please?
2. The map on page 31 seems to show The Byes in Sidmouth (the riverside walk owned by the National Trust) as Natural greenspace but its 13.81ha are listed in Appendix C as Parks and Recreation Grounds. Can you explain this too please?

and this: 
Thank you for your response.
You state that "The Byes is classified as Park and Recreation Ground (13.81 hectares.)" presumably because it is so listed in your Appendix C. But can I ask how this classification was arrived at? Did anyone walk the Byes or was it perhaps done from a map?.  Can I please ask you to revisit your definition of Parks and Recreation Grounds and then tell me where I can find in The Byes any indication of formal planning, or any lawns or any flower beds? But they are an exact fit to your definition of Natural and Semi-natural Open Space.
This is a crucial issue because the Applicant in a current Outline Planning Application makes much of Sidmouth's apparent surplus of Parks & Recn Grounds based on a Planning Support Statement which used your East Devon Open Space Study.

were taken up by District Council Officers, who answered:
In response to your latest query: The Byes was visited during the audit. It is indeed a mixture of park and natural space, it does have features of both typologies, but is very much used as a park, with formally laid out paths and cycleways and managed amenity grassland. It has very heavy use, and it is important that the standard of maintenance is high. It also acts as a green corridor. In the assessment it is required to decide the typology a site best fits in with – of course not every site fits neatly in a classification. For this site, we decided that because of the heavy use and high levels of maintenance required it would fit better in the parks and recreation grounds category. This is an important point, as this typology attracts a higher level of funding and management than natural space which is crucial for this site.

Thank you for your email. I have discussed with senior officers and the Chief Executive who has advised me that the best thing to do would be for you to make a representation on the New Local Plan which is currently out for consultation. You can do this online by clicking on a RefPoint (looks like ®6.12) in the Plan itself (which can be found here) and following the instructions. If you prefer you can also make a representation by filling in the representation form attached or by writing to East Devon District Council Offices, Knowle, Sidmouth, EX10 8HL, or emailing localplan@eastdevon.gov.uk.
By making a representation at this stage, your views will be taken into account by the inspector at our examination next summer. 

It is then that the piece set out at
Futures Forum: Knowle: the Byes and when a 'meadow' is a 'park'... 
was put together and the National Trust directly contacted.

... at the same time the Vision Group had presented its objections to the planning application for Knowle:
Vision Group for Sidmouth - Objection to Planning Application

Not only has the Open Space Study had a direct baring on these plans to develop Knowle, but it has been integrated into the District Council's draft Local Plan:
East Devon Open Space Standards ® 6.191
18.10 An Open Space Study has been completed which comprises identification and mapping of open spaces; audits of quantity, quality, and accessibility; Geographic Information Systems analysis to establish current levels of provision and identify needs. Public consultation has helped to establish community aspirations and requirements for open space and has created local standards for both urban and rural areas.

An objection to the Local Plan was presented by the Vision Group in January:
Objection to proposals for development of the Council offices site for housing in respect of the resultant loss of public open space and parkland. 


The declared support for the preservation of Public Open Space in the draft Local Plan is to be welcomed.

This declaration has been undermined, however, by documentation supporting the Outline Planning Application12/1847/MOUT - Council Offices Knowle Sidmouth EX10 8HL. At point 3.32 on page 28/30 of the Planning Support Statement document 1034474, consultants Bell Cornwell state:

The current open space requirement as set out in the East Devon Open Space Study 2011 sets out the standard of 1ha/1000 population for parks and recreation grounds. Sidmouth currently has 21.26ha... which equates to an exeedance of the standards by 7.33ha a significant amount more than the town actually needs. As a consequence utilisation of a small area of the parkland [at Knowle] will not make a significant impact on the provision of open space parks and recreation within the town and consequently would not be contrary to Policy RC1 http://planningapps.eastdevon.gov.uk/Planning/lg/dialog.page?Param=lg.Planning&org.apache.shale.dialog.DIALOG_NAME=gfplanningsearch&SDescription=12/1847/MOUT&viewdocs=true

Furthermore, the District Councils Development Management Committee of 4th December 2012 also concluded that Sidmouth has an excess of open space parks and recreation ground: P103 Loss of Open Space: Aside from the loss of the parkland potentially impacting on the historic significance of the gardens the proposal would lead to a loss of open space that could impact on the amenities available to the residents of the town.

Policy RC1 of the adopted East Devon Local Plan seeks to retain land for sport and recreation unless either equivalent alternative provision is to be made, facilities can best be retained and enhanced through the development or there is an excess of open space in the area. The Planning Support Statement submitted with the application argues that even with the loss of open space resulting from this development there will be adequate open space provision in Sidmouth. This is based on a recent open space study that was carried out on behalf of the Council and was adopted by the Council earlier this year. The study sets a standard in urban areas of 1ha of parks and recreation grounds per 1000 head of population. For Sidmouth this amounts to a need of 13.93ha of parks and recreation grounds. Sidmouth actually has 21.26ha. This is 7.33ha in excess of the adopted standard for urban areas in East Devon. The proposed development involves the loss of approximately 0.8ha of park and recreation ground (if the depot site is excluded as this is not considered to currently form part of the recreation ground). On this basis the proposal is considered to comply with the requirements of Policy RC3 of the adopted Local Plan.

Conclusion: The loss of jobs within Sidmouth is a significant issue that weighs against this application particularly in the current economic climate. This cannot however be separated from the wider economic benefits of this development for the district as a whole. The loss of parkland and gardens although clearly of great importance to the local community and as such its partial loss is regrettable, the facts of the matter are that the loss is not significant in terms of open space provision in the town or considered to be so significant in terms of any historic significance that the parkland had in the past and may still be considered by some quarters to have today to justify the refusal of this application on this ground alone.

Designations of these different types of open space are set out on pages 17 and 25 of the District Councils Open Space Study:

Whilst in the Open Spaces Study there has been scrupulous care given to delineation and nomenclature, it appears that the methodology of the consultants Bell Cornwell is unsound. By including Natural Green Space and other 'Wild/Semi-Wild Areas' together with 'Parks and Recreation Grounds', Bell Cornwell has considerably overstated the amount of 'Parks and Recreation Grounds' within the Sidmouth Boundary. In particular, Bell Cornwell and the District Council have in fact attempted to classify all the public open space in the area generically known as The Byes in Sidmouth as simply Parks and Recreation Grounds, rather than a mixture of Natural & Semi-Natural Green Space and Parks and Recreation Grounds which has had the effect of exaggerating the amount of parkland in Sidmouth. There has been a separation of different types of outdoor sport facilities in The Byes but no recognition of the variety of different types of open space to be found in The Byes. The result has been to give the same overall outline delineation to the whole of The Byes as if all 13.81ha of that public open space were homogeneous.

In reality, there are large areas of The Byes which should be differentiated: Gilchrist and Margaret’s Meadows, included in the northerly section of The Byes, were originally donated by local people and have been owned and managed by the Sid Vale Association for some years: they are tended as wild-flower areas, with considerable woodland and pond sections. These meadows are very popular, but the SVA takes care to give them a semi-natural feel, with occasional sheep-grazing and once-yearly mowing: The Byes where the SVA currently hold 18 acres of trees and meadows, on the banks of the River Sid
And as such these are clearly Natural & Semi-Natural Green Space and not Parks and Recreation Grounds.

The actual area in hectares, including Livonia Field as noted on the official National Trust map, is 7.41ha. Sid Meadow and the Community Orchard, forming part of the southerly section of The Byes, are owned by the National Trust and were integrated into The Byes four years ago, having offered grazing for many years. The National Trust’s own map shows it to be a considerable segment approximating 2.25ha. The East Devon National Trust has written expressing its dismay:

You make a very valid point about the National Trust's meadow land adjacent to the Byes. This is indeed managed as natural grassland. All the land has been declared inalienable under the National Trust Act and as such the Trust has a statutory duty under the National Trust Acts to promote the conservation of places of historic interest and natural beauty and ensure their permanent protection. We would support the correct re-designation of this meadow. We note your comment that this would have an impact on the amount of Parks and recreational land in Sidmouth as defined in the study.(e-mail sent 7 January 2013)

If all these meadows are classified as natural or semi-natural space, which they clearly are, this would then reduce the claimed amount of parks & recreation grounds by over half. This means 9.66 hectares less than the 21.26 ha referred to by the Planning Support Statement supporting the Outline Planning Application. It brings the amount of Parks and Recreation Grounds in Sidmouth to a revised total of 11.6ha less than the Planning Support Statement says Sidmouth actually needs, (according to the District Councils own calculations of requirements per head of population).This particular Representation may be considered irrelevant with regard to the draft Local Plan; indeed, these points have been submitted as a separate objection to the Outline Planning Application 12/1847/MOUT. However, advice has been received from a District Planning Policy Officer that these points should be made in the form of a Representation to the Inspector:

Thank you for your email. I have discussed with senior officers and the Chief Executive who has advised me that the best thing to do would be for you to make a representation on the New Local Plan which is currently out for consultation. You can do this online by clicking on a RefPoint (looks like 6.12) in the Plan itself (which can be found here) and following the instructions. If you prefer you can also make a representation by filling in the representation form attached or by writing to East Devon District Council Offices, Knowle, Sidmouth, EX10 8HL, or emailing localplan@eastdevon.gov.uk. By making a representation at this stage, your views will be taken into account by the inspector at our examination next summer. For information, RefPoints which may be of use are 6.192 on page 127 (Strategy 43 Open Space Standards), 6.133 on page 89 (Strategy 26 Sidmouth), or 6.295 on page 177 (Policy H1 Residential Land Allocations specifically The Knowle).(e-mail sent 20th December 2012)

(See RefPoint 6.289: H1 - Residential Land Allocation; RefPoint 6.295: Sidmouth f) Current Council Offices, Knowle 50 homes = EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING LAND: RELOCATION FROM KNOWLE

The main focus by campaigners, however, has been the application (Outline Planning Application) to develop Knowle [12/1847/MOUT] and how the Open Spaces Study has been applied, as this letter to a District Council Officer indicates:
Thank you for responding on behalf of the CEO. 
However as I stated quite clearly in my email this is not an objection related to the emergent local plan. The Open Space Study was adopted by the Development Management Committee at their June 2012 meeting as evidence in current planning applications and eventually as policy when the emergent local plan is finalised and adopted. 
My objection related to a misrepresentation of this OSS by statements made in the Planning Support Statement specifically related to OPA 12/1847/MOUT. It is therefore not a matter at this stage for the local plan but, as you have mentioned, it does indeed  "have implications for the current application for the redevelopment of the Knowle" and it needs resolution before that OPA can credibly be determined while such misrepresentation remains unresolved. The "appropriate forum" is therefore the planning department and the "appropriate time" is now!
I repeat my request that this is registered as an objection to 12/1847/MOUT.

The Outline Planning Application was rejected by the Development Management Committee on 1st March 2013:

But it was not until 3rd June that the Minutes of this meeting were clarified to reflect the 'benchmark' used by the authors of the Open Space Study:

Minutes of a special meeting of the Development Management Committee
1 March 2013

*56 Applications for Planning Permission and matters for determination

The Byes had been classified as parkland by an experienced independent consultant and was consistent with classifications across the country. It was recognised that any loss of open space was unfortunate however calculations showed that Sidmouth had more park land than the adopted national standards.

(As agreed at the Development Management Committee meeting held on 7 May 2013 a note is placed on these minutes to clarify that the benchmark used in the assessment of Sidmouth’s park land was based on local standards used by Consultants in the Open Space Study, rather than adopted national standards as was stated at the meeting and recorded in the minutes.)

However, the work is not over, as campaigners seek definite clarification:
I can now pursue the issue of getting The Byes properly classified... 
I have asked a District Council Officer for a meeting and sent him my paper. I have since got maps showing the exact areas of SVA land and 1997 Newsletters when the land was transferred to them saying that it will be managed as a nature reserve.
I will pursue next week as the issue could arise during the upcoming Local Plan process...

To be continued...

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