Hidden agenda?

IT is a known fact that Herefordshire Council is asset-stripping.

The planning officers have strongly recommended that both Tesco and Sainsbury’s planning applications be refused.

It has been rumoured for some time now that they want to develop the Lawnside Car park area into a retail centre by getting rid of our swimming pool, youth centre, fire brigade, ambulance,community hall, BT exchange.

The rumour is no longer because at the planning application for Sainsbury’s meeting, planning officer Roland Close admitted that this area should be developed into a supermarket.

Has he some hidden agenda of his own? This would be in the middle of a conservation area which is one of his objection to Sainsbury’s.

This would certainly impact the “viability and vitality” of the town centre, his favourite words. He says Sainsbury’s application to develop Galebreakers land would lose employment land. Can you tell me what is 220 jobs nothing more than employment.

I for one will be against this if it come to development.

This is my opinion and not that of Ledbury Town Council MAURICE HARDING Chairman of Planning, Ledbury Town Council

Comments (12)

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11:28am Tue 13 Mar 12

RichHadley says...

Councillor Harding fundamentally misunderstands what took place at Planning Committee on 22 February. Readers should note that the gentleman was not present to hear the proceedings and his comments result from somebody else’s garbled interpretation of events.

Whether or not Herefordshire Council is 'asset stripping' I couldn't possibly say. However, as a matter of factual accuracy Roland Close did not at Planning Committee 'admit that the area should be developed into a supermarket'. The reference to Lawnside Road was in the context of a fairly lengthy and complex critique of Sainsbury's Sequential Assessment in which Mr Close said that Turley Associates (Sainsbury's agents) had not adequately examined, nor in fact had examined at all, the feasibility of either the Orchard Lane site presently occupied by Tesco, or of Lawnside Road as a potential location for a supermarket development. This meant that in planning law they had, in Mr Close's view, failed the sequential assessment test and therefore this should constitute a ground for refusal of the planning application.

Mr Close was at pains to point out that he was not suggesting that the Lawnside Road site would be a good place for a supermarket, in fact he offered no opinion at all on this, merely that Sainsbury's had not properly assessed its feasibility to develop there - an obvious weakness in their planning application, one of many actually.

The point being made, and which is the essence of the sequential test, is that a developer must demonstrate that its has exhaustively discounted firstly all town centre, then edge of centre development options, before proceeding to an out of centre, or an out of town site. In this regard, Sainsbury's comprehensively failed this key element of the planning application process.

Cllr Harding might be forgiven for misinterpreting what Mr Close said at Committee since he wasn’t actually there, and messages can get scrambled in the retelling. However, his decision as Chairman of Ledbury Town Council Planning Committee to send such an inflamatory, inaccurate and wholly misleading letter for newspaper publication without properly checking his facts first, looks to be both foolhardy and irresponsible.
Councillor Harding fundamentally misunderstands what took place at Planning Committee on 22 February. Readers should note that the gentleman was not present to hear the proceedings and his comments result from somebody else’s garbled interpretation of events. Whether or not Herefordshire Council is 'asset stripping' I couldn't possibly say. However, as a matter of factual accuracy Roland Close did not at Planning Committee 'admit that the [Lawnside Road] area should be developed into a supermarket'. The reference to Lawnside Road was in the context of a fairly lengthy and complex critique of Sainsbury's Sequential Assessment in which Mr Close said that Turley Associates (Sainsbury's agents) had not adequately examined, nor in fact had examined at all, the feasibility of either the Orchard Lane site presently occupied by Tesco, or of Lawnside Road as a potential location for a supermarket development. This meant that in planning law they had, in Mr Close's view, failed the sequential assessment test and therefore this should constitute a ground for refusal of the planning application. Mr Close was at pains to point out that he was not suggesting that the Lawnside Road site would be a good place for a supermarket, in fact he offered no opinion at all on this, merely that Sainsbury's had not properly assessed its feasibility to develop there - an obvious weakness in their planning application, one of many actually. The point being made, and which is the essence of the sequential test, is that a developer must demonstrate that its has exhaustively discounted firstly all town centre, then edge of centre development options, before proceeding to an out of centre, or an out of town site. In this regard, Sainsbury's comprehensively failed this key element of the planning application process. Cllr Harding might be forgiven for misinterpreting what Mr Close said at Committee since he wasn’t actually there, and messages can get scrambled in the retelling. However, his decision as Chairman of Ledbury Town Council Planning Committee to send such an inflamatory, inaccurate and wholly misleading letter for newspaper publication without properly checking his facts first, looks to be both foolhardy and irresponsible. RichHadley
  • Score: 0

11:34am Tue 13 Mar 12

psychiatrist says...

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  • Score: 0

11:42am Tue 13 Mar 12

psychiatrist says...

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  • Score: 0

1:11pm Tue 13 Mar 12

jmccabe says...

I agree with Mr Hadley's comments; it does seem rather inappropriate for Coun. Harding, in his position, to be airing these views in such a public way. While he provides the caveat that these are his views and not those of the Town Council, his letter published as being from "Coun. Maurice Harding, Chairman of Planning, Ledbury Town Council" appears to be intended to give the impression that Mr Harding has some superior knowledge on the issue that, as Mr Hadley points out, appears not to be the case. Furthermore I would question whether his action is compliant with the Code of Conduct of the Town Council.

Furthermore I would have expected Coun. Harding, as the Town Council's Chairman of Planning, to be familiar with the use of the 'official' term "Employment Land" to be generally related to Use Class B as defined by the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (Statutory Instrument 1987 No. 7) and its associated amendments. In this document retail use, such as superstores, is defined within Use Class A so is not considered "Employment Land".
I agree with Mr Hadley's comments; it does seem rather inappropriate for Coun. Harding, in his position, to be airing these views in such a public way. While he provides the caveat that these are his views and not those of the Town Council, his letter published as being from "Coun. Maurice Harding, Chairman of Planning, Ledbury Town Council" appears to be intended to give the impression that Mr Harding has some superior knowledge on the issue that, as Mr Hadley points out, appears not to be the case. Furthermore I would question whether his action is compliant with the Code of Conduct of the Town Council. Furthermore I would have expected Coun. Harding, as the Town Council's Chairman of Planning, to be familiar with the use of the 'official' term "Employment Land" to be generally related to Use Class B as defined by the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (Statutory Instrument 1987 No. 7) and its associated amendments. In this document retail use, such as superstores, is defined within Use Class A so is not considered "Employment Land". jmccabe
  • Score: 0

2:13pm Tue 13 Mar 12

Andrew Warmington says...

Having been at the meeting too, I am quite at a loss as to how Cllr Harding could come to this conclusion. It is quite astonishingly wrong in every way.

Roland Close, in his capacity as Head of Planning, gave a presentation explaining his reasons for recommending refusal of the Sainsbury's application. One of the key ones is that it failed the test of looking at 'sequentially preferable' sites nearer to the town centre than the Leadon Way site. 'Sequentially preferable' is a piece of planning jargon but simply means that those applying to build large out-of-town developments must first show that there are no suitable sites nearer to the town centre.

We could certainly debate at length whether we would prefer a supermarket on Leadon Way or Lawnside Road (or neither, which would be my own preference) but the point is that this site, and the current Tesco site, are both undeniably 'sequentially preferable' to Leadon Way and that Sainsbury's did not seriously investigate either in making its application. True, it is unlikely that the Tesco site would be available to Sainsbury's and it is not certain that Lawnside Road would be available to them or anyone else either, but that is not the point in planning terms. It MIGHT be available and Sainsbury's failed to take this into account.

Mr Close most emphatically did NOT recommend that Lawnside Road be turned into a supermarket. That was not part of his remit and he did not address it. To suggest that he did seems to me to be verging on libellous. As to asset-stripping accusations, Herefordshire Council can speak for themselves.
Having been at the meeting too, I am quite at a loss as to how Cllr Harding could come to this conclusion. It is quite astonishingly wrong in every way. Roland Close, in his capacity as Head of Planning, gave a presentation explaining his reasons for recommending refusal of the Sainsbury's application. One of the key ones is that it failed the test of looking at 'sequentially preferable' sites nearer to the town centre than the Leadon Way site. 'Sequentially preferable' is a piece of planning jargon but simply means that those applying to build large out-of-town developments must first show that there are no suitable sites nearer to the town centre. We could certainly debate at length whether we would prefer a supermarket on Leadon Way or Lawnside Road (or neither, which would be my own preference) but the point is that this site, and the current Tesco site, are both undeniably 'sequentially preferable' to Leadon Way and that Sainsbury's did not seriously investigate either in making its application. True, it is unlikely that the Tesco site would be available to Sainsbury's and it is not certain that Lawnside Road would be available to them or anyone else either, but that is not the point in planning terms. It MIGHT be available and Sainsbury's failed to take this into account. Mr Close most emphatically did NOT recommend that Lawnside Road be turned into a supermarket. That was not part of his remit and he did not address it. To suggest that he did seems to me to be verging on libellous. As to asset-stripping accusations, Herefordshire Council can speak for themselves. Andrew Warmington
  • Score: 0

5:01pm Tue 13 Mar 12

Colin J Marschall says...

Somewhat in defence of Cllr Harding, I was at the meeting and on a number of occasions I had to check the planning application to make sure I was at the correct meeting, so often was Tesco mentioned and I can certainly understand someone perhaps feeling that because of this, Tesco were being given a prod into applying for re-development of their current site. To me it would have been an easy mistake to make, though I am not saying that Mr. Close actually said anything of that nature, add to this the number of rumours circulating about the Lawnside area and the said conclusion could easily be come to.
As to it bordering on libellous, personally I feel that this country on a whole is going far too much “the American way” where an opinion cannot be stated without someone somewhere starting legal proceedings, which is a shame and almost dilutes freedom of speech to nothing more than hint of flavouring compared to how it was.
Somewhat in defence of Cllr Harding, I was at the meeting and on a number of occasions I had to check the planning application to make sure I was at the correct meeting, so often was Tesco mentioned and I can certainly understand someone perhaps feeling that because of this, Tesco were being given a prod into applying for re-development of their current site. To me it would have been an easy mistake to make, though I am not saying that Mr. Close actually said anything of that nature, add to this the number of rumours circulating about the Lawnside area and the said conclusion could easily be come to. As to it bordering on libellous, personally I feel that this country on a whole is going far too much “the American way” where an opinion cannot be stated without someone somewhere starting legal proceedings, which is a shame and almost dilutes freedom of speech to nothing more than hint of flavouring compared to how it was. Colin J Marschall
  • Score: 0

10:32am Thu 15 Mar 12

Deborah Baker says...

I to have to stand up for Cllr Harding, most of the time, the word Tesco was used, with many of us like Colin wondering if we were in the wrong meeting. Two of the planning Cllrs actually spoke out about the use of it, saying they were not happy. Lawnside was mentioned and to be honest, I was appalled, as how can anyone think it is the right place to build a supermarket. so Im wondering if I was in a different meeting, or whether its just the fact that some people listened the parts that they wanted to, and not other parts. For those who would like to see, I do still have my copy of the agenda, with all the information in it. Don't listen to other twottle, read it for yourself!
I to have to stand up for Cllr Harding, most of the time, the word Tesco was used, with many of us like Colin wondering if we were in the wrong meeting. Two of the planning Cllrs actually spoke out about the use of it, saying they were not happy. Lawnside was mentioned and to be honest, I was appalled, as how can anyone think it is the right place to build a supermarket. so Im wondering if I was in a different meeting, or whether its just the fact that some people listened the parts that they wanted to, and not other parts. For those who would like to see, I do still have my copy of the agenda, with all the information in it. Don't listen to other twottle, read it for yourself! Deborah Baker
  • Score: 0

12:44pm Thu 15 Mar 12

drewbreath says...

jmccabe wrote:
I agree with Mr Hadley's comments; it does seem rather inappropriate for Coun. Harding, in his position, to be airing these views in such a public way. While he provides the caveat that these are his views and not those of the Town Council, his letter published as being from "Coun. Maurice Harding, Chairman of Planning, Ledbury Town Council" appears to be intended to give the impression that Mr Harding has some superior knowledge on the issue that, as Mr Hadley points out, appears not to be the case. Furthermore I would question whether his action is compliant with the Code of Conduct of the Town Council.

Furthermore I would have expected Coun. Harding, as the Town Council's Chairman of Planning, to be familiar with the use of the 'official' term "Employment Land" to be generally related to Use Class B as defined by the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (Statutory Instrument 1987 No. 7) and its associated amendments. In this document retail use, such as superstores, is defined within Use Class A so is not considered "Employment Land".
There is no official term "employment land" so it is not mentioned in the 1987 Order, or in any Use Class Order before (such as 1972) since (2005), or even GPDs, as far as I'm aware.

"Employment land" is a term that is used by planners and each planning authority will have its own definition, usually by reference to the Use Class Orders (of which the 1987 Order is but one). The term is used for Local Development Frameworks, (LDFs) and Regional Spatial Strategies; and the recommendations and decisions will have regard to national planning guidance.

A cursory search on google will reveal that many planning authorities include retail in their definition of 'employment land'. That Herefordshire Council appears to have chosen to define 'employment land' within Use Classes B1(a), B1(b), B1(c), B2 and B8 is entirely subjective.

It is quite possible a conflict of interest exists between Herefordshire Council and Ledbury. In the Core Strategy Shaping our Place, one of the economic prosperity objectives is to strengthen Hereford’s role as a sub-regional focus for the county. However, the overarching preferred strategy is "To focus the majority of remaining development at the market towns of …Ledbury…to support their status as service centres to their rural hinterlands and to support rural regeneration including employment creation / diversification, delivery of and access to services (including
affordable housing), realising the environment as an economic asset and reducing the need to travel.

An exhaustive sequential test by Sainsbury's re its application would've been pointless. No way would Tesco sells its Orchard Lane site, while the Lawnside Road idea is a piecemeal site whose development is wholly unsuited for supermarket of the size wanted by Sainsbury's. At best, a retail scheme in Lawnside Road might suit a Lidl or Aldi or another convenience store such as Sainsbury's Local (but for immediacy there is the ex-Rodways or even Eagers.)

To quote from the ODPM Employment Land Guidance Note: “ In reality, land use planning has to be cyclical, subject to continual monitoring and review. Monitoring involves both keeping track of the outcomes of policy and development control decisions and a broader system of watching and analysing local demographic and economic conditions.”
[quote][p][bold]jmccabe[/bold] wrote: I agree with Mr Hadley's comments; it does seem rather inappropriate for Coun. Harding, in his position, to be airing these views in such a public way. While he provides the caveat that these are his views and not those of the Town Council, his letter published as being from "Coun. Maurice Harding, Chairman of Planning, Ledbury Town Council" appears to be intended to give the impression that Mr Harding has some superior knowledge on the issue that, as Mr Hadley points out, appears not to be the case. Furthermore I would question whether his action is compliant with the Code of Conduct of the Town Council. Furthermore I would have expected Coun. Harding, as the Town Council's Chairman of Planning, to be familiar with the use of the 'official' term "Employment Land" to be generally related to Use Class B as defined by the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (Statutory Instrument 1987 No. 7) and its associated amendments. In this document retail use, such as superstores, is defined within Use Class A so is not considered "Employment Land".[/p][/quote]There is no official term "employment land" so it is not mentioned in the 1987 Order, or in any Use Class Order before (such as 1972) since (2005), or even GPDs, as far as I'm aware. "Employment land" is a term that is used by planners and each planning authority will have its own definition, usually by reference to the Use Class Orders (of which the 1987 Order is but one). The term is used for Local Development Frameworks, (LDFs) and Regional Spatial Strategies; and the recommendations and decisions will have regard to national planning guidance. A cursory search on google will reveal that many planning authorities include retail in their definition of 'employment land'. That Herefordshire Council appears to have chosen to define 'employment land' within Use Classes B1(a), B1(b), B1(c), B2 and B8 is entirely subjective. It is quite possible a conflict of interest exists between Herefordshire Council and Ledbury. In the Core Strategy Shaping our Place, one of the economic prosperity objectives is to strengthen Hereford’s role as a sub-regional focus for the county. However, the overarching preferred strategy is "To focus the majority of remaining development at the market towns of …Ledbury…to support their status as service centres to their rural hinterlands and to support rural regeneration including employment creation / diversification, delivery of and access to services (including affordable housing), realising the environment as an economic asset and reducing the need to travel. An exhaustive sequential test by Sainsbury's re its application would've been pointless. No way would Tesco sells its Orchard Lane site, while the Lawnside Road idea is a piecemeal site whose development is wholly unsuited for supermarket of the size wanted by Sainsbury's. At best, a retail scheme in Lawnside Road might suit a Lidl or Aldi or another convenience store such as Sainsbury's Local (but for immediacy there is the ex-Rodways or even Eagers.) To quote from the ODPM Employment Land Guidance Note: “ In reality, land use planning has to be cyclical, subject to continual monitoring and review. Monitoring involves both keeping track of the outcomes of policy and development control decisions and a broader system of watching and analysing local demographic and economic conditions.” drewbreath
  • Score: 0

9:49pm Thu 15 Mar 12

jmccabe says...

By the ODPM Employment Land Guidance Note, are you referring to this document?

http://www.communiti
es.gov.uk/documents/
planningandbuilding/
pdf/147540.pdf

Which states
Employment land reviews should not cover retail or other town centre uses (apart
from offices) for which other guidance is relevant.
?

As far as Google is concerned, a cursory search is not really adequate. If you look for employment land reviews and read through a number of the results you will see that, while use class A may get a mention in some places, the guidance, as I pointed out above, states that retail should not be considered. In fact many of the employment land reviews only consider use classes B1, B2 and B8.

Of course that's not definitive, but it's a very strong indicator that retail land is not 'employment land'.
By the ODPM Employment Land Guidance Note, are you referring to this document? http://www.communiti es.gov.uk/documents/ planningandbuilding/ pdf/147540.pdf Which states [quote]Employment land reviews should not cover retail or other town centre uses (apart from offices) for which other guidance is relevant.[/quote]? As far as Google is concerned, a cursory search is not really adequate. If you look for employment land reviews and read through a number of the results you will see that, while use class A may get a mention in some places, the guidance, as I pointed out above, states that retail should not be considered. In fact many of the employment land reviews only consider use classes B1, B2 and B8. Of course that's not definitive, but it's a very strong indicator that retail land is not 'employment land'. jmccabe
  • Score: 0

9:52pm Thu 15 Mar 12

Snoopbunny says...

I agree with Councillor Harding, the council are realising "their" assets in Ledbury.

The development of Lawnside, so favoured by Roland Close, is total madness. It will not be financially viable for whoever develops it to build a swimming pool, community centre, fire station elsewhere. The town will, therefore, lose these amenities.

The issue of how lorries are supposed to get to that site to supply the said shopping development is puzzling me. With a 7.5 tonne weight limit in the town centre and on Bye Street it is going to be a real problem - that is with out the narrow entrance/exit at the town end and the parked cars heading down to the by-pass.

The county council led the people of Ledbury down, all in the hope that we will shop in Hereford - a city centre that is dying - and that will be wiped out by their beloved Edgar Street Grid!!
I agree with Councillor Harding, the council are realising "their" assets in Ledbury. The development of Lawnside, so favoured by Roland Close, is total madness. It will not be financially viable for whoever develops it to build a swimming pool, community centre, fire station elsewhere. The town will, therefore, lose these amenities. The issue of how lorries are supposed to get to that site to supply the said shopping development is puzzling me. With a 7.5 tonne weight limit in the town centre and on Bye Street it is going to be a real problem - that is with out the narrow entrance/exit at the town end and the parked cars heading down to the by-pass. The county council led the people of Ledbury down, all in the hope that we will shop in Hereford - a city centre that is dying - and that will be wiped out by their beloved Edgar Street Grid!! Snoopbunny
  • Score: 0

9:53pm Thu 15 Mar 12

Snoopbunny says...

I agree with Councillor Harding, the council are realising "their" assets in Ledbury.

The development of Lawnside, so favoured by Roland Close, is total madness. It will not be financially viable for whoever develops it to build a swimming pool, community centre, fire station elsewhere. The town will, therefore, lose these amenities.

The issue of how lorries are supposed to get to that site to supply the said shopping development is puzzling me. With a 7.5 tonne weight limit in the town centre and on Bye Street it is going to be a real problem - that is with out the narrow entrance/exit at the town end and the parked cars heading down to the by-pass.

The county council let the people of Ledbury down, all in the hope that we will shop in Hereford - a city centre that is dying - and that will be wiped out by their beloved Edgar Street Grid!!
I agree with Councillor Harding, the council are realising "their" assets in Ledbury. The development of Lawnside, so favoured by Roland Close, is total madness. It will not be financially viable for whoever develops it to build a swimming pool, community centre, fire station elsewhere. The town will, therefore, lose these amenities. The issue of how lorries are supposed to get to that site to supply the said shopping development is puzzling me. With a 7.5 tonne weight limit in the town centre and on Bye Street it is going to be a real problem - that is with out the narrow entrance/exit at the town end and the parked cars heading down to the by-pass. The county council let the people of Ledbury down, all in the hope that we will shop in Hereford - a city centre that is dying - and that will be wiped out by their beloved Edgar Street Grid!! Snoopbunny
  • Score: 0

1:27pm Fri 16 Mar 12

Andrew Warmington says...

Conspiracy theory seems to be getting everywhere. Once more, with feeling, Roland Close is a planning officer. His role here was purely to give advice to councillors on the situation in planning terms. It is not his role to have an opinion on whether there should be retail development on Lawnside Road (which I too think is a terrible idea), nor did he express one. His role was to assess whether or not there might be sites available to Sainsbury's in Ledbury that were 'sequentially preferable' to the one they proposed. He found that there were.

Cllr Harding has built an assumption about county council policy based on a rumour printed in the paper and then foisted this onto Roland Close's shoulders by attributing to him words that he (Mr Close) did not say at a meeting that he (Cllr Harding) did not attend. He really should have known better.
Conspiracy theory seems to be getting everywhere. Once more, with feeling, Roland Close is a planning officer. His role here was purely to give advice to councillors on the situation in planning terms. It is not his role to have an opinion on whether there should be retail development on Lawnside Road (which I too think is a terrible idea), nor did he express one. His role was to assess whether or not there might be sites available to Sainsbury's in Ledbury that were 'sequentially preferable' to the one they proposed. He found that there were. Cllr Harding has built an assumption about county council policy based on a rumour printed in the paper and then foisted this onto Roland Close's shoulders by attributing to him words that he (Mr Close) did not say at a meeting that he (Cllr Harding) did not attend. He really should have known better. Andrew Warmington
  • Score: 0

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