Letters: 06/03/14

An artist's impression of how the 'plinth' style centrepiece might look in Market Square.
An artist's impression of how the 'plinth' style centrepiece might look in Market Square.
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Have your say

Letters from this week’s Lancaster Guardian.

Changes ill-thought

I noticed in a recent Lancaster Guardian a photograph of the proposed changes to the square in front of the 0ld Town Hall in Lancaster. I’ve only known the area for circa 10+ years but in that time I have seen:

lThe underground toilets in the centre of the square closed and paved over.

lA fountain/water feature erected in the centre of the square with four black benches at its periphery.

lThe fountain removed and paved over in the process of which most of the cobbles which gave the square character being replaced by concrete flagstones – not even traditional millstone grit flagstones. The four well-used benches being retained.

lNow it seems, our city councillors/administrators are proposing to erect a raised platform in the centre of the square with mature trees at each corner.

lThe wooden benches upon which one could rest are now to be removed. I presume that citizens needing to rest will have to cool their bottoms on the cold platform’s slabs?

l One day some poor person is going to fall down the steps surrounding the platform and no doubt the council will need to pay compensation because they have failed to conduct their activities under the Health and Safety at Work Act in such a fashion as to avoid injury to members of the public, etc.

The only conclusion one can make is that the department responsible for these multiple changes is being excessively funded and/or is lacking any common sense, for certainly if market stalls are to be sited on the square, this platform will give rise to all sorts of difficulties.

If the proposed trees at the corners are to avoid being vandalised they will need to be fairly mature and this will very costly.

The whole project appears crazy to me.

The only reason I can think for this foolish proposal is to ensure adequate work for council workmen and so safeguard their future employment and resist any further reductions in council staffing levels.

Apmac

Caton

Name and address supplied

Unfairly pensalised

The National Union of Students (NUS) has found that, each year, up to 175,000 international students come to the UK in good faith only to find that the tuition fees for their course have increased without warning.

Already paying high fees and budgeting meticulously, these rises threaten international students with hardship and worse: non-completion of their studies.

NUS research has found that at least 50 per cent of universities do not provide international students with a “fixed fee guarantee” and that their fees increase during their programme, often by thousands of pounds.

This could make a huge difference to international student retention; our research has found that students who pay unexpected additional costs of £1000 or more are three times more likely to leave their programme.

This is inexcusable, unjustifiable and extortionate. NUS is calling on every institution to guarantee fixed international student fees. International students should not have the goal posts moved by institutions while they are here.

Daniel Stevens

NUS international students’ officer

Local Plan not working

I was interested in your article about Lancaster City Council losing the appeal by Oakmere Homes in connection with the proposed development in Bolton-le-Sands.

I have followed this process from the initial application in 2011 to the final appeal in January this year, as an objector.

My career experience has been in an engineering industry which had clear rules and regulations which were intended to ensure a safe, effective solution to construction and operation of processes.

From this perspective, I am amazed at the way the planning process works and not surprised that developers feel confident about launching an appeal with reasonable expectation of the committee decision being overturned.

The planners prepare a district plan identifying land they consider suitable for building with seemingly very little consultation with the members in the area affected.

They are required to have a plan for 15 years of land supply.

The current plan was prepared in 2004 and it seems to have had little detailed revision based upon changes in legislation.

It follows that they will seek to include any vacant plot of land in the area in this plan.

The consequence of this will be that there will not be a blade of grass which has not been covered by some sort of building until there is no open space left.

The Local Plan is also driven by the need to build 400 houses per year.

Where this particular number comes from seems to be lost in the mists of time as it does not bear any relationship, as far as I can see, to the demand for housing in this area based upon current and near future employment prospects.

Now we come to the pressure on the planners caused by government legislation of which the developers are fully aware.

The National Planning Policy Framework(NPPF) gives planners the conditions which must be met by a planning application and thus gives objectors guidance on which to base objections.

However, the Government have placed a conditions in the NPPF requiring ‘presumption in favour of development’ and ‘proceed without delay’.

It even allows applications to be considered and approved ‘if the Local Plan is out of date or does not exist’.

All these provisions effectively undermine everything else the document says, in effect, giving developers an open goal and also undermining the position of any objectors be they the local authority or people from the locality.

The Localism Act allows for neighbourhoods to be consulted and even develop neighbourhood plans but it does not appear to require local authorities to see that this is done. In other words, no auditable trail exists to confirm compliance with the provisions of the Act.

Planners did shoot themselves in the foot on this particular appeal.

For whatever reason, they only asked for four reasons for objection from the planning committee.

This did not reflect the full extent of the objections.

There does not seem to be an adequate paper trail detailing meetings with developers, consultees, case officers, etc.

In short this all adds up, to the uninitiated, to giving the developer every chance of a successful appeal as there are ambiguous policies and insufficient records available to mount a credible defence of a committee decision.

Objector

Name and address supplied.

Short changed

Carnforth Town Council has recently been attempting to generate more visitor numbers to the town through tourism.

It is of the belief that, in the current economic climate and, despite what the Government may attempt to convince us, investment from fresh industry is unlikely to be forthcoming.

The council have thus combined its efforts with the volunteers of the previous local information centre in an attempt to improve the town’s general economy through tourism.

The proposed information centre would not attract any subsidy from Lancaster City Council even though it bankrolls fully staffed information centres in both Lancaster and Morecambe – another instance in a discouragingly long line of instances where Carnforth misses out in favour of its larger neighbours that are perceived to be more vital.

The tourism infrastructure of Lancaster City Council has been anything but supportive at councillor level, while the very willing and enthusiastic staff of the Tourism Department offer help there is a negative attitude towards the promotion of our town to the potential visitor and there is little assistance available to assist those visitors once they are drawn to visit the town and its satellite communities.

The council has sought assistance from the town’s chamber of trade and that organisation has offered to help. It is only right, those who would be beneficiaries to any elevation of visitor numbers, the shopkeepers and business based in the town.

Their offer of £4,000 over a three year period is quite simply an insult to those who are working hard for the good of the town.

Such a contribution amounts to just over £25 per week, from the lot of them. Anybody who shops in the town will have long since realised that better value and service are to be had in other places but this takes the meanness and greed of the town’s business people to a fresh level.

It seems that the only people who have any genuine intent to combat the extreme near sightedness prevalent in the town are the town’s opticians.

With increased visitor numbers comes trade, with increased trade comes profitability, with profitability comes employment opportunity and our community needs these things.

Oh for goodness sake open your tills, delve into your deep and buttoned pockets and cease your blindness to what to any true business person would be common sense.

Coun Ian Dent

Carnforth Town Council

Can you help?

I am writing to you to see if it is possible to trace a Mrs Pamela Lomax of Lancaster? I have just read an obituary for her husband in The Lancaster Guardian for September 2011, Maurice Lomax.

I am trying to find out if he was my old National Service friend from 1958 who I was trying to contact.

S Youngson

1 The Framptons

East Preston

West Sussex

BN16 1BD