Shopping suffers

Lancaster Letters.
Lancaster Letters.
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Have your say

In the letter headed Parking was Free (February 27) your correspondent hit the nail on the head.

The new Fairfield residents’ parking scheme is only necessary because people have been pushed out of the Wheatfield Sreet, Dallas Road area by the earlier scheme introduced three years ago.

At the time I complained to my councillor, Jon Barry about this scheme, and he admitted it had been a mistake and consideration was being given to restoring normal parking – at least on Wheatfield Sreet.

Before the scheme was introduced there was two hour parking here, and many people used it to nip into town to do business.

They will now have gone elsewhere to do that business, and as a result of this and similar measures against the motorist, Lancaster’s commercial centre is dying on its feet.

The council ought to be encouraging as many people as possible to come and shop there instead of (literally) driving them away.

Where will this end?

Will the people currently parking in Fairfield be driven to park on Abraham Heights or down West Road? Will we see the need for residents’ parking in these areas in three years time?

It is surely time for a bit of common sense.

Why can’t these areas revert to two hour parking from 9am to 6pm (with residents able to park at any time), so that we make better use of the space, and give the opportunity for the shops to attract more customers?

Brian Yates

Coolidge Ave

Lancaster.

docker park farm

No need for caravans

I am astounded to read the planning controversy on page seven of The Lancaster Guardian, March 6, concerning Docker Park Farm.

Docker Park Farm is in an isolated area of outstanding natural beauty.

The access is by narrow country lanes and from Arkholme it is impossible for two cars to drive along the road at the same time as one vehicle has to pull in to allow the other to pass.

Why there are no highways objections is beyond me.

This farm is surrounded by working sheep and dairy farms but the sheep are vulnerable to attack by stray dogs.

Applications such as this should never be decided upon by the planning committee without a site visit so they can assess the detrimental impact on any area such as this. Two previous applications at Home Farm, and nearby Starricks Farm were properly rejected.

Capernwray is saturated with caravan sites and with pitches unoccupied.

There is no need for anymore in this area.

The problem locally with this application is that only one letter appears to have been sent to adjoining owners by the council and therefore there was very little local awareness, and, even though this application has not been decided upon, there does not appear to be any notice of the same displayed near the

site.

Mr Tamlin wishes to attract older people but surely this would be ageist.

In your article you state that the scheme was supported by nine neighbours.

However, once the neighbours who actually live next to the proposed development and other neighbours in the immediate vicinity rather than in villages some distance away found out about this application they were up in arms and 25 of them have written letters of serious objection.

More objections will be received before the site visit at the end of this month.

This application should be decided by the planning committee and not by planning officers.

The planning committee represent the views of the ordinary people who will have to live with such planning decisions for the rest of their lives. In the past Planning Officers have addressed the Planning Committee to the effect that if the committee go against the Planning Officers recommendation and there is an appeal, then the Council cannot afford to fight this.

Edwina Rickards Collinson

Keerholme Lane

Capernwray.

local plan

Objectors listened to

You recently published a letter (Local Plan not working, March 6) which raises a number of questions which I would like to answer.

Firstly I would like to say that the city council’s existing development plan passed the rigorous tests set by the Planning Inspectorate, proving that it had undergone public consultation to the standards required.

The council was in fact commended for the quality of its evidence base, at a time when many councils around the country were having plans rejected.

Secondly, your correspondent claims that the council has done nothing to update the current development plan leaving it vulnerable to challenge.

A new Local Plan has been in the process of being prepared since 2011 and two of its significant parts are about to be examined by the Planning Inspectorate.

A major challenge still faces the council because it has to address a persisting shortfall in housing land, but that work is in progress.

Thirdly, the question is posed of where the current target of 400 homes per year comes from.

There is a very clear audit trail to answer this, leading back to the Regional Spatial Strategy for the North West, and subsequent verification of how this was calculated in the council’s 2008 Local Development Framework.

To answer the point about the Localism Act, what this actually means is that councils on behalf of the local community are given the responsibility to plan.

However, if they refuse to do this properly, or fail to make tough decisions and identify the development land that their locally prepared evidence says they need, they will be overruled by the Government.

If current generations do not take great care to prepare for the needs of those following behind them, they ultimately run the risk of their powers to determine major planning applications locally being taken away from them.

Finally, there is a suggestion that the council’s planning committee was given the wrong steer in refusing the application on a narrow set of grounds.

The inspector who heard the appeal was able to consider all the objections lodged against the scheme and to consider the proposal entirely afresh, including reasons for objection not raised by the council.

He found no merits in the substantial submissions of the objectors, so had the council refused on more grounds the appellants would have had to produce more work to rebut them thus incurring far more costs against the council.

The planning framework does have an extensive set of regulations and audit trails to ensure that local communities can justify the decisions they make on firm provable evidence, and not simply emotion or assertion by people who simply oppose change.

Coun Janice Hanson,

Cabinet member with responsibility for Economic Regeneration and Planning

Lancaster City Council.

Council costs

Wasted on consultants

Last week councillors, or at least those who bothered to turn up, had a briefing by a man from a company called Capita on finance.

I have no doubt he put in a sizeable bill for his fee and expenses to be paid by the taxpayer; a previous briefing was given by a man who spent the whole 90 minutes promoting his own wind-turbine consultancy.

Of course, the council taxpayers footed the bill.

Capita is one of these massive, and some would say shadowy organisations which obtain huge contracts from national and local government for their services.

Like G4S, which had to be rescued by the army from the 2012 Olympic Games debacle, Capita has a controversial history.

The head of the company resigned following the £290 million collapse of the Individual Learning Account, amidst claims of fraud.

The company grew from a staff of 33 people to over 50,000 over this short period of time.

The question of council borrowing and simultaneous lending came up again.

We have borrowing accounts of £8 million on which we pay four and a quarter per cent interest.

At the same time, we have the same amount of money on loan, for which we receive a quarter per cent interest. This sounds like the economics of the madhouse.

In fairness, I should point out that for some time all the money on deposit was not available, because we deposited £6 million with Icelandic banks, which went broke, but all this, except for a “mere” few hundred thousand, has now been recovered. The only other questionable decision which now faces us concerns our day-to-day banking, which we entrusted to the ‘ethical’ Co-operative Bank, which is now in financial difficulties.

Within the next few weeks, council officers, not councillors, will decide how to finance the massive £15 million cost of getting out of the Lancaster Market contract.

The traditional, neat (accountants’) way is to amortise the debt over many, many years, so that our children pay for the mistakes made by our generation, but this “convenient” method now costs us an additional £300,000 per year on our council tax, the difference between the interest we 
pay for borrowing and the interest we receive from depositing the same amount of money.

The council has made some terrible blunders in its investments, and our finances are now in a mess.

It is time for a complete re-think of the way we operate. In addition, I know £700-a-throw is not a lot in the scheme of things, but as long as we are sacking good workers to save money, let us stop inviting these overpaid outside ‘experts’ to brief councillors.

If our own officers are 
unable to provide the information, we have the wrong officers.

Coun Keith Sowden (Free Independent, Overton Ward, Lancaster CC)

Chairman, Overton Parish Council

Stephens Grove

Overton

Morecambe.