Jeremy Hilton’s letter to Planning Inspectorate – Redrow appeal

Redrow Homes has appealed to the Secretary of State about Gloucester City Council’s non-determination of their planning application to build 89 dwellings on the former Civil Service Sports Ground off Estcourt Road. Application reference 16/00968/FUL.

This controversial application raised many objections from local residents when it was originally deposited with the council in 2016.

The deadline for comments to the Planning Inspectorate from the public was the 9th of August this year. Jeremy Hilton’s letter is below.

Gloucester City Council has still to respond. Within a few weeks the council will take its response to the planning committee for approval, before it is sent to the Planning Inspectorate.

 

 

Jeremy Hilton fighting to save the Civil Service Sports Ground

Jeremy Hilton’s Letter to Planning Inspectorate

I write to ask you to dismiss the appeal by Redrow Homes related to the planning application for 89 houses on the former Civil Service Sports Club ground (Ref:16/00968/FUL).

I am the local county and city councillor for Kingsholm & Wotton.

On the 19th of April 2017, I did write to the case officer at Gloucester City Council pointing out that the application was then seven months old and that it should be determined with a recommendation to refuse.

The council said they were giving more time to Redrow to resolve the issue about the loss of sports pitches. Redrow had not in April 2017 nor since provided evidence on how they would mitigate for the loss of the playing fields.

There is a shortage of rugby and football pitches in Gloucester. Spartans Ruby Club, which is based in Kingsholm, is looking for an additional pitch near to its club house, which is in neighbouring Sherborne Street.

The High School for Girls, which is in Denmark Road has also spoken to me about possible use of the sports field if it is saved from development.

All Redrow have done since acquiring the site in 2011 (for just £10,000) is shut the gates and demolish the club house etc, making the facilities unavailable for active sport that it had previously been used for.

Similarly, since acquiring the site Redrow have failed to properly discuss the future of the playing fields with the local community that is required in the Joint Core Strategy policy INF4. The lack of community engagement is lamentable.

Redrow’s idea of consultation has been to lodge two full planning applications with the council, leaving no opportunity for the council or the community to hold discussions about how the site could be developed for some housing, but leaving the rest of the site available for sport and recreation.

As Keith Annis a senior manager at Redrow once told me they were playing for time. The question must be asked why has it taken them nearly two years from depositing the planning application to lodge an appeal?

For Redrow to appeal against non-determination is rather hypocritical, particularly to do this only a few weeks after lodging a new planning application for 100 dwellings on the same site (Ref 18/00306/FUL)

Further Comments

A.    Affordable housing:

The plan for affordable homes did not meet the council’s then standard, when the application was submitted, which was 40 %. The application lists 18 dwellings as intermediate housing, this is equates to 20% of the build.

It was impossible for the council to approve an application that did not meet this standard. Subsequently, the Joint Core Strategy has been adopted, where the new limit is set at 20%.

B. Land Purchase:

The applicants purchased the sports ground from the Civil Service Sports Council Ltd for just £10,000 in 2011 (GR355501). The applicants should publicly declare the details of the uplift clause they have with Civil Service Sports Council Ltd.

I believe it is this legal agreement that is responsible for the maximisation of housing on the site rather than what one would expect an open discussion with the council and community on a development brief that would benefit all.

Some degree of housing whilst retaining the main sports field for sport and recreation, would benefit everyone.

C.    Alternative sport provision:

It may be that the land has not been used for sport for more than five years, but that is because of a deliberate policy by the landowners to close the ground for sporting activities.

I concur with Sport England that the application should be refused.

The applicants have failed to identify alternative facilities that could accommodate sporting activities that previously took place on the Civil Service Sports ground.

In my opinion, alternative provision must be within the Kingsholm & Wotton ward.

D. Joint Core Strategy INF3

The proposed development of 89 dwellings in my opinion is not consistent with JCS policy on green infrastructure. The former Civil Service Sport Ground provides a worthy green infrastructure asset that should be protected to help resolve the shortage of open space in Kingsholm and Wotton.

I believe it is not beyond the wit of all parties to come up with a development solution that would provide much needed housing whilst retaining a large open space that could continue to be used for sport and recreation.

Here is Policy INF3

1. The green infrastructure network of local and strategic importance will be conserved and enhanced, in order to deliver a series of multifunctional, linked green corridors across the JCS area by:
i. Improving the quantity and/or quality of assets;
ii. Improving linkages between assets in a manner appropriate to the scale of development, and
iii. Designing improvements in a way that supports the cohesive management of green
infrastructure;
2. Development proposals should consider and contribute positively towards green infrastructure, including the wider landscape context and strategic corridors between major assets and populations. Where new residential development will create, or add to, a need for publicly accessible green space or outdoor space for sports and recreational on, this will be fully met in accordance with Policy INF4. Development at Strategic Alloca ons will be required to deliver connectivity through the site, linking urban areas with the wider rural hinterland
3. Existing green infrastructure will be protected in a manner that reflects its contribution
to ecosystem services (including biodiversity, landscape / townscape quality, the historic environment, public access, recreation and play) and the connectivity of the green infrastructure network. Development proposals that will have an impact on woodlands, hedges and trees will need to include a jus ca on for why this impact cannot be avoided and should incorporate measures acceptable to the Local Planning Authority to mi gate the loss. Mi ga on should be provided on-site or, where this is not possible, in the immediate environs of the site
4. Where assets are created, retained or replaced within a scheme, they should be properly integrated into the design and contribute to local character and distinctiveness. Proposals should also make provisions for future maintenance of green infrastructure.

E. Joint Core Strategy INF4

As I have previously mentioned the lack of serious community engagement by Redrow ahead of this planning application, about the future use of the site, is lamentable.

Redrow have only showed plans that have proposed the complete building on the site, with the loss of the playing fields. They have never properly consulted anyone.

I believe they failed to meet the requirement of Joint Core Strategy policy INF4 for social and community infrastructure

Here is Policy INF4

1. Proposals to develop land or buildings currently or previously in use as a community facility will demonstrate, including evidence of engagement with relevant local community groups and partner organisations, why the facility is no longer required and, as appropriate, how, when and where suitable local replacement facilities will be provided. Provision of replacement facilities will have regard to the locational and other relevant elements of this policy
2. Where new residential development will create, or add to, a need for community facilities, it will be fully met as on-site provision and/or as a contribution to facilities or services o -site. New or refurbished provision will be of an appropriate type, standard and size. From an early stage, developers will be expected to engage with the relevant local authorities and infrastructure providers and, as appropriate, relevant local community groups where they exist, to ensure that new provision meets the needs of the community that it will serve and is t for purpose
3. Social and community infrastructure should be centrally located to the population it serves and
be easily accessible on foot and by bicycle. It should be located so as to have the potential to be well-served by public transport. Developers should aim to provide flexible, multifunctional facilities within mixed-use developments, creating shared space which maximises benefits to the community and minimises land-take. In the case of open space, ‘easily accessible’ means it is located within reasonable walking distance of the development it serves. New facilities should be accessible to all members of the community, and be planned and phased in parallel with new development.

F. Draft City Plan Policy SA06

The provision of 89 dwellings is in my opinion is overdevelopment of the site, which is in the heart of Kingsholm.

Council policy as identified in the draft City Plan, which was approved by council in December 2016, recommends a maximum of twenty dwellings (SA06).

The proposal of 89 dwellings exceeds this policy by 445%, with the complete loss of the playing fields.

A compromise of 40 dwellings, for example, on this site would mean that the former sports field could be brought back into use.

G. Layout of the site:

The layout of the site does not follow the usual street pattern that is evident in Kingsholm. It is adjacent to both the Kingsholm and Denmark Road conservation areas.

I am concerned that the narrow streets on estate may be become clogged up with motorists parking their cars on footpaths. This is a problem that will be exacerbated during times when there are rugby matches being played at the Kingsholm stadium.

The small public open space is set out to give the impression that it is an exclusive space just for the new residents of the estate. New public open space should laid out to be inclusive and available to all Kingsholm residents.

H.    Highway access:

I am not convinced by the design of the access point onto Estcourt Road slip road.

The proposed access onto Denmark Road is unacceptable. It closes the slip road to Lansdown Road and removes much-needed parking spaces on Denmark Road.

The closure of the slip road will create more vehicle conflict at the other junction with Lansdown Road. This will be a particular problem when school coaches use this junction.

The closure of the slip road will also remove the u-turn provision it provides for the houses serviced off the dual carriageway section of Denmark Road on the south side.

I.    Public open space:

Kingsholm & Wotton has a low level of public open space as identified in the city council’s open spaces strategy. The council’s standard is 2.8ha per 1000

Based on the new ward boundaries introduced at the 2016 election the ward has just 0.49ha per 1,000 population. Or 3.59ha for a population based on mid 2016 of 7,259 persons.

An opportunity is being missed in the proposed development to achieve a good increase in public open space provision in the ward by the wholesale development of the site, which was formerly used for sport and recreation.

I would recommend that this appeal is dismissed.

‘Suspend city council office move’ say Liberal Democrats

 

Jeremy Hilton & Declan Wilson with 92-96 Westgate Street in the background. This would be the new, much smaller customer advice centre for the city council. Drop in appointments to be ended.

Gloucester City Council should suspend its planned move of its offices to Shire Hall, say the Lib Dems. The current plan is for the city council to be based on the fifth floor at Shire Hall from 1st April 2019. Shire Hall is the headquarters of the county council.

The Liberal Democrat group says the business planning behind the project is ill thought out and the office accommodation will be temporary, too small and the financial savings unsound.

Lib Dem group leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton said:

“Gloucester City Council under Conservative control really is becoming a ‘vanishing council’. The council lacks ambition and is unable to plan long term. The Conservative administration is exhausted and has run out of good ideas. Moving to Shire Hall is a desperate stop gap position. It attempts to save money but doesn’t. The move should be suspended to allow for a full reappraisal.

“The accommodation at Shire Hall and 92-96 Westgate Street amounts to just 1,175 sqm. This is 78% smaller in size compared to the 5,290 sqm at Herbert, Kimberley and Phillpotts warehouses at the Docks. The Tory cabinet has still not provided opposition councillors with the plans on how it will all be squeezed into such a small space. The public reception advice centre on Westgate Street will be tiny, just 123 sqm compared to current 377 sqm.

“The council has yet to secure an agreement with the Canals & River Trust about altering the covenant on Herbert, Kimberley and Phillpotts warehouses. Until this is sorted, the buildings cannot be put up for sale. We must not leave these grade II listed buildings empty whilst we find a buyer. In the past, two empty warehouses in the Docks have been destroyed by arson. This could happen again. We should not move out until we have sold the buildings to new owners who have obtained planning permission.

“The city council needs to acquire new accommodation for the long term. It requires space to grow, especially if the council ends the Amey streetcare contract and brings the service back in house. We should build new offices in the Kings Quarter next to the new bus station. This would help kickstart the regeneration of the immediate area. It would be a bold move repeating the success of the council’s move to the Docks in the 1980’s.

Lib Dem deputy leader, Declan Wilson agreed:

“The move to Shire Hall is poorly thought out. The financial savings are unsound. The council will still have to pay business rates, the Docks service charge, insurance and security amounting to well over £250,000 per year on HKP warehouses until they have been sold. This is more than double the £102,000 savings suggested in the cabinet report. The council must reassess. The business plan is flawed.”

Audit & Governance Committee must discuss the Amey streetcare contract in public say Lib Dems

Discussions about the failing Amey streetcare contract must be held in open session with the press and public present says Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton.

On Monday 23rd of July, the Audit and Governance Committee of Gloucester City Council will receive a report (agenda item 16) about the failing streetcare contract that it has with Amey PLC.

Currently it is planned to exclude the press and public.

The committee will receive a report into the reasons why 2,000 tonnes of recyclable waste went missing with a market value of £246,000.

Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (Lib Dem – Kingsholm & Wotton) said: 

“Today I have written to the chair of the Audit & Governance Committee, Cllr. Andrew Gravells (Con – Abbeydale).

“I have asked him to hold the discussion of the agenda item in open session. The press and public have a right to attend the meeting and hear the full story.

“The council mustn’t hold any secrets into the difficulties it is having with our streetcare contractors. If this were a problem of a council direct labour organisation then the matter would be discussed in public.

“I have read the report. I can see no reason to hold the discussion in secret session.

“The council must be open to public scrutiny. Hiding behind closed doors because it may cause political or personal embarrassment is unacceptable.”

Lib Dems demand action over bins fiasco in Gloucester

Gloucester Liberal Democrats are demanding the Conservative-run city council takes action over persistent poor performance by waste collection contractors Amey.

Lib Dem councillors have tabled a motion for debate at a meeting of the city council on July 12, which calls on the Conservative cabinet to sort out the recent problems that have hit Amey.

Around 2,000 tonnes of recycled waste – collected from outside residents’ homes – has disappeared amid allegations from a whistleblower that some has been sent to landfill.

The Lib Dems have previously described both Amey and the Conservative cabinet as “utterly useless” in their management of the waste collection service.

Councillor Richard Cook, the cabinet member for the environment, recently told the scrutiny committee that just over 2,000 tonnes of recyclable waste had gone missing with a market value of £246,000.

The controversy comes just months after a string of cancelled collections over the Christmas and New Year break.

Households saw recycling build up for days over the end-of-year period when civic chiefs and Amey decided the icy road conditions with snow were too risky for crews.

Lib Dem group leader Councillor Jeremy Hilton, who represents Kingsholm & Wotton, is moving the motion.

“The council has a multi-million pound streetcare contract with Amey PLC,” he said.

“It is unbelievable that 2,000 tonnes of household waste has just disappeared. The contractor Amey and the cabinet who oversee the contract need to sort out this problem.

“We are demanding that the cabinet member ups his game. He should be meeting Amey once a month rather than quarterly.”

Lib Dem deputy group leader Councillor Declan Wilson, who will second the motion, added:

“The loss of £246,000, which is the value of the lost 2,000 tonnes of recyclable waste, will have a negative impact on the council’s balance sheet.

“There is so much we could do to improve council services with a quarter of a million pounds. The Tory cabinet must do better.”

Ends…

Motion for debate

“This council records its dissatisfaction with the household waste collection services operated by the council’s contractor Amey PLC.

This council notes that 2,000 tonnes of recyclable waste is unaccounted for with a market value of £246,000 and that there are stories of recyclable household waste being inappropriately sent to landfill.

This council also raises concerns about the quality of the client side management of the streetcare contract overseen by the cabinet.

This council, therefore, calls upon the cabinet member for the environment to up his game and increase the frequency of meetings he holds with Amey PLC from current quarterly meetings to monthly meetings until the matter of poor performance by Amey PLC is resolved.”

Proposed by Jeremy Hilton
Seconded by Declan Wilson

 

Empty offices leave public services £700,000 short in lost business rates

Isabel Brazil & Jeremy Hilton chat with 69 London Road in background

Gloucester City Council has been unable to collect nearly £700,000 in business rates because two office blocks in Gloucester have been laid empty for years.

The HM Revenue & Customs reduced the rateable value on 67 and 69 London Road to zero meaning the owners, Pall Mall Estates, do not have to pay business rates on either property.

It is understood that HMRC reduced the valuation to zero on the August 29, 2011.

Before the reduction the rateable value of both properties stood at £269,500 and meant that business rates were worth £118,732 per year to Gloucester City Council.

The properties were subject to a debate at the city council in May led by Liberal Democrat councillors Jeremy Hilton and Isabel Brazil, who represent Kingsholm Ward.

Their motion was passed unanimously calling for the buildings to be acquired for residential redevelopment, with a Compulsory Purchase Order being used if a reasonable purchase terms could not be agreed.

Councillor Hilton said: “The owners stripped out the services within the buildings a few years ago. This probably helped them secure a zero rating on their business rates.

“The loss of £700,000 in business rates since 2011 is scandalous. I understand the owners have had offers from potential buyers but turned them down.

“If they had to pay business rates on the office blocks they may have sold them by now.

“Private householders aren’t allowed to hang on to empty properties for year after year and not pay any council tax.

“Why should wealthy corporations get away with not paying their fair share of taxes? The system is corrupt.

Councillor Isabel Brazil said: “The buildings are run down and can no longer be easily let.

“The owners shouldn’t be allowed to sit on a property asset for year after year and not pay tax on them.

“The £700,000 lost in business rates could of been spent on supporting public services.”

Vanishing council to lock front doors once a month

Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton has responded to the decision of the Conservative controlled Gloucester City Council to close its customer advice reception and contact centre to the public on the last Wednesday of every month. The first closure will be on the 30th of May.

Cllr. Hilton has described the decision made by Cllr. David Norman as another example of the ‘vanishing council’.

Cllr.Jeremy Hilton (Lib Dem – Kingsholm & Wotton) said:

“Under Conservative control the city council continues to contract and services to the community diminish. It has certainly become a ‘vanishing council’.

“Last year the cabinet cut the hours the reception was open every day. It now closes at 3pm rather than 5pm as it once did. In future the doors will be closed once a month for a whole day.

“Residents arriving at the council on the last Wednesday of the month will be shocked and annoyed to see the doors locked to the council offices. If they phone the contact centre they will find their call will be unanswered. They will be frustrated they cannot speak to a person face to face to help solve their enquiry.

“Due to staff cuts imposed by the Tories, the council’s customer service team is overstretched and no longer has the resilience to cope with the demands placed on it.

“A good council would keeps its customer reception and contact centre open every working day. It should be able to organise staff training without locking the front doors.

“This vanishing council is letting the people of Gloucester down. It’s customer advice reception and contact centre should be open every day Monday to Friday.”

Lib Dem councillors want to use compulsory purchase powers to acquire 67/69 London Road

Jeremy Hilton with the run down buildings on London Road in the background

Liberal Democrat councillors for Kingsholm & Wotton, Jeremy Hilton & Isabel Brazil have issued a challenge to the Tory run city council to acquire 67/69 London Road for a housing development.

The two former office buildings on London Road have remained empty for many years and they are deteriorating and becoming eyesores within an important conservation area.

The annual meeting of the city council (21st May) will debate a motion proposed by Jeremy Hilton & seconded by Isabel Brazil calling on the council to acquire the dilapidated buildings for housing.

Cllr Hilton said: “Local residents are fed up with these empty buildings being an eyesore on London Road. Our motion hopefully, will get things moving.”

Cllr. Isabel Brazil agreed: “The buildings are run down and can no longer be easily let. The draft city plan suggests at least 30 residential units could be provided on the site. The council should now buy the properties for a housing project.”

The motion from the Kingsholm & Wotton councillors calls for compulsory purchase powers to be used if reasonable terms cannot be agreed.

Jeremy Hilton concluded: “The owners have failed look after the properties, we cannot allow them to continue to remain empty for year after year.

“The council must now buy them for a new housing project, using some of the £80m it set aside for such developments. If a negotiated purchase fails the council must use compulsory purchase powers to acquire the site.”

Ends….

Text of motion lodged with city council (dated 1st May 2018 11:12 am)

“This council notes that both 67 and 69 London Road, former offices, have been empty for a number of years and that these buildings are continuing to deteriorate.

They have become an eyesore on London Road, which is a conservation area and also one of the main routes into the city centre.

This council also notes that the combined site is listed in the draft city plan as being suitable for residential development.

This council, therefore, asks the leader to use city council resources to acquire 67 and 69 London Road for a residential regeneration project.

This council also agrees that the city council should use compulsory purchase powers to acquire the site if reasonable purchase terms cannot be agreed by negotiation with the current landowner.”

Proposed by Jeremy Hilton

Seconded by Isabel Brazil

Objections expected to flood in over 100 homes plans for Civil Service sports ground

Isabel Brazil and Jeremy Hilton with the former Civil Service sports ground in background

Plans have been submitted to build 100 homes on the grounds of the former Civil Service club in Kingsholm.

Liberal Democrat councillors are opposed to so many properties being built on the Estcourt Road site because it will take away valuable green space for local people.

The application by Redrow Homes to Gloucester City Council is an increase of 11 properties on a previous application of 89 homes, which is yet to be determined by the planning committee.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, who represents Kingsholm Ward on the city council, said the new application is in contravention of several council polices.

“The area has less public open space than the council says is necessary for the local population,” said Councillor Hilton.

“This application will take away valuable green space in the heart of Kingsholm. We do need more houses, but not so many at this location.

“The council’s draft city plan says the maximum on the site should be 20. This would leave the large field untouched and available for sport and recreation.

“Sport England raised objections to the previous application of 89 houses I imagine they will do the same for 100 dwellings.”

It is expected that the council will receive many objections as it did on the previous application, added Councillor Hilton.

Councillor Isabel Brazil, who also represents Kingsholm Ward, said: “We need to protect the green spaces in Kingsholm. There just isn’t enough locally, especially public open space.

“We are supporting plans for new housing on London Road and off Great Western Road, but the maximum permitted at Civil Service Club must be 20.”

Councillor Hilton added: “Redrow has been unable to find an alternative sports site nearby, so they are proposing as a sop to the council a cash contribution to be spent on sports fields in the south of Gloucester.

“Kingsholm will lose out. This is unfair.”

Both councillors are recommending that local people send in individual letters of objection, which can be also be done online at www.gloucester.gov.uk The planning document reference is 18/00306/FUL

Business rates windfall to support cultural and community projects – Lib Dem’s

Liberal Democrats on the city council will propose amendments to the council budget on Thursday (22nd Feb) concentrating on cultural and community activities.

They will use a third of the unallocated £800,000 expected windfall from the 100% business rates retention pilot to fund five key projects.

In total the Lib Dems will suggest additional spending of £270,000. This will not require a further increase in the council tax above the 3% rise set by the Tory cabinet.

Among the proposals from the Lib Dems is to hold a Gloucester Narrow Boat Festival at the Docks, spending £10,000 installing drinking water fountains in public areas and doubling the amount of money city councillors allocate to community projects in their wards.

The Lib Dems also plan to tackle the backlog of cataloguing artefacts held by the museum service and start a fund to invest in new public art for Gloucester.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, Lib Dem group leader, said:

“We are concentrating our amendments on community and cultural projects. We plan to wisely use part of the expected windfall from the business rates retention pilot to deal with the 16,000 historic artefacts that have not received basic cataloguing by the museums service. We will also allocate £100,000 for new public art. Something about the Siege of Gloucester or Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians would be top of my list. Liberal Democrat plans would not increase the council tax further.

Councillor Declan Wilson, Lib Dem deputy group leader and finance spokesman, added:

“The Lib Dem proposals will see a real investment in Gloucester’s arts and heritage. A new narrow boat festival at the Docks is in our plans as is the installation of drinking water fountains in public spaces. We also plan to boost grants for community activities around the city over the next two years by £40,000. We hope that both Tory and Labour councillors will support us.”

800 homes empty in Gloucester

Jeremy Hilton campaigning to resolve the empty homes problem

Nearly 800 homes in Gloucester are empty, research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed. The figures, uncovered through Freedom of Information requests, show that there are 791 homes across the city that have been empty for six months or more.

Of these, 299 had been empty for two years or more, 95 for five years or more, and 37 have stood empty for at least 10 years in Gloucester.

Across the country more than 11,000 homes have been lying empty for longer than a decade, the Lib Dem figures show.

Conservative-controlled Gloucester City Council has failed to make use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO) in the last five years – powers used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months.

This is despite the fact that some people in Gloucester have spent Christmas without a permanent home – living in temporary accommodation.

Nationally only 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales that responded had used an EDMO in the past five years. Of these only six had used one in the past year.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, the Liberal Democrat group leader on Gloucester City Council, said: “At a time when the homelessness crisis is worsening and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets, it is a scandal that so many homes locally are sitting empty.

“These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for those that need it in Gloucester.

“The Government needs to urgently review the current system which is clearly not working and Gloucester City Council needs to be given the powers and resources to bring empty homes back into use.

“It is shameful that Gloucester City Council has failed to use existing powers to end this scandal. People have spent Christmas without a permanent home because of Conservative inaction and ineptitude.”

Councillor David Brown, the Liberal Democrat housing spokesman on Gloucester City Council, added: “These desperately needed reforms must form part of a wider package to tackle the housing crisis, including building more homes on unused public sector land and clamping down on land-banking.”