Issue 57— April 2005
Plan inquiry pauses
Canalside planning inquiry adjourned until May 16th.
Jericho residents, from both houses and canal boats, turned out in force at a planning inquiry in the Town Hall to argue against the canalside development.
Bellway Homes, the developer chosen by British Waterways to build on the canalside land behind St. Barnabas Church, has proposed a massive three- and four-storey development that would eliminate the boatyard, crowd in on the historic St Barnabas Church, and offer none of the additional space needed for a new Community Centre.
In May 2004, the City Council resoundingly rejected their planning application. Bellway and British Waterways appealed, and the ensuing public inquiry started on March 8th. Although scheduled for only three days, it was still going strong after four and had to be adjourned, to resume on May 16th – the next date when the inspector and the lawyers were available.
Several days were taken up discussing the case for retaining a working boatyard – the potential loss of which has provoked a debate on national press and television. The first day of the hearing included an appeal for its retention by celebrated author Philip Pullman.
British Waterways argued that there were many other options along the canal for boats needing repair, but a series of witnesses pointed out the unique service provided by Steve Goodlad of Alchemy Boats – especially for urgent repairs when other options are out of cruising range. British Waterways’ offhand attitude was clearly demonstrated when, even while the hearing was taking place, they presented Dr. Goodlad with an eviction notice, served by their suitably named solicitors, Wright Hassle.
Several people also spoke out against the scale of the development. Henry Shukman of St Barnabas Street, for example, said that the proposed blocks would “dwarf not only my house but the entire neighbourhood”.
Others pointed out the loss of views of our landmark St Barnabas Church, which is a listed building. Father Michael Wright identified the central problem to be the ‘avarice’ of British Waterways who were trying to squeeze too much money out of the developer who, having offered £3.5 million for the site, needed to pack in high-value multi-storey homes to recoup what it had offered.
The case for the new Community Centre was marshalled by Community Association Chair, George Taylor, and our planning and development surveyor, Stuart Larkin. In a clear and well-argued presentation, Stuart pointed out that in the new Local Plan the City Council had identified this site as the location for a new Community Centre. The existing Centre in Canal Street does not meet 21st-century needs and in particular does not fulfil the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.
The Council has already agreed to contribute to the site the adjacent land currently occupied by the garages at Dawson Place. However, to build a sustainably-sized centre, large enough to meet community needs, now and in the future, the Council concluded we would need to use a piece of land from the development site.
British Waterways rejected this conclusion, even before the planning application, saying that we would have to ‘make do’ with the Council land. They have also suggested that we do not need a two-storey community hall where all sorts of sports, community events and wedding receptions could take place.
Bellway argue that it is unreasonable to ask them to contribute land, even though an independent evaluation had demonstrated that they would still be making a substantial profit – especially since the Council has now agreed to accept only 35% ‘affordable housing’ instead of the 40% to 50% they are now seeking elsewhere.
The inquiry resumes at the Town Hall on Monday May
16th at 10.00 a.m. If you can, please come along.