WE are writing to express our dismay at the debate and decision of the West and North Planning Committee, relating to the proposed housing development at Whites Yard, on the corner of Holtwood Road and Abbeyfield Road in Pitsmoor.
It became very clear that after our representative’s eloquent presentation at the meeting, that certain planning committee members took only superficial interest in the concerns that were expressed by local residens and we were dismayed by the way voting clearly divided along party political lines, rather than the case being considered on its own merits.
Whilst those planning committee members who spoke and voted against the proposals had clearly understood the concerns of local residents, those who spoke and voted in favour of it seemed to have little real interest in the issues.
Our representative made clear that we did not object to the principle of the housing development.
Our objection was to the layout and access to the development and its quality, together with concerns that anti-social behaviour would be encouraged and that the developers had kept the numbers down to 14 houses in order to avoid providing affordable housing, or to contribute to the funding of additional school places, amongst other things.
Above all, our concern was for the safety of the children who live in, visit and play in the area: a concern which could be addressed by using the existing access to the site.
As local residents, we feel the development represents a continuation of a situation in which the land owners have taken as much as they can out of the site and given nothing back, up to and including not even bothering to discuss the scheme with us.
Every tree on the site has been cut down, an early Victorian lodge building and stone boundary wall demolished and the site turned into an ugly moonscape. It is little wonder therefore that we are angry and upset by the proposals.
The conduct of certain members of the planning committee, in largely ignoring our concerns, only served to magnify our anger and upset.
The assertion was made at that meeting that if the application was refused the decision would be overturned by a planning inspector and costs awarded against the Council.
This was highly misleading. Local residents could have happily advised members of solid grounds on which the application could have been refused and have previously done so in their written submissions to the committee.
We also recognised that it was the sterling efforts of planning officers which had improved the scheme beyond recognition.
We had faith that council officers would do their best to defend a decision to refuse the proposals. It is a shame some planning committee members do not share this faith.
Ultimately, a refusal would have allowed the possibility of reconsidering the design and improving it, something in everyone’s interest.
Instead, some councillors were prepared to accept, without question and without evidence, that there were no alternative layouts.
Equally, certain councillors were prepared to accept that it was a common feature of housing development in Sheffield that residents had to reverse their cars into oncoming traffic, again without question, or evidence.
Finally, we were astounded that experienced planning committee councillors chose not to take the obvious and frequently used route of deferring the decision on the application, in order to gain sound legal advice about their ability to restrict the development of the site to no more than 14 new houses. The protest of councillors on this matter rang particularly hollow when they chose not to defer the decision. The attempt to add a condition to restrict further development, after the decision to approve the application had been made, which is almost certainly illegal, was a cynical red herring.
This was an ill-judged and misinformed decision which, even at this late date, the planning committee has the power to revoke and, in our opinion, the duty to do so. This would give local residents the opportunity to work with the developer to reconsider the overall access to the site in response to the genuine concerns of the residents rather than ignoring them as nothing more than the irritating complaints of fussy neighbours.