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Julian Sturdy - Strong Voice for York Outer

Julian Sturdy

Member of Parliament for York Outer

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Julian’s June Column in the York Press

June 13, 2014

There has never been a more important time to make your opinions known. The people of York have the opportunity to submit their views to the Council on how our great city should change over the next generation and the stakes have never been higher.

In April last year, the Council published their draft Local Plan, which mapped out how and where they intend to develop York over the next 15 years. It proposed development on a scale unheard of in York’s recent history and at a speed and magnitude well beyond that of any other urban centre of a similar size and character. Regrettably the Council has decided to ignore the wishes of local people, by failing to maximise the housing potential of our existing brownfield sites and instead pursuing most of the development on the easier and perhaps more profitable greenbelt land surrounding the City. Over 85% of the total amount of land the Council has allocated for housing is in the greenbelt, which translates to approximately 16,000 new homes. When we compare this record to Bristol, where over the past 10 years, 94% of all housing has been on brownfield sites, the Council’s Local Plan can be seen for what it really is: an attempt to change our beautiful historic cathedral City out of all recognition and turn it into a sprawling suburb of West Yorkshire.

My opposition to the proposals has been widely documented in the local media. As someone who was raised in the surrounding countryside, I understand the importance of having green open spaces and I am committed to doing everything I can to protect York’s greenbelt for the benefit of future generations. I fear it is reckless of our local authority to propose masses of new housing without putting in place the necessary improvements to our roads, schools and hospitals, all of which are already under strain.

As a result of the previous consultation, the Council spent several months reviewing the 14,000 responses it received on the draft Plan last summer. It has now published a further set of proposals within what they have called the ‘Local Plan Further Sites’ document. It contains some completely new proposals, as well as amendments to existing ones. Local residents can decide for themselves whether it will improve their community and can again take part in the six week consultation, which closes on 16th July.

So what does the ‘Further Sites’ document actually mean for York? There are some positive developments. The hugely controversial gypsy and traveller sites in Dunnington and Huntington have been withdrawn – but new sites have been proposed in Elvington. Most of the changes in the Plan are disappointingly superficial and the overall scale of development on our greenbelt remains much the same as before. The total area of land up for development is virtually unchanged and what is worse, the amount of land ‘safeguarded’ for future long term development has actually increased. One such recommendation is to remove 220 acres from the greenbelt to the east of Earswick, which, once developed, will triple the size of the village.

With further plans for industrial sized solar farms in the open countryside and a proposal for an confusingly named ‘Compressed Natural Gas Fuelling Station and Freight Consolidation Centre’ (an HGV interchange with a fuel station) between Askham Bryan and Copmanthorpe, it is clear that the Council have not listened to the concerns of the thousands of residents who made their views known during the previous consultation.

I urge all readers to have their say on the Council’s proposals by submitting your comments to the ongoing consultation. If you would like further information on how the plans will affect you and your community, please do not hesitate to contact me. Only by making your views known can we ensure that York has sensible and sustainable plan for future development, that is representative of the views of local people, not the unrealistic aspirations of a deeply out of touch Council.