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York Environment Forum challenges formula for city’s Local Plan

10 August 2013

York Environment Forum welcomes the opportunity to comment on the City of York Local Plan Preferred Options June 2013.

There is much that we support in the Plan, and we are especially pleased to see the recognition given to the importance of York’s green infrastructure (Section 17) with policies on GI, biodiversity, trees, open spaces and green corridors and also to climate change and renewable energy (Section 20), as well as policies to tackle the very real dangers posed by flood risk (Section 19) and air quality (Section 21). We support the stated ambition to create sustainable developments (Section 10), to improve building standards (Section 20) and to promote sustainable transport (Section 22) and to define the green belt (Section 18) with the provisos mentioned below.

We do, however, have major concerns regarding some of the strategic sites on land that is currently regarded as green belt, not only in terms of their locations but also in terms of their size. We find the projections for economic growth and the housing numbers (Section 10) to be unrealistic and over-ambitious and we are deeply concerned about the impact such policies will have on the future development of York.

York has a key ambition to be a ‘leading environmentally friendly city’ as part of its overall vision, as set out in The Strategy for York. We support – and, indeed, champion this – but we do not feel that the talk about sustainability in the Local Plan (which many of our members feel is no more than ‘rhetoric’) fits with the targets for growth as set out in the Plan.

Our detailed response, to which a number of our members contributed, can be found on the page headed ‘Reports‘.

The Draft Local Plan for York, published June 2013, differs from the previous Core Strategy (withdrawn following criticisms from the Government Inspector) in that it takes a new approach, based on population growth and, crucially, projections for economic growth in York, and derives a sum for housing numbers from that.

York Environment Forum feels that the equation is simplistic and the logic dubious:  there is not a linear relationship between them and the variables  are many – especially for growth.

Given that this is the foundation on which the York Local Plan is based, we challenge the formula at its heart and wish to see further public examination of this. We consider that, given the issues raised by Arup, York would be wrong to accept the preferred option (Option 2) for housing and should instead adopt the lower number (Option 1, 850 dwellings p.a.).

It is vital that York agrees a Local Plan. However, we feel that, as it stands, the preferred options on housing and growth make it vulnerable  and may undermine its viability.  We must get it right this time, for the sake of York’s future.

York Environment Forum does not wish this Plan to fail. If it does, York will be subject to the NPPF for its future development, which would result in a ‘free for all’ for developers with no local guidance to protect York’s special qualities.

York Environment Forum wishes to engage in a full debate to resolve the issues above and modify the approach. We are happy to co-operate and support the City of York Council in any way we can to assist with this.

Kate Lock, Chair, York Environment Forum

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