Stoke-on-Trent Planning Councillors Flex Their Collective Muscles

The eight elected councillors who sat in the meeting of the Development Management Committee this week sent a very clear message out to those who fail to meet their planning conditions.

Planning decisions can often be terse affairs and I am sure that everyone who is reading this article has themselves, or know of others, who have affected by a planning decision. Indeed some people only get to witness the city council at work when they become embroiled in a planning application.

The outcome can sometimes go your way if you are objecting but more often decisions go the way of the applicant.

This week though our elected members who sit on the Development Management Committee showed that they are not for being pushing around, either by applicants or by planning officers.

The issue involved a complaint that a development had taken place without complying with a number of planning conditions.

The site in question is that of the former Eagle Pottery, Ivy House Road, Hanley . Redrow Homes gained outline planning permission in 2005 for a residential development subject to a number of conditions.

The owners of the adjacent Goodwin Steel Foundry alleged that work has commenced without the developer complying with a number of the conditions imposed.

Goodwin’s have been involved throughout the process and are keen to ensure that the developer complies especially in relation to noise, odours, air quality, HGV parking and turning.

In addition to the allegations made by Goodwins, investigations have revealed that some of the works have taken place that are not in accordance with the approved permission. This includes works adjacent to the canal, surfacing and boundary treatment and landscaping.

The report prepared by the planning officers and presented to our councillors at the meeting recommended that the committee “Ëœnote’ the nature of the allegations and that they also “Ëœnote’ that there are ongoing negations with Redrow. Finally it was also recommended that members “Ëœagree’ that it would not be expedient to take enforcement action with respect to the breaches of the planning conditions.

Well let me tell you, the elected members present neither agreed nor noted the officers’ recommendations. They were not of a mind to be directed by the legal officer present either.

Cllrs Paul Shotton and Cllr Ann James in particular demonstrated that this committee was not for steering and would make its own decisions and come to its own conclusions.

Cllr Shotton proposed that enforcement action be taken against the developer for failure to comply with the planning conditions attached to the outline permission.
This was met with a worried look by the planning officers and an attempt at watering down the proposal by the legal officer.

She was concerned that the council would incur costs if the developer chose to fight the enforcement and she also feared that it would not be looked on favourably if the council took enforcement action against the developer on all of the conditions as negotiation were underway to resolve some of the issues.

Not to be deterred Cllr Shotton used the planning officer to help and advise on the wording of a proposal that allowed the committee to impose enforcement on the developer for the conditions they had neglected to adhere to.

The proposal to take enforcement action was unanimously voted through. All 8 councillors present were united and stood firm against the officers’ recommendations demonstrating that the allegations that councillors are led or directed by officers are unfounded.

Cllr Paul Shotton, the deputy leader of the council along with Cllr Ann James’s steely determination sent a very loud warning across to the officers that although Labour have a large majority on the council, when needed councillors will unite to ensure the right decisions are made.

This will not be an officer – Labour Party love-in as some administrations have been in the past.

This was an encouraging start to the ongoing fight to prove that true democracy is alive and kicking in the City of Stoke-on-Trent.

Planning Permission Granted For Replacement Normacot Mosque

Normacot’s Muslim Community was granted full planning permission today to build a replacement mosque on the opposite side of Chaplin Road to where the original building lies.

Approval for planning was voted through without any votes against or abstentions at a meeting of Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Development Management Committee.

There were no members of public present to raise any objections to the plans. The city council had only received three letters of protest during the application protest.

As a condition, building work must commence on the new mosque within three years of the date that the planning permission was granted.

Councillor Ann James raised concerns over the increased traffic in the area and the fact that there were already parking issues when the current mosque was busy.

The planning officer was able to allay her fears by informing the meeting that the mosques trust had purchased additional land alongside the existing mosque and that both sites would be used for parking.

The height of the building including the minaret will be no more than 1.5 metres higher that the adjacent block of apartments.

The mosque trust will also have to adhere to a number of conditions.

A) The provision of a traffic management scheme and if required, a controlled parking zone.
B) Covered cycle parking facilities provided within the site.
C) A detailed Travel plan that sets out how the mosque users and the trust intend to reduce the reliance on private motor cars.
D) A landscaping plan that details the treatment of all ground surfaces, tree and shrub planting, finished level of contours.
E) Announcements and calls to prayer using external amplification shall not take place except on Fridays, Eid Days and during the holy month of Ramadan. On these days they shall not take place before 07.30 or after 20.00 hours. The announcements or calls shall last no longer than two minutes and shall not exceed a volume of 60dBL at source.

The call to prayer issue has already been addressed.

The Mosque trust have already stated that it would be announced through an internal PA system 5 minutes before the actual prayer meeting takes place. The previous permission was subject to a condition which limited the volume and times that prayer calls could take place and it is suggested that a similar condition be used, now that planning had been granted.

Members of the mosque trust were present in the chamber to hear the news of their successful application.

John Street Car Park And Bus Station Development

On March 23, Council Leader Mohammed Pervez started work on the much talked about new bus station for Hanley.

Councillor Pervez started the work with the construction of a 2.4 meter high fence around the site and said

This is fantastic news for the city. We gave commitment to starting on the bus station by 28 March. We have managed this. This is a sign of our absolute commitment to making sure we deliver. The new bus station will become a lasting legacy for the city and will provide users with a quality, warm and safe facility.

If we rewind back to September 2010, the cabinet of the time, under the leadership of Councillor Pervez made a number of pledges that they were going to deliver by the end of March 2011 These pledges included

  • Delivery of 100 Extra Care housing units to support older people.
  • Building new homes in Coalville, Blurton and Fegg Hayes.
  • Working in partnership to provide 100 affordable homes.
  • Starting a new adult learning programme.
  • Starting work on the new REACH short stay school at Trent Vale.
  • Supporting 2,000 people with advice on training and employment.
  • Helping 500 people into permanent jobs through the city’s JET centres.
  • Introducing 11 more No Cold Calling zones
  • Completing the refurbishment of the Mitchell Memorial Theatre.
  • Starting work on the development of a new city centre bus station.

Amazingly just before the ‘Purdah‘ period for the 2011 local elections started, (during Purdah publicity, in any form, by public officials, of candidates and politicians is prohibited), Councillor Pervez was able to Start work on the development of a new city centre bus station and deliver one of his cabinets pledges from September.

After the work started, the car park remained open until 11 April when the fencing was complete and the gates were locked for the final time. If you were expecting work to be being carried out as a matter of urgency behind the fence, you will be sorely disappointed.

John Street Car Park

An empty John Street car park

John Street Car Park

No sign of any work being carried out

As you can see now almost 9 weeks on from the work starting and 6 weeks since the car park was closed, there is no work being carried out nor are there any signs of any work other than putting the fence up and removing the pay machines being carried out.

Can closing a car park, which it has been alleged generated over £9000 a week in parking revenue for the city, be classed as delivering the cabinet pledge to start work on the development of the new city centre bus station? Especially as the planning application for the new bus station is reserved with clauses which appear to mean that any construction above ground level is not to commence until certain conditions have been met.

It is possible that other pledges made by the cabinet have been delivered as promised, but this one looks like it was a last minute vanity project by Councillor Pervez to dupe people in to thinking that work was actually beginning on the bus station.

Pits n Pots have contacted Stoke-on-Trent City Council to ask them for a schedule of works currently being carried out, any completed works and any planned works, along with a statement from Councillor Pervez or Renew, so far they have not been able to supply this.

Updated 17:20 23 May Stoke-on-Trent City Council provided the following statement.

 

Since work began in March this year we have successfully secured the site, completed the site hoarding, commenced service disconnections, de-commisioning of ticket machines, tree removal and soft strip of shrubbery to the perimeter of the site. We have completed the tender for the enabling works package to stabilise the ground with the tenders now under review. This process has been slightly delayed due to the intensive bank holiday period which was unavoidable. We expect all reviews to be finished today (May 23) with a view to grouting works starting shortly; an eight to 10 week process. The tender for the principle contractor is also now issued with a closing date of June 24, 2011 and commencement on site following completion of the enabling works in early – mid August.  While a lot of the work has been in the background it is all vital to the project goes ahead as planned. We are working hard every day to get to make sure this process causes minimum disruption to people in and around the City Centre. Importantly we are still on track for completion in Autumn 2012.

 

Tesco Trent Vale Planning Application Inquiry

A public inquiry is being held at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Civic Centre, Glebe Street Stoke on Tuesday 6 July at 10.00, which will look at plans to build a replacement Tesco supermarket at Newcastle Road in Trent Vale.

Mr P J Major BA(Hons) DipTP MRTPI an inspector instructed by the Secretary of State will attend the inquiry.

A large number of local residents have opposed the redevelopment of the the store, which will see it expand by around 2/3 in size, although in planning documents Tesco Stores say they do not expect the number of visitors to increase by more than a few %. Concerns of the impact a large out of town store will have on the stores in Newcastle is one of the main reasons of objection along with increased traffic congestion on what is already a busy road.

Mark Fisher, the retired Stoke-on-Trent Central MP has written to the council in support of the planning application. In the letter dated 28 April, Mr Fisher wrote:

Please accept this letter, on behalf of my local constituents, as my formal representation to the Inquiry in support of the planning application for the proposed replacement Tesco Store at Trent Vale.

Newly elected councillor Jeremy Dillon, has also written in support of the application as has Gavin Webb.

Details of the planning application and all related documents can be found using the link below.

Taking Stock of Stoke

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Federation of the towns that became Stoke on Trent. In this centenary year some of us who write for Pits n Pots are asking question s about the future direction of the City.

The changes in the last 50 years of the City have been more profound than the first fifty even with the involvement of this country in two World Wars. Since 1960 there has been 100,000 job losses in the traditional industries of pottery, steel and mining. There has been in the influx of immigrants from the New Commonwealth, the changes of population as the city has suffered from middle class flight and the weakening of many of the communities, which face unemployment, poverty and the rise in anti social disorder.

There has been something in the region of 19 national government initiative to arrest the decline of the City and there have been new industries emerging from the ruins of de industrialisation. After 100 years it is about time to take stock of Stoke.

On the subject of anniversaries it is also the 10th anniversary of the report that Lord Rodgers wrote on urban renewal and what he envisaged the typical city to look at reflecting on the organic nature of the City.

ï‚· Stress the importance of good design

ï‚· Residents should be more directly in making the key decisions about priorities for services and how they should be delivered within local areas.

ï‚· Agree a vision for growth areas based on strengthening
Existing urban areas, the retention of neighbourhood
communities and the provision of good public transport.

ï‚· Exploit all opportunities for an urban renaissance by
taking a brownfield first approach, including in growth
areas, and recognise the continuing substantial role of
windfall sites in contributing to land supply and of urban
capacity studies in identifying future opportunities.

ï‚· Increase the share of new building on brownfield sites
across the country by establishing a new target for an
average 75% of residential development across all
England’s regions to be on previously developed land by
2010, supported by varying targets for brownfield use in
Regional Spatial Strategies to reflect regional differences
in supply and demand.

ï‚· Draw on local community views by making character
assessments of historic and landscape value compulsory
and integral to regional and sub-regional planning and
the development of growth areas.

“¢ Raise the minimum density standard for new residential
development to 40 dwellings per hectare, subject to
exceptional circumstances, and extend the “density
direction”, which requires all lower density housing
development to be notified to the Government Regional
Office for possible call-in, from three to all English
regions.

“¢ Increase investment in the creation and long term
management of green infrastructure and open spaces
in growth areas and areas of existing deficiency.

“¢ Ensure sustainability not only lies at the root of original
design concepts, but is followed as a philosophy through
to deconstruction.

“¢ Support innovation and investment in environmental
infrastructure ““ including zero waste, combined heat
and power and sustainable urban drainage schemes.

“¢ Place an energy efficiency obligation on developers that
matches the obligation placed on utilities.

“¢ Recognise the huge energy and recycling potential
embodied by our 22 million existing homes, the vast
majority of which are structurally sound and potentially
re-usable

Some of us are wondering how the structure for the renewal of Stoke in its second century of existence can be carried forward and how an agenda for the development of the area can be progressed.

I would be interested in ideas.

Business owners kept in the dark over demolition plans

Despite being told they would be consulted by Stoke-on-Trent city council, licensees Jason Barlow and Sue Grocott feel they have been kept in the dark over the plans to regenerate the Lichfield Street end of Hanley.

Since the council accepted an outline planning proposal back in February which would see the transformation of the dilpidated East West Precinct into a modern shopping centre, along with the demolition of the Coachmaker’s Arms in the process, Jason and Sue have heard nothing, apart from what they have read in the press.

Last week, after reports that the project may never actually go ahead, the council and the developers, Realis, reasserted their stance, confirming that the proposal was still very much alive, and that they would also be working with the authority on plans to replace the eyesore of a bus station.

But, whether ultimately the plans go ahead or not, the fact that the council disregarded 10,500 people who wanted the pub to stay, what is amazing is the way in which these demolition plans are handled, without considering communicating in an effective manner with those who would be detrimentally affected by the plans.

Jason said:

“I think this recent news is all a bit of a PR stunt.

“There has been no news since the outline planning permission was granted, no final planning proposal has been put in.

“But I have heard nothing from the council or the developers since that meeting on February 13th. We are completely in the dark.”

There is evidently some debate over whether this contentious project will ever begin, or indeed, the embarrassingly bad bus station will ever alter. But what is very wrong about the whole deal is how the authority consistently continues to disregard the views of the public which it serves. And not talking, writing or sending a carrier pigeon to keep those who will lose their businesses and their homes into the bargain is simply unforgiveable.

Retail complex plans in doubt

By Matt Taylor

Council Officials are concerned that because of the financial climate, an ambitious retail complex project may not go ahead.

Impressive plans were displayed earlier this year for the East West Centre precinct and the City Council permitted outline planning permission for the project which, despite including the contentious demolition of the Coachmaker’s Arms in Lichfield Street, was set to be an exciting development which would transform a derelict part of Hanley (the city centre!) into a retail complex which would hopefully rival places such as the Trafford Centre.

But now, since the economy slumped into its current state, and funds to new buildings across the board from residential properties to office complexes has all but dried up, it is thought that the likelihood of the project actually going ahead is now in doubt.

This, of course, will come as joyous news to lovers of the Coachmakers ale house, not to mention its tenants, Jason and Sue. Although they, along with most who signed the 10,000 strong petition against its destruction to make way for the new edifice, were as much for the regeneration of that area of Hanley as much as the people who were involved with the project – so long as their historic and award-winning boozer doesn’t have to fall for the privelege.

But, genuinely, this is sad news for the town which the council wants to so much promote as the city centre, and proof that the economic slump couldn’t have come at a worse time for Stoke-on-Trent. We were in the midst of projetcs which were set to bring the area into a city which could compete with the likes of Manchester into the 21st Century, with shiny office buildings about to be erected in Trinity Street, grounds freshly cleared for building to begin on another retail off Century Street and Cobridge Road, one of the main gateways into Hanley, a Tesco store which the town has been waiting for for a decade, and now the East West Centre. Now only the Tesco and East West projects have any hope of survival after financial circumstances obliterated the other ideas, with the latter looking more dubious by the minute.

It has been argued by some that, actually, building vast retail arenas was not the way to keep Stoke-on-Trent alive. Perhaps what we really need is more industry, a way of replacing the jobs now gone from the great Pits’n’Pots industries, rather than shops which only promise minimum wage salaries for local people, in some vain attempt to become some kind of midlands version of Oxford Street we’re clearly never going to be.

Committee Agrees 46 Affordable Homes, and Defers Tesco Expansion

citylogoA scheme to build 46 affordable homes in Meir has been agreed by councillors.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Development Control Committee members at a meeting on Tuesday morning, approved plans to build the homes behind Lyme Road, Meir. The development will provide two bedroom homes for the elderly, three and four bedroom family homes and two bedroom flats. The scheme is near to Rowan Village, an award winning 75-apartment complex which provides round-the-clock support to elderly residents.

Committee members welcomed the plans as a way to help regenerate the area, which would uniquely provide 100 per cent affordable homes. Members said it would help increase the chances of elderly people being able to remain living near to their families and friends. Proposals were voted through four for, one against.

Councillors also deferred plans by supermarket chain Tesco to replace its existing Trent Vale store with one 76 per tescocent larger on the same site. Tesco’s plans would create a store built on stilts with an underground car park. Store floor space would increase from 5,342 square metres to 9,383 square metres, and the existing petrol station would not be replaced.

A report to the meeting recommended the proposals be refused on the grounds that the need for such a store has not been demonstrated, that it would create too much pressure on surrounding highways and would have a poor affect on the built environment.

A decision on the scheme has been deferred for three weeks, until the next committee meeting, to consider additional information submitted by the supermarket.

DIVINE INTERVENTION FOR ENDANGERED PUB

breaking-news1By Matt Taylor

After councillors voted unanimously to allow a development which will mean the demolition of the Coachmacoachmakersker’s Arms, a catholic priest has stepped in to throw the pub a lifeline.

Father Peter Weatherby of the Sacred Heart church in Hanley has managed to get the official Prime Minister’s Office website to host a petition against the plans, which allows campaigners to address and deliver their appeal directly to the PM.

If the campaign attracts enough support, Father Weatherby, who is a regular at the Coachmaker’s, hopes it will lead to intervention by the Secretary of State to save the award-winning pub.

The move by the local priest follows his column in The Sentinel in which he explained that the one thing he wouldn’t be giving up for lent was visiting his “local pub and enjoyment of its excellent beers”¦because it is on the point of being taken away from us forever”.

On February 13, members of the Development Control Committee refused to block planning permission for the East West Centre, despite convincing pleas from licensee Jason Barlow and Stoke MP Mark Fisher.

Their argument wasn’t that the construction planned to start next year shouldn’t go ahead at all, but that architects should try to draw up new plans to include the popular and nostalgic ale-house.

But, in apparent fear that developers Realis Estates might walk away from the deal if they delayed the proposal, councillors backed the plans wholeheartedly as a great move to regenerate the city.

Now, not far from 10,000 supporters who signed either the paper or on-line petition, but whose views were disregarded, have another chance to make their voices heard. Licensee Jason Barlow said:

“It is an opportunity to have the whole thing looked at again. And in the current political climate in Stoke-on-Trent, we feel that there would be some benefit in having the plans looked at by an external adjudicator.”

If you think the Coachmaker’s should be included in the new development to combine the old with the new, sign-up to the petition by clicking here, or type http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/coachmakers/ into your browser.

© TheRadicalPress 2009.

radicallogob