W/17/1303, Hybrid planning application for the erection of up to 425 dwellings (detailed first phase of 129 dwellings with the remainder of the site being outline including details of access), convenience store of up to 400 sqm gross together with the erection of formal and informal open space including allotments, infrastructure provision and associated work together with means of access onto Westwood Heath Road and agricultural access onto Bockendon Lane
Burton Green Parish Council strongly objects to this application. The basis of our objection is that, whilst the Inspector has now approved the Local Plan, Warwick District Council has yet to adopt the Inspector’s report. Until such time as that report is adopted the land at Westwood Heath remains in the Green Belt. We understand that it is the current policy of WDC not to allow building on the green belt.
If an application were to be re-submitted following a decision by the WDC to adopt the Inspector’s report and were to agree to remove this land from the Green belt, this Council would make detailed objection to the plans on several grounds. These would include insufficient off-road parking spaces, proposed siting of sewage pumping station and insufficient parking for the proposed shop. The following points summarise the Council’s strategic reasoning for their objections to the development of this site at the present time.
GENERAL HOUSING NEED
Parish Councillors are surprised that a planning application has been submitted before the Inspector has completed his report on the Local Plan. It seems premature. Although we recognise that Warwick District Council has a responsibility to meet the unmet needs of Coventry through its duty to cooperate, there is growing evidence that Coventry’s population projections are grossly inflated especially in relation to non-European students.
At this moment, the proposed development is on green belt and no building can take place until the new Local Plan has been accepted and the site is withdrawn from green belt. Westwood Heath is perhaps the most important of all green spaces in Burton Green. It is situated in the Crackley Gap in an elevated position with outstanding views towards the University. This development will have a significant adverse landscape impact and it is no wonder that this site was emphatically rejected on a number of accounts in the Green Belt and Green Field Review of November, 2013, especially as it safeguards the local area against urban sprawl and coalescence with Coventry. Indeed it seems incredible that less than three years later a new review, LAO9PM, asserted that that this site was not so bad after all. It certainly flies in the face of the present Government’s White Paper on Housing in which as Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, maintained “the Green Belt was safe in our hands” and there would be no ripping up of our countryside.
Furthermore, as stated in section 9 of the NPPF, which sets out the fundamental aim of green belt policy: “The Government attaches great importance to Green Belts. The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence.”
Also, in its Planning Practice Guidance accompanying the NPPF, the government stated that unmet housing need in a particular area is unlikely to meet the “very special circumstances” test to justify green belt development stating: “Unmet housing need (including for traveller sites) is unlikely to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and other harm to constitute the ‘very special circumstances”’ justifying inappropriate development on a site within the Green Belt.”
Nor do we believe that ‘very special circumstances’ can be claimed in support of any need at this time for 425 homes at Westwood Heath in support of Coventry’s future housing needs, given that the Coventry Development Plan (1996-2011) Annual Monitoring Report 2015-2016 states that “The continued upward trajectory of annual completions across [Coventry] shows that 5,550 new homes have been developed between 2011 and 2016, compared to a requirement within the stepped trajectory of 5,100 dwellings. The requirement has therefore been exceeded by 450 homes.” In other words, in the past five years Coventry’s projected housing need has been exceeded by more houses than the total number currently proposed to be built at Westwood Heath.
IMPACTS ON ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE
Burton Green and Westwood Heath residents are especially anxious about the impact of this development on traffic flows in Cromwell Lane and Westwood Heath Road, also on Bockendon Road/Crackley Lane. Already residents are concerned about the volume of traffic on our roads and congestion at peak time is an everyday occurrence. It can only get worse on Westwood Heath Road when many of the motorists from the 425 houses will attempt to turn right at the two exits at the morning peak time in their journey towards the University and business parks. Indeed the situation will be far worse as motorists from other new developments head in the same direction. It is almost inevitable that there will be additional motorists using this route from the 240 houses proposed in Cromwell Lane, the 90 proposed houses in Red Lane and the 1150 houses in Berkswell and Balsall Common. Certainly the complacent attitude of Coventry and County Highways towards traffic flows at the Inspectors’ examinations inspire no confidence and before any building commences, there must be a more effective and coordinated plan. Also the problems to the Cromwell Lane and Westwood Heath Road junction must be resolved. Already the junction is above capacity, having a ratio of volume to capacity (RFC) of over -85 which signifies that it has congestion problems. Indeed the figure of 1-11 is higher than any other junction in the area. Parish Councillors are grateful that the Coventry Inspector, Rebecca Phillips, has recognised the importance of improving junctions before construction in Cromwell Lane begins and Warwick District must take her recommendations on board.
It is absolutely clear that the present and the future traffic problems are immense but Parish Councillors are still not in possession of all the facts. We still do not know the details of the second and third phases of the proposed new road to the A45 or the A452 from the A46. It is highly likely that this road will be in the vicinity of this development yet, despite the rumours, the route is concealed. Surely our community deserves better and permission for this planning application must not be granted until the location and timing of this route is made public.
Residents are concerned over a number of issues. There is little support for a shop especially as there is no road linking Cromwell Lane with this development and residents are reasonably content with the shops at Cannon Park, which is on an hourly bus service route, and Kenilworth.
There is perhaps a greater concern about the impact of this development on school places. Burton Green School is presently full with a waiting list. Indeed almost 50% of pupils come from the Westwood Heath area with some parents reluctant to take up their places at Coventry primary schools. There are also problems with secondary provision and it is difficult to know which schools will be available. More thought must be given to education before this application is accepted.
Finally there is one issue which causes considerable apprehension; the community sustainability of Burton Green at a time when we are seeking to develop a Neighbourhood Plan. The development at Westwood Heath poses great risks as there is a real danger that it will facilitate the boundary between Coventry and Burton Green being changed. Coventry Council has always harboured ambitions towards Burton Green and attempted to take us over in the Sixties. There are persistent rumours that Coventry’s boundary will be extended to the HS2 line. What a punishment this would be for a community which has been seriously challenged by HS2. Parish councillors are justifiably proud of our community spirit and resilience and would feel betrayed if Coventry takes us over.
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