Southern Gateway Meets Hostile Reception
September 6th 2013
Residents at the British Legion
The revised plans certainly look a lot better at first glance. There's far more green space, and it's better connected by green corridors. There are also swales and ponds of a good size for drainage, and the traffic layout has improved. However, one of the developers told me that the figure of 970 houses was non-negotiable. He was also unable to be specific about how large each building would be, so we could be talking about anything from one-storey bungalows to three-story flats with lots of floorspace but no gardens. This makes calculating the number of proposed inhabitants difficult. It also means that the improvements to the plans are mostly cosmetic: it looks like there's more green space on the map, but if that's at the expense of smaller gardens then nothing has been gained.
Valid planning reasonsCouncillor Andrew Leonard chaired the debate, although calling it one implies there were two sides to it, and there weren't. Residents who spoke were resolutely opposed to the development, which will be decided at Louth Town Council on 17th September. Councillor Leonard explained the rules about valid planning objections, and which objections can't be taken into account.
Councillor Pauline Watson stood up and voiced some of the objections that can't be taken into account, such as where the new residents would find employment. "What is this new estate going to accomplish and who is going to live there?" she asked.
John James, who works in Highways, suggested it would mean "a minimum of 2000 vehicle movements a day. Putting a roundabout in isn't going to make a bit of difference." He also expressed concerns that the requirement for social housing could mean "we could end up with all the problem housing.
Members of the public raised concerns about the capacity of hospitals and schools to deal with the increased population, as well as the size of the proposed primary school, potential flooding issues, and dangerous roads.
On the subject of flooding, a resident of Blanchard Road said "When it rains it floods. Any more, and we're going to have to build an ark."
Councillor George Horton mentioned that he had spoken to people in his area who were struggling to get water pressure in their taps. He also brought up the issue of policing.
Councillor Sarah Dodds spoke about recent applications that had been refused by ELDC, but had gone to appeal, taking the decision out of the hands of local people. "It's just obscene," she said. "National government are saying this is about localism; on the other hand they are tying council's hands." She urged residents to get evidence and take photos. John Macdonald, who runs an engineering workshop on Legbourne Road, had concerns about his business. "We are going to be in the middle of the roundabout. They can flatten our workshop and we will have nowhere to go. Ten to one our business will fold." He was another person who criticised the infrastructure problems, a thought echoed by several speakers.
Fighting talkThere was fighting talk in the room, and a lot of discussion about mobilising opposition to the development and organising a group of people to stand against these plans. One member of the public spoke of how large and well-organised Gladman, the developers, appeared to be.
Councillor Jill Makinson-Sanders said "I think East Lindsey will agree to this because you get a new homes bonus."
There was also some cynicism from people about whether the promised school would be built, and how many houses could be put up before the school would have to be. Councillor Leonard said "Granting permission does not guarantee they will be built, unless there is a requirement." The Mayor, David Wing, brought up various examples of places where the developers built a few hundred houses before going broke, and therefore had not fulfilled their promises.
A stinkIt's hard to talk about Legbourne Road without talking about the pungent smell from the farm. One resident said "East Lindsey seems impotent," describing the authority's handling of the issue. However, Councillor Makinson-Sanders revealed that the council would be making a prosecution.
"Why have East Lindsey taken all these years to get to the stage of a prosecution?" Councillor Sue Locking asked.
One point is, this development is not necessarily the solution to the smell: for one thing, part of the farm will remain, although the plans include the removal of a slurry pit. And for another, the problem may simply be displaced elsewhere, so long as there are people needing to eat and less and less farmland on which to raise livestock.
Certainly amongst the people of Louth who turned up to Thursday night's meeting, the Southern Gateway is immensely unpopular. Whether that will make the slightest bit of difference to the eventual outcome of this application remains to be seen. The final verdict on the appeal for the 149 houses near Fulmar Drive, another large and locally unpopular development, is imminent. Perhaps that will indicate the road ahead.
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Minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this town with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans for houses, houses, and more houses.