Discussion Forum

Planning, speculation and community

Posted by Kev
Friday, June 23, 2006

Yes Building Land is at a premium. Especially if it has real potential for development and has outline planning approval or is likely to achieve  planning permission. In the case of the attempt by Green Tops and their associates to obtain planning permission for the Foster Mill dam (site of the infamous “Chainsaw Tuesday”). The land was by any standards as potential building land remarkably cheap. I believe that the sum of something in the region of £10,000 was paid for the land. And of course planning permission has not been forth coming and indeed it looks very likely that the land is being designated as Green Belt. It is certainly credible to surmise that the lack of competition in the bidding for the Foster Mill dam land might indicate that the rest of the developers and speculators also felt that an attempt at development of this site might be something of a gamble. Green Tops and associates were clearly prepared to take the gamble and prepared to push the envelope a very long way.  A great deal of effort money and spin went into their project to profit from what pretty much everybody else seems to have felt was a non starter in terms of potential for property development.  So much so that many of us on the opposite side of the fence from Green Tops have come away feeling as if they have some sort of belief that they and their causes qualify as a special case.

So the question does arise in respect of the small piece of land and attached  platform over Hebden Water beside the Victoria Road playground. How much did this piece of land cost in the first place? And does the price paid reflect the developmental  potential or not of this piece of land. If we are going to refer to this site as being included in the category of “building land is at a premium in Hebden Bridge”. Was a premium price paid for the land? Or was it a knock down bargain because not a lot of developers would touch it with a barge pole. I do not know the answer to this question but considering the situation at Foster Mill dam and similarities between  the two projects is it a legitimate question to raise?

Three of the most controversial  planning applications and attempted  developments in Hebden Bridge in the last couple of years have been the proposed developments at Linden Bank, Victoria Road and the Foster Mill dam. They have encountered  fierce opposition from the local population and also serious obstacles from planners. The way I see it, all of these plans look like non-starters from the outset. So what are the motives and modus opperandi behind them. We can only speculate.  But surely it would be a credible guess that some of the thinking behind these developments might be: just keep pushing and applying and spinning till something gives and some of these projects slip through the net and do get built. The rewards for the developers are of course great.

No one is any more in favour then myself of provision for social housing in the Upper Calder Valley.  However this is going to require politically led social change.  As the governmental  policies of the last 25 years certainly have eroded at the area of social provision. What we are seeing here in my opinion is the result of the erosion of democracy caused by a politically led policy to move ever closer to market led forces and a Neo-Con agenda. I do not find it at all surprising, although I do find it very alarming that some capitalists do seem to be taking a lead from governmental  policies that all is fair in Business and Profit. That natural morality can and should take a back seat to profit and let’s all fall on our knees and worship the God of Mammon. After all is it not a Zeitgeist of our times?

Another aspect of some of the proposed developments popping up is that other then the planning process no attempt seems to be made at consultation or involvement of the local people. And there is no option other then objection and opposition,  as so many developers seem to go for the adversarial  approach with a monomaniac attitude to the rightness of their projects in my opinion.