Discussion Forum

Town council changes its mind about Peter's "Potting" Shed

Posted by Kevin Crum,
Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Interesting and disturbing developments happened at the meeting of Hebden Bridge Town Council Development, Environment and Amenities Committee meeting, Wednesday Evening 29 July 2003 in respect of Peter Verney's Application 03/01181/FUL for the famous "Communal Garden Shelter".

A small group of us seeking refusal of planning consent for 03/01181/FUL will be attending the full Council meeting of Hebden Royd Town Council. We hope to ask questions and to speak in respect of the following issues. Anyone wishing to come along please do come to the Good Shepherd Chruch, Mytholmroyd, the venue of the council meeting this time at 7:30 PM on Wednesday 6 August 2003.

Despite having decided to recommend refusal of the Retrospective Application on two previous occasions it popped up again on Wednesday's meeting and was considered as an extra item. (Interesting.) Is it not the case that under Standing Order 32A "No decision of Council can be reversed unless a requisition signed by 6 Councillors 8 days before the next meeting, is obtained". Could this not have been done in the time frame between the meeting of 30 07 03 and the meeting of 06 08 03? This would have allowed time for both sides to present information to the Council.

Also very interesting is that this procedure seems to have been introduced by Councillor Jamie Johnson who sets for the Green Party. And it seems that it is actually a Green Party councillor who may have taken the view that this application should be recommended for planning consent. I have written an email to Councillor Johnson and ask if he is prepared to meet with myself and or others who are concerned that Peter's application should not receive consent to fully acquaint him with both sides relating to this matter. I have not heard back from him yet.

Perhaps most interesting of all in this part of the saga of the famous "Communal Garden Shelter". Is the part that Hebden Royd Town Councils own version of "Chinese Whispers" (and possibly cavalier approach to 'Standing Order 32 A) may have played in the latest turn of events regarding application 03/01181/FUL (previously 03/00288/FUL.).

You put certain information into the process of the machine of local democracy (a Town Council for example) and the information that pops up as the minuted information becomes unidentifiable with what you thought you put in in the first place.

What am I talking about? I will tell you.

I attended a meeting of Hebden Royd Town Council D. E. & A. Committee on 19 March 2003 and argued against application 03/00288/Ful (previously: 03/01181/Ful). My reasons for objecting then as now are the same and can be stated as:

In my opinion the proposal should not be allowed because it contravenes the following UDP policies as indicated:

N19 the proposal would cause significant harm to the open space character, appearance or function of the site in respect of:

  • Public views and vistas
  • Existing landscape features
  • Existing recreational uses

N20 the proposal would harm the function and open character of the site by:

  • Damaging its recreational value harming the visual amenity of the space by not protecting its landscape, character, vistas and other natural features removing or restricting rights of access and other rights of common

CF1 the proposal would result in a loss of recreational facility necessary for the community in that locality.

The Steepfield only exists today as the important local amenity consisting of the Steepfield Allotments and Village Green VG1 ('The Delph') because planning consent has been refused by Calderdale Council a number of times in the 1980s.

Previously the council has agreed with the local community that this important local resource should be protected from development. If planning consent is given for application 03/01181/FUL this would be the first time that any structure requiring planning permission has been given consent on this particular parcel of land and would establish a precedent that clearly will threaten the existing uses and traditions of the Steepfield. This important resource of an open space and allotments constitute an important resource in a town which is quite impoverished in both protected open spaces and allotments where very few dwellings have gardens or open spaces.

In 1993 Village Green Status was obtained for that part of the land not constituted as allotments. (Protecting VG1 from any kind of change without the specific consent of an Act of Parliament.) In 1998 the entire Steepfield (both the allotments and VG1 were purchased by the local community by donation and three local persons designated as the Trustees.

The development (03/01181/FUL) is sited in an allotment, which has clearly encroached on to VG1.

The structure clearly dwarfs all of the other traditional style allotment buildings. The style of this 'Communal garden shelter' is a serious departure from other allotment garden buildings.

Let me just draw your attention to the size of this structure. The inner room and veranda area on the ground floor comprise a square metre area of 13.8 sq. metres. The roof space which is to be used by the applicant as a roof garden comprises 21.08 square metres of utilised space. Added together this makes an area of more than 34.14 square metres of utilised space provided by the communal garden shelter. The building is also 3.25 metres high. This building is to all intents and purposes a building with two floor areas of use by the applicant: a ground floor and a roof garden. There are no 'precedents for this in the neighbourhood.

Is there a danger of collapse? Other structures in the allotments have been blown over or damaged by winds or storms. And they were not as large nor possibly as susceptible to the wind as this structure with it's flat roof of 21 + sq. metres, large overhangs with how much earth piled upon it.

The issue of privacy is a serious one. The building overlooks the village green in an invasive way from both it's raised veranda and the roof garden above.

The privacy of residents in all directions is invaded by the height of the roof garden, which provides a vantagepoint of privacy invasion in every direction.

It is quite conceivable that if the applicant is successful in gaining permission that this building could become the focus of social and other activity by him and those he chooses to involve in 'communal' activities which clearly could involve activities not normally associated with allotment gardens. This could easily spill out onto the Village Green and could imply a cultural domination of a particular kind on to the Village Green and those who enjoy it. As well as all those who live in the vicinity. Although he states that the building will only be used as a potting shed the scope of it clearly provides other possibilities.

I presented a spoken version of these opinions at that meeting 19 03 03. It was well received by the committee who ask a number of pertinent questions. The question as to whether the building is actually on the Village Green was asked. I was quite clear in my answer to that question, as I always have been. " I do not know whether the "Communal Garden Shelter is encroached onto the Village Green or not. Because I am neither a qualified cartographer nor a quantity surveyor. What is clear is that the proximity of the building to the registered boundaries of VG1 are either so close that when the boundaries are restored it will be right next to VG1 or it is slightly encroached at one corner of its dimensions or overhang from its roof. In my opinion this is a matter that could only legitimately be determined by a qualified quantity surveyor / cartographer. Preferably one who is impartial and independent of a particular interest in the matter. I would have hoped that Calderdale Council would have the resources and will to assist in this. I am afraid this is not the case.

What I do know is that the boundaries of the allotment the building is in are clearly quite different than those contained on the map that determines the registered extent of VG1. And it is pretty clear that encroachments have been made onto VG1 from the allotment garden Peter Verney rents. And it certainly doesn't need a certification in quantity surveying to determine that.

So a number of reasons were proposed to recommend refusal and the vote was carried at the meeting 19 03 03. I do not remember specifically exactly what was given as the reasons. But in my opinion it was certainly not because Peter's shed "is definitely encroached onto the Village Green". Because that is not a statement that was made by me or anyone else at the time of the meeting. Anytime this aspect of the matter was raised by councillors in either questions or comment I was quick and clear to indicate that it was a matter that still required qualification and directed attention to the many other very valid reasons for recommending refusal.

All that went in and this came out:

DEA Meeting 19th March 2003 Minute 552 d) Application 03/00288 (list dated 17.2.03) for communal garden shelter (retrospective) at ALLOTMENT GARDENS, WINDSOR ROAD, HEBDEN BRIDGE. After discussion
It was moved by Cllr Seward
Seconded by Cllr Hanley Foster and
RESOLVED: Objection - Concern re the erection of a building on a Village Green, the building is an inappropriate development at this location and the development contravenes UDP Policy N20 parts, I) ii) and v) End of council Year

Now in my opinion that does constitute a possible case of Chinese whispers syndrome.

The application was withdrawn and resubmitted. In between the applicant undertook to do his own survey to determine whether the building is on VG1 or not. He has decided it is not, he may be correct he may be wrong. I do not know. In any case this can be resolved when and if he obtains planning consent. And following that when and if he obtains the permission of the owners, the local community. Which will only be legitimately determined when the "Trustees" in my opinion undertake a proper consultative process.

So an amended form of his application this time called 03/01181/FUL once again was considered by the DEA Cttee.

DEA Meting 9th July 2003 Minute 131 (concluded):

l) Application 03/01181 (list dated 22.6.03) for communal garden shelter (retrospective) at ALLOTMENT GARDENS, WINDSOR ROAD, HEBDEN BRIDGE.
It was moved by Cllr Young
Seconded by Cllr Fekri

RESOLVED: Objection - contravenes UDP Policies N19, N20 and CF1

And then:

DEA Meeting 30th July 2003 Minute 169

Extra Item h) Application 03/01181 (list dated 22.6.03) for communal garden shelter (retrospective) at ALLOTMENT GARDENS, WINDSOR ROAD, HEBDEN BRIDGE.
It was moved by Cllr Johnson
Seconded by Cllr Spencer and
RESOLVED: to suspend Standing Order 32 a) to allow this item to be reconsidered in the light of new information
After discussion
It was moved by Cllr Johnson
Seconded by Cllr Spencer and
RESOLVED: to reverse the previous decision of members and that they had No Objection to this application

All of this in my opinion because of a simple mistake in the original minutes of the meeting 17 02 03.

In Peter Verney's resubmitted application the main difference from the first (03/00288/FUL) is the inclusion of a survey the applicant and his agent have undertaken to establish whether the 'Communal Garden Shelter' is in any way encroached onto The Village Green VG1. As the applicant has carried out this process I must question its objectivity. It certainly would have been preferable if an independent and qualified surveyor / cartographer was to carry out this survey and am sorry that the planning department is unwilling to do so.

As the applicant has a seriously demonstrated vested interest there is considerable reluctance locally to simply accept his findings on good faith. This aspect of this complex process can be deferred pending the outcome of planning consent being given or with held. What I do need to draw your attention to is the applicant's claim that the survey was "commissioned by" the ('Steepfield Association') Trustees. This assertion by the applicant is perhaps overstating the position. It is my belief that he undertook this survey for his own reasons and due to queries arising from planning department concerns. The Trustee (Liz Anstee) has also expressed some disquiet regarding impartiality and our lack of expertise to determine on this matter, concerns I share.