Earlier messages - to 13th June
From Cllr Joanna Beacroft Mitchell
In response to various comments about councillors involvement in these discussions.
Under the guidelines set down by the Standards board councillors must come to meetings without preconceived opinions and should make a judgement based solely on the information presented to them in debate. Therefore, if a councillor gets involved prior to the planning application stage and expresses a view one way or the other, when it comes to dealing with the planning application in council, they must abstain from voting, I should imagine this is why you will not be hearing much for the time being.
I would urge local residents from all sides of this debate to make themselves aware of when planning applications are being heard and to attend those meetings to ensure that there views are expressed in the appropriate forum to enable councillors to make an informed decision.
Thanks for the clarification Joanna. That's very helpful.
Posted by Tom Standfield
Cllr Joanna Beacroft Mitchell, I understand your point, although it does seem strange that councillors have been put in a position where they are unable to represent the opinions of their consituents.
However, even if we accept that councillors must not be seen to form an opinion on the merits of the development, surely that does not prevent them re-assuring us that proper procedures have been followed. And surely, it does not prevent them from providing relevant information as has been requested.
Dave M asked whether ownership (leasehold?) is being passed to Daivd Fletcher and Philip Bintliff free of charge? Jasper asked, among other things about the tendering process. Anthony Rae asked whether proper procedures have been followed in the consultation process.
David Fletcher was on the steering group arguing in favour of the proposal, and is now a director of the company which is apparently going to develop the site. Can this be right?
Many matters of public concern have been raised in this thread which are independent of the merits of the development. So can our councillors provide the missing information and confirm whether all proper protocols have or have not been correctly followed?
I emailed our three Calderdale councillors on Tuesday. Only one has responded, Cllr Battye, but briefly and without providing any information.
Cllr Joanna Beacroft Mitchell, in another thread you have written "The whole community has a role to play in supervising and educating children in what is acceptable behaviour." Surely, the same logic should be applied to developers. But in this case the councillors should be leading the way in ensuring acceptable behaviour.
From Lynne T
You write that Hebden Bridge remained unspoilt because David Fletcher was responsible for the conservation of the town.
In 1972 councillor Fletcher who was chairman of the Planning and Development Commitee on Hebden Royd Council presented the community with a "modernisation" scheme
St George's Square and much of the surrounding area was to be demolished and a new shopping precinct with flats, restaurant and car park would be built in concrete to replace it.
Councillor Fletcher supported this scheme.
There was a public outcry!
43% of the electorate (3,657) led by Councillor Richard Marshall signed a petition opposing the plan. Councillor Fletcher constantly reassured the public that their views would be taken into account. The final scheme was altered slightly and the concrete walls were to be stone clad and the FLAT roofs covered in natural materials, but the old buildings would all be demolished and replaced by a modern development.
Councillor Fletcher said "The proposed Scheme in it's modified form would greatly enhance the town centre."
Despite all this opposition and the council saying that the public would have a "big say" Councillor Fletcher presented this scheme to the Council in June 1972. where it was passed by 9 votes to 6.
Councillor Fletcher stood at the next election. He was NOT re-elected.
Hebden Royd Council was replaced by Calderdale before the scheme was implemented.
Mr Fletcher now claims that he "saved" St George's Square.
This is all reported in the Hebden Bridge Times archives.
35 years down the road we seem to be approaching a similar situation.
From Michael Jennings
I post the following comments on the proposed Garden Street Car Park Development, especially for the benefit of Hebden Royd Town Councillors. The statements are culled from a report by the Transport Issues Working Party (23/02/2005) confirmed by the Development, Environment and Amenity Committee(02/03/2005) and were presented to, and accepted by, the Town Council .
The Studio BAAD Scheme:
Does not meet the criteria of the Development Brief May 2004. It does not provide significant parking benefit to the town in contrast to the substantial 'property 'benefit to the developer.
The scheme involves the use of an access/exit on Commercial Street, which is a narrow highway with a pinchpoint and an obscure corner
As the Developer has indicated that the car park would operate on a 24 hour basis (because of the residential component) there will be both noise and lighting intrusion onto nearby residential properties the structure of the proposed development would be unacceptably close to residential units in The Crofts and appears to breach the UDP requirements
Is too big and unacceptably high for this sensitive and highly visible site and would be unacceptably intrusive into the townscape and this Conservation Area. Consequently the 'architectural risk' involved in considering the implementation of this scheme completely outweighs the small parking benefit that might (or might not) be obtained.
The Working party was not in favour in principle of a multi-storey car park on this site because the operational and access/exit difficulties, the small number if any of additional public parking spaces, and the intrusiveness on the site and townscape seem to demonstrate that it is not possible to introduce this use at this location. This was also the consistent view of the Hebden Bridge Traffic Review consultant appointed by Calderdale Council.
I think we need some answers and soon.
From Anne W
As I often visit Hebden Bridge and I frequently look at the Hebden Web site, I am very concerned about the proposal to build a multi-storey car park accompanied by 6000 sq metres of residential and commercial development. This I understand in order to increase public parking provision, although it appears that it will not do to any significant extent. It is also my understanding that very few people have supported this development at the consultation meetings recently held by the Developers.
Writing as one of the people that the town is eager to attract I would have thought that this type of development would be entirely inappropriate for a town the size of Hebden Bridge. Would it not be easier, cheaper and much less disruptive to the town to increase the number of parking spaces by other means? Anthony Ray makes this point very forcibly (see his postings).
I urge everyone to oppose this scheme at every stage of the planning process.
From Cllr Janet Battye
I have watched this scheme develop from the time of the first idea being mooted in an early meeting of the Traffic Review Working Group. I continue to be concerned about it - my first concerns were and still are whether it will be technically viable to put the amount of parking on the site that it is proposed, and the impact on the surrounding buildings.
I, too, nearly missed the recent exhibition of the current proposals - I understand that it was a condition of the agreement with Calderdale that there should be public consultation on the plans.
I wrote a letter to HBT (in this week) after seeing the model (and talking with David Fletcher) and listening to the views expressed at the meeting of the Action Group last week.
My first concerns are still concerns but they have been added to. I am surprised that the plans seem to have changed and to be so sketchy. I would prefer to see detailed plans, rather than an outline, as the submission for Planning Permission. And I'm surprised that there is such urgency about putting them in (by early July, we're told).
Much more thought and discussion is needed about what (if anything) should go on this site.
From Richard Hull
The urgency of the planning application:-
I imagine it is costing someone a fair bit of money whilst the land stands idle, especially since Calderdale, for some reason, had the land valued back in May 2004. Once it is valued they have to account for their use of it in a more detailed way, I think.
If Calderdale MBC have indeed sold the Leasehold to Hebden Royd Development Company, then the latter will be paying interest on the capital they used to buy the leasehold, if they borrowed the money, or losing interest on the capital if they stumped up the cash themselves. Therefore it will they who are forcing the urgency.
If, however, Calderdale have not sold the leasehold then they will be, in their eyes, losing the potential interest they would get from selling the leasehold, and I think it will also be costing them something because they have had the land valued. In that case it will be Calderdale MBC who are pushing the urgency.
If public pressure can successfully delay decisions then the people who are losing money will start to squeal louder, and we may begin to get closer to the truth of this very murky affair.
From Michael Jennings
I have my own opinions as to why there was little time to consider the proposals. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.
From Anthony Rae
Two comments on Richard Hull's posting:
- I would think it unlikely that a financial transaction between the site owner (Calderdale Council) and developer would precede planning permission; surely it is more likely that the latter simply has a development option at the moment. So I would assume that the site is still in Calderdale's ownership, and on their books.
However such speculations are occurring because the nature of the commercial relationship between the Council and the development company has not been made public; and it should be. On Tuesday evening I wrote to the Council asking if basic information in the legal agreement could be made public, in order to clarify such issues; but so far I have not received a response.
- I don't think what is happening in Garden Street is really a 'very murky affair', and it would be wrong to base objections around that notion. Instead we should be concentrating on some simple questions:
(i) are there not easier, cheaper and less disruptive means of obtaining any increases in car parking thought to be necessary?
(ii) is the scale of the proposed development too large for our small town?
(iii) if the development were to proceed, what would it look like and what would be its impacts?
However it is the case that the process that got us to this point does have unsatisfactory aspects, and those do also weigh against the project. Of these the principal one at the moment to my mind is: what is the extent of any financial interest that the Council has in the scheme proceeding, and should it be seeing our town and community as an opportunity to derive development profit?
I have been given to understand that the Council is on a profit share, but I do not know with certainty that this is the case.
From Michael Jennings
An Action Group has been formed to oppose the above development. This group, exercising its democratic right, are concerned about its scale and nature of the 6,000 square metres scheme and whether it is the best way to provide additional car parking. They issued a press statement which was printed in the Hebden Times 21/06/07. Today in the Hebden Times (please read it in full) Mr. David Fletcher wrote a letter accusing this group as"confused mischief makers" who have" misrepresented" the facts.
Mr. Fletcher's letter is full of half truths and many inaccuracies as well as being insulting, patronising and arrogant. He accuses the group of "leaping into print" and " purporting to speak for the whole town". The group does not claim to speak for the whole town but they are expressing their deep concerns as like minded individuals. Views which are held by a very significant number of people who have signed a petition to that effect. How often does Mr. Fletcher resort to writing to the paper? Mr. Fletcher further claims that his plans do not sail through planning blaming the "vocal minority" Is everyone out of step except Mr. Fletcher. If his plans are not accepted it may say a lot about his plans.
The Action Group will I am sure respond to these accusations in next week's Hebden Times.
From Barbara Jennings
A structural engineering expert has advised:
The original purpose of this scheme, as defined by Calderdale Council, was simply to provide additional car parking. It now appears that it may have changed completely and could involve 65,000 square feet of housing, shops and other development, costing up to £10 million, and yet provide only a few extra car parking spaces, perhaps as few as 30 for general public use.
Is that really what the people of Hebden Bridge need or want, particularly when other, less disruptive and cheaper options for providing more car parking could be available?
Barbara Jennings on behalf of the Action Group Against Development of Garden Street Car Park
From Johnny Marascalco
Would the Jenning's care to reveal if they themselves have a personal vested interest in whether the scheme is approved or not?
For example, would they happen to own property which may be significantly de-valued if the scheme were to go ahead?
From Michael Jennings
In reply to Johnny Marascalco.
Yes of course we have a vested interest we live, along with 8 other families, 12 metres from this site. Would you expect us to welcome up to 5 years disruption,noise, pollution and traffic chaos, and when completed, a total loss of privacy. As for the possible reduced value of our property, this is not a major concern, indeed the developers inform us that we might well benefit from this scheme. We, along with many other residents of Hebden Bridge (watchdog/action groups),are against this hugh costly development per se. We support the views of people who believe that there a better ways of providing extra car parking (see other postings).
We feel so strongly that we are prepared to identify ourselves and publish a contact number.
From Johnny Marascalco
I wouldn't expect anything of you Michael. It just seemed a bit strange that instead of mentioning your personal interest in the scheme, yourself and Barbara seemed to focus your attention on wider issues such as the spurious "expert" assessments which suggest the whole hillside could become unstable. Is this accurate and truthful, or is it scaremongering rhetoric? As another example, how accurate is "probably several years" in evaluating the timescale of the project?
Developers rarely have a track record in engineering complexity because this aspect of a project is be handled by an expert structural engineer (usually an external consultant on the project) which then must be assessed and approved by the development control department of Calderdale MBC.
From Andrew Hall
"Would the Jenning's care to reveal if they themselves have a personal vested interest in whether the scheme is approved or not?"
From Michael Jennings
Reply to Johnny
I find your use of the word "spurious" rather unfortunate. We have indeed consulted a well respected independent structural engineer who has given his opinions as to the implications of the proposed development on the surrounding hill side. Indeed the developers at their meeting stated that the wall was unsafe. As for time scales these were made public at the cosultation meetings, for all to hear.
We have never made secret of our "vested interest".We concentrated on wider issues because we did not want the criticism that you seem to imply. We believe the idea of a 65,000 sq. feet development, providing an extra 30 car parking spaces, which could easily be provided at surface level, quite quickly and with minimum fuss, is flawed. (see Anthony Rae's postings) We are not alone in believing that this development should be stopped. Self interest is not the driving force.
From David P
Re posts by Jonny Marascalco, Andrew Hall and Michael Jennings
I have read this thread, and others, with interets. Let me state from the outset that the thought of a development anything like the one proposed is, imo, ridiculous in a town like Hebden Bridge. Apart from being a sledgehammer to crack a nut, it would be out of place, and would be the first of many similar schemes for housing/retail in the town (just try stopping applications 2,3 & 4 - all of which could cite the first as precedent)
The statement by Johnny that "developers rarely have a track record" is odd.
Maybe not in the actual technical how-to-dig-the-hole aspects, but it seems to me that it would be reasonable to expect the developer to at least have prior experience developing similar scale schemes.
In other words, not be getting ideas way above his actual experience of previous jobs because of the ££ signs in his eyes.
I wouldn't pay an odd job man to build a house, and I wouldn't pay a housebuilder to build a factory. Not to say they couldn't - but what if it all goes wrong - they lack the knowledge gained on previous jobs.
The planning and logistical issues needed for a town centre development of this scale will be beyond many small / medium sized experienced firms, let alone a first time charlie - if none of the region's big fish mixed-use/commercial developers have been interested in pursuing this project with the vigour of the local, small town boys - ask yourself why not. They would be front of the queue if they thought it was viable.
And what is wrong with local people trying to be heard - Johnny's post hints at a "smear campaign" style objection by local residents, but it seems to me that its the developrs/council/other commercialy interested parties who are being evasive, and only revealing their true plans when pushed.
Tell me Johnny - do you know/work with / stand to gain from/ any of the developers or their associates ???
From Johnny Marascalco
David, I have absolutely no involvement with any party involved in the scheme, and have nothing to gain from it's realisation. I do not support the scheme at all, but will not let the kind of commentary I have seen here go unchallenged.
To answer your point, as far as I am aware, the developers (individually) have a great deal of experience and have been involved in larger and far more complex projects than this. As I am sure they would point out if they were involved in this discussion. They are not "a first time charlie", whoever he may be, nor are they "small town boys", their involvement is likely due to being more in touch with local opportunities, rather than the lack of interest from major developers. And perhaps, it is simply not enough of a profit-making venture to interest them, and more trouble than it is worth.
With regard to the scheme being "out of place", Hebden Bridge is an architectural mongrel, and not the quaint conservation village it is portrayed as whenever a modern scheme is proposed. Even if it were a conservation village, aborting a scheme simply because it is architecturally incongruous with the local vernacular, is pompous and reactionary. Look at what has been achieved in Ledbury as one of hundreds of examples of how it could be instead if self-important, right-wing commentators were listened to and then ignored.
Michael, I used the term spurious because, as you said, the assessment is merely an opinion, not one drawn from extensive site investigations or any kind of research into the project, and not from. Suggesting that the hillside could become unstable based on this opinion is extremely misleading. I presumed this opinion was given by a (unbiased and completely impartial obviously) friend, and was not professional advice given by a consultant you paid a fee to for a survey, site investigation and report. Does the well respected, expert engineer wish to put their name to such dramatic predictions?
I would like to believe that your owning property next to a develoment which would impact on it's value is not the primary motivation behind your objections, but frankly, I have not seen you contribute comments here objecting to any other controversial development.
I wonder if you would be as vocal and involved if the scheme would not impact on the value of your property. As I understand it, many of the neighbouring properties are already struggling to elicit any interest from buyers.
From David P
Johnny, firstly - please do not imply I am in any way right wing - quite apart from being totally wrong ( and its a puzzle as to how you drew such a conclusion) why is that even relevant to the issue being debated here - the suitability or otherwise of this development when viewed against the original brief, which is to provide improved parking in the town centre.
Your statements about the devlopers past experience and / or knowledge of major buiilding works are interesting. You suggest that they do in fact have a track record in such developments, yet you are vague - not a trait you let pass in other peoples' posts.
Let me therefore be specific. Neither Studio Baad or David Fletcher have, as far as can be researched, any experience of a scheme anything like this in terms of scale, budget or (potential) reward.
In the case of the architects, a visit to their website will show you their past works. An industry professional has described them to me as good at design, but less impressive when it comes to build ability - ie, what have they actually had built. They are without doubt a talented, forward think practice, and I'm sure their work to date has been of the best standards - they certainly have some impressive designs behind them.
But that doesn't alter the fact that the proposed scheme (or the latest version in the ever changing list of schemes) is not in any way what the town needs, and there must be huge concerns about the ability of the developers (in truth a newly formed alliance of one local business man and a "relatively" small, inexperienceded architect's firm).
In reference to your comments toward the Jennings/ Anthony Rae, I fail to see whether or not a local resident has objected to previous developments is of little relevance to this specific debate - or is it only the perenially heard voices that deserve a say?
I don't actually live in Hebden, but as a frequent visitor, I have a right to express an opinion, regardless of whether anyone listens.
From Janice Sayer
My main concern about the proposed development of Garden Street Car Park is the probable increased traffic movement resulting from new homes and businesses in the centre of Hebden Bridge. I live on the corner of New Rd and Commercial Street, which is a great place to observe near misses between traffic, walls and pedestrians (in fact the wall on the corner of Commercial St was partially demolished last week by a lorry).
The centre of Hebden Bridge has been designated an Air Quality Management Area because of increased levels of Nitrogen Dioxide, caused by traffic pollution. Increased levels of NO2 particularly affect the health of children - I am always reminded of this when I see parents with pushchairs waiting to cross the road at the bottom of Commercial St, with their children at exhaust-pipe level and drivers not giving them space to cross.
Yes, there is a shortage of car parking in HB but I don't agree that Garden Street is the place to put it. I hope I'm not being influenced by the fact that I'll have more traffic going past my house - I find the manoeuvering of large vehicles across the junction quite entertaining to watch when there's no danger to life, limb and lungs!
From Johnny Marascalco
David said: "An industry professional has described them to me as good at design, but less impressive when it comes to build ability - ie, what have they actually had built."
I seem to remember they same kind of comments being made about Zaha Hadid at one time. Not that the two are even in the same league in terms of ability, but you get my point.
The practice has been involved in a number of similar scale newbuild projects like Warrington Arts Centre, and even here in Hebden, they have been behind the redevelopment of Melbourne and Pecket Well mills, and the Mayroyd mill townhouses. Aparently well-received given the lack of negative comments and hysteria in this forum, and quite clearly not the work of "small town boys" or a "first time charlie". Save the poorly considered mud slinging for playtime David.
Anyway, all of this is academic, if the developers are incapable of carrying out the project due to a lack of technical experience or ability, this will become apparent when they apply for the Building Warrant. Calderdale MBC are not exactly going to grant permission to construct such a building on a lick and a promise.
And for the record David, I did not describe you as right wing. Perhaps you are a little sensitive about how your politics are perceived?
Johnny, the Ledbury development is a well designed, relatively small, 2-storey showroom. Hardly a useful comparison.
From John S
A few questions which perhaps someone can answer.
I understand that the group who first suggested this scheme were the Traffic Review Steering Group. This appears to be the same people who are responsible for the hugely unpopular sun dial in St George's Square. I would like to know;
a) Why is a 'Steering Group' needed? Surely our elected representatives on the Hebden Royd Council should bear some responsibility for this.
b) Who are the group members? How is it decided who will be a member and who will not. Are these people chosen for their expertise in a relevant field. Do they get paid or do they volunteer their services. Are they obliged to declare any vested interest. To whom are they answerable. If the general public disagree with their proposals how do they register their objection.
c) If extra parking was needed and there is a low cost, low impact solution, why can't Calderdale pay for this? Perhaps we should be lobbying our councillors to ensure that our Council Taxes are spent in a wise manner before we embark on a scheme of this magnitude employing the 'for profit' private sector.
d) If it was considered essential to develop the site and a national competition was held, how widely was this advertised? If there were only three entries this lack of professional interest could suggest that the proposed development was not viable, or perhaps it was just not given sufficient publicity. Of the thousands of architects (and students) in the country it is surprising there were only three responses. What was the prize and who were the judges? Did any of the judges represent local opinion, Hebden Royd councillors perhaps?
From David P
John S - You raise interesting and relevant points, particularly regarding who "judged" the submitted claims.
It would be even more interesting to know the criteria used to judge the merists of each case,and the basis on which the members of the judging panel are/were qualified to make such a decision
Johnny - Why are you so very condescending ? You implied, in a direct reply to my post, that objections to the delvopment under discussion are, like Ledbury "one of hundreds of examples of how it could be instead if self-important, right-wing commentators were listened to and then ignored."
If I misunderstood your reply, fair enough - but where does a misunderstanding stop, and a badly phrased, obtuse post begin ??
On that subject, how you can compare Warrington Arts Centre, which may be an impressive and award winning design, but in truth is a modification to an already standing building on flat land, and not a job that entails digging away several hundred square metres of hillside, underpinning a main road, work that will have a major impact on existing utilities, and then then digging down to underpin a brand new multi-story structure.
Interestingly, as you mentioned it as an example, work on "The Pyramid" stopped for several months when the original developers went bust.
I notice in all your posts to date that you choose to either ignore / dismiss the central objections to this scheme (aside from its visual suitability, which is,of course, subjective and thereore simply a matter of personal taste) which can be summed in four simple points
1. Will the Council clarify the selection process, and explain how an (apparently) key figure in the selection process subsequently became the prefered bidder.
2. How does the scheme address the original stated aim of improved parking, given it will, as a mixed use development, attract visitors, and so the small net gain being proposed may well be negated most days by visitors to the units.
3. The developers are a newly formed company, without a track record in similar structural developments.
4. What is the exact nature of the legal transaction behind the land ownership and its sale to the devlopers.
Janice - your points about pollution are well made, and yet another aspect of the parking problem that a park & ride solution in the station/canal area would help to address, in contrast to the proposed scheme.
From Johnny Marascalco
Jacob, the two schemes are compared on the basis of being "out of place" with the local architectural style, which is a what many seem to be making a big deal of.
David, I apologise if my comments offended you, but quite simply the "out of place" objection relating to the style of the building is ignorant of the actual (not the rose-tinted) context, and ignorant of the possibility that old and new can co-exist comfortably and successfully, as Ledbury illustrates.
And again, questioning the structural engineering track record of those involved is utterly pointless. It will not be built if the developers cannot demonstrate to Calderdale MBC that it can be done, safely, effectively, and to an appropriate timescale. I don't know how you imagine the process working, but the developers are not going to be submitting the structural engineering apsect of the proposal based on their own experience and scribbled on the back of a napkin. They will obviously be engaging professional consultants and contractors to address this.
I do not ignore or dismiss the other issues David, to me they are genuine concerns. But the comments which I have chosen to respond to are merely knee-jerk propaganda, and in some cases, idiotic slander. Dont be foolish enough to assume that, because I challenge these comments, I am some kind of developer fan-boy who wholeheartedly endorses the scheme in it's entirety.
From Charlie O
There are at present and have been, all through my reading of the views expressed, some interesting and searching questions asked.
Is it not time that the whole affair was brought to a wider audience, i.e. Yorkshire TV, the BBC or the local and regional newspapers?
Perhaps then some clarity will be brought into the matter.
Posted by Nigel Byfield
Johnny's trumpetting of what has happened in Ledbury excited my interest since I spent a few years working there and loved its old buildings, but haven't seen the recent developments.
Unfortunately the link to the Guardian story, which is also extremely effusive, doesn't show any pictures.
A quick Google search on the architect's name reveals a few images: surely Johnny can't mean the glass-based building which looks like the greenhouses my grandad used to nail together from the window frames he found down the tip?
Earlier messages - to 13th June
Previously, on the Hebden Bridge Web