Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Last Bite at the Cherry?

The Low Stanners supermarket plans are going to NCC Planning Cttee for a final decision in early June – and Morpeth TC are about to submit their final comments.
National planning guidance effectively means that we have to have two ‘big name’ supermarkets in Morpeth to ‘provide competition’ – the wide range of local shops, Iceland, M&S and Lidl count for nothing. But Dransfield have not yet announced who will be operating the new foodstore – so lighting and signage will be finalised ‘after the events’, any conditions regarding deliveries or range of stock and opening hours are likely to be challenged or ignored – and we won’t get anything like the community benefits that towns dealing direct with say Tesco or Sainsbury’s have got. And I’m thinking about the £10M shortfall in funding for the Morpeth Flood Scheme. Currently the only community benefit I can see offered is relocation of the vets to Whorral Bank!

And it is a new full application, not a reserved matters application – so none of the conditions and mitigations agreed under the existing outline planning permission apply, and we’ll need to see that they are reconfirmed.

So a number of points I’ll be raising at the Town Council this evening:

Cotting Burn: The ecology report says that the construction of the bridges and the re-alignment of the Burn could be disastrous to its role as a wildlife corridor. The upstream two-way road bridge looks as though it carries several car parking spaces as well as the road width, so it will be a deep dark cavern underneath. Apart from measures to relocate crayfish during construction, there seem to be no mitigation measures proposed.
The runoff from the car parks – including oil, fuel, grit and salt in the winter – looks as through it will run straight into the Burn. There seem to be no traps or filters proposed – and the Burn is sufficiently small that ‘dilution effects’ will not be adequate,

Flood Risk: Although the developer cites OKs from the EA, I have not (yet) seen any direct documents giving the EA seal of approval.
Besides the obvious concerns brilliantly put by MFAG and others about the speed of major flooding and evacuation plans – it sees to me that the underground car park will flood slightly – or at least pond - every time it rains. It is 0.5m below Staithes Lane, which floods regularly. There is likely to be a flow of water in through the access road, maybe water swelling up through the ground when the water table rises etc. It will be perpetually dank and damp – and they admit that there will be danger of cars floating if water depth exceeds 300mm (1 ft). Even if the pumping system can cope, it will be operating near continuously at some times of the year.

Traffic: The underground carpark has 225 spaces incl 12 disabled ones. It will generate congestion at rush hour morning and afternoon. That’s one car every 24 secs! And the morning filling up of the longstay car park will coincide with the later part of the agreed delivery times. Comparison with existing traffic flows on Staithes Lane to the vets don’t apply because that is throughout the day, not concentrated in 90min morning and evening.
And even if HGV lorries only make deliveries early morning and evening – the vibrations they generate along Staithes Lane are likely to be severe.

The traffic report says that NCC Highways has deferred implementation of traffic light co-ordination, and the signalisation of the Bridge St roundabout – which was generally welcomed - as suggested in the outline planning application, because it might contribute to the ‘urbanisation of Morpeth’. As a result, Dransfield is offering no transport mitigation with the plan, and cannot be asked to pay for a subsequent scheme when NCC Highways gets its act together.

Travel Plan: I am surprised that the site travel plan does not include measures to encourage ‘linked trips’ ie people shopping both in the supermarket and in the town centre.

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA): The developers suggest that because no EIA was requested at the outline stage, they assume none is needed at the detailed stage. I’d have thought that the need for the EIA only really comes at the detailed stage.

Construction: a number of factors need to be taken into account
a) availability of car parking on the Dark Lane site during construction
b) construction noise – start and stop times and weekend working
c) light pollution during construction
d) timing of tree and building demolition – they say they’ll time it to avoid disrupting bats – and relocate the crayfish, but they also need to consider nesting birds, and riverbank wildlife

Signage: As with the filling station, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of advertising signage in the application. Obviously the detail of the signage will depend on the market operator, but it would be useful to lay down the basic specs now – rather than have to fight a retrospective planning application later. For a start – I’d like to know what sort of signage will appear on the road at Dark Lane, they certainly won’t settle for signage just on the building.

And Finally : Move of the Vet to the top of Whorral Bank
This is a separate planning application, but which is closely linked. I have three main issues:
a) the site is well outside any settlement boundaries. What guarantees are there that this is not a precedent for infill between the roundabout and Pegswood village, or ribbon development along the bypass. I’d like it spelt out that this is a discretionary exception and does set a precedent.
b) the nearest Pegswood-bound bus stop is the other side of the Pegswood village road, so people will have to cross both that and the bypass, or the roundabout – with a sick pet – to get to the vets. Not sure where the Morpeth-bound bus stop is (if any). Can we have some crossings or at least traffic islands?
c) There’s a nice SUDS water treatment site. I’m assuming it is good enough to treat vet waste. Can we condition and management and refurbishment plan? Given it’s location at the top of Whorral Bank, there could be a lot of ‘fall-out’ if it failed.

No comments: