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What’s wrong with the Garden Street development

From Mike Hancock

Friday, 2 July 2010

When you read the discussion pages on the Heb Web there seems to be a very vocal minority who want to impose their views on the whole of the town.

The Garden Street development is a prime example.

What is wrong with a developer in these strident times who wants to spend millions of pounds in the local economy, creating local jobs and delivering a number of facilities that the town is lacking.

Its a shame the development does not include a mainstream supermarket. Even Anthony Rae could not dispute that a single delivery by a large vehicle and local access by public transport is more environmentally friendly than numerous trips in private vehicles to stores outside the area.

From Anthony Rae

Sunday, 11 July 2010

An answer to each of Mike Hancock’s three paragraphs:

Actually, just the opposite. It was a (thankfully) vocal majority of the town that opposed the development, and their democratic representatives in the Town and Ward Councillors. The ‘imposition’ involved a small group of council officers and the developer working away behind the scenes to impose a development that the town neither wanted nor needed.

What is right or wrong with a development depends on its type, scale and context. This one was (to simplify) too large and quite inappropriate for the Hebden Bridge Conservation Area. It’s all very well to talk blithely about ‘creating local jobs’, but these would need to be weighed against the jobs and businesses that would have been threatened as access to the town was impeded during the prolonged construction of this very difficult site.

Hebden Bridge has a valued reputation as a town with many ‘little shops’ (and we also have an adequately large supermarket). The car use generated by a ‘mainstream’ supermarket would have been additional to existing traffic (although at least it might have filled up an otherwise mostly empty 100+ space underground car park). If individual residents do want to drive by car to supermarkets in other places rather than shop locally that’s their choice, but it shouldn’t be used to support ‘a Tesco in every town’ logic.

From Paul D

Monday, 12 July 2010

Anthony appears to be making claims here that have little basis in fact. For example, where is the evidence that a majority of local people were against this development? Filling rooms with agitated people on numerous occasions is not sufficient proof that most people were opposed, it could simply suggest that a small minority of local people (enough to fill the same room more than once) will get agitated when a large development is proposed. Similarly, if we compare the number of objections lodged to the adult population of the area then this in no way suggest that a majority were opposed. It records that there were objections, but the vagaries of the planning system mean that there is no accurate measure of those supportive of the development or those indifferent. Opposition can move individuals to action, whereas support or indifference tends not to.

Similarly, the link to political opposition is another red herring. If I use Nadir as an example (as he was recently elected on a very good turnout), let’s suppose he joined the opposition to this development. To then assert that he brings with him all those who elected him is nonsense, unless he stood on the single issue of opposing the Garden Street development that is. Then, we have to look at those elected individuals who did not oppose the scheme. Nadir not only represents a minority of those who voted, but an even smaller minority of those entitled to vote, even if everyone who voted for him agreed with his opposition, there’s still no majority. So, two red herrings each serving the same purpose; they allow Anthony (who is unelected I suspect) to claim to not only know what local opinion is, but to try and represent it.

The only way to measure support or opposition to the development would be to poll the adult local population, or we could sample a representative cross section to get somewhere close. The current planning system favours opposition and underestimates support, it assesses the merit of the development on specific grounds, a development popular with local people can still be rejected on a whole range of criteria. So, my own opinion on the scheme, in the absence of any reliable evidence of who shares it, is just that. I did not object to the scheme and I did not support it via the planning system, I have absolutely no grounds on which to claim that my rather agnostic view is the majority view, but I guess some people, like me, would quite like to see the site developed. I don’t know how many others share this view, which means that I can’t set myself up as the representative of anyone, but then nor can those opposing the scheme. The majority view remains unknown, and my concern is that those who claim not only to know it, but represent it, may have another agenda entirely. I’m also particularly wary of those who claim to hold the key to the book of truth in terms of aesthetic beauty and local need. The town centre ‘redevelopment’ ignored both, but that’s just my personal opinion, it might grow on me. It would be nice to see more direct gathering of public opinion on the issue. We seem to be running the town based on the letters page of the Hebden Bridge Times, which as my old mum would say, is where people without many friends tend to do their yacking. The ‘majority’ might indeed support a plan for social housing, parking and some start up units on that plot — but given that nobody has yet sought to ask them (please no more ‘consultations’ that are anything but), perhaps it’s time we did.

From Martin F

Monday, 12 July 2010

The writer is obviously referring to the people who sent in (was it?) as many as 4 letters of support for the development, whereas the vast majority of those expressing an opinion (lodging well over 3000 objections) were against the scheme.

He is obviously also (specifically) referring to the gentleman who stood up at the meeting at the school in Holme Street and (as I remember) said something along the lines of he wouldn’t bother asking anyone’s opinions, he would just go ahead and do it anyway. Assuming I am remembering the events correctly, this is a good example of a small minority (one) imposing his views on an enormous amount of people.

As for a supermarket, what about the Co-op?

From Anthony Rae

Friday, 16 July 2010

It’s not entirely clear what Mike and Paul intend by this correspondence — unless it’s to rerun all the old Garden Street issues; I certainly have no intention of doing that, having had wasted too much of my time already — but their approach to the business of property development seems a touch naive. Mike wants a mainstream supermarket in the town (presumably not one of the little Metros, since Sainsbury’s has already opened one of those just down the road; so something larger?), and he also wants ‘local jobs’. Paul wants ‘social housing, parking and some start up units’ — well, we’ve already got parking on the site so presumably he wants a lot more. Social housing? — presumably he has more in mind than the 5 units offered by the developer last time. Starter units? — what a shame we’ve just allowed a couple of perfectly serviceable mills to be demolished on Victoria Road (to create another derelict site — for housing!)

But do they just think that having expressed those wishes, a fairy godmother property developer just magics all these ‘good things’ out of thin air, and inserts them into our town centre without the slightest ripple of disturbance, or any impact on the town as it is and as it’s valued; and at no cost to anybody else, including existing businesses and jobs? One of the obvious trends within the development proposals which sprung up around Hebden during the property boom (now thankfully over) is that they were all extremely large, thus conflicting with the small scale of our town. So Crows Nest (rejected), Brown’s site (approved but dormant) and Garden Street (also rejected).

They were that size predominantly because the developers wanted to cash in, but they would have exacted a price as well: the impact on the town (individually, let alone collectively) would have been correspondingly large. Some people don’t want to understand that there are winners and losers with such schemes; and that it isn’t necessarily wise to open up your town to large-scale development — as the UCVR masterplanning exercise unfortunately did — without putting in place adequate protective mechanisms. It was only in the midst of the Garden Street application that we discovered, for example, that the Hebden Bridge Conservation Area Statement was wholly inadequate to its task.

Let’s also remove the assumption that Garden Street is a development site at all; it isn’t. It only ‘became’ one when the Upper Calder Valley Renaissance process was cunningly infiltrated to produce that consequence. In fact it’s just the town’s largest surface car park, usefully occupying a narrow niche site which (as the entire previous episode demonstrates) is consequently technically difficult to develop. Now we finally know that Calderdale Council has withdrawn its ill-advised development agreement, we ought to put the entire episode behind us.

From Paul D

Sunday, 18 July 2010

I’m puzzled, by this idea of having wasted enough time on the issue; surely the time would have been wasted if all that energy had led to the outcome you sought to avoid? Wasn’t the time expended very well spent, in that it led to the desired outcome; or is this more about clocking up ‘issues’ to be involved in and moving on to another? Each issue can then seem in retrospect to have been excessively time consuming, irrespective of the outcome. I wasn’t being critical of those who opposed the scheme, merely pointing out that they cannot claim to represent the majority. I also respect the architects who appear to be some of the few creative thinkers in our supposedly creative town. Many others seem to have become addicted to the mid 18th century and seek comfort in cobbles and olde worlde lampstands.

To me at least, one of the most architecturally stunning buildings ever to grace the town was the old Methodist chapel, closely followed by that at Cross Lanes. Most people under 50 will not have seen either, but both fell victim to the sort of urban planning that as a precursor to IKEA, thought entirely in flat pack. Now we have become so addicted to the twee, that a patch of tarmac (initially a temporary solution to a derelict site) and a few white lines are part of our industrial heritage. What is it about local authorities that suck the life and energy out everyone and everything they ever come into contact with? Prince Charles should come here and make biscuits.

From Rev Tony Buglass

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

"To me at least, one of the most architecturally stunning buildings ever to grace the town was the old Methodist chapel, closely followed by that at Cross Lanes. Most people under 50 will not have seen either, but both fell victim to the sort of urban planning that as a precursor to IKEA, thought entirely in flat pack."

To be more accurate, Salem Methodist Church fell victim to dry rot in the 1970s. The current Methodist Church would never have been designed to replace it with another huge preaching house. As far as I’m aware, the principal restrictions on the new building concerned the line of the frontage: that is why we have spacious lawn at the front, and a very tight car park at the back. I’d love to shove the whole thing forward by about 10 feet!

I take your point abut architectural merit. I appreciate good design as much as anyone else. But that isn’t what the Church as a movement is here to provide. The current Methodist chapel has good acoustics, a comfortable worship environment, and economic heating. It looked good in the 70s, whatever we might think of 70s design today!

From Paul D

Thursday, 22 July 2010

My apologies Rev, my comments were not about the faith community as such and the utility of the current building is not in doubt, but it does remain pug ugly and something of an embarrassment (architecturally) compared to its predecessor. There may very well be much beauty going on inside, but I’d move it backwards rather than forwards, just far enough to tip into the Calder perhaps?

That said, the lawn is a nice spot for tea and we’re short of community space, so maybe we should be grateful for what’s left. Having watched in horror as the old chapel that was brought down by cart from Dodge City burn to the ground (used to be on the end of Valley Road where the millennium clock is now) I am increasingly aware of the distance between my perception of beauty and a building’s historical or other significance. I’d just like to see something on Garden Street that served local needs, and needs collectively arrived at rather than imposed by a minority, however vocal. The flat pack does just that — at the moment eveyone appears to be shouting for Barabbas and getting their way. So long may that rather flimsy roof hold.

From Jacob G

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Hey Paul… how about an easily accessible, cheap carpark on Garden Street. That would certainly serve local needs and, be far preferable to the essentially, flat-pack development previously proposed (and, no doubt, occupied by the ‘men half my age, all soft hands and hard hearts, that would rather sit and fiddle with their apps than get out and clear the snow’ you appear to be so vocally opposed to).

From Paul D

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

I think Jacob that the coalition government, for all its faults, may have some say in this matter. For the first time we might actually get to test the depth of the real support and opposition to developments like Garden Street. I’m not cynical, but in my lifetime I’ve seen rather more executive estates, mill conversions and pokey apartments get through planning than social housing, although there has been some. When we talk about local opinion, we’ll have to ask the people who live here — all of us. A majority against a proposal will have to be just that, not a majority of people who think that because they shape a segment of local opinion that they are the only ones with anything to say. Those pensioners who’ve seen their children scattered up and down the valley will be represented, as will the unemployed and the underemployed.

In terms of hard hands — we all live in social groupings and often think the views within these groups are common to all. My comments about social disintegration are based on a worry that this is simply not recognised by people outside my circle of friends. Social disintegration is happening here and now, the signs are everywhere, but we also have great resilience. Whilst many of our young people are unemployed, there are others helping them through. Whilst drug and alcohol abuse is a problem, there are growing signs that this is being addressed. Housing is a huge local issue, social housing even bigger. Developments that offer five local people the opportunity to stay in the town they grew up in should not be sneered at. The rest of it might be inappropriate, unwanted, ridiculous even — but that will be determined by the majority, the chattering classes can join in, or go back to discussing how hard it is to get a good cleaner. If the collation plans are what they appear to be, democracy just went local.

See also:

HebWeb News: Garden Street again?

HebWeb feature on Garden Street