The long-awaited Grantham bypass seems further away than ever today as South Kesteven District Council’s planning officers were told to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan for the future of the town
The Grantham Area Action Plan and the Development Plan Document have been years in the making at significant cost in both time and taxpayers’ money.
Now both have been rejected as planning inspector Roland Punshon believes them to be so flawed that they are beyond saving.
The Journal was contacted by a landowner this week who was one of those who complained to the inspector that his land had been unfairly overlooked in the council plans.
His objection was upheld and he was successful in convincing the planning inspector his piece of land should not have been excluded but sees little reason to celebrate given that “hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax payers’ money must have been wasted”.
He said: “This is a disaster for Grantham. It means the work on the bypass will start in years, not months.
“It is also a disaster in the amount of money that has been used and wasted. It must be hundreds of thousands of pounds - if not more.
“The biggest question is ‘how have the council got it so wrong?’”
MR PUNSHON’S CRITICISMS:
Lack of policy direction - Mr Punshon criticised the council’s planning policy, saying “without a clear policy context the council’s approach would amount to little more than planning by appeal” and describing the lack of a clear policy was a case of “the tail wagging the dog”.
Inadequate reports - He described a report on the North West Quadrant development (NWQ1) as “inadequate in terms of the guidance and direction it provides” whilst also describing a report into the Southern Quadrant (SQ1) as “inadequate”.
Site selection for developments: He said: “In my view the process was unsound and did not show full consideration of all of the potential options for sites.”
Mr Punshon added: “The evidence document contains some clear errors and omissions in its assessment of sites...these errors and apparent omissions reduce my confidence in the thoroughness with which the weighing of the merits of individual sites has been undertaken.”
Business: The plans identify 16 hectares of land for employment but part is taken up by highway infrastructure improvements and part of the residential developments in the Souther Quadrant would involve the loss of “a substantial area of” existing employment land. Mr Punshon said: “It is unclear whether this loss has been taken into account in the council’s calculations.”
The Core Strategy also says there should be a business park built in Grantham which is unaccounted for. Mr Punshon said: “The GAAP does not specifically identify land to accommodate a high quality business park as is required by the Core Strategy.”
Bridge: As part of the North West Quadrant plans the Pennine Way Link Road and rail bridge will be built between Barrowby Road and Pennine Way. However, concerns were raised about how this will be paid for. Mr Punshon said: “Although the Section 106 agreement requires developers of the first phase to contribute to a ‘bridge fund’ as development progresses, the council concedes that the contributions would not be sufficient to pay for the bridge to carry the Pennine Way Link over the railway.
“How the necessary additional finance would be raised is unexplained.”