Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wind Farm Imposed on Howdenshire Village of Spaldington by Government Planning Inspector (but it could have been worse)

The Government’s Planning Inspector has published his decision on the appeals for the two wind farm proposals, one at each side of the small village of Spaldington. His decision is to allow the 5 turbine Spaldington Airfield application to the west of the village but to throw out the 7 turbine Spaldington Common application to the east.

I have worked very closely with the Spaldington residents and the STOP team since the ERYC Planning Committee’s decision to refuse these applications, knowing that the developers would certainly appeal the decisions. I know the residents team well, and having spoken to some of them today I realise just how deflated and devastated they feel, but this is tempered by winning one of them.

It is common for a community to stand up to fight the imposition of one large wind farm next to their village, but very unusual for them to have to fight two at the same time. In many ways this is a hollow victory and many Spaldington residents will be fearful of the future as their properties are overshadowed by some of the highest onshore wind turbines in the country within 750m. Much, much closer than we see at the only constructed similar size wind farm at Lisset.

It is ironic that within a handful of miles of Spaldington, turbines could be constructed far enough away from properties so as not to have a negative impact on them. This is mainly a result of those land owners not being willing to sell to the wind farm companies. What is perfectly clear is that more effort has to be made by developers and particularly the East Riding of Yorkshire Council to make sure appropriate sites are selected and not on the basis that a landowner is willing.

The Council’s Planning Committee come out of this very well in the way they made their decisions to refuse both applications, unfortunately the same cannot be said of the Council’s Planning Department, who had recommended approval on both applications and the flawed evidence put forward by the Council’s team as detailed in the inspectors findings. I really hope the Council’s Planning Department Officers now take a very close look at the inspector’s decision, particularly regarding proximity and specifically when he says, “In relation to the Common scheme, I have found that the proposal would result in unacceptable harm to the living conditions of nearby residents through being dominant and overbearing and noise disturbance”. For far too long I have been saying that a line has to be drawn in the sand when it comes to the proximity of large wind turbines to houses, and to read a Planning Inspector agree in many ways vindicates my position.

The Inspector also makes reference to the Council’s Interim Planning Document (IPD) on Renewable Energy when he says, “Although the IPD has been the subject of public consultation, given the absence of an adopted Development Plan Document and the apparent conflict with national guidance, I attach limited weight to the IPD”. Again this was something I raised in my motion to the ERYC Full Council on 13th October 2010 - but very little has subsequently been done, again I feel somewhat vindicated by the Planning Inspector’s comments.

In addition the Planning Inspector rightly criticises the key photographic evidence, drawings and measurements provided as evidence by the Council when he says “Whilst not all of the criticisms made by the appellants were accepted the Local Planning Authority (the Council) did acknowledge that, as submitted, all of the viewing distances and angles of view quoted were incorrect”. This is something that really should not happen.

On a positive note, we now have the line drawn in the sand regarding proximity distances from residences; we now know what is acceptable and what is not. It is important that this is built into a revised policy on renewable energy which I called for last year and is now needed following the Inspectors remarks.

This may be too late for some villages in the East Riding of Yorkshire, but will no doubt benefit many in the future, and developers will now have to consider this when submitting wind farm applications. I would like to recognise the STOP team of residents, expert witnesses and their Barrister – without which I am absolutely convinced the Spaldington Common wind farm would not have been thrown out. The work they have done will benefit the wider East Riding, and for that I am very proud.

The inspector’s conclusions are as follows:

In relation to the Airfield scheme, I have concluded that the proposal would not have an unacceptable impact on living conditions, landscape character, public visual amenity, ecology and the operation of Breighton Aerodrome. Whilst there would be some harm to the setting of Howden Minster, I consider that harm is outweighed by the significant weight to be attached to the need for renewable energy and benefits of the scheme. Accordingly, I conclude that, subject to the imposition of appropriate planning conditions and the relevant provisions of the S106 UU, this proposal would not conflict with the objectives of development plan and national policy. Accordingly, I allow the appeal.

In relation to the Common scheme, I have found that the proposal would result in unacceptable harm to the living conditions of nearby residents through being dominant and overbearing and noise disturbance and some harm to the setting of Howden Minster. Notwithstanding my positive conclusions in relation to landscape character, public visual amenity, ecology and aviation matters, I consider the harm is not outweighed by the benefits of the scheme or the need to meet regional targets for the provision of renewable energy. Moreover, this harm would not be acceptably mitigated by imposing planning conditions. Accordingly, I conclude that this proposal would conflict with the objectives of development plan and national policy. Accordingly, I dismiss the appeal.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Road Grates Replaced on Gilberdyke to Howden Road

Sometimes there is a perception that the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s highway maintenance is not as responsive as it might be, mainly because of a history of reduced government funding. But a good example of how the highways maintenance team works really well is highlighted in the work replacing some 40 gully tops/grates on the B1230 at each side of Balkholme flyover between Gilberdyke and Howden.

Many would have seen the numerous times one or more of the grates were laid on the tarmac or wedged in the frame at an odd angle after being ‘bounced out’ of the frames by the action of being run over by a vehicle.

I had received a number of calls and messages from residents and road users regarding this, and actually found myself stopping on numerous occasions to put the grates back into their frames, and on mentioning this was surprised to find that Anna Longthorp owner of local business ‘Anna’s Happy Trotters’ had also been stopping to replace grates in their frames. It got to the stage where Anna would send me a facebook message telling me that she had ‘replaced another one’…. (pictured with Anna Longthorp)

The Council acted very quickly when I raised this as a safety concern, they inspected the gully grates, and ordered in the new iron tops and frames when the originals were found to be badly corroded around the hinges and unsafe.

The most pleasing aspect of this work carried out by the Council’s own team, was not just the quality and speed of which it was accomplished, but with the minimum disruption to road users. A good example of a job well done before anyone was seriously hurt.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Howden School and Technology College out of Special Measures

I thought the highlights of a school Governor was being the Chair of the Governing body at Gilberdyke Primary School when we achieved the status of an ‘Outstanding School’, it was something we had built up to year on year, the management of the school and the systems were excellent, the kids were well behaved, and the parents, teachers and staff were very proud of ‘their’ school. It was great to appear alongside long-standing Head Martin Alger before the Council's Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee and answer the question posed by the Chair on the day, “Now Cllr Robinson will tell us how to achieve an outstanding report from OFSTED”.

I still remain a member of the Governing Body at Gilberdyke, but in addition was asked to become a Local Authority appointed Governor at Howden School and Technology College (my old school) when it was plunged into special measures last year. This was certainly going to be a challenge.

Recently the school achieved its best GSCE results its history with 55% achieving grades A* – C in five subjects including maths and English, and acknowledged as being the most improved School in the East Riding of Yorkshire, so we knew we were on the right track.

I must say that previous highlight has most certainly been matched this week, as on Tuesday and Wednesday, 20th and 21st September, Mr Bernard Campbell HMI and his team came to Howden School to carry out their third monitoring visit. They were so pleased with what they saw they decided on Tuesday night to turn the monitoring visit into a full Section 5 Inspection (The basic Ofsted inspection that all schools get).

The outcome of the Section 5 Inspection was that the school is now a ‘satisfactory’, school and therefore does not require ‘special measures’. This means that from today (Thursday) officially the School is out of special measures.

I know just how much work has gone into picking up the pieces and rebuilding the school, and I’m immensely proud of my fellow Governors, the Executive Head Dave McCreedy, and Acting Head Gary Garghan (both ‘loaned’ to us by Wolfreton School), the teachers and staff, parents and carers, and the officers of the Local Authority – but most of all the students who have worked so hard to get the label of ‘special measures lifted.

I understand it is almost unprecedented for a school to rid themselves of the ‘special measures’ tag after just 3 monitoring visits, so this is an amazing outcome. This is truly the result of what can happen when all stakeholders: students, parents / carers, staff, governors, community partners come together in a common cause – this is has become known as ‘Team Howden’ and I’m proud to have been part of that team.

Acting Head Gary Garghan best summed it up when he said, “So we have now exchanged the miserable category ‘special measures’ for one that says we are ‘ok’. Not good enough for ‘Team Howden!’ The mission to move towards being an outstanding school starts today!!!!!!” – I could not agree more.....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Walking With Elvis for Marie Curie Cancer Care

Many will remember that last year I took part in the ‘Humber Bridge Midnight Walk’ in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care. This past weekend my daughter Katy and I again took part in this year’s event, but this time I was persuaded by the organisers (who knew I possess the requisite attire) to appear and walk as Elvis. In the absence of the Lord Mayor of Hull (who let the organisers down) I was asked to step in as the walk starter and gave the following in my very best Elvis accent:

“IT’S MIDNIGHT” and can I just say “HOW GREAT THOU ART”, for joining me, a hunk of “BURNING LOVE”, and my “GOOD LUCK CHARM”, my “LITTLE DARLIN”, my daughter Katy…, but most importantly it’s the “WONDER OF YOU” for being here for just “ONE NIGHT” to stride out with “A FOOL SUCH AS I” in “MY BLUE SUEDE SHOES”, to walk “DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE”, raising money for that “HARD HEADED WOMAN” ….. MARIE CURIE.

Well I’m “ALL SHOOK UP” seeing you all here tonight and “I JUST CAN’T HELP BELIEVING” that we will all enjoy the walk over this “BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER”.

I know that I’m “ITCHING LIKE A MAN ON A FUZZY TREE” to get started, and there’s going to be a “WHOLE LOT OF SHAKIN GOIN ON”, I’m sure y’all “HELP ME MAKE IT THROUGH THE NIGHT” on this “LONG LONELY HIGHWAY”, although as we finish the walk I may “NEED SOMEBODY TO LEAN ON”


SO…. It’s one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready now go cats, go!!!

... and on the stroke of midnight on a very cold night about a hundred of us set off over the bridge.

About half way across, in the teeth of an appalling headwind, a rather nice lady of a certain age that I was alongside, dressed in green surgical robes, mask and hairnet answered her mobile phone and said, “You’ll never believe this but I’m walking across the Humber Bridge with Elvis Presley" and asked me to speak to her caller – I don’t think the person on the other end believed us for some reason!

Anyway it was nice to walk to Lincolnshire, but even better to walk back to Yorkshire!

Katy and I have so far managed to raise well over £200 for this very worthwhile cause – if anyone would like to donate or sponsor us please let me know!