27 April 2017

Gleeson Appeal - Public Inquiry 28 March 2017

Below is a statement read out by Shan Oakes (Press Officer) on behalf of the Green Party at the Gleeson Appeal public inquiry on 28 March 2017.  It underlines our committment to environmental protection in the local community and highlights why we are standing up against inconsiderate planning and housing development by the local council.

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My name is Shan Oakes and I represent the local Green Party.

We fully support Harrogate Borough Council's determination to meet local housing needs but not in the wrong places.  The right sorts of houses are desperately needed but those must be built, where there will be no harm to public health and legally protected wildlife.

Permissions to build the wrong houses in the wrong places, would be welcomed by developers. Such permissions would also encourage more and more people to move into the area. The larger the rapid increase in the population, the larger will be the increase in traffic congestion and air pollution.

Hopefully, neither the outcome of this public inquiry, nor the one held just over a month ago about adjacent land, will provide any number of developers with a planning precedent, to keep on expanding the local population, at a rate which cannot be sustained by the local infrastructure.

We are reliably informed, that Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council have admitted, that their current plans cannot get close to solving existing pollution levels. Adding to those levels would be irrational and irresponsible.

Last September, Harrogate Borough Council said in a report about this planning application and that for the adjacent land, that the total number of houses would be approximately 150. If approved, Harrogate Borough Council said that "would put pressure on the AQMA at Bond End".

We assume that Harrogate Borough Council has a duty of candour in relation to this public inquiry. If so, we trust that it will give a full explanation, as to why it objected to the planning application on the adjacent land because of air pollution but did not do the same, with the application being considered at this public inquiry.

We ask whether planning permissions can keep being given, which continually increase the quantity of traffic in Bond End and the other AQMA soon to be designated in Knaresborough, when the town has the highest levels of unlawful air pollution, in North Yorkshire?

No matter how small any one permitted increase might be, all permissions add up. Law and national policy refer to the importance of avoiding "cumulative" impacts. Those increase threats to the health of babies, even before birth, young children and other vulnerable groups.

Indeed, our government defines air pollution as a public health emergency.

Consequently, we trust that the outcome of this public inquiry, will reflect our government's strong determination to do everything possible, to reduce air pollution, particularly in AQMA hot-spots.

If permission is given, we respectfully request, that the decision notice explain in detail, the extent to which law breaking and harm to health can be lawfully increased, by planning decisions.

Our request is crucially important, because if the decision allows pollution increases, it will be used as a local, if not national precedent. That would perpetuate harm to the health of the nation.

The cumulative impacts would then be exponential.

Those would be wholly abhorrent to Secretaries of State for planning decisions, public health, transport, communities and other public services.

Regarding wildlife, the principle at stake, goes way beyond great crested newts.

The crash in any enormous population of any legally protected wildlife, demands a thorough investigation. That has not been done in this case.

If, without prior investigation, parts of the habitat are destroyed and changes are made which exacerbate ongoing threats, no wildlife in this country can be regarded as safe.

The whole idea of legal protection, will be in danger of becoming arbitrary and meaningless.