STOP PRESS: SBC Planning Portal Subverted
- – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, reporting on an apparent abuse of the SBC Planning Process.
Following publication of my article “The Leader’s Same Old Refrain” (Thurs. 28th Oct ’21), Councillors have now shared with me a Formal Complaint lodged by Mr James CORRIGAN (whose website can be viewed here) which throws the whole ARGOS Planning Process into utter turmoil.
As can be seen from the lead image (above), the Council’s Planning Portal would appear to have gone into some degree of meltdown.
Mr CORRIGAN’s Formal Complaint gives the clue:
From: James Corrigan
Date: 28 October 2021 at 10:10:45 BST
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, Complaints@scarborough.gov.uk, email@example.com, Alex Wood <Alex.firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com, all Councillors
Subject: FORMAL COMPLAINT #2
20/02167/FL | Demolition of existing building and erection of building to provide commercial floorspace (Class E) at ground floor and accommodation for NHS key workers and students at the upper levels | 50-59 Newborough Scarborough North Yorkshire YO11 1ET
I submitted a formal representation to the above plans along with a number of others OBJECTING to the proposed planning application. After speaking with councillors (who informed me around 30 communications had been withheld due to failure to include an address) and receiving communications from the planning department, I learned my (and others) OBJECTION had not been uploaded on to the planning portal because I had not included my ADDRESS only.
Please explain why a letter of SUPPORT from Richard Boyes of Boyes Stores was uploaded on to the planning portal. This letter of SUPPORT carried NO ADDRESS of the supporter, in breach of SBC communication policy (support letter with no address reproduced below for veracity) AFTER the communication from the planning had explained the reason for my objection to be rejected.
I assume the extract below from DRAFT minutes to be amended to remove the FIRST stated “key principle” “Resident is at the heart of all that we do”
I await an immediate reply.
Once again, we are fortunate to observe, at first hand, the lengths which Councillor SIDDONS’ administration is prepared to go to deprive residents of their voice, even to the degree of contravenening the Council’s own stated objectives.
Clearly, now that the ARGOS Planning has been deferred at least until December (and possibly into the New Year) the consultation period must be extended and Comments ( both OBJECTIONS & SUPPORT) accepted to accommodate that deferral.
I am writing this letter to show my support for the current application for the proposed redevelopment of the old Argos site into accommodation and ground floor retail.
My name is Richard Boyes and I am the Managing director of W. Boyes & Co Ltd. As I am sure you’ll be aware, Boyes neighbour this site and have been located on Queen Street long before this unattractive concrete block was erected. It has long been a frustration seeing this building deteriorate with very little chance of improvement, the reality being that the only option is to knock it down and start again.
The fact that this location is on the main route through the town, connecting the shopping centre to the seafront,make it vital that regeneration projects are attempted to prevent situations like this which tarnish the image and look of Scarborough itself. It should also be noted that in my experience, across many different geographical locations we trade in, these neglected sites really do hinder commerce within their immediate proximity and even bring about social issues due to the lack of footfall that results.
Major funding was given to transform Scarborough’s market building and this is undoubtedly hindered by the Argos block in front of it. We should be marketing this area as the gateway to the old town but unless something is done you are fighting a losing battle.
The only alternative proposal I have seen to this development is simply to knock it down and create a large, market square.
The images for this look good and in fact our building gets pride of place within this option and we would probably benefit the most if it was developed this way. The reality of this approach is that it would cost millions of pounds to do yet it provides absolutely no means whatsoever to generate income to finance or support it. This makes it very difficult to see how objections to the housing scheme on the basis of financial risk can in anyway vote for the flattening option as an alternative.
Maintaining an area that is likely to be over 75m wide is going to add large revenue costs to the council budgets and with the outlook of cost cutting looming I would fear this would hinder other budgets that might be allocated to essential services within the town. The fact that planning arelikely to want to retain the terraces facing the market at the lower end of the site, it would make the square look very different from the illustration given as an alternative.
I am all for green spaces and I know first-hand how they can uplift areas and bring positivity to their surroundings but they are always better located in the centre of towns and cities, the Argos site unfortunately for us, is not that. Festival Square, as illustrated in the master plan is far more central and impacting for such financial gifting as it will hugely increase the chances of commercial stimulus from the private sector. This area needs stimulus due to the fall in demand for smaller retail units on the high street and anyone that grew up in Scarborough will likely agree that this part of Aberdeen Walk has always been the central point of the town.
In order for me to consider the feasibility of the accommodation proposal my first question was simply to ask if there is a demand for these units. After speaking to a number of people working for the University and Hospital trust it is absolutely clear that there is. In fact, the demand on these units is seen as a way of expanding the University and actually locating training medics within the town. From what I have been told it is common for medics to live out of Scarborough, commute in until they qualify and then move on to work in other areas. Recruiting in Scarborough is often not easy to do and our company are not immune to this problem.
I had to set up offices in West Yorkshire to negate this issue which is such a shame when we chose to remain in the town and be loyal to our heritage. The hospital needs skilled staff to function and they do not have the option to add offices remotely as we did, so in my opinion it is far better having training medics residing in the town as it is the best chance of selling this beautiful coastal resort to them in this way. The University could be looked at in a similar way but again, relating this to success in other areas, it is vital we allow organic growth of this sector as it brings large financial stimulus to any areas they expand in.
I would hope that this accommodation is the first of many in order to expand this sector in line with the demand for it.
Putting this simply, if the hospital and university are saying they want and need this type of accommodation and are happy to co-inhabit the same building, who am I to say they should not. Regeneration of towns and cities requires working with the different groups and supporting their needs, this situation highlights the need to listen to them. If we do there may be other sites and the influx of skilled workers and financial gains will result.
The other major objection to this site is related to car parking and I do have sympathy for this.
The reality ofcar parking is that it has not been taken seriously by councils, across the country, in the last decade at the very least. It has almost become a taboo subject because of the need for a greener Britain. I have not seen any master plan relating to car parking and truly believe this is needed but not to prevent this site going ahead. General purpose retailing has taken a massive hit in the last 10 years, seeing big nationals disappear and others move away from centres they have been anchor tenants in. This is creating big voids in high streets everywhere; Leeds is a good example of this as Briggate, in the heart of the city is decimated with vacancies where the largest sites such as Debenhams need repurposing to prevent them from going to ruin.
The only alternative for this site is accommodation and it is the University who is going to take this unit, something that will of course attract objections but in reality, is the only feasible option for it to prosper. It is important to note that this site is many times larger than the Argos block, parking in Leeds is impossible without huge cost yet there is absolutely no parking designated for this site. It is a sad fact that people will have to get used to this as accommodation will often be the only alternative to vacant buildings, residents will have to consider the viability of owning vehicles and however hard it is to take this is what will become of our towns and cities. I do not want to appear political but many cities with these problems have designated residential parking areas and this should surely be on the agenda that I refer to in my previous comments.
In order to counter negative comments coming back about this unit having retail, in which I have highlighted a massive problem associated with it, I would like to note that convenience retail has been on the up well before Covid-19 took us by surprise and it has flourished during this pandemic. I don’t know Wilsons personally but I am sure this format of retail is the safer bet and the images of a brew pub are in line with the changing shape of our evening economies; it certainly has an accessible market from the development itself!
In conclusion, this area is in massive need of regeneration, both socially and commercially.
The current demand for this site, from two gilt edged tenants gives me huge hope that it will help bring about these changes that will benefit the town, the hospital, the need for skilled workers and the essential uplift to the people and the area itself. Car parking has to be taken on but should not, in my opinion prevent this project going ahead. A ten year lease for such a site is very commonplace and as the council will own the building it massively reduces the risk of servicing the debt in the later stages. It will remain a sought afteraccommodation block due to its position and proximity to the sea front.
It is rare that I choose to contact planning departments but I have a genuine interest in the town and wish for it to succeed.
If this planning application is rejected, based on the visibility we have to so many other towns and cities where we operate, I can see nothing more than a greatly dilapidated building remaining in 10 years time when the social media warriors will be stating that this scheme should have been approved when it had the chance!
[No address provided]
Even this letter of SUPPORT is a two-edged sword, admitting as it does that the alternative vision of an open Town Square has its attractions:
Members of the Audit Committee (scheduled to meet at 2:00pm today, Thursday 28th October, under the Chairship of Councillor Andrew BACKHOUSE [Unaff.] – who has distanced himself from SIDDON’s allied Councillors in Castle Ward – are advised to be acutely aware of the machinations of the Leadership and senior Officers.
The meeting is viewable on the Council’s YouTube Channel).
ALL elected members may wish to take note of the fact that existing Council construction work in Scarborough is already seriously delayed – this toilet block was scheduled to re-open in June/July ’21. How can the ‘regeneration’ project be delivered on time (or within budget)?
Also of interest: