A1M Kirby Hill service station decision exposes public inquiry bias towards developers – Yorkshire Post Letters

From: Gareth Owens, Chair, Kirby Hill RAMS.

There's anger over plans to build a new service station on the A1M near Boroughbridge.

YOUR comment piece ‘A1M Vale of York service station decision insults residents’ (The Yorkshire Post, April 15) poses an apposite question. What has changed?

The timeless beauty and value of the rural landscape at Kirby Hill are the same as when previous proposals at this site were rejected.

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The encroachment into the countryside from the development is the same: 19 hectares of prime agricultural land. The development is still 500 yards from a small rural village and forms part of the setting of the Grade-II listed Skelton windmill and the Grade-I listed All Saints church, Kirby Hill, built in 986AD. The local planning authority still opposes the scheme and says it will cause significant harm.

An aerial view of the proposed A1M service station at Kirby Hill now approved by a Government planning inspector following a public inquiry.

What has changed is the planning system, which is now more pro-development than ever. The 2019 Rosewell Review of public inquiries cut the target timeline for inquiry decisions in half.

This biased the system in favour of developers with large teams of professionals who work full-time. It made it much harder for local voluntary groups to keep up, prepare and submit their evidence.

The move to ‘virtual’ inquiries further disadvantages the public. It is no longer necessary for the inquiry to come to the local area and face objectors across a room.

Developers, lawyers and inspectors conduct proceedings remotely from the comfort of their offices, while local people giving evidence must invite the inquiry into the privacy of their own homes and face a considerable intrusion into their safe place during hostile cross-examination by opposition barristers.

The planning system has been reconfigured to permit less scrutiny and objection, in order to ‘build, build, build’ in the name of economic growth.

Our once democratically-accountable planning system has become a vehicle for central government to ride roughshod over the properly-taken decisions of local people and their local councils.

This U-turn on motorway services at Kirby Hill after 25 years tells us that localism in planning is dead. We should seek to understand how this happened and use what we learn as a catalyst for planning reform.

From: Philip Wilby, Skelton Windmill, Boroughbridge.

I HAVE read with interest your coverage of the decision to build a motorway services area facility 500 yards from the rural North Yorkshire village of Kirby Hill.

As you point out in your Editorial: “While the inspector’s duty was to effectively interpret Government guidelines presided over at present by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, the consequences of the decision to ignore the wishes of local residents – and elected local councillors – is far more profound and perturbing.”

As Inspector Rose’s report concedes, this is a situation where all concerned were united in one voice against the Irish petrol giant Applegreen PLC, whose motivation can only be financial, and has been forced through at the expense of local people and landscape.

Harrogate Council turned down the plan last year, and were joined by seven local councils, and yet the Inspector has overturned 25 years hard work at a stroke, and we are understandably shocked and outraged.

Some see our united stance as ‘nimbyism’, but we prefer to think that we are custodians of something more valuable, which belongs to the past and the future in equal measure. Once lost under concrete, these cherished acres are gone forever.

From: Andrea Cope, Kirby Hill, Boroughbridge.

ONCE again local residents who are supposed to be consulted and given consideration by the Planning Inspectorate are blatantly ignored in favour of the developers (The Yorkshire Post, April 19).

RAMS (Residents Against Motorway Services) have worked tirelessly for 25 years to protect this rural community with listed buildings bordering the small market town of Boroughbridge.

In 1997, 2003 and 2007, the developers were denied their request to build at Kirby Hill on the A1M with Harrogate Borough Council recommending the appeal by Applegreen be refused on the grounds it would be “encroachment into open countryside was not a sustainable development and would harm the local environment and the economy of nearby Boroughbridge”.

Why then has David Rose of HM Planning Inspectorate suddenly decided the loss of our landscape and our community is a price worth paying in order to provide facilities for the A1M ,and why are developers and planners allowed to ignore the Local Plan and do what they want?

It is high time planners and developers were made to really listen to the views of the local community rather than just paying ‘lip service’ to look as if they have done so.

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