The Voice Of The People Of The Forest of Dean
DEAN FOREST VOICE (DFV) are a group situated in the Forest of Dean who exist to support the Heritage, Culture and Traditions of the Forest of Dean, with particular interest in protecting the Statutory Forest of Dean from inappropriate development. DFV has in excess of 1000 membership.
THE ALLOCATIONS PLAN AND CINDERFORD NORTHERN QUARTER
Section 5.10 of the AP states:-
In view of the high priority accorded to the area and the need to provide a comprehensive level of prescriptive guidance (both to ensure that the outcome is of the nature required and to fully take account of the environmental considerations), a detailed plan in the form of an AAP has been adopted for part of Cinderford, the so called Northern Quarter. This functions like an inset into the AP and has a complementary relationship with it. The AP refers to the AAP when necessary and is totally compatible but cannot contain overlapping policies or proposals. The AAP plans for a new education led site containing the relocated Forest of Dean campus of Gloucester College.. In addition provision is made for new housing, for employment land, an hotel and some community uses. The entire site is compact and set within a forest setting using mainly previously developed land. It will have an influence over a much wider area however by hosting the further education centre and as a location for employment and living. Overall the AP and of the AAP together will achieve the aims and objectives set out in the CS.
The second para of the Statement of Representations Procedure document states :-
The Allocation Plan together with the Core Strategy and the Area Action Plan for Cinderford Northern Quarter will comprise the Local Plan for the Forest of Dean.
It is the inclusion of Statutory Forest Land in the AAP for CNQ that DFV wish to target it's objections.
For an Allocations Plan to work there must be certainty as to the availability of land proposed for use. This is not the case at the CNQ.
The Issues involved here are:-
1. Legality of land usage and transfer.
2. Mining Issues and safety
3. Environmental Issues and Habitat Regulation
THESE ARE THE ISSUES ON WHICH DFV BASE THEIR OBJECTIONS.
1. Legality of land usage and transfer.
The term 'Forest Waste' is used to describe all land within the Statutory Forest of Dean (SFoD) that is not legally enclosed (1908 Forestry Act) so that this open land (Waste of the Forest) is available to Commoners for pasture, and they hold this land in joint occupation with the Crown (invested in the Forestry Commission (FC)).
The Forestry Act, 1981 controls the disposal of any designated SFoD land and only permits the exchange of small areas of it where the FC deem it not required or unsuitable for forestry or related uses.
This provision is exclusive to the SFoD.
Under the terms of the Forestry Acts 1967/81 only small areas of land can be exchanged for more suitable land where the Minister can demonstrate the land is not required for forestry use. The ability of the FC to dispose of Forest Land is laid down by the Forestry Act 1981 which by (S1) does not apply to the FoD, so that if forestry land in the FoD can be disposed of at all, then it can only be disposed of under the terms of the aforementioned 1967/81 Acts.
From a period March 1976 to March 1992 the FC sold to the Forest of Dean District Council (FoDDC) large areas of what became the Linear Park and Forest Vale Industrial Estate. This was principally by conveyances. Some of this land was then sold on by the FoDDC.
THIS AREA OF FOREST WASTE WAS OBVIOUSLY CONSIDERED BY THE FC AS UNSUITABLE FOR FORESTRY OR RELATED USES. IT IS NOW TO BE A PARCEL OF LAND BEING EXCHANGED BACK TO THE FC. THEY MUST NOW CONSIDER IT TO BE MORE SUITABLE FOR FORESTRY OR RELATED USES.
In March 1992 a nine-year lease was granted to the FoDDC by the FC. and included most of the CNQ. The purpose was to enable the Council to have sufficient security of tenure for them to obtain grant assistance to reinstate the Bowson shafts and carry out improvements to Steam Mills Lake. The lease expired in 2001 after the work was completed and was not renewed.
After the nine-year period the area had been turned into a leisure and recreation area and became one of the finest wildlife sites in Gloucestershire. The entire scheme had been financed by a Derelict Land Reclamation Grant.
The terms of the grant were as follows:-
a) The reclamation works should commence as soon as possible.
b) Expenditure on the scheme, including expenditure already approved for grant, should be phased as follows:-
c) On completion of the reclamation works the land will be used for public open space.
d) The Council will lease the land from the Forestry Commission for 9 years and there is to be unrestricted public access to the land for AT LEAST 30 years after the lease expires.
This condition of grant award still has at least 15 years to run. The entire CNQ has been regenerated as an outstanding area for leisure, recreation and wildlife whilst still remaining Forest Waste.
The CNQ is always referred to as a Brownfield Site yet the Inspector 's report on the 2003 Forest of Dean Local Plan Review refutes this :-
Pt 2 Chap 2 12.32
As the northern part of the Park was effectively restored and put to a recreational amenity use in the early 1990s, after its previous use as an open-cast coal-mine, it does not, to my mind, require redevelopment or otherwise meet the definition of previously-developed land set out in Annex C to PPG3. That definition is concerned with planning guidance for housing development. However I consider that a similar definition would appropriately be applied in other planning contexts, Thus the parkland should now properly be regarded as a greenfield site and not as previously-developed or brownfield land.............................
This ruling by Inspector Simms casts a different light on the status of the CNQ. It should now be considered to be a greenfield site and protected forest waste.
The protection of forest waste is enshrined in Forest of Dean District Council Core Strategy Policies CSP9 ‘Recreational and amenity land including forest waste-protection and provision (Strategic objective: Providing quality environments)’
PROTECTION OF AMENITY LAND.
Except where allocated in a development plan, land which is identified as being of amenity value AND ALL FOREST WASTE whether so identified or not, will be protected from development. This includes land which is part of the forest landscape and other protected areas identified in Development Plan Documents and/or on the proposals map.
Exceptionally, the change of use or other development of land that does not contribute to the character of the area and is therefore of little amenity value may be considered. In this case enhancement of the area concerned, or compensatory provision of an equivalent area may be sought (especially in the case of the loss of forest waste).
There are some areas of forest waste which contain buildings. Proposals for these will be treated on their individual merits, having regard to the landscape, historic and cultural importance of the site.
PROTECTION OF RECREATIONAL USE.
Development involving the loss of existing recreational land and buildings will not be supported. Exceptions may be made where it can be shown that the use is no longer required or where the development secures satisfactory replacement or improvement of recreational use(s) which outweigh any loss.
2. Mining issues and safety.
Planning application P0663/14/OUT
Description: A hybrid planning application comprising demolition of existing buildings and structures and mixed use development and associated infrastructure and works to include:
i) full details of new highway infrastructure and improvements including s new link road between the A4135 and Broadmoor Road, associated means of access, earthworks, footpaths, landscaping, service infrastructure and other associated works and improvements; and full details of a new education campus including a building of 7,750 square meters (gross external area)(Use Class D1), associated works and improvements and;
ii) Outline application with all matters reserved apart from access (in part) for up to 195 dwellings (Use Class C3); an hotel (Use Class C1) of up to 300 sq.m, up to 18,800 sq. m. for employment uses (Use Class B1, B2 and B8) and a class D1 non-residential institutional use and associated internal estate roads, earthworks, car parking, footpaths, landscaping, service infrastructure and other associated works and improvements.
This entire development is scheduled for a site (CNQ) which is situated on an old open-cast mining site and with in excess of 100 old mine openings beneath its surface.
DFV have considerable concern at the content of letters written on behalf of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) by David Warburton on September 5th and Kevin Powers on behalf of Parsons Brinkerhoff (PB) dated Sept 5th requesting the removal of the Coal Authority's objection to the plan.
They are astonishingly irresponsible as they omit to take into account crucial information about the proposed building site. This information proves that should the building work go ahead, there is a clear risk of devastating consequences because of the dangers of building on what is essentially a highly unstable and vulnerable site.
The following information cannot be ignored or omitted because of the associated inherent risks and dangers:
1) The ground core drilling investigation of 2014 concentrated on approx. only a quarter of the area that HCA and PB have delineated within their application papers. Their documentation presents a much greater boundary around the open-cast mine including the whole of the lake.. This lake was originally developed from a series
of clay pits that were dug for the brickwork industry. While the northern section was formed by the open-cast mine, the whole of the lake was originally landscaped in 1974 to a depth of 112 feet.
2) The areas allocated as residential (pink) and education (yellow) are outside the actual open-cast mine area and therefore the open-cast mining backfill as claimed in the HCA and PB letters of September 5th cannot possibly have checked the numerous surface mine workings nor the known mine entries.
3) The green (hotel), blue (employment) and pink (residential) areas that are situated north-west of the inlet stream and are located over the open-cast mine. HCA and PB have omitted to inform the Planning Authority in their letters that the base of the open-cast mine was covered with 40feet to 70 feet of landfill deposit from East Dean Rural District Council's domestic, chemical and industrial waste. Furthermore, there has been unlicensed dumping of landfill waste in this area as well as a Severn and Trent settlement lagoon and discharges point at the Hawkwell shafts.
Close to the original Hawkwell pit there was the Hawkwell tinplate works and on the other side of the site was situated the Broadmoor Chemical Works that had a licence to use the Old Engine Brook for the manufacture of various products including the poisonous substance sugar of lead.
4) In the documentation there is no mention of the presence of methane and the high probability of hydrogen cyanide gas percolating and leeching from plating residues from the many processes that operated around the Forest areas throughout the Twentieth Century. One has only to speak with the local
fishermen who have invested resources and funding into the area to understand that they dread the arrival of freezing temperatures when the lake covers over with ice and toxic gases poison the fish.
In concluding the mining legacy evidence we suggest that the planning application is flawed with unbelievable omissions demonstrating that the HCA and PB are unaware of the geology of the area and the threats that exist from poisonous gases and mining shaft and bell-pit collapses.
Recently there have been bell-pit collapses at the nearby Duck Mine and 'Strip and at it Mine' with the latest collapse being fenced off just this year by the Forestry Commission near to Steam Mills School.
3. Environmental Issues and Habitat Regulation
We deal with this subject briefly as it will be dealt with in far greater depth by the various Environmental Groups in the Forest of Dean.
The CNQ was at one time a brownfield site, but as Inspector Simms points out it has been re-generated as a recreation and leisure area and should be considered to be a greenfield site now. The site has become a wildlife haven having been relatively undisturbed for a number of years.
Just five months after the FoDDC approved the plans for the site it was declared a Key Wildlife Site by ecological experts.
The Governments own ecologists recognise the extreme importance of this site in terms of rare species, but the measures they recommend to protect and preserve them would take up to five years to complete.
Rare bats, great crested newts, grass snakes, lizards, butterflies, dormice and rare orchids can now be found on the site and recent surveys have confirmed that it is one the most important sites for wildlife in Gloucestershire, with in excess of 1300 different species of flora and fauna present.
The CNQ is a substantial part of the Allocations Plan and therefore needs to be given considerable consideration with regards to its vulnerability within the allocations Plan. Any Legal challenges will render it vulnerable and reflect on the validity of the entire Plan.
With this in mind we suggest that the CNQ should be removed from the Allocations Plan.
A legal constraint on land use can become material to planning where a development plan allocation would not carry reasonable prospect of fulfilment. For in general, to confirm an allocation in such circumstances would create uncertainty and undermine the robustness of the plan. (Inspectors report 2002/3)
DFV requests that the Allocations Plan be considered without the CNQ proposals and that any adjustments are made to give the required weight to future planning decisions.
DFV hereby requests that it be allowed to give evidence to any Inspectors Review of the Forest of Dean District Council's Allocations Plan.
For and on behalf of Dean Forest Voice
Keith Morgan (Hon Sec)
4 Wilkes Meadow