Objection to 221 houses at The Fitz

Planning Application Ref: 2/2010/0542

Proposal: Outline consent for a residential development for 221 dwellings including 79 affordable dwellings and associated access and landscaping.

Site: Land Adjacent To
Fitz Park
Low Road
CA13 0XE


Submission: Objection

Comments: In addition to the specific concern lodged earlier below are more detailed arguments agianst the scheme. A version of this objection will be published in Times and Star.

As has been recognised by several housing surveys Cockermouth needs new housing to meet organic demand and provide a source of affordable housing. However this provision should not be provided at any cost and should be carefully balanced against what positives it delivers and what negative impact it may have on the town.

The proposed development site adjacent to Fitz Park is wholly green field with no evidence of development other than the Neolithic remains in the same area, it is on the far western edge of town 1.4km from the town centre and 2.8km from Cockermouth School. The proposed development of 221 houses would represent a 6.5% increase in Cockermouth households. An increase of such a scale would have measurable impact on any town or city. To put the increase in context a similar expansion to Carlisle would result in nearly 3,000 new houses, in Manchester 68,000 (Allerdale has 48,000). Such large developments would not be considered viable, nor welcome, precisely because of the immediate and large scale affect they would have on their respective conurbations.

As I stated in the first paragraph, Cockermouth does need to be allowed to grow but this has to be in a controlled and managed way. The infrastructure, including public services, needs to be able to absorb any new demand through a gradual programme of growth rather than go through such a major step change as would be required by these proposals. The danger is that the growth will not be healthy or sustainable and may change the town in such a way that it meets less of the needs of its residents than it does now.

Growth management is paramount, particularly in a town of this size. Any growth should be part of the natural evolution of the town that incorporates and facilitates an organic growth. This is achievable as several smaller sites are exploitable that can be developed over time to incorporate a much wider spectrum of tenure and house type. These potential developments are by their nature integral to the town and would not, as the Fitz development would, be potential satellite rivals that would likely pull the town in a direction unwelcome by all.

The main argument put forward by the supporters of this large development is based on a misconception of how the market is driven. The argument is presented so: Housing in Cockermouth is expensive and as such prevents the younger generation getting on the local housing ladder. Therefore more housing should be created to supply ¿affordable homes¿. This argument is correct but only to a certain degree. If, say 10 houses are built this will provide additional housing but at a scale that will not measurably affect the market – the supply is insufficient to create any new market. If, on the other hand 100 houses are built this may temporarily reduce existing house prices but will quickly expand the market and produce a higher demand, thus exacerbating the dilemma the first time buyer finds themselves. It is a case of understanding, in the context of Cockermouth, at what stage microeconomics becomes macro and when supply creates demand. I think all would agree any development should be driven by local microeconomics (i.e. demand driven) and not supply driven macroeconomics.

The proposed development does include a provision for affordable homes that if given planning approval will be controlled with a Section 106 to restrict the sale value to a given percentage of the local average. A Section 106 however cannot hope to control the greater market and if that market is artificially buoyed by the influx of a large number of open market houses then any average property value and associated salary is likely to increase making the affordable element less affordable.

On balance the Cockermouth Civic Trust feel that the negatives greatly outweigh the positives such a large scale development would bring to Cockermouth and as such we object to the application.