Lies, damned lies and… the Settlement Hierarchy

Thanks to the eagle eyes of borough residents, the slippery recasting of the Settlement Hierarchy between its first version in the Green Belt & Countryside Study [GBCS], Vol III, July 2013 and the Settlement Hierarchy tables released in the Local Plan Issues & Options, Appendix C, November 2013 has been revealed.

Because the original Sustainability scores didn’t quite fulfill the pre-determined outcome required of the authors, a few new bits of erroneous information were surreptitiously added, the basis of assessment on other scores was changed and settlements that were previously assessed separately suddenly found themselves joined into ‘large’ villages, and one settlement, ‘medium’-sized by its Sustainability score, was classified as ‘small’. How convenient.  Did they think no-one would notice?

Take the two settlements of Normandy and Flexford as an example, yes two settlements not one ‘large’ village, and the hamlet of Wyke (sorry Wyke, no one wants to call you a settlement because the planners with all their clever software still find it a bit too hard to define your boundary, unlike the nearby hamlet of Wanborough, even though you contain the primary school and church attributed to the Normandy settlement).  Assessed separately in the GBCS, Vol 3, July 2013 with total sustainability scores of 16 (Normandy settlement) and 7 (Flexford settlement), with a consequent ranking of 9 and 18 respectively.  A quick check of the facilities present in or nearby to each settlement looks about right; for example, no station within the Normandy settlement boundary and the one that is nearest (Wanborough station) fails the distance test, so score ‘0’, and so on.

Hold on a minute, this will never do.  The borough’s planning team would love to dump hundreds, if not thousands, of houses in Normandy, Flexford and Wyke in the next 15 years, so how do they make them jump up the rankings?  Here’s a good wheeze,  just forget ‘settlements’ and ‘hamlets’ were ever mentioned at all, join them together and re-classify them as ‘large’, ‘medium’ and ‘small’ villages but don’t bother to explain specifically how the ‘village’ categories are arrived at.  And as for Normandy, Flexford and Wyke, now that they’re combined in the new tables into one ‘large village’, give them a score for a secondary school that doesn’t exist and don’t forget to add back the pub that’s closed.  Now that’s better, with their unified score and the ‘extra’ points they’ve mysteriously but conveniently acquired,  they can be ranked as the fourth best place in the borough for housing development.

Not only is this specious nonsense, it demonstrates the duplicity to which the planning team resorted in order to drive through their aspirations.  It also illustrates the temerity and collusion of the councillors who were supposed to be exercising political control on our behalf over this runaway train.  Wouldn’t like to speculate how many phone calls they might have received from their party headquarters to get their acquiescence.

Will you trust any of your councillors and planning officials again?  Will you vote for your councillors or their party again the next time you get a chance?

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