This is a response from the Oxspring Parish Council to the document posted to residents in early December and an article in the local press just before Christmas. Please take the time to read it and support the Neighbourhood Plan proposals.
The Penistone edition of the Barnsley Chronicle published on 23rd December 2015 carried the headline on its front page “Developer Declares War”. The developer referred to is Yorkshire Land Ltd, a property development company based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. The headline, written by the Chronicle’s journalist, together with his accompanying article, highlights criticisms of the Oxspring Parish Council and the preparation of its Neighbourhood Plan by YLL. The same company recently hand delivered a document to residents of Oxspring entitled “What Oxspring Parish Council Has Failed To Tell You”, which contained a five page letter, a map and a two page enclosure. This comes on top of an earlier document sent to residents in April 2015 by Yorkshire Land Ltd concerning a proposed development by them on green belt land adjacent to Oxspring playing fields. There has also been “An Open Letter to Residents of Oxspring from Yorkshire Land Ltd” which was published on their website www.oxspringfields.co.uk on 25th November 2015, plus innumerable letters, emails and, to date, four Freedom of Information Requests to the Oxspring Parish Council.
For the past three years the Parish Council of Oxspring has been involved in drawing up a Neighbourhood Development Plan for the village. This arose because in the summer of 2012 Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (BMBC), as part of its Local Development Framework Consultation, published a document called Development Sites and Places, the purpose of which was to consider the future use of all land within the borough and show potential allocations and designations on proposals maps. The Development Sites and Places document had stated that up to 111 executive homes could be built on two sites identified north and south of Roughbirchworth Lane, currently agricultural land. Oxspring Parish Council held a number of public meetings and subsequently opted to begin the process of preparing a Neighbourhood Plan for Oxspring. Residents were concerned that the number of new houses being suggested for Oxspring was unsustainable and that some of the sites in the SHLAA were in the Green Belt. The intention of the Neighbourhood Plan was to have a say in the future development of the village and, hopefully, to limit the size and scale of any future development. A Steering Group and three sub-committees were set up from residents within the village.
In the meantime BMBC decided to replace its Unitary Development Plan with a Local Plan. Barnsley’s Local Plan Consultation Draft was published on 10th November 2014 and members of the public were invited to comment. Once adopted, this document will be the statutory development plan for Barnsley. It considers the future use of all land within the borough. It establishes policies and proposals up to the year 2033. It will be used when considering planning applications and to coordinate investment decisions that affect the towns, villages and countryside of Barnsley.
The good news for Oxspring, resulting from this document, is that there are no sites listed for development in Oxspring during the Local Plan period, ie up to 2033. In summary, the policies proposed in BMBC’s Local Plan endorse that large housing developments should take place in towns such as Penistone and Barnsley, not in rural areas and settlements west of the borough, such as Oxspring, which do not have the infrastructure and services to enable sustainable growth. The original focus of the Neighbourhood Plan, to limit the size, scale and type of any development in Oxspring, has now been altered somewhat by the changes proposed in BMBC’s Local Plan. An independent survey carried out on behalf of the Oxspring Parish Council identified a potential increased housing need in the village in the future of approximately 60 plus houses. Yorkshire Land Ltd is using this information as evidence to support their proposal for their “Oxspring Fields” development. However, as there are no plans to release large areas of land in Oxspring for development during the Local Plan period this perceived future need would be met by new development in the wider Penistone area.
The land originally earmarked as “Safeguarded” for development north and south of Roughbirchworth Lane is still identified as such but, as stated above, is unlikely to be developed during the lifetime of the Local Plan. Oxspring’s Neighbourhood Plan will be reviewed once Barnsley MBC’s Local Plan is adopted and this revision will enable changes to be made to the Neighbourhood Plan in line with any revisions made in the Local Plan which might affect Oxspring.
The recent correspondence from Yorkshire Land Ltd states that Oxspring Parish Council are misleading their residents by not giving them the full story. Yorkshire Land Ltd makes the case that the land off Roughbirchworth Lane may well be developed within the lifetime of the Local Plan, ie before 2033. That is their opinion, and one they are entitled to make, but it is not the opinion of the Oxspring Parish Council who are being guided by the overarching borough wide planning policy currently being proposed by BMBC. No one can say with any complete certainly what will happen in the future; decisions can only be based on evidence currently available, and with the best of intentions and no ulterior motives that is what Oxspring Parish Council is seeking to do in its Neighbourhood Plan.
Yorkshire Land Ltd’s own proposal for development on the site they refer to as Oxspring Fields falls outside the remit of any decisions that can be made by residents or Parish Councils of Oxspring or Hunshelf, in whose parish the land is situated. The land is currently in the green belt and BMBC are not proposing to remove that land from the green belt in the emerging Local Plan. If Yorkshire Land Ltd wish to see changes made to the status of that land their only recourse is to Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council Planning Department, as that would be a strategic not a local planning matter. We are led to believe that correspondence has been sent by the head of planning for BMBC to Yorkshire Land Ltd informing them of that fact and yet the residents and Parish Council of Oxspring are still being flooded with correspondence from Yorkshire Land Ltd, presumably hoping to garner support for their proposal. YLL are trying to treat two completely separate issues as one: (1) the preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan for Oxspring and (2) their own proposal to develop an area of land within the green belt on the border of Oxspring. One is a local issue the other is a Borough Council strategic issue.
Oxspring Parish Council will continue to prepare its Neighbourhood Plan in accordance with national and local planning guidelines and will continue to consult with and inform local residents on the progress of the Plan. Comments on the first draft of the Neighbourhood Plan were invited up to 31st December 2015. If anyone was away over the Christmas period and could not respond within that time frame comments received up to 15th January 2016 will be considered. Any comments received from YLL concerning the Neighbourhood Plan will be considered along with any other comments received, but it is worth stating again that the recent correspondence and forthcoming meeting being arranged by YLL about the Oxspring Fields development does fall outside the remit of the Neighbourhood Plan. Please do not confuse these two separate issues.