Agenda item

Petition - Attleborough Community Team (Agenda item 4)

To receive a petition.

Minutes:

The Member Services Manager explained that the Local Government, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 placed a statutory duty on all authorities to establish a scheme for receiving and responding to petitions, including a facility for on-line petitions.  The current Breckland Scheme had been adopted by the Council on 24 June 2010.

 

The scheme stated that if a Council received a petition containing at least 1500 signatures it must be debated by Full Council.

 

The current procedure allowed the petition organiser five minutes to present the petition.  It then had to be discussed by the Council for a maximum of 15 minutes.

 

Such a petition had been presented to the Leader of the Council on 26 January 2011 by the Attleborough Community Team (ACT) asking the Council to stop unsustainable development within the town of Attleborough and requesting an undertaking from the Council on a number of issues, namely:

 

  • a commitment from all the Council’s Elected Representatives that the current shortfalls were addressed before any more significant development took place;

 

  • a commitment that any action plans identified how the new development would contribute to the overall improvement for all residents; and

 

  • proper consultation on any proposals for the town and its surroundings.

 

Group Captain Middleton was in attendance and thanked Members for giving him the opportunity to address the Council. Over 3300 signatures had been collected by the Attleborough Community Team; 358 of those signatures had been collected in Old Buckenham alone. 

 

Group Captain Middleton commenced his address by re-stating exactly what it was that ACT was trying to achieve. 

 

To ensure that any expansion in Attleborough would provide a sustainable, integrated and cohesive community supported by local jobs and appropriate leisure, health, educational, security and transport facilities, all within an environment that maintained and enhanced the quality of life of its inhabitants.

 

The petition had been born out of a concern that the proposals for the additional 4500 homes in Attleborough, put forward in the Core Strategy, would not meet this aim and would overwhelm the existing infrastructure and population in the town and surrounding communities.  ACTs fears had been re-enforced, as since 2001 over 600 homes had been built or approved for construction in Attleborough, without any meaningful developer contributions for improvements to traffic congestion, infrastructure or employment, not forgetting the significant planning applications pending. 

 

Through the petition, ACT was seeking three things.

 

Firstly, a commitment from all Attleborough’s Elected Representatives that the current shortfalls would be addressed before any more significant development took place.  Attleborough and the local community were short of infrastructure and other key services because there had been a failure to provide them alongside housing developments in the past.  Group Captain Middleton pointed out that these shortcomings had been acknowledged by Cllr Nunn, the Leader of Breckland Council, in both the radio interview and press articles that covered the handing in of the petition.  However, it was felt, just to say, as he had, that infrastructure would be provided alongside new development was not sufficient; the Leader and ACT owed it to the current population to address the shortfalls before any new development took place. 

 

Secondly, ACT was seeking a commitment that action plans demonstrated how the new development would contribute to an overall improvement for all residents.  A fundamental problem in the town was the road system and yet only now was a Transport Study being undertaken - after the first ASHAAP consultation had closed. There was no evidence that employers wanted to come to Attleborough to provide the numbers of jobs proposed in the plan, and the financial burden on developers for education, energy, sewerage, roads, community facilities etc, when coupled with the high proportion of social and small residential units, would seriously jeopardise delivery of the new developments, let alone improve the lives of all residents.  The town had to be planned for the people who lived there to drive the economy and it needed to be properly integrated. 

 

Thirdly, ACT was seeking a proper consultation on any proposals for the town and its surroundings. Cllr Nunn had stated that, in the spirit of localism, the town would be involved in deciding how many houses should be built.  The draft Action Plan did not provide this opportunity.  ACT welcomed the Council’s initiative to hold more meaningful and real engagement with all key stakeholders in the community and would wait to see what form this would take.  The support received should convince the Council that ACT should be one of those stakeholders.

 

ACT had always tried to be positive in its approach to any development but it knew its town and the problems that needed to be addressed.  As over 3300 people from Attleborough, Old Buckenham, Besthorpe and other local communities had shown by signing the petition, the community wanted these problems to be solved before any more development took place and had asked to be fully involved in determining the future of the town. 

 

The Leader, William Nunn, thanked ACT for the time and effort that it had put in gathering so many signatures.  He drew attention to the fact that Breckland Council had applied for Vanguard Status for Attleborough which would give more power to the local community to shape the future planning of the town.

 

He mentioned the Integrated Development Plan document which had recently been approved by Cabinet and agreed that adhoc development was not the way forward.  With this in mind, the Chief Executive was asked to write to the Secretary of State to stop any further development in the town until proper plans for infrastructure was put in place.

 

The Deputy Leader said that it was very important that the views of the residents were heard.  He had lived in Attleborough for 30 years and understood the problems that the town had and agreed with the points raised by Group Captain Middleton particularly in relation to consultation.  He assured ACT that the Council would commit to widen its consultation methods in future and that the recent consultation held for the past 2/3 weeks would be forwarded to ACT.

 

Cllr Byrne highlighted the commitments made by the Attleborough Councillors at the last Election which was for no further development in the Buckenham area.  This commitment still remained.

 

Cllr S Rogers asked if the Council could designate ACT as being one of the consultation bodies on the Attleborough and Snetterton Heath Area Action Plan (ASHAAP).  The Deputy Leader felt that this would be a way forward and informed the Council that he would put this proposal forward to Members of the Attleborough Task Force meeting on the 1st March.<1>

 

Cllr Labouchere asked if ACT had any other ideas for improvements for the town going forward apart from the traffic problems.  In response, Group Captain Middleton advised that ACT had put forward its ideas in response to ASHAAP particularly in relation to the schools that were all currently situated in the northeast corner of Attleborough which people had to travel to that ultimately caused traffic congestion.  He felt that ideas on how the schools could be moved around needed to be looked at.  The surgeries in the town were also at full capacity, social services were under stress and there were not enough leisure facilities for a growing town in comparison to others.  Attleborough, in his opinion, had an infrastructure of a large village and was well behind in the times.

 

Cllr Martin felt that the infrastructure had to be ahead of any new developments.  He agreed that road problems had increased over the years and the only answer was to build a relief road.

 

Cllr Borrett thought it encouraging seeing communities getting together and asked Group Captain Middleton if ACT had a formal membership and what its aim was.  In response, Members were informed that ACT had an informal membership and did not have a constitution but it did have a data base for people to sign up to.   The Group was just about residents coming together who wanted to work alongside the Town and District Council.  As far as the latter question was concerned, the aim of ACT was to develop the town in a sustainable way and look after the residents.

 

The Executive Member for the Corporate Development and Performance Portfolio represented a neighbouring Ward and felt that what ever happened in Attleborough would have an affect on the hinterlands.  He felt that if ACT became a formal Group it should incorporate the views of the surrounding villages.

 

Members were informed that Norfolk County Council would also have to be included.

 

Cllr Gretton asked Group Captain Middleton if he felt the railway should be developed as this, in his opinion, was an advantage to Attleborough in comparison to other towns.  In response, Group Captain Middleton said the railway line was a definite bonus but it had its drawbacks as it had been built through the middle of the town.  However, he felt that the traffic problems the railway line caused could be alleviated by a slip road or a roundabout.  He highlighted the fact that ACT was having discussions with Network Rail.

 

Referring to the consultation process, and bearing in mind there had been open days, questionnaires to every household, and now the involvement of ATLAS which was welcomed, the Executive Member for Corporate Resources asked what other types of consultation did ACT suggest.

 

Group Captain Middleton stated that the few people that that had attended the Open Events etc had found the consultation questionnaires incomprehensible and he was sure that the Officers involved must have found it quite disheartening at the lack of attendance.  He offered ACTs services for any future consultations. 

 

The Deputy Leader said that consultation had to start somewhere. There were 3000 people currently on the housing waiting list of which 800 had requested Attleborough; therefore, the power situation was vital for the employment earmarked for Snetterton which was crucial for Attleborough’s growth.  He was excited by the duelling of the A11 and stated that everyone was ‘singing from the same song sheet’ but were working in different ways.

 

The Chairman asked for the discussion to be concluded by considering the three options put forward by ACT.

 

The Leader proposed that the Council support the aims of ACT by designating it as a consultee through the planning process.  He further felt that a letter should be sent to the Secretary of State asking that development in Attleborough should cease until proper plans for infrastructure were in place and a further letter be sent to Norfolk County Council about the appropriate siting of future schools.

 

The aforementioned proposals were seconded, and accordingly it was:

 

RESOLVED that:

 

1)     the aims of ACT be supported;

 

2)     ACT be designated as a consultee through the planning process;

 

3)     the Chief Executive write a letter to the Secretary of State requesting that development ceases until proper plans for infrastructure were in place; and

 

4)     a letter be sent to Norfolk County Council about the siting of future schools in the town.

 

Group Captain Middleton thanked the Council for listening to his address and hoped that ACT and Breckland could work together in future.

 

The Leader thanked Group Captain Middleton for the way he presented his case as he was now aware of the depth of feeling from the people of Attleborough.

 

The Chairman felt that the whole debate had been worthwhile.

 

Supporting documents: