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TOUGH DECISION: Stainsby development concerns

TOUGH DECISION: Stainsby development concerns

Image: LDRS

Two council group leaders have called on Mayor Andy Preston to make a decision on the Stainsby Country Park masterplan with one saying that he is ‘bottling a tough decision’.

Labour Group leader Matt Storey and Middlesbrough Independent Group (MIG) leader Antony High have urged the mayor to make a decision on the masterplan.

The masterplan will set out the council’s preferred options regarding housing and the spine road, meaning it can exert some degree of control over the site with the aim to preserve more green space.

At a meeting on June 28, Mr Preston and the council’s Executive abstained from voting on the Stainsby masterplan until further legal advice could be sought due to concerns about the spine road.

The mayor has previously said that he didn’t want the spine road but has also said that there could be ‘catastrophic consequences’ if it didn’t go ahead.

On this issue, he has said: “I’ve been told by people in highways, planning and regeneration that a road is absolutely critical and necessary.

“If we don’t do it, I’ve been told there will be catastrophic consequences but actually, I don’t know – I don’t know how accurate that is.

“We’re in a new world and a new era where people will be going to work at different times and they’ll be more flexible over how and when they travel.”

However, some group leaders are frustrated about the continued deadlock over the masterplan and Labour Group leader Matt Storey is concerned about the consequences if the council does not set out its best option.

He added:  “Yet again Andy Preston has bottled a tough decision and the price we pay as a town is a free for all for developers.

“He has led people down the garden path on this issue for too long promising to scrap the road, changing his mind, suggesting he might scrap it again and now the whole thing is up in the air and no-one knows where we stand.

“He needs to stop dithering and make a decision once and for all. The masterplan would give the Council more control over the plans and that has to be better than a developers charter.”

A recent campaign, organised by Greenstuff Middlesbrough, to try and stop the spine road going through Mandale Meadow has now resulted in more than 1,300 letters of objection being sent to the council.

The group are making the most of the delays with the masterplan to share their frustration with the proposals as they believe there are red-listed species on the meadow.

Middlesbrough Independent Group leader Antony High believes that there needs to be more clarity on the potential development.

He added: “This continued delay is extremely frustrating for residents and surrounding areas that are directly affected by this saga.

“It is now clear that the Mayor and his current Executive are actively avoiding the decision too, instead of applying required leadership and accountability to the proposed development.

“I would like to encourage Mr Preston and MBC to have this matter resolved as soon as possible for people directly affected by the proposals.”

If the council passed the masterplan this would not mean that a road or housing would be immediately built at the site, as most of it, apart from Mandale Meadow,  is privately-owned land.

Planning applications would still need to be submitted if the owners of the land decided to bring forward any development.

Conservative Group leader David Coupe believes that it makes sense for the council to agree on a position before private development plans are submitted.

There is still no date set for when the masterplan will be voted on by the Executive.

He added: “There is a lot of people that don’t want it, there are some people who do want it and the problem is, it is part of the Local Plan and it is private land.

“It surely would be better for it to be done the way the council wants it than it to go in another direction, which it certainly would.

“I think someone needs to make a decision, I think it has to be decided what they are going to do before someone does it.

“You have to take everyone’s feelings into account but you have to look at it from the perspective that it was in the Local Plan to develop that area.”

The proposals to develop the land were initially included in the 2014 Local Plan with the land to the west of Brookfield set to accommodate 1,670 homes.

It also included plans for the spine road – at the time it was given a completion date of 2025.

Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association (MICA) group leader Mick Saunders said that the vote on the masterplan is controversial either way.

He added: “It is such an important housing and leisure development for Middlesbrough it will be a huge financial benefit to the town as far as council tax revenue but I understand either decision will be controversial.

“The mayor and his executive have a very responsible decision that needs to be made.”

Government guidance is to review the Local Plan every five years, however, a new Local Plan is not expected in Middlesbrough until 2022 despite the most recent one being published in 2014.

There are concerns that delays to the masterplan could push back the Local Plan.

Speaking last month, regeneration chief Richard Horniman said: “The toing and froing over whether it will be approved or not, and what will happen to it, has meant the whole of the Local Plan has had to be paused.

“It’s the same staff working on both issues and the impact of not having it (Stainsby) approved means we might have to rethink the process and the timing of bringing the plan forward.”

Middlesbrough Council and Mr Preston did not respond to a request for comment.


Words: Emily Craigie, Local Democracy Reporter

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