Part Two – Detailed matters that need to be addressed in the planning application
1 Water voles and wildlife
I object to the Germany Beck application on the grounds that it has failed to take account of the diverse wildlife that uses the beck as a conduit to the extensive natural hinterland including Heslington Common. My fears for this habitat, and the attempts by others to destroy it, are related below.
The introduction of a new environmental study must provide the context for a full reappraisal of the issues that were, and still are, being ignored.
Germany Beck has been an established and thriving habitat for water voles which has been visited by Yorks Wildlife, Council Officers and specially trained Police officers. I contacted the council officers in February 2009 first by phone, then by e-mail and finally on 9 May I wrote a letter regarding a water vole habitat in Germany Beck and explaining why I felt was at risk.
I pointed out that it was normal for that part of the Beck to be cleared which put the habitat in imminent danger.
When I visited the site on Saturday 23 May 2009 I discovered that the area of the water vole habitat has been excavated and destroyed just as I had warned. I have documented all this with photographs and because I was using the GPS as a part of the archaeological work I have been doing related to the battle of Fulford site, I have very precise details and records of the destruction of this particular habitat and had other witnesses who have also taken photographs.
So I notified the Police who investigated and identified those responsible. However the Crown Prosecution Service felt it was’ not in the public interest’ to prosecute as they felt that they would be unlikely to get a conviction under the provisions of section 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). Legal protection afforded to water voles which makes it an offence to intentionally kill or injure water voles or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place used for shelter or protection.
The Police however said that they felt it unlikely that the destruction would happen again.
I was therefore dismayed to discover in February 2012 that the whole extent of the banks where I have monitored and documented the progress of several water vole habitats, had been utterly destroyed. Not only had the north bank been excavated, but the opposite bank to which I had reported on my website that the water voles had ‘retreated’, had also destroyed.
Sadly it appears that the Police no longer have the local specialists to investigate wildlife offences so the criminal acts will go unpunished.
As well as objecting to the destruction of the habitat again, with respect to this planning application, any survey in the near future will now show that there are indeed no water voles within the planned development. I would like the planners to accept that this is a valuable and extensive habitat which can be confirmed by many responsible authorities as listed earlier.
I would therefore ask the planners to take account of the needs of the water voles and the legal protection they are given when considering any access road plans and the designs of any pumping stations.
I am optimistic that the water voles will re-colonise this area since there is another habitat that has not been destroyed but whose location I will not reveal since I am forced to recognise that the publicity I have given to the water voles has failed to protect them and might indeed have contributed to their destruction.
Although I am focussing here on water voles, the beck is a very busy conduit and evidence to this effect was presented at the public inquiry. The Planning Framework is clear that the relationship and sequential effects of plans must be considered when an application is submitted. Even though the environment has been ‘sterilised’ by the illegal action of others, I ask that a proper and independent assessment is conducted of this vital wildlife conduit.
My first set of questions to the applicant’s witness at the public inquiry asked why a proper bat survey had not been done, why none of the existing references to bats in the area had been mentioned in their submission and what research they had done to allow them to ignore the obligation to assess this BEFORE any decision was made? We missed our lunch at the inquiry that day as the witness tried to evade answering my question.
This is another grave defect in the process. A proper, credible survey of the importance of the Germany Beck corridor should have been incorporated into initial planning decision: The survey that I have seen does not meet the standards required in terms of the times of year when the work is done. Having spent so much time working in Germany Beck, I know what an important corridor this is for various bats. I am disappointed that all of my warnings about this were ignored even though it should have been a part of the initial environmental assessment.
The neglect of the needs of the natural and living environment by the planning authorities so far is alarming. There has been a clear failure when measured against what should have happened:
“Local planning authorities should set criteria based policies against whichproposals for any development on or affecting protected wildlife or geodiversity sites or landscape areas will be judged. Distinctions should bemade between the hierarchy of international, national and locally designated sites, so that protection is commensurate with their status and givesappropriate weight to their importance and the contribution that they maketo wider ecological networks.”
I have made many requests, over many years for this work to be done. I have sent these requests to many management levels up to City Chief Executive, on behalf of the wildlife that the planning process has so far ignored. This is the last chance to rectify this wilful neglect.
It cannot be right to accept the applicants that it was only necessary to do a survey 6 month prior to commenting work. This is so presumptive both of the success of their application and that nothing would be revealed which would in any way affect the plan.
This really is so absurd that it bears reiterating: Planning is about discovering what is there BEFORE decisions are made. It is an insult to the whole process that the investigation was only planned for once the building work was scheduled. The law has already been broken. Some serious enforcement and environmental management is long overdue.
3 Stone Bridge
I have had cause to make many visits to Stone Bridge where the A19 crosses Germany Beck. I was assured at the Public Inquiry that there was no need for archaeology on this bridge since it was not going to be destroyed. However, from the latest plan I can find it seems clear that this very old bridge is due to be destroyed.
I have many objections to this:
1. My work on the rising level of Fulford Ings and the development of the ford from which Fulford derives its name, can demonstrate that the location of the bridge spans and underlying gap in the moraine at its narrowest point. Therefore it is almost certainly the place where the first bridge was constructed that would have given access to the south of York even when the tide was high.
2. The structure that is visible at one side of the arch suggests that some of the stonework is many centuries old.
3. I visited this site with the archaeologists working for the developers and asked if they had found any evidence of post-holes or other signs of bridge construction nearby and in a rather farcical exchange, they declined to answer my question, noting that the bridge was not due to be altered (2001).
4. On a visit with a representative of Yorks Wildlife in 2006 we observed signs that an otter had taken up residence under the bridge. This was carefully monitored but the indicators were not visible the following year but have been observed by me on one subsequent occasion (Feb 2009). Therefore the bridge should be accepted as the intermittent habitat for another protected species.
Before any decisions can be taken on this application, the archaeology of Stone Bridge should be full investigated, if the plans are going to affect or require the destruction of this bridge.
The shape of the underlying moraine with the Stone Bridge and projected footpath into and out of the ford are both marked with dotted lines. The path would have been a good crossing point for many centuries as the alluvial deposits pushed the ford steadily to the east (right). The bridge is almost perpendicular to the underlying moraine so provides the shortest crossing point. The depth of the moraine in the gap was not found as it was covered in boulder clay but it exhibits some asymmetry with the V-shaped side in the south somewhat steeper than that on the north face. The bridge might have some hidden secrets since when I asked the applicant’s archaeologists (in the presence of their lead archaeologist at the time Anne Finney) the investigating archaeologist was told not to answer.
4 The obliteration of the ancient ford from which Fulford derives its name
The area designated for the junction has been scoured and eroded by the Beck as it adjusted its course to pass though the gap. This is at the very heart of the battle of Fulford. This is the ford across the ‘ditch’ where the battle was fought.
The following is an extract from the report ‘Finding Fulford’.
The precise sequence of geological events which shaped the basin to the east of the moraine gap is not obvious. The modern cemetery, classified as sand/gravel, provides the eastern bank of the basin at the ford while it is the moraine material which forms the western flank of the basin. There was a stream between these two which has been buried in a duct since WWII as it is visible on early maps and air photographs. This duct now emerges near the Stone Bridge.
Stone Bridge in the context of the ancient ford. The underlying shape of the land surface prior to the dumping of building spoil was worked out by drilling a number of boreholes. This image also shows the outfalls for buried streams: The old fording area has two outfalls for the streams that used to run below. One emerges near Stone Bridge and the other near Landing Lane. The area has been in-filled to create a playing field for the local community.
It seems likely that beneath the retreating ice sheet, various drumlins and small moraines were sculpted by melt-water channels which left the high ground along the line of the A19 that spanned the York and Escrick moraines. The ford was left as an amphitheatre-shaped feature to the south of the Beck and a smaller, steeper moraine bank to the north.
The location of a ford is suggested by extrapolating five lines
1. The footpath that runs through Water Fulford
2. The line of the beck deduced by modelling the basin east of the gap
3. A perpendicular to Stone Bridge
4. Bisecting the angle of the moraines at the surface
5. The line of the road through modern Fulford
These lines suggest that the ford lies within a 15m circle of uncertainty based on the grid SE 61164871.
Near this point, no grey alluvium could be identified in the borehole that was drilled. But at this point a layer of pebbles and sand was identified above the boulder clay. Sixty metres either side of the putative fording place, a layer of the grey alluvium was identified so this was a muddy ford.
This is one of the key findings from all of the work that was undertaken. At the time of the battle there was a broad, fordable crossing of Germany Beck which is located just to the east of Stone Bridge. The ford had dense boulder clay at its base but the surrounding area was covered by grey alluvial mud which probably supported some limited marshy vegetation similar to the Ings.
The water from the beck and possibly two other channels entering the ford might have been canalised by the locals but it is equally possible that it flowed, shallow and wide, across the base clay. The latter pattern would have made it easy to provide stepping-stones or consolidated base at the crossing and this might be the layer of stone that was identified in one bore-hole.
Other streams joined the Beck flowing from the south so there could have been two or three separate crossings in the basin that formed the fording place but the impression gained from the core samples, and the surrounding land, is of a shallow bowl with hard clay at the base.
This was a broad, shallow ford so that the rising tide would make the ford broader rather than much deeper. This channel provided the eastern boundary of Water Fulford and is still visible in air photos from 1952, by which time both flows had been canalised.
This image, looking east from Fordlands Road bridge, still shows the natural, amphitheatre shape of the land sloping down to the south-side of the ford. Although the land here is a little higher, the shape is very close to that of 1066. The strata at the ford has hard clay at the base, overlaid by grey alluvium which was covered with a lighter coloured clay which extends further east. This area must have been near the heart of the battle and has changed very little yet the stopping up order (section 4 part 1) was granted in spite of objections that a formal archaeological survey was mandated.
The playing fields have now covered the old ford. The bore-holes on the field revealed that there is 3.7m of mixed building debris and clay over the original surface. The theodolite survey work suggests that the ford was 4.72m AOD and the water level of a quiescent Ouse is about 2m AOD. With tides rising at least 4m above the low river level, there can be little doubt that the area of the ford would have been wide and wet when battle commenced and this is confirmed by the alluvium detected around the ford.
It is therefore possible that the water at the ford was too deep for an hour before and perhaps three hours after high tide, shortly after 09:00 on the day of the battle, to prevent the armies engaging. But there are too many assumptions about the surface level of the river in 1066 and the hydrodynamic behaviour of flood-water along the Beck to be able to define the depth and extent of the water level at the ford.
The whole construction of the planned junction will destroy the heart of the battle. The context and the landscape will be incomprehensible to those visiting the battlesite. The complex hydrology, the resident wildlife plus the archaeology make it utterly inappropriate to construct an access here.
5 Green belt
I am still horrified at the proposed loss of the key portion of the green belt and the protection it provides for the wildlife-conduit along Germany Beck because it has been another victim of misinformation. The inspector in his report claimed that it was a mistake or oversight that this small portion of green belt had kept its full protection, when nearby green belt land had its status reduced. The inspector argued that those charged with advising on the green belt must have recognised that this portion would be needed when the hinterland was developed.
There is no rationale for such an assumption. A fair-minded observer would think that this portion of green belt was left, while other areas beyond had the protection reduced or removed, specifically because the importance of this piece of the green belt was so obvious to the experts who might indeed have observed the water voles and bats that require this vital piece of green corridor.
I would ask the planning committee to reverse this fallacious assumption and not to accept the tautologous reasoning so far presented to justify the loss of this piece of green belt. Its loss puts so much of the wildlife habitat in peril. So I would ask you to reassert the claim made by those who had studied the matter carefully, and deny the right to destroy this small but vital piece of York’s green belt by refusing to extend the timetable or the right to build over this portion along the proposed access road.
The National Planning Framework not only advocates Green Belts but encourages public consultation on the subject when considering new developments:
“Working with the support of their communities, local planning authorities should consider whether such opportunities provide the best way of achieving sustainable development. In doing so, they should consider whether it is appropriate to establish Green Belt around or adjoining any such new development.”
This map of post- conquest Fulford was produced for the battlefield society by YAT and highlights the way the modern village still manifests the village that are typical established after the Norman Conquest. The blocks would have been the tofts and crofts of traders and farmers until modern times. Modern Fulford is identifiably medieval in layout and the adjacent green areas are a component part of this.
The new Framework (NPPF) makes the following proposal when plans are being considered or reviewed. “Local Green Spaces shouldonly be designated when a plan is prepared or reviewed, and be capable ofenduring beyond the end of the plan period.
Furthermore, the same document (para 117) requires that the ecological relevance of land must be mapped and assessed, by talk to the local people who understand the environment: “identify and map components of the local ecological networks, includingthe hierarchy of international, national and locally designated sites ofimportance for biodiversity, wildlife corridors and stepping stones thatconnect them and areas identified by local partnerships for habitatrestoration or creation.”
Where is this plan and why has all of the information and advice I know I have provided about the role of Germany Beck as a ‘wildlife corridor’ been completely ignored so far?
I object very strongly to the claims made in chapter 14.1.8 of the application for extension of time, and repeated in the reserved matters application that there is no evidence for the battle of Fulford taking place along Germany Beck.
The applicants were told by the planning officers to address the issues raised in chapter 7 of the report on the work to identify the battle site, Finding Fulford. (This text is included above – see ‘work that should have been done’ section 5 in part one of this submission). Many specific projects were detailed that would extend the investigations we had undertaken to reveal the location of the battle. Not a single one of these projects is addressed as they were required to do. The applicant must be required to address the matters raised before taking their application any further. They must be obliged to do as they have been instructed and no consideration should be given to their application until they do so.
It is disrespectful to simply repeat the findings of the work they undertook almost 15 years ago while ignoring all the work that has been done since then. This failure is especially unacceptable because the City’s planning officers told them to address the implications of the failure of traditional archaeological techniques revealed by the work subsequently undertaken further along the moraine on the new university campus. It is an insult to our intelligence and the planning process to avoid addressing the important issues raised.
I can also tell the Planning Committee that I made repeated attempt to get permission to undertake some of the suggested, confirmatory work. This could have been done at no expense to the applicant and at a time that would have allowed the results to be available for the subsequent stages of the planning process. All such requests have been rejected and it would be wrong to reward the failure to conduct relevant research by granting any permissions until the required work and appraisal required is carried out.
This is not the place to rehearse all of the evidence for the battle which has been widely published to demonstrate that Germany Beck is the site of this 1066 battle. The evidence has been presented at conferences of experts on the subject of battlefield archaeology, and a paper on the finds has been published by the Royal Armouries. There is plenty of evidence and probably a great deal more waiting to be revealed once access is granted.
The applicant’s return to their mantra that there is ‘no evidence’ for a battle is a step back from the more realistic approach that seemed to be emerging. Their submission says that the evidence revealed for the battle of Fulford is ‘inconclusive’:
1. The initial assessment of the Germany Beck site states that this is the likely place of the battle (1996)
2. The first graphic prepared for the site had a battlefield walk alongside Germany beck (subsequently renamed the archaeological zone)(2005)
3. The first submission for reserved matters claimed that the location of the site was ‘unproven’ (2011).
I was therefore very disappointed by the applicant’s renewed expression of complete denial about the existence of any evidence for the battle of Fulford along Germany Beck. But read their words with care since they are normally careful to say that their work has revealed ‘no evidence’ of the battle. (Indeed their environment study is a rather comic catalogue of the work that did not reveal evidence for the battle but at no place do they address the irrelevance of their work or their failure to do the relevant work requested. Beyond the truism that destroys the ‘no evidence’ mantra - the absence of proof is not proof of absence - lies the truth that much physical and landscape evidence has emerged which very strongly points to Germany Beck as the site of the battle.)
Please send this submission back to the applicant and require them to address the issues raised as they have been told to do by the planning officers. The situation of complete denial, and the resubmission of the existing work, is disrespectful of the planning process in which we are engaged.
The 1006 landscape: This shows the moraine land and the Ouse/Germany Beck tidal river system. The shaded land is permanently wet or marshy land that would have been wet on the day of the battle because of the high tide. The tracks leading in and out of the ford are shown. King Harald was attacking from the south, which is in the lower part of this image, and illustrates the limited width that was available for his deployment. The advancing English would not have seen the assembly area or attack launched by King Harald to outflank Earl Morcar’s line when he attacked beside the river to cross the Germany Beck delta.
7 Archaeological work that has been blocked
I have made several attempts to persuade the COYC archaeologist to use his authority to get the investigative work done in a timely fashion. These are extracts from two of my letters to John Oxley:
1 “It was immensely frustration to have the investigative work, especially in the identified metal-reprocessing areas, blocked by the applicants. Can you reassure me that you will use your enhanced powers under the recently revised planning guidance, PPG5, to demand that such work is conducted?”
2 “ You know that I hold you in highest respect, John, but I am mystified by your position. Several years ago I asked you to use your enhanced powers to require the additional work (extract above) so that my hypothesis about reprocessing sites could be tested in time for the final stages of the planning process. You declined to do this which forces me to ask for a delay now so that the work can be done and assessed.
We have both expressed the view that battlefields are very difficult to prove. But a decade of work has produced a unique collection of evidence which offers the archaeological community a chance to identify other battlesite in future and allows me to be extremely confident that we have found the site of the battle of Fulford.
In the years leading to the publication of the report on the work, I ended all of my presentations with a statement along the lines of “please let me know if you can find any alternative explanation why many compact reprocessing sites where tools as well as valuable finished products have been abandoned at sites that are remote from any know habitation or source of iron and which appeared to be making military rather than domestic items.” All these were found along the ditch that our landscape archaeology pointed as the likely place of the battle plus we now have a suggestion of matching finds on the opposite bank. It is a very compelling case for the site of the battle of Fulford.
There is more work to be done and, as I mentioned earlier, I have made timely requests for this work to be done. But the existing body of evidence has been extensively tested and my report lists the work that can be done in future to check and extend the investigation. I will ask the planners to delay their decision until the necessary work has been done to put the site of the battle beyond any doubt. It is wrong, and I think against the law, to avoid seeking the evidence because the results will be inconvenient. We should gather the evidence and then have an informed debate about the fate of the battle site.
……. Would it not be appropriate for you to join me and advise the planners to postpone their decision pending the outcome of this assessment?”
It is possible that the area is unique in archaeological terms since the historic records suggest that only at Fulford was the victor who ‘possessed the battlefield’ so quickly defeated, causing the work to be abandoned and then conserved in the landscape. I suggest that Fulford has, rather like Pompey, frozen the activities for us to uncover. This makes it an immensely important site.
So it is hard to overstate the importance of conducting a full and extensive survey of the whole area especially since another probable hearth area was found to the north of the river where, as you know, we were not allowed to conduct any work. This could provide another claim to archaeological fame for the city of York. It could be the only opportunity for archaeologists to investigate the processes and procedures of an active metal working site which had experienced a ‘Pompey moment’ and been frozen in time.
I have recently requested a full phosphate survey of the site. I wrote to John Oxley of COYC saying “ I told you that my attention was drawn by a fellow speaker at a conference last autumn to some impressive results from Denmark and Sweden where long abandoned sites were investigated recently and some clear pointers to human activity were identified. I think I mentioned that this testing has been ‘industrialised’ and costs just a few pounds per sample tested.” This matter has not been addressed but I must again ask that this work is done as soon as possible and any results followed up.
I would also like to have some input into the metal survey that has still to be done. The work undertaken during the project has produced some interesting models for identifying ‘hot spots’ which match evidence of activity. It would be a lost opportunity if a consistent methodology was not employed to allow the north and south banks along which the battle was fought to be compared. Would it be possible for you to act as the broker so that the agreed scheme of work that is prepared for the site which will yield all possible information? Given the current interest of EH, will they also be kept informed of what is planned and have a chance to comment?
It has been immensely frustrating to have our rights to pursue the promising lines of archaeological research unnecessarily restricted by the developer when they had such a financial interest in preventing further discovery. I am disappointed that the planning authorities did not use their powers to insist upon some relevant work. This is not the way the system is supposed to work. Even if the final decision is to destroy the site, the rules make it clear that all the archaeological information must be extracted before work is done.
Finally, I am only now beginning the work to analyse the XRF signatures of the metal recovered from the hearth areas where metal was being recycled which we assume was after the battle. It is an open secret that there appear to be some ‘signatures’ in the elemental compositions that suggest we might be able to identify the source of some metal. This is pioneering work but it is vital that all of the new material that is gathered is subject to XRF testing. If we are able to match the metals, in a similar way that DNA is matched, it offers the future-prospect of being able to map the action and movement on this, and perhaps other, ancient battlefields. The evidence will be subtle so the survey must be carefully conducted and closely supervised.
8 Additional evidence
I now have good reason to believe that more reprocessing sites will be identified on the north side of the beck. A metal-detectorist found what is probably another metal reprocessing site to match those identified along the south side of the beck. He took the artefacts to the Small Finds experts at the Yorkshire Museum where the items were identified as hearth debris, but sadly disposed of. I have pursued this with the relevant authorities so that the relevance of iron will not be overlooked in future.
9 Timetable for the work
The timing of investigation work is another key process issue. I am not clear why this scheme of work for archaeology is not being classed by the developers among the Reserved matters since the work is mandated before any building can start and should be allowed to influence the design. If we identified one of the funeral areas or some more hearth areas, that should influence the housing layout. Could you clarify this for me please since it is my clear understanding that this work has to be agreed and carried out before final planning permission is granted.
It defies logic to make it a precondition that work which might help determine heritage or environmental issues will only be carried out AFTER permission has been granted. Logic and common sense both dictate that if these issues are likely to be important, and in the case of Germany Beck, this was already clear, the work had to be done before the application could be determined. When the planning rules are so clear that the planning authorities must give their informed consent, it must be wrong to gather the information after granting permission.
Because of the extensive nature of the work required and time it will take to prepare and conduct, this cannot be left until the last minute. There are seasonal factors to consider for the metal detecting. It should not be acceptable for any of this work to be rushed if it is to inform the detailed planning decisions. As you will understand, it takes time to evaluate finds so enough time must be built into the archaeological programme. Can you reassure me that this work is not left until the last minute as the findings should influence the debate.
Because we are now in an unacceptable place, I am asking the Planning Committee to require that the investigative work be done before any work commences. I am very clear that what was agreed was not a ‘watching brief’. A metal survey of the whole area is mandated.
Furthermore, it must make sense for this information to be considered before any housing layout is finalised. The archaeological work has to be done and assessed first. The events must be done in the correct order – discover what is there and then think about the layout.
This way also ensures that no charge will fall on the public purse of making changes. I want to be completely clear that the archaeology will take place before the site and its subtle evidence is disturbed.
Even if this battlesite is ultimately destined to be destroyed, it is vital that those responsible for making the decisions have all the available information. Therefore it is important that the archaeology is undertaken as soon as possible.
10 The Heritage Asset represented by the battle site
“As heritage assets are irreplaceable, any harm or loss should require clear and convincing justification.”
Can the applicants explain why they ignore that all informed observers recognise that Germany Beck is the probable site of the battle of Fulford. As far as I know, all the impartial observers recognise Germany Beck as the site of the battle.
Such recognition is all that is necessary: “Non-designated heritage assets of archaeological interest that are demonstrably of equivalent significance to scheduled monuments, should be considered subject to the policies for designated heritage assets.”
In reaching their decision, the following test needs to be applied: “Significance can be harmed or lost through alteration or destruction ofthe heritage asset or development within its setting.”
“The effect of an application on the significance of a non-designated heritageasset should be taken into account in determining the application. Inweighing applications that affect directly or indirectly non designatedheritage assets, a balanced judgement will be required having regard to thescale of any harm or loss and the significance of the heritage asset.”
The present plan clearly fails all of the tests that planners are required to apply because of the significance of the site and the total destruction that is proposed. This iconic piece of international heritage must be saved for posterity. It cannot be used to provide an access road for the housing.
I am still incredulous that the plan that was submitted remains extant when the new realities of ‘peak-rain’ have been manifesting themselves.
Even before the present number of exceptional floods, the Ings flood records reveals a historic trend. At the top, the annual maximum flood is shown with the flood frequency at York, 1878-1996. The smoothed lines show the five-year, moving average. The horizontal line shows long-term mean for this period.( From Longfield, S. A. & Macklin, M. G. (1999) The influence of recent environmental change on flooding and sediment fluxes in the Yorkshire Ouse basin. Hydrological Processes, 13)
At the risk of stating the obvious, the proposed access route and much of the adjacent land, floods. During the public inquiry, I was alarmed that the inspector chose to accept the ‘official model’ of flood levels rather than accept the evidence of photos and other reports that he was shown by local people when he made his site visit. A process that ignores reality forced me to look very closely at the latest proposal because I am well aware of the height and regularity of floods along Germany Beck.
In particular I checked the application to see:
· If I could locate any information that dealt with the land-water pumping station as the pattern of rainfall in recent years reveals the need to cope with such deluges,
· If there was any re-assessment of the revised flood levels produced by the Environment Agency,
· If there was any mention of the work that I reported to show how the Ings was having the capacity of its flood plain reduced annually,
· If there had been any work to address the water spouts that I have reported in the papers submitted to COYC as these could bypass any planned barriers.
None of these issues have been addressed as far as I can see. The proposal that is being presented is therefore incomplete.
It cannot make sense for the public to allow the single access to the applicant’s proposed site to be built along a route that we all know is subject to frequent, severe flooding. To allow this present plan to go unchallenged would be to burden the future with the cost of affording protection to what we know to be a place that floods.
The archaeological work undertaken allows us to speak with some confidence about the pattern of flooding along Germany Beck, taking the long view required by planners. At the base of the peat in the area where the access road is proposed, an alder twig was dated to 2060+_35BP ( 73BCE) and a sedge nutlet from the top sample gave a date of 1385+-35BP (636CE). This timescale spans the late Iron Age to the Anglian or mid Saxon era. It is possible that the peat continued to grow after that time but the later layers could have been removed by cutting. However, the terminal date of around 600CE matches the model for flooding. Around this date the growth of the peat might have been checked by the influx of alluvium from the Ings.
So what the environmental evidence is telling us is that there is a good reason why no houses have been built along Germany Beck and the archaeological record shows that the floods, which started about 1200 years ago, will become higher. The trend is unmistakable. The beck is vital for the hydrology of the area and attempts to block or control it will fail without a massive investment. The present proposal flies in the face of reality and no access road along Germany Beck should be accepted.
The future cost if this plan is approved is frightening and it will likely fall to the public purse to remedy the defects of the plan being presented. The need to employ a ‘StrategicFlood Risk Assessment’ is the recommended basis for applying flood test. I have been unable to locate such an assessment and clearly the impact needs to be published as a part of the decision process.
There is further reason to doubt the wisdom of building in this area. The trace of known historic features (above), provided by English Heritage, is superimposed on a sketch map of Fulford. The area near the beck has either been left uninhabited or traces of habitation have been obliterated by flooding. Either way, the historic record is clear – close to the beck or its tributaries is not a good place to settle. (The dotted line on the right marks the presumed route of a road that now marks the western edge of Fulford golf club. The circular marks at the lower right edge were decoys that were set up during WWII to distract bombers during the anticipated air raids.)
12 The value of site
The identified battlesite at Fulford has great cultural, environmental as well as significant economic potential. The site is little changed since 1066 and is fully accessible on public land and footpaths. So when I guide people round the site in a few weeks’ time I can tell them they are standing on the land surface where the English faced the Norse army 946 years ago. The site is also within walking distance of one of the city’s park and ride locations where one local primary school routinely assembles and ‘marches’ to the battlesite to re-enact this piece of our national story.
This is a ready-made visitor attraction for a city that thrives on tourism, as well as a national asset. The site has been largely undisturbed, perhaps because so few people knew about this first, and arguably largest, of the three battles in the autumn of 1066 as it was overshadowed by the battles at Stamford Bridge and Hastings which followed in quick succession.
We do not have to choose between heritage and housing. We can have both. Neither do we have to forego any economic stimulus by saving this irreplaceable piece of our heritage since the site could be ‘open for business’ right now – the parish council has already erected road signs. Furthermore, a modified housing development that was relevant to the local need could be built quickly.
While some are claiming that big house building projects will be a solution to our economic problems, having walked and cycled in Spain and Ireland, the local population will volunteer the information that building developers’ are one cause, not the solution, to the present depressed economy.
13 An alternative plan
I still recognise that we need both heritage and houses which is why I was happy to cooperate with the developers when the housing was being planned. I was sad that they gradually revoked my access when I shared the emerging evidence with them.
But I have worked extensively with the homeless charities Shelter and Crisis, so I recognise the importance of a secure home. I therefore offered an alternative proposal at the public inquiry, pointing out that the adjacent collection of affordable houses near the University, built mainly by housing associations, offered as many homes but occupied only a quarter of the land of the proposed development.
Such a development could avoid the flood plain, the green belt, would not obstruct the southern view of the Minster, would stay clear of the SSSI including the extensive water vole habitat, the A19 which is already officially overcapacity and, of course, the battlesite.
I attach a small excerpt from my evidence to the public inquiry which relates to this plan. I plan to copy this letter to MPs with York connections.
Please recognise that the planning system has imperfections and requires the occasional intervention from ministers. I appeal to you to ensure that the site of the first battle of 1066 is not turned into a road.
Extract from papers previously submitted (16 May 2006) to illustrate that housing and heritage can co-exist
5.5. Not far from this proposed development is an area of the University, now know as Halifax College. This area has grown organically to meet the needs of the university over the last 20 years. It provides accommodation for over 1000 people, most in small houses built by housing associations. It covers approximately 4Ha, so it is a quarter of the size of the area that Germany Beck will devote to house building. Given that the national average of non-retired household occupation is 2.7, the same sort of mixed housing found at the University could be accommodated in under half the area proposed. (750 houses x 2.7=2025 residents)
5.5.1. Given the plans presently being considered to expand the university, the model set by Halifax College would seem to be a much better one to follow.
5.5.2. The present plan should be rejected in favour of one that follows from the model developed by York University.
5.6. House-builders promote a model where availability is the key to affordability. Their argument goes that if the supply of housing is increased, the price will drop.
5.6.1. This was the view set out by the CBIs chief economist Kate Barker in the government sponsored report. However, there is evidence from academic studies to show that house prices respond to supply in a very much more complex way. In fairness to the Barker report, it spends more time analysing the way that windfall profits from development should be returned to the community but it is the suggestion that increasing supply will help lower prices that has been promoted by politicians and the building businesses.
5.6.2. Detailed study of regional house prices published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation last year (2005) shows that supply has a small effect on pricing. House prices are driven by income just as much as supply. 'Income elasticity' for housing is about two. This means that a 10% change in income differential generates a 20% increase in the price people will pay for property. With the income differentials increasing, it is possible to sell bigger houses at even higher prices. This explain why house builders favour building big houses.
5.7. There are other models for providing affordable houses being pioneered in the south where the young cannot afford to buy property because their employment will not permit the borrowing required. These are two radical but they are also so simple.
5.7.1. The first is pioneered by Community Land Trusts. This removes the ‘land inflation’ element from the house price. This has allowed schemes to sell homes at 30% below comparable alternative housing.
5.7.2. The second is embedded in the self-build movement where schemes report producing houses that are valued about 50% more than the costs. This apparently is being achieved by nothing more sophisticated than adopting sensible designs and of course, avoiding the land-price inflation that is normally taken by the developer.
6.There are clearly many big issues to be addressed in meeting the appropriate supply of housing to meet the needs of the community. Without more details from the developer, it is not possible to assess if they will meet these needs. The inquiry should therefore make any grant of permission to build conditional upon meeting parameters set by the community through its planning system and take account of the economic value of the battlesite.
Footnote 11 to the National Policy Planning Framework, to which I turn in Part Three, makes it very clear that a realistic approach needs to be taken to the provision of relevant housing.
“To be considered deliverable, sites should be available now, offer a suitable location for development now, and be achievable with a realistic prospect that housing will be delivered on the site within five years and in particular that development of the site is viable. Sites with planning permission should be considered deliverable until permission expires, unless there is clear evidence that schemes will not be implemented within five years, for example they will not be viable, there is no longer a demand for the type of units or sites have long term phasing plans.”
There is so much in the Framework about the need for revising and keeping plans up-to-date and relevant to the housing needs. The existing plan fails in so many respects and need to be revamped. This is the course I urge. It will allow a plan relevant to objectively assessed community needs to be brought forward.
27 Summary of objections
I have set out some strong arguments why our democratic representatives must re-assert their control of the planning process. It is not acceptable that a deeply flawed process should be allowed to go forward without a full review of the process. This can be achieved by rejecting this present application.
This would then force the applicant to address the many issues that they have ignored and key aspects that they have changed beyond recognition since this application was submitted. The distain with which they have treated several aspects of the natural environment and the arrogant way they have refused to address the issues raised by the archaeological work to find the battle of Fulford shows a lack of respect for our heritage and a breath-taking disregard for the processes that should ensure both the discovery and preservation of irreplaceable and valuable heritage. So all of these aspects must be addressed before any planning permission can be granted.
Finally, the new economic, social and political context in which this matter is being considered must be taken into account. It would be wrong to continue as if we were still operating in a steadily growing economy with easy access to mortgage funds, and where power and money commanded.
We are entering a new era of accountability and I urge the Planning Committee to assert their role and find a better, sustainable development for the unique and irreplaceable Germany Beck area.
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The author of the content is Charles Jones - firstname.lastname@example.org Last updated April 2015
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