Wolsingham Parish Council's response to WVDC consultation
WEAR VALLEY DISTRICT COUNCIL LOCAL PLAN REVIEW
WOLSINGHAM PARISH COUNCIL RESPONSE FOR INCLUSION
IN THE LOCAL DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK
The Parish Council having considered the report “Moving Forward” at two meetings, agree with the Local Development Framework ethos , particularly the more flexible approach to planning in the future.
The challenges and opportunities facing the region, and district have been taken on board and whilst these challenges and opportunities are relevant not only at regional and district level , the parish council feel that as a rural area, the needs of the parish are significantly different at a local level and should be dealt with more sympathetically. Although the district is classed as rural
Bp. Auckland cannot be compared in the same planning remit as Cowshill , they are totally different. Planning regulations should be different for Rural and Urban developments.
A good deal of the centre of Wolsingham is classed as a conservation area, and developments within the conservation area took place before the conservation area was designated. This has led to several conflicts in planning terms when householders requests for modernisation of windows and doors in modern materials, ie UPVC as opposed to traditional materials of wood. With this in mind would it be possible to re-designate certain areas to be excluded from the conservation area.
Within the parish and Weardale there are significant derelict, semi- derelict buildings, particularly on farm land which should be allowed to be re-developed regardless of location and state of dereliction , a habitable dwelling is more attractive than a heap of rubble.
To facilitate the building of additional housing ,as there are no “in-fill” opportunities the village boundary for housing should be looked at and extended.
To have a sustainable community there has to be more employment opportunities, more housing and affordable housing for local residents, linked to a more integrated transport system.
The current industrial estate is now full and mention has been made of future development at the Steelworks site for industrial units and new housing, by the Upper Weardale Task force, should these plans come to fruition then this a step in the right direction, and the Parish Council would welcome this investment, and no doubt part of the housing development would be designated as affordable housing, giving local residents the opportunity to live in the town. Over the past two decades Wolsingham has become a very sought after location for people to live and commute to the major conurbations of Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside and in the last year alone house prices have increased a staggering 180% , making it very difficult for local first time buyers to enter the property market, coupled with the “Right to Buy” of council owned houses has exacerbated the situation even further. The net result has been a decline in the indigenous population and the area is fast becoming a dormitory and residential area for the more affluent members of the region.
The retailing business sector of the village is almost non existent , in the early 50’s there were more than 50 retail outlets now there are 10, as people travel to the larger supermarkets at Bp. Auckland and Crook. To redress this trend more assistance should be given to existing businesses in the way of grants or rebates on community tax, a small supermarket would help to give an impetus to regeneration of other retail opportunities, or a visitor attraction within the town.
It is genuinely felt that unless Wolsingham & Weardale become connected to the Broadband network further employment opportunities will disappear, this should be a priority and should be installed as soon as possible.
The “way forward “ for Wolsingham and the dale is of course Tourism.
There are a lot of tourism opportunities in the “pipeline “ , Harperley POW site, the Heritage Railway, visitor centre at Eastgate, the Tunstall reservoir is soon to be de-commissioned and opportunities for an outdoor pursuits centre, should be explored.
These are all admirable schemes or dreams should they be developed , but they can only be beneficial if there is adequate car parking, hotel accommodation, bed and breakfast, and retail outlets to boost the economy.
The Demesne Mill picnic site, parking area could be increased, as the site is located close to the village centre.
The current public transport route runs mainly west to east down the valley , there are no direct links to Durham, Consett and Tyneside and this should be looked at more sympathetically.