The proposal to build the Humber International Enterprise Park on the Hedon Haven has aroused passions, perhaps of biblical proportion. The planning application by Associated British Ports (ABP) and the objections from the small village of Paull sets the scene for a battle of allegorical worth. The David and Goliath parable springs to mind. But the outcome of this conflict will not be settled by stones in battle, rather by the decision-making of a planning committee.
Associated British Ports (ABP) is the UK’s leading port owner and operator. It has a network of 21 ports handling around a quarter of the UK’s seaborne trade. According to ABP, its enterprise generates £7.5 billion every year and supports 119,000 jobs. In contrast, Paull has 270 households in the village. It boasts a church, a village hall, a primary school and a playground. It has no shops but with scenic views across the Holderness landscape and River Humber, it is the epitome of a rural community.
The establishment of the 189 hectare Humber International Enterprise Park on the Hedon Haven threatens to change things in Paull forever. This is the view of Paull Parish Council chair Graham Shaw. In a presentation to the East Riding of Yorkshire planning committee member on Monday, he said: “The impacts of this development will be felt in the local area for generations.”
One of the biggest bones of contention is whether adequate public consultation on the proposed development has taken place. The planning committee meeting of February 4th took the decision to defer the application. This was to allow time for statutory comments to be submitted, but also for more public engagement to take place. One of the outcomes of this was to allow for pre-planning committee presentations to take place. The issue of the consultation was a hot topic at these.
The presentations took place on Monday 15 March via Zoom. This was an opportunity for members of the committee to hear the case from ABP and the objectors.
The objections: Speaking first for the objectors, Graham Shaw, reminded members that the application had been deferred from 4 February to allow for proper engagement and consultation to take place. The consultation sessions organised by ABP since February comprised two one-hour online Zoom sessions. “These were not adequate consultation,” said Mr Shaw. “What we saw was a presentation by ABP and its partners telling us how happy consultees were with their mitigation measures. There were a series of five-minute slots to present our concerns but no opportunity to challenge their replies. We have asked 27 specific questions and asked for written answers. None have been given. We accept that the land has been designated for development and enterprise, but remain appalled by the scale, density and layout of the scheme. We expect more face to face consultation before any planning decision is made.”
The claim of inadequate consultation was made by all the objectors. Mark Ashbridge from Preston South said that “Considering the numbers of people affected, there has not been commensurate public engagement to discuss feelings and opinions. This is especially an issue during lockdown when adequate consultation can not be held. It’s certainly a concern for older residents who may not be able to use the technology involved.”
Andrew Nicholson from campaign group PADEL (Paull Against Development on the Enterprise Land), said: “There seems to be some pre-determination involved in this. It’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ it will take place. The applicants have shown no empathy or understanding of the surrounding inhabitants. The whole process has been clinical, deliberate and unsympathetic in every possible way. And as of today, the East Riding Council has received 2,000 letters and a petition in opposition. But in the last three years, not one letter of support has been received by the council from a member of the public.”
Councillors John Dennis and Steve Gallant spoke as objectors. Both criticised the consultation as “inadequate”.
The Applicant ABP: Speaking on behalf of the applicant Mr Craig Blatchford, partner and Head of Planning for property consultancy Montagu Evans, commented on the consultation carried out and how it had impacted on the proposal: “The site has been the focus of extensive consultation by the council leading up to the adoption of the Local Plan. For this application, we held three public events in Paull and Hedon village halls in Autumn 2018. Overall, more than 300 people attended these events.
“We’ve kept on top of the responses and amended the scheme accordingly. Recently, as requested by members, we’ve held two further events. Due to COVID restrictions, these were virtual. But nevertheless, these were fully advertised and well-attended. Attendees were parties with a specific interest in the project and who represent local residents whether that be parish councils and lead representatives of PADEL and the like. 13 people attended and spoke at the event and 274 have watched online.
“Taking all this into account, overall we consider that ABP has undertaken significant and material public engagement and that this builds on the foundation already established by the council through the Local Plan process.”
Mr Blatchford explained how the scheme in front of the planning committee had evolved (see image) from that first presented in 2018. “Firstly, two buildings have been removed. Secondly, we have reconfigured and reduced the development at Hedon Road roundabout to allow for a park & ride should the need arise. Finally, we have increased the habitat mitigation area by 20 hectares to 56 hectares. Overall the present scheme sees a reduction of overall development floor space of 51,000 square metres. Only 21.5% of the site will have buildings on it.
“A takeaway from the recent round of public consultation is the idea of a forum. This would allow ABP and its team to liaise with the community in the planning and development phase, should planning permission be granted.”
The pre-planning committee presentations took place on Monday 15 March. The presentations are available to view on YouTube.
We asked Councillor John Dennis for his views on the consultation that has taken place. He said:
“As Ward Member, it’s my job to ensure that everyone in my area, directly connected or not, has their say. They are entitled to see their concerns being aired and their questions answered. Covid or No Covid, people seem to have been excluded, just because of their lack of access to IT. Apparently, the process was being carefully witnessed by ERYC officers. It will be interesting to hear their take on it all.”
Planning Committee Meeting:
The Planning Committee meets on Thursday 18 March at 2 pm to consider the application. The committee report recommends deferring approval once again until the application complies with all necessary regulations. It also recommends the application is referred to the Secretary of State. The report indicates that “the potential to deliver above 5,000 sqm of main town centre uses in an out-of-centre-location” warrants such a move.
The Secretary of State has the power to “call-in” a planning application. An inquiry by the Planning Inspectorate would result.
Find out more about the planning application at the East Riding Public Access website and search for reference 18/04071/STPLFE.