Jill Hope

Northamptonshire County Councillor for Sixfields - a Lib Dem campaigner working all year round, not just at election time Learn more

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Lift Tower Estate Planning Application: Jill Hope’s letter to Northampton Borough Council about some concerns of the local residents

by Jill Hope on 4 June, 2013

Re: Application No N/2013/0194 Planning application for additional use of lift tower for abseiling at the national lift tower, Tower Square.

As county councillor for the area where the lift tower estate is located, I am writing to express the concerns of local residents about the planning application detailed above, under the extended consultation as advised by Susan Bridge in her letter dated 4/4/2013.

Opinions are divided about the use of the lift tower for abseiling. Some people are OK with it, especially now that the events are being handled by marshals, but other residents are still being adversely affected. Some examples of the problems at the abseiling event held on 11 May:

• Cars were parked the entire length of ‘The Approach’ and throughout the estate. One local family had a children’s party organised, and none of their friends could park near their home. The children were too small to drop off, so most people tried to park and then gave up.
• The spectators spilled out onto the road to such an extent that the marshals were telling local residents to drive the wrong way round the lift tower roundabout in order to leave the estate. This was a dangerous instruction to follow, and could have resulted in an accident, given that oncoming traffic would not expect to meet another car coming towards them.
• A single traffic attendant came to the estate on the day and summoned reinforcements once he realised that there were so many cars parked in the wrong place. I checked with the traffic attendants and they said they weren’t informed when events were taking place.
• One local resident, who objects to these events, started to take photos of the crowd all over the road, and was approached by a marshal who told him to stop taking photos. The resident was standing on the pavement outside his house. The marshal had no right to tell him what to do – taking photographs in a public place is perfectly legal.

To balance this some local residents have commented that things are better now, and many events are well marshalled, though the one on 11 May was not.

Residents have told me that they are worried that making this number of events permanent will lead to this happening almost every weekend, and this is where they live and they are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their own property.

There is definite concern that allowing so many abseiling events will be a slippery slope, and that the owner of the business will come back asking to hold more abseiling and other extreme sports in this location, which isn’t really ideal, with very limited parking and limited spectator space.

Don’t forget that many people bought their homes on this estate long before the idea of the abseiling as a business was developed. Obviously people applaud the fact that the abseiling supports a lot of charities, but the word ‘charity’ shouldn’t mean that the council drops all its usual planning standards.

Make no mistake this is a business, and a business will always push to do more and more profitable work, irrespective of the needs of local residents – like a pub applying for longer and longer licensing hours.

Residents have asked for the following conditions to be applied and enforced:

1. No increase in the number of events to be allowed in future.
2. The organisers should clean up after the events, as the spectators are dropping litter and this is spoiling the look of the estate, which is very clean and free of litter.
3. If the event is very large, crash barriers need to be used to keep spectators off the road.
4. Marshals must not redirect traffic to drive the wrong way round the lift tower roundabout, nor can they tell local residents not to take photographs of their activities.
5. Participants in the events must be advised that parking on ‘The Approach’ is not allowed, and that parking elsewhere must respect the rights of local residents.
6. The county council parking service should be informed in advance about any events where more than 20-30 participants are expected.
7. Events cannot be allowed to trail over into a second day. Events on two days in succession is not acceptable to local residents.

I would be grateful if you could acknowledge receipt of this email. I would also be grateful if you could give me the date and time of the planning meeting when this will be discussed, as I intend to put in a request to speak on this item.

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