Hebden Royd Town Council to decide on Sainsbury’s request for meeting

Hebden Royd Town Council meeting at 7.30pm on 8th January will hear of Sainsbury’s request to meet the Council, in order to discuss their plans to build a Sainsbury’s Local supermarket on the site of the former fire station on Valley Road.

The Town Council will consider this request for a meeting as part of Agenda Item 4 – Communications from the Mayor and Town Clerk. A number of Hebden Bridge people have also written to the Town Clerk about Sainsbury’s plan, and the Council will also hear their emails and letters.

Emma Fordham, who has written to the Town Clerk about the Sainsbury’s plan, is part of a new group called S.O.S. Hebden Bridge that is concerned about the potential new Sainsbury’s supermarket. Emma said,

“The council are not making any decisions at this meeting, as I understand it, but we want to be sure that councillors know there are objectors.

A few of us plan to meet outside the Town Hall at 7pm to discuss the situation, wave placards for a photo for the HB Times/other publicity, and greet councillors in an entirely gentle and friendly manner as they go in. We’ll have flyers to give out to anyone interested in knowing what’s going on. Some of us will then go in to the meeting (7.30pm) and listen to what is said about the supermarket.”

Town Clerk Jason Boom said,

“The only decision the Council can take at this stage is whether or not to accept Sainsbury’s request to meet.”

Sainsbury’s request to meet with the Town Council does not relate to a planning application. The site of the old fire station had permission for two commercial units of 318 sq m with nine apartments above and five town houses, but this permission has now expired.

“Predetermination” – Are Councillors’ Tongues Tied?

The rules about whether Councillors can speak their mind about potential planning issues and still be eligible to vote on planning applications come under the heading of “predetermination.”

Before the Localism Act 2011, there were very clear “predetermination” rules that prevented Councillors from speaking out if they intended to vote on planning applications – whether in parish councils like Hebden Royd Town Council, or in Planning Committees like Calderdale Planning Committee.

The Localism Act seems to have changed this. An article on the Local Government Association website says:

“The Localism Act has introduced provisions to clarify the principle of predetermination in local government, helping councillors to engage in an open and rigorous debate with their local communities about council business. The Act clarifies that decision-makers will not be taken to have had (or to have appeared to have had) a closed mind when making the decision just because (i) they had previously done anything that directly or indirectly indicated what view the decision-maker took, or would or might take, in relation to a matter, and (ii) the matter was relevant to the decision.”

But HR Town Council Clerk Jason Boom advises HR Town Councillors  to be cautious in relation to predetermination. He said,

“The Localism Act provisions on predetermination are unclear, in practice. They’re still being worked out through different cases, and we receive updates on how predetermination is being interpreted case-by-case. So it’s a good idea for Councillors to be cautious at this stage, when the only decision to take is whether or not to accept Sainsbury’s request to meet.”

Incredible Edible Mytholm questions to Councillors

The meeting starts at 7.30pm. The first agenda item is Questions from the Public. On behalf of Incredible Edible Mytholm, Myra James will ask Councillors two questions:

  1. Is Hebden Royd Town Council interested in developing and adopting a Fair, Affordable Food Policy?
  2. How do the proposal for a Sainsbury’s Local on Valley Road and IEM’s proposal for a HRTC Fair, Affordable Food Policy relate to the proposed Neighbourhood Plan – specifically, will the Neighbourhood Plan say it’s ok for Sainsbury’s to come in and build a supermarket?

A Fair, Affordable Food Policy for Hebden Royd Town Council

Incredible Edible Mytholm (IEM) proposes to work with all interested people and organisations to develop a Fair, Affordable Food Policy for Hebden Royd and Calderdale.

This is because IEM have become aware that the planning system has very narrow terms of reference that don’t allow Councillors to take into account the impact of proposed retail developments on the way that food is grown, processed and distributed, or the environmental, social and public health knock-on effects.

Incredible Edible Mytholm are planning a public consultation event in the spring which will bring together the general public and individuals and organisations who are already working out what a fair, affordable food policy might look like. The aim of the event will be to rough out the basic framework of a Fair Affordable Food Policy for Hebden Royd and Calderdale.

The proposed Fair, Affordable Food Policy will take on board the need to provide affordable food for all income groups in Hebden Bridge and to create jobs.

The claim that new supermarkets will create jobs, which Craig Whittaker MP has made in the Hebden Bridge Times, is not borne out by evidence. It seems from various studies that new supermarkets destroy more jobs than they create in the areas they come into. So what kind of food policy would create jobs?

The claim that supermarkets provide cheap food is belied by the fact that supermarkets are able to externalise (avoid paying for) the environmental and public health costs of growing and eating cheap food. A recent conference on the True Cost of Food made this very plain.

The environmental degradation caused by current fossil-fuel based, intensive monoculture farming is horrendous – soil damage, water pollution, high carbon emissions and biodiversity loss are all direct (and extremely costly) results of the current mainstream farming system that supermarkets drive and demand.

The public health costs of high-sugar, highly-processed “cheap” supermarket food are increasingly recognised, as obesity and type 2 diabetes have become widespread.

Affordable food and jobs are the main stated concerns of the many people who are in favour of supermarkets on the Valley Road and Mytholm Works site, so a Fair, Affordable Food Policy needs to address them.

Food poverty, alongside fuel poverty, is a reality in the Upper Calder Valley as well as in the country as a whole. We have a food bank in Todmorden and stories on Facebook from local people who are struggling to feed their families. Increasingly people are having to choose whether they heat or eat.

A Fair, Affordable Food Policy will also take on board the need to grow, process and distribute food in ways that are fair to the environment.

As an example of what’s possible, we are  looking at Bristol City Council’s Food Policy Council for inspiration. We’ll also work with Dr Charlie Clutterbuck’s draft set of policy proposals for a national sustainable food policy. Charlie Clutterbuck, a Food Policy Fellow at City University and a Rural & Agricultural Workers, National Sector Committee Member, Unite the Union  spoke at the IEM Field Day in March 2013, in a session that was attended by some HR Town Councillors.

Dr Charlie Clutterbuck (2nd from left) speaking at IEM Field Day, March 2013

Hebden Royd Town Council Neighbourhood Plan

The Localism Act 2011 gave parish councils the power to produce a Neighbourhood Plan and  HR Town Council has set up a Neighbourhood Plan Working Party to do this.

Neighbourhood Plans will shape development at the parish level. Calderdale local plan continues to have the strategic role, e.g. housing numbers, strategic infrastructure, etc, and the Neighbourhood Plan will have to broadly follow this.

According to information on a parish council website ,

“…the detail of what is planned for the future of a community will now be determined by the parish council through the [Neighbourhood] Plan. This includes where housing should be located, what local infrastructure (play areas, doctor’s surgeries, etc) is needed and what development is generally not permissible.

A Neighbourhood Plan will have to be independently examined and then pass a local referendum amongst the population of the community it serves. If the majority of those voting are in favour, then a local authority is duty-bound to take the plan into account when considering planning applications.

The cost of producing Neighbourhood Plans is to be covered through the proceeds of development permitted in the local area and from specific Government funding.”

Incredible Edible Mytholm has invited a representative of the HRTC Neighbourhood Plan Working Group to talk about the HR Neighbourhood Plan at the next IEM Members’ and Supporters’ Meeting on 10th February, 7pm at the Fox & Goose.

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