Falfield given "no consideration whatsoever", residents say, as Eastwood Park training hub approved
FALFIELD was left entirely out of the equation, residents and councillors have claimed, after a brand new training centre was given the go-ahead in the village with "no consideration whatsoever" for locals' needs and wishes.
Eastwood Park Conference Centre's plans to tear down its outdated buildings, replace them with a state-of-the-art training hub and construct 20 high-end homes to fund the project were approved following a heated debate among councillors.
Before they came to a vote, residents had reached out to members of the development west committee on Thursday, begging them to move the proposed hub down the valley and away from the Hutted Camp, a site located just 100 metres from their cottages at Home Farm.
Tim Cawood, whose five-year-old son was born with no immune system, pleaded with councillors explaining his health could be seriously compromised by construction work on the family's doorstep.
"We obviously support the need to run a successful business," he said.
"But Great Ormond Street said there was a great risk to my son's health if he was exposed to this work. Spores will be released into the atmosphere. If this was positioned further down the valley that would certainly help us."
Council planners' decision not to insist that the training centre should pay funds, know as section 106 money, into the community to offset the impact of construction on residents was condemned by outraged councillors.
Officers had argued that the development would lead to economic growth and would be in the long-term benefit of the community.
Cllr Alan Lawrance called officers' "efforts to bend policy after policy" in favour of Eastwood Park "repugnant".
"I'm not opposed to the development of the training centre," he said. "But there are no demands for section 106 in order to support the local community. I find this actually repugnant.
"It has been a very blinkered view of what would be useful to the developer and not to the local community."
He also blasted the failure to comply with district policy, regarding the proposal to erect 20 houses on the estate, which states that a portion of every new housing development should include affordable properties.
Yet, his colleague Cllr Pat Hockey urged her fellow councillors to be "pragmatic" about the application.
"There are far more plusses than minuses," she said. "I feel that it's an important facility we should be proud of."
Mr Cawood told the Gazette after the meeting that Eastwood Park's offer to rehouse his family during construction would not be feasible.
"The only place I can go is the hospital and I can't use the NHS as a hotel," he said. "Our house has been modified for all the medical needs that we have. There is no other place we can go."
Cllr John O' Neill, representing Falfield villagers, said Eastwood Park should have made a gesture towards the community.
"It's a business," he said. "There is no section 106 agreement. I can't see why they can't do it. There is nothing left for the community."
John Thatcher, CEO at Eastwood Park said gaining planning permission was a significant step that secured the future of the business on the site.
"It is good news for our staff, local customers and suppliers as well as the wider community; we are delighted that our application to build the new training centre has been approved.
"It will help safeguard current jobs and create new ones in a variety of services, trades and professions that I hope local people will fill.
"Our applications were approved by an 8:1 majority with the vast majority of the councillors recognising the contribution to the community Eastwood Park has made over many years and those that we will be making in the near future; with a new pathway from the bus stop and a crossing point over the A38 to benefit existing and future residents and those visiting the garden centre.
"The new houses that are being built are just sufficient to pay for the building of the new training centre and nothing more. This is purely an enabling development and the inclusion of an element of social housing would require a much larger number of houses to be built to fund the training centre development. Such a step would have a significantly detrimental impact on the historic nature of the estate."
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