Eden District Councillors debated the Penrith Strategic Masterplan last night (10 January 2019) at a full Council Meeting held at Penrith Town Hall.
The Penrith Strategic Masterplan has no legal status and was subject to a non-statutory public engagement for over eight weeks from 10 September – 2 November 2018. The engagement exercise comprised a ‘pop-up shop’ at 3 Middlegate in Penrith and a range of public drop in events across the District.
At last night’s full Council meeting at Penrith Town Hall, under rule 26 of the Constitution, a 15 minute debate by Members was held after a petition of over 500 signatures was received titled: ‘Reject the Penrith Strategic Masterplan and Keep Penrith Special.’ The petitioner was the Keep Penrith Special Group.
At the meeting, a report with a recommendation asking councillors to note the process of engagement with the public for the Penrith Strategic Masterplan and the next steps being proposed was debated.
An alternative recommendation for the report was put forward by Cllr Michael Eyles (Liberal Democrat Group), which Members supported. The resolution that Council agreed is: “In consideration of the widespread criticism of the Masterplan and public dissatisfaction with the Executive’s engagement exercise, Council recommends to the Executive that the current version of the Masterplan be subject to an official public consultation with the option to reject it.”
The Leader of Eden District Council, Councillor Kevin Beaty, said: “The Penrith Strategic Masterplan was the subject of a two-month public engagement exercise, which sought to address many long-standing issues the public have raised with me as Council Leader during the past three years, such as:
- A shortage of affordable housing
- A low-wage economy
- Improving the vitality of Penrith town centre
- Improving traffic routes and reducing pollution.
- A lack of immediately available employment land provision
“By developing a long-term plan for the local area, the Council can demonstrate through the Masterplan in either its current or amended form what could be achieved for the future of Penrith together with the wider benefits for Eden and Cumbria.
“The public engagement exercise has stimulated tremendous interest and a keen debate in the media. The public responses are now being evaluated independently by the University of Cumbria and Lancaster University respectively.
“This includes all the responses received during the pop-up shop events and local meetings, together with over one hundred letters and consultation responses and two petitions. One petition was from the Keep Penrith Special campaign and was debated at a full Council meeting yesterday (10 Jan 2019). The other petition was received from the Friends of the Beacon group and was debated by Council at its meeting in December last year.
“The evaluation of all the public engagement process responses is quite a sizeable piece of work for the Universities and the results are not expected to be completed for a couple of months.
“The purpose of the evaluation of the engagement exercise, together with a refreshed traffic model for Penrith and the Eden strategic flood risk appraisal, is to help to inform how plans for the future development of the area will be determined.”
Council members have asked the Executive to subject the current version of the Masterplan to an official public consultation with the option to reject it. The Executive will consider this recommendation at its meeting on 5 February 2019.