Executive Member, Planning & Transport

City of York Council

2 July 2004

Germany Beck Proposal

I am taking the unusual step of writing to your committee to try to break the impasse over the Germany Beck housing proposal as I have now received a copy of the letter sent by English Heritage to Hannah Blackburn. The letter dissociates English Heritage from the claim made in Persimmon’s planning application that EH does not agree that the area was the site of the battle in 1066. It is unfortunate that there is no system to permit this refutation to be included with the planning documents.

The present impasse does not serve the would-be developer Persimmon or those, like myself, who would like to see the site properly investigated. Persimmon are unwilling to negotiate or let us carry out appropriate investigations on the land and want their plan, with all its unfounded assumptions, to be approved as it stands.

If approved, I am advised we would almost certainly be granted a public enquiry because of the relevance of this site to our national heritage. There is also the probability of a new appeals procedure for heritage sites that is due to be published by DCMS in 10 days which should allow sites like Fulford to bypass the strict rules of evidence. I can see the whole project being stuck for years. I can offer a way forward. There is a solution is negotiation.

I have made repeated requests to the developers for access to the land for our research. The developers have however frustrated the work of our Lottery-funded community group refusing to negotiate. I warned them last November that I would publish the one-way communication and did indeed submit the correspondence to your officials some months ago. In my letters I made it clear that I personally accept the need for heritage as well as houses but suggest we must investigate the first before imposing the second.

It is unacceptable that we should not be able to fully investigate the site before the plans are prepared or approved. English Heritage reminds Ms Blackburn in their letter that, in January, they expressed serious reservations about the developer-funded investigative work. I have also drawn your committee’s attention to the way the developer’s assessment has altered over the years. What I am seeking is that an appropriate investigation is now carried out. The community group, with the backing of all the local universities and York Archaeological Trust and funded by a maximum Lottery grant is waiting for a chance to carry out this work.

I would ask you to find some way to make it clear to developers that they must cooperate and cannot hope to succeed in any application by preventing disclosure or by misrepresenting what they have discovered. I believe that we could carry out the vital work after harvest and ploughing this year if the developer co-operated. Once this work has been carried out, and the results assessed, the layout of the housing and the route of the road could then be considered.

I would be very grateful if you could use your influence to encourage the developers to talk to us and allow the appropriate investigations to be carried out.

Yours sincerely