Residents fury over 'secretive' plan to sell off Doncaster green space for dozens of homes

Doncaster Council has shown a ‘a complete lack of transparency’ over ‘secretive plans’ to sell off a much-loved green space to a housing developer, campaigners claim.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 7th June 2019, 1:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th June 2019, 12:12 pm

Furious residents are fighting plans which could see over 150 houses being built next to the Rose Hill area close to Doncaster Racecourse.

Residents say they haven’t been consulted on the plans.

Ward councillor Nick Allen (Cons) who is backing the residents, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service council officers revealed the field off Rose Hill Rise would be sold but they were not allowed to tell residents for a prolonged period of time.

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Residents say they've been 'railroaded' by council officers around 'secretive plans' to sell green space for housing. Picture: Marie Caley/Doncaster Free Press. Picture: Marie Caley/Doncaster Free Press

Wendy Wright, aged 70, who lives close to the 16-acre green space, said word quickly spread of the council’s intentions to sell the land to a housing develop which they say was done with no consultation.

The Rose Hill Residents Assocation (RHSA) was set up shortly after and the group say they’ve been hard at work fighting this decision in the background.

The group have had some success in their fight after the Local Government Ombudsman, an independant watchdog who look into complaints lodged against councils, said they would investigate the matter.

“We’ve tried to ask questions but we feel we’ve been railroaded all the way through,” Mrs Wright said.

Rose Hill Rise Residents Association committee members l-r Patrick Fielding, Wendy Wright, Secretary, Diana Hoyle, Treasurer, Dick Farthing, Chairman and Larry Grove, pictured on the land in question. Picture: Marie Caley

“We find this incredibly upsetting because people who are making these decisions have never visited area and have no idea what the problems and this will affect the rest of our lives.”

Richard Farthing who is one of the lead campaigners within the residents’ assocition said the group isn’t going to go away quietly.

He said: “We’re very passionate about this area, it’s very quiet and we have a large percentage of elderly residents down here up to the age of 100.

“We’re all retired and we did that because it’s nice and quiet, you can hear the birds and it’s wonderful.

“But that’s going to be spoilt because of the traffic that’s going to come with 150 or so houses which could bring 300 vehicles.

“There are only two ways into this estate and only one way out – 300 extra cars per day is not going to work.”

Coun Nick Allen said the council had shown a ‘complete lack of transparency’ and said the whole thing looks ‘secretive’ to residents.

“This is an asset to the local community – it’s a beautiful spot used by residents to walk their dogs and recreational activities.

“They’ve not consulted local people and asked for their opinion or said how much they want for the field.

“It just a mess and there’s a complete lack of transparency involved here and this has contributed to a feeling of anger in the community and the residents’ association want to fight this.”

It’s understood officers called in Bessacarr ward councillors including Coun Allen into a meeting to tell them about sites that were to be sold off.

But elected members were told the information was ‘under embargo’ and could not tell residents what officers were planning to do.

Coun Allen said he told one resident not long after the ‘embargo’ was lifted and it wasn’t long until he received around ‘a dozen calls’ from residents who were unaware what the council were planning.

“The council has really done everything they can to obstruct us – they didn’t consult anyone and they have also included this site in the consultation for the Local Plan,” he said.

“They’ve made a bad situation worse because they’ve not cooperated with elected ward members really – it is the case where they think the council has carte blanche to sell this.

“To the average resident, it looks very secretive and I have to agree with them. Some people still have this sceptical attitude towards Doncaster Council that stuff happens in a back room.

“The council don’t help themselve when they put an embargo on councillors talking about this. This area means a lot to people and it should be kept that way.”

Dave Wilkinson, assistant director of trading and property services at Doncaster Council, said: “The disposal of the site was agreed in September 2017 as part of a wider programme of asset sales to support the council’s capital programme.

“Following this approval, the property was marketed for sale in early 2018 with a planning brief that identified the nature of the issues relating to the site and the need for various policies to be complied with in any development proposal.

“The property has long been allocated for development as recognised in the council’s Unitary Development Plan adopted in 1998.

“Any development of the site will, as is the case with any planning application, give an opportunity for the community including local residents, to be consulted.”