Controversial development in historic park wins approval

CONTROVERSY: Planners were split over reservoir decision.
CONTROVERSY: Planners were split over reservoir decision.
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A new reservoir to serve 20,000 people supplied with drinking water has gained planning permission for a site in a Grade II Listed park despite widespread objections from residents and councillors, but a covenant on the land could still prevent the development from proceeding.

Yorkshire Water is involved in a complex deal with Rotherham Council over their plans to build the reservoir, which would hold 12,000 cubic metres of water, on land in the historic Boston Castle Park in the town, which is regarded as one of England’s earliest examples of its type.

Two reservoirs already exist there, one built 100 years ago which has been out of use since the 1980s and another built in the 1950s which is coming to the end of its life.

Because the reservoir needs to be on an elevated site to allow a gravity feed for supplies, there are limited options available and Yorkshire Water wants to build the new structure, which would be above ground but surrounded by new earth bankings, on a site alongside the present reservoirs.

That land would then be cleared and turned over to the park in a ‘land swap’ exercise, which Rotherham Council finds acceptable.

However, there have been objections to the development by councillors who represent the area, residents and the Friends of Boston Castle Park group, who believe a better alternative could be found.

Planning committee councillors who heard evidence from Yorkshire Water, their own planning officials and objectors were split evenly over whether to approve the scheme and it needed the casting vote of chairman Coun Alan Atkins for the scheme to be granted permission.

However, officials attending the meeting stressed that the covenant and details of the land swap arrangement were not planning matters and if they did not reach a satisfactory conclusion, the work would be unable to proceed.

The covenant, which dates from early last century, stipulates that the land was for public use.

Site traffic will need to access the park via Boston Park Grove, a road which is narrow and used mainly by residents and students, which was a source of concern for objectors and some councillors who heard the application.

Boston Castle ward Councillor Taiba Yasseem spoke alongside protestors at the meeting and said: “Nobody sitting in the public seats is against a new reservoir. Our concern is where this reservoir goes.

“I have moved, as this has progressed. When someone tells you they need clean drinking water, it makes you think very hard about the decision.

“Me and the other two ward councillors don’t support this application. My concern is about road safety.

“It is one of the most difficult roads to get in and out of. That has not been considered enough.

“Laughton Lane (a suggested alternative) has been a missed opportunity by Yorkshire Water,” she said.

Coun Bob Walsh told the meeting: “I had a view that we were taking away a piece of the park, but the two existing reservoirs are in Boston Castle Park. It doesn’t seem as big a deal as it did to begin with.

“Construction traffic is not something I welcome on residential roads but it is only temporary.

“Parks are nice to have and heavy traffic on residential roads is not nice but water is vital. I think we have to go ahead with this,” he said.

Protestors who spoke at the meeting had called for councillors to ask Yorkshire Water to look for an alternative scheme, although the proposals passed were the preferred option from six alternatives which had been explored.

Now the objectors have threatened to pursue complaints about the way the application has been handled through the Local Government Ombudsman.