Agreed plan vital to end housing crisis
ANDREW North claims (Echo, August 30) that lack of strong political leadership is endangering the loss of valuable green fields to undesirable developments because a local plan is not yet in place.
He is right that the slow pace of progress with the Joint Core Strategy, which will eventually inform our local plan, is leading to the danger of "planning by appeal" which no sensible person would wish. But I think he is wrong to place the blame on our politicians.
In deciding where new developments should be planned for, there are two questions which need to be answered. The first question is: "How many houses will be needed?" Only after answering this first question can one sensibly answer the second question: "Where should they go?"
In the consultation on the draft JCS held last winter, the planning officers proposed building a very large number of new houses – in fact so many that to meet this proposal almost all the controversial sites would need to be developed. While they did agree to adopt this proposal "for consultation", our politicians did at the same time give a very clear and unanimous signal that they were not in agreement with the suggested numbers.
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Also, in response to the consultation, many respondents – including my own organisation, Leckhampton Green Land Action Group (Leglag) – gave strong arguments in favour of a very significant reduction in the proposed number of houses. Overall, this was the clearest message to emerge from the consultation, and of course the planners had to respond.
And what was the response? They brought in a planning partnership which has very strong ties to the development industry, to try to support their disputed estimate of numbers needed. Andrew North himself must have been part of the group that decided to do this, certainly without the agreement of the majority of our councillors.
As a result there will, it now appears, be yet another debate about what the requirement actually is, almost inevitably leading to further delay. Only if the planners and Andrew North are prepared to listen to arguments from the other side of the debate – environmental individuals and groups like our own – is an acceptable compromise likely to be reached.
I urge Andrew North to listen to our case and thus hasten what we all want – an agreed local plan in place as soon as possible.
Kit Braunholtz, Chairman of Leglag,