Cheltenham council boss blames politicians for housing crisis
LACK of strong leadership from Cheltenham's politicians has been blamed for the borough's housing crisis.
Andrew North, the authority's chief executive, has blamed councillors for not giving his officers enough guidance on planning issues.
And he echoed warnings the area would see controversial developments being won on appeal unless a local plan was put in place soon.
It could result in housing estates being built on greenbelt land across the borough.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
Mr North said: "It is true to say that, at the moment, the borough council is not doing what the borough council should be doing, but that is not the fault of individual officers.
"There is a need for politicians to show leadership in terms of defining exactly where they feel a development should be. We just need some political guidance.
"Our officers will do whatever the politicians ask us to do but they have to ask us to do something first."
It emerged in May that Cheltenham Borough Council was expected to approve the development of 1,600 new homes by 2017 – around 500 short of the estimated number needed.
The news brought with it fears that planning inspectors could overturn decisions made on large, controversial housing developments simply to ensure the authority met its target.
A Joint Core Strategy, which would earmark land suitable for development, is currently being put together between Cheltenham Borough, Tewkesbury Borough and Gloucester City councils.
Mr North stressed the problems were being caused by councillors, rather than his staff.
He said: "A local plan could have happened if we had been given clear leadership.
"When we are in a political vacuum, it is difficult to make these decisions.
"If we don't get this, then we will continue to have our decisions made by the planning inspectors, such as happened with Hunting Butts and Bishop's Cleeve.
"The greenbelt can only be protected for so long if we do not have a sound plan."
Councillor Andrew McKinley, the borough's cabinet member for built environment, conceded getting putting a strategy in place was taking some time.
But he insisted there was a need to ensure the policy was watertight when it was finally produced.
He said: "Andrew North is right to be concerned and if we do not get this sorted by next year then we will end up with planning by appeal.
"But the JCS is not something which can just be conjured out of thin air.
"One of the problems for us is trying to work out what the Government recommendations actually mean.
"We want to make sure we have got it right so one of the things we are doing is getting as much information as we can.
"Any suggestion that politicians are not taking this seriously would be wrong.
"We are working very hard to get the right solution."