Councillors insist they are not to blame for housing crisis
POLITICIANS have hit back at claims that the borough's housing crisis is the result of a lack of political leadership.
Andrew North, Cheltenham Borough Council's chief executive, said yesterday that officers were not being given enough political guidance on planning issues.
But Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood (LD) has rejected the claims.
He said: "Politicians of all parties have been crystal clear about what they want which is the maximum amount of housing that is consistent with protecting the valuable green space in and around Cheltenham.
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"It is simply wrong that there has been a lack of political leadership over planning policy.
"I am not sure it is appropriate for officers to be making public judgements about political leadership."
It was revealed in May the borough council was expected to approve the development of 1,600 homes by 2017 – 500 short of the estimated number needed.
The lack of housing provision has led to fears planning inspectors could end up making decisions on appeal to ensure targets are met, placing greenbelt land at risk.
The authority is in the process of establishing a Joint Core Strategy with Tewkesbury Borough and Gloucester City councils, identifying land suitable for housing across the region.
Councillor Rob Garnham, the Conservative group leader, believed Liberal Democrat councillors were shirking their responsibility.
He said: It is a difficult problem to solve, but solved it must be. Otherwise the developers and the planning inspectors will make the decision for them."
Councillor Les Godwin (PAB, Prestbury) said his group had been making "sensible suggestions" to deal with the housing problem but to no avail.
He said: "They just will not listen to a minor group's sensible suggestions, although we have kept on until we are blue in the face."
Mr North insisted the issues needed to be debated in public.
He added: "These are important issues which are critical to Cheltenham's future.
"It would be wrong for me to be party political, but I don't think I am being."