Planning minister backs Gloucester's brownfield development
BROWNFIELD land needs to be developed as a matter of urgency to speed-up economic growth - that is the message from Government planning minister Nick Boles who visited Gloucester this week.
Mr Boles has backed the fast-track development of 22 acres of land in Bristol Road, a former site of Wellman Graham, St Gobain and Contract Chemicals.
The planning minister defended a shake-up of planning law this month, allowing private homeowners to double the size of extensions without needing planning permission.
He is now calling for councils to help further growth by renegotiating the terms of section 106 funding agreements with developers, the amount of cash paid out to aid community projects on completion of housing schemes.
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"We are incredibly keen for brownfield sites like this to be brought forward as soon as possible for use for housing," said Mr Boles.
"There is a desperate need for more housing, not just for Gloucester but the whole country.
"The transport network is already there and it is near a residential area so people want this development to happen.
"There are lots of sites around the country that are held back by agreements put in place when property was booming for section 106 agreements that can't be supported by current values.
"We will be changing the law to make it easier for developers to renegotiate those agreements. Some councils are refusing to do that, but fortunately in Gloucester, the city council is renegotiating without being told to do so.
"We would love a maximum of affordable housing on every development but 15 per cent of nothing is still nothing. It is better to get this family housing here, which is good for the city, and get contributions to other things like schooling or other amenities.
"Then we can get affordable housing where we can, but not to sit there waiting for things to happen. It just needs to get done, get it built, get it going."
Conservative MP for Gloucester Richard Graham said the land is a prime site, and development there is long overdue.
"This 22 acres has a huge amount of potential. This land has been sitting here for too long with nothing happening.
"I want to see this city moving, get growth and get jobs going. This seems to be the biggest single opportunity for brownfield site development in the city.
"We have owners who are keen to get going and there is a market for this. The council is now on the right track and if we can get the application in for the December meeting then it will be a very happy Christmas.
"Regeneration here would be very visible and there is no nimbyism here - the community wants it.
"They have been sensible discussions with businesses and manufacturing sites on this side of the Bristol Road to make sure it will be compatible.
"It is encouraging. It is good for the planning minister to see what can be done and also the positive effect of a section 106 contribution to Podsmead. It would be very well received."