Members of the public are finally to be allowed to speak at TBC Planning Committee during 12 month trial – but at what real cost to local influence?

lectureAt Tuesday evening’s Meeting of Tewkesbury Borough Council, I was pleased to support a change in the Council’s Planning Policy which will allow the trial of public participation in Planning Committee Meetings for 12 Months.

As a result, Applicants, Developers, Objectors and Members alike will get the opportunity to speak to the Planning Committee when Applications are not determined or decided by Officers under Delegated Powers.

Unfortunately, at the same time, a Vote was also taken on raising the bar at which Applications will automatically be taken to the Planning Committee for Determination.

Given the already all-too-arbitrary nature of the Planning Process, this move has given me considerable concern, especially as it will not now be taken as read that a qualifying objection from a member of the public will not necessarily be enough to trigger Committee Determination, leaving many more Applications in the hands of Officers. I do not support this and voted against it.

An Amendment was proposed from the floor to address this, which was dismissed on the basis that any Elected Member will be able to ‘call-in’ any Application.

Sadly, the point was missed that local Members may not always agree with an objection which in the eyes of others could still be considered legitimate. Also, Members representing other Wards are unlikely to step in to help people they do not represent, unless the objectors are known to them, or become known to them in circumstances which would to many raise questions of propriety.

I am pleased that there has at least been a step towards giving local people more of a voice, even if it was clear that many of those supporting the vote were doing so very reluctantly and to the point that the Leader of the Council, Cllr Robert Vines (Conservative) openly said that it would make Planning boring.

I do have some concerns for Residents, based on my experience as a Licensing Committee Chair. Members of the public who attend public meetings to speak have to their great credit often committed a great amount of time and emotional energy into the process, and can clearly feel greatly intimidated just by the experience of speaking in such an environment, even before you consider that to do so may clearly be making a statement which runs contrary to that of seasoned professionals who are present and ready to pick holes in anything they say.

When Residents objecting to a planning application come to discover that the effort they have made has not made the impact that they had hoped, or even come away realising that their contribution will make no difference at all to a Planning Application – which is a significant risk given the state of the Planning System – I would question the validity and justification for putting people through this at any level.

However, like everything, we do have to start somewhere and moving forward in any sense has to be positive. I will certainly encourage any Resident I am representing who is making an objection to a Planning Application to participate if they wish to do so.

We can only hope that the 12 month ‘test’ opens the door to the TBC Planning Committee finally accepting the legitimacy of local opinion, rather than the trial being used as an excuse to close the door on localism in its legitimate sense for another generation – which judging by the behaviour of many Councillors at Tuesday’s Meeting is sadly a very big risk.

image thanks to source unknown

 

 

 

 

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Walton Cardiff: Wheatpieces Parish Council decides on the future of the Sports Field

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At the Meeting of Wheatpieces Parish Council on Thursday evening, a decision on the future of the Sports Field was finally taken, after a process which has taken many months and included a Parish Consultation where Residents were asked for their views.

The Parish Council has concluded that the option which reflects what most people want right now, will be to have one full sized football pitch marked out on the Field, along with a smaller one too, leaving part of the Field left as grass only and open to other use at all times.

With the Field currently owned and managed by Tewkesbury Borough Council, the Borough will now be asked to undertake the work necessary to prepare the Field for its intended use, and mark out the Pitches – hopefully in time for use in the Autumn.

The question of ownership of the Field was also considered by the Parish Council on Thursday and they have decided that they will now work towards ‘adoption’ from Tewkesbury Borough Council.

This process will be subject to negotiations and legal agreements, but will see Wheatpieces  Parish Council taking responsibility for the Field, along with a sum of money which came from the Developer to maintain the Field for some years to come.

Adopting the Field will see future decisions for its use firmly in the hands of local people – something I have keenly encouraged throughout the discussions which have taken place so far, not least of all as we are experiencing a continuing period of uncertainty over Planning and Development in the Borough.

I understand that there are no other plans for the Field at this stage, either within the Parish Council or at Tewkesbury Borough.

 

 

Pamington Lane Development: Latest news & comment

Starveall 10The Application for the Pamington Lane development finally reached the Planning Committee at Tewkesbury Borough Council at its Meeting this morning.

During a debate which lasted well over an hour, many of the Committee Members discussed the Plans and there was significant agreement with many of the points that I raised on behalf of Residents when I spoke.

Despite many additional points being raised by Committee Members about the clear lack of joined-up thinking in terms of the impact that all of the developments along the A46 are going to have on a road network, which is already far too busy, it became clear that because none of the organisations or agencies such as Gloucestershire Highways or the Highways Agency have raised any objections, there was – in planning terms – no robust reason for the Committee to refuse.

The Committee voted to permit the Application – under delegated authority – on a margin of 7 votes to 6.

I have since been made aware by Residents who attended and were watching from the Public Gallery, that Members who during the debate said that they would not support the Application going ahead, actually didn’t vote – or ‘sat on their hands’.

Sadly, the fact remains that the Joint Core Strategy which arguably prioritised Cheltenham and Gloucester’s development needs way above those of people who live in Tewkesbury Borough, has failed Pamington even before it has been rubber stamped by the Government.

We can only hope that no more significant development applications are submitted from within the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward – even in outline form – before the Secretary of State reaches a decision – hopefully be in the Autumn. Otherwise, these too are likely to be built without any real regard to the wider impact that they will have on our Community.

Many additional houses will also be built which were never projected within the JCS Plans. These are extra homes that will almost certainly only be added to the significant number of houses already set to be developed, rather than be included within.

We should perhaps not forget that the number of houses now planned for development in Tewkesbury Borough would never have been so high in the first place if we had developed a Strategy for Tewkesbury on its own, during a process which would clearly have been much shorter. By now, it will almost certainly have been complete and in all likelihood have prevented the Pamington Lane Development from going ahead.

Who should we thank for that?

Pamington Lane Development: Application reaches Planning Committee

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I attended the Meeting of Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Planning Committee, and spoke to the Members when item 3 on the Agenda was considered, covering the Pamington Lane Development (Ref: 14/00972/OUT)

Following here is what said to the Committee:

Thank you Chair, Members of the Committee will regrettably already be well aware of the background of opportunistic applications such as this one, where unscrupulous developers and land owners are seeking to exploit the loopholes which exist whilst we await the conclusion of the JCS process.

As you will all be well aware, Ashchurch has been identified as a Strategic Site within the JCS, and is as such already targeted to receive well beyond two thousand new homes, in addition to commercial development opportunities; all focused to the north of the A46 at the Army Camp Site.

Whilst it has served some to suggest that this Strategic allocation would not enter the development pipeline until a date much nearer the 2031 end of the JCS Policy lifetime, I would ask that Members note that an Outline Application has already been submitted for some 550 homes and related built infrastructure within this Strategic Site.

Members of this Committee will I am sure, understand very well the nature of the statement such an Application is making about the timescale in which the Ashchurch Site is expected to be online by developers, even if that specific plan could be seen in some ways to be jumping the gun, given the information that is known publicly about the future of the Ashchurch site at this time.

The Application you are being asked to consider today is located literally on the other side of the A46 from the Ashchurch Strategic Site, but clearly not within it. In fact, if the JCS had already been rubber stamped by the Secretary of State, this site would theoretically remain untouched for at least another 16 years. The considerable impact that Development in Ashchurch is going to have on Ashchurch Village, Aston Fields, Aston Cross, Aston on Carrant, Pamington, Northway, the A46 and surrounding travel infrastructure would have been given adequate opportunity to be considered strategically, and local Residents would at least feel there was some surety in what lies ahead in terms of the way their lives are going to be negatively effected, whilst those of a few others are financially enriched.

Instead, we are here today with an Application that does not consider the longer term in any way.

It does not give deference to Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Joint Core Strategy.

It does not give financial contribution to the significant transport infrastructure developments that are already needed for the A46 and surrounding road network that everyone apart from the Highways Agency accepts is already over capacity.

It does not consider the part it will play in the wider strategic impact that the combination of developments we now know to be possible will have on all the surrounding Villages. We will all lose out if requirements such as the already growing need for a localised GP facility in the Ashchurch and Northway area are not only considered in relation to applications such as this, but also fail to receive funding from all of these developments, thereby relinquishing any unnecessary requirements being placed upon the already overstretched public and NHS purse.

Most significantly for the people who will ultimately be most effected, it does not do anything to enhance local road safety for the Residents of Pamington, who have felt so strongly against the Plans as to create an online and growing Petition. With much commuter and local traffic likely to be heading from the site to Cheltenham or via the A435, or to Stow, Evesham or further afield heading East and seeking to avoid a difficult right turn on to a busy truck road, the current speed and safety problems generated by traffic using this access-only-designated Village as a convenient cut through are not exactly going to be reduced. I would like to say that Residents have confidence in the input and recommendations received from Gloucestershire Highways, but I cannot.

Councillors; there is no doubt that where developments along the A46 between J9 and Aston Cross are concerned, the whole is most certainly greater than the sum of its parts.

Residents are looking for protection from the local Planning Authority from opportunistic development of this kind and I have to say that even if some higher Authority were to ultimately overturn a refusal made here today, at least local people will know that when it came to this Site, Local Representation actually put local people first.

I urge Members to reject this Application, knowing that the JCS more than generously provides for the housing requirements of this Borough until 2031, and that Residents should be able to expect protection from their local Planning Authority in respect of development which falls outside of this.

Thank you.

Pamington Lane Development: Petition to stop additional traffic through the Village

photo 2In the conversations I have been having with Residents, it is clear that there is concern that the potential rise in traffic which would come from new homes at this site would be considerable, bearing in mind that many journeys from the site are likely to be made to Bishops Cleeve, Cheltenham and further afield following the A435 South, or alternatively Eastwards along the A46 for Stow, Evesham and again further, avoiding the junction by Ashchurch Camp.

I have already raised this point directly with Gloucestershire Highways during the Consultation Period and know that these concerns are widely shared. However, I do intend to raise it again when I intend to speak at the TBC Planning Meeting on Tuesday 3rd March when the Application will be going to the Committee for Determination.

I have today been asked to publicise a new online petition which has been set up, asking Tewkesbury Borough Council to consider the impact of the proposed Pamington Lane development on traffic through the Village when the Planning Committee makes its decision on the Application.

If you would like to support the Petition, please click here.

The Application can be found on the TBC Planning Portal using Planning Reference 14/00972/OUT.

 

Links to Adam’s Blogs about this proposed Development:

Pamington Lane Development: Planning Application Update

Pamington Development Application: Your views on Access Options

Pamington: Planning Application for 150 Homes off Pamington Lane

Pamington Lane Development: No benefit to Residents – just commercial opportunism

 

Pamington Lane Development: Planning Application Update

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I have just received the List for the Applications which will be considered at the next Meeting of Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Planning Committee, which will be held at 9.00am on Tuesday 3rd March 2015, at the Council Offices, Gloucester Road, Tewkesbury.

The Application concerning the Pamington Lane development (Linden Homes) is listed – Ref 14/00972/OUT and is likely to be considered immediately after both of the outstanding Applications which relate to the unauthorised construction at Starveall Farm – Ref 14/00873/APP (For the dwelling) and Ref 14/00770/FUL (for the additional farm buildings).

From the notes I have been given, I understand that the Officer Recommendation for the Application (which is for Outline Permission) is to Permit.

(Please note that Officer Recommendations may not reflect the decision of the Planning Committee on the day.)

I hope to speak at the Planning Meeting when all these Applications are considered and intend to reflect the comments and concerns that have been raised with me about the proposal and its impact on Pamington and the local area when I do.

If you have anything that you would like to bring to my attention that you believe you may not have already done so concerning this Application, please do e-mail me on councillor.tugwell@tewkesbury.gov.uk .

The Planning Meeting will be open to the general public and seating is available in the Public Gallery. Please go to Reception when you arrive, if you are planning to attend.

 

Aston Fields Proposed Development: Ashchurch Rural Parish Council to discuss at open Meeting on 18th February

Ash church Village Hall Ashchurch Rural Parish Council have arranged an open Meeting to discuss the Planning Application for 550 Dwellings off Aston Fields Lane. The Meeting will be held at Ashchurch Village Hall, on Wednesday 18th February 2015, at 7.00pm. Please click here for a copy of the Agenda . The Parish Council are encouraging Residents to attend and become involved in the Meeting which will help the Council to consider its response to the Consultation which is taking part as part of the Application Process which is underway at Tewkesbury Borough Council (TBC). Whether you attend or not, comments on the Application can be made online using the TBC Planning Portal, by following this link . I plan to attend and will be happy to discuss the Application either before or after the Meeting. image: grcc.org.uk