The Joint Core Strategy now reaches the Government stage this Thursday. But what happens while we wait for the Autumn 2015 Report and why wasn’t it avoided?

I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time over the last weekend and early part of this week to send e-mails to Members of Tewkesbury Borough Council concerning the Joint Core Strategy process.

The concerns raised are not lost on me in any sense. Many should have already been taken into consideration and acted upon within the JCS programme which is now being handed to the Government for final review on the 20th of November.

Many of you were hoping for change. But the very frustrating part of all this has been that the decisions that really counted were taken over a year ago.

Once a majority of Members voted the project through in early September 2013, no matter what consultations and processes have taken place since, that was basically the whole thing done and dusted, seemingly without any hope of change, unless it were to be rejected at the stage where it is submitted to the Secretary of State.

This itself is extremely unlikely. The whole JCS Process, rather like applications going through the Planning Process itself has been conducted very much as a tick-box exercise.

The modus operandi has been squarely focused upon the requirements placed upon Local Authorities by Central Government and any flexibility which might come from the interpretation which that may have allowed, has almost certainly always been used to facilitate and sure-up the three-way arrangement between Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury which myself and other Members have long since argued has been anything but in the best interests of the people that we as Ward Councillors – and collectively as a Council – represent.

Our voices fell on deaf ears and the practical implications of what is a flawed process and three-Authority-Strategy have been manifesting in the shape of all of the ‘lightning’ developments which have either reached Application stage or are in the processes of doing so, that involve building on land which is not even included within the JCS Strategic Allocation(s). This itself is set to continue until such time as the JCS is formally approved; the Report on which is itself not due until Autumn 2015.

Put the prospect of the developments which could receive consent in the next 12 months to one side, and right around the Borough, there is clearly massive concern about the realities of rubber stamping a long-term Planning Strategy which will effectively give a green light to developers to build across a 20+ year development allocation that will see much of our beautiful landscape and Villages changed forever – when as a Borough, we are and were simply at no stage obliged to make anything remotely like such a commitment.

These kinds of concerns are no less prevalent in the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward and are probably more so. We are currently witnessing developers looking to build almost everywhere along the A46 apart from the JCS Strategic Allocation in and around the Ashchurch Camp site itself and this doesn’t consider other areas that fall behind the Camp and will no doubt have a significant impact on Northway too.

Nobody should be under any illusion that a combination of the state of the Planning System today and the avoidable time that the JCS has taken – rather than pursuing a much better and wholly expedient Policy just for the Borough – potentially makes such Applications very difficult to stop. In this specific instance alone, it now threatens the very identities of Aston-on Carrant, Aston Cross, Ashchurch and Pamington as independent communities and Villages.

People from outside both the working and political environments of Local Authorities do see the inability of the Planning System to police and enforce the very Policies they have in place, irrespective of whether it is due to the ability of a higher power to override any local decision at a higher level, or whether there simply isn’t the money available in the local public purse to pursue developers who seem to have bottomless pits for pockets where making money is concerned.

Locally, we have already witnessed one company having developed and put into use an industrial sized chicken production unit at Starveall without Planning Consent for a large part of it, once it had Consent for the initial Plan. It is more than regrettable that nobody really knows what might now lie ahead, once the JCS has been put firmly in place.

It is simply wrong that the views of local people are being ignored and where they have not spoken, that their best interests now and for the future are not being considered as they should, by all of the people who are elected to represent them.

Nonetheless, everything you all have to say and how you feel is still important, even if it doesn’t influence a decision the way you might like to see it go this time.

Keep registering your comments, objections and even support for developments – where they will benefit your Community – by contacting your Local Planning Authority and getting them recorded.

Being able to say ‘I told you so’ wont help anybody and certainly wont turn the clock back. But evidence of the strength of your feeling and the reasons why you feel that way certainly does have the ability to influence future decisions.

Better still, it could at some point help those of us who really care to change the System and benefit us all.

 

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