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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

 

 

 

 

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: 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.

 

Claydon: Solar Farm granted Planning Permission

Picture of a solar farm (thanks to www.telegraph.co.uk). Please note that this image is for illustrative purposes only and may not reflect either the design or aesthetics of the Proposed Development

Picture of a solar farm (thanks to http://www.telegraph.co.uk). Please note that this image is for illustrative purposes only and may not reflect either the design or aesthetics of the Proposed Development

I can now confirm that the Application for an 18.2MW Solar Farm on land to the South of Claydon Farm, Claydon, was Permitted at the Meeting of the Tewkesbury Borough Council Planning Committee this morning.

The details can be found on the TBC website using the Planning Reference 14/00785/FUL.

Pamington Development Application: Your views on Access Options

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A number of Pamington Residents have already contacted me to discuss their thoughts on access to the Proposed Development off Pamington Lane, and its potential impact on traffic in the Village.

Road Safety on Pamington Lane is an ongoing issue for local people. It is a problem which has featured heavily in Planning Applications, in discussions and in complaints over its use as a rush-hour cut through, and the speeds that drivers travel.

With this in mind, I am sure that many will be pleased to hear that Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) have contacted Ashchurch Rural Parish Council this week and want to consider local opinion on options, prior to submitting their recommendation to Tewkesbury Borough’s Planning Department before a decision on the Application is then made.

GCC are looking for a response from the Parish very quickly. For this reason, I have asked for and received the permission of the Council to publish the message they received, so that as much feedback as possible can be passed back to GCC before they make their submission. The main points/questions of the note received on Wednesday are as follows:

[We are] reviewing this application on behalf of Gloucestershire County Council highway authority, looking at the local road impact, the Highways Agency will be assessing the impact on the A46.

You will be aware that the developer is proposing to alter the priority of Pamington Lane in order to discourage rat running, see attached plan (please click here – Pamington Lane), I would welcome the PC’s view on this matter, without prejudice to the comments made on the application by APC. If permission is granted with a highway scheme as shown, that scheme cannot be altered at a later date, therefore I would recommend that input is provided at this stage, so that alterations could be made to the scheme in the event that permission is granted. Based on the developer’s plans there are two options:

1. Alter the priority of Pamington Lane as shown on plan. This may to some extent discourage rat running, however it will also mean that existing residents will have to give way on Pamington Lane where they have not in the past. The re-alignment will also help to reduce vehicle speeds by breaking up the relatively long and straight road, with a give way junction.
2. Maintain Pamington Lane as the priority route and have the proposed development arm to the west of Pamington Lane as the give way arm. Existing residents will not be inconvenienced by having to give way on Pamington Lane, however rat running will not be discouraged, and with a wider Pamington Lane carriageway as proposed by the developer (5.5m), vehicle speeds could increase. Potentially traffic calming could be considered to discourage rat running if option 2 is the preferred option.

I would welcome your thoughts on this matter by the 14th January at the latest.

As you can see, the timescale is very short. So if you would like to let me know which – if any – of the options you would prefer – along with any other brief points you may have, could I ask that you e-mail me on councillor.tugwell@tewkesbury.gov.uk by no later than 9.30 am on Tuesday (13th January 2015). I will then pass on the information that I have both to the Parish Council and GCC.

It is important to note that giving your views on the options will not be considered as support for the Application. The decision still rests within the Planning Process and consent is by no means guaranteed at any stage.

I remain of the view that this Proposed Development (TBC Ref: 14/00972/OUT) is not in the best interests of the Ward and that the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) Strategic Allocation for Ashchurch already places an excessive development burden on the area, before any of the additional proposals that we are aware of are considered. However, if this development should be approved either by TBC’s Planning Committee or at some further stage, I also accept that it is vital that the Community and its Representatives have done everything possible to influence the best outcomes for the future which are possible in the circumstances.

The plan attached with the note can again be downloaded by clicking this link: Pamington Lane

 

Aston Fields: Outline Application for 550 Homes

Barratt-Developments-buil-006I can now confirm that an Outline Application has been made and formally listed with Tewkesbury Borough Council for land off Aston Fields Lane, listed under Reference Number 14/01245/OUT, and can be viewed on the Borough’s Planning Portal by following this Link.

This is an Application which has already been discussed by many local people and I have been made aware of the views of many local Residents. Irrespective of whether we have talked about this Proposal before or not, I will be pleased to discuss any concerns that Residents may have and can be contacted by e-mail at councillor.tugwell@tewkesbury.gov.uk. I will also be attending the next Meeting of Ashchurch Rural Parish Council which is scheduled to be held later this Month.

As with all Planning Applications, if you wish to make your views known, the best advice I can give to everyone is to write or e-mail the Planning Department. Your view is always important and even if the result of an application turns out not to be how you would like it to have been, your input will have been put on record, and could turn out to be useful in the future.

image: theguardian.com

Christmas Tree Recycling in Tewkesbury Borough

Christmas tree recycling in Catford, Lewisham, South LondonWith the end of the Festive Period now in sight, Tewkesbury Borough Council are once again offering the Treecycle Scheme for Residents who would like to kick off 2015 with a green start.

If you would like to recycle your real Christmas Tree and stop it being sent to landfill, you can take your Tree to one of 12 locations for it to be collected and composted.

Trees can also be taken to any of the places below from 2 to 17 January 2015:

 

Around Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward:

  • Pamington Farm Christmas Tree Centre, Pamington
  • Tewkesbury Garden Centre, The Mythe, Worcester Road, Tewkesbury
  • Blooms, Evesham Road, Bishop’s Cleeve

Other locations across the Borough:

  • Gotherington Nurseries, Gretton Road, Gotherington
  • Toddington Garden Centre, Toddington Railway Yard, Toddington
  • Norton Garden Centre, Tewkesbury Road, Down Hatherley
  • GL3 Community Hub, Cheltenham Road East, Churchdown
  • Dundry Nurseries, Bamfurlong Lane, Staverton
  • Dawn Nurseries, Shurdington Road, Shurdington
  • Greenway Nurseries, Main Road, Shurdington
  • Wyevale Garden Centre, Shurdington Road, Brockworth
  • Primrose Vale PYO, Shurdington Road, Bentham

Trees can also be taken to any of the Household Recycling Centres in Gloucestershire.

Alternatively, if you have subscribed to the Council’s garden waste collection service, you can recycle your trees in your brown garden waste bin. Trees must be in the bin and if they are taller than 8ft, must be cut in half to allow them to enter the collection vehicle safely.

Only real Christmas trees can be composted and all decorations must be removed beforehand.

 

image: http://www.theguardian.co.uk

 

 

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.