Tag Archives: JCS

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.

 

How much more development in Ashchurch before the traffic problems are taken seriously?

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Traffic on the A46 at Ashchurch near Junction 9 of the M5, July 2014

With the Joint Core Strategy’s (JCS) final Public Consultation Phase only having began earlier this week, it really seems quite incredible that a Developer has already began moves towards building over 500 homes and a School on the Northern side of Ashchurch Camp.

Earmarked as part of the JCS Strategic Allocation which includes the Camp, comments suggesting that the Developer concerned may have jumped the gun are already well in circulation. However, it could be asked if this Plan gives a better illustration of the approach which nearly all commercial developers are employing, and one which certainly doesn’t fit with phrases they use to describe their plans in their publicity brochures, such as ‘homes which are much needed by the community’. This does after all come hot on the heels of two other developments in the immediate vicinity which will themselves supply around 300 new homes in the Ashchurch Rural Parish – and which without the JCS being formally ‘rubber stamped’ are regrettably no less likely to go ahead.

So even without the 2000 or more homes earmarked for the Ashchurch Camp at some point between now and 2030, just this Parish alone stands to absorb the better part of a thousand homes with not even the merest hint of comparable job creation in the area of a kind which would necessitate even a fraction of this level of development in the immediate area any time soon.

Sadly, this can only lead people living around the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward to conclude that these homes – if built – will be occupied by commuters who will most likely have 2 cars per household, thereby adding around perhaps 1500 cars to either the A46, the B4079, the roads around Northway or in fact all of them each morning, evening and basically any other time.

Many Residents are already feeling dumbstruck by the quick-fire succession of opportunist Developments along the A46. With an even bigger one that nobody had expected to hear sight nor sound of until the fate of the Camp was definitely known, now on the cards, it is the realities which surround the traffic problems on the A46 which are causing universal concern.

At Monday evening’s Meeting of Ashchurch Rural Parish Council’s Planning Committee, the Developer now carrying out consultation on building 45 homes South of Ashchurch Village was more than happy that the Highways Agency had expressed no concern with regard to the impact their plans would have on the A46, despite the experiences that many of us have almost daily.

With the Representatives present stating to the Council that they had been advised their Plans would have no excessive impact on the capacity of the road network – basically an indication that Highways Officials believe the roads can take more traffic without any major change – it is perhaps little wonder that Developers are apparently falling over themselves to get their Projects built before they find themselves having to contribute to what will at some point become a very expensive process of extensive restructuring the existing Roads or building a new by-pass of some kind – if that indeed remains possible by that time.

My views and approach to the JCS are well known by Residents and I take no pleasure from seeing the chaos which this flawed Strategy is causing to Communities right across Tewkesbury Borough, even before it actually comes into being.

I, like a number of other Tewkesbury Borough Councillors made clear at a variety of points in the process that the best solution for Residents was a Strategy which focused on the Borough – not least of all because of the delays which would inevitably be caused by working with two other Authorities which themselves had much more to gain by drawing out the process for as long as it takes for them to get the best solution to their own Development problems. That unnecessarily delayed process which is being used as a significant window of opportunity by Developers continues, and it seems to be all at the cost of Residents in Tewkesbury Borough and the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward in particular.

We can only hope that when these Proposals reach the Borough Planning Committee, they are rejected on the basis of what has already been promised by this Policy, and in the case of the Development North of the Camp, held back until such time as the Community will not be expected to experience perhaps years of inconvenience and enhanced levels of danger because the infrastructure doesn’t exist that will lead to Residents experiencing otherwise.

 

 

When decisions are made, it’s more often the case that there’s a right way and an easy way. At the Joint Core Strategy decision meeting on Tuesday, the right way would have been to put the interests of the Residents who live and who will live in Tewkesbury Borough first; the easy way was to choose the JCS.

With thanks to source unknown

The Elephant in the room – With thanks to source unknown

 

For those of us in Politics who have an uneasy relationship with the Party system, some decisions can simply be too big and potentially too far reaching to simply submit to flawed thinking or make poor decisions that will negatively affect the lives of many people just because someone working to an agenda has placed themselves in the right place at the right time to see it take shape.

At Westminster in the past week we have seen a vote for armed action in Syria backfire on the Prime Minister specifically because he wasn’t leading with the aim of doing what’s right for everyone in mind. Sadly, the party political format makes such events rare these days and many elected members of the Government are susceptible not only to the whims of their party leadership, but also to the advice and direction of officers and civil servants who simply shouldn’t have the power to manipulate information – not unlike the sexed-up dodgy-dossier on Iraq of Tony Blair’s – when the results of that action will dictate policy which will affect us all in ways we may never even realise.

Unfortunately, travesties of this kind do not appear to be confined to the corridors of Westminster and my own opinion is that Residents across Tewkesbury Borough may now be proved to be on the wrong end of one such event through the adoption of a preferred option of the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) for Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury at the Meeting of the Council on the 3rd of September.

As a result of a Vote in which I was the only Member of the Council’s Conservative Group to vote against the Officer Recommendation; we may not have knowingly been making a decision of life and death and a commitment to using violence as a means to and end. But we were making a decision which will affect the experience and quality of life for the people who live, work and visit this currently beautiful Borough for many years to come.

The Council has made this decision via what many will agree has been a flawed process which looks like it has been deliberately drawn out and manipulated so that the achievement of aims which are far from what is in the best interests of the Borough could be realised – all on the basis of promoting the risks and fear of what might happen if we don’t – with an obvious caveat that we shouldn’t bother to worry about what will happen if we do.

Those flaws culminated in what some would agree could only be described as a farcical end to the debate on Tuesday evening when the Deputy Leader of the Council tabled a motion to ‘put the question’ which effectively ended the debate well before many Members had even had the chance to speak and give representation to their own Electorate, or before I and some of those Members opposing could seek Legal advice on the Mayor’s decision not to allow discussion and a Vote on an Amendment I proposed to adopt a ‘Single Core Strategy for Tewkesbury’ (please see below).

A Single Core Strategy would see an alternative plan adopted which could meet all of our statutory obligations to work with neighbouring Authorities without involvement in the JCS which is itself a direction of travel that will see disproportionately more of Cheltenham and Gloucester’s housing allocation up until 2031 squashed into Tewkesbury Borough than has ever been legally necessary or morally right if properly adopted.

There is little question that the option of a Single Core Strategy for Tewkesbury should have been tabled as a real alternative for people in the Borough for Members to consider, rather than the silent de facto version is was casually presented as to the Meeting by Officers – if the Vote on the Recommendations had failed.

The behaviour of Officers and some Members at the Meeting on Tuesday strongly suggests that the elephant in the room was that putting a question in front of the Elected Representatives of Tewkesbury Borough Council which asked them directly to state whether they were for or against a Strategy for Tewkesbury Borough itself had to be avoided at all costs. After all, the documented choice of putting Tewkesbury first would have made painfully clear just how wrong a plan is which puts the needs and desires of two other Authorities above those of our own Wards and the People that we represent.

As a Representative of the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward, I know that I have given the best voice that I could on their behalf and that I have put the interests of the Ward and Borough above those of my own or the Party that I usually sit with. 12 other Members have done the same and irrespective of their Party or Political leaning I applaude them all for their efforts and for refusing to give up fighting for the best interests of the many Residents who they represent right across the Borough, in the face of what seems to have been a wholly done deal.

We can only hope that either Cheltenham or Gloucester throw this madness out when the time comes for them to decide. But with both standing to gain so much as a result of that which Tewkesbury Residents will lose, I’m not sure that we should give that idea too much hope.

 

If also approved by Cheltenham District and Gloucester City Councils, the ‘Joint Core Strategy’ Document will go out to Public Consultation in October. Further details will be available on the Tewkesbury Borough Council Website.

 

The Amendment I proposed to the Meeting of Tewkesbury Borough Council on Tuesday 3rd September 2013, which was Seconded by Councillor Gordon Shurmer (Ind. Twyning):

I propose that the JCS is replaced with a Single Core Strategy to address the housing and employment needs of the Tewkesbury Borough Administrative Area. The relevant and core Policies together with the evidence base that has been collected to date that relate to the Tewkesbury Borough Administrative Area should be saved to ensure a speedy transition to the Single Core Strategy.

The Draft Single Core Strategy should be brought before Members at the forthcoming Full Council Meeting on the 24th of September 2013 for further consideration by Members.

It is clear that over 45% of the houses being promoted by the JCS are to accommodate house building within Tewkesbury Borough to address both Cheltenham and Gloucester’s housing requirements*. Moving to a Single Core Strategy, this figure would be significantly reduced which would be in the interests of Tewkesbury Borough Residents.

It is also clear that following the answer that was given to me on the 30th July 2013 and to the Council on 4th December 2012 that it would be ‘possible to satisfy the test’ for the duty to cooperate with a Single Core Strategy for Tewkesbury**.

 

*From the figures verbally given by Officers during the Meeting, this figure can be calculated at around 65%

**In response to Questions that I tabled at the Meeting on Tuesday, it was also then verbally confirmed by Officers that Tewkesbury Borough Council could meet its obligations to demonstrate meaningful cooperation with neighbouring Authorities within a Single Core Strategy for Tewkesbury Borough