Tag Archives: Planning

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

 

 

 

 

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

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.

 

Pamington, The Chicken Farm and damage to Starveall Lane

Starveall 6

Local Residents meet a Photographer from the Gloucestershire Echo at one of the damaged points on Starveall Lane, 9am Friday 21st March 2014

It’s been a long week In Pamington. With little more than a month passed since the highly controversial decision of Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Planning Committee to grant Planning Approval for a Chicken Farm at Starveall (9 votes to 8), nobody – not even the Council itself – had been expecting exploratory or ‘test’ bore holing to begin in the area of the Site.

With so much of the concern of Residents being focused upon the restructuring and ‘commercial use’ of Starveall Lane, which travels nearly a mile from the nearest road, everyone in the Village had assumed that no work would take place on the Site, before the Lane itself had been developed.

They were therefore shocked to find an articulated lorry reversing along the whole length of the Lane before this had happened, and absolutely horrified when the long-predicted damage to the surface immediately appeared.

Receiving e-mails from people in Pamington over last weekend, there was little I could do to seek clarity on what was actually underway and whether it broke the terms of the Planning Permission as many people already thought.

It actually took until Wednesday and a meeting with the Borough Solicitor to gain full clarity on the position and to say I felt as frustrated as everyone in Pamington would be an understatement indeed.

Amazing as it will seem to those reading, as the testing has taken place outside the official development Site, in Legal terms it is considered to be unrelated to the Development. The fact that were it not for the Development going ahead, there would have been no need for the testing to be taking place gives no grounds in current Planning Law for arguing that the Terms of the Planning Permission have been in any way breached.

The very painful pill to swallow is that the arbitrary nature of the way that the Planning Decision was made and observed to be made by many residents has also left local people woefully exposed to what happens next. Planning Legislation in the times of ‘Localism’ actually gives very little thought for the issues which relate most closely to locality. The system is flawed and there is simply no justice when people are having this kind of experience and find themselves at the mercy of the one-size-fits-all and quixotic mentality of London based policy making.

Whilst this is the reality of this specific situation, the approach adopted not just by Tewkesbury Borough, but also by the majority of Local Authorities seems at best defeatist. At worst, it appears completely contrary to the purpose for which Council’s were created to exist and against the will and the best interests of the very people who elect them to take those responsibilities on their behalf.

The real depth of this story is that people everywhere are being failed because those with the responsibility to deliver something better on their behalf are not stepping up to the mark to do it, simply because they see that rules prevent them from doing so.

The rules aren’t working for the very people they are supposedly there to serve and that will stay the same until organisations that will be noticed by Central Government when they do act, actually start to do so.

Local Authorities can do this, but their political relationships with the Government simply mean that they won’t. When it boils down to it, it is political affiliations, groups, parties and all efforts being focused on keeping them in power which are making every day and real life situations like the one which has unfolded in Pamington so very hard for normal people living their lives to bear.

Moving forward, accepting that the Chicken Farm will go ahead is now something that everyone in Pamington has to face.

However, I am continuing to follow up with the Planning Department very closely and hope that interventions from Organisations such as those with responsibility for the Gas Pipeline which Starveall Lane crosses will at the very least bring some positive influence upon the approach to the way that the development takes shape from here.

My thanks goes to Pamington Residents Association for their continuing efforts to keep everyone regularly informed.

 Starveall 7

Starveall Farm: Planning Policy and the centrally-derived system of deferral, qualification and elimination is putting Local Planning Decisions in the hands of bureaucrats and gives a lie to Localism…

Pamington Residents await Members of Tewkesbury Borough Council's Planning Committee on 4th February 2014.  Members Granted Planning on a majority of 9 to 8

Pamington Residents await Members of Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Planning Committee on 4th February 2014. Committee Members Granted Planning on a majority of 9 to 8

‘Localism is nothing but words’ is a phrase that many people living in Pamington will no doubt be using for a considerable time to come after Tewkesbury Borough’s Planning Committee voted by a narrow margin earlier today to permit the construction of a Chicken ‘Farm’ at Starveall.

After a lengthy debate in which nearly all Members of the Planning Committee asked questions, commented or debated the Plan, it was clear that the decision would be close.

Pamington Residents who attended and commented to me afterwards had not expected to hear 2 different Members tell the Committee that there was in effect no point in objecting because the Plan would go through on Appeal anyway. They had certainly not expected to see some Members of the Committee choosing not to vote and I can certainly understand why they were frustrated and felt completely let down when the Decision was then made on a majority of 9 votes to 8.

I have made little secret of my concerns about the arbitrary nature of the Planning System and the way that a centrally derived policy of deferral, qualification or elimination can effectively dismiss the decisions of Local Planning Committees themselves.

But irrespective of what different Government Agencies, Authorities or NGO’s have to say regarding their very subjective views concerning the relationship of proposals with their own Policies, the reality is that no voter or member of public – who doesn’t have knowledge of the System –  is expecting any decision but that of the people they Elected to represent them, to carry the overwhelming weight in a Planning Decision. Circumstances that would actually reflect localism in their literal sense if not its truest form when borne out.

Having followed the Plans for this Site since I first received documents outlining the proposal from the Applicant’s Agent in 2012, through Parish Council and Public Meetings, right up until I attended the Site Inspection Panel Meeting on the 23rd of January, I had no doubt that I would speak when the time for a Decision came, and this is what I said to the Planning Committee this morning:

“It would to my knowledge be quite correct to state that other than the Applicant himself, Residents and Businesses from the area are universally against this application and what it represents in terms of the blight on the landscape, the environmental considerations, the potential related impact upon flood issues in the locality and beyond, and the access issues which all accompany a sizeable commercial project which is unquestionably profit led.

Let me be clear in saying that I am not against business, commerce or any private enterprise doing the best that it can with the resources that are available to make the very best of the opportunities that are open to it. I am however against any enterprise doing so when there will be a direct and negative impact upon the quality of living for others or a potentially serious escalation in the threat of injury or harm to the public which cannot be justified for any purpose other than for a savvy business to make money and because distantly set central government legislation simply allows them to do so.

Many of us are simply struggling to understand how the junction from Pamington Lane on to the A46 by Ashchurch Camp can be considered to be safe for the access and egress of what may be some of the biggest heavy goods vehicles which are permitted on the UK’s roads without very specific exemptions. Members will have surely noted the pictures provided by residents of a vehicle of similar size and proportion pictured to these at this junction which is on a stretch of road as notorious for existing safety concerns as it is for the accompanying traffic volume issues which I understand may already be critical to the viability of several high profile sites in the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward within an implemented JCS.

Put simply, nobody who knows this site locally believes this junction is safe for this kind of commercial traffic to access Pamington even now, and that’s before absolutely anything else gets built.

The rising volumes of traffic on the A46 which will inevitably come with the developments that residents in this Ward are having to contemplate even without including the proposal here today will make serious accidents all the more likely, and that is before the introduction of what will be heavy goods vehicle manoeuvres of a seriously traffic flow-obstructing and visibility reducing nature.

Surely Members will recognise that local knowledge; what is in effect situational objectivity, and common sense must override the tick-box, distant and highly subjective approach which is arguably being employed by the Highways Agency who – let’s face it, are not best known for their touchy-feely nature or for employing any discernible level of collaboration with key stakeholders.

Take any allowance given to the emotional buy-in that will remove value from the arguments of local people and the fact still remains that neither this Junction nor Pamington Lane are suited to the proposed level of heavy goods traffic use which will come with Planning being approved and would therefore be likely to suffer a significant reduction in road safety for all users as a result.

Before I conclude, I believe that it should also be of great concern to this Committee that by granting approval to this application, I understand that Members will also grant de-facto approval for the construction of an extensive roadway to the site with no less than 5 passing places between Pamington lane and the farm, which are sufficient to accommodate vehicles of such a size.

Such permission will see the destruction of what is arguably little more than an historic green lane which has existed and given pleasure to local people for many generations. I now understand that approval will lead it to be bulldozed and gravelled over simply because it is a public right of way and because Gloucestershire Highways can authorise such a construction for its entire length and up to a width of 30 Feet at any point, should they choose to do so. What exactly is fair to everyone but the applicant about that?

Mr Chairman, I appreciate very well how the Planning system works and the interpretive nature of the Members responsibility which is all too often misinterpreted by those who innocently perceive that the buck always stops within these four walls.

However, applications such as this illustrate just how flawed a system is that has the ability to allow applications like this to gain approval just because planning is effectively based on a London-generated, one size fits all mentality.

The reality is that whilst different, to the residents of Pamington, building a chicken farm at Starvall is as real as the threat from building on floodplain to residents living in Tewkesbury Town or building on the Greenbelt to people who have homes around Churchdown.  Local people are expecting local decisions to reflect this.

I ask all of you to consider what I have said closely and to reject this Application, which is not in the interests of the majority of the people who reside, work, run businesses or travel through this parish and is not in the interests of the people who already have homes and lives in this ward or in the future may do so.”

I remain firmly of the view that local issues that only affect local people should be dealt with at local level, unless there is a matter of genuine national interest which overrides them.

Sadly and most regrettably, this didn’t happen today.

Adam’s related Blogs:

Flooding: A truly democratic system should allow for changes in Planning Legislation which will limit the damage which future flooding events have the power to cause

A Chicken Farm in Pamington may suit the needs of one business, but will do little to bolster the quality of life for anybody else living there

A Chicken Farm in Pamington may suit the needs of one business, but will do little to bolster the quality of life for anybody else living there

Thursday December 13th 2012 saw not just a first, but third meeting held locally to discuss the pending Planning Application made on behalf of FC Jones and Co, to build a ‘Poultry Unit’ at Starveall Farm near Pamington.

Emotions ran high amongst what was a very large local audience for a Parish Planning Meeting, made up of Residents, Farmers and those representing local Businesses not only from Pamington itself, but also from Ashchurch, Claydon, Tredington Fields and the surrounding areas. It would be fair to say that the Applicant and their Agent Bruton Knowles’ unsolicited decision to step back from their request to take part in the Meeting only hours before, probably led to a far more productive evening for those present as questions were methodically asked of Borough and County Officers, whilst a list of growing concerns were tabled.

As a local Elected Member of Tewkesbury Borough Council representing the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward, it was clear from the moment that the Applicant’s ‘Community Consultation Scheme Summary’ hit my doormat in September that the Plan would be at best controversial, and it wasn’t long before the true level of local concern over what some consider to be the possible creation of an industrial sized ‘chicken factory’ became very clear indeed.

From my own perspective, each and every one of the issues which have been raised to date are very real indeed and many in isolation should be justification enough for the rejection of a Scheme which could negatively impact upon real lives in many ways. However it is once again inappropriate use and traffic levels along Pamington Lane which cause the greatest level of concern, when misuse of an ‘access only’ road by through traffic, speeding and littering are already a major and historic concern for residents and Councillors alike.

Adding regular and repeated Heavy Goods traffic onto a road which simply wasn’t constructed with this purpose in mind would arguably create an additional and therefore unacceptable level of danger to road users, pedestrians and even horse riders in a rural backwater where it genuinely does appear to be the case that it is only the Herefordshire-based Applicant who is in favour of the change.

Equally, access to the Starveall site itself is yet another issue which is far from clear as the Applicant does not own the historic, picturesque and wildlife-rich trackway to the site, which I understand has never required any form of upgrade since it was used only by horse and cart, and would require further development to be genuinely fit for purpose – a matter which has not even been agreed with the landowners.

It is in fact probably on this note and that of the Applicant’s and their Agent’s approach where much of my own early concerns were raised when it became immediately clear upon written request that the ‘Reports’ which would have substantiated the statements made on the ‘Consultation’ document stating that all areas of concern had been addressed were basically not then available.

Minded that many of the serious environmental-impact related questions raised by participants at the December Meeting should have already been at this stage answered by the existence of this apparently robust set of Reports, many will share similar concerns that the last of the Applicant-based Consultation material was not made available on the web until what I understand was just a matter of days before the Application was submitted.

It would perhaps on this basis be easy to conclude that a meaningful consultation did not therefore take place with all those who would be affected and likely that many would also conclude from the chain of events that comprehensive support for the Application may have simply just been assumed.

Ashchurch Rural Parish Council’s Planning Meeting was held and facilitated that evening in a highly professional manner which is a fitting endorsement to this comparatively new, but highly proactive Council. The Committee unanimously voted against both the Application for the Poultry Unit and an associated Domestic Dwelling, and the matter now passes to the Planning Committee of Tewkesbury Borough for decision, probably early next Month.

Environmental factors and Road Safety will surely be the biggest points for consideration, but I also hope that impact upon the quality of life of those who already call these Villages home will be clearly in mind.

After all, it is not just today’s residents who may be affected by the plans. The poignancy of the future for the Ashchurch Camp is illustrated only too well by the recent opening of the Ashchurch View Care Home, where residents currently enjoy open and freshly fragranced field views across our beautiful countryside.  Should the site be closed, few would doubt that its development as part of a Joint Core or the preferable Single Core Strategy for Tewkesbury would follow. But even large scale Developers are unlikely to give good money for land which people may no longer pay top rates for once developed and this may well be a fact that the decision makers would wish to ponder.

Members of the Planning Committee will consider the full list of concerns that have been raised along with the evidence that has been provided. We can only ask that the Councillors concerned draw a similar conclusion to Residents and formally decide that Pamington and the surrounding areas simply don’t need an industrial sized Chicken Farm.

To read about the outcome of the Application, please click here

A new Sainsburys for Ashchurch could be a great addition to the local economy; but a development like this needs to consider each aspect of the impact it will have on the lives and businesses it will affect and not just the effort it takes their customers to shop.

Sainsburys proposal to build a new store off Junction 9 of the M5 on the A46 at Ashchurch has certainly started to stir the thoughts of many in the area and not least of all amongst Residents within the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward which borders the site.

With significant housing development sites proposed within the Options of the ‘Preferred Option for a Joint Core Strategy’ (JCS) in the area, some could argue that Sainsburys are undertaking a timely and highly opportune step. Others are already drawing battle lines upon the damage which they speculate such a store would inflict upon the businesses and economy of central Tewkesbury and it is perfectly natural that such concerns need not only to be aired, but considered properly too.

As a local Elected Member, I am concerned about the impact that such a Store would have upon the lives of people living within my Ward, but also recognise that there would also be many advantages to the development coming to the area, not least in terms of the reduced travel requirement for the many local people who currently shop at the Tewkesbury Road Store on the A4019 in Cheltenham – a point not lost upon Sainsburys themselves, who readily placed information boards about the Project for their customers within the entrance of that Store.

Perhaps my biggest concern right now would be the public perception that the JCS will be adopted and that as such, the closure of Ashchurch Camp is not only a foregone conclusion, but also imminent – which at the time of publishing this Blog, it most definitely is not – and that nearby Fiddington is also sure to become host to yet another urban sprawl of the soulless nature you need only travel a few miles to witness at the North of Bishops Cleeve in the Homelands Developments.

Whilst there is a big question to be answered regarding the continuing growth in out-of-town supermarkets, I am considering this specific Proposal in terms of its impact upon the immediate area itself and therefore in isolation, rather than as part of the considerably more complicated issue of retail market share, the growth of supermarket chains and what this will mean for us all in the future. I will perhaps talk about this in a different entry.

On a practical level, study the Plans which Sainsburys have submitted to Tewkesbury Borough Council and you will quickly note that proposed changes to the A46 could create absolute mayhem with the construction of a roundabout which is clearly planned with more focus upon entry to the Store than it is in consideration of the flow of traffic in either direction.

With the Plans making no mention on the impact of additional traffic and a questionable change to traffic flow on an already difficult staggered Northway and Fiddington junction with the A46 – only part of which is light controlled – one has to wonder just how much consideration has been given to the already hideous traffic problems that we already experience, not least of all since the Highways Agency added light-controls onto Junction 9 making peak-time travel in the area a monotonous task to say the least.

On the upside, the addition of a Supermarket which really has been thought out in terms of its impact upon local infrastructure and the wider community would also bring a variety of benefits to a customer base which would go way beyond Tewkesbury and in all likelihood bring shoppers to the area who would not currently travel there and perhaps leave the M5 for any other reason.

With fuel prices keeping us all very concerned, the arrival of a new Petrol Station opposite the BP Site would certainly drive local prices down and potentially create other opportunities for smaller businesses to attract the passing custom into Tewkesbury itself which will be drawn to such a facility.

Those concerned about businesses in Tewkesbury could well be right about a loss of jobs and business closures and neither event would be one that I would wish to see in any event. But a Sainsburys in Ashchurch would arguably facilitate a massive net gain in employment, not least of all for those people seeking part-time work that may currently be impractical to consider with a shortage of this type of work available on such a scale locally.

Looking at the Plans and what they will mean for local people, on balance, a Sainsburys which has been built in consideration of its impact on the wider community – and not just within a few yards of the front gate, could well prove to be a significant boost for the area.

Whilst there are questions that require answers and issues to be resolved, working with the Company now to address these concerns to the satisfaction and mutual gain of all would perhaps be a very sensible plan indeed. It is after all in Sainsburys interests to be seen to support the communities which ‘feed’ custom into it’s Stores and Tewkesbury Town businesses could do a lot worse than to discuss the role of a new Store within the local economy in parallel with the Application Process, even as they make their arguments for its rejection.

As a local Borough Councillor representing Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff, it is in fact Highways issues that concern me most of all as the Application goes forward. I see nothing good coming to the Residents I represent from the road changes as they have so far been proposed and would go as far to say that it would not be good news for anyone who uses the A46 and roads that join from the Business Parks, from Fiddington, Northway or in fact Tewkesbury itself.

If Sainsburys are serious about winning support, they will have to raise their game considerably in considering the traffic and community issues that its construction would generate and demonstrate to us all that they have done so. The Store could prove be a great addition to the local economy; but a development like this needs to consider each aspect of the impact it will have on the lives and businesses it will affect and not just the effort it takes their customers to shop.

You wouldn’t invite your neighbours to build a remote extension in your garden and Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Planning Strategy should be exactly the same.

Sadly, the upholding of the Planning Appeal in respect of the Homelands and Cleevelands Developments in Bishops Cleeve this week has highlighted just how far away Government-derived Planning Legislation actually sits from serving people effectively at a local level. It comes as a highly appropriate reminder that when considering a ‘Preferred Option’ for a Joint Core Strategy (JCS) for Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury, we must work to retain the greatest level of influence for Tewkesbury Borough’s future development within the Borough itself.

As I and a number of other Councillors made clear through an extensive debate when the decision was taken by a majority of Councillors to go out to Consultation on a set of ‘Preferred Options for a Joint Core Strategy’ in October 2011, there is an option which has not been openly publicised or pursued, but which exists and is very real nonetheless. An option which I have already publicly argued as being much more suited and favourable to the needs of current and future Tewkesbury Borough Residents. An option which I have no reason to doubt will benefit only the Borough itself, rather than creating disadvantage to Residents which is completely unnecessary and avoidable, whilst our two urban neighbours have everything to gain.

Whilst the public documents in circulation and even the literature circulated regarding a recent Consultation on the potential closure of the Ashchurch Camp within my Ward arguably indicate that a JCS is inevitable in one form or another, the fact remains that we could – and in my view should – proactively choose to develop and implement a Strategy for Tewkesbury on its own, or if you like, a ‘Single Core Strategy’, with the JCS being consigned to the dustbin with other local authority projects of questionable origins.

One of the great injustices of contemporary politics in this Country is the way that debates, ideas, views and just about everything political seems to be presented or rather ‘spun’ in a way which favours the outcome which is intended. It’s not a question of saying that anyone is lying and without good reason, I would never actively seek to suggest that is actually what has happened. It is simply the case that the desire to achieve any aim to which some involved in government in one capacity or another have become emotionally committed can all too easily lead to the existence of uncomfortable truths which they may not wish to openly entertain.

Equally, excuses such as ‘cost’ can come into play and prevent alternative and potentially better options from emerging, especially when they may not seem as politically expedient to embrace. So I’m sure that anyone who has read this far will know and understand that the absence of certain options, suggestions or indeed facts even innocently left absent, can quickly lead to an assumption for some that they simply do not exist.

On its own, Tewkesbury Borough Council and its Planning Committee have the ability and expertise to develop and implement a Borough-wide Policy which considers all of our housing and commercial property development needs and ‘requirements’, both now and for the foreseeable future. It is these public decision making bodies which local Residents have Elected for that purpose and who should make those very decisions – and those very local decisions on their own – without obligation or pressure from others who have no legitimate right to make such demands.

There is no Legal obligation upon Tewkesbury Borough to work within a partnership of 3 Local Authorities, effectively leaving it to have to accommodate the projected housing requirements of not just one but all three of those Authorities for the period in question. We do not and should not have to accept such excessive rates of development, especially when there is absolutely no benefit to the Borough and its Residents in being required to do so.

So when it comes to even setting development figures for Tewkesbury Borough itself so far in advance, I would argue that the only true beneficiaries from the ear-marking of development land on such a scale are developers themselves and those whose agendas have as yet to become fully clear.

After all, the rate of development needs dictated by genuine requirement in growth of population rather than lifestyle or investment choice will arguably be far less than the rates which have been suggested. Not since the Blitz of the 1940’s have we experienced a de facto requirement for housing development on any kind of industrial scale and there is no cogent argument which suggests that we are in a position with any such similarities now.

Regrettably, until changes take place which leave all Planning decisions in the hands of the people most qualified to make them in the locality within which they are to take place, we have no option but to accept that general Planning Policy has and will be derived from within Central Government. However, within that framework which already exists, Local Councillors and Planning Committee Members have the ability to ensure that they make the very best local decisions possible for the benefit of the people that they collectively represent as an independent Council.

We will not achieve this by putting the needs of Cheltenham Borough and Gloucester City before that of Tewkesbury Residents and allowing others to build in the future, where today there is not a single reason for us to allow them to do so.