Tag Archives: Tewkesbury

Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff: Flood Risk & Resilience Event to be held in Tewkesbury on 2nd December 2014

2faf76aafe8cef3f6239595852a9fd90208ebc19For those residents and businesses who may have concerns about protecting their property, a Flood Risk and Resilience Event is being held to offer support and advice.

The event, which is being held on Tuesday, 2 December 2014 at the Watson Hall in Tewkesbury, offers people the opportunity to find out about the different grants available, and to chat through any concerns or ideas. Members of the public are invited to drop in at any time between 3pm and 5.30pm.

Representatives from the Environment Agency, Gloucestershire County Council’s Civil Protection team, Tewkesbury Borough Council, Gloucestershire Rural Community Council and the Flood Memories team from the University of the West of England will be present to provide advice and support where possible.

A free workshop will also be held between 6pm and 8pm where members of the public are invited to join in with others to put together a community emergency plan for their local area. The workshop will offer ideas and suggestions for what might work for your local area – and there will also be the opportunity to gain some practical tips.

image: bbc.co.uk

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

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.