9 Mar 2010

Make views known on Ruscombe Valley

Nearly a 100 people turned out at Whiteshill Village Hall last week - many had heard that 60 sites listed in the consultation are in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) including up to 588 houses in the Ruscombe valley, 240 filling the hillside between Ruscombe and Randwick.

Photo: People leaving the meeting - I forgot to take one earlier!

See my blog here for more background to this threat to our valley.

As many know we currently are being consulted on some options for housing and employment in the District - this blog post covers the view of Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish Chair below and some of the queries that have been raised about the sites.

I also again give links to the consultation on the seven Alternative Strategies - it is vital as many as possible participate before the 22nd March deadline - the Parish Council hope to produce some info soon for people to help them participate - this blog will hopefully let you know but far better you respond in your own words!

The Core Strategy will form the basis of a new set of planning policies that guide development for housing, jobs and community facilities - so it is critical! I must again stress this consultation is being carried out because of Government policy - see more below - and there is no way that all the sites listed will be chosen - many are clearly unsuitable - but we need to make clear that Ruscombe valley is unsuitable.

By 2026 the district needs to find 2,000 new homes and encourage a new generation of jobs. To tackle this, seven Alternative Strategies have been created. These strategies set out different ways of providing for future development i.e. what could go where. The council wants your views on which of the alternative strategies work best. None of these strategies are set in stone and the final choice maybe a mix of several stratagies.

A mini guide that briefly outlines the seven strategy options has been produced. The 'Your district, Your future' guide is available at all town and parish council offices as well as public libraries. Copies can also be found at the district council offices and Stroud Subscription Rooms. Alternatively the mini guide, along with the full questionnaire and consultation documents, can be downloaded at www.stroud.gov.uk/core

Comments can be submitted online or by post.

On this blog I have covered much about all this before - see here the comments about the key local sites made in October - the photo here shows some of the sites.

The Strategic Housing Land Availability section is where you can find details about the sites assessed for housing:

Letter to press by Dr John Rogers

Some folks may have seen the letter by Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish Council chair Dr John Rogers writing in the SNJ. He has given permission to copy it here:


your article on SDC's Core Strategy consultation only covers part of the process. After a strategy option has been selected the actual sites for development will be chosen. These will come from a list called the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA). This list was draw up by some consultants and appears to include every site that has been rejected for development in recent years. This includes 60 sites in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) including up to 588 houses in the Ruscombe valley, 240 filling the hillside between Ruscombe and Randwick. It states that up to 1,518 houses could be built on two sites at the start of the Painswick valley and 251 house at the start of the Slad valley. A full list of the sites and map of their locations can be found at www.stroud.gov.uk/docs/localplan/housing_land.asp.

It is true that there are no specific plans to build on these sites at present, that will come after the strategy has been approved. If like me you are appalled that sites in the AONB are even being considered for building on please contact your District Councillor to get them to put pressure on the Planning Department to exclude all sites in the AONB and those with a high visual impact from the SHLAA.

Yours Sincerely Dr John Rogers

Re concerns regarding the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment January 2010

This was carried out by consultants and it does seem to have many mistakes. It is important these are highlighted. Here are some of the points already made:

Site 87 "Land behind Farmhill Lane". Although it is used for dog walking the site is in fact registered as agricultural land and is used for hay production not recreational as noted in the report. This site was purchased in 2004 by a landbanking company who subdivided it into over 150 lots which were sold separately so it is not owned by a single owner as stated in the Assessment. The "Accessibility Information" is also wrong, why "Stroud - Sainsbury" should be considered as a centre is not clear particularly as there are a number of shops and businesses in Cainscross and Ebley which are nearer to the site (this mistake is repeated for sites 121 and 65).

Here is a comment from the planner relating to the last points:

- Regarding the accessibility assessment of the site it appears that unfortunately Cainscross Co-op was missed off the consultants list of supermarkets which explains why Sainsbury’s was listed as being the closest retail/service centre to the site. The Co-op has now been included and the revised proforma will list the Co-op as the nearest centre to the site.

- In response to the information you have provided the principal use of the site will be changed on the site assessment from recreation to agriculture. Apologies for the incorrect classification.

- The ownership details for the site have now been amended. The site is now listed as having more than one owner and the availability assessment has also been changed. I agree that the assessment should have picked up on the fact that the site is in multiple ownership and apologise for that error. However, this wouldn’t actually change the overall view of the site’s potential. It is achievable, possibly suitable and possibly available. In terms of availability, the site was submitted by an interested party and there was nothing in the submission to suggest that the other site owners would categorically not wish the site to come forward. So the 2014 onwards assessment holds.

SHLAA is not a policy making document

I think it is also worth noting that the District Council have consistently said that the SHLAA is not a policy making document but that it provides one part of the evidence base in the preparation of the LDF and the Core Strategy in particular. This is reiterated in the main report itself. In that context, the SHLAA findings are just that … they are NOT recommendations. The SHLAA has been prepared in accord with government guidance.

Greenfield sites have to be considered in the SHLAA even if they are in the AONB. It is the policy making process that will determine which (if any) of the sites considered in the SHLAA come forward as allocations for housing eventually. The consultants have identified that, based on its AONB designation, it is questionable as to whether the site is suitable. In the actions, they make clear that one of the actions is to determine whether the AONB policy constraint can be lifted – this is a policy matter.

Regarding inclusion of sites within the AONB, Paragraph 21 of the SHLAA Guidance states that “particular types of land or areas may be excluded from the Assessment. Where this is the case, the reasons for doing so will need to be justified and agreed by the members of the partnership. Except for more clear-cut designations such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, the scope of the Assessment should not be narrowed down by existing policies designed to constrain development, so that the local planning authority is in the best possible position when it comes to decide its strategy for delivering its housing objectives”.

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