26 Nov 2011

Where will all the 3,200 houses go in Stroud District?

Ruscombe fields on left near Farmhill face poss development
Regular readers will have seen my initial comments on the Core Strategy - well Thursday night was the big vote at Full Council on housing numbers. Also at Full Council was the incinerator motion - see my last blog yesterday and a motion re borrowing £100m for our Council houses plus some other items like the creation of a Parish Council at Moreton Valance.....anyway to the Core Strategy....

Behind the scenes some horse-trading and discussions have been had - this is about trying to maximise buy in to Core Strategy - after all it is vital that there is some cross-party agreement especially as by May there could be a change in the balance of power - at the moment with the balance is precarious with the Tories relying on an independent Tory to hold the majority. Sadly Labour appear not to have played such an active role in this - am not sure why - indeed they seem to be trying to overturn the results of the consultation and argue for dispersal of housing to every community (80 dwellings in 40 settlements incl Ruscombe valley).......

Dispersal did not come out in the consultation as being most wanted by the people of Stroud District. Are we therefore going to ignore what we have been told by the people of Stroud? Some dispersal maybe suitable but there is still room in the proposals for that in the Neighbourhood Plans.
Larger sites offer best opportunities to bring in employment - we really do need that - we have too much out commuting and it is vital we try to turn that around - this is our opportunity. The larger sites are also often more realistic and deliverable, they offer better use of existing infrastructure, and there are some arguments that these will be lower carbon.

Anyway the discussions prior to the Council led to some cuts in the number of houses in Stroud Valleys from a max of 1,000 to 800. This makes sense. It was put forward in an amendment by the Lib Dems calling for 300 to 800 homes in Stroud Valleys and 1600 jobs; 200 to 500 homes NE of Cam and 1500 jobs; West of Stonehouse 1000 to 1,500 homes and 3,000 jobs, Hunts Grove 500 to 750 homes, Aston Down 100-200 homes plus employment; Sharpness - 200-250 homes plus employment. An extra item was added to the effect that parishes that indicate they want extra homes should be included ie through the Neighbourhood Plan. 
Anyway to cut a long story short that was accepted - I have been interrupted several times writing this blog so apols if it doesn't hang together - wanted to get something out. Basically the possibility of development in the Ruscombe fields (photo above by Mike Gallagher) and Callowell is still there - but as noted in the previous blog they are part of the alternative strategy not the preferred. It will be vital that as many residents as possible participate in the consultation which is now set for Jan/Feb. More on that nearer the time.
The Green group did put an amendment in re sustainability (click read more below) - it was lost - only the 5 Greens voted for it - this in spite of the fact that everyone said they supported it in principle, they just thought this was a meeting to discuss numbers not principles! To me the whole issue of quality and quantity cannot be separated. Residents will be far happier to have well designed new homes than what goes up in many places today - as I said at the meeting higher densities are also possible if the design is right - some of the highest density housing is in our Cornish fishing villages where many want to live.

Anyway I have to dash now but hope this is a useful update.

Green Party amendment to Cabinet’s core strategy proposal, 24 November 2011

National guidelines for the development of core strategies require them to be based in an understanding of sustainability that requires the decisions of present generations not to compromise the freedoms of future generations; they also require that we live within environmental limits. These criteria cannot be met without making decisions about housing allocations based on a consideration of the need to build sustainable and resilient communities, rather than simply allocating numbers of houses to sites.

In order to achieve these national requirements, due weight will be given
to the following considerations in respect of all new housing developments
in the Stroud District:

House designs should meet the national zero-carbon standard
Developments should give regard to amenity space including communal
Access to public transport links

In the case of large-scale developments (500+ homes) the Council will seek
significant contributions towards improved public transport connections,
including the re-opening of the Midland Road railway station in Stonehouse.

In addition, and in order to increase overall sustainability in the
District, consideration will be given to planning policies such as
renewable energy initiatives including community-owned wind turbines,
compulsory purchase of unused brownfield sites and houses for
re-development, and increasing the supply of affordable housing.

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