11 Mar 2012

Ruscombe Valley at risk? Time to complete online consultation

First slide of parish presentation
On Tuesday Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish Council held a public meeting about the threat to our valley - in particular the two sites - Ruscombe Valley (labelled in the consultation as 'land behind Farmhill Lane') and Callowell fields. Both are threatened with development under the alternative strategies being proposed. While in some ways this is unlikely in near future (see comments as risk grows - on p61 of doc is possibility of additional housing growth) as the sites are really not at all suitable for housing we need to be very clear on this - other groups like at Eastington don't want 1,500 houses there and if they win that then those houses will have to go somewhere and I fear we could lose these great green spaces....

Back in January I blogged on the Core Strategy consultation - see here - well we have until 19th to complete the online consultation at: http://www.stroud.gov.uk/consult (Core Strategy Consultation). I have commented before on the strategy - see here - and would urge people to participate. It is not the easiest consultations but please make a go of it....

Ruscombe fields on left near Farmhill face poss development
What was welcoming at the Parish meeting, which saw more around 40 people attend, was that people were not opposed to all development and at one point a healthy discussion arose about the need for affordable housing, possible welcoming of a couple of handfuls of houses/infills - but not the destruction of the valley and what makes Stroud special - if we lose fields like Callowell we will lose what makes Stroud special - a place that draws business and tourism - those sites really cannot, must not be developed.

The Parish also shared during the evening the plans for a Village Design statement - a working group is being established that hopes to influence and improve the design of new build in the Parish.

The Green group on the District Council will be submitting a paper to the Core Strategy consultation. Greens believe that the current core strategy proposals are driven largely by the need to allocate space for 3,200 new homes. This is the wrong starting point. The core strategy should be driven by the objective of making Stroud District more equal, more sustainable and more resilient in the period of the strategy up to 2026. The starting point should be building communities where people want to and can afford to live, with more local employment, with access to leisure, schooling and services that don’t always require a car journey. 

Part of the solution is to address the distorted economics that is the constant driver to inappropriate development. Landowners and developers make super-profits on the conversion of greenfield to land with permission for building – even without building a single home. As I noted at the meeting, currently there are brownfield sites in Stroud District with permission for houses, that are not being built because there is more profit in converting greenfield.  There are also derelict and under-used ex-industrial sites that are being run-down and not being developed for employment, because the owner ‘hopes’ eventually to get permission for housing, and thus make a super-profit. This is not right.

The impulse to build new houses also comes from the fact that this can generate economic growth and profits, not because it will help the 3,200 people on Stroud District Council’s housing waiting list. Very often the houses that are built are not appropriate for those with housing problems, or are not affordable for them. We also have many unoccupied houses, under occupied houses and second homes in the District, and a strategy to address this problem should come before the building of new houses. Second homes, derelict homes and properties being held in hope represent a significant wasted resource and an ongoing loss of economic activity in the district. Our Council can do some things to support this but alot is in the hands of the government - indeed many at the Parish meeting this week want to contest the figure of 3,200 homes needed - do we really need that number? Certainly only a few of the homes being built will be 'affordable' - and alot of what is described as affordable is hardly that.....
We also need to think more widely about what sort of homes people want to live in. Stroud has the country’s first new-build co-housing at Springhill. This type of housing means that we can build high-density housing that is very popular and has a low impact on the environment. At the meeting a guy talked about an eco-hamlet that would connect with the surrounding community - we don't just want the homes that are being built on Foxes Field. But hey I've run out of puff for this blog entry - do please persist with that dire online consultation document - it is important to make your views known.

3 comments:

Andy Read said...

Not sure about there being no real threat to Callowell - see page 61 of the consultation document with a nice diagram of how it could look. On the basis that many of the brownfield sites are hard to develop and the fact that the government is likely to enforce an extra 20% of new housing on us, then Callowell is at a very real risk - andy

Philip Booth said...

I agree 'unlikely' was a poor choice of words - maybe 'less likely but still quite possible'.

Philip Booth said...

See page 61 of document that talks abouT callowell being a site for additional growth.