Planning Matters. An overview of current and recent issues in which CPRE Warwickshire is actively involved
THE PROPOSED STRATFORD SOUTH-WESTERN RELIEF ROAD
Dear Member(s) and Visitors,
It has come. For two years we have been waiting for a formal planning application to build a relief road from the housing development at Long Marston to Stratford-upon-Avon and now it has appeared – 18/01883/FUL.
That the town has a traffic problem, there is no doubt whatever. But this road, that would cross the Avon on high concrete stilts and effectively wreck the south west environs of Stratford-upon-Avon, would not solve this problem, rather exacerbate it. It would be physically perfectly hideous and provide more tailbacks, mess and muddle.
It is, simply, the wrong road in the wrong place.
To combat this menace, the Stratford Residents Action Group was formed and its legal team is at work on the plans with the immediate intention of having the application called in by the Secretary of State.
CPRE Warwickshire wholeheartedly supports SRAG and we will keep you informed of developments. As our latest number of Outlook has just gone to press it does not mention the road, so we are sending you this short letter instead.
Nicholas Butler for CPRE Warwickshire
CPRE National has highlighted several key concerns –
• a failure to provide an effective brownfield first policy. (Warwickshire Branch has criticised the general failure of Local Plans to specify Phasing of development which leads to building in something of a piecemeal manner and certainly not ‘brownfield first’)
• the continuing failure to support provision of affordable housing in rural areas
• the discouragement of neighbourhood planning because of uncertainty over the validity of plans older than two years
• continued implicit support for hydraulic fracturing for shale oil and gas, despite massive public opposition and little evidence of need
The Branch is concerned that another QUANGO is being established in our area. This is ‘Midlands Connect’ made up of County Councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships across the East and West Midlands. It will be engaged in planning behind the scenes, this time of transport. Notably, environmental groups and Parish Councils are not part of it.
HS2. Substantial excavations are taking place alongside the lane from Offchurch to Hunningham which is apparently associated with preliminary work on HS2. There are also reports of work on HS2 starting elsewhere, such as Crackley. Meanwhile a Press Release from HS2 dated 25th June 2018 promises – “HS2 plans for unprecedented ‘green corridor’ stretching alongside the railway”.
National Planning Policy Framework The new NPPF was published on 26th July. This basically continues a framework where sustainable development is permitted subject to many checks and balances including the existing system of Local and Neighbourhood Plans. The definition of “sustainability” is largely unchanged and refers to Economic, Social and Environmental aspects of proposals. It is difficult to escape the thought that the environment is subsidiary to the other aspects.
Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Planning
There has been a political change following the May elections where the long-standing portfolio holder for planning lost his seat as did many other members of the controlling party and one of the two from the Green party. The current situation of 17 Labour,16 Conservative and 1 green vote leads to a 17/17 stalemate normally with the Mayor taking the casting vote.
A National Park?
The Meriden Green Belt is under particular pressure from development so proposals have been drawn up by Kathryn Moore, Professor of Landscape Architecture at Birmingham City University, to make the region home to the UK’s 16th official National Park. The vision has already gained support from West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, Meriden MP Dame Caroline Spelman and other key bodies around the region. We have discussed this matter with Caroline Spelman and will also do so with Andy Street at our next meeting, pointing out that, while we would support such a proposal we would request that the area, which is to be funded by biodiversty-offsetting from the HS2 project, should be called a “regional park, so as not to de-value the status of the existing National Parks.”
DEMOCRATIC CONTROL OF PLANNING
IS UNDER THREAT SAYS CPRE
Democratically-controlled town and country planning in Warwickshire and the West Midlands is under a grave threat if action is not taken, says CPRE Warwickshire, “Unelected, opaque, single-agenda Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) will increasingly rule the roost not just on economic development but also on planning, housing and transport, promoting the interests of themselves and their members in the process. Local democracy will have been largely lost.”
CPRE Warwickshire has today published a detailed report on how these new unelected bodies are quietly taking over town and country planning, with the councillors on local authorities apparently unable to stop a dangerous trend. It is based on detailed research into the mode of operating, and conduct, of the Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and its neighbour the Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP.
“This report, which has been prepared by our members in Warwickshire, makes depressing reading”, said Mark Sullivan, Technical Secretary of the CPRE in the county. “If the trend continues our councillors will find that they have little power to influence planning policy, or the scale of development. Their voters will find that decisions are made behind closed doors and imposed on everyone. This has to stop.
“The LEPs and some local authority planners are increasingly disregarding those parts of the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework that aim to temper growth by, for example, preserving the Green Belt or protecting and enhancing the environment generally. The Government’s recent attempts to strengthen Green Belt policy are effectively being ignored.
“Our report recommends that LEPs should focus more specifically on economic development, acting as no more than consultees on related topics such as housing, planning and transport. They should also seek to develop a more open and transparent approach, including agreeing to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations as local authorities already are. Local authorities should take steps to involve all their councillors in key decisions.
“Local authorities can stop this drift away from democracy by declining to give more of a role to the LEP, and recovering powers to use them themselves.”
Members of Parliament for Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull constituencies are being sent the report, which is attached.