MORE homes than originally planned will need to be built in the district.
That was the verdict of government planning inspector Pete Drew in his interim report on Stratford District Council’s Core Strategy – the key planning document, which will shape development until 2031.
Mr Drew suggested the authority’s target of 11,300 homes was “tight” and would almost certainly have to increase – although he did not specify how many.
As part of the plans, the council is looking to build a virtually new town of 3,000 homes near Gaydon and Lighthorne Heath (GLH).
And although Mr Drew reserved judgement on GLH pending further assessment, he drew attention to “a major flaw” in the assessment of an alternative site at Long Marston Airfield.
The council had claimed a proposed relief road would cut through Racecourse Meadow damaging wildlife habits, but the inspector said the road would not go through the meadow.
Proposals to build 1,500 homes on Wellesbourne Airfield, submitted in early 2014, were also ruled out by the council, but Mr Drew advised a full assessment be carried out on the site before it was rejected.
He also encouraged the council to carefully consider the merits of its preferred site to ensure others did not provide a better alternative.
Admitting his conclusions would be a “disappointment”, Mr Drew insisted the Core Strategy could not be adopted in its current form.
The council will now consider the suggestions before the examination can continue.
Stratford District Council leader, Chris Saint, conceded further work was required, which would result in an “inevitable short delay” in getting the strategy rubber-stamped.
He said: “While this adds to our frustrations, much of the policies are now sound and we can give them far more weight when considering planning applications.
“It’s not appropriate to send out messages of doom so we shall grasp the nettle and get on with the work.”
But Lib Dem leader Coun Richard Cheney feared the findings would result in more than a “short” delay with developers being allowed to “run rampant” and build “completely inappropriate” housing estates in the meantime.
And while Labour’s district council representative, Jeff Kenner, criticised Coun Saint, he also slammed the Lib Dems for failing to provide opposition to the Tory-led authority.
Coun Kenner branded the decision to choose GLH “a colossal error” and confirmed he had contacted the council’s chief executive, Paul Lankester, asking for a re-vote at the next meeting in April.
But Mr Lankester maintained it would not be possible to prepare the required evidence in time.
He said fresh work – including considering alternative sites and addressing the impact of the higher housing numbers – would need to be carried out before decisions on the way forward could be made.