A MILESTONE was reached this week as council chiefs finally agreed the way forward for development in the district.
Stratford District Council will submit its proposed Core Strategy – the key planning document which will help shape the district up to 2031 – after being plagued by delays.
It faces one final hurdle as it now needs to be rubber-stamped by the Secretary of State before being adopted.
Of the 44 councillors present at full council, 40 were in favour, two abstained, while two – Coun Jeff Kenner and Coun Alan Scorer – voted against the plans.
One of the most controversial aspects of it has been identifying a location for a new settlement to help meet the brunt of the 10,800 homes planned in the next two decades.
As it stands, up to 3,000 homes are likely to be built at the so-called GLH site (Gaydon and Lighthorne Heath) after it was chosen despite huge opposition from residents and campaign group FORSE.
And although some councillors raised fears over the choice of the preferred site, they agreed it was in the district’s interests to submit the document in its current form.
Speaking afterwards, FORSE chairman Laura Steele criticised the authority for rushing the decision.
Calling it a sad day for democracy, she said: “Stratford District Council members expressed concerns about the soundness
of the plan but voted for it anyway.
“GLH remains the most unsuitable choice for a new town and although it was expected, the final decision is not over by a long way.
“The matter will now go before an independent, evidence-based tribunal where we are confident the right decision will be made.”
Council leader Chris Saint welcomed the decision to submit the document, but admitted there was still a way to go.
He told The Observer: “This is a milestone occasion and one we have been working towards for a long time. We have some battles ahead and I doubt we have finished fighting with FORSE but I shall work hard to keep us together.
“It is a great feeling to have almost every councillor on board – unity is a rare experience for any leader and we have shown great resolve to take control of our own destiny in planning matters.”
The first version of the Core Strategy was put together in 2008 before a second draft was developed in early 2010.
The introduction of new national planning guidelines meant a third version had to be drafted in early 2012.
And after more than two years it will now be sent to the government’s planning inspector who will hold a public inspection to decide if it can be formally adopted around April next year.