10th Dec, 2016

Council accused of short-circuiting planning process by GLH campaigners

Stratford Editorial 30th Jan, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

THE WAR of words over plans to build a new 3,000-home settlement in Gaydon and Lighthorne Heath (GLH) continues to rumble on.

As part of its Core Strategy, Stratford District Council is looking to build 14,485 homes in the district by 2031 and a public examination into the key planning document recently came to an end for the second time.

The GLH proposals have long been fought by campaign group FORSE, which previously argued the selection process used by the council to identify sites was flawed.

And they have now accused the authority of ‘moving the goalposts’ in a bid to ensure the homes at GLH are given the go-ahead.

FORSE maintain the council should get its Core Strategy rubber-stamped and adopted before any planning applications are submitted to develop the site.

They also argue a supplementary planning document (SPD), which is designed to guide developers and the local authority, should be finalised. It is currently undergoing a period of public consultation until February 26.

But having discovered a report for a planning application at GLH is set to go to committee on March 3 – ahead of the Core Strategy’s adoption – FORSE say the council is trying to short-circuit the process.

FORSE chair, Laura Steele said: “We were told the council would ensure an SPD was in place before deciding on any planning applications but clearly this is not the case.

“Are they rushing to get their permission rubber-stamped before their site is thrown out as unsound?

“Can we take this undignified scramble to avoid scrutiny as the latest example of SDC attempting to ride roughshod over the planning and democratic process to secure the GLH allocation at all costs?

“Pursuing this folly only further undermines their integrity and if they have any faith in their scheme, they should allow it to be scrutinised.

“The council’s actions could be unlawful and, if they are, FORSE will have no problem challenging that unlawfulness.”

Council leader, Chris Saint, said he was unable to comment further on the details of the planning application as it would need to follow due process.

He added: “I am endeavouring to deliver an adopted Core Strategy as soon as is possible, but the timetable is affected by any work that has to be done to address issues raised by the examining planning inspector.”

The council must now await a report from government inspector, Pete Drew, following on from the the public examination in January before proceeding further with the adoption process.