COUNCIL leader Chris Saint has welcomed the decision to approve the district’s proposed Core Strategy document – but admitted it had been “a long journey”.
Billed as one of the most important documents of the last decade, both Coun Saint and Stratford District Council have come under fire in recent years for delaying its publication.
But at a special meeting on Monday (May 12), the document – which identifies the broad locations, scale and type of development that will take place in the district until 2031 – was given the green light by councillors.
Coun Saint admitted he was pleased to finally be making steps towards formally adopting the strategy.
He told The Observer: “The Core Strategy is a complex document and preparing it has been a major undertaking for the council.
“Widespread public perception has been that it has taken too long but this is a harsh judgement as we have needed to take account of all the new advice given and requirements of government.”
One decision that has proved to be particularly controversial is that of identifying a location for a new settlement to help meet the brunt of the 10,800 homes planned in the next 17 years.
But in choosing the site at Gaydon/Lighthorne Heath (GLH) where up to 3,000 homes could be built despite huge opposition from residents and campaign group FORSE, Coun Saint maintained the council has made the right decision.
He said: “It delivers sufficient housing, includes land to provide for the needs of Jaguar Land Rover and although Lighthorne Heath will expand, both Gaydon and Lighthorne will remain separate from the new development.
“We received professional advice on the deliverability of several locations and members selected the GLH proposal by a large majority.
“FORSE has vowed to fight on, claiming it will prove our members and our professional advice wrong but I think they need to converse more instead of perpetuating their hostile media campaign.”
The proposed Core Strategy will soon undergo a six-week public consultation where interested parties will be invited to comment on its soundness.
These final comments will be forwarded to the government’s independent inspector who will hold a public examination of the document and – subject to any issues – the council will look to adopt the finalised Core Strategy sometime around April next year.
Coun Saint added: “Over the last two years we have worked tirelessly to create the evidence base essential for our Core Strategy to be declared sound and this will give us one of the most up-to-date plans in the country.
“Although it has been a long journey, making the right decisions now and taking time to follow national guidance should save a lot of heartache in the long run.”