MORE homes will need to be built before Stratford District Council can adopt its Core Strategy.
That was the advice from government Planning Inspector Pete Drew in his interim report of the key planning document, which will help shape development in the district until 2031.
The report was released on Thursday (March 19) and suggested the authority’s target of building 11,300 homes in the district over the next 15 years was “tight.”
Revealing concerns about the number put forward, he said it would almost certainly have to increase to “provide more headroom.”
As part of the housing plans, the council is also looking to build a virtually new town of 3,000 homes on a site at Gaydon Lighthorne Heath (GLH).
The proposal has been long fought by campaigners FORSE and their legal team, who asserted during the month-long public examination the controversial scheme had been unfairly selected.
But Mr Drew disagreed – admitting he thought the assessment had been carried out by an independent and impartial consultancy.
However he did reserve judgement on the site pending further assessment – meaning the controversial scheme has not yet been ruled out.
He also advised further work and assessment be done to ensure the council’s preferred site was the most suitable and that no other sites provided a better alternative.
But while the council was praised for its duty to co-operate with neighbouring authorities, it did come in for some criticism for arguing a site on Long Marston Airfield was unsustainable due to ecological reasons.
They had maintained the route of a proposed relief road, which could be built at part of the plans, would bisect Racecourse Meadow – a local wildlife site – and have significant negative impacts on biodiversity.
But he revealed this had been proven not to be the case.
Plans to build 1,500 homes on Wellesbourne Airfield were submitted in early 2014 but these were ruled out by the council.
However Mr Drew said the site could not be discounted on the grounds of its late submission and advised it “would be wise” to revisit the site to carry out a full assessment before rejecting it as unsuitable.
He also insisted a site east of Birmingham Road was “not justified” and told the council to consider looking at Atherstone Airfield as an alternative.
And while he didn’t comment on specific sites, he admitted the council needed to do further Sustainability Appraisal work to address defects in the process.
He said: “As part of that exercise other strategic sites that have emerged at a late stage need to be considered and robust reasons given for selecting the preferred option and rejecting the alternative options.”
Meanwhile local service villages performed well with Mr Drew supporting the figures put forward by the council.
In his conclusions, he wrote: “Further work is required in order to demonstrate a robust and objective assessment of housing needs and ensure the sustainability appraisal process is carried out in full accordance with statutory requirements.
“This work should include the appropriate involvement of relevant stakeholders and public consultation in respect of any material changes that may be proposed as a result.”
He added: “I recognise these interim conclusions will be a disappointment but, for the reasons I have given, I consider the Core Strategy is not sound as it stands.
“In the circumstances it would not be appropriate to let it progress to adoption at the present time.”
It will now be up to the council to take on board Mr Drew’s suggestions – and decide whether to carry out the proposed modifications – before they can look to continue the examination further and adopt the strategy.