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Tuesday
Mar052013

Core Strategy - Cllr Geoff Ward

I note the challenge we all have today in agreeing a workable Core Strategy going forward.  Whilst there are elements of these proposals which we find very difficult to accept, I applaud the hard work by our Officers which has ensured we have a plan before us today. I also recognise that through cross-party working we have arrived at a plan which is more acceptable than the proposals for large-scale development initially presented to us.

None of us want to see speculative applications across our region which damage the quality of life and upset our communities. I accept the need to plan for more houses for the future:

  • We need to grow economically
  • We need to ensure there is sufficient affordable housing for local residents
  • We need to support jobs and growth in our area
  • Above all we need to ensure that our offspring can access the housing ladder without having to rely upon the bank of Mum and Dad – something not everyone is fortunate enough to have.

Nevertheless, I remain concerned about some elements of the Core Strategy.

I am passionate about protecting the Greenbelt and ensuring that Bath does not join up with Bristol.
Growth must be for the whole of our region and not just along the corridor between Bath and Bristol.

Yet in order to create sustainable communities and enable growth, better infrastructure is essential.

We need to do more to improve the roads, the transport, the IT communications and economic activity of the region as a whole. If this were to be done, development could be spread across our area in a sustainable manner more acceptable to local communities.

It is clear that there are enough brownfield sites and planning permissions in the system to satisfy our area’s housing needs for the next 5 years. Yet unfortunately, this Core Strategy does not make that sequence of development clear, meaning the commitment to delivering ‘Brownfield First’ is not as solid as we would ideally like.

We should make it as easy as possible for developers to get on with their brownfield developments – working with them and greasing the wheels to bring these sites forward.

Which brings me to the matter of the Placemaking Plan.  We are disappointed not to see this document before us today, as had originally been expected. If work had started on the Placemaking Plan immediately last summer, it may be the case that more acceptable smaller sites could have been identified – mitigating the need for so many greenfield sites.

Nevertheless, we are where we are and we have to make the best of the situation presented to us.

I will be supporting the majority of the proposals within the Core Strategy, but in many cases with a heavy heart.

We must have a Core Strategy. However, I still deeply regret the fact these proposals will result in loss of Greenbelt, something I find very difficult to accept.

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