A ROW over planning policy in Stroud has erupted following claims by Stroud MP Neil Carmichael that the Labour-led Stroud District Council is to blame for inappropriate developments such as Mankley Field.
Mr Carmichael has reiterated the value of local and neighbourhood plans amid criticisms of the Labour group at SDC for not getting the local plan in place sooner.
He has claimed that Labour’s failure to get a local plan in place amounted to a ‘developer’s charter’.
The comments followed the recent news that 150 homes on Mankley Field in Leonard Stanley were to go ahead and comments by the planning inspector, who cited the lack of credible local and neighbourhood plans as a reason for overturning the appeal by developers Gladman.
Mr Carmichael said several constituents have written to him expressing their concern and incredulity at the ongoing lack of a local plan to protect the green spaces around the Stroud Valleys and Vale.
The draft plan was put on hold after the inspector warned that Stroud District Council’s projected housing allocation was unrealistic and the council was given six months to re-asses its figures.
“Labour-led Stroud District Council has created an open door for developers to sweep into our beautiful Valleys and Vale by failing to get a local plan in place,” said Mr Carmichael
“This amounts to Labour’s Developer’s Charter.
“It is critical that communities reclaim power to control development in their communities through working together to develop Neighbourhood Plans.”
Prior to the Government reshuffle, Neil Carmichael wrote to Planning Minister Nick Boles and received confirmation back that the Government would give weight to emerging local and neighbourhood plans.
Currently there are 10 parishes across the district in the process of creating neighbourhood plans.
SDC leader Geoff Wheeler has responded to Mr Carmichael's comments.
Neil Carmichael continues to attempt to discredit SDC and disingenuously imply that we are to blame for not being able to defend against major planning applications in the district.
He plays politics by slamming the ‘Labour-led’ council for being behind with its local plan, when in fact we are the first of all six Gloucestershire districts to submit its local plan to the secretary of state for examination. Bearing in mind that four of them are Conservative-led, is he also criticising them?
Mr Carmichael also omits to state that Stroud was well advanced in its preparation of its core strategy, which considered future housing numbers, when the goal posts were moved by his government, which revoked planning policies and introduced the National Planning Policy Framework – causing significant delays to our plans.
His own government forced these delays and we are now seeing the consequences with applications such as Mankley Field. Mr Carmichael was keen to have his photograph taken with residents opposed to this predatory planning application even though it was his own government which brought the situation to bear. His support is of little use if he cannot influence the implementation of the NPPF.
A local plan can typically take three to five years from start to finish and require several hundred thousand pounds of taxpayers’ money to complete. Additionally, MPs of all political persuasions have queried the workings of the NPPF, but not Mr Carmichael. Even the MP for the Cotswold constituency, which includes part of Stroud district, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, has been supportive in making representations on the working of the NPPF.
Some months ago I wrote to Mr Carmichael with my concerns that he continued to make references to the Stroud local plan that did not bear examination. I suggested that he should acknowledge the facts about the Stroud local plan and publish a full retraction of his comments. That retraction was never made and he continues with his ill-informed comments.
Green councillor Simon Pickering
How deluded can Neil get? Neighbourhood plans are specifically designed by the current Government to encourage development and carry absolutely no weight in protecting any land from development. It is blatantly disingenuous to imply neighbourhood plans can stop development and give local community the hope that they can.
I am equally frustrated that we haven’t yet got the local plan adopted but that is down the current Conservative-led Government sweeping away previous planning legislation that did allow local communities to protect important local green spaces and replacing with a new pro-built development planning guidance (NPPF) part way through the process.
The current, Labour, Green, Lib Dem administration has set an exceedingly tight timetable to get the local plan completed as quickly as is possible. Our MP’s comments about the lack of local plan are an insult to hard working forward planning officers at Stroud District Council who have been working flat out to get a local plan in place and I believe that he should give a public apology to them over his current outburst.
If Neil Carmichael is genuinely concerned about the lack of a local plan, rather than getting re-elected, he should start working constructively with the administration.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Paul Hemming
Neil Carmichael’s comments serve no useful purpose whatsoever to the immense amount of work being done in order to progress an agreed local plan for the Stroud district.
Of course we should have an up-to-date plan, but then so should all of Gloucestershire and all other counties in the UK.
Even if there was an agreed adopted plan development is not guaranteed.
Developers are primarily interested in little investment for the maximum return and so many sites where permissions have already been granted lay undeveloped – these often unsightly brownfield areas.
To suggest that neighbourhood plans are the panacea to all that is wrong with planning is a disservice to all those involved. Neighbourhood plans are by definition produced locally by parish or groups of parishes, by unpaid volunteers, who have other commitments. They may certainly help towards an overall plan, but like everything else take a long time and an immense amount of effort to produce.
Overall strategy is the responsibility of government and sadly all we have is the NPPF. A Licence to Develop. A document which negates much of the previous and sensible good practice and legislation, some of which required pruning, not wholesale removal.
John Jones, chairman of the Conservative Group at Stroud District Council, said he did not wish to comment on Mr Carmichael’s statement. He did, however, make the following non-political points.
The process of working up a new local plan to replace the one adopted in 2005 began when the Conservative Group held the administration at Stroud District Council.
Because of the consultation periods needed at each stage and the responses to those consultations to be evaluated, it has taken a considerable length of time to get to the draft submission stage of the emerging local plan.
I know for a fact the officer team in planning strategy have been working flat out to get this far.
Now the inspector at the examination in public has told the council to rethink parts of its draft submission. That will mean even more time needed.
Meanwhile, all parts of the Stroud district are vulnerable to speculative developers trying their luck with applications for development.