TEWKESBURY BOROUGH COUNCIL – JCS MEETING 31st JANUARY 2017
I had the misfortune to be sitting in the public gallery, and observing our Borough Council at work questioning and debating the amendment to the Joint Core Strategy.
Basically, although a previous meeting (25 October 2016) had democratically rejected the inclusion of Twigworth in the JCS plan, this amendment proposed to bring Twigworth back into the plan.
The amendment was passed with a vote of 19 for and 14 against.
If Twigworth was unsuitable last time, why had it become suitable this time, admittedly with a lower number of homes proposed?
No satisfactory explanation was given as to why the resolution from 25 October had not been complied with. Pro-development councillors argued that the JCS Plan would only be sound with Twigworth in, yet the 25 October resolution had asked for Twigworth to be removed and replaced with allocations from elsewhere to make the Plan sound.
THE Q&A SESSION
The question and answer session went into detail with experts giving their opinion about flood risk and traffic flow with technical documents beyond the comprehension of the average person. The hydrology consultant had been commissioned from a consultancy which advises developers, and was given freedom to critique the advice of the hydrologist advising the Neighbourhood Development Plan who has advised against developing at Twigworth because of the degree of risk. Twigworth Parish Council had asked for this adviser to be present to brief the councillors but this request had been refused.
Three main issues emerged …
1. Flood Risk (see also above and below)
2. Traffic Flow ( all questions on the lack of up to date traffic modelling, costs of the mitigation measures, and the nature and affordability of a new road, bringing a grotesque intrusion in the Severn Vale, were comprehensively fudged by a County Council official).
3. Loss of Green Belt (see also below)
The debate after the Q&A session, largely forgot the three main issues, and descended into a debate about the consequences of not passing the amendment.
The issues were …
1. The site at Ashchurch was no longer going to be released by the MOD for development, so the JCS were desperate for new sites.
2. The allocation at Twigworth was for Gloucester City’s needs not for Tewkesbury Borough’s needs.
3. If the JCS did not meet their quota of sites for housing need, the Council would lose their ‘New Homes Bonus grant’ (a sizeable amount). This dominated many pro-development Councillors’ arguments even though it is not a planning matter and should not influence the actual decision.
4. If the JCS did not finish their plan, the Government could take direct control, and the Council would lose their power.
5. The new houses at Twigworth could not have water run off connected to the sewage network. No practical solution about drainage and long term maintenance was forthcoming. The can was kicked down the road to be decided later in the Planning Application stage.
6. This loss of Green Belt could be appealed, and the JCS would be delayed by a call in, which is precisely what the Councils seek to avoid.
I must applaud the 14 councillors, who stood their ground, and voted against this amendment.
Sadly, the rest of the Council were more concerned about revenue, power, and lethargically ending the JCS planning exercise than serving the residents of Twigworth and the commuters on the A38.
One issue never raised – the destruction of a village by being engulfed in suburbia, and impacts on downstream communities.
It will flood.
There will be traffic chaos.
But maybe you will be reassured by the words of Tewkesbury’s monotone planner who kept insisting it’s “deliverable and sustainable”…