Fringe Box



Letter: Despite Thousands of Reasoned Objections, the Spooner Executive Forced Through a Disastrous Plan

Published on: 25 Oct, 2020
Updated on: 25 Oct, 2020

From Ben Paton

In response to: The Lack of Objective Testing in the Local Plan Beggars Belief

Mr Lyons makes this point: “Without this form of Objective Testing [exploring different housing provision in different tiers], it is clear the failure to embrace sustainability comes from scenario choices made entirely by the then council.”

His point is demonstrated by this table from the AECOM sustainability appraisal:

Strikingly, the housing allocated to the top six tiers, the most “sustainable” parts of the borough for development, is fixed across all eight “Options”.

This shows different housing allocation strategies were not examined properly or at all. Housing strategies for the town centre and the urban area were not explored. They were set in concrete from the outset.

All this despite thousands of objections pointing out:

1) The projected “Objectively Assessed Housing Need” or OAHN was massively exaggerated;

2) The allocation of retail space to the town centre was misguided and excessive; and

3) The land grab from the green belt was unnecessary.

Leader Paul Spooner and his Executive ignored all these reasoned and evidenced objections. They forced through their disastrous Local Plan just days before most of them were thrown off the council by the electorate.

The Local Plan inspector exercised his judgement to correct some of the Plan’s anomalies. He had little choice but to reduce the OAHN to 10,678 after the Office for National Statistics revised its demographic projections.

But note how the lowest number of new houses that GBC explored (13,600), set out in Option 1 in the AECOM table, is 27% greater than the OAHN the inspector chose to endorse, itself an “ambitious” figure.

But the further glaring anomalies in the Local Plan, the huge excess of the Housing Target over the OAHN and the massive raid on the green belt remain uncorrected.

There are some 55,000 dwellings in the borough. The Local Plan proposes to increase the housing stock by well more than 20% without any convincing strategy for increasing local infrastructure commensurately.

Infrastructure including the A3, local roads, schools, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries is beyond GBC’s control.

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Responses to Letter: Despite Thousands of Reasoned Objections, the Spooner Executive Forced Through a Disastrous Plan

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    October 25, 2020 at 11:17 pm

    The legal challenges were in the wrong direction, for whatever reason. The only legal challenge that might have been effective would have to have been based on the Cabinet Office rules and/or the principles of public consultation, ie it is not consultation if “the mind was already made up” or there was “no intention to change even if consulted”.

    As no text worthy of being called a “change” was made from 2014 through 2019, the public consultation was fundamentally flawed. There should have been at least a three per cent change in the Local Plan text to show significant notice of the public consultation had occurred.

    But why were are arguing history is beyond me. We need to move on. “Grant me the knowledge to know the things I can change and those I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

    • Ben Paton Reply

      October 26, 2020 at 9:53 pm

      They think its all over?

      “…they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint…”

    • John Perkins Reply

      October 26, 2020 at 11:42 pm

      Amen to that. What price wisdom, if only some obey the law?

  2. Di Garnett Reply

    October 26, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    We are supposed to live in a democracy.

    Surely we should not have to trawl through what these officials are doing to protect our green belt from raids of this sort?

    I don’t think we should accept a plan that was patently wrong and was rushed through at the last minute.

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    October 26, 2020 at 6:51 pm

    I took on a huge personal financial risk to take the plan to the high court. Fortunately, I was supported by many like-minded folks.

    I had the best barrister advice that I could afford but was thwarted by the Lib Dem leadership who had much deeper pockets for lawyering up.

    We were stitched up by the Tory leadership, which the incoming LD leadership failed to challenge.

    We still do not know why the Tories were so keen to sell off 46% of the total UK’s released green belt in 2019-20.

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