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New homes - and politics

By jrmaidment  |  Posted: April 08, 2014

Comments (11)

There was an audible groan of disbelief from half of the council chamber in Tewkesbury when planning officers told members on Monday night that the decision taken in March to remove green belt land at Up Hatherley and Twigworth from the joint core strategy was not based on any “comprehensive assessment”.

It was a political choice.

At first I shared their surprise.

After all, the story of the JCS so far has been one of unbelievable detail.

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It has taken more than five years to get to where we are and every step along the way has been accompanied by report after report, by in depth analysis, by comprehensive review and by increasingly strenuous debate.

The vast majority of the work on the plan has taken place behind closed doors but the final JCS document is as clear an indicator as you could find of just how much time and effort has been invested in trying to plan for the future.

At 1,286 pages, split into two lever arch files, it is easily the lengthiest council document I have ever seen – it’s longer than the King James version of the Bible and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

It is, in short, ridiculously long.

But too much detail is always better than not enough and I think that’s why the “comprehensive assessment” admission struck a nerve.

A more detailed analysis of the JCS evidence base allowed the three councils working on the blueprint to cut the number of planned houses to be built between 2011 and 2031 from 33,200 to 30,500, a reduction of eight per cent that allowed for changes to be made to the plan.

Given what has come before you would have thought a forensic analysis of the seven strategic sites would have been undertaken to figure out which one most deserved to be taken out of the plan.

But that didn’t happen.

How could we have come so far placing such a strong emphasis on the need for evidenced-based decision making and then opt to remove two sites simply because some people wanted to?

Initially it felt wrong, but the more I thought about that point of view the more it struck me as naïve.

There have been plenty of calls from all sides of the debate for people not to politicise the JCS, to only make decisions based on evidence for the good of the three areas involved.

That was never going to happen.

Anyone who claims they have not been playing politics with the plan is either lying or deluded.

There are real world, area-specific consequences for an unpalatable plan and every councillor knows that.

But that’s not the point.

Politics in these circumstances is treated as a dirty word; like it’s the worst thing in the world.

But politics is built into the DNA of local government, plain and simple, and any attempt to say otherwise or to try and move away from that by those involved is disingenuous.

We vote for politicians so we shouldn’t be surprised when they play politics.

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  • jas37  |  April 09 2014, 10:51PM

    It's a pity that the Twigworth site has been withdrawn. This was probably the most appropriate area for large scale Housing development. 3000+ Homes fairly close to Gloucester City Centre would have been of great benefit. The flooding protests were a red herring. Accompanying water catchment/ water management features could have reduced any potential flooding in the Longford area. Now the problem may remain indefinitely.

  • Kay_Powell  |  April 09 2014, 5:52PM

    EllJay, I think that it is related to local politics, and possibly something to do with the riding arena. Whoever it is, they are wasting huge amounts of their time deleting cookies so that they can give me anything up to 30 negative votes at a time. I've just discovered that they've gone back as far as November to put negative votes on nearly all of my comments. The really odd thing is that the same person seems to have done the same for a lot of GlosAnarchy's comments as well. It's been going on since early March. I do remember a while ago someone accused GlosAnarchy of being me, which means that they hadn't read too many of our respective comments.

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  • TIMONLINE2010  |  April 09 2014, 4:24PM

    They are usually

  • CaptCX  |  April 09 2014, 4:05PM

    Good point Timonline2010 - Well considering that these people were voted in to supposedly represnt the views of us, the public, why shouldn't their votes be made public?

  • TIMONLINE2010  |  April 09 2014, 3:47PM

    How can we find out who voted which way?

  • CaptCX  |  April 09 2014, 3:38PM

    Given that any member of the public who objects to new developments is always just branded a 'NIMBY', I think that it should be mandatory for detailed plans of all new developments to be widely published (in The Echo & The Citizen for example) along with additional X's denoting where each of the people rubber-stamping these plans actually live. Then we could all see just how far from these new houses they all live.

  • TIMONLINE2010  |  April 09 2014, 2:51PM

    The basis of their decision appears to be if we dont agree to the JCS, the developers will have free reign to build what they want where they want - why?!

  • adrian123  |  April 09 2014, 12:45PM

    Isn't there something to be said for listening to the views of local people and acting on them, these councillors are supposed to represent us aren't they? isn't that what they were doing? and around Twigworth its probably prone to flooding. However, I do agree the whole process is a bit of a farce, and mired in enormous complexity and obfuscation.

  • EllJay1  |  April 09 2014, 12:25PM

    Who is it who has this hate complex about Kay?

  • Kay_Powell  |  April 08 2014, 4:21PM

    If Jack is correct, this is appalling. Still, that's what politicians do - make political decisions. It's not about the rights or wrongs of any particular piece of land being considered for development, it's about what they think is most likely to get them re-elected. Or did they just stick a pin in the map?

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