Please show your support at 1.30pm, next Wednesday 9 April at
Municipal Buildings, The Promenade, Cheltenham

The council are holding on crucial meeting on the JCS and we hope they will delay its release in order the wait

for revised population statistics from the ONS (Office of National Statistics)

Six campaign groups join forces to fight thousands of homes planned for Cheltenham greenbelt

The three councils, Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Gloucester City, working together on a Joint Core Strategy for housing development for 20 years (JCS) finally issued their consultation on their preferred option.

Despite enormous opposition and lengthy arguments within the Council, they decided to continue to investigate a plan for 33,000 new houses including 4,850 on our Greenbelt land. This is an increase of 24.3% in housing stock when in the ten years up to the 2011 census the population of this area increased by 5.7%.

After many weeks of work, we completed our formal response to the JCS (Joint Core Strategy) preferred option in December. Thank you to so many local supporters who responded directly to the Consultation. Without so much support our voice would certainly not be so strong.

Our key arguments were that the volume of housing was over-estimated by 10,000 and their proposal for Greenbelt Urban Extensions, include one at Swindon Village, was not a necessity but a commercial choice influenced by developers, We gave the JCS term clear evidence to support our arguments and came up with practical alternatives for housing.

So – what’s the good news?

We have had huge amounts of publicity in local press, radio and TV and also the issue has been discussed nationwide and in Parliament. We are delighted that after much pressure, an all-party Parliamentry Group has been set up to discuss the issue of greenbelt protection. We have been invited to give evidence at that group. Our MP Laurence Robertson and also Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood are both part of that group and we continue to liaise closely with them.

There is much noise nationwide that the current legislation under the National Policy Framework needs to be changed as it is biased towards development. With the continued pressure we are giving and the volume of noise on this issue it does seem that the JCS team, our Politicians and decision makers may actually be starting to absorb are reasoned arguments.

What’s next

The JCS team are analyzing all the responses; they expect to issue a pre-submission of their final document in Spring 2014 and the final version to the Secretary of State in Winter 2014. We will continue to work with our politicians to take this issue right to Westminster decision makers AGAIN!

Why do we even need a Joint Core Strategy?

We do need a plan. Current legislation would allow a developer to apply for planning permission anywhere and in the absence of a local plan, a planning application on greenbelt might very well be allowed on appeal. However, our argument is that it must be a reasonable flexible plan that can be adjusted as the population changes and housing needs change and above all benefit the existing population in the area as well as any new-comers.

As soon as we hear anything from the JCS team we will be sure to react and launch into action again. In the meantime we continue to collect additional evidence.

What can you do?

Please sign and publicise our online petition Google Search Cheltenham Greenbelt

Thanks again for your continued support.

Helen Wells.

First published in the “Village News” (in Swindon Village) February 2014

Laurence Robertson MP continues to support Save the Countryside team in their campaign to protect Greenbelt land around Cheltenham.

Laurence Robertson, MP had a busy day visiting rallies around the area, meeting concerned residents about the threat to the Green Belt, in their areas, posed by the house building numbers in the Joint Core Strategy.

Mr Robertson, visited Uckington to meet residents of Uckington and Swindon Village who added their opposition to the proposal to build 4,850  homes in their fields.

Helen Wells from Save the Countryside said “ We are delighted to continue to receive such  good support from our MPS in Tewkesbury and Cheltenham on such an important issue. The Joint Core Strategy team tell the public that we need to build on greenbelt, but we have evidence and fair  alternative suggestions to prove that this is simply not the case. We want the public to know this and to have their say in the future of our town as this affects everyone.”

Residents within the Joint Core Strategy area of Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Gloucester have  5 days left to make their comments known to the draft proposals. Responses are due to the JCS team by 13th December. More details can be found on the JCS website www.gct-jcs.org/




Below is our leaflet due to hit Swindon Village imminently. Click on the leaflet to get the PDF version which you can read or please print and spread the word.


The draft JCS which was release to the public amid much controversy it now available for you to comment on, it is available for a six week period of public consultation, between Tuesday 15 October and Tuesday 26 November 2013.

!!Deadline now extended to 13 December!!

We recommend going to one of the sessions in the table below where you be able to ask questions, or see it online at www.gct-jcs.org. Also

Please add you name to our petition to
Save Cheltenhams Greenbelt!

It you are going also you might like to ask why Cheltenham it being asked to grow by a massive 24% (over 20 years), while Bath is only predicted to grow by 17%. You also might like to ask the following

  • Why there is no requirement to build on brownfield sites first before green field and green belt
  • Why the council is planning to build 800+ houses in the AONB (Area of Outstanding National Beauty) and special landscape areas.
  • How flooding can possibly be dealt with
  • How the current infrastructure, in particular roads will be able to cope. Anyone who experiences the traffic jams occurring on Shurdington Road and on Princess Elizabeth Way will wonder how.

If the Officers and Elected Members do press ahead with plans to build on the green belt it will be done through choice and not necessity.






16th October

18:00 – 20:00

Tewkesbury Borough Council – Parish & Town Council event)


17th October

18:00 – 20:30

Ashchurch Village Hall


19th October

14:30 – 17:00

Leckhampton Village Hall (JCS only)


21st October

18:00 – 20:30

Bishop’s Cleeve Primary School


22nd October

18:00 – 20:30

Innsworth Community Hall


24th October

18:00 – 20:30

Shurdington Social Centre


25th October

12:30 – 15:00

Regent Arcade, Cheltenham (JCS only)


30th October

18:00 – 20:30

Winchcombe Abbey Fields Community Centre


4th November

18:00 – 20:30

Cheltenham Civil Service Club, Uckington


7th November

17:30 – 20:00

Brockworth Community Centre


8th November

12:30 – 15:00

Gloucester Eastgate Shopping Centre (JCS only)


9th November

12:30 – 15:00

GL3 Hub, Churchdown


12th November

12:30 – 15:00

Tewkesbury Town Hall


13th November

18:00 – 20:30

Apperley Village Hall

Please add you name to our petition to Save Cheltenhams Greenbelt!


It was with dismay that I heard that Cheltenham Borough Council voted through the Joint Core Strategy which ear marks green field and greenbelt land around Cheltenham for massive housing development. The Lib Dems and the Tories have both promised to protect the greenbelt yet they vote through a plan to build on it, and have failed to listen to consultations.

The people we vote for are both spineless and powerless. Planning inspectors, the government and developers lawyers can easily overturn their objections. Call this localism? The housing target has been shown time and time again to be based on unrealistic estimates of economic growth and immigration to the area. Yes, we need homes but for local people but we need to develop brownfield sites first, something the council has failed to promise.



I commonly walk the fields around Swindon Village before breakfast with my 7 year old son, he loves it, we learn about nature and experience the beauty together. The loss of green space will be felt most sorely by his generation. We need to start valuing quality of life rather than GDP. Please sign our petition http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/52608.

From the Gloucestershire Echo on Saturday 7th September 13. It seems like councillors don’t like the JCS but they were forced to publish it because of fear of a developers free for all if no plan is in place. This is a sorry state of affairs. We vote in these people yet this unpopular plan is forced through on both our democratically elected representatives and on the public. It is driven by the officers in the council who are not elected.

VEHEMENT criticism from political parties in Cheltenham was not enough to derail a housing blueprint which will see thousands of homes built on green belt land.

Councillors agreed through gritted teeth to endorse a plan which will see 33,449 homes built across Gloucester, Cheltenham, and Tewkesbury between 2011 and 2031.

Cheltenham Borough Council follows Tewkesbury in approving the plan, and Gloucester’s full council votes on it on Thursday evening.

Cheltenham’s marathon meeting at the Municipal Offices, lasting more than four and a half hours, eventually finished on Thursday night with a narrow vote in favour of sending the plan out for consultation.

But many councillors during the session suggested the decision to vote in favour had more to do with fearing the consequences of a “no” vote.

Gloucester’s planning policy sub-committee agreed with the JCS plan on Wednesday ahead of its hearing at full council.

Voting on the publication of the Joint Core Strategy was carried out by Tewkesbury borough council yesterday. They voted 19 for vs 13 against, so it went though. This plan will see the greenbelt boundary changed around Cheltenham to accomodate 4500 homes to the NW of Cheltenham and in Churchdown. If both Gloucestershire and Cheltenham vote it through it will be published for consultation and these horrific plans will be closer to coming to pass.

Some notable comments from the meeting are below:

Councillor Kay Berry, (LD,Churchdown St Johns) said: “When I was elected I promised to protect the greenbelt, especially in Churchdown. I’m so disappointed to see this document. We do need a plan, not this one which decimated the greenbelt.”

Mrs Berry’s opposition to the plans was echoed by Councillor Bill Whelan (LD, Innsworth with Down Hatherley). He said: “If these proposals are passed miles of urban sprawl will spread from Gloucester, encompassing individual local communities with their own identities. There are brownfield sites in Gloucester for homes. This is not about a lack of land, it’s a lack of will.”

On the pro side:

Councillor Derek Davies (C, Highnam with Haw Bridge) is the council member with lead responsibility for the built environment. He proposed the motion, saying: “In a nutshell this will help overcome a flagging economy, give us sustainable growth, and if we vote for this today the public will be consulted, a vote against will mean the public are denied.”

This is not sustainable growth. The plan is to such in a young workforce from other area (presumably) so that we can support the growing elderly population. That makes some sense in a selfish kind of way, but what about those regions which lose those young people. It is blantantly self evidently we cannot keep growing, and keep building on greenfields, since we will have no place to grow our food, nowhere to give us fresh water, no where to find resources, no where to enjoy to countryside. We will cover the whole country in Urban sprawl?

Councillor Jim Mason (C, Winchcombe) mentioned the several large housing developments, such as around Bishops Cleeve that were rejected by councils but overturned on appeal. He said that this lack of a local plan was giving a free for all for developers and that publish one would prevent this applications being overturned on appeal. Well, may be some, but not with the adsurdly high housing figures and plan to move the greenbelt in the current draft JCS. He even said we should vote it through to the public can be consulted. But we were consulted in the housing options previously, 90%+ voted for the lowest housing figures (option A) but yet the report we have to vote on has roughly doubled that figure driven more by the unsustainable ambition of economic growth and immigration rather than local need.

See the full Gloucestershire Echo article here http://www.gloucestershireecho.co.uk/Joint-Core-Strategy-passes-hurdle-Tewkesbury/story-19745882-detail/story.html

Plans for large scale building around Cheltenham now looks closer, the battle lines are being set as the council announces plans for 33,449 homes across the three areas before 2031 with the publishing of its housing assessment report, see http://www.gct-jcs.org/EvidenceBase/AssessmentofHousingRequirements.aspx.

(breproduced from the Gloucestershire Echo)

“STAND firm and defend our greenbelt land” was the defiant call from community leaders in parts of Cheltenham set to be affected by plans for tens of thousands of homes.

People living in parishes such as Uckington, Elmstone Hardwicke and Up Hatherley have vowed not to give up without a fierce fight in the face of the threat of massive housing developments in their areas.

  1. Vows to fight off proposals to build on Cheltenham's greenbelt

    Vows to fight off proposals to build on Cheltenham’s greenbelt

It comes after council bosses unveiled plans to solve Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Gloucester’s housing crisis by building 33,449 homes across the three areas before 2031 – with more than 3,500 acres of precious greenbelt land earmarked for homes.

Michael Griffiths, chairman of Uckington parish council, said residents would be determined in their opposition – with as many as 4,829 of the homes planned for nearby land to the north west of Cheltenham.

He urged planning authorities behind the blueprint to prepare themselves for a fight.

He told the Echo: “People living here have always considered this a rural setting.

“That is one of the main reasons why my wife and I chose to move here some 40 years ago and I’m sure many other people came here for the same reason.

“Building so many homes here would change that completely. It would mean we become part of Cheltenham.

“I’m not happy about the scale of proposals and don’t see why we should bear the brunt of the town’s housing needs.

“As chairman of the parish council it is up to me to represent the views of people living here and I can tell you now that residents will want to fight to defend the greenbelt.”

The vast majority of homes pencilled in for north west Cheltenham would be contained in Elms Park, a 4,500 home development between Elmstone Hardwicke and Swindon Village for which outline plans went on display earlier in the summer. Campaigners from Save The Countryside have already vowed to do all they can to stop it from going ahead.

The mood of defiance was echoed by David Cooper, clerk to parish councils in Uckington, Elmstone Hardwicke and Boddington – all villages which would be in the eye of the development storm. “This would alter the landscape here totally,” he said.

“I would expect a considerable amount of opposition from residents.

“From the outset my main concerns would be the principle of building on the greenbelt, the threat of flooding and how on earth we would cope with the influx of traffic.”

North west Cheltenham is not the only area now in the sights of beady-eyed developers. Green fields in Leckhampton could see 1,075 homes built, the former MOD site at Ashchurch has been earmarked for 2,125 homes and a swathe of land off Up Hatherley Way has been targeted for 795 homes.

Stuart Fowler, chairman of Up Hatherley parish council, warned residents they must be sensible in their opposition.

“At a time like this, emotion is no good,” he said. “We will have to rely on cold, hard, scientific argument if we are going to launch meaningful opposition. However, I think one word worth emphasising at this point is ‘sustainability’.

“If we don’t have the infrastructure to support these homes then they should not be built – it’s as simple as that.”

These are the display boards as I saw on the evening consultation. The order isn’t correct but that isn’t too important. Please feel free to make comments on your experiences of the exhibition at the bottom of the page. Thanks!

_MG_1861 _MG_1862 _MG_1864 _MG_1865 _MG_1866 _MG_1867 _MG_1869 _MG_1870 _MG_1871

CONTROVERSIAL proposals to build 4,500 new homes to the north west of Cheltenham will go on public display for the first time today. If you missed it see it here www.elmsparknwc.co.uk.


(sorry that this is hard to read – this is the original image for the Elms Park website)

Earlier this month, the Echo unveiled a first glimpse of the £1.75 billion plans from developers Bloor Homes and Persimmon Homes for 700 acres off Tewkesbury Road, between Kingsditch Trading Estate and Uckington.
The new estate, which would be called Elms Park, would have the potential to be as big as Bishop’s Cleeve, comprising a business park, two new primary schools and a secondary school. However, countryside campaigners have vowed to fight to protect the land, part of Cheltenham’s greenbelt.

NW of Cheltenham before and after the development

NW of Cheltenham after and before the development

Representatives from the developers will be on hand at Cheltenham Civil Service Club, in Tewkesbury Road, at a public exhibition today from 2pm to 8pm today.
Further displays will take place at the same time tomorrow at Tewkesbury Town Hall and on Saturday from 10am to 4pm in Unit 11 of Cheltenham’s Regent Arcade.
Steve MacPherson, technical director, Bloor Homes, said: “We are looking forward to sharing our proposals for Elms Park.
“Visitors will be able to discuss the plans with members of the project team and, importantly, give us their feedback.”
“All comments we receive as part of this pre-application consultation will be carefully reviewed and given consideration before the proposals are finalised and a planning application submitted.”
A range of project plans and information will be on display at the events, including the draft masterplan which sets how all the distinct elements of the proposed community at Elms Park would be delivered.
These include new schools, local shops, sports fields, footpaths and cycle ways, healthcare facilities, a Park & Ride scheme and public improvements, as well as a 10 hectare Business Park and up to 4,500 houses.
Anyone unable to attend the exhibitions can visit the website to view details at www.elmsparknwc.co.uk.


The NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) currently does very little to protect our agricultural land from house building. This campaign is trying to fix that by asking Mr. Pickles to strengthen the NPPF in a time where being more sustainable our growing our own food is crucial.

By Gloucestershire Echo, Wednesday, June 12, 2013
A £1.75 billion development which could see up to 4,500 homes built in north west Cheltenham has been unveiled.

The site, which would be called Elms Park, would be built on 700 acres of greenbelt land off Tewkesbury Road, between the Kingsditch Trading Estate and Uckington.

It would also see the creation of a new business park, a 600 space park-and-ride, two new primary schools and a secondary school with sixth from.

Elms Park has the potential to be roughly the same size as the nearby village of Bishop’s Cleeve and would go a long way to helping solve the town’s reported housing crisis.

The homes would be built in three 1,500 unit phases and up to 40 per cent could be designated as affordable.

This would be a mix of rental and shared ownership properties, the equivalent of approximately 1,800 homes.

There is also specific provision set out in the scheme for the elderly with some form of warden-assisted living planned.

A similar scheme was put forward in 2009, but was postponed.

The north west site is already earmarked for housing, with planning documents held by Cheltenham Borough Council suggesting a housing capacity of 4,500.

However, the fact the land is entirely greenbelt is likely to draw the ire of countryside campaigners, determined to ensure green fields are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

The developers hope protestors might be appeased by plans that would see nearly 40 per cent of the site kept “green”.

This would be equivalent to nearly 300 acres and would come in a mix of informal and formal green space, including a large park which would run through the middle of Elms Park.

Steve MacPherson, technical director for Bloor Homes, said: “As well as being able to provide some of the vital housing and business space needed for local residents and their future generations, the Elms Park site at north west Cheltenham benefits from its unique ability to offer space for a range of essential infrastructure, including education, transport, leisure and community facilities, in a single well planned location.

“We would encourage people to attend the public exhibitions where they will be able to see the careful way the proposals for the new neighbourhood have been designed, with new housing provision integrated with essential community facilities, and an emphasis on maintaining a significant amount of green open space.”

The developers have said none of the built area would be constructed in the flood plain and that they had undertaken “extensive modelling” to figure out the best way to drain the site.

The only access to the new houses for motorists will be off Tewkesbury Road, raising questions about the potential impact the development could have on the busy street.

There would be a major investment in transport services with a number of new bus services being proposed.

The build time for Elms Park has been estimated at between 10 to 15 years, from start to finish.

The development would also feature some as-yet-unspecified healthcare provision and numerous sports pitches.


Nearly 40 per cent of the development site would be kept as informal and formal green space.

There would be a mix of parks and sports facilities which would include numerous sports pitches for football and possibly cricket.

The development would occupy 700 acres and nearly 300 acres of that would be kept as green space.

There would be one big park running through the middle of the development.

There would also be space for dog walking.


Full details of the Elms Park proposals will be on display at a series of three public exhibitions later this month.

Members of the project team will be on hand to answer any questions and listen to feedback. They will be at:

Wednesday, June 26, 2pm – 8pm, Cheltenham Civil Service Club, Tewkesbury Road.

Thursday, June 27, 2pm – 8pm, Tewkesbury Town Hall, High Street

Saturday, June 29, 10am – 4pm, Unit 11, Regent Arcade, Cheltenham

Following consultation, a planning application will be submitted in the next few months.


All of the site is currently designated as greenbelt.

The north west site has been earmarked for housing for a long time.

It is identified in Cheltenham Borough Council planning documents with the suggested capacity of up to 4,500 homes.


There would be a new park and ride close to the motorway with up to 600 spaces.

The only access for cars to the development would be from Tewkesbury Road.

There would be no vehicular access to Elmstone Hardwicke from the development.

There would be a road into Swindon Village from the development, but it would only be for a bus link and pedestrians – no cars.

Existing junctions “offsite” could be changed to give buses priority as part of multi-million pound investment in transport.

An internal circular bus route would be created to serve the development itself.

More bus services would be brought in with a potential shuttle into the centre of Cheltenham.

Measures to encourage cycling are also being considered.


The development would include two new primary schools.

There would also be a new secondary school with sixth form.

It is thought the secondary school would be built half way through the overall build.

See Full Gloucester Echo Article

Tracey Crewes (from Cheltenham Town Council) will be attending and providing an update on the JCS at the Parish Assembly on 28th May, at Swindon Village School.

I would like to suggest that we all get as many like-minded residents to come along and hear what she has to say.

Please everyone spread the news to come along to the School at 7.30pm

Please download walk map and dirs

And if you can please download our save your greenbelt A3 poster and print out.

Latest news. It’s happening. A planning application is expected soon for 4500 house for the Cheltenham NW urban extension.
 Cheltenham Council confirmed in the 28th Match that Bloor and Persimmon plan to submit THE application in July for the NW urban extension (beside Swindon Village and Tewkesbury Road). We think this date has been very carefully chosen.
  • so, AFTER the JCS preferred options (I WONDER what those are going to be!)
  • so, BEFORE the JCS is finalised and
  • so BEFORE our five year +20% housing land availability is safely sorted out and
  • so when anything ‘sustainable’ will be fair game
The developers will probably be hoping that the lack of the local plan (the JCS) will give them a presumption that the answer to ‘sustainable’ (appalling misuse of the term!) development is YES – the government has said as much. But, this is still green belt at the moment, which the government has also stated it will protect.
This is a key time for our fight to stop this building. Its been a great success to delay it this long, but now its crucial that we work hard to stop it, delay it further, get it staged or reduce its impact. We must do whatever we can. We will be calling on your help shortly.

A very worrying story has appeared on “Inside Housing” stating that if councils cannot get their local plans in place within 2 months!! then they face unconstrained development since the current government has declared that the default answer to (sustainable) development is YES.

Inside Housing Article

Its very worrying, bearing in mind that the current plan is that the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) won’t come into action until August 2014! We don’t yet know whether to trust this article

Helen Wells kindly gave the Swindon Village History Society an update on the ongoing saga of the Joint Core Strategy and planning issues relating to large housing developments around Cheltenham and particularly around Swindon Village.

The Joint Core Strategy – JCS

A joint development plan to shape the development of  Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury up to 2031.
It replaced the Regional spatial strategy (RSS)

Updated JCS Timetable

The Government makes a final decision July 2014
Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report October 2008
‘Issues and Key Questions’ public  consultation Nov 2009 to Feb. 2010
‘JCS Part 1’ public consultation June to August 2010
‘Developing the Preferred Option’ public consultation Dec. 2011 to Feb. 2012
Preferred Option Document June 2013
Preferred Option public  consultation July to Aug.2013 (6 weeks)
Adoption August 2014

The JCS consulted on four options:

A 16,200 new homes Building only on brownfield (previously used) land and some other sites where planning permission has already been given. Enough for 16 years supply for population growth according to Save the Countryside
B 33,200 new homes
C 36,850 new homes
D 41,500 new homes

B, C & D would see development on brownfield land and also on large areas of greenbelt and greenfield land.
Including 4,450 houses between Swindon Village and Uckington on existing greenbelt land, 1300 at Shurdington and developments of 3100, 1000, 1500, 1300 (incl farm lane), 750, 3700, 250 new homes in other areas.

  • To use housing need figures calculated by consultants Nathanial Lichfield Partnership (NLP) as the basis of further progress on the JCS.
  • JCS must be concluded else large risk of uncoordinated passing of planning applications
  • Challenged by our groups and also many CBC councillors – projections do not include latest 2011 census info
  • A Working Group was set up by CBC to review the figures used for “Average Household Size” (AHS) in 2031
  • A Cambridge University Consultancy is engaged to report on “how to project the AHS for the JCS”

Decisions made by JCS team

JCS area population in 2011 322,800
JCS area households in 2011 138,430
Persons per household 2.33
Anticipated population growth over 20 years to 2031 44,700
Final population for JCS area in 2031 367,500
housing need 28,500

(= 1.6 Av persons per new household) (21% increase)

Save the Countryside’s view

An Amended version of Option A (19000) would meet our long term housing needs : based on accurate nationwide statistics of average 2.3 people per house not 1.2 as the JCS team have estimated and considering our economic climate

  • Brownfield First: The Greenbelt boundary must not be changed for the convenience of developers.We must protect our precious countryside.
  • We must not lose our local food production land.
  • We cannot take a risk on flooding in this area.
  • There are enough available sites already to meet our housing needs.

What’s Next

STC LEGLAG and CPRE challenge the figures formally

  • Population increase
  • Economic climate
  • Household size

Challenge politicians who promised to protect Greenbelt.

  • Show your support
  • Come to our annual walk – Sunday 19th May 2pm
  • Put up a Poster in your window
  • Join in the Public Consultation in July – Aug 2013
  • We need all the help we can

Thank You

Cheltenham / Tewkesbury Boroughs: 13,800 new homes in Cheltenham by 2026. 26% increase (by 2016 if growth point status had been accepted)

Dictated Urban extensions on Greenbelt and Greenfield sites

  • 5000 North West Swindon Village,
  • 1300 South Leckhampton
  • 1000 Bishops Cleeve

To comment:

Write a letter to the JCS Team,

Municipal Offices, Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 9SA

Visit the JCS website: http://www.gct-jcs.org

Email: info@gct-jcs.org

Phone the JCS team on 0800 073 1441

Please also contact your local Councillors on Cheltenham Borough Council, Tewksbury Borough Council or Gloucester City Council.

The Echo published the following article yesterday. It appears that the councilors have scrapped the resolutions Leglag and Save The Countryside fought so hard to get the councils to accept. This includes investigating the evidence for lower housing figures provides the LegLag and STC. It shows that the councils choose to take absolutely no notice of local people in the JCS consultation, the overwhelming majority who voted to protect the greenbelt and build fewer houses. I’m saddened, gutted and ashamed by my local politicians. Any faith I had in them has been lost. They do not represent us.

Housing crisis must be solved by working together, councillors told

by The Gloucester Echo, Monday 15 Oct 2012

COUNCILLORS have been warned that there is ‘no Plan B’ to working with neighbouring councils in solving the area’s housing crisis.

Members of Cheltenham Borough Council (CBC) voted in favour of going back on controversial decisions they made just a month ago.

Gloucester and Tewkesbury Councils had suggested the future of the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) document, which will state where and how many houses should be built, was in doubt after Cheltenham passed recommendations in September that had not been agreed with the two partner authorities.

But CBC chief executive Andrew North told a members’ meeting at the Municipal Offices tody: “I think the truth of the matter is that there isn’t a Plan B as such.”

After a lengthy debate, council members agreed to withdraw the offending resolutions in an effort to ensure the future of the JCS.

In the past week all councils within the Joint Core Strategy area, Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury have met to decide the required housing need for the area. Out of 739 responses to the JCS questionnaire 78% of the public voted for option A for 16,200 homes and that brownfield is developed before greenfield and that urban regeneration comes first. We expected the councils preference to be for option B to build 33,200 homes despite the lack of public support.

There was a very length debate at Cheltenham council, where Save The Countryside campaigners were out in force with strong evidence to back up their arguments. The population within the JCS area is estimated to rise by 44,700 over the next 20 years, it actually likely to be lower since this ignores the fact that we are seeing much less economic growth due to the recessions (less job migration). The projection of 33,200 assumes a low occupancy rate of 1.2, whereas the “2011 census” and “Local Tax and Labour Force Survey” both give household occupancy of 2.4! Naturally this more realistic occupancy requires far fewer homes to be built given the population increase. STC and Leglag are stunned that this ridiculously low occupancy rate can be counted as an evidence when there is absolutely no evidence for it!

During the debate it became increasingly clear to STC campaigners how shaky the evidence was for the housing estimates. The JCS team seem to believe you can invent some assumptions, pass them through a faulty mathematical and claim to have conjured up some solid evidence. We expect better from our representatives. Importantly the Cheltenham councillors are sympathetic to our arguments but face strong resistance from the officers. At the end of the day councillors voted for a housing figure of 28,500 homes but due to strong arguments from STC and Leglag they add an option to further investigate evidence for the 16,200 figure. There is hope that they will be convinced by the solid evidence for this lower figure.

While this appears to be a small chink in the armour of Cheltenham Borough Council even this slight ‘weakness’ has been pounced upon by Gloucester and Tewkesbury council and have suggested that unless CBC goes with the higher housing figures the whole JCS might collapse. This is very unfortunate and more pressure needs to be put on these other councils. Tewkesbury members even said the figure might need to be as high as 43,220! , however there are different voices and some councillors at Tewkesbury said that more work need to be done before housing need for the three councils could be established and that that work needs to be substantial.

Several people have mentioned how the fiasco is the awarding of the West Coast mainline contract has echo with the JCS process. In both cases, flawed statistics are put up to support the wrong outcome and costs in the long term of getting this decision wrong and likely to be very high.

Margaret White (Leglag)  discovered these figures, showing generally that councils have in the region  have all adopted far lower housing requirements than those given in the now scrapped Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs). Not so in Cheltenham yet.

Bristol adopted – housing numbers 32,800 (RSS 36,500)
North Somerset adopted – housing numbers 14,000 (RSS 26,750)
South Gloucestershire – housing numbers 26,400 (RSS 32,800) –Hearings happening currently.
Bath & North East Somerset – housing numbers 11,000 (RSS figure 21,300 waiting to hear further from the Inspector.


Save The Countryside and LegLag campaigners are angry about the use of Nathaniel Lichfield Partners assessment of the Joint Core Strategy whose housing figures and trumpeted by the private company about forcing the numbers up and building on greenbelt against the councils wishes. Campaigners were excluded from the meeting so protested outside. We have lobbied the council to publish Nathaniel lichfields presentations made at the meeting. Let see if we are likely to receive it.

Echo article

Echo article

As reported by George Monbiot

“This spring, the government dropped a clause into an unrelated bill so late that it could not be properly scrutinised by the House of Commons, criminalising the squatting of abandoned residential buildings”.

It is currently legal for squatters to live in vacant, neglected properties. They generally look after them and it provides a roof over their head for the very poor. The clause which the government inserted will now criminalise this use of vacant properties forcing these people on to the street and forcing them to claim housing benefit. It is estimated that this will cost up to £790m over three years and will cause more pressure for more social housing.

Full Guardian Article

The STC annual walk last week was very well attended and enjoyed this year with a turn out of over 60 people. The weather was very pleasant (hadn’t quite hit the too hot, we’ve all had enough of this now stage yet!). Tim and Dagmar Courtney helped provide the start point tent with information. Helen gave a short update on the current situation, in summary there were a huge number of comments on the Joint Core Strategy overwhelming for option A, for no building on greenbelt and greenfields. STC put a huge amount of work into our response but things are delayed (as usual!) and there is no news yet – and, hopefully, no news is good news. Anne, Mike Griffiths and helpers provided the usual refreshments at the half way point in Elmstone Hardwicke and Helen Wells, Alice and helpers, provided refreshments at the end in Swindon Village and more, as I left the hot tub had just come up to temperature.

One concerning note was a 19 year old women who collapsed at the side of the road in Elmstone Harwicke, she had recently come out of hospital and was in quite some pain. Some people attended to her and Mike Griffiths (I think) took her to A&E. If anyone know how she is please comment below.

This year I was without children so no dragging, carrying or copious encouragement was required and I got round in record time. There were no ‘friendly’ cows to contend with either this year though a fist size rocky was accidently thrown into a group of walkers by a friend of ours, but fortunately it narrowly missed us! I hope to repeat the walk again next year and as long as possible. Thanks to all those hard working organisers!

Please enjoy the pictures below.

Adrian Skilling

Following the success of previous walks and to celebrate our success so far, we will hold the fifth circular walk through the fields of the proposed NW extension, between Swindon Village and Uckington.

Click on the image above if you wish to download the pdf to print out a poster.

Hope to see you there and hope we get good weather!

Listen again to the excellent programme, “Unreliable Evidence” on how the new NPPF and localism bill has changed the planning landscape.

Listen again

It was generally thought that the drastic simplification of planning guidance has lead to serious lack of clarity. This is likely to lead to lots of legal challenges which will eventually fill in the detail. Of course this is expensive and time consuming. All agreed that if you want to stop development find some great crested newts or badgers since their rights were far more highly protected than those of people.

The Joint Core Strategy consultation has now closed. I hope you were able to respond in time.

We produced a 16 page response which is available here: JCS consultation response from Save the countryside. Here is a Summary of our recommendations:

Save The Countryside propose Option A with conditions and amendments as follows:

  • The Greenbelt boundary must not be changed for the convenience and higher profit margins of developers.
  • Development on Brownfield land first in all cases –with a clear focus on urban regeneration the sequential test must be used
  • We must not lose our local food production land
  • Absolutely no development on existing greenbelt land in phase 1.
  • A further review to be under taken of housing demand no later than 2021 considering the current economic environment
  • No development on green field sites to be done without proven flood protection methods in place for new homes and any existing homes adjoining the new developments
  • Inclusion of windfall development in all housing calculations
  • Councils should control the type of housing built by developers according to local need. Housing developments must include the size and type of housing that is most required to include low cost / affordable housing and social housing.
  • A full infrastructure review is undertaken with particular focus to the opening of the M5 junction 10 as a two way junction.
  • Fulfil the criteria set out in JCS Clause 4.13 Increase access to jobs/services (via sustainable transport modes) to benefit the existing communities prior to any new developments taking place. Any future developments should not take place until an expansion of these measures has been constructed in readiness to support all future developments on a phase by phase basis and NOT on a site by site basis.

Our final chance to have our say in the future of our town and countryside!

What is the JCS?

The Joint Core Strategy (JCS) in a house building plan put out by Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury councils together to plan for the needs of our 322,600 residents for the next 20 years. The public consultation has began and is open until 12th February 2012.

What do Save The Countryside want?

Save The Countryside have been consulted by the JCS team and these councils for 5 years, to ensure the best plans are developed for the long term future of our towns, countryside and out residents.

We are passionate to save our greenbelt land and green fields, and for our planners to build much needed housing in a responsible way, using the available sites and regenerating properties before considering development on open countryside. Save The Countryside have made our own calculations and would like to ask you to consider these and make up your own decision for the future.

The JCS has tried to predict the future stating that the population of the area will increase by 45,200 people and to house them it will be necessary to build 36,850 new houses. This is one house built for each 1.2 people (really?!)

The strategy gives us four options to choose from:


new homes

building only on brownfield (previously used) land


new homes

(baseline -10%)



new homes




new homes

(baseline +10%)


Options B, C and D would see development on brownfield land and also on large areas of greenbelt and greenfield land. Including 4,450 homes between Swindon Village and Uckington on existing greenbelt land.

Many councillors, like us, have indicated that they would prefer not to build on greenfield/greenbelt land if at all possible but they are worried that if they go for option A then developers will be able to resort to costly (for the council and developers) appeals on the grounds that not enough land has been made available.

This would enable the developers to gain access to green land first because it is easier to build on than redeveloping previously used land and so they made bigger profits.

How to support option A

Occupancy assumption: If you look at the figures you can see that the JCS made the assumption of one home built for every 1.2 people. This projected level of occupancy is extremely low given that current on Gloucestershire the average is 2.3 people per home and same figure stands for England as a whole. So the way out is to challenge the evidence base and assumptions that the JCS stands on, this is just part of the evidence base. Redoing the sums assuming 2.3 people per house we find that only 20,000 houses will be needed over the next 20 years, a lot less than options B, C and D. This means that the land identified in Option A is sufficient for the first 16 years of growth without any need to touch green land.

GDP growth assumption: An ambitious 3.2% GDP growth figures was assumed for the region for the next 20 years! (as in the Regional Spatial Strategy). We now all know this is widely optimistic. This is important because GDP growth drives population growth due to new employment opportunities. So more realistic GDP growth (or even contraction) means less population growth.

Flawed greenbelt review: Another part of the evidence base in the green belt review. This report judged the area to the NW of Cheltenham around Swindon Village against green belt criteria. The judgement is flawed due, firstly because the huge Wingmoor farm landfill site containing the most highly toxic waste and site inside this region is completely ignored! and importantly it is advised that no house building should sit within 3km of such a site. In addition the review only seems to focus on the greenbelts value is a separator between urban areas and not its value in food production, flood prevention, health benefits and wildlife protection. Finally the ribbon development along Tewkesbury route was considered to have “reduced the openness of the greenbelt” when it is clear it has an insignificant impact on the miles of green fields.

Certainly we would be foolish to allow the green fields to be used until we know that the population is actually going to grow as the JCS expects.

So what can you do?

Let the JCS team know which option you prefer A, B, C or D and explain why in your comments. If you agree with STC then please let your concillors know too. Please let your concillors know that you support their wish to not build on green land. This will increase their resolve to support Option A.

Consider the points raised if they help your view on which option to propose and use them to back up your argument.

Your Councillors are:County Councillor (Swindon Village):

Cllr. Mrs Suzanne Williams Tel:230648


Cheltenham Borough Councillors:Cllr. Bernard Fisher Tel: 227569


Cllr. Paul Massey Tel: 771482


To comment:

By letter:The JCS Team, Municipal Offices, Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 9SA

On the website: http://www.gct-jcs.org

By email: info@gct-jcs.org

Visit the JCS displays – you will find details on the JCS website. Your closest is on the 4th January at Uckington Village Hall from 4pm until 9pm or 7th January at Sainsburys from 10am until 5pm

It’s really important that you do comment, this is our very last chance.
If you don’t do anything our village will be engulfed by thousand of new houses within a few years!

The Joint Core Strategy consultation starts today, on the 13th December 2011 and runs until 5pm on the 12th February 2012. Your views are very important to the development of the local area over the next 20 years. Participate here. Heres a piece Barry Simons wrote for the Swindon Village news about the JCS…

The fate of the green fields between Swindon Village, Uckington and Elmstone Hardwicke is dependent upon the Joint Core Strategy (JCS). The JCS is a plan to be agreed by Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury for future development within the control of the three local authorities. This plan will make an estimate of the future requirement for houses, employment land and other land uses and then say how these needs will be met over the next 20 years. Once it has been agreed it will provide a basis which developers can use to plan what and where they can and cannot build.

The plan must provide sufficient land to meet future needs. The government requires each local authority to have identified at any one time sufficient land to allow the next 5 years of housing to be built plus twenty percent

Local authorities have to make this much land available or developers can ask to develop other land outside that which is allocated and if the local authorities don’t allow it the matter can go to appeal on the grounds that the local authority are not meeting their commitments.

A first draft of the JCS has now been passed to the councillors of the three authorities and they have to decide if it is good enough to go out for public comment.

JCS Logo

The draft has gathered a lot of figures on the expected population growth then estimates the number of houses needed to cope with this growth. This leads to four options: one shows what can be provided without any green fields being built on and the other three detail what land is required to meet the expected actual need stemming from the earlier growth estimates. All these three require building on green field and green belt land.

It is Save The Countryside’s belief that the figures in this draft which estimate the future increase in population for the area and the number of new houses needed to house these people are very wrong. When Cheltenham Borough Council debated the matter recently almost every councillor said that the felt they should recommend option which does not include building on green fields. Many spoke eloquently on this matter including our own councillors. However as the JCS reads right now this could lead the process open to appeal. What we have to do now is prove that the JCS growth figures are a considerable overestimate and thereby give our councillors a way to accept the first, non Greenfield, option without leaving the door open for developers to appeal. We must also show to our councillors that we support them in their stance and that it is for local people to decide the need and how to meet it. The government has said it supports localism and David Cameron himself has spoken in support of the greenbelt.

One important line to take is that the JCS figures are no more than an estimate. No matter how the numbers turn out in the end, we must not allow building on green fields until all the brown fields have been used up and there is still an unmet need.

So what can residents of Swindon Village do?

The JCS will go out for public consultation before Christmas. You will be able to find the JCS on the internet http://www.gct-jcs.org/PublicConsultation/

We will have a link to the appropriate place on our website www.savethecountryside.org.ukand will share with you easy ways that you will be able to put forward your comments (coming shortly!).

It is so important for all of us to take the opportunity formally put our comments to the Joint Core strategy team. So we ask all who can to do this and write to their counsellor to confirm that you are against building in the greenbelt and on green fields until all other land has been built on.

Without responses from local residents we are at risk of the JCS team pushing forward on one of the options resulting in a huge urban extension on our doorstep and the loss of our countryside forever.

If you want to keep those fields green prepare to do your bit.

A big thank you to our supporters, particularly the 100 of you who stood with us outside the Council offices on 10th October.

(Adrian) I attach a programme of JCS public meetings where you can also participate in the consultation.

Day Date Time Venue
Wednesday 4-Jan 5.30 – 8pm Uckington & Elmstone Hardwicke Village Hall
Thursday 5-Jan 4.30 – 7.30pm Parish Rooms, Highnam
Monday 9-Jan 3 – 6pm Churchdown Community Centre
Thursday 12-Jan 2.30 – 5.30pm Shurdington Social Centre, Century Hall
Friday 13-Jan 10am – 5pm Eastgate Centre, Gloucester
Saturday 14-Jan 10am – 5pm Kings Walk, Gloucester
Tuesday 17-Jan 5.30 – 8.30pm Brockworth Community Centre
Wednesday 18-Jan 6 – 9pm Ashchurch Village Hall
Friday 20-Jan 10am – 1pm Tewkesbury Town Hall
Friday 20-Jan 10am – 5pm Regent Arcade, Cheltenham
Saturday 21-Jan 10am – 5pm Regent Arcade, Cheltenham
Thursday 26-Jan 5.30 – 8.30pm St Michael’s Church Hall, Bishop’s Cleeve
Monday 30-Jan 2.30 – 5.30pm Dumbleton Village Hall
Tuesday 31-Jan 5.30 – 8.30pm Winchcombe School
Wednesday 1-Feb 10am – 1pm Tewkesbury Town Hall
Thursday 2-Feb 2.30 – 5.30pm Apperley Village Hall


STC and LegLag join forces

On Thursday 10th November the combined the forces of STC and LegLag mobilised about one hundred of us for a peaceful demonstration outside the council offices in Cheltenhams promenade. We were makinb our views heard on the Joint Core Strategy (JCS). On that day councillors were about to pass for the ‘preferred options’ document for publication.

The Joint Core Strategy

Both Kit Braunholtz (LegLag) and Helen Wells (STC) gave an excellent speech on the current state of the process. Kit explained that he believed the joint core strategy was the correct approach as it was right that planning needed to be jointly decided by neighboring regions. However, he was seriously disappointed by the draft document. It is almost a carbon copy of the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) which was scrapped by the coalition government when it came to power. But surely, don’t we have localism now, surely they have to listen. But do they? as despite much discussion of STC and LegLag with the JCS team we seem to be back where we started 3 years ago! Also the JCS document is seriously flawed.


The JCS document contains four scenarios with increasing requirements for housing over the next 20 years in the Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury regions.

  • Scenario A – 16,200 houses built. No building on the green belt
  • Scenario B – 33,120 houses built (baseline projection -10%)
  • Scenario C – 36,800 houses built (baseline projection)
  • Scenario D – 40,480 houses built (baseline projection +10%)

Scenario A has been presented as the doomsday scenario as according to the document the housing market will fail. We know it won’t be seriously considered. The councillors are expected to recommend scenario B. So they are planning to build on the green belt, even though the government says and green belt should be protect, and while it says the default answer to development is YES and it required council to up there needs for 5 years supply of building land by 10%!

An absurd document

Ridiculous economic growth predictions – The JCS ‘preferred option’ information assumes 2.3% economic growth for the next 20 years!, hardly likely

Dodgy population projections – These seems seriously out of whack with the proposed housing. Scenario B makes the assumption that 80% of household will have one person, whereasgovernment predictions for 2031 assume only 65%.

Villages ignored – There are 2 key areas of development in Cheltenham 4450 in the NW urban extension and 1300 in the south Extension but absolutely little regard for any development in what is termed medium and smaller settlements, so where villages are asking for housing, these again seem to be ignored.

Toxic waste site vanished!  – there is no mention of Wingmoor Farm toxic waste site in the JCS or Greenbelt review. The land in this area is referred to as agricultural land. We know that this area is one of huge concern and no housing should be built with a 3km range

Greenbelt not valued– The references to the greenbelt around the area are far to generalised and seem only to focus on its value as a spacer between urban areas. We all know that these fields have more value than that and reference should be made towards it’s value in delivering food production, flood prevention, health benefits, wildlife protection and so on.
County council owned Green belt land – Despite assurances some time ago from council leaders that the council owned land was not for sale, we have fears that a document from rural estates includes their policy to continue to work with developers – what does this really mean?  This land used for agricultural purposes was highlighted as a ribbon development on the greenbelt review and this is inaccurate. We fear that the county council may now consider the sale of this land to developers to help relieve their financial pain.
Flooding – Reference is made to flood prevention but also to a 1 in 100 years risk. We know that the Environment agency data is unreliable and have grave concerns that their flooding projections are inaccurate regarding fluvial and pluvial flooding. This means that development could be allowed on high flood risk land. We are not clear if the surface water management assessment was actually included as part of the preparation.

Outcome of the meeting

Several people attended the council meeting in the public gallery. From what I heard the council didn’t make a good impression, it was hard to hear and some aspects were disappointing. For instance questions were asked early on by STC and LegLag but they were told they would be answered at the end of the meeting. This meeting went on for 3 hours. Many of us have jobs, family and other commitments to make. It isn’t fair to expect people to wait around all afternoon on a week day.

Despite this I’ve heard from Helen that most of the councillors are very supportive of STC and LegLag positions, but the concern is along the line that if modifications are made as this stage developers will be able to use this an ammunition to further undermine the document. This really makes no logical sense to me, surely a more solid document without obvious flaws would be less open to attack! Importantly, however, we established the the evidence base of the PCS document could be challenged via the consultation.

The JCS ‘preferred options’ document will be published any day now for consultation. Unfortunately the consultation period is over Christmas when people will be very busy. Both LegLag and STC are pressing for an extension to the consultation period.

This letter was written to the councillors from Gloucester City council proceeded their consideration of the JCS ‘Preferred Options’ document. It lays out our dismay at the process which it likely to see the document passed with all its flaws, omissions, inaccuracies and downright biased view.


Dear Steering Group Member

We understand that, if Gloucester City agrees, then all three Joint Core Strategy Districts will be prepared to allow the JCS ‘Preferred Options’ information to go out to public consultation, unrevised and with whatever omissions and flaws may have been identified during the Councils’ discussions on the document, particularly with reference to the housing Scenarios A – D.

The rationale for allowing the go-ahead appears to be that, if the Officers’ recommendations, which are already in the public domain, are altered at this late stage, this would provide Appeals ammunition for developers now relying on the recommendations.

The first very sad thing is that the document seems to have been presented to the Councils as a fait accompli, take it or leave it, rather than as a consultation draft where any problems identified could be solved before it reached publication.

There seem to us to be two terrible effects of letting the document go forward without review or revision of those points Councillors have already queried.

Firstly, we should be so sorry if the three District Councils are called to account for allowing the publication of information many Councillors suspect to be flawed or misleading. Surely this could cause even more trouble for the Councils – even heading towards maladministration?

Secondly, to rely on the public to spot the flaws and challenge the weaknesses on
your behalves, and actually for them to take a positive and informed part in sufficient numbers to correct the document, is surely pie in the sky and almost an abrogation of your responsibilities as our democratic representatives.

For instance, how would Joe Public gainsay the ‘doomed collapse of civilisation’ predicted by the Team in Scenario A? Wouldn’t he say, on reading the document as it is now, “If the OFFICERS and a COMPUTER model and the COUNCIL say it, it must be true. So bother, we can’t vote to save the Green Belt as the housing market will fail, all the 19 – 59 year old workers will leave, there’ll be 84% of oldies and we’ll all be overcrowded. So, we’ll have to choose Scenario B, even though it means that 4 out of every 5 houses in 20 years’ time will only have one person living in them and even though it means so much of our green countryside being concreted over.”

Surely you should not go out to an innocent public and waste their time (and yours) by asking them to comment on what may be faulty statistics.

Please agree to initiate a speedy review of the housing Scenarios and the weighting of the input into the Gloucester Affordability Model which seems to us to have produced such questionable results – perhaps because of an inflated 2.3% growth rate.

Yours faithfully

Alice Ross

Secretary, Save the Countryside

Last night was a important milestone at the Tewkesbury Borough Council offices which sets the stage for many hundreds of house to land on our doorsteps. The councillors authorised the Joint Core Strategy for consultation by the public.

In the document there were four levels of housing options. Option A being the lowest and option D being the highest. Only option A would not require building on the green belt. They voted for option B, which is a plan for 33,200 houses over the next 20 years in the Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Gloucester areas. All four options for building houses in the three areas are; scenario A is for 16,200, Scenario B is for 33,200, Scenario C is for 36,800 and Scenario D is for 40,500.

STC at Tewkesbury Borough Council Offices

STC at Tewkesbury Borough Council Offices

Some wording in the JCS document was changed as some councillors objected to APPROVING or ENDORSING option B and wished to stress that they were publishing the whole document for consultation. However, they did think that option B was the right option even so! I wasn’t at the meeting so I may not have conveyed the subtleties quite right. Whatever, my friends in STC thought the three Bloor representatives present when away very happy.

We had a small contingent at the offices so we should be in the Glos Echo and Helen Wells made some comments which should he heared on Radio Gloucestershire today.

We are outraged that the JCS seems basically to be a regurgitated RSS with all the same housing figures and same dodgy evidence base that assumes massive growth in housing need based on 3.6% economic growth over the next 20 years. Last night STC and Leglag campaigners established that the public does have a right to challenge this evidence base and we will be doing so.

The green belt review has now been published.

Its good news for land around Leckhampton but bad news for land around Swindon Village to the NW of Cheltenham.
Areas have been rated on their value for green belt purposes. With Red meaning are large contribution to green belt objectives and Green meaning little contributions. It looks like Green=Development (although the report does stress further consideration is required). The NW of Cheltenham gets the green light.

Summary of Green Belt Review

There is an excuse that ‘the north side of the Tewkesbury Road is ribbon development’ reducing the openness of the Green Belt’. This is nonsense, it has little impact on the miles of open fields. There has been no consideration on the land value in relation to needed farmland or flood prevention. It all very depressing.

See the Glos Echo Article.

The full document is available from Here

The government’s claim that local people will have more say over planning is an outright lie.

By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website 6th September 2011

The government is telling us two stories, which don’t seem to connect. New building, it says, will be approved with less control than before. And local people will, it says, be given control over new building. How can both claims be true? Answer: they can’t and aren’t.

The first claim is correct. Planning in England is being so thoroughly gutted that it is, in effect, being shut down altogether. As my column yesterday showed, when you read the small print in the government’s draft national planning policy framework, you find clauses which make it more or less impossible for local authorities to say no to anything, however inappropriate and destructive it might be.

But that’s all right – isn’t it? – because what councils can’t do, local people can, through the localism agenda and the neighbourhood plans the government has announced. That was the promise. When you read the draft document, you find that this promise has been broken: broken to the extent that the government almost seems to be mocking us.

The document maintains that neighbourhood plans, drawn up by ordinary folk, “give communities direct power to plan the areas in which they live.” They will be able to “develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood”.

But read on, and you soon discover that these powers can be used only one way: to commission development, but not to prevent it. “Neighbourhoods will have the power to promote more development than is set out in the strategic policies of the Local Plan”. Communities will be able to grant planning permission for this extra building through Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders.

In other words, you’ll be allowed to give developers what they want. You will not be allowed to prevent developers from wrecking your neighbourhood. The only right you’ll have to protect anything is designating land as “local green space”, though the draft makes it clear that this applies only to small parcels of land “of particular local significance”, which communities can apply to defend when the local plan is drawn up. But people can do this already, under the Commons Act 2006, which allows for the creation of town and village greens.

How different all this is to the promises both parties made in opposition, that they would empower communities to fight damaging and unnecessary developments.

To understand these promises, you first have to grasp an extraordinary fact at the heart of the planning system. If a developer’s proposal is turned down by the local authority, he can appeal against the decision. If he loses the appeal, he can either alter the plan and re-submit it, or wait for a period and re-submit the original plan. As long as he has enough money, he can do this endlessly. Big developers such as Tesco keep appealing and re-submitting until they grind down the resistance of local people and get what they want. The objectors must fight, fight and fight again. The developers know that eventually they’ll become exhausted and give up.

But while there is perpetual scope to hold local authorities to account for their refusals, they cannot be held to account for their approvals. There is no right of appeal against a decision to award planning permission. This applies even in cases when the local authority making the decisions has a commercial interest in the development (in other words when it acts as defendant, judge and jury); when the development is against the local plan and when planning officers have recommended that it should not be approved.

The only right objectors have is to apply to the High Court for a judicial review of the decision. But there are two problems with this approach. The first is that the decision cannot be challenged on planning grounds, but only on the grounds that correct procedures were not followed when the decision was made. The second is that it can cost the person who takes the application to court hundreds of thousands of pounds. In almost all circumstances, in other words, this is a useless provision. As the House of Commons Library points out, the cost of judicial review means that it’s likely to be of more use to big developers than to local people:

“It tends to be a more suitable option for a company involved in extensive development (like a chain of supermarkets) wishing to establish a legal point that may help in future applications, rather than for private objectors.”

Altogether, in other words, there is a profoundly undemocratic imbalance between the rights granted to developers and the rights granted to local people. The existing planning system bends over backwards to prevent people from curbing the schemes of property developers, supermarkets, road builders and airport operators. It’s as if there were no higher value in life than corporate profits.

This imbalance will be greatly exacerbated by the government’s proposed new presumption in favour of development. Local authorities, it says, should “approve all individual proposals wherever possible … the default answer to development proposals is ‘yes’”.

In February 2010, in its publication Open Source Planning, the Conservative Party promised that:

“We will make the system symmetrical by allowing appeals against local planning decisions from local residents, as well as from developers”

In their report Blueprint for a Green Economy, published in 2007, the Conservatives promised sharply to reduce the scope of developers’ rights of appeal. It proposed a reform of the planning system in completely the opposite direction to the one now being pursued by the coalition.

In their manifesto before the general election, the LibDems announced that:

“We will create a third-party right of appeal in cases where planning decisions go against locally agreed plans.”

All broken, all swept away in the speculators’ charter commissioned at the behest of the coalition’s landowning chums. The draft planning document is the most blatant product of cronyism and corporate power that this government has yet produced. And that’s not for want of competition.


Hear Helen Wells, Anne Griffiths and Martin Horwood talk about planning issues around Swindon Village and the wider countryside on World at One, from Friday 9 Sep, 2011. Hear it here

Anne, Alice and Margaret White from LegLag (who wrote this), have alerted me to threat to the countryside from the NPPF. The damage that could be done is truly shocking. I urge you all to take action.

The Government has issued during the Parliamentary Recess a draft document that could change the face of the Countryside of England – and says in effect that all development applications should be allowed to
go ahead.



Please read these links from the National Trust website and pass it on to as many people as you can think of in order that they will sign the petition.

I have personally linked in to each one, and they are very easy indeed to access. See the Guardian article and the National Trust Petition

Also, we should be encouraging as many people as we can to read the CPRE website and send an e-mail to their M.P. Email your MP here



About 100 people came out for a sunny but blustery walk over the fields around Swindon Village. We can celebrate 4 years on and no building yet. We must remain vigilant though.

We were also filmed by Cotswold TV. See it here

Barry Simons delighted the children by hiding fluffy animals along the route while also keeping charge (with Mike Griffiths) of the young bullocks. I even heard that someone had stroked them. Thank you to all the organisers, especially Helen, Kit and other helpers plus Anne and Mike who provided refreshments at Elmstone Hardwicke.

At present we are winning. However the next challenge comes in the Autumn when the Joint Core Strategy is published. While it is still being prepared we need to let Local Government know we are still here and still want to protect our countryside. So the next event is the fourth annual walk over the greenbelt area between Swindon Village and Elmstone Hardwick. This will take place on Sunday, 22nd May 2011 starting at Stantons Drive in Swindon Village at 2pm. The walk is over less than 3 miles and takes about 90 minutes. It is relatively flat but there are several stiles. There will be refreshments on route and at the end. There will be teddy bears. There will be the press. We need to let ‘them’ know we are still here, still interested and we will not let ‘our’ green land be developed when there are other good alternatives to provide the neccessary housing. So do come and join us, rain or shine, for this very pleasant ramble.

At a recent committee meeting for Save the Countryside, Steve Jordan of Cheltenham Borough Council briefed us on recent developments. Two points in particular are worth mentioning. The first is that delivery of the Joint Core Strategy had been put back to allow it to better meet the requirements of government development policy which is only now starting to be issued. As a result the JCS will not be put before council for initial review before September after which it will be issued for consultation. This is the point at which we may need assistance in writing to refute any points with which we disagree. In particular we do know that the JSS will include a review of the green belt(s) and this could prove very contentious, depending, of course, on what it decides.
The second point Steve made is that urban Cheltenham has space for about 2000 houses in unused sites, that is to say within current boundaries. It has always been Save the Countryside’s view that these should be used before any inroads are made into green fields both from the point of view of saving the green fields and so as provide regeneration within the town in some areas which badly need it.

There was a big turnout on 16 Feb where the Swindon Village Society hosted a presentation by Save The Countryside. The general message was that lots has been achieved and no building had happened yet! But, there is currently a policy vacuum which creates uncertainty and leave a gap for developers to use. It is important that the local plan reflects local views, at process that we will all be consulted on soon.

Save the Countryside general presentation 2011

While we celebrate the success of the scrapping of the RSS and wait for the latest joint core strategy to be released we now are working on practical plans. Under the new localism and communities Bill from Parliament local communities are tasked with developing their own Neighborhood Plans which will be used in the planning process. They of course have to work in line with the local Councils direction, but this is a great step forward in moving the power from enforcement from central government to local communities regarding the future of their neighborhood.

We encourage all readers to work with their local parish council to ensure local neighborhood plans are drawn up to design their neighborhood going forward – stating what housing needs are identified in their area and how these can be met.

On Wednesday, 16th February 2011 the Save the Countryside team will give a presentation to the Swindon Village Society on where the campaign stands at present. This presentation is open to anyone. The venue is Swindon Village Hall which is on Church Road, Swindon Village at the north end of the playing fields. It will start at 7.45pm. Free Admission. After a short presentation on the progress of the campaign and where we need to go next there will be a free question and comment period. We want to hear your concerns and let you know when and how you may be able to help. Finally there will be tea and coffee when you can talk to the team informally. We would greatly welcome you presence.

At the last committee meeting of the STS a member of the Joint Core Strategy Team provided some useful information. The JCS has commissioned a review of the green belt(s) by an external contractor to take place in the period Jan-Mar 2011 for presentation to the JCS in the spring. This does not mean that the contractor will make alterations to the green belt but will provide the JCS with their own recommendations that the JCS can then either accept and incorporate or decline. It is understood that the contractors work will not be open to consideration by outside organisations until some or all of it appears in the next itteration of the JCS which is expected to appear for public review in the summer of 2011.
It is also understood that the JCS is giving the RSS very little weight in its considerations since it was never agree or formally published.

A Save the Countryside Update From Helen Wells

Nimby (Not In My Back Yard) is a word sometimes used with negative conections about campaign groups such as Save The Countryside. That does not describe what our campaign is all about.
In fact it is about Looking After My Backyard.And we are still at it nearly 4 years on. So far we have avoided what many saw as a destined enormous development of 5000 new houses on green belt land in Swindon Village as a North West Urban Extension.
‘ So what’s been happening as it all seems rather quiet?’ I hear a a lot of people say. Well while trying to keep up with the day job we have been hard at work with all the political stuff.
We are delighted to tell you thaqt the ill-advised Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West (RSS) has been scrapped. So a very big thanks to everyone that joined the campaign totalling 35,000 for its removal. We won! However that was only one battle in our continuind campaign to protect our green land.

We maintain our alliance with the 22 groups in the South West called Save Our Green Spaces (SOGS). Our Colleagues have had great TV and press coverage, particularly those trying to renew the Bristol City stadium on its present site rather than sell the land to a supermarket and build the new stadium on green belt land in Bristol.
We have been working with our farming colleagues who dont want to sell their land to developers, despite very attractive financil offers, as we continually work to to protect the gren land that we have and build the housing that we need on the already identified sites that are crying out for regeneration.
In August representatives from SOGS, including Save The Countryside, had a meeting in Parliament with the Government Chief Planner, Steve Quartermain. Frank discussions took place on the need for more local participation and transparency in all planning decisions; the need for regeneration of vacant and ex-industrial sites; and the need to ensure that sufficient employment opportunities match housing developments.
The danger was raised of national food security as our best growing fields are continually being built upon for massive warehouses that provide poor employment scope.
In September we joined colleagues from LEGLAG, the Leckhampton campaign group, with our MP Martin Horwood and Steve Jordan, the leader of Cheltenham Council, to meet the Minister for Communities Greg Clark. We were delighted that our arguments were taken into consideration in the development of his Localism and Decentralisation Bill. A very big thanks goes out to Martin Horwood who was instrumental in setting up this meeting.
So the change in government seems to be really looking positive for us as it wants building to be aspirational and supporting local communities rather than dictated from Central Government.
We now continue our close links with the Joint Core Strategy Team which will manage the development of housing in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury and the local Conucil to ensure that the right amonut of housing is built, in particulat the affordable homes that are needed for the benefit of the community.
In the interim, we are really pleaed that until the final JCS is completed, for the next year, they are omitting greenbelt land from land availability plans (SHLAA). Many alternative brownfield sits have been identified to meet an appropriate need for new housingwhich will not have a detrimental effect on our green belt land, our food production, flooding, pollution, health benefits and way of life. Again a big thank you to everyone who commented on the Joint Core Strategy so far.
So whats next? We continue our close links with our concil colleagues as official consultees to the planning process to ensure that our beautiful green belt land remains protected. We wait for the final Joint Core Strategy to be published and work with our JCS colleagues to ensure that our local needs are met. The Localism and Decentrallisation Bill should be published next month. We continue to work with SOGS, CPRE, our Severn and Avom combined flood group colleagues and other organisations including the NFU. Our focus remains on protectingfarm land, green land and flood land from uneccessary development.
So What Can You Do?.
We are aware that there are some protected species living within the land under threat and we would ask any nature lovers among you to to take note and advise us of any sightings of protected animals and birds. In particular any birds on the RSPB protected list, newts, slow worms or dormice. These can be reported to the Swindon Village Society since any sighting can be used in our future defence of this land.
As for Save The Countryside, we are a very small group of individuals working in our spare time, so if anyone cares to join our group and take on any administraive tasks to help we would be delighted. Watch out for the final Joint Core Sterategy. Until green belt land is permanently removed from the land made available for building we are still not safe! We’ll be sure to let you know how things are going and we will let you know how you can continue to help. Thanks everyone for your tremendous support so far. It has been hard work but definately worth it.

Shock news! Just when we though top-down houses figures had been scrapped they are back! You can’t make this stuff up.

High court ruling says the goverments scrapping of Regional Spatial Strategies when they came to power was unlawful.

However, housing minister Bob Neil says this will change little since this problem will be fixed in the localism bill coming along in a few weeks. But, it is worrying as it seems to mean that before then developers can get their applications in under the old RSS’s, though remember that the final South West RSS was never published due to legal problems. My feeling is we shouldn’t worry too much about this. What do you think?

Hi everyone. Ron and Alice represented our combined campaigns brilliantly yesterday as witnesses in the Parliamentary Select committee – Communities and Local Government Committee. The topic was the abolition of regional spatial strategies. You can see them on this video link.

Alice Ross and Ron Morton spoke with Mark Steele from Ringwood Town Council, they followed witnesses from RTPI and TCPI. After their fervent discussions, CPRE, the Woodland Trust and The South East Sustainability Forum spoke. Tough questions were asked including

  1. What was wrong with the RSS?, what would we do instead?
  2. How should cooperation work between Local Authorities? Is a tier higher than local needed, How could it be democratically accountable?
  3. How can provision of house building reflect local need? How can planning take account of need? If there was an absolute need, would we accept building on the greenbelt?
  4. What do we think about proposed incentives?

It was clear that all parties agreed that the Regional spatial Strategy had been fundamentally flawed, and planning power should return to local authorities and communities but with an element of control to ensure reasonable numbers of housing is actually built where it is really needed. There was a big focus on how to ensure that we build the required volumes of affordable housing. The issue of incentives for new house building was discussed and our stance remains cautious but in any case we will follow up with our specific point that incentives should be arranged for regeneration of disused properties.

Well done Alice and Ron

It appears that a third party right of appeal will not appear in the forthcoming localism belt. Such a right would give local people a right to be taken seriously when objecting to large scale developments on land on their doorstep. The coalition made this a pre-election pledge, it is looking like they have abandoned it. We need to put pressure on our local MPs.

See comment here in the Telegraph and here in Planning Daily. The CPRE clearly says this was a pre-election pledge, though the Telegraph is a little less sure. Can someone check their manifestos for me please?

Laurence Robertson (MP for Tewkesbury) says he will follow this up.

DEFRA is currently collecting your views on how we can best protect and enhance the natural environment. The on-line survey runs until 30th October 2010. The questions ask are:

  1. Which parts of the natural environment matter most to you?
  2. How do you feel you benefit from the natural environment?
  3. How do you think we could improve the natural environment?
  4. What would encourage you to get involved in protecting the natural environment?

Do it here. The answers can be free-form so you express what you really value about your local environment. Make your views heard!

This is big news! The council has just published the Urban Extensions Definition Study. This was prepared for the RSS. It shows all the likely sites in the greenbelt that the RSS came up with. The council says it is to fill a legal planning vacumm since the scrapping of the RSS until December 2011 when the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) in finalised. But this document echos the RSS exactly. It is as if the RSS had never been scrapped!

See the article in the Gloucestershire Echo

Issues and Key Questions public consultation report

The JCS Issues and Key Questions public consultation was held between November 2009 and February 2010. Corresponding Parish Council events were held in February and March 2010. A report on all of this activity has now been published and can be viewed on the JCS website

Current consultation opportunities

The JCS team has recently launched an informal public consultation on the draft Part 1 of the Joint Core Strategy. Part 1 includes:

  • A ‘spatial portrait’ of the JCS area
  • Key issues faced by the JCS area
  • A vision of how the area may be in future, and
  • The strategic objectives to be fulfilled if the issues are to be resolved and the vision is to be delivered.

Part 2 will set out the policies to guide development in pursuit of the vision and will be consulted on in due course. If you wish to view or comment on Part 1 please visit: http://www.gct-jcs.org/PublicConsultation. The public consultation on this document runs from 14th June to 5pm on the 9th August
Future consultation

The JCS project timetable is currently being reviewed in light of the Coalition Government’s recent changes to the planning system. Future consultation events will be announced thereafter. See the attached fifth JCS newsletter for further information and watch the JCS website for further announcements

If you have any questions please contact a member of the JCS Team either by email: info@gct-jcs.org or phone 0800 073 1441.