April 2011

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.