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