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West Worcestershire Liberal Democrat campaigner Richard Burt has lodged a petition with the Number 10 website calling for the suspension of the regional housing targets.

The petition reads:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to suspend regional housing targets determined through the Regional Spatial Strategy, empowering local councils instead to set their own targets based on local, sustainable housing needs assessments and consultation with local communities.

You can sign it at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/SuspendRSS/

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Martin Horwood addresses the campaign in Committee Room 14

Martin Horwood addresses the campaign in Committee Room 14

 

About 90 people from Gloucestershire congregated at the House of Commons to put pressure on the Government to back down from its deeply flawed Regional Spatial Strategy proposals. The day before we had been told this in a written note from the Minister Iain Wright:

I cannot discuss the content of the RSS or communicate the points raised at our meeting with decision making Ministers about issues raised by regional stakeholders. This is for reasons of fairness and to avoid new issues arising which might necessitate a further round of consultation..

which all seems to fly in the face of democracy. Our party was undeterred however and when a deputation of Gloucester MP’s met the Rt Hon Mr Wright they found him to be very sympathetic. He was impressed both by the strength of feeling and by the force of some of our arguments and while he could not publicly commit to help, the MP’s were pleased to see aides scribbling notes throughout the meeting.

At a debrief to the whole group in Committee Room 14 jointly chaired by Helen Wells and Cheltenham MP Martni Horwood, the mood was upbeat – there was a definite feeling that the messagewas beginning to get through. Some evidence of this can be seen in one of the comments after the meeting by a spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government who said: “The South West is facing long term housing shortages and affordability issues.  It is already the only region with above average house prices and below average incomes. If more homes are not built the housing ladder will get even further out of reach leaving the next generation with nowhere to live.” 

In response to fears about green belt land however, the spokesman continued: “The government has no intention of weakening the protection given to green belt in planning decisions. We believe it is possible to build the homes future generations need whilst protecting the environment and green spaces.”

There were a number of interviews with regional press and television and there was a good write up of the day in the Gloucesrshire Echo here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/gloucestershire/7842764.stm 

NEXT STEPS:

This weekend the focus switches to the local dump – why build houses near the toxic waste facility at Stoke Orchard? This Saturday, 31st January, Grundon are putting on a public exhibition about their proposals for 20 more years of operations at Wingmoor Quarry and Wingmoor Farm.
 
If you need transport or do not wish to drive onto Grundon’s site, SWARD are running a minibus shuttle, financed by Bishop’s Cleeve Parish Council.  The minibus will start at 9.30 am and run continuously till the exhibition ends. Simply wait outside Bishop’s Cleeve Community Centre.

We are planning another meeting in February and will publish that date nearer the time – its important we keep up the pressure.

In the meantime, enjoy this coverage on ITV West with star performances from Helen Wells, Barry Simon, and Martin Horwood.

http://www.itvlocal.com/west/news/?player=WST_News_15&void=279869

Agricultural Grades around Tewkesbury Road

Agricultural Grades around Tewkesbury Road

The land along the Tewkesbury Road earmarked for develpment by the RSS is ‘very good’ or ‘good’  agricultural land as the attached map clearly shows. Even the pasture which makes up most of the proposed development area is classed as ‘moderate’.  At a time when news stories like this continue to argue imminent food shortages, why are we planning to build over these precious food sources?

MPs and Campaigners Rally at Swindon Village 27th Sept 2008

MPs and Campaigners Rally at Swindon Village 27th Sept 2008

MORE than 100 countryside campaigners, residents, councillors and MPs rallied in Swindon Village to protest against plans for thousands of homes on the greenbelt.

There were cheers and claps from the Seasons Business and Leisure Complex, in Quat Goose Lane, as politicians called for townspeople to lobby against Government proposals to build 8,100 homes around Cheltenham, including 5,000 on the edge of Swindon Village, as part of the Draft Regional Spatial Strategy.

The meeting was led by protest group Save the Countryside, with speeches from Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood and Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson, who gave advice on action to take.

There were calls for revolt as residents heard the Government had failed to take into account space already within the town, flooding concerns following last year’s crisis, or the need for new infrastructure including roads and schools to support the area of new housing.

Concerns were also voiced about the short amount of time taken by Government inspectors to assess Cheltenham for housing

Click here!

Helen Wells, chairman of Save the Countryside, told the crowds: “We’re here to make the maximum impact for our cause.

“The Government wants to massively increase the size of our beautiful town by 26 per cent and we’re not having it.

“Let’s all be clear, it’s our last chance to save our beautiful countryside.

“We have nationwide support and have come a long way since our inception seven months ago. It’s up to us to make our mark.”

Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson added: “We are all concerned about this issue.

“We have experienced problems with flooding and further development is only going to make this worse.

“The Government is not listening to us and it’s important to campaign and fight this.

“Once thousands of houses are built in the wrong place it’s too late and we’ll have to live with our mistakes.”

Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood called for public protests in London against the plans.

He said: “We cannot be bullied with accusations of being nimbys.

“We need a test that makes sure space in urban areas is used first and this should be part of the Draft Regional Spatial Strategy.

“That will help us to defend the countryside.

“Laurence and I also need to get together with MPs in the south west and go to London with bus loads of people behind us to make the Government listen.

“If we turn up the political heat, then just maybe we might become a success story.”

Mike Griffiths travelled from Elmstone Hardwick for the meeting.

He said: “This is not just a campaign by people from Swindon Village, but by the people of Cheltenham and Tewkesbury.

“Residents from both towns have joined together to present a stronger case against these plans.”

The public have until October 24 to make their views known on the Draft Regional Spatial Strategy through a consultation process.

■ Have your say by emailing rssconsult@gosw.gsi.gov.uk.