LAST Thursday evening Cllr Chris Saint, the leader of Stratford District Council, turned up at the Antelope pub in the village of Lighthorne to face local residents who are very angry about what they see as an out-of-the-blue proposal to build a 4,800-home new town in the area.
Cllr Saint was subjected to some persistent and penetrating questioning about how this project came about.
In view of the controversy engulfing the scheme, the Herald asked him to explain the council’s position. What follows below are Cllr Saint's own words.
STRATFORD-on-Avon District is an attractive place to live and its population has grown rapidly over recent decades.
The number of dwellings has increased by 52 per cent between 1981 and 2011.
Much of this growth has been concentrated in the larger settlements: Stratford-upon-Avon saw an increase in dwellings of 58 per cent, Wellesbourne of 74 per cent, Bidford of 86 per cent and Shipston of just over 100 per cent during this period.
In preparing this new plan for the period to 2028, the council has acknowledged that there is a limit to which existing settlements should be expected to grow.
This reflects both the importance of retaining their character and the specific capacity constraints that exist in relation to infrastructure and services.
Our views on this have firmed up as a result of additional work carried out since we consulted on the draft strategy in March 2012.
The council has consistently made it clear that it might need to consider including a major urban expansion or a new settlement to help meet the overall amount of growth in the area. This need has intensified as a result of the agreed increased housing requirement of 9,500 dwellings.
Following a rigorous technical assessment of a wide range of options, including large-scale extensions to existing settlements, the council concluded that a new settlement in the vicinity of Gaydon/Lighthorne Heath is the most appropriate means of contributing to the district’s housing requirement.
This location is adjacent to a major employment site occupied by Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin which supports a substantial number of jobs. It has convenient access to the M40 at Junction 12 and express bus services can readily be provided to link it with nearby towns, railway stations and other attractions.
The site does not have any overriding physical constraints, the necessary infrastructure can be provided effectively and the development can be implemented without delay.
The Lighthorne Quarry area will not be developed for housing, ensuring that the separation between nearby settlements is maintained and protecting the character of Lighthorne Conservation Area.
In addition, there is a need to provide employment land which is in the right location and of the necessary quality to attract and support higher value economic growth.
The location has these attributes and, specifically, will complement and have a synergy with the established research, design, testing and development of motor vehicles on the Gaydon site, which is a key sector of the Coventry and Warwickshire sub-regional economy.
The new settlement is expected to deliver 4,800 homes, of which around 1,900 will be built within the plan period by 2028. In the longer term, once completed, the new settlement will become the second largest community in the district after Stratford-upon-Avon itself.
The site is very well contained, making it somewhat unlikely that the settlement would grow to any appreciable extent beyond the scale now envisaged.
The council believes that this is the right place in which to locate a new small town, as it will benefit from and enhance existing networks, relationships and patterns of movement.
A new settlement of this eventual size is a sustainable addition to the hierarchy of towns and villages. It will complement towns and villages such as Southam and Wellesbourrne without threatening their ongoing role as vibrant service centres for their rural hinterlands. Stratford-upon-Avon’s role as an ‘international market town’ will not be affected.
The development of a new settlement at Gaydon/Lighthorne Heath will take many years to complete and a large proportion of its construction will take place beyond the current plan period. A comprehensive master-planning approach will be required.
This will establish a framework to guide development, both setting out the overall vision and identifying the implementation and infrastructure requirements in more detail.
Detail will be important, particularly for those people who currently live in this general part of the district. However, the council is convinced that this is the best place to establish a sustainable and vibrant new community that is inclusive and diverse, having its own distinctive local identity and founded on best practice urban design principles.
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STRATFORD-on-Avon District is an attractive place to live and its population has grown rapidly over recent decades. &nb...