CAMPAIGNERS against plans for a new town in South Warwickshire claimed yesterday (Wednesday) that the scheme must now be in serious doubt.
They said the proposal for a 4,800-home settlement in the area of Gaydon and Lighthorne Heath appeared to be “hanging on by its fingertips” because it found itself up against the conflicting aspirations of car giant Jaguar Land Rover (JLR).
Cllr Laura Steele, chair-man of Forse—an action group set up to fight the new town scheme – told the Herald: “It is six weeks since JLR voiced their objections and there is still no agreement with the developers. It would seem they have been at loggerheads.”
The statement by Forse (Friends of a Rural and Sustainable Environment) came after Monday’s special meeting of Stratford District Council’s ruling cabinet, at which it was agreed to look again at the new town proposals and examine two alternative schemes, one north of Southam and the other west of the town.
At the cabinet meeting Cllr Chris Saint (Cons, Tredington), the leader of Stratford District Council, said he was trying to organise a meeting between JLR and the prospective developers, the Bird Group of Stratford and the Commercial Estates Group.
Cllr Steele said it was “hugely significant” if Cllr Saint was trying to mediate between JLR and the developers. “It does not bode well for them if they need a referee,” she said.
And Cllr Steele added: “Clearly JLR want so much of this land that it completely undermines what scant viability the scheme may ever have had.
“The developers are left with the rump of their scheme on the northernmost end of their chosen plot —on the most ecologically sensitive area between Chesterton Wood and the quarry and where the noise and pollution problems would appear practically insoluble, making it even less sustainable.
“The secondary school and academy are already gone and other promised facilities are vanishing day by day. What is left is a plan for a housing estate.”
Cllr Steele said it was time Cllr Saint realised what others had known all along and even his own party members now increasingly realised—that this was a completely unsustainable and inappropriate scheme and “a white elephant”.
“He should now concentrate on other more sustainable schemes which were hidden from us during the consultation process,” she said.
During Monday’s cabinet meeting the current chairman of Stratford District Council, Cllr Chris Mills (Cons, Kineton), announced that he would be opposing the Gaydon and Lighthorne Heath scheme (which is located in his particular ward). He is the first member of the ruling Conservative group on the council to declare his opposition to the proposals.
Immediately after Cllr Mills addressed the cabinet Cllr Roger Wright (Ind, Wellesbourne), launched a scathing attack on the way in which the district council had handled the whole Gaydon and Lighthorne Heath issue.
Cllr Wright declared: “It is being led very badly and managed very badly. It will delay the core strategy even further.” And he said the council’s credibility was hanging on its handling of the issue. “We are in a damage-limitation exercise,” he said.
Cllr Wright said more work needed to be done and added: “Let’s have more options on where development should go across the district.”
The two new settlement options now being considered by the council are on the Cemex site north of Southam, where 2,350 homes are proposed, and at Stoneythorpe, west of Southam, where 1,200 homes are planned.
Last night in response to the statement by Cllr Steele, Cllr Saint said that progress was being made in organising a meeting between the council, the developers and JLR. “At the moment all the details have not been finalised,” he said.
Cllr Saint added: “The issues that have been raised by JLR are confidential. They are commercially sensitive. We are very keen to move forward on this.
“My desire is that we will come to a robust conclusion. The comments by Cllr Steele are speculative and ambitious and I can’t add to what I said on Monday until that meeting has taken place.”
Cllr Saint said that he was meeting the new Housing Minister, Kris Hopkins, in London today (Thursday). “Laura must understand we are involved in a very delicate situation here, involving the impact on her community and JLR’s concern about the future of their business,” he said.
“I am concerned about the effect on the community and all the divergent and disparate interests that have to go forward. We are working to a tight time frame.
“I was genuine about the meeting with JLR and the developers. I am hoping to make a comment once we have come to a conclusion.”
He has even chosen to set up his office well away from any kind of police building—for the time being in a county-...
Now that a scheme to develop up to 800 homes on the site has been given official government backing, the proposals are e...
STRATFORD-on-Avon District is an attractive place to live and its population has grown rapidly over recent decades. &nb...