CAMPAIGNERS against plans for a new town near the M40 motorway have claimed Stratford District Council’s “obsession” with the project was jeopardising its ability to protect residents from “greedy” developers.
The action group set up to fight proposals for a 4,800-home settlement at Gaydon and Lighthorne Heath (GLH) said it was now an “apparently ill-fated” scheme that was continuing to divert resources away from properly sustainable proposals.
A statement by Forse (Friends of a Rural and Sustainable Environment) was issued following a Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) community forum on Monday evening at which it was pointed out that the company was still in negotiations with the proposed new town developers—the Bird Group of Stratford and the Commercial Estates Group—over the apportionment of land in the locality.
JLR was allegedly caught completely by surprise when plans for the new town were unveiled in July, and was particularly irked that land it needed for its own expansion was being earmarked for housing. The last thing the company wants is to have its room for manoeuvre irrevocably blocked by thousands of new homes.
After last week's community forum Cllr Laura Steele, chairman of Forse, told the Herald: “We said back in October that the GLH scheme must now be in serious doubt because of JLR opposition, and that it was hanging on by its fingertips.
“Cllr Chris Saint [leader of Stratford District Council] said our comments were speculative and ambitious and that he was trying to arrange and chair a joint meeting between the scheme’s promoters and JLR. We said they must be in serious trouble if they needed a referee.
“We are now nearing Christmas and a dispute between the GLH promoters and JLR which began in September is apparently no nearer resolution, with Stratford District Council now putting the matter off until some time in the New Year.
“Meanwhile, all we have been told by SDC is that JLR wants ‘at least Neighbourhood Two’ of the three-neighbourhood scheme. That means, according to the developers’ original plans, 1,900 homes have gone, the main town centre with its shops and services has gone, a primary school has gone and the secondary school and so-called academy has gone. What would seem to be left is a giant housing estate of approximately 2,900 homes.”
Cllr Steele added: “We assume that JLR also wants the ‘employment land’ between ‘Neighbourhood Two’ and M40 Junction 12, hence the developers now targeting land within Gaydon Village for their planned industrial estate - an idea which, if submitted as a stand-alone scheme, would be, we sincerely trust, dismissed by Stratford’s planners out of hand.
“The effect of all this delay and confusion is that, although SDC are now belatedly looking at other schemes, their myopic obsession with ill-considered and now apparently ill-fated GLH is still diverting energy and resources away from properly sustainable schemes and the implementation of a core structure plan which will protect us all from greedy developers and their equally inappropriate schemes.”
In a statement Stratford District Council said: “Forse continues to speculate about what is understandably a complex process. Discussions are ongoing.
“The outcome of those discussions will be made public once all the parties are ready for that to happen. In the meantime if Cllr Laura Steele wants answers to specific questions she needs to make an appointment to see the leader, Cllr Chris Saint, where these concerns can be addressed.”
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