The Government Inspector’s report on the Nottingham+Broxtowe+Gedling Aligned Core Strategy Plan is out, and can be found here:
It confirms that
- the Government’s planning framework required them to build all the homes they planned
- the councils need to plan jointly, and cannot each assess their own needs separately
- Broxtowe should have the smallest housing requirement (because of the lack of suitable brownfield land)
- the Government’s 5-year expectation for new housing requires building on Field Farm even if the Boots development were accelerated
- specific blocks of student flats are foreseen to reduce pressure on housing in Beeston
- the plan is not expected to cause any difficulties for HS2, if that goes ahead
Apart from a few tweaks, including the important provision that the housing plan should be adjusted downward if demand proves lower than expected, the Core Strategy is approved unchanged. The much-criticised council officials are entitled to feel that the report shows that they understood Government policy correctly.
Formally, the Council now has to decide if it agrees to accept the report; this is in practice certain, since what’s happened is that the report confirms that the councils have followed Government strategy. In principle, the Field Farm issue is not yet settled, however, since Mr Pickles said he intended to call an inquiry about it “unless circumstances change”. We will need to see what happens with that and whether there are any legal challenges.
I think both the Toton and Field Farm developments are regrettable, because they will consume two of our remaining green areas and I’m concerned about both traffic and environmental impact. My view, as I’ve said before, is that both current and the last Government have put too much emphasis on development in green field land and not enough on denser urban development. If we don’t get out of the habit of sprawling outwards aiming for villas and bungalows for every resident, we will inevitably keep eating green belt, while failing to provide enough affordable housing. I would have liked to see Broxtowe’s MP focus on that rather than act as the Government’s cheerleader for the HS2 project, while ineffectively trying to argue that it clashed with the development. The outcome is that the Inspector has reported that the “economic benefits” of Toton development are actually reinforced by the HS2 project.
It is, however, a complex and very detailed paper, and worth looking through to get an idea of the likely development of our area over the next 15 years if Government policies do not change. It is a careful analysis and contains useful positive elements in addition to the ones that I’m criticising, including protection of land around Brinsley and Eastwood, noting the DH Lawrence connection, and an implied welcome for development on the Kimberley brewery site and Chetwynd Barracks which could reduce the need elsewhere. See what you think.
Just a note to congratulate Anna Soubry on her promotion. She was the junior Minister in defence (“Parliamentary under Secretary”) and is now one level up (“Minister of State”). Whatever our differences, she is resolutely loyal to her party and I hope she will enjoy her new responsibilities.
Normal competitiveness will resume tomorrow!
Another quick note, just to pass on the news that Cator Lane will reopen to traffic on Tuesday. I’ve asked the bus companies if and when they will resume use of the route.
Just a quick note to say I had an interesting debate on the regional Notts TV show which will be broadcast tonight at 9pm (I think it gets repeated a couple of times next week). Details of how to tune in to this new Notts-specific channel (which was launched with Evening Post and BBC backing) are here:
The other participants were Neil Clarke (Conservative leader of Rushcliffe), Jason Zadrozny, LibDem) and Katharina Boettge (Green). They plan to have a UKIP speaker on in a future programme. We discussed the NHS, the strikes, engaging young people in politics, fracking, student issues, local development and street busking! – the programme lasts an hour or so.
A quick note to say that sadly Eric Pickles of the Department of Local Government has declined to “call in” the proposal to build an open-cast mine at Shortwood Farm, so it is now likely to go ahead. The difficulty is that the government has subtly watered down the guidance, making it harder for either the county council or the Department to reject new proposals.
History has repeated itself here, though with a different outcome. In 1997, I was dismayed to find that an open-cast mine at Robinettes (which is adjacent to Shortwood Farm) had been approved by the new Labour Government, in flat contradiction to what I’d told voters a few months before. I took the issue to the minister, objected vehemently, and despite being a new MP I promised public opposition both in Parliament and in a court challenge, and was able to get him to reverse his position.
In this case also, Anna Soubry objected vehemently, but this time the Minister refused to listen – something which I worry may be repeated over the Field Farm development. It’s good when the local MP of either party objects to something against the constituency interest, but this government seems quite unwilling to listen.
The basic problem is that central governments of either colour can’t really be relied upon over planning issues, which tend to be made on standard national lines – one needs to be able to challenge them even at risk to one’s career. I suspect that the next Parliament will see the return of the Robinettes proposal as a “natural extension” to Shortwood next door, and if I’m the MP I will oppose it strenuously and, I hope, effectively: my intention will be to try to get the guidance tightened up again before any new proposal emerges.
By the way, I’ve got a stand at the Beeston carnival on Saturday dedicated to discussing the “New Deal for Beeston” proposals as well as the issues around the tram and compensation – I hope to see many of you to discuss them.