By IH Thursday 25 October 2012 Updated: 21/12 08:44
CONTROVERSIAL plans for 800 homes in Shottery have been given the green-light.
Eric Pickles, who is Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has agreed the Planning Inspector’s recommendation for the massive West Stratford development which many have opposed.
The planning application for the development, bounded by a new Stratford Western Relief Road, was submitted to Stratford District Council in October 2009 and subsequently refused almost two years later, despite the plans being recommended for approval by council officers.
Bloor Homes and Hallam Land Management, the joint promoters of the proposals, appealed the decision and a three-week Planning Inquiry was conducted this April.
MP Nadhim Zahawi "I'm shocked to learn that the Secretary of State has chosen to approve the proposal for 800 houses in Shottery against the clear wishes of local residents, their elected representatives and the planning policy direction of the Government.
"Whilst it is unfortunate that the core strategy is not more advanced the council was clear that the Shottery site was included in it's previous Local Plan not through choice but as a result of the previous Government's discredited planning framework. It's extremely frustrating that despite Parliamentarians having voted for the abolishment of that framework and the Localism Bill having achieved Royal Assent nearly a year ago this is not yet being reflected in decision making.
"For the decision letter to declare that only "limited weight" should be given to "the proposed plan" to revoke the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy" when it is the clear will of Parliament and the stated aim of the Secretary of State to revoke Regional Spatial Strategies and return decision making powers to local authorities smacks of Civil Servants being unwilling to give up their centralised power.
"Anne Hathaway's cottage is a central part of the Shakespeare story, which in turn is an integral part of this country's heritage and cultural legacy to the world. The decision letter clearly states that there will be harm to this "heritage asset" and it is disappointing for the Secretary of State to simply agree with the Civil Service that this will be "limited" given that he has not visited the site and particularly given that he agrees that "a degree of adverse effect on tourist numbers - as a result of the development - cannot be ruled out.
"There is no disagreement that there is a need for more housing in the Stratford District, but this many houses, in this sensitive a location is not the answer to that challenge. The Council has made a clear indication of its preference for a dispersal policy to protect the character of our historic market towns and the future of our rural villages. Under the Localism Agenda this should have been respected. Instead this Civil Service led decision drives a coach and horses through the idea of Localism and the messages that Ministers have given out.
"I will be making my views on this issue clear to the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister and have already made a strong representation on behalf of the people of Stratford to Nick Boles MP, Minister for Planning."
Coun Chris Saint, Leader of Stratford-on-Avon District Council was equally unhappy.
He said: “This is a bitterly disappointing decision. JS Bloor have relentlessly pursued Stratford-on-Avon District Council over many years until they got what they wanted. The Appeal system clearly made us vulnerable, which does seem against the Government’s objectives of localism.
"We have proved before that there are ample sites available elsewhere in the District and we are more than happy to put our faith in building to support our economic future, but at the right location; land close to Ann Hathaway’s Cottage was never our choice for development.
"Despite all the local support from residents and evidence emerging for the production of our Local Plan we are now going to have to consider our development plans in light of this decision.”
Coun Jenny Fradgley, ward member for Guild and Hathaway, said the delay to the district's core strategy played a pivotal part, and the Lib-Dem councillor pointed the finger of blame at the ruling Conservatives.
She said: "This is a major setback for the town, which is being let down by the utter shambles the Conservatives have created around the council’s Core Strategy. It’s clear that the delays in the Core Strategy have had a major impact, with the Inspector stating that he had given little weight to the Strategy because it’s at such an early stage.
"This Shottery site - in open countryside and close to Anne Hathaway's Cottage - should never have been put in the local plan in the first place.
Initially councillors voted to exclude it but the Conservatives called a second council meeting and forced the development into the plan. The town is now about to pay the penalty for that Conservative vote.
"We now have to decide what to do next. Because this site alone more than meets the Town’s housebuilding targets all the way up to 2028 one option that must be considered is whether a moratorium on development on all other proposed development sites in the town can be introduced.
"The Conservatives have to understand that Stratford cannot just expand at this pace for ever more without destroying the very things that make people want to come here in the first place."
Stratford Town Council also hit out at the decision.
A statement issued read: "The preferred option for house building in the town is 560 houses built over a period up to 2028 and so the proposed 800 houses proposed in one development represents gross over development. "The Town Council has consistently opposed this development on the grounds that it will have a detrimental impact on the character and setting of the town and on Ann Hathaway’s Cottage, a grade 1 listed building .
"The town also has concerns about the increase of traffic onto Evesham Road and across the town. The Town Council is well aware of overwhelming local opposition to this development and will carefully consider the content of the Secretary of State’s decision before making any further comments."
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust were among those to voice objection.
A trust spokesperson said: "We are extremely disappointed to learn that the Secretary of State has granted the appeal. The Trust has been an objector to the proposed development, on the grounds of the potential irreversible harm it poses to the setting of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and the registered park and garden which surrounds it.
"Our position is unchanged . As the charity charged by Act of Parliament to preserve the Shakespeare houses for the benefit of the nation, our overarching responsibility is to protect this unique part of our national heritage.
"We will consider the content of the Secretary of State’s decision carefully before making any further comment."
Responding to the news that the Secretary of State has chosen to approve the proposal for 800 houses in Shottery Member of Parliament for Stratford on Avon, Nadhim Zahawi said:
The developers understandably welcomed the news.
David Joseph from Bloor Homes said: “We are delighted with today’s announcement and it brings to an end almost ten years of discussion and debate about the need for much-needed housing in the area around Stratford-on-Avon.”
“These plans for West Stratford accord with the Government’s drive to build new homes."
Ruth McKeown of Hallam Land was equally pleased.
She said: “It has been a long journey since 2003 and we now look forward to working closely with Stratford Council and the local communities to deliver these new homes.”
Mr Pickles' decision was expected on October 11 but was delayed - the reason for which was not made public.
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