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Alliance leaders welcome agreement to pause Local Plan

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The leaders of the progressive alliance running Stroud District Council are delighted that government inspectors have agreed to their request to pause the examination of the draft Local Plan – which sets out where future housing development should take place, writes Sue Fenton.

The examination process will be paused until December 5. This allows seven months to resolve road- and transport-related issues with the relevant authorities, and a further three months for public consultation.

Planning Inspectors raised concerns on August 4 last year about three aspects of the draft Plan: the capacity of M5 Junctions 12 and 14; the viability of the proposed pedestrian and cycle bridge over the motorway at Wisloe; and the viability of public transport options at Sharpness.

On August 29, the Council asked for a pause in the examination process to allow time to resolve these issues and, following further correspondence, the Inspectors have now granted this pause.

Council Leader Cllr Catherine Braun, Leader of the Green group, said this week: “We are very pleased that our request has been granted by the Inspectors. They know that we are committed to resolving any outstanding issues with this draft Local Plan, so that it can be adopted, to provide protection to our local communities from speculative development. Local residents look to us to control the location and quality of new housing and economic development sites, and to ensure that new homes are built for people, not profit.”

Conservative councillors on Stroud District Council in January called for the Plan to be withdrawn completely. This option would have been “disastrous”, say Alliance leaders.

Cllr Natalie Bennett, Deputy Leader of the Council and Leader of the Independent Left group, said: “Withdrawing the draft Plan would have left Stroud district without a local plan for years, allowing developers to play the planning system and guaranteeing approval of speculative housing developments on appeal, without the required infrastructure, and with lower building and environmental standards.” 

At a national level, the Government now requires all local authorities to work towards having up to date local plans in place and has recently blocked four councils from trying to withdraw their local plans from the inspection process.

Cllr Robin Layfield, Leader of the Community Independents group, added: “I very much welcome this helpful response from the inspectors and the support that they have shown for our efforts so far. It’s now time that the Conservative opposition got behind the Local Plan and worked constructively to see it through instead of shouting from the sidelines and attempting to make political mischief in an election year.”

In their letter the inspectors say they decided to agree to a pause after corresponding with Stroud District Council, National Highways, Gloucestershire County Council and South Gloucestershire Council. They say: “We are keen to continue to work proactively with Stroud District Council throughout the duration of this Examination.”

Cllr Ken Tucker, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, added: “We will not sit back and see our communities short-changed by developers, which would be the direct result of withdrawing the Local Plan as the Conservatives requested. Thanks to this pause in the examination process, we can now work to resolve the final issues and lock in the strong community and environmental protections that are built into our Plan.”

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