In general, the draft plan is a starting point, but flawed. There is a significant dissonance between some of the content and the NDP mission statement. For example, the patronising sneering at the residents’ dislike of development and the consideration of totally inappropriate sites. The mission statement quite clearly states that the NDP’s reason to exist is the protection of the Green Belt. This is the overriding concern of residents. Is has to be the central focus of the NDP. This draft contains far too many suggestions for development sites. Why is it so concerned with promoting housing development when it does not need to be? The NDP should recommend none and oppose all new inappropriate development.
It concerns me that there have been no NDP Steering Group minutes published on the website for many months now. This makes it difficult for ordinary residents to see the trail between open democratic engagement and the drafting of the NDP. The NDP Constitution states: “The Committee will meet as required, but no less frequently than once every month.” Where are the minutes?
Who has written the draft NDP? Were any developers involved in the drafting? There are no names supplied. Has there actually been any open democratic debate in the last few months? Have there been meetings which have not been minuted? This is important, as it will mean that the final document can be challenged down the road if it is not seen as the authentic voice of the parish, or due process has not been followed. To help clear all this up, let’s at least see the minutes from the last few months on the website please. All correspondence (including emails) between the NDP and other parties should be available on the website as well. Let’s have more transparency. I do think that the Parish Council should be taking more of a lead – in particular, to ensure that the survey results are not ignored, distorted or creatively misinterpreted. Statistics can be easily manipulated to tell any self-serving story that you want. In my view, the NDP Steering Group should have the best interests of the community at heart and should be fully democratic, open and not subject to undue influence by vested interests that would not be supported by the wider community. The Parish Council must be vigilant in this respect.
However, there are some potentially good policies in the document which need to be firmed up to protect the Green Belt from developers. In particular, I would enthusiastically support the following:
The NDP concludes that there is no need for more homes and that apart from possible single infill plots , conversion of unused farm buildings and proposals for redevelopment of brownfield (should they arise) there are no sites that could be seen as limited infilling and
any Local Needs Schemes would not be appropriate.
Earlswood Lakes Protection
Development within the protected area will not be supported with the exception of in-fill within the existing built up area that is consistent with Green Belt policy and maintains the current building line.
Backland development will not be supported within the designated area.
These policies should be the cornerstone of the NDP, as I believe they would be overwhelmingly supported by local residents.
I think that it is imperative that any site recommended by the NDP, that has any conflict of interest attached whatsoever, must carry a prominent full-disclosure in the NDP document that there is a conflict of interest, with full details of that conflict. For example, if the site is owned by a developer involved with the NDP, or a consultant used by the NDP is also representing the site’s landowner or developer. In my view, anything less would be to mislead the voters in this parish.
With respect to possible development sites – I think there is a definite problem with the following:
Site 1 Land behind Warwickshire Lad pub (24 houses)
Put forward to the SHLAA 2014
In my view, this site is completely unsuitable for development in the Green Belt and the fact that it appears to be treated favourably by the draft NDP (despite the NDP mission statement and survey results) is clearly of concern.
Site 3 Land behind 96-98 Malthouse Lane (6-8 houses)
Put forward to the 2014 SHLAA
This backland development is clearly totally unacceptable. This area must be protected as a priority.