Local Plan objectors put their points across

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Local Plan
Voices of objection over last week’s decision to pass the district’s Revised Local Plan have this week been heard loud and clear.

The debate was intense but in the end 25 Warwick district councillors voted for the plan - which will earmark land for thousands of new homes, schools and businesses - to be finally submitted to a Government inspector for approval.

Another ten councillors voted against while district council chairwoman Claire Sawdon abstained.

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It’s unlikely an inspector will give any ruling on the proposals to build 12,900 new homes until after the General Election in May.

Planning consent for at least 5,000 of these has already been given with perhaps 2,000 already built or in the process of being built.

But as Warwick and to some extent Whitnash have still not felt the impact of any of the new “garden suburbs” campaigners are a long way from giving up the fight.

Even the chairman of the planning committee, Alan Rhead (Con, Budbrooke), was among those voting against the plan in its present format.

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Cllr Rhead said: “I’m not so much concerned about the number of new homes and I’m all in favour of more housing.

“I voted against the Local Plan because funding for 51 per cent of the infrastructure in terms of roads, schools, GPs surgeries and sports facilities has still not been identified.

“There is a list of where that funding might come from but for me there are still too many ‘maybes’ and I feel the inspector will find our plan unsound.”

Judy Falp (Ind, Whitnash) said: “I voted against this plan even though I’m not against the need for new homes - but 100 for Fieldgate lane, 300 for Woodside Farm and perhaps 500 on the Sydenham side of Whitnash - we already can’t move on our roads.”

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Cllr Linda Bromley (Ind, Warwick South) added: “We few councillors stood side by side with outraged residents against this flawed and unsound Local Plan. Alas poor Warwick – nearly 4,000 new houses already and still more to come.”

Many opponents of the plan feel their arguments were greatly strengthened by the fact that the Office for National Statistics figures, released in May last year, predicted the district’s population growth up to 2029 was far less than originally expected.

Cllr Rhead feels the ONS figures will not really help to reduce the housing numbers.

He points out that while the populations of Warwick, Leamington, Kenilworth, Rugby and Nuneaton are not expected to rise as fast as originally thought, the new figures do predict a huge increase in neighbouring Coventry.

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Cllr Rhead said: “As a district council we have a ‘duty of co-operation’ to help cater for the needs of our neighbours.”

That’s an argument that cuts no ice with Anthony King and David Williams of the Save Warwick campaign. Members of their group are already fundraising to pay for a barrister after consent was given to build 900 homes on The Asps farmland, west of Europa Way.

It’s an appeal that is likely to be heard in April, ahead of any Government agreement on the Local Plan itself.

Mr Williams, a retired town planner, said: “The first battle may be lost but the fight is far from over.

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“Our view is that by adopting this Local Plan the council has surrendered to those whose interests in Warwick district are nothing more than financial.

“The developers win this first round but with up to 4,000 more houses threatened we see this as The Siege of Warwick. Enough is enough.

“In the next six months we will be fighting appeals against 900 houses at The Asps and 450 more at Gallows Hill. We will also be contesting proposals for 250 homes on Strawberry Field and another 520 at Grove Farm.”