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Martin steps up campaign for local green spaces

October 19, 2011 9:54 PM

CHELTENHAM MP Martin Horwood has stepped up his campaign to protect valued local green spaces around Cheltenham - in the face of worrying developments at both national and local level. Nationally, the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has been branded a 'developer's charter' by green groups. Locally, the first details are emerging of the co-ordinated local plan by Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Cheltenham councils, called the Joint Core Strategy (JCS). Some of the scenarios in the JCS maps promise urban extensions on sensitive green spaces as large as any suggested in Labour's top-down Regional Spatial Strategy, which was abolished by the new coalition government. Both the NPPF and JCS are open to further revision after public consultation.

Martin has:

Martin is also preparing to speak in tomorrow's Commons debate on the NPPF and to lead local opposition to many of the scenarios apparently included in the local Joint Core Strategy.

Martin commented: 'Both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats promised in opposition that we would give local communities the right to decide how much development they want, of what kind and where. In the Localism Bill, we're handing real power back to communities to decide. In the natural environment white paper, we said very clearly that government wanted real value to be attached to all the benefits of green space and the natural environment. Well, the time has come to deliver on those promises.'

'At national level, we need to rewrite the National Planning Policy Framework to make absolutely clear that when local councils want to take account of community objections and environmental concerns and say no to overdevelopment, they can do so. At local level, we need to make it crystal clear to planners that many of the scenarios they are thinking about are completely unacceptable to local people. To bring back the highest numbers from Labour's discredited Regional Spatial Strategy would be a betrayal of everything people voted for at the general election. '

'With regard to the local Joint Core Strategy, I am particularly concerned at the maps - in Scenarios B, C, D - showing more than a thousand houses being built on the green land at Leckhampton, which campaigners have been fighting to protect for thirty years. This has been rejected for development again and again in local plans and even by planning inspectors. Thousands of local people in Leckhampton and Warden Hill have signed petition after petition in defence of this land, most recently supporting giving it special status as a country park area. The NPPF's new 'Local Green Space' designation would fit Leckhampton perfectly and the JCS group should now tear up their unsustainable plans and look at using this new designation to permanently protect the Leckhampton green land.'

'I am also worried by two other maps - Broad locations Themes 1 and 3 - which seem to suggest undefined new developments on green land to the west of Hesters Way and Springbank. There is very good evidence that access to green space reduces health inequalities, contributes to better air quality and enhances wellbeing. Protecting green spaces next to some of our least well-off areas like these is also important. Their voice should be heard too.'

'Much of the JCS seems to be based on self-fulfilling growth projections which are simply not sustainable. These seem to have been given overwhelming weight while the objections of local people and the need to protect the natural environment seem to have been almost ignored. There seems to be no acknowledgment that the countryside itself has economic value to a town like Cheltenham and that urban sprawl could really threaten our future wellbeing and prosperity. Ministers are quite clear that their intention is that local councils do have the right to balance demands for growth with social and environmental factors. We need to make sure that national policy really delivers that in practice but, for now, we should take them at their word. Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Cheltenham councils need to go back to the drawing board and produce scenarios that question these growth assumptions and do not simply give the developers whatever they want.'