April 2018 Statement

When the people of Cirencester learned about the plan to meet the Cotswolds housing needs by a mistaken policy to rely on one huge estate of 2350 houses they opposed its immense scale. Cirencester is a Cotswold market town with a wealth of history dating back to the Roman Empire. Its layout and design is characterful; its infrastructure is limited and not equipped to accommodate the huge scale of a proposed development for about 6000 people. Something less than half that size would avoid the town being overwhelmed and would still allow housing targets to be achieved.

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“Yes, we need more houses “

Nearly everyone in the town accepts that more houses are needed but believe that the plans are disproportionate and unfair. Along with the other compelling reasons to reduce its size we now need to explore a legal case. Funds are required.

Too many on one site

Cotswold District Council developed a local plan without any community involvement until it was virtually fully formed. in 2014 the plan was uncovered and put out for formal consultation. At the same time another consultation was initiated; the “ Bathurst” outline application, which itself is the major plank of the local plan. From way back in the 2000’s without public knowledge and with scant scrutiny the local plan and an application for a huge site were being progressed hand in hand. In 2014 the public were mightily confused by the council and the land owning developer launching two separate and complicated consultation exercises. There was overwhelming anger and concern at the idea of building 2350 houses on one single site in Cirencester. The prevailing view was “ too many – and in the wrong place” and there was a perception of collaboration between the Officers drawing up the local plan and the landowner/developer. 3000 people signed a petition that required the council for the first time to listen to public concerns.

The regulatory public consultation processes

During the last four years Save Our Cirencester have led a community supported campaign against the sheer scale of the strategic site. Cotswold District Council and the developer, Lord Bathurst, have been constantly reminded at public meetings, council meetings, articles and letters in national and local press, leaflets, radio and TV interviews, of public opposition to their plans Even so, the most effective way of being able to influence decision making was through the regulatory processes. Despite obvious confusion and duplication and a woefully inadequate online access system, thousands of comments opposing the local plan (and subsequently the outline application) were made by the public.

At the time of writing, the examination of the local plan ( EIP) has taken place (at which Save Our Cirencester and other parties gave evidence) but the Inspector has yet to finalise and publish his report.

In a highly unusual move the Council decided to resolve the application in advance of the Inspectors report. Their first attempt in a meeting on September 26   failed and the decision was deferred. To the hundreds of members of the public at the meeting the councilors appeared badly informed and unwilling, or unable, to make a decision. Eventually after a 12 hour meeting the councilors, many of whom made similar points to those made by the public, were led to believe that there was a matter, the bus access point, that could be used to defer the decision. At a second meeting in January, where advice given by a QC employed by the council featured strongly, a vote to approve the application by 17 votes to 9. With no foreknowledge of the QC’s presence, there was no one in the meeting to countervail the QC’s very influential interventions.

What reasons have people given for opposing the scale of the Bathurst development ?

Criticisms of the way the application has been handled

A lack of transparency and misleading statements by CDC.

Unreasonable promotion of the site by Officers and Councillors ignoring other viable sites

The number of houses would be two and a half times more than, and the highest of any town of, a similar size in the country

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 This single site will create a high level of severance caused by its inadequate access plans.

This severance is exacerbated by a trunk road dual carriageway separating the estate from the town.

Other smaller, better, closer and more sustainable sites were not properly assessed.

Instead, there was a premature focus on this tract of land, owned by Lord Bathurst, as far back as 2008 – but only known to the public in 2014 when the local plan was uncovered.

The objectively assessed need number for Cotswold District was established to be 8100 yet was increased for no apparent reason to 8400 homes.

As things stand in the plan period the forecast housing supply is 9600. That is 1200 more than needed. The council claim that this excess is strategically justified.

Yet the Inspector, in a surprising move, literally minutes before the application meeting was to start, requested that the number to be built in the plan period should be reduced by 550. The explanation given supports the view that the scale is too big.

Given the vexatious nature and harmful effects of the Chesterton development one has to question the Officers staunch and unbending support of a plan they had themselves conceived behind closed doors.

It is claimed that so-called improvements to the road network will be able to mitigate the effects of thousands more cars – going even further to predict that journey times will be shorter than without the development. This is nonsense.

The council have refused to accept that more cars on a road (which will now have ten sets of traffic lights and “at level” crossings) will make things much worse. They have hidden behind dubious data produced by Gloucestershire County Council.

Concerns about traffic-borne pollution have been dismissed despite new evidence on the threat to health, especially to young children.

Instead the council has relied on a DEFRA report which is 8 years out of date, which itself is based on 13 year old data.

The environmental impact assessment on which the local plan relies, and the application’s sustainability report, claims that benefits outweigh the harm to the town. This is patently not the case.

Nearly all the new infrastructure is directly required by or related to the development itself. In fact of the Section 106 items which number 39, only 5 can be considered to be of any benefit to Cirencester and the monetary value is worth less than £100,000 and probably considerably less. Moreover none of the S106 obligations are secured in any way against default.

Cirencester is unlikely to become a significant jobs provider. The new community will become a “dormitory” with its residents commuting out long distances to the major job centres. This will mean that the objective and NPPF requirement for inclusive communities will not happen.

The voting pattern on the application revealed a bias against the interests of Cirencester by all the councilors who live elsewhere. Such a remarkable vote suggests that planning considerations were secondary to self interests.

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In summary, Cirencester has little prospect of being able to assimilate the overwhelming burden of people, traffic and demands on its infrastructure without significant harm

Why do we need help ?

The local plan process and Bathurst application was lengthy and complex and the planning authority and the applicant employed the professional services of experts in many fields to support their case and rebut objections. Those campaigning against the massive scale of Chesterton had no such assistance. Yet we were sustained by the firm belief that what was being proposed was inherently wrong. The conduct of the process, the attitude of the council and the growing conviction and valid objections reinforced our campaign. From what we learned and experienced during our campaign it appeared that that the policy was flawed from its inception and that the process was deficient. We want the decision on Chesterton to be overturned. We are also very concerned that S106 obligations, involving tens of millions of pounds over many years may be reneged upon. We also believe that the council has not negotiated in the best interests of the town. To pursue this we need to raise funds to pay for legal advice to tell us whether we have a viable case in law in these matters.

The legal help required

We require a solicitor to review the local plan and the outline application and representations and objections made.

The solicitor will consolidate evidence and prepare a document pack for a barrister.

The barrister will then be able to advise whether or not there is a prospect of a legal challenge and the route such a challenge should take. Advice will be sought on making a late challenge to the local plan main modifications and also highlight whether the community should have S106 concerns.

The costs of the above will be £5200. The benefits of this first stage will be real clarity as to whether the community has done all it reasonably can to represent the wishes of the community to resist the scale of the Bathurst development. Depending on the outcome of this first step there may be further funds for professional and legal advice required to progress legal action.

 

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Open letter to CDC Monitoring Officer 23/02/2018

Following dissatisfaction with the conduct of the recent Chesterton Development planning procedure by Cotswold District Council, SOC has submitted the following complaint.  We will advise you of the Council’s response in due course.

 

From : Save Our Cirencester

 

Open Letter to the Monitoring Officer at Cotswold District Council

 

“23rd February 2018

Dear Ms Bhavna Patel,

 

Special Council Meeting 16th January 2018

 

Save Our Cirencester has received many expressions of concern from the community with regard to the participation of certain members in the meeting to determine the BDL planning application 16/00054/OUT on 16th January 2018. We wish to raise a formal complaint with regard to the following three matters:

 

  1. Two councillors, namely Cllr Shaun Parsons and Cllr Tony Berry, who had been specifically challenged at the beginning of the meeting over their membership of the Bull Club, were allowed to debate and vote. The President of the Bull Club is the applicant, Earl Bathurst, and the its Secretary is Edward Allsop, Earl Bathurst’s former agent and, until 22nd December 2017, also a Director of Bathurst Developments Ltd. Councillors Shaun Parsons and Tony Berry have a clear conflict of interest, and, in allowing those councillors to vote, CDC breached its own constitution (Section E5 8.1).

 

  1. Cllr Nicholas Parsons (Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Forward Planning) failed to declare, at the appropriate time, his membership of the Bull Club when influencing policy on the district’s housing distribution and formulating Bathurst’s Chesterton land as the sole strategic site within the draft Local Plan.

 

  1. Cllr Richard Morgan (Conservative councillor elected on 23rd November 2017) has no interests registered in the public domain (as of 22nd February 2018). CDC’s rules state that the personal register of interests has to be lodged within 28 days of being elected. Also, there is no evidence on the Member Questionnaire matrix that the mandated 1-to-1 interview with this councillor took place before his participation in the Special Council Meeting on 16th January 2018. Additionally, he did not attend the September Special Council Meeting. Cllr Morgan should therefore have been disqualified from participation and voting.

 

Save Our Cirencester ask that, within the next 5 working days, you investigate these matters and inform us of the procedure that will be followed during the investigation.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Save Our Cirencester”

SOC update -Town Council meeting next week AND C.D.C. consultation

Cirencester Town Council Meeting Tuesday 19th July at 7pm

 

You may wish to attend next Tuesday’s Cirencester Town Council Meeting as there are some very interesting items on the agenda. The meeting starts at 7pm and is at Bingham House, Dyer Street , Cirencester.

 

https://saveourcirencester.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/0567b-agendaforthe12thjuly.pdf

 

The agenda can be read by following the link above. We wish to draw your attention to the following items in the agenda:

 

16. JOINT CORPORATE AND PLANNING GROUP UPDATE To receive, for information, an update relating to the work of the Joint Corporate and Planning Group in considering evidence and preparing a draft response for Council in respect of the Chesterton South Outline Planning Application.

 

18. COTSWOLD DISTRICT COUNCIL EMERGING LOCAL PLAN REG.19 CONSULTATION 18.1 To consider and approve the draft response to the Reg. 19 consultation. 18.2 To delegate authority to the CEO, in consultation with the Chairman of the Council and Lead Member for Planning, to finalise the response ahead of the closing date of Monday, 8th August 2016.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: There will be a public consultation event relating to the Reg. 19 consultation and design code, including an update relating to the work of the joint corporate and planning group, at Bingham House, Dyer Street on Thursday 21st July at 4pm, hosted by Andrew Tubb and Andrea Pellegram.

 

We would urge you to attend these events and share your views with our town council.

 

CDC Local Plan Reg 19 Consultation

 

Please make sure your responses to the CDC Reg 19 consultation are submitted before the closing date of 8th August. All responses to this current consultation will be made available to the Local Plan Inspector. If you wish to reiterate points you have made before that have not been resolved then do so.

 

Please share this email with friends and neighbours.

“Wake Up Cirencester” – look what is in store for our town !

 

 

Do you know about Cotswold District Council’s plan to allocate the majority of the Cotswold district’s new houses for the next 15 years to Cirencester ?

  • 80% of the Cotswold District is designated as AONB
  • This means that 100% of the district’s housing need has to be squeezed onto the remaining 20% of land
  • Shouldn’t this make the Cotswold District a special case with regard to planning rules ?

The ruling CDC Cabinet has recently been expanded from 5 to 7 members, yet Cirencester still has no representation on it. 

  • There is no-one looking after the interests of Cirencester on this ruling decision making body
  • Is that fair?

The Chesterton Farm site belongs to the Bathurst Estate. They have submitted an application to build 2,350 houses on the 120 hectare site.

  • Major high pressure gas pipelines, originally located in open countryside for safety reasons, run across the site
  • Thames Water point out that the existing water supply is insufficient to meet the demands of the proposed development. A suggested solution will use energy to pump water to the site
  • Thames Water has also confirmed that a new sewer will be needed all the way to the Shorncote Treatment Works
  • Much of the site has been found to be undevelopable; the 2,350 houses will now be squeezed into less than half the original space
  • The site is too far from the town centre for most to contemplate walking; car use will be the preferred means of transport, our roads will become jammed

Do you know what 2,350 houses looks like?  

  • It is six times the size of the Kingshill North development.
  • It is the equivalent to the whole of Tetbury, the second biggest town in the district

Cirencester is being allocated more new houses than any other town of its size in the whole of the country.

  • CDC have allocated Cirencester 17 new houses per 100 existing residents, as opposed to an average of 7 elsewhere in the country
  • Cirencester is to get two and a half times the average
  • Is that fair?

The Bathurst Outline Planning Application appears to be under-reporting a number of very important aspects.

The site is classed by Natural England (and others) as “best and most versatile agricultural land, much of it ALC Grades 2 and 3a. The Bathurst application dismisses it as the poorer Grades 3b and 4

  • A technical appendix to the Ecological Baseline Report showed a map dated Oct 2009 indicating six species-rich hedgerows in the middle third of the site. However in the Ecological Baseline Part 8 for 2015, all those same hedgerows were classed as species-poor

You can read more of the reasons against 2,350 houses on this site on our page in previous issues of Cirencester Scene online:

http://www.cirencester-scene.co.uk/online_magazine.html

Cirencester is too small to take a development of this enormity.

SOC are fighting to significantly reduce the number of houses on the Chesterton site.

Everyone must act now and object to this extraordinary planning application. Cirencester needs houses. It does not need a dormitory appendage like this.

Object to the application (reference number 16/00054/OUT) at:

 www.tinyurl.com/BathurstOPA

It is not too late.

  

Twitter-      https://twitter.com/SaveCirencester

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Save-Our-Cirencester-186529714847099/

Email us –   saveourcirencester@outlook.com

 

News from Council Meeting / Come to SOC Drop-in

Fellow residents of Cirencester

CDC voted on Local Plan on 17th May – the vote was split on political/geographical grounds

There’s still a way to go – we fight on

Determination of the Bathurst application will be in September at the earliest

SOC requests call in

The Local Plan examination is scheduled for next year

SOC drop-in session on Wednesday 8th June

Cirencester needs YOU.

Come and chat with us on Wednesday 8th June 6-9pm at The Crown, West Market Place, Cirencester (downstairs in the Denman room)

Spread the word – we are all in this together.

SOC

 

Twitter-       https://twitter.com/SaveCirencester

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Save-Our-Cirencester-186529714847099/

Email us –   saveourcirencester@outlook.com

IMPORTANT CDC MEETING – next Tuesday (17th May) at 10am

The next CDC full council meeting is a very important one – they are going to look at the draft submission version (Reg 19) of the Local Plan before it goes out for public consultation. This is the LAST consultation before the Plan is submitted for inspection and approval (or not).

Save Our Cirencester members have tabled 10 vital questions on behalf of Cirencester’s residents. Written answers will be circulated at the meeting and, more importantly, each questioner gets the opportunity to ask a supplementary question at the meeting – which should be answered by the councillor concerned on the spot.

Not easy for them – but potentially very interesting for the public!

The agenda (and our questions) can be read by following this link:

 http://www.cmis.cotswold.gov.uk/cmis5/Meetings/tabid/73/ctl/ViewMeetingPublic/mid/410/Meeting/4328/Committee/879/SelectedTab/Documents/Default.aspx

Tuesday 17th May, starting at 10am at the CDC Council Chamber, Trinity Road , Cirencester , GL7 1PX

Please be there to support us at this meeting.

Placards and banners acceptable outside the Council Chamber from 9.30 onwards, if you wish. It is beneficial to us if a dignified and ‘professional’ approach is adopted inside the council chamber.

Bring a friend.

Share this email.

Spread the word.

 

Thank you.

The SOC team.

 Website –    https://saveourcirencester.wordpress.com/

Twitter-       https://twitter.com/SaveCirencester

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Save-Our-Cirencester-186529714847099/

Email us –   saveourcirencester@outlook.com

Council confirms proposed expansion plans – consultation starts 16th January

The following message has gone out today (12th December) to those people for whom Save Our Cirencester has e-mail details.  If you wish to be included in future items, please let us have your e-address – see our contact details towards the end of the message.

“Fellow Residents of Cirencester, As many of you may be aware, the “ruling six” of CDC ‘rubber stamped’ their proposed expansion of Cirencester at last week’s Cabinet Meeting. Some councillors voiced objections and even requested an extension to the minimum 6 week consultation period (a similar request from SOC made prior to the meeting had already been refused) but CDC’s blinkers were firmly fixed and their minds closed. The headlines for the meeting were:

 

  • The total number of houses allocated to be built in the Cotswolds area has been increased by over 600 to 7,500
  • The number of houses for the proposed expansion at Chesterton was revised to 2,350 (previously 2,500)
  • The formal public consultation on the Local Plan will run from Friday 16th January until 27th February

 

The entire set of documents supporting the local plan can be found at:http://www.cmis.cotswold.gov.uk/cmis5/Meetings/tabid/73/ctl/ViewMeetingPublic/mid/410/Meeting/4287/Committee/858/SelectedTab/Documents/Default.aspx

 

The key document is Appendix A as this, when updated and corrected, will be formally issued and will be the basis of the consultation process against which objections/comments etc can be made. The SOC Team are already studying this (along with the supporting documents) to begin formulating a response strategy. We would urge you all to become familiar with this document prior to the consultation starting so that you can begin to formulate your views and ideas on responses in advance.

 

We will be providing guidance on how best to respond, but your participation in the consultation process is vital to the cause of significantly reducing the number of new houses proposed for Cirencester. This “rallying call” will be repeated during the period leading up to, and during, the consultation! Please start to spread the word with friends, neighbours, relatives, work colleagues etc.

Other news:

 

  • Some of the SOC Team will be meeting with Geoffrey Clifton-Brown on Saturday 13th December to voice our opposition to the proposed Local Plan and to seek his support.
  • From a survey conducted by a local group:

5% of people support the development as proposed;
12% would support it with proper infrastructure;
78% are against
5% undecided

We need the information in this email to reach as many people as possible. Please forward this email to five or more of your friends. If you have received this as a forwarded email you may not be on our SOC database, so please send your email address to us at saveourcirencester@outlook.com and we will keep you updated.

We at Save Our Cirencester wish you all a Happy Christmas.

The SOC team.

https://saveourcirencester.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Our-Cirencester/186529714847099

Alternative to Chesterton for Local Plan?

According to a response to the Cotswold District Council Local Plan Consultation, there is a realistic development opportunity on a brownfield site at the airfield at Kemble. Strangely, the Council makes no mention of this, or any other brownfield site in its consultation document, stating Chesterton to be the only strategic site within the district capable of satisfying CDC’s entire housing needs.

If there is a proposal on the table, or even an outline for consideration, hasn’t the District Council a responsibility to research and consider ALL possible options for the future of the Cotswolds, and indeed the town where CDC itself is based? Shouldn’t this be done before CDC rubber-stamps its own incomplete propaganda? After all, the Government has indicated the desirability of achieving development on brownfield sites in preference to greenfield ones. Of course, there are other factors to be considered – among them various potential infrastructure issues relating to transport, water and sewerage, and the impact on the surrounding community and services.

If CDC looked responsibly at all these matters, perhaps the people of this area could have more faith in those paid, and elected, to supposedly serve us.

Please read details of this alternative option in the document below:

Alternative site for Cotswold housing

Now is the time for YOU to voice support for this alternative development site. Please contact CDC with your support for this option, giving reason(s) to support your view.

Written support can be sent to:

Local Plan Consultation
Forward Planning Team
Cotswold District Council
Council Offices
Trinity Road
Cirencester
GL7 1PX

Email your support to: localplan@cotswold.gov.uk

Comments can be made on-line: http://consult.cotswold.gov.uk/portal

There is little time to act – make a difference and respond before Friday 27th February.