BUILDING a “small town within a town” is how controversial proposals for 660 homes in Atherstone have been described.
The huge proposed development near to the Aldi Distribution Centre off Old Holly Lane has been met with fury by neighbouring residents who are “up in arms”.
PACS (Protect Atherstone’s Countryside Spaces) described the combination of its concerns over the plans as a “recipe for disaster”.
The group has voiced its concerns over building on green space, the lack of any new doctors surgeries and school places and traffic congestion.
A group spokesperson said: “While we are not against new housing in the town we feel this far, far, exceeds the amount of housing required as outlined in the original core strategy plan and results in some of the houses being built on existing flood plains not suitable for housing. “Clearly this has not been thought through and is a case of builders wanting to make money due to the governments new relaxed laws on planning.”
PACS is holding a rally at Market Square, Atherstone, on Saturday, November 23, 2014 from 12pm.
Chairman of North Warwickshire Borough Council’s planning board, councillor Ray Sweet, admitted his authority was shocked by the plans.
He said: “I cannot say anything about this specific proposal to build 660 houses, until it comes before the planning committee. Under planning law I must not pre-determine the application.
“However I can tell people that this application came as a complete shock to councillors and to our planners. We had not anticipated this number of houses would be sought for Atherstone.
“People should be aware that the council is getting a large number of speculative planning applications from landowners and developers who are responding to the governments wish to build over 200,000 houses. This is encouraged by the new “National Planning Policy Framework”, the NPPF, which makes it more difficult for councils to reject planning application ns. Much of our discretion has been taken away by Parliament.
“The Prime Minister has said that councils must give permission for more houses to be built. He wants thousands of them built in order to boost the economy before the next general election. Recently, we have seen applications in Atherstone, Grendon, and Newton Regis.
“Last week we rejected an application from developers who wanted to build in Newton Regis. The month before that, we rejected a massive application in Grendon. But that is not the end of it. The problem is that the developers will appeal under the NPPF and we know the government has made it difficult for councils to win appeals. If we are overturned at appeal then it could cost the council tax payer a lot of money in legal costs.
“Quite frankly the NPPF is a disgrace. It tries to force councils to grant permission to bad planning applications because the government wants more housing.
“We will give a balanced and careful consideration to any planning application such as the one at Atherstone. We also want to hear from anyone who objects to any application. But people should know one thing, that is that councillors don’t have much discretion any more. Parliament has taken that away from us.”
Max Whitehead, strategic planning manager for Bloor Homes Midlands, pointed out the area where the application is for has been earmarked for redevelopment by the local authority.
He said: “The borough council’s Core Strategy, which subject to examination in public in January, identifies north west Atherstone as a location for growth and the proposed development site is shown as a preferred option in the council’s emerging Site Allocations document.”