Monday, October 19, 2009

Just wait a moment.

I have decided to publicly support the Scotts Meadow campaign to protect green space in Torbay from being built on as a result of Government dictat for 15,000 new homes. The campaign has ferociously re-ignited following publication of the draft strategy of the Torbay Local Development Framework for consulttation, which earmarks this green space and several others for potential future housebuilding.

Torbay has a massive amount of run-down and dilapidated property which could and should be redeveloped long before we consider building on what little amount of virgin space is left in the borough. Even then, I can see no basis for building over any of the Scotts Meadow land and fully support their campaign to protect this space.

If there is a change of Government next year the decision making ability for this will return to local politicians who will have to decide whether local people actually want 15,000 more homes, 30,000 more cars and maybe 60,000 new neighbours in the next few years. I would guess, given the strength of public opinion about this when I am out canvassing, that if the Conservatives win the next General Election this plan will be dropped pretty quickly.

Nobody doubts that some local families are urgently in need of improved accommodation (which is itself damning evidence of Labour failure) but simply forcing developers to concrete over the last few scraps of green space left in the Bay is not the answer. Even if you agree that the 6,000 people on the waiting list for subsidised social housing all need a new home (which I don't) 15,000 dwellings represents a near 30% increase in the size of Torbay housing stock, either we would have acres of empty 'old' homes or we are talking about a substantial influx of new residents. The figure was in fact hastily arrived at by civil servants reacting to Gordon Browns foolish 2007 promise to build 3,000,000 new homes across the country by 2020 and then passed down through the Regional Development Agency to councils.

Much work has been done by the council and the Mayor to identify existing 'brown field' industrial sites that could be redeveloped for social housing. The council have identified that about half the number of homes having to be planned for could be incorporated into existing urban developments over the period, but they cannot find any alternative sites for the other homes demanded by 2026 other than virgin green space.

Local residents know better than anyone what their community needs, and they know full well that the only person who thinks Torbay 'needs' 15,000 new homes is currently a resident 200 miles away in 10 Downing Street.

The option not on offer, not being discussed and not being planned for is anything less than 15,000 new homes. What kind of democracy is that?

The council must delay any further work on the development programme until both the economic and political situations become much clearer.


Scotts Meadow Project Group said...

Dear Marcus
Just to say how much the Scotts Meadow Project Group appreciate your support in our battle to save these meadows off Riviera Way at the gateway to the English Riviera Geopark.
Unfarmed for around 20 years, these prominent and beautiful meadows are highly valued by the community in the Willows, Cadewell and Shiphay.
They could be a valuable community asset: as open amenity space - just imagine a big bonfire night wth fireworks let off from the top of the hill - outdoor classrooms for our schoolchildren thanks to the rich biodiversity which have built up there, as well as a valued landscape buffer zone between the Willows and Cadewell.
We would now urge Torbay Council to delay publication of its draft planning strategy until after the General Election. Such important decisions should not be rushed through when a change of Government is possible.
We welcome the Conservative pledge to allow the local community to decide its own future rather than impose from Whitehall a totally unrealistic housing figure which would forever change the face of Torbay.
There has to be another way of meeting housing need in the Bay.
Yours sincerely
Scotts Meadow Project Group.
01803 615922.

Marcus said...

Thanks for your kind words. We only get one chance - once built over that is it for green space so it should always be a last resort in my view.