We welcome the petition being presented to the Council and the opportunity it’s created to debate this very important issue.
The following is my view and that of the CDC Liberal Democrat Group and Liberal Democrat candidates standing in the May 2015 CDC elections.
We accept that housing is needed. There is a huge gap in affordability between the average salary and the average house price in the Cotswolds and especially so for younger people.
Cirencester has to take a share of new housing but it must be a fair share. The suggested figure of 2,500 homes in Chesterton is way over a fair distribution around the district. The fact is that it’s easier for the Council to solve it’s problems by dumping a massive estate in one place.
The proposal is too big. It needs to be reduced. How? By sharing out small scale developments around the area – this is what we have advocated consistently but which has not been accepted by the Council’s administration, none of whom represent Cirencester.
Villages have in some cases asked for small developments to provide affordable housing and have been told they’re not ‘sustainable’ but if those villages which want development don’t get it how do they retain services, attract young people and families? Communities which want such development must be allowed to do so and this should form part of the Local Plan. Brownfield sites must also take priority rather than usable farmland.
This development must reduce in size but it must also have better infrastructure to support it and the rest of the town. The sewage system is creaking – woe betide another wet winter and the inevitable flooding that will bring to parts of Cirencester and surrounding areas. It needs improvement and that improvement is terribly slow in coming. Improvement is also needed to the parking facilities, the lack of buses which run all day and evening, cycle lanes and properly maintained raods. These are essential pre requisites to more housing.
If thousands more people are housed in this town where do they work? Many will commute to Swindon, Oxford, Bristol and Cheltenham and Gloucester. Where is this Council’s strategy for encouraging jobs and new businesses in the town? It needs one urgently.
We want the Council to really listen to people who are concerned about this proposal.
We want this to be a proper listening exercise and not a done deal.
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Prospective MP for the Cotswolds, Leader of the Lib Dem Group on CDC