Warwick District Deserves Better: issued after discussion between county, district, town and parish councillors, The Leamington and Warwick Societies, Myton Residents Association and Save Warwick, campaigning together to protect the setting and the quality of life of our towns and villages, and for a better, sound, sustainable Local Plan.

 Warwick District Council heads into a Dead End

This evening, Wednesday 28 January, District Councillors will consider a recommendation to approve the Local Plan for submission to Examination in Public. The Inspector there will have to decide whether the Plan is ‘sound’, whether it complies with the National Planning Policy Framework.

Some Councillors believe that they must approve the Plan. Without one, Officers advise, the District will be vulnerable to opportunistic applications from housing developers for sites even less suitable than those proposed in the Plan. But if the Council approves it and the Inspector then concludes that the Plan is ‘unsound’, that is just where the District will be: an unsound Plan is no Plan.

The groups opposing the Plan as it stands fear that this is precisely what will happen. The present Plan:

❶ Is based on out of date projections of population growth and exaggerated forecasts of housing need. If the Plan matched the Office for National Statistics projections released in May 2014 (which the Council has so far ignored) and reflected a realistic forecast of future household size, the District would need by 2029 not 12,900 but 8,300 new homes. With no objective evidence-based assessment of need, instead reflecting outdated, exaggerated hopes, the Plan is unsound.

❷ Anticipates that Coventry will ask for sites for more homes in this District. If Coventry needs these houses, then that is precisely where they are needed: close to jobs in Coventry, not on the wrong side of Leamington and Warwick. Coventry’s own projections are questionable, and it has not asked Warwick District to take any overspill. The Council’s unsupported assumption that it should provide for it anyway is another sign that the Plan is unsound.

❸ Allocates for development best quality agricultural land between Warwick, Leamington, Whitnash and Bishop’s Tachbrook. The NPPF specifically rules this out: unsound again.

❹ Depends on a draft Transport Strategy that is untested, infeasible, and ineffective. Congestion and pollution will be worse despite damaging works to intensify the use of the existing road network – widenings, traffic lights, roundabouts, and restrictions on local movements. Without transport which works, the Plan will be found unsound.

❺ Doesn’t include enough funding either for transport infrastructure or for social infrastructure works – mainly schools and health facilities. Allocating ‘section 106’ payments to showcase projects like a sports stadium, and to make up for the shortfall of affordable housing provided by developers, will worsen this shortfall. The Plan will be found unsound because it is not deliverable.

❻ Damages the historic environment, deterring visitors and threatening buildings with pollution, vibration and noise. By forcing more traffic through the streets of Leamington and Warwick, it would worsen the already illegally polluted Air Quality – all again contrary to the NPPF.

❼ Pays little attention to health, worsening pollution and causing suburban sprawl and unhealthy, car-dependent lifestyles. Unsustainable and unsound.

If the Council sends the plan to the Inspector, these truths will be uncovered, the Plan will be rejected, and the delay could be disastrous.

But if the Council at last updates its calculation of the available Five Year Supply of land, which is now a grave underestimate, it will not be open (even with no approved Plan yet) to those ‘rapacious’ developers, and it will have time to listen, to reconsider, and to make a better, sound, Plan . This is what Warwick District deserves and demands.