South Gloucestershire Lib Dems have welcomed the news that Government Planning Inspectors have told the West of England Authorities, including South Gloucestershire, to take the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) back to the drawing board.
The JSP would have given the green light to 33,000 houses across South Gloucestershire, including thousands concentrated at five vast Strategic Development Locations. Those plans now been thrown into disarray, after the Inspectors pointed to fundamental flaws in the way that the Strategic Development Locations were chosen.
South Glos Lib Dem Leader, Cllr Claire Young, who spoke for the Lib Dems at the Planning Examination said: “This decision is a vindication for all of us who campaigned against this poorly thought through plan from the beginning. Thank you to all the residents and groups who contributed to making the case against the unjustified and unsustainable Strategic Development Locations. We have been making the case for over two years that South Gloucestershire’s Strategic Development Locations had not been properly thought through or chosen in a fair and reasoned way by the Conservative administration. The Inspectors have clearly listened and agreed. It just goes to show that local campaigners can make a difference when we work together.”
South Glos Lib Dem spokesperson for Planning, Cllr Adrian Rush said: “It never should have got this far. The Inspectors wrote to South Gloucestershire and the other councils over a year ago to say that they had serious concerns about how the plan had been put together. The Conservatives should have listened and taken the opportunity to do a serious rethink. Instead they ploughed on regardless with only minor changes to their original plans and the Inspectors have now torn them up and told them to go back to the drawing board. I dread to think how much taxpayers’ money has been wasted on this fool’s errand. Serious questions will need to be asked.”
Lib Dem Deputy Group Leader Cllr Maggie Tyrrell said: “It’s clear from the Inspectors’ damning remarks that the plan is so fundamentally flawed that it needs to go back to square one. It’s crucial that Conservative administration now stops digging. The worst thing they could do would be to make some minor tweaks to this plan and try to bring it back to the Inspectors, as they did last time. That would just be wasting time and throwing good money after bad. The great risk now is that, without a viable local plan, communities will be swamped by more speculative development. We do need a local plan, but it must be one that distributes housing growth equitably and sustainably – not dumping the lion’s share of housing on just four or five communities.”