Now a precedent has been set to build beyond Ledbury's southern by-pass, there's nothing to stop other schemes also being given the go-ahead. Already, Bovis has proposed a 625 house estate on land adjoining the Gloucester Road roundabout, up the hill from the Gladman scheme.
Both of these developments are in addition to the 600 houses proposed in the Council's Core Strategy for north of the viaduct and the 100 houses already granted permission on the Cricket field by the Full Pitcher.
Ledbury is well on its way to another two thousand houses, despite the Core Strategy proposing only 800 units for the town up to 2030.
Ledbury Ward Councillor today issued a stinging rebuke for Ledbury Town Council for delaying progress on the Neighbourhood Plan. She said:
"This is a very concerning decision. It makes a nonsense of the effort we have all gone to in shaping the county council’s planning policies for Ledbury and demonstrates the damage that the Town Council has done to the town in dragging its heels for so long on the Neighbourhood Plan.
The likelihood is that government changes to the definition of ‘affordable housing’ will mean that only a fraction of the homes which eventually get built will be truly affordable for local people; and the minimum build standards required by council policies mean that the houses will be much more expensive to live in and to heat than need be the case.
In addition it will call into doubt whether the cricket pitch site ever comes forward for development, which in turn will reduce the likelihood that a new cricket facility is built in the town.
I hope the councillors who have deliberately hampered the progress of the Neighbourhood Plan since its inception and have most recently led the scheme to pull the plug on it altogether feel proud of themselves. These councillors have acted selfishly and through their actions have denied the community a voice on the future for Ledbury. In doing so, they have rendered the Neighbourhood Plan all but irrelevant.
I was ashamed to be asked to defend these councillors’ actions to the inspector in the appeal hearing. Dissolving the Neighbourhood Plan working group was a gift to Gladmans. The timing could not have been better for Gladmans and worse for Ledbury.
What many people don’t seem to realise is that the Gladman development will be in addition to the viaduct site, not instead of it. Neither will it reduce in any way the number of houses to be built to the north. Both this sites will come forward before the Neighbourhood Plan is able to wield any influence. It will be down to ward members working with planners to get the best outcomes for the town now.
Heaven only knows what was in the mind of the Mayor when she sanctioned a call for further development sites throughout the town only last month at a cost of a further unbudgeted £5,000 on the Neighbourhood Plan account. How much more development does Cllr Crowe want to see here in Ledbury?
The most ironic part of all this is that these two huge developments will both be approved ahead of the introduction of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – the government’s new local development tax … so the Town Council won’t get a penny of CIL money from either of these developments … which formed such a large part of their motivation for undertaking Neighbourhood Planning in the first place.
I hope these councillors see the sense of putting aside their petty interests and small town politics. Ledbury is in peril and I would hope that everyone who cares about the town will start to work for our collective good."