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CPRE Leicestershire responds to revised Strategic Growth Plan

16th January 2019

“Go back to the drawing board,” says CPRE Leicestershire in response to revised Leicester and Leicestershire Strategic Growth Plan.

Following on from the consultation on the draft plan earlier this year, a revised Strategic Growth Plan (SGP) has been published. Leicester and Leicestershire’s Councils are now being asked to endorse it and for their Council to sign up to it as the framework for future planning policies and Local Plans.

The plan

Fundamentally, the plan remains unchanged from the consultation draft, though there have been some tweaks to the proposals and presentational alterations to the document.

The key features are:

  • Focus overwhelmingly on growth and development
  • Plans for 96,580 new houses up to 2031 and further 90,600 between 2031 and 2050
  • Large-scale road building with the A46 Expressway to the east and south of Leicester described as a ‘critical’ feature of the SGP
  • Continued reliance on Midlands Connect Strategy as justification for A46 Expressway
  • A46 Priority Growth Corridor with strategic developments for 38,000 new homes, especially after 2031
  • Strategic developments focused on the Leicestershire International Gateway (around M1/M42 and East Midlands Airport) and on the A5 Improvement Corridor
  • Reliance on its status as a non-statutory plan

CPRE View: the plan needs revising

CPRE is disappointed to see how little has really changed from the consultation draft. We believe that the SGP remains fundamentally flawed. Its assumptions and proposals need to the reviewed.

We need a plan that has been more transparently consulted on, publicly debated, scrutinised and examined than is the case with this plan.

What are CPRE’s concerns?

The current Plan needs reviewing:

The level of housing need is in doubt

There is considerable uncertainty now over what housing need figures should be included in the SGP as a result of recent developments.

Recently the 2016 Household Projections from the Office of National Statistics, an independent official body, were published. They show lower housing need in Leicestershire compared with the 2014 projections.

A study of these new figures suggests that the SGP exaggerates the level of housing required. Potentially this could be nearly 20% more housing than will be required over the next 20 years and over 40% more than the numbers of people who will need new houses.

However, the Government has rejected this most up-to-date independent demographic evidence and has instituted a consultation on the standard method for assessing local housing need.

In these circumstances, the prudent approach at this stage would be for Councils to not push ahead with agreeing to the SGP.

The reality is that if too much housing is allocated, there will be an unnecessary loss of greenfields to housing as developers get permission to build in the countryside, and less incentive to build on brownfield sites.

Reliance on road building

The plan continues to rely heavily on new road building, particularly the A46 Expressway around Leicester. It lacks any serious assessment of alternative sustainable-transport options.

Road proposals are being developed without detailed evidence that is open to scrutiny. The SGP relies on unpublished work on the A46 corridor by Midlands Connect, which has not been open to public scrutiny or debate.

It is particularly worrying that such a central proposal in the plan is based on such a flimsy case with no robust assessment of its impact on the environment, human health, countryside and climate change or of how much additional traffic will be generated on local roads.

The new but vague references to public transport provision in the final SGP are welcome. However, they do not answer our central criticisms. Nor do they come close to providing a coherent sustainable transport strategy for serving the proposed new developments.

Environmental, landscape and climate change impacts ignored

The plan still has little to say about the Leicestershire countryside, its landscape, heritage and biodiversity and continues to pay lip-service to protecting these assets.

There is little evidence to support the claim in the SGP that ‘balancing the need for growth with protection of our assets has been a critical consideration’. The need for growth seems to have outweighed all other considerations.

Even a cursory visit to High Leicestershire should make plain the high landscape cost of the large-scale housing and road-building programme in that area and the limited opportunities for mitigating the impact.

In view of the recent report from the International Panel on Climate Change, it is worrying that we can find no reference to cimate change in the plan or any actions to address its causes or mitigation.

Do you agree with us?

If you agree with us:

  • Write to your local councillor urging them not to endorse the plan.
  • Join CPRE, if you are not already a member, or if you are one already, why not volunteer to help with this campaign.
Sheep grazing in a field
Sheep grazing in a field Tony Stott