Once In A Bluh Moon, Even A Hypocrite Will Accidentally Tell The Truth….

Once in a very long while even a consumate bullshitter like Rodrick Bluh, Leader of Conservative led Swindon Borough Council, tells the truth.

One of the many ‘knotty problems’ which can arise when a rankly incompetent politician like Councillor Bluh spills his guts, is caused by the law of unintended consequences.  The article quoted below is no exception.

Cllr Roderick Bluh and his right-hand man, Cllr Peter Greenhalgh are perfect examples of amateur politicians who really think that they ‘Know What They’re Doing’ and, for three of their four years in office, arrogantly ignore the views of the general public.  As they enter year four of their term though, they begin to eye the electorate up a bit more and start weighing up how much politicking they need to do to keep the public ‘on-side’.

Councillors Bluh & Greenhalgh have only 12 months before they start their 2012 election campaigns in earnest and it has dawned on them that neither of them is particularly popular.

It should come as no surprise then, that Cllr Bluh has suddenly and uncharacteristically deigned to ‘speak with the great unwashed’ and explain his councils position in relation to development:

IT has been a busy time at the council as last week’s cabinet approved the draft Core Strategy – the borough ‘s planning blueprint for the next 15 years – that is now going out for consultation.

The draft Core Strategy itself deserves more attention so we understand the benefits it brings and the risks we face if we try become overly focused on trying to defend just a few areas.

This document is so important for the borough’s future that I make no apology for returning to this subject. It is the only way the council can manage growth, obtain money for roads, schools and other infrastructure, and get the best possible designs for new developments.

There are a number of key facts we all need to keep in mind.  Firstly, there is already a demand for around 800 to 1,000 new houses a year, regardless of the state of the economy. This
comes from people already living here, young adults who want to move out of the family home and the ageing population. We must meet this need.

Secondly, the council has no power to stop developers from submitting planning , nri·im~rv applications. Not only have many private land owners sold options to developers, British law means that you do not even need to own the land to put in an application.

Thirdly, the council has to pay attention to previous planning applications that have gone to appeal- a formal process of judicial review. If we ignore the rulings on past applications we
will have no defence if the planning committee tries to block developments.

Fourthly, if we lose a planning appeal not only do we risk having more houses imposed but the borough may also lose any payments from the developers to reduce the impact of their development, known as section 106 payments .

If you want an example of what can happen when the borough takes on developers and loses just look at North Swindon .

To fund seven primary and one secondary schools – a cost of around £65m – the borough received just £2.5m in section 106 payments. This occurred because the council lost on its refusal when it went to appeal.

The borough pledged in 2006 to defend the special nature of Coate Water, and that is a pledge I uphold.  The Core Strategy includes an area around Coate Water that is outside the urban area boundary and subject to a specific designation.  This would provide policy protection to Coate Water from any addit ional development and give the planning committee firm grounds to reject applications.

What bollocks.  What Councillor Bluh actually did when he published the above article in the Swindon Advertiser was to tell every developer within transit van distance that his council will not be challenging any large developments on the grounds that it, (the council), might lose 106 contributions if the development subsequently went ahead after an initial refusal by the council.  Bluh has declared OPEN SEASON on what remains of Swindon’s green spaces.

Cllr Peter Greenhalgh, (currently singlehandedly supervising the Wichelstowe development and financing the construction of its infrastructure with public money), has recently joined Bluh in becoming very vocal about development:

Why are we planning for homes on greenfield sites?

Among the areas identified in the Core Strategy for development is land to the north of Day House Lane at Commonhead, near Coate, where up to 900 homes could be built.

Many councillors have added their voices to those of the public who object to development on this site. So why is it included in the Council’s Core Strategy at all?

Cllr Peter Greenhalgh, Cabinet member for Sustainability, Strategic Planning, Property and Transport, explains:

“The council can’t stop development at Commonhead. It’s been identified by the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol as land suitable for housing.The council can’t do anything about it, and developers know this. They’ve already put in a planning application.

“It’s often believed by people I speak to that all the council has to do is reject the application, and the problem will then go away. It won’t The developer will appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, the decision will be taken out of the council’s hands, and because the land has already been identified as suitable for housing, the council will lose. It’s as simple as that.

“The council and local residents would then have no say over the nature of the development and would lose millions of pounds in contributions that would normally be made by developers for things such as roads, schools and community facilities.

“I’m not alone in wishing the planning system was different but that’s the reality.

“It’s one of the reasons Commonhead is in the Core Strategy, because we can negotiate with the developer over what is built, make sure we get the maximum amount of protection for Coate Water, and benefit from the contributions they will have to make to local facilities If the land is not included in the Core Strategy, the results will be far worse.

“There is another reason why Commonhead, and other controversial areas such as Tadpole Farm, are in the strategy.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that virtually every piece of green land in the Borough is being eyed by housing developers, who can put in a planning application to build on any of it at any time.

“The Core Strategy gives the council a weapon against completely uncontrolled development, because if we have a credible, legally watertight plan for future housebuilding, we have a very good chance of fighting off planning applications and appeals for areas which are not in the plan.

“In other words, it provides protection for huge areas of land which would otherwise be under threat. Without it there would be chaos – a complete free-for-all.”

So it’s all about electoral popularity and developers 106 contributions…..

…..and what do Swindons Conservative Councillors do when they receive the 106 money from the developers?, well, in the case of Abbey Meads Cllr’s Vera Tomlinson, Peter Stodaart and Peter Heaton-Wossname, they put out a leaflet telling their residents that they have £700,000 of developers 106 contributions to ‘spend’ in their area.

I’m sure it’s entirely coincidental that Cllr Stoddart is up for re-election in May this year and Vera Tomlinson, the mammy of North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson, is desperate to do anything she can to pump some life into her boys flagging popularity.

Posted on
Monday, February 21st, 2011
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