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Gravesham Council cabinet gives green light to Wrotham Road development
GRAVESHAM Council’s cabinet has formally agreed to open up land west of Wrotham Road for residential development.
The Labour administration had been opposed to allowing house building in the greenfield area but consented after a government planning inspector recommended the move.
Nigel Payne wants to see the land released as part of much more ambitious home building goals included in the council’s Local Plan Core Strategy (LPCS) document.
He threatened to rule the plan unsound unless the council raised its target to build 4,800 homes over the next 18 years.
Council leader Councillor John Burden said at the cabinet meeting last night: “The release of more land, and specifically more land west of Wrotham Road, is not something I am joyous about I have to say.
“But without a plan we are in trouble. To continue forward as an authority with a plan made in 1996, the last century, makes us very vulnerable.
“Obviously I am personally very disappointed where we have worked very well and very closely with the community to come up with a successful plan which has been rejected.
“I thought it was in line with good planning procedure and what I understand local planning should be which is what local people want.”
The lack of an agreed LPCS makes it much easier for developers to appeal planning rejections to central governement taking decisions out of local hands.
Conservative group leader Cllr John Cubitt said: “"We clearly understand the importance of the cabinet decision in seeking to reach agreement of the local plan as soon as possible, establishing a firm basis for local control of development.
“We found the response from the planning inspector very disappointing.
“We have been very consistent in our opposition to build on large parts of Gravesham's precious green belt and we continue to believe the green belt should be protected.”
Mr Payne also recommended the plan’s timescale be reduced from 18 years to 15 years so development could take place in five year blocks.
The council has now agreed to accept his recommended changes to the LPCS in principle with new house building targets subject to a six-week public consultation pencilled in for the end of the year.
A revised strategy would then hopefully be adopted by August 2014.
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