After discussing the good practice of the West Somerset Options Paper I was grateful being sent Blaby which is the opposite end of the spectrum. It is what I call a ‘scattergun’ consultation, which is where they thrown all the call for sites on a map and say ‘what do you think’ rather than structuring them into discrete 4 or so options.
This never ends well – think of Uttlesford, Greater Exeter etc. It gives the impression to the public of being developer led, creating opposition that leads to the whole process being derailed with no plan b to fall back on. Worse it makes it almost impossible to shape carbon zero communities and associated transport improvements.
Leicestershire is crying out for a more strategic approach. They went for a non statutory approach which strips out housing. But housing is what matters. Leicester is growing quickly, new ONS methods have raised migration assumptions, Leicester is a plus 35% authority. Even before underbounded Leicester was struggling to meet its own needs, proposing to build on every park for example (yes you read that right in London that would be front page news).
By default then what we have seen in development plans is development of an M1 growth corridor (yes you heard that right) with strategic sites scattered along the M1, in some cases bridging it to get access.
The sites south west of Leicster (towards Blaby) are of three types
-Sites close to the Leicster Principal Urban Area (along M1)
-Sites close to towns within the extended principal urban area (like Blaby)
-Strategic Sites to the South of Blaby
-More scattered sites
Its not hard. Startegic sites in scattered locations cannot be sustainable. Adjoining smaller sites can combine to a strategic site. Sites close the PUA adjoin strategic employment locations where there has been major growth in logistics and are best mainly for such use plus housing in appropriate locations. This leaves reasonable options in terms of combinations of strategic sites and other well connected sites. A couple of sites could take strategic sites and new railway stations. These could also serve towns in the extended urban area that lost their stations 50 years ago. There is also potential to create a BRT route south t growth locations at Lutterworth on the former great central railway corridor. The overall strategy for Leicestershire should be to concentrate development to its west – the growth area, and away from the much more rural and landscape sensitive east which has terrible road access and a congested A6 single carriageway in large sections. To the West there is the closing Shipton on Stour power Station (in adjoining Hinkley and Bosworth) which could be a Garden Community and HS2 stop, connected on a restored chord to Leicester. Without a strategic approach there is no sound way of determining ho much Leicester overspill goes to Blaby – what is the reasonable alternative you have consulted on if the alternatives are in other authorities.