STITCHED UP by Political Hypocrisy?

Development will change communities
Development will change communities

STITCHED UP by Political Hypocrisy?

Why didn’t they Stand Up and Speak Up when they had the chance?

Reading in the Chronicle and Echo the article with the eye-catching title “New housing proposal will ‘stitch up the town’ I can’t help but think of the previous articles I have written on the NPPF and how residents have been led up the garden path by those who are now the most vociferous.

Before I continue with this blog I should make two things very clear, the first is that I have a great deal of sympathy with residents who are going to be faced with large-scale housing developments on their doorstep and that I am speaking from a personal point of view.

For those who have followed my observations on the West Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy it will be common knowledge that I opposed under the previous legislation the imposition of over 55,000 homes on the area.

I have been consistent in speaking up making it clear that whilst we obviously need thousands of houses to provide homes for Northampton’s expanding population the growth should be based on ‘natural organic growth’ and not through imposition from Central Government.

What became very clear and was supported by ALL of the Borough Council political parties was that we believed that the number of homes needed to deliver was less than 55,000.

You would think therefore that the latest proposals of 41,760 would be welcomed as proof that local politicians were correct in opposing the imposed targets.

After all a reduction of 13,240 is a significant reduction.

The problem of course is that residents have all been promised by politicians that any reduction in numbers would be in the controversial areas where the SUEs are proposed.

I won’t repeat my previous warnings to residents in SUE areas such as Hardingstone, Upton, Collingtree and Wooton to be wary of promises to stop development which may well not be deliverable, but looked great on leaflets.

The reality is that those who are now parading themselves as champions of the people are the very same people who had the opportunity to shape the proposals.

The Conservatives on 17 January 2011 put the following motion down to the Northampton Borough Council as part of their opposition to the development of Buckton Fields which I’m sure the reader will recognise was just before the Borough Council election.

HER WORSHIP THE MAYOR Councillor (in the Chair).
Beardsworth, Capstick, Caswell, Chaudhury, Choudary, Church, Clarke, Collins, J Conroy, R Conroy, Crake, Davies, Flavell, Garlick, Glynane, Golby, Hawkins, Hill, B Hoare, Hollis, Larratt, C Lill, J Lill, Malpas, B Markham, I Markham, Mason, Matthews, Meredith, Mildren,

Councillor Larratt proposed and Councillor Golby seconded:
“This Council notes the view of the West Northamptonshire Joint Planning Unit
Council Minutes – Monday, 17 January 2011

WNJPU), endorsed by the West Northamptonshire Joint Strategic Planning Committee (WNJSPC) that a dwelling provision of between 45,000 to 48,000 (2001- 2026) would meet ‘natural growth’ of the existing population of West Northamptonshire. Council also notes the views of these bodies that adding local aspirations, particularly the growth of Daventry town suggests a requirement of 50,000 dwellings would be required throughout the area of West Northamptonshire.

This Council recognises the aspiration of the majority of residents of Northampton not to see this Borough have development imposed on it’s boundary by adjacent Local Authorities in order to meet the housing needs of those authorities areas. In particular, this Council recognises the views of a great many residents living in the Kingsthorpe area of the town who do not wish to see land at Buckton Fields developed to meet the housing needs of Daventry District.

In the interest of localism and the aspiration of many residents of Northampton, especially those living in the Kingsthorpe area, this Council calls on the WNJPU and WNJSPC to again review the housing needs of West Northamptonshire at the earliest opportunity and not to increase the provision of between 45,000 and 48,000 dwellings to 50,000 in order to meet the aspiration for additional growth in Daventry town.

Furthermore this Council calls on the WNJPU and WNJSPC to reallocate the dwellings proposed at Buckton Fields to Daventry town and remove the development site at Buckton Fields from all development plans, including the emerging Joint Core Strategy for the development of West Northamptonshire”.

Council debated the motion.
Upon a vote the Motion was carried.

So ALL party agreement on opposing the Buckton Fields Development which as we know was agreed by the Daventry District Planning Committee all be it on a significantly reduced numbers of homes.

The number of homes proposed is 3,240 fewer than the minimum which was proposed by Cllr Phil Larratt and voted for by ALL of the Conservative Councillors present at the meeting.

People would be right to ask just how consistent have they been in their role in developing the Joint Core Strategy and at the same time opposing the very thing they have been a party to producing.

Who can people trust to speak up for them?
Who can people trust to speak up for them?

What may be of interest to the residents opposing the SUEs is how the Conservative
Councillors voted on the following Labour Motion that was put to the Northampton Borough Council on 9 July 2012

HIS WORSHIP THE MAYOR Councillor Conroy (in the Chair).
Ansell, Aziz, Beardsworth, Begum, Bottwood, Capstick, Caswell, I. Choudary, N. Choudary, Davies, Duncan, Eales, Eldred, Flavell, Ford, Golby, Gowen, Hadland, Hallam, Hibbert, Hill, King, Lynch, Mackintosh, Malpas, Markham, Marriott, Mennell, Meredith, Nunn, Oldham, Palethorpe, Parekh, Patel, Sargeant, Stone, Strachan, Subbarayan, Wire DL and Yates.

Councillor Palethorpe proposed and Councillor Stone seconded:
“This Council notes that all of the current voting members of the West Northants Joint Strategic Planning Committee are Conservative.

The West Northants Joint Strategic Planning Committee (WNJSPC) oversees the development of the West Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy (WNJCS). The WNJCS involves the delivery of 50,000 new homes in the West Northamptonshire area.

This Council also notes that the Conservatives on the WNJSPC have had a majority since it was created by statutory instrument in 2008.

This Council further notes a Conservative motion, carried on 17th January 2011, by
Council Minutes – 17 January 2011

Cllr Larratt and Cllr Golby stating,
„This Council calls on the WNJPU and WNJSPC to reallocate the dwellings proposed at Buckton Fields to Daventry town and remove the development site at Buckton Fields from all development plans, including the emerging Joint Core Strategy for the development of West Northamptonshire‟.

This Council also notes that the Conservatives have not removed the following from the emerging Joint Core Strategy.
Policy N5 – Northampton South SUE
Policy N7 – Northampton Kings Heath SUE
Policy N8 – Northampton North of Whitehills SUE

This Council asks the Leader of the Council at the next full Council meeting (September 2012) why this previous Conservative motion has not been upheld by his administration and also give the full rationale for the inclusion of Policy N5 and Policy N7 in the Joint Core Strategy despite the knowledge that there is strong local opposition in these areas.”

Council debated the motion.
Upon a vote the motion was lost.

I’m sure those interested groups and individuals will have noticed which Conservative Councillors were in attendance and that the Motion was lost because the Conservatives under the direction of the Leader of the Council voted against it.

In effect the Conservatives voted to support the WNJSPC which makes their now voting Against the proposals at the best confusing and at the worse hypocritical.

Some might say even dishonest.

What people will also notice is the Absence at the meeting, presumably because he recognised that if he turned up he would have had to Vote, of Councillor Larratt.

If they felt so strongly about the proposals why didn’t they turn up, speak up and agree to change them?

It is a question that many, especially those living on or adjacent to the Northampton Borough Council boundary will be asking.

I have a great deal of sympathy for Councillor Chris Over who having taken the role as the Chairman from Cllr Hadland had to use his casting vote to make the decision and he is right to point out as he has that the Joint Core Strategy has been years in its development.

In fact it started when the Borough Council was under the leadership of Cllrs Larratt and Hadland.

All political parties throughout the process have agreed that it is imperative to have a plan and strategy without which the door would be open for speculative developers to submit planning applications and successfully challenge any refusal.

The question now is what is the Northampton Borough Councils position and if they object to the Joint Core Strategy where does it leave the other plans such as the Central Area Action Plan?

It is noticeable that the Leader of the Council, Councillor David Mackintosh who is not known for his reticence in coming forward has on this subject been notably silent.

Is it because he disagrees with the position taken by his colleagues who he appointed to the WNJPU?

or, and I stress this is only my opinion,

Is it because it doesn’t really affect his personal ambitions?

After all the majority of the proposals are either in the Northampton North or South Northamptonshire Parliamentary Constituencies and as such are a problem for Michael Ellis MP and Andrea Leadsom MP.

The Northampton South Constituency where he is standing in 2015 is relatively unscathed and unaffected by the proposals and therefore will not be a major issue in the run up to the election.

Except of course those who are affected will undoubtedly have friends and family who live in Northampton South.

The issue is of course not resolved and there is no doubt that individuals and groups will be making very strong representations during the public consultation period planned to take place between the 14 January and 26 February next year.

What will be interesting is what representations will be put forward by the three Conservative led Councils of Daventry, South Northants and Northampton Borough Council who have been fully involved in developing the proposals.

It will also be interesting to see how individual Councillors explain how we have arrived in a position that Conservative ‘unanimity’ suddenly disappeared at the 11th hour.

I suspect this is not the end of this saga.