Residents have been invited to comment on the latest
‘Statement of Community Involvement’ by the 28th of April.
Many of you may remember that we have had many years of housing allocation passed around Cheadle from the south west to the east to the north and now (in part detailed as possible urban extensions) around Cheadle. The demand for these houses significantly exceeds that of local demand (this is acknowledged in details buried in SMDCs own figures). Cheadle Unite have, since we started in 2009, worked hard to try and ensure that Cheadle is not disproportionately burdened with excessive development and change to our environment.
Residents from the South West Action Group (SWAG), Cheadle East/North East (Cheadle Unite), Cheadle North and more recently residents in Cheadle West have had to commit many hours to highlight failures in SMDC policy over the period, in a way that has on occasion divided the community and caused many sleepless nights. There are now wider action groups (in the Churnet Valley for example) who have similar concerns for our rural environment.
Meanwhile In our local City Stoke-on-Trent, the Potteries and the wider urban areas, there is a real crisis in the failure of regeneration for example with the ‘Renew’ project. Large areas of affordable brown-field sites lay waste next to existing major rail, road and even canal infrastructure, where local work prospects exist and stand to endure a post fossil fuel economy.
To Cheadle Unite and we hope many others, this as a ridiculous situation and it wouldn’t be hard to get drawn into the politics of how and why it has happened.
Suffice is to say that we have seen little to no evidence that SMDC have engaged properly with Stoke and the Potteries on the housing allocation that was agreed for the 2006 – 2026 planning period, under what was called the Regional Spatial Strategy.
By restricting housing in Cheadle (restricting being a relative term, as we already have 400 homes allocated in area 1 North Cheadle alone detailed in the Revised Core Submission Dec 2011) developers should be encouraged to redevelop the Potteries. It is only large scale redevelopment of urban brown-field sites that turns cities around and Stoke-on-Trent really needs support.
There is however we hope the opportunity for this to change. The ‘Draft Statement of Community’ Involvement details on page 14, issues covered by the Localism Act as follows:
2.26 Duty to Co-operate requires neighbouring local authorities including County Councils and other public bodies to engage constructively, actively and on an on-going basis on cross boundary matters (e.g. levels of housing, employment, road links etc).
2.27 Local Councils are required to demonstrate compliance with the duty to co-operalte as part of the examination of Local Plans. If a Council cannot adequately demonstrate that it has complied with the duty, it's Local Plan will fail the independent examination
The Localism bill 2011 is new and largely untested at this time and SMDC have done nothing to educate us as residents as to how it can be enacted.
So as one of the action groups for Cheadle, we are inviting residents to support our feedback to SMDC on the ’Statement of Community Involvement’ and to ask that they detail exactly how they are going to engage with the wider parties (such as Stoke-on-Trent and the Potteries) and how the interaction will tie in with the environment, to ensure that what follows is in fact not more of the same, that it is a new start and that SMDC will detail scheduled meetings and minutes of these meetings and in fact look to transfer at least the 200 unidentified ‘small urban extensions’ pencilled into the core strategy to regeneration in the Potteries.
Our suggested feedback to SMDC is:
1) We are disappointed at the lack of feedback from SMDC regarding the planning inspector review last year. Residents have committed significant time and effort into representations, Planning inspection hearings and various town plans and despite action groups requesting (Via the representations to be kept informed and included in verbal representations) we have had no feedback on the findings of the Planning inspector or in fact any decisions made in response to residents. We request that future consultation is acknowledged and responded to as positive encouragement of public interaction, instead of merely regenerating lengthy documents with buried information.
SMDC clearly has time to produce large documents, as courtesy, a summarised response to action groups and residents is not a big ask.
2) Residents welcome section 2.26 regarding the localism bill and would like a requirement for clear evidence I.e. documented dates of meetings and minutes of meetings of SMDC and the’ other public bodies’ e.g. Stoke-on-Trent Council that comply with the spirit of the Localism Bill’ to be detailed in the final Statement of Community Involvement documentation to demonstrate that senior management at SMDC are in fact committed to supporting Stoke on Trent and regeneration of the wider region (formerly detailed under the Regional Spatial Strategy) . The detailed documents should be a public record and will provide part of the evidence required for section 2.27. Further we believe that representatives from locals and interested groups should be given adequate opportunity and notice to attend these meetings. The level of transparency requested is in response to the lack of evidence that this has occurred to date.
3) Residents request a similar level of transparency should apply to SMDC internal strategy and policy meetings and that these meetings be documented with minutes and form a public record. It should be standard policy that decisions and reasons must have documented minutes.
4) Residents would like transparency on the internal financial drivers and motivators with traceability and an accountability diagram within the hierarchy of SMDC, including access to levels of senior and executive staff pay and any bonus schemes included in the ‘Statement of Community Involvement’ or alternatively equally promoted and circulated material. The level of detail requested is in response to the disparity between what many would regard as a common sense strategy for the environment and community and actual policies to date.
Update: The Actual Full Cheadle Unite Response to SMDC is detailed Here