Rutland County Council Cabinet members says St George’s Barracks site is suitable for garden community homes plan
Establishing thousands of new homes and workplaces on the site St George’s Barracks in Rutland is ‘a viable and suitable plan’ according to councillors.
Rutland’s Local Plan sets out where any additional new housing, employment or other development may be needed in future years.
On Monday, December 23, the Cabinet was asked to consider the location of future development sites and it approved the principle of establishing what it calls a 'garden community', and locating it on the former St George’s Barracks in North Luffenham if £29.4m Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) is provided to support it.
On Thursday, December 19, members of a council scrutiny committee had listened to several deputations from Rutland residents, highlighting an unusually high level of public interest in the plans.
The scrutiny committee members noted the need for more affordable housing and more social rented housing, and for jobs that pay higher than the living wage.
They also voted to continue with the process of considering HIF funding, while noting there are still a number of unknowns around the conditions and therefore some risks to the council.
Many residents oppose the proposed redevelopment of the St George's Barracks, including plans to have a quarry and distribution centre as part of the 'employment use' element of the scheme.
Lt Col (Retd) Dale Hemming-Tayler, who lives in Edith Weston, said: "My main issue is that I think it's a waste of a resource that could be used to maintain the integrity of Rutland.
"I can understand the Government's wish to get revenue from a quarry, but there's really no need for it. What we do need is farmland - much of the area was farmland before it was taken over by the Ministry of Defence for the war, and there's a large area that could be diversified as a country park.
"I envisage one in the style of those that Germany has created, especially for families, with campsites and cycle tracks, cafés and a great many trees."
He added that building a new town in Rutland will result in the loss of identity that the county fought hard to win back only a few years ago.
"There's very little employment in Rutland and the prospect of creating more is minimal, even if they do build a quarry and distribution centre," said Lt Col Hemming-Tayler.
"Young people are not going to be waiting to put on their wellies and gain their HGV licence at 21 just so that they can work at a quarry or for a distribution centre. They will leave the area first.
"There's nothing for them here. Rutland is a county for middle-aged and older people and we have to accept it."
Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, councillor leader Oliver Hemsley said: “Rutland is moving closer to having a new Local Plan covering the period from 2018 to 2036.
"This is important because without a valid Local Plan we run the risk of getting inappropriate development which fails to provide the right jobs and homes in the right places.
“There still needs to be further discussion by Scrutiny, Cabinet and Full Council before we can publish our pre-submission draft of the Local Plan, after which it will need to be sent for independent examination by the Planning Inspectorate. All of this will take place in full view of the public, with further meetings taking place throughout January.”
Full Council will take place at the council's chamber at the Catmose offices on January 27 from 7pm.
Councillor Hemsley added: “When prospective developers suggest sites to include in our Local Plan we have to consider each one individually, on merit, by applying the same tests to work out if they are viable and sustainable.
"As part of this latest Local Plan Review we have been asked to consider two large sites that have been put forward for possible new garden communities: Woolfox and St George’s.
“As part of the Local Plan process, we have suggested that a garden community in Rutland would help to provide the new jobs and homes we need locally to help meet identified needs for the County.
"However, on the balance of information provided to planners, it has been suggested that only St George’s is both viable and suitable for inclusion in the next Local Plan.
"This is one of the recommendations that councillors will now be asked to consider and decide on at Full Council on January 27, as part of the next stage of the Local Plan.”
Full Council will take place at the council's chamber at the Catmose offices on January 27 from 7pm. The agenda and reports will be published online before the meeting and can be viewed at www.rutland.gov.uk/meetings.
Rutland County Council will continue to providing a live video stream covering all non-exempt items at listed meetings relating to the Local Plan Review.
More by this authorSuzanne Moon