It is that time of year where Councils across the country are setting their budgets and Stratford is no different.
The accounts for 2016/17 year are looking very healthy, thanks largely to an increase in the New Homes Bonus (NHB) from central government. That bonus has increased this year by £600,000.
We anticipate the NHB to continue to increase in the future and have budgeted for c.£2.5m in the short to medium term. This increase has come about as a result of having a Core Strategy in place.
Earlier in 2016 Council agreed not to continue its shared services with Cherwell and South Northants. With that came a loss in savings of £100,000. However, other savings have been made, for example member costs are down £60,000, consultancy is down £100,000 and our property income is up £200,000.
Major one off expenses have occurred in 2016 such as the examination of the Core Strategy, the refurbishment of the Leisure Centre and an overhaul of the IT systems at the Council.
Future years are currently predicted to make a small deficit, largely due to the change from S.106 to CIL but we do expect to have income into the Council to maintain its currently healthy standing.
Community Infrastructure Levy
In November I gave an update about CIL and where it was in the process of being adopted.
At that time our Planning Inspector requested that a further evidence study was undertaken, particularly in respect to the new development at Long Marston Airfield.
The report received by the Council from third party planning experts suggested that we should not charge the full CIL requirement on the new development. That information was passed to Council in early December and unanimously voted against.
We are therefore now waiting for the Planning Inspector to finalise her report on the CIL plan, which is imminent.
On Monday 16th Jan a report was presented to Cabinet for the approval of the Gypsy and Traveller assessment, ahead of public consultation.
It has been shown that there is a requirement of 71 pitches in the plan period with 19 new pitches required between now and 2026.
The report includes existing permitted sites, one of which was for 4 pitches at Black Hill. The plan has identified that the land ownership of this site has changed since permission was granted and that in the short term the pitches will not be developed.
A report was drafted by me and presented to Cabinet, with the view to having these pitches removed from the assessment following extensive conversations with the landowner who confirmed that the sites would not be brought forward.
I am pleased to report that the Cabinet accepted and agreed with my report and have changed the wording of the report and removed the sites from the final G&T Plan.
Long Marston Airfield
You will no doubt have read in the Herald in the last two weeks that the new development at Long Marston Airfield has been given Garden Village status by the Government.
That is a huge feather in the cap of the Council, who were lobbied against including the site in the Local Plan last year.
Government have awarded 12 other developments across the country Garden Village status, which will allow respective Councils access to £6m in funding to help support the delivery of the scheme. That includes support for infrastructure but more importantly the two primary and one secondary school on the site.
Following Council’s decision on 12th December to remove permitted development rights at Wellesbourne Airfiled, I have received a number of emails and calls from residents asking for clarification on what this means.
It has been widely reported that the owners of the airfield issued notice to all businesses on site, that they would not be renewing their tenancy agreements from December 2016.
In November, Council received notification that, following the eviction of the businesses on site, all buildings were being prepared to be demolished. Action was therefore taken to prevent that from happening by removing the permitted development rights on the land. That means a planning application is required to demolish any building at the airfield.
Included in that decision was the option to explore purchase of the site including through compulsory purchase. I must stress that this is an option open to the Council, it has not been formally agreed that the Council will purchase the site, as was reported in the local press.
The reason this decision has been taken is to maintain the airfield’s current use and to protect our Core Strategy.
If, through planning or via a government inspector, the land is granted permission for housing our Local Plan will be under threat. It will be opened up to legal challenge by developers across the district and we could find ourselves once again entirely open and exposed to uncontrolled development.
That is not a situation we want to find ourselves in and I am sure residents fully understand and agree with the need to protect this land and the Core Strategy as best we can.
Strategic Review and Transport Summit
Following the adoption of our Core Strategy last July, the Council have undertaken a Strategic Review in order to prioritise infrastructure projects and focus on how to best deliver the Core Strategy effectively.
In October a survey was distributed to the Councils Citizens Panel and the results have been collated through November ahead of our December Council meeting. Attached to this report is a copy of both the survey and its results for information and interest.
On 9th February there will be a public presentation by portfolio holders and the MP Nadhim Zahawi, on the findings of the survey and plans to implement those findings.
I would encourage you to go along to hear first hand what is being proposed. The meeting is at 6pm in the Arts House.