Stafford council calls on neighbouring authority to ditch 160 homes plan

Stafford Borough Council has called for a neighbouring authority to ditch plans to earmark land on the edge of the county town for a housing development.

Stafford Borough councillors Ray and Jenny Barron in Wildwood with the farmland in the background
Stafford Borough councillors Ray and Jenny Barron in Wildwood with the farmland in the background

South Staffordshire Council has identified farmland off Cannock Road, next to Wildwood, at the district’s border with Stafford Borough, as a potential site for more than 160 new homes as part of its Local Plan.

A consultation on the latest stage of the district’s Local Plan Review closed last month. The Preferred Options document sets out where new housing could be built to meet requirements in the coming years.

A target of 8,881 new homes in South Staffordshire has been set for the 2018-2028 period. This includes the district’s requirement of 4,131 and an additional 4,000 homes to contribute to the unmet need of the Greater Birmingham Housing Market Area (GBHMA).

Objectors to the proposals for the Cannock Road site include Stafford Borough Council, elected members representing the South Stafford area and town residents.

Alex Yendole, the borough council’s strategic planning and placemaking manager, told a committee meeting: “It’s 168 new houses immediately south of Wildwood, adjacent to the A34. That’s on an area of land that’s previously been subject to a planning application. It was refused by South Staffordshire, went to appeal and the appeal was lost by the developers as well.

“However now South Staffordshire Council have allocated that land as a proposal in their preferred options and the consultation has just finished. We submitted quite a robust response to South Staffs about our concerns regarding that land and directly asking them to de-allocate it.

“We haven’t just said we’re not happy about the infrastructure, we have said we want this de-allocated and been very clear about our position.

“South Staffs had over 1,000 responses made to the preferred option. They are now going to have to very carefully consider each and every one and then report back to their council when they get to the publication stage.”

Councillor Jenny Barron, who represents the Weeping Cross and Wildwood ward, was involved in the battle against Gladman Homes’ bid to build more than 150 homes on the farmland off Cannock Road. She teamed up with fellow councillors Ray Barron, Ann Edgeller and Marnie Philips to encourage local residents to voice their concerns to South Staffordshire Council about the latest proposals.

She said: “That (planning application) was fought very hard by myself and Councillor Ray Barron and it wasn’t in (South Staffordshire Council’s) Local Plan, so we managed to get that stopped.

“This one is a consultation to put it in the Local Plan. Nobody knew about it – we picked it up from the Newsletter.

“We have worked very hard, delivering hundreds of leaflets round the area. We were getting numerous calls asking can we help. They couldn’t get on the website, it was really bad to go from one link to the other, and it’s almost like they were making it difficult for you.

“I want to say thank you very much for your very extensive objection to South Staffs. We do hope that it will go to the next level. There are a lot of very angry people.”

Councillor Philips said: “We have had a lot of phone calls from residents – between us all we must have had more phone calls than I think we’ve ever received from residents. I understand they only need one or two responses but I think that people are so passionate about this that everybody wanted to express their views.

“We are all really concerned, not just about the impact on amenities locally, but also the possibility that should they build there, then the field next door and the field next door to that. And all of a sudden we are going to have a considerably larger Stafford than the Stafford that Stafford intended to be.

“It is something that we have got to fight at all costs.”

But South Staffordshire Council’s Preferred Options document stated: “This location will not be a focus for larger-scale housing growth. This recognises the sensitive landscape and potential highways concerns that larger scale growth in this location could cause, as well as the lack of unmet housing needs in Stafford and the location’s remoteness from areas of unmet needs in the wider GBHMA.

“Instead, a smaller scale extension to the adjacent town of Stafford will be delivered in this area, which will ensure the sustainable delivery of non-Green Belt housing land in the district.”

Stafford Borough Council is also working on its own Local Plan, which will cover future development of the area in the years between 2020 and 2024.

Speaking at the latest economic development and planning scrutiny committee meeting, Councillor Mark Winnington said: “I’m starting to get a lot of noise from residents about the development around Stafford – the amount of development and the type of development. The infrastructure’s starting to creak.

“Strategically we have got to be really careful with this next plan to ensure that we don’t overload Stafford and the infrastructure. We need development and growth in the economy but we also need to be able to move around in whatever form of vehicle we’re driving around in.

“In terms of the infrastructure up to 2040, will that be examined to ensure Stafford can take any more big developments?”

Mr Yendole responded: “There has been a lot of evidence-based work being done and that includes looking at infrastructure, engaging with the county council in terms of education, transport and utilities. That suite of information will be prepared and made available with the preferred options, together with the sustainability appraisal.”

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