Housing Increases in Willersey Village


                           
Issues to raise in a Glebe Letter Six example letters written to the Diocese Willersey PCC reply to the Letter from Archdeacon Springett.     Letter from Archdeacon Springett to Willersey PCC A Press Release from our MP Sept Glebe Village Hall Meeting Report
Lynden Stowe Growth now and in the Past Population and Planning June 2016 Cotswold District local plan Don't Concrete Over Britain Our MP and Housing Infrastructure
Huntley Background Welcome letter to Bishop Rachel Future Growth Willersey: a Village not a Town Facebook page
Meeting with the Bishop of Gloucester in the Village Hall. Examples from other Dioceses Gladman Appeal Decision in Mickleton


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(This is not strictly housing).
The Farncombe Estate has applied for planning permission to amongst other activities run quad bike racing and clay pigeon shooting.
Comments now officially close on November 23rd but may well be accepted after this date.
This has now been refused.



Willersey Housing now and in the Future.

Willersey from above


Housing Growth now, in the Past and in the Future in Willersey

Willersey has grown over the centuries. On an 1840 Ordnance Survey map, only Main Street, Church Street and
a small part of the Broadway Road near the Methodist Church had any significant houses.
They are mainly 16th, 17th, or 18th century, most are in the conservation area and built of stone in the Cotswold style.
Old Cotswold house were mostly built by their owners with help from a mason. Smoothed dressed stones were mostly used for corners and window surrounds (without sills). The walls were then completed between these points with stones roughly finished with an axe. Both the inside and outside of a wall would be built like this and for any infill needed rough stones were used. This creates solid thick walls which have a useful high thermal capacity for today's high heating costs.
Roofs were steep pitched with stone tiles and dormer windows to use the roof space. The tiles are larger at the bottom of the roof and were sorted so the smaller ones are at the top to reduce the total weight of the roof. Tiling a roof gutter in a continuous sweep required real skill. The houses of the more affluent would have all their wall stones dressed.

The conservation area was designated on 2nd May 1973 and reviewed on 25th September 1990.
The wall of the bowling alley in the New Inn has a painting of the houses on one side of Main Street.
Later Willersey developments in 1995/1996 include Collin Close, Hays Close, Willow Road, Field Lane and Ley Orchard.

This map is taken from the latest Cotswold District Council Development Plan.     Click on the image for a larger version.
Willersey in 2030


Here is a table of Willersey housing in January 2015 by postcode. The population figures mostly come from the 2011 census.
    Postcode        Addresses         Road Name/Area        Population    
WR12 7LE3 Willersey Hill4
WR12 7LF1 Dormy House4
WR12 7LG0 Broadway Golf Club0
WR12 7LJ6 Farncombe14
WR12 7PE13 Collin Lane27
WR12 7PF2 Willersey Hill4
WR12 7PG8 Campden Lane19
WR12 7PH27 Broadway Road55
WR12 7PJ67 Main Street116
WR12 7PN25 Church Street35
WR12 7PP30 Collin Close53
WR12 7PR41 Badsey Road101
WR12 7PS22 Timms Green42
WR12 7PT5 The Quinary12
WR12 7PW58 Ley Orchard137
WR12 7PY9 Frampton Drive19
WR12 7QA15 Hays Close30
WR12 7QB32 Field Lane64
WR12 7QD10 Jordans Close18
WR12 7QE27 Willow Road40
Other13 Various20
WR12 7QF3 Industrial Estate0
WR12 7RR14 Industrial Estate0
Totals Feb 2015431    814
  New and Future Housing  
Permission32 Broadway Road 48
Permission      Reserved Matters50 North of Collin Lane 125?
Single Houses5 Various8?
Two Small Sites5 Main Street8?
Permission4 Campden Lane10
Village Plan75? Stratford Road180?
Totals Future598    1183??
     
   Gloucester Diocese Land   
      450 ?? Glebe Land - see below 1125?
See also the letters in our Village Newsletter   
Totals Future?1048 ??    2308 ??

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This is the latest - June 2016 Cotswold District local plan. Willersey is on page 102. This is a large document - may take a time to appear.

Here is the latest housing Council draft plan on the Willersey website and here is the same document on the Council website. It is a very large file (over 13MB) so it may take a time to load. Be patient! Being towards the end of the alphabet, the major section for Willersey is at the end from page 121 onwards.    There is also the larger ( 39MB ) consultation document both on the Willersey website and Cotswold District Council website. ( Be very patient. Depending on your broadband speed this could take up to 12 minutes or more to load. ) The entry for Willersey starts on page 112 of this document. Copies are also be available for inspection at the Council's offices in Trinity Road, Cirencester and the Moreton Area Centre, Moreton-in-Marsh.

February and July 2015 - Willersey Housing Increase Plans.
  • The local plan has allocated 85 houses to be built in Willersey during the period 2011 to 2031. This is an increase of 35 since the 2014 consultation with CDC.
  • Currently there are a known 121 houses on major developments within Willersey with current planning applications at CDC. These have been submitted by 2 developers.
  • There are a further 5 individual houses with approved or applied for planning consent within Willersey.
  • There are an additional 20 houses on the Broadway Rd which have been given planning consent following appeal.
At February 2015 146 additional houses are proposed for Willersey. See above for details and also the documents below. This is a 34% increase in the size of Willersey.
If the Glebe Land were to be developed as well (see below) Willersey would more than double in size and increase by 140%.

The Broadway Road permission is in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) so what value does the AONB have?
The Cotswold Lion Magazine is the newspaper for the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The Cotswold AONB will be 50 years old next year - will we be proud of developments in it by then?
The Cotswolds is an AONB, which means that it is a special landscape and safeguarded for future generations by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949. Over the years the pressures on the countryside have increased and in 2000 the Countryside Rights of Way Act, (CROW) addressed that challenge. It confirmed that AONBs, shared with National Parks the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty. The government also placed new responsibilities on local authorities to ensure further protection for designated landscapes.

Cotswold District Council has now closed the Local Plan consultation.
The most effective and direct way to provide comments was via the online system on the CDC website which was running during the consultation period. Here is the response of our Parish Council to the short listed sites.
Some background information was provided in the recent edition of Cotswold News Winter 2014 magazine which was delivered to all households and is also available on the council website.

This 1767 map shows houses only in Main Street and Broadway Road with mostly orchards behind.
Later Willersey developments in 1995/1996 include Collin Close, Hays Close, Willow Road, Field Lane and Ley Orchard.

Willersey in 1767



Possible Sale of Glebe Land


Willersey's Parochial Church Council Response to the letter from Archdeacon Springett

Saint Peter's Parochial Church Council
c/o The Granary
Main Street
Willersey
Broadway
WR12 7PJ

The Venerable Robert Springett
Archdeacon of Cheltenham
Archdeacons' Office
2 College Green, Gloucester, GL1 2L

21 November 2015
Dear Robert

Willersey Glebe Land

I write in response to your letter, dated 10 November 2015, which I have discussed with my colleagues, Judy Munt, Churchwarden, and Lord Dear, Vice-Chairman of the PCC.

When we met the Diocesan Secretary and directors of the Diocese's intended partner, the promoter Gladman, on 10 July this year, their explicit and stated expectations were that we would share the Diocese's enthusiasm for the development of our glebe land and that they would be able to persuade us to return to Willersey and attempt to convince other parishioners to accept yet more building development in our parish.

At the first public meeting, one of our parishioners proposed a vote that the Parish Council should petition the Cotswold District Council to ensure that there would be no more development within Willersey, beyond the 100 houses which appear to be inevitable, and also that all of the glebe land, specifically, be removed from the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment / Local Plan. This received unanimous support.

We reiterate that there is total objection to any further housing development, over and above that which has already been agreed with the Cotswold District Council (CDC) which, as you know, exceeds the Parish Quota, puts additional strain on already inadequate infrastructure and will increase Willersey's population by 34%.

In the second public meeting and in her recent meeting with the PCC, Bishop Rachel repeatedly stated that she was determined that Willersey would not be “over-housed” as a consequence of the Diocese's actions. We, and other parishioners, made it clear that key, local amenities are already overloaded even before the building of the 100 houses mentioned above. Therefore, our village is already to be ‘over-housed’. It is important to note, in this regard, that even though the application for planning permission for an additional 70 houses south of Collin Lane is under Appeal, the original Application was refused, with good reason.

Furthermore, there is no support within our village for development for commercial or industrial use. It was clear from the 10 July meeting, that the Diocese and its intended promoter were as aware as the PCC, the Parish Council and our District Councillor that, in an area of high employment, such developments can be used, with success, to justify the building of even more housing, even when that location is already ‘over-housed’. You mention the legal requirements on glebe land. Representatives of the Church Commissioners met Lord Dear in London on 13 October, when they moderated their previously stated position, publically reiterating Bishop Rachel's comments on ‘over-housing’ and stating that there was no point in selling glebe land for development if it resulted in diminished support for the Church in the locality concerned. There can be no doubt that that would be the case in Willersey.

On the basis of what Bishop Rachel told our PCC meeting, we had caused the Parish Council and other parishioners to expect some significant outcome from the meeting of the Bishop's Council. Yet, four months on from that first meeting, in July, and after all that has happened in that time, your letter makes it clear that nothing has changed in the Diocese's intentions or approach: You still expect us to be prepared to work in some form of partnership with the Diocese, in order to attempt to persuade Willersey's parishioners to accept additional development on the village's glebe land, beyond that which is already planned elsewhere in the Parish.

We cannot and will not do this.

You state that the Diocese has never considered W_6/Upper Marbrook for development. Whilst this is a welcome commitment it is important to reiterate that Judy Munt, Lord Dear and I were told, categorically, at the meeting on 10 July, that the intention was to develop all of Willersey's glebe land “over the next 10 to 20 years”, specifically including Upper Marbrook (the ridge and furrow field next to the church). As I have made clear, repeatedly, it is unnecessarily provocative to imply, repeatedly, as you and other diocesan colleagues and clergy have, that our memories are defective in this regard.

Your letter and Bishop Rachel's letter of 8 September both make reference to the village's distrust of the Diocese. Nothing has changed in this respect, despite the public meeting that Bishop Rachel attended on 6 October, 2015. We are convinced that there will be no possibility of any reduction in this level of distrust until it becomes clear that the Diocese has heeded the legitimate concerns of Willersey’s parishioners and ceased all of its attempts at inflicting more detrimental development on our village, whether for housing or other purposes.

We share Willersey Parish Councillor's disappointment that you have decided to approach the CDC before and without consulting our Parish Council. The Parish Council will endorse our views, if consulted, and we recommend that you do so.

The CDC has invited us to take part in a period of formal consultation on planning polices and the Local Plan, between 6 November and 21 December. It would be inappropriate and premature for the Diocese to approach the CDC until the outcome of that consultation is known. During this consultation process, the Parish Council will be petitioning the CDC to remove the village's glebe land from the Local Plan, as required by the unanimous vote in Willersey's first public meeting on this matter, and parishioners will be reinforcing this by expressing their views in letters to the CDC.

Yours sincerely,





Robert McNeill-Wilson
Senior Churchwarden


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Willersey's Meeting with the Bishop: “I hear you.”

A second public meeting on the Diocese’s intentions with regard to the Willersey's glebe land was held on 6th October. Nearly 200 villagers packed the Village Hall again, on this occasion meeting Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, the new Bishop of Gloucester, to hear what she and her team had to say and to address their concerns and questions to her.
In the forthright and, at times, heated meeting, which was chaired jointly by Bishop Rachel for the Diocese and Lord Dear for the Parish, parishioners made clear their opposition to the Diocese's intentions to sell large areas of the parish's glebe land for housing development.

Parishioners were particularly discomforted by the Diocesan Glebe Committee Chairman's presentation. His inability to name Willersey correctly and to get any of the facts correct on the developments under consideration in the parish called into question the Glebe Committee's ability to make decisions with respect to parish land.

Other significant outcomes of the meeting included:
  • Bishop Rachel announcing a change of stance on behalf of the Diocese. Where its previous policy had been that the Diocese need show no interest in parishioner's concerns (its contention being that this should be left to the council planning department), Bishop Rachel insisted that she did not want to see Willersey “over-housed”.
  • Bearing the above in mind, a commitment by the Bishop that the Diocese will not allow any move to be made towards obtaining planning permission on any glebe land in Willersey until the appeal relating to the proposed 70 house development, south of Collin Lane, is known.
  • A commitment by the Bishop and the Diocesan Secretary that the only land on which the Diocese will consider applying for planning permission or selling will be within the area known by parishioners as “Terrify” (and not any of the precious areas of ancient ridge and furrow).
  • Having heard all of the concern and incredulity expressed by parishioners at the Diocese's choice of the promoter Gladman as a partner, an intention by the Bishop to ensure that this decision is reconsidered.
The next steps are that the Assistant Diocesan Secretary will draft a record of the transactions of the meeting which the PCC will review and agree with the Bishop. Thereafter, the PCC will meet the Bishop in the next few weeks to discuss the matter further.

On Tuesday, 13th October, Lord Dear attended a meeting with the Church Commissioners in the House of Lords, having tabled a question in advance. The Bishop of London read out a prepared statement that reiterated much of what the parish had heard from the Bishop of Gloucester in terms of assurances. In the discussion that followed, the Bishop of London affirmed that the Church of England would not wish to implement a policy that resulted in a drop in congregations for the sake of gaining additional income from the sale of Glebe Land.
The Bishop of London will be sending Lord Dear a copy of his statement and this will be made available to parishioners.

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Here is the text of an email sent by a resident of Balham in South London to Cotswold District Council expressing dismay at the possible Glebe Land Sale.

Beautiful Unique Willersey

Dear Councillor,

I write to you as a resident of Balham, (Nightingale ward) in South London after I was dismayed to read of plans to sell off Glebe land by the Diocese with the prospective of building a large housing development in the extraordinarily, unique village of Willersey. I visit the area frequently and always spend an inspiring 3-4 days at a time, cycling, walking & exploring this outstanding area of unique natural & architectural beauty.

I first came across this magical village about a decade ago and was in awe of its timeless character and admired how architecturally untouched it was. The magnificent atmosphere of the unspoilt ‘period street scene’ as you pass through the main thoroughfare is visually breathtaking & inspiring. How in the Diocese's wildest imagination and plans could they contemplate changing the historical integrity & size of the village is beyond comprehension. It is precious, rare & unique. The essential integrity of the village is only still, just intact and one of the few in the Cotswolds like it. We should even aspire for Willersey and so many other villages around the Cotswolds to collectively obtain UNESCO World Heritage classification so they can be protected indefinitely. They are so deserving of this protection, preservation and listing. This particular village is indeed likened to a ‘living architecture museum’ and belongs to us all.

Obviously the Diocese and the Church of England have a legal entitlement to sell the land but how is it they have the moral authority to permanently change the character of Willersey and essentially the Cotswolds, which is a unique part of British heritage on behalf of, essentially the British public? Surely heritage belongs to everyone. Is the Church of England as an institution so desperate for money they can hold financial gain above heritage and we as a society are powerless to prevent this. In our desperation to provide more housing do we have to desecrate our beautiful and cherished villages?

Councillor, I urge you to fight for the historic integrity & heritage of Willersey village, revered by its community, those that visit or pass through it whom all appreciate its charm and character. The sale of the land and consequence large-scale house building would change the village character and thus, English heritage for ever.

Our unique villages like Willersey and many others across the Cotswolds and other Counties are admired and visited by people from all over the world. Please do not allow them to be compromised. We are all guardians of these much admired places and have a duty of care to protect in the same way we protect our (diminishing) precious areas of natural wilderness and National Parks. What a sad legacy our 21st century society leaves if we neglect our responsibility of protecting them over monetary value for financial gain. I would have thought the Church of England above all institutions would lead the way in being guardians of great responsibility.

Please fight Councillor Stowe, to ensure that the integrity of the village remains intact for us all and future generations. If the Diocese will not protect the character of the village, which must be sacrosanct then perhaps it should be recommended that this same Glebe land be transferred over to a more responsible institution like the National Trust to manage and preserve to ensure that the village indeed, remains protected.

Yours sincerely,

Here is the reply.

Dear Madam,

Thank you for your email.
I can assure you that the vast majority of local people share your concerns.

I'm afraid, though, we find the Diocese of Gloucester a bombastic, arrogant organisation, which within a generation, has ditched it's moral authoriity in the countryside in favour of a “mammon-like” quest to pay unaffordable pensions to it's raft of retired administrators and clergy of all ranks.

It remains to be seen if the new bishop has the will to stem that tide. Early indications are, however, not promising.
I will forward your email on to the Willersey Parish Council who are doing their very best to try to counter the onslaught.
With best wishes and thanks, again, for taking the time to write.

Leader - Cotswold District Council

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Angry villagers grill Bishop of Gloucester over church land sale in Willersey on 6th October Meeting

The text of this Cotswold Journal press report is below and here is a link to the original item.

Angry villagers grilled the new Bishop of Gloucester during a fiery public meeting about plans to sell church land in Willersey for housing.
Hundreds of frustrated residents packed into the village hall as Bishop Rachel Treweek faced “the lion's den” – but her presence failed to prevent tempers running high. One member of the public labelled Diocese staff “disgraceful” while another Diocese representative was heckled by the crowd for mispronouncing the village as Willers-ley. Heated exchanges were plentiful as villagers desperate to prevent 75 houses being built on the church land clashed with Diocese officials hopeful of flogging the plot for about £3 million.

Bishop Treweek attempted to appease the disgruntled community, stating “ I do not want to over-house the village” and confirming “no sale has been signed and sealed” yet. Her repeated promises to listen to concerns did not however satisfy some villagers who want nothing short of the church backing out of any sale, especially after two years were spent approving new homes in the village under the Cotswold Local Plan. The meeting was the culmination of months of disagreement between the diocese and villagers, who claim the church used “clandestine” tactics in its bid to sell 35 acres of land known as ‘Terrify’.

Lord Geoffrey Dear, representing the village, and Bishop Rachel, representing the diocese, jointly chaired the meeting. Both sides agreed that the church has a legal right to sell the glebe land – an investment asset used to generate income for the payment of clergy – and much of the debate centred around the diocese's apparent “insensitive” handling of the matter. Lord Dear accused the diocese of failing to discuss the planned sale with the village – as Church of England guidance suggests – and then issuing a “deficient” notice that no-one could understand let alone object to. He claimed that developer Gladman boasted 350 houses could be built on the glebe land once an initial 75 were approved – and cited the case of Huntley in the Forest of Dean as an example of the firm's aggressive approach when working in partnership with the diocese.

Bishop Treweek countered that the diocese was “sympathetic to the total number of new houses in the village” – and even stated that if 71 houses south of Collin Road were approved on appeal that would be “too many” if combined with the glebe land sale. She defended however the church's right to sell the land and claimed that the site was currently within the council's approved local plan – although recognised this could change due to recently approved speculative applications. Members of the public similarly chipped into the tense discussions.

Robert McNeil-Wilson criticised the diocese for “getting into bed with a rapacious development partner” and Jeremy Bowen told the bishop “the people you work with are a disgrace – get your house in order”. One resident passionately added “why do we need to lie down and accept another 75 houses when we've already agreed our quota?” while another said over-development was “a frightening prospect for the village”.

The bishop ended the meeting stating “I have heard loud and clear the anger and frustration” and promised to reflect on the strong opinions raised.
Lord Dear said this development was “encouraging” and that he looked forward to hearing back from the bishop.

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Here are a number of links to the press coverage of the meeting with the Bishop of Gloucester. on the 6th October 2015.

Worcestershire News. Western Daily Press.
Gloucestershire Echo. Premier Christian Radio.
BBC Gloucestershire. My Informs.
Daily Mail. Church of England Media Centre.
Gloucestershire Citizen. My Informs (again).
The Guardian. Press Reader.
Cotswold Journal.   

This facebook public group also has some interesting comments.


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The Bishop of Gloucester attended a meeting in Willersey Village Hall about Glebe Land   at  7pm   on   6th October 2015.

From: Rachel Treweek (Bishop of Gloucester) [Email: ]
Sent: 20 September 2015

Dear All,

Further to my letter, the meeting for the village has been booked for Tuesday 6th October at 7pm in the village hall. At the beginning of the meeting I will outline the purpose of our gathering which will primarily be about ensuring that facts and questions are clarified and that everyone has heard the same thing. Once I have introduced the purpose of the meeting, it would be very helpful if someone could speak for no more than 10 minutes on behalf of the PCC to outline your key concerns and questions regarding next steps. There will then be some input to clarify the current position. This will include ensuring that everyone is clear about which land is being discussed.

Towards the end of the meeting there will be the opportunity for those present to raise questions which have not been addressed.

I am fully aware that people are unlikely to be in a place of agreement, but it is very important that everything is clarified regarding the present situation and the next steps. I am hoping that the meeting will be finished by 8.45pm (and most definitely by 9pm).

I look forward to seeing you on October 6th, and am also aware that it would be good to get a follow-up date to meet with the PCC.

This comes with all good wishes, thanks and prayers

+Rachel

The Right Revd Rachel Treweek
Bishop of Gloucester
2 College Green
Gloucester
GL1 2LR
Tel: 01452 835511

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Clarifying the Intentions of the Diocese and its Partner, Gladman

The Diocese of Gloucester has taken to contending that the land shown in the accompanying picture is not the land it intends to sell for major developments. This is incorrect.

Glebe land threatened with Housing

Firstly, the picture shows the large, initial area of 35.5 acres that the Diocese of Gloucester intends to sell off for development. This is the area of land, known locally as Terrify, to the very left in the three fields in the middle distance immediately beyond the Saintbury Road (the hedged road).

At the meeting on 10th July 2015 between, from St Peter's the Churchwardens with Lord Dear (PCC Vice Chairman) and, from the Diocese, the Diocesan Secretary with representatives of Gladman, the Diocese's ‘promoter’, a Gladman's director made it clear that they intended the initial 100 house development to be only a first tranche and that they hoped to go on to build so many houses that Willersey would exceed Broadway or even the town of Chipping Campden in size. Gladman stated that after that initial, major development the Diocese would retain large areas of remaining glebe land as “dowry land” and explained that this meant that the Diocese would have it “for further development over the next 10 to 20 years”. After Gladman's representatives left the meeting, the Diocesan Secretary confirmed, emphatically, when questioned by the Senior Churchwarden, that the Diocese would sell the rest of the huge area of glebe land, including all of our parish's precious, ancient ridge and furrow land, and turn it over for development as soon as money could be obtained for it. He answered a clarification question, confirming that this intention also applied to the land south of the road, in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, i.e. the glebe field next to the churchyard.

If the PCC were able to obtain an assurance from the Bishop that the Diocese will not sell any more of Willersey's glebe land for the next 20 years, it would be a small step forward. But it would still mean that, with the other intended housing developments, if the Diocese's current, initial development went ahead then Willersey, with its already overloaded local amenities, would have to cope with an unsustainable increase to its population of 500 or 600 additional persons.

It is important to note that the Diocese has been inconsistent in stating intentions. When the PCC met the Archdeacon recently, he tried to reassure by stating that the Diocesan Secretary had told him the number of houses intended on the initial development would only be as high as 150 houses. Worryingly, the number of houses the Diocese intends to see built in the other contentious case at the Parish of Huntley is 50 houses on 7 acres. The Diocese's initial tranche at Willersey would be built on 35.5 acres, so that land, alone, could be used to build as many as 350 houses.

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Text of Willersey Parish Council Welcome letter to Bishop Rachel     28th Sept 2015.

W I L L E R S E Y P A R I S H C O U N C I L
Willersey Parish Council Office
Willersey Village Hall
Main Street
Willersey
Nr Broadway
Worcestershire
WR12 7PJ

Tel. No. 01386 – 853635 Mobile 07870 264377
28th September 2015

The Rt. Revd the Lord Bishop of Gloucester
The Bishop's Office
2 College Green
Gloucester
GL1 2LR



Dear Bishop,

Willersey

Further to the recent information, reference the potential sale of Glebe Land for a major housing development, Willersey Parish Council would welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with yourself, and would be delighted if you could attend the public meeting, scheduled for the 6th October 2015. Whilst it is somewhat difficult for us to comment upon a potential housing development where we haven't been presented with any firm proposals you need to be aware that planning consent has already been granted for two additional housing developments, which in themselves will increase the size of the village by a third. At a recent, very well attended, public meeting it was crystal clear that the overwhelming majority of the village are not in favour of any further major developments. As their most immediate representatives in local government we must take this as our mandate.

We are of course aware that the church needs to generate additional income, wherever possible, but we also believe it important that the church retains support within the parish and local community. Hopefully this public meeting will allow you to gauge whether this proposed sale of Glebe Land will endanger the support the church has within the local community.

We look forward to our discussions.

Yours sincerely



For and on behalf of Willersey Parish Council
Stephen Jordan

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“Through a glass, darkly”

The Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, our new Diocesan Bishop, came to her office (we understand for the first time) on Monday 7th September and was briefed that day about the Willersey Glebe by several of the senior members of the Diocese who have previously been involved in this continuing affair. The Bishop almost immediately signed a letter to the Willersey Parochial Church Council (PCC) supporting absolutely the Diocesan view ie: that the Section 20 Notice of intended sale of the land had been properly served and, as such, Gladman LLP would soon be requested to commence a planning application.

During the last fortnight, three letters have been sent to Willersey parishioners by the Church Commissioners (CC) endorsing this stance, and refusing to entertain further debate. The CC, too, relied on the Section 20 Notice. This in spite of
  • all parties having been advised that Learned Counsel (QC) has given his Opinion that the Notice was fatally flawed for lack of specificity;
  • that the PCC had not been given informal notice of the intended sale at an early stage, as recommended by the CCs own Code of Best Practice;
  • the fact that Revs Debbie Forman and Craig Bishop were aware of the intended sale by virtue of their membership of the two separate Diocesan Committees and were present when the issue was formally discussed, and sale procedures authorised in November 2014 (which we only discovered last month);
  • their attendance at a site meeting on the land in question on 18 May (a meeting we only became aware of due to an inadvertent comment from the CC);
  • the Revd Forman having offered to the PCC to find out from the Diocese the meaning of the Section 20 Notice on 20 May, and undertaking to alert the PCC if there was anything of importance of which the PCC should be aware;
  • the fact that no such advice was given;
  • that, consequently, the PCC remained unaware of the intended sale until July 2015, after the date for formal objection had passed.
Sadly, it now becomes more and more clear that all the main players on the Diocesan side knew, from an early stage, exactly what was happening and that there appears that there may have been a determined intention that the PCC should remain in ignorance until it was too late to formally object.
It would also appear that both the Diocese and the CC have closed their minds and ears to any considerations of equity; are pursuing what may have been an intention from the start i.e. to sell the Glebe land, come what may; and this despite the C of E declared policies of always reflecting upon the views and sensitivities of parishioners in these circumstances, before deciding whether or not to seek a sale.

More concerning still is the fact that our incoming Bishop has apparently made a decision without listening to both sides.
She has declared an intention to visit the parish in early October ( on the 6th )to meet the residents, and the PCC has written to her welcoming that initiative, and asking whether she intends that the purpose of the visit is to better inform herself, before coming to a balanced decision, or simply to explain and justify a decision that has already been made. More than two weeks later, we still await a reply to that letter.

When this meeting takes place (and it should properly be at the invitation of the Parish Council), we hope that as many of you as possible will attend to express whatever views you may have on this worrying issue. It is important to say what you think, one way or the other.

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PCC Further Update on the Defence of Willersey Glebe Land     17th Sept 2015.

The new Diocesan Bishop (Rachel Treweek) came to her office for, I am told, her first day behind her desk on Monday last week (7th Sept). She was briefed by the Diocesan Secretary, the Archdeacon of Cheltenham and Revd Craig Bishop about the Willersey Glebe issue. (You will recognise at least two of those are major players in this saga, on the Diocesan side). She immediately sent me and the two Churchwardens a letter backing absolutely the Diocesan view Viz: that the Section 20 Notice had been properly served and as such there would be a request shortly to Gladman to commence a planning application.

There have been two letters sent from the Church Commissioners to Willersey parishioners during the last week, endorsing this stance, and refusing to countenance further debate. The CC, too, relied on the Section 20 Notice. This, in spite of all parties being told that Learned Counsel has given his Opinion that the Notice was fatally flawed for lack of specificity; that the PCC had not been given informal notification several months earlier, as recommended by the CCs own Code of Best Practice; despite the fact that Revs Debbie Forman and Craig Bishop were aware of the intended transfer and eventual sale by virtue of their membership of two separate Diocesan Committees ( at which they were both present) when the issue was formally discussed during the early months of this year; despite their attendance at a Site meeting on the Glebe land in question in Willersey on 18th May; despite Revd Forman being asked to explain the purport of the action 20 Notice on 20th May, and promising to alert the PCC if there was anything significant that the PCC should know. No such advice was proffered. The PCC remained completely unaware of the intended development, and were not put on notice of it until July.

It is now abundantly clear that all the main players on the Diocesan side knew exactly what was happening, and that it appears, on very strong evidence, that there was a concerted and determined intention on the Diocesan side that the PCC should remain in ignorance until after the closing date, specified by the Section 20 Notice had passed, and they could declare that no objections had been raised. From then on, the Diocese and now the Church Commissioners, have closed their minds and ears to considerations of equity, and pursued what appears to have been the intention from the start - sell at any price and despite the C of E declared policies of always reflecting upon the views and sensitivities of parishioners.

More concerning is the fact that the incoming Bishop has apparently made a decision without hearing both sides of the argument, and despite repeated requests from the PCC for a meeting with her. If that is indeed the case, it augers badly for the future, and will cause widespread disappointment.

I have written asking whether her intended visit to Willersey to meet parishioners and the PCC is prior to any decision to allow the land to be developed ie: to help her to come to a balanced decision, or whether it is ex post facto, and simply to explain and excuse a decision already made.

I have been awaiting a reply for just over a week!

All of this has a marked similarity to what occurred in Huntley, Forest of Dean, in which the Diocese and the CC behaved in much the same way.
The Lord Dear (Vice-Chairman, Willersey PCC)

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PCC Update on the Defence of Willersey Glebe Land

Stop Press – PCC Update on the Defence of Willersey Glebe Land     Handbrake applied!

On 25th August 2015, members of the Parochial Church Council (PCC) met the Archdeacon of Cheltenham (the Venerable Robert Springett). He was joined by Rev.d Debbie Forman (Team Vicar) and Rev.d Craig Bishop (Team Rector).

The PCC had pressed the Archdeacon to cause all actions concerning the proposed sale of the Glebe land to be suspended pro tem to avoid a repeat of what had occurred in the village of Huntley, Forest of Dean where, in similar circumstances, Gladman LLP had “jumped the gun” and made a formal application for planning consent, in contravention of established protocols. The Archdeacon confirmed that Gladman has been instructed to disengage on Willersey until further notice.

The meeting ranged over the same ground as that covered in the public meeting in Willersey Village Hall on 19th August 20915. It became apparent that:
•     The Diocesan internal organisation is opaque, with no clear lines of accountability and responsibility that the PCC could identify. (The Archdeacon has been asked to provide a written account of arrangements, to enable us to understand how the Diocese is structured and where responsibilities lie.)
•     The Diocesan Secretary is giving accounts of his activities and intentions to the Archdeacon and other Diocesan colleagues which is radically different to that given to PCC members by him and the Diocese's confederates, Gladman LLP, at the meeting on 10th July.
•     The Team Vicar and Team Rector were unable to offer any explanation for their failure to inform the PCC members at the PCC Meeting in May of the Diocese's intentions, despite having being briefed, in person, during their site meeting, only three days earlier. They said they recognised, whilst on site, the need to hold a meeting with the PCC to inform members of the Diocese's intentions. Despite this, there was no meeting until two months later, when the Churchwardens were summoned to the meeting called, specifically, to enable Gladman and the Diocesan Secretary to attempt to persuade them to work at convincing the Parish to accept the proposed, initial, major development on Willersey's glebe land. (They failed!)

The Archdeacon asked for time to consider what he had been told at this meeting. It was impressed on him that the standing of the Diocese and clergy is diminishing as damaging facts continue to emerge; that opposition to Diocesan plans continues to grow; that the reputation of the Diocese and the Church of England will continue to suffer; that any delay in resolution would only exacerbate this regrettable situation; and that time is of the essence.
We will continue to keep you up-to-date with further developments.
The application of the handbrake, for the time being, demonstrates the effectiveness of Willersey's initial opposition. We must keep this up!

If you have not yet written to the Bishop to express your outrage and opposition, please do so as soon as possible. Points to make, address to write to and examples of letters already sent are below.

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Gloucester Diocese Land Development Intentions

The PCC needs to make Parishioners aware of major building developments intended by the Gloucester Diocese of the Church of England, in addition to those plans already granted permission or under consideration. The details are contained in the following letter, sent by the PCC to the Bishop of Gloucester, dated 20th July 2015. We are determined to oppose this imposition and will keep you informed of developments. In the meantime, we shall be pleased to answer any questions on this matter.

Dear Bishop Rachel,
We welcome you to our Diocese and regret that this must be our first contact with you. We are forced to write to you with regard to the Diocese's intention to sell the glebe land in Willersey.
The Willersey Parochial Church Council (PCC) was only notified of these plans on Tuesday, 7th July 2015, and was invited to attend a meeting, three days later, on Friday, 10th July. The Churchwardens and the Vice-Chairman of the PCC duly attended that meeting, hosted by Rev'd Craig Bishop of Chipping Campden. Also, present were Mr Preece-Smith (Diocesan Secretary), Mrs Taylor (Glebe Surveyor), from your Diocesan staff, and representatives of Savills and Gladman who have been instructed by the Diocese to arrange for the land to be sold to be the subject of a substantial housing and industrial development. We were only invited to participate in the hope that we could be engaged in convincing our Parish to accept this scheme.

It was immediately apparent at this meeting that the Parish was being presented with a fait accompli: The Diocesan Secretary admitted that the Diocese has been actively considering this development since September last year and that the developers have been carrying out detailed investigations on eight Glebe sites within your Diocese. Of these, Willersey and a parish in the Forest of Dean, have been singled out for sale and development.

The PCC representatives pointed out many of the substantial factors against this proposal, including:
• This meeting taking place on the day that the Government announced that future development should be on brownfield sites and avoid such greenfield sites in future, as far as possible;
• Willersey already being required, under the latest development plans, to accept the building of 70 new houses on sites around the village. The Parish Council expects this to be increased to 141 additional houses;
• Local amenities already being severely strained: e.g. the school and local doctors' surgery already at full capacity, virtually no local public transport, the nearest railway station car park operating at full capacity, with absolutely no possibility of expansion etc etc; and
• This intended initial imposition by the Diocese of circa 100 new dwellings; in addition to the number already earmarked, being wholly disproportionate; it would cause Willersey's development quota to be exceeded by 200%, at the same time as destroying the current, cohesive nature of the community and completely changing its essential character.

The Diocesan Secretary was previously unaware of any of these factors but made it clear that he had no interest in them, whatsoever, and that the Diocese would be taking none of them into consideration nor allowing them to deflect it from its determination to impose this development upon our village.
If this major development were allowed to proceed, the Diocese would retain land, north of the B4632 and the two fields south of that road, adjacent to Saint Peter's churchyard as ‘dowry land’. We were appalled to hear the Diocesan Secretary admit that he intended to sell the whole of this remaining land for development at the earliest opportunity.
We were both alarmed and dismayed when the Diocesan Secretary insisted, not once, but three times, that he was merely implementing Diocesan policy. In an attempt at defending his stance, he maintained that:
• he did not consider it improper to have concealed these proposals from the Parish until immediately prior to Planning Permission being sought nor to have given only three days' notice to the PCC of the meeting;
• he did not consider that it was any business of the Diocese to take into consideration the views of the PCC, Parish Council or any other persons. That, he maintained, was the business of the Planning Authority; and
• that his only purpose was to sell off whatever Glebe land he could, in order to raise funds to further the broader work of the Diocese and that he had a strict duty under Charities law to do this; refusing to accept that the Charity Commissioners expect responsibilities to be discharged with common sense and a degree of proportionality.

As we made clear, our parishioners cannot be accused of “NIMBY-ism”. They have been understanding of the need to accept the building of additional housing; indeed, following the recent planning activity, Willersey has been held up, in the District, as the example of how communities should enter into such processes positively and constructively.

We pointed out to the Diocesan Secretary that his decision was bound to attract an adverse reaction, well beyond the bounds of Willersey, and that the Church of England would thereby invite considerable criticism and be seen to be riding rough-shod over the views of its own congregation and local parishioners. He was intransigent.

Finally, we put it to him, several times, that he was only concerned with financial benefits to the Diocese administration and not with any other factors concerning the community at large. Several times, he agreed!

We cannot believe that you will be content to find that your Diocese thinks it right to impose its will on a parish just because it believes it can, nor that you would intend for our church, the Church of England, to become an organisation for which the ends justify the means, however appalling their consequences. We earnestly hope that you will halt these proceedings and reconsider. Of course, we would welcome a meeting with you.

Yours sincerely, Robert McNeil-Wilson (Churchwarden), Judy Munt (Churchwarden),
The Lord Dear (Vice-Chairman, Willersey PCC).




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Where is this Glebe Land?
It is the two grey areas marked W_7B and W_8. One is next to the church and the other on the other side of the B4632.
This development could add another 450 houses to the village.

Glebeland Detail    Glebeland

An article has now been published in the Church Times.

Here is a picture of the Glebe Land.

Land threatened with Housing

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Proposed sale of Glebe land in Willersey

If you consider that the proposed development of Glebe land in Willersey should be opposed, the Parochial Church Council invite you to write to the Bishop of Gloucester as soon as possible stating your objections. The more letters the better!

The envelope should be addressed to –

The Right Reverend The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
2 College Green
Gloucester GL1 2LR

The letter should commence –

Dear Bishop,


The only grounds for objection are as follows –

   •    That the proposal is in breach of best practice set out by the Church Commissioners and adopted by the Diocese viz: that sensitivity must be shown to local communities affected by the proposal
   •    That the mission of the Church of England would be severely damaged in a number of ways, including a lowered status of the Church; set back attempts to increase the relatively low congregation attendance levels; negative impacts on voluntary contributions to Church income; increased cynicism towards Church activity; detrimental impact on relations between the Diocese and its local representatives.
   •    That due process was not complied with viz: proper notice was not given in due form, preventing the PCC from having its views made known.


(NB: whilst many considerations are relevant, including adequacy or otherwise of essential infrastructure; environmental impact; existing plans for development in the village; damage to the essential character of the village – these cannot be considered in any appeal at this stage, being deemed only relevant at any later Planning Enquiry. Strange, but a fact! So……it will detract from any letter of objection if too much space is devoted to these issues, though a very brief mention in support of the paragraph concerning Best Practice might do no harm).

Geoffrey Dear
August 2015

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Here is the text of a Press Release about the Sale of Glebe Land from our MP. A copy of the original press release is here.

MP attends packed meeting at Willersey Village Hall to discuss sale of Glebe Land for Housing

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Member of Parliament for The Cotswolds attended a meeting at Willersey Village Hall on Wednesday 19th August 2015, which was absolutely packed, with standing room only, to hear Lord (Geoffrey) Dear's summary of the current situation in the Village. The meeting was good tempered and expertly chaired by Lord Dear (former Chief Constable West Midlands).

Much of the meeting was highly technical regarding the service of a notice to transfer Glebe Land from one Church body to another. The three key people involved failed to consult with the parish and hence the date for objections was missed. Apparently the developers did have a site meeting a few days before the deadline but no one knew anything about it.

The plan is to apply for 100 homes on 35 acres, however in a meeting with the Diocesan Secretary, who is masterminding all of this, it was admitted to Lord Dear that 100 homes was only a start and they intended to turn Willersey into a town bigger than Broadway next door.

To put this into context the consultation process for the Cotswold Local Plan envisaged that the village of Willersey should have 85 new houses over the next 16 years, 75 of which have either already been built or have planning permission.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP became involved when the retired vicar, The Revd Dr A.E Harvey, wrote to him recently to let him know about the unease in the village over this whole matter.
Commenting after the meeting Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said
“Prior to the public meeting at Willersey Village Hall, I had taken these concerns up with the Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, Second Church Estates Commissioner, who provided me with a copy of the First Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Andreas Whittam Smith's response to The Revd Harvey regarding his concerns.
“It emerged at the meeting last night that Sir Andreas Whittam Smith's letter to The Revd Harvey was inundated with inaccuracies and I will be pointing this out to the First Church Estate Commissioner and asking him to put a stop on the whole process until the parish can be properly consulted.”
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Update on the Campaign to Prevent the Diocese Selling Glebe Land for Development

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP has written to the Second Church Estates Commissioner, the Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, asking her to look into the Parish's complaints to the Church Commissioners about this matter.

Over 200 Parishioners attended the PCC's public meeting in the Village Hall on 19th August to be updated on the campaign and to find out how to get involved to stop this action. Robert McNeil-Wilson and the Lord Dear represented the PCC and welcomed Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Lyndon Stowe, Chairman of the Cotswold District Council and members of Willersey Parish Council.

The Lord Dear acted as Chairman and explained the roles of the Parish Council, PCC and Diocese. He described events since the Diocese's issuing of the mandatory notice of its intention, and how this is likely to fail because the PCC has taken Leading Council's opinion and is working to demonstrate to the Church Commissioners that the notice is so unclear and unspecific as to be meaningless. He also explained how church employees have acted to prevent the PCC from objecting to the Diocese's intentions. On 18th May, at the time that the Churchwarden was finding it difficult to obtain clarity of what the Diocese's opaque letter and notice meant, the Diocesan Secretary, engaged in trying to drive this development forward, held a site meeting on the glebe land. He invited other Diocesan employees; the Benefice Team Vicar, Rev'd Debbie Forman and the Vicar of Chipping Campden, Rev'd Craig Bishop. The Churchwarden's and Willersey parishioners on the PCC were excluded from this meeting and kept unaware of it until it was revealed in a response letter from the Church Commissioners in August. When Rob McNeil-Wilson mentioned his difficulty in obtaining any more information at May's PCC Meeting, three days after the site meeting, the Rev'd Forman pretended a lack of knowledge about the Diocese's intentions, despite having had it explained, on-site, three days earlier and volunteered, then failed, to provide this information in time for the PCC to respond to the Diocese.

Councillor Steve Jordan explained how the Parish's ‘quota’ for house building development had been achieved.
The meeting was opened for questions and this revealed widespread disquiet and anger at the Diocese's intentions and the way Church employees had conducted themselves. David Griffiths wished to avoid a “blame game”. Several parishioners urged the PCC to take appropriate action in response to the conduct of certain clergy and other Diocesan employees. The PCC will raise these matters at its meeting with the Archdeacon, Robert Springett, to protest against the Diocese's actions to date and seek a restraint.

Given the apparent level of anger at and opposition to the Diocese's intentions and because all present felt strongly that the Parish had accepted as much development as was reasonable with the attainment of its quota, a vote was taken “that the Parish Council petition the Cotswold District Council to remove all of Willersey's glebe land, including the land known as ‘Terrify’, from the SHLAA” (Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment). The vote was unanimously in favour of this proposition.

Robert McNeil-Wilson concluded the meeting by saying that revelations about the Diocese's intentions and the actions of church employees had been damaging to the Church of England and its Mission. He urged parishioners to remember that the Church of England in Willersey is not the ruthless, cynical employees pursuing this action on behalf of this uncaring Diocese; it remains the Church of the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer but most importantly, all it is all those people who call themselves members of the Church of England in the Parish of Saint Peter's, Willersey. He urged everyone to pray for victory in this campaign and for the Church of England. The Parish Council wishes to reiterate the thanks he expressed to all the people who attended.

A record of names and contact details was taken from those present to enable the PCC to keep them informed and involved in the campaign. Parishioners are urged to write to the bishop to express their opposition, making particular reference to the inevitable damage to Mission (i.e. Church of England congregation and membership numbers etc).

The Parochial Church Council, Saint Peter's Willersey

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Here is some background information on the Diocese's Sale of the Glebe Land in Huntley. (This is a large but useful file.) For some further information on the sale click here.


Here is the text of an email received from another Gloucestershire Parish.
In 2013 my family and I bought a Rectory from the Gloucestershire Diocese in Leckhampton, Cheltenham. We quickly realised they were an unreceptive organisation, with very little community empathy. We are currently weathering a development, of 4 very large houses, on Glebe land which is next to our house. The development is being made by the Diocese building company The Good and Faithful Servant. Out of interest, I wondered if the proposed development in your village was being made by the same company? When you look at both company profiles, you will notice they share the same directors...
I wish you luck in your fight. The Diocese do seem to have carte blanche when dealing with Council planning and conservation Ecclesiastical Exemption notwithstanding.


This document shows how Salisbury Diocese is serving local residents more. The Diocese of Bath and Wells also has a more considered approach to selling Glebe Land.


This document includes some very useful facts, a charter example and case studies where churches have consulted with communities on the need for affordable housing.


Since the early 90's, some dioceses have used their glebe to actively promote the development of rural affordable homes with the help of Housing Associations.
They have either sold land to Housing Associations or retained the land, leasing it to the association to provide a mixture of rented and shared ownership rural housing. The diocese enjoys a share of the rent and provides a viable and socially responsible alternative to enable local people to stay in their communities. Their ethos is admirable.
‘Churches are part of the community and cannot ignore community needs. Since it was the community which built the church, each has a responsibility to the other.
The pursuit of gain while the community crumbles is bad economics as well as a betrayal of faith’. ‘We in the church cannot behave as if only the bottom line counts’.
The literature contained in the Faith in Affordable Housing Booklet suggests that both the Church Commissioners and the Charity Commission can favour the argument that a ‘contentious open market sale’ will affect the incumbents ministry and have an adverse consequence for the pastoral mission of a local church. The representation process, could, therefore, lead to consent for an alternative, lesser disposal price for the land, even if it is contrary to the advice of the diocesan land agent. Terms can, therefore, be agreed which are ‘reasonable and proper’ and having regard to all of the circumstances. This provides opportunities for appropriate land disposal for affordable housing, based on the assessment of local need. The website is housing justice.

This is the appeal decision approved for Gladman Homes in Mickleton. ( This is a large file.)
Now the appeal has been allowed there will be up to 230 extra houses in Mickleton (orginally 80).

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    What is the optimum size of a Village?
This longish, academic series of articles suggests ( on page identified as 684) that the optimum size of a human community is about 1200 persons.





Infrastructure
Any increase in the number of houses as proposed for Willersey ( and the surrounding villages ) will need a look at the cost and capability of our infrastucture to cope with extra demand.
Here is a list of some of the services which will need to be assessed:-

Road Capacity and Traffic     Primary and Secondary Schools     
Train Services    Hospitals and A&E departments    
Sufficient water supplyDrain capacity
     GP Surgery Capacity, Social Services     Bus Routes
Bridge size and strengthAdequate Broadband
Electricity supplyPolice Manpower
    Mobile and landline telephones    Gas supply capacity
EmploymentAmbulance Service

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2014 Cotswold District Council leader Cllr Lynden Stowe

Cotswold District Council leader Cllr Lynden Stowe hits out at secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles over housing plans

Friday 17th May 2013 in News By Ian Craig
A leading Cotswolds councillor has launched a scathing attack on government minister Eric Pickles over plans which could see 2,500 more homes built in one area of Cirencester in the next 18 years and a further 4,400 distributed across the rest of the Cotswolds.
The Leader of Cotswold District Council Cllr Lynden Stowe (Campden-Vale) hit out at the secretary of state for communities and local government at this week's cabinet meeting while finalising plans for the public consultation on the authority's local plan. Cllr Stowe said that although the council was proposing 6,900 homes to be built in the district over the next 18 years, it was only doing so because it was required by Mr Pickles' Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
“Most of us on the council, when we come to vote on this, will do so with very heavy hearts,” he said.
“I think inevitably we will see some of the Cotswold environment lost in this but we do want our residents to understand this is not our doing.”
Cabinet member with responsibility for the local plan Cllr Nick Parsons (Con, Ermin) said the authority had in the past been given a target by the government for the number of homes to be built. Now it was required to come up with a figure itself, to be approved or rejected by the DCLG.

“A lot of members don't believe that figure [6,900] is right - they think it is too high, and that is a fair argument – but at the moment we are being pinched and pushed by the DCLG,” he said.
The draft document sets out 17 sites across the Cotswolds considered appropriate for development, with Chesterton in Cirencester set to bear the brunt, with 2,500 new homes planned by 2031. CDC recently came under fire for not having a local plan in place, which many argue has led to government inspectors approving plans for nearly 500 homes in Tetbury, against the wishes of residents.

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Population growth and the British planning system

Ian Grace is a professional planning officer with more than 30 years' planning experience.

Britain has one of the most comprehensive planning systems in the world. Land use is tightly controlled in both urban and rural areas. In the main, this system has served the country well. We are one of the most crowded and busiest countries in Europe and yet, even in the south east of England, where pressures are at their most intense, large tracts of unspoilt countryside remain.

The picture is not, however, wholly favourable. In order to preserve open spaces and attractive areas, housing is built at high densities, is very expensive and is crammed into every available space. This is because the system is, in effect, a ‘predict and provide’ process, where calculations of future needs are made and land is allocated to meet that need. All local plans seek to meet perceived needs, whilst minimizing the damage done by meeting that need.

In the British context this means that as our population rises we need to build more houses. The calculation is simple. If you want to house 100,000 people, you will need to build 56,000 housing units. To do this you will need to allocate 3,700 acres of land for housing. This population will also need land for schools, work places, shops etc., gobbling up more countryside. The British public are becoming increasingly hostile to such provision. The Saint Index measures public attitudes towards new development. Their findings indicate that about 85% of the adult population are strongly opposed to further development in their area. In addition, the Saint Index suggests that a growth based agenda, such as that favoured by the Prime Minister and most senior British politicians, is actively supported by only 6% of the population!

There is a tendency to think of population growth as a third world problem. However, when I was born in 1959, Britain’s population stood at 51 million. It is now 62 million and by the time I pass on it is likely to stand at 72 million. This is a 40% increase in our national population in one lifetime. Such a rate of population growth is very significant and, in my view, totally unsustainable, and yet our government, purportedly dedicated to sustainable development, has no opinion on the subject – other than that we must provide for it.

The government's planning policies for England are contained within the National Planning Policy Framework (the NPPF). It describes sustainable development as the ‘golden thread’ running through planning systems and urges councils to approve developments which accord to sustainable principles. These principles are only loosely defined and the document makes no direct mention of population growth, or how to square perpetual economic and population growth with sustainable development. What the document is determined to achieve is for housing growth to meet demand. As a result, every town and large village in southern England is currently besieged by speculative housing proposals – many of which are likely to be approved.

Most of these proposals are met with ferocious local opposition from residents and their elected representatives. MPs, in particular, line up with the opposition and refuse to acknowledge that many of the unpopular developments in their constituencies are merely the result of policies which they voted for in Parliament. The dismayed public tends to blame ‘the planners’. Rather than argue and squabble over each field as it is lost, I would suggest that we should have a calm and measured debate, which deals with difficult questions, like how many people should live on one small crowded island and how and where they should live on that island. Without that debate, high levels of public dissatisfaction with the current system will remain.

What I can say is that the current politicians do not have a mandate to set the bulldozers free. Indeed I would be willing to bet a large sum of money that there is hardly an MP in the land who has had a member of the public come into their constituency surgery and say, ‘What this place needs is a few thousand more people added to our population,’ or, ‘What this place needs is 10,000 more cars on our roads’ – yet that is exactly the future that our MPs have in store for most of us.
Time for a national debate, I think.

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Don't Concrete Over Britain - Simon Jenkins Chairman of the National Trust until November 2014

This is a long article but it is well argued.
There is no need to colonise rural Britain for new buildings. November 2013
“The politics of land use, long policed by the planning system, has degenerated into warfare, and at its core lies housing”
Where should the houses go? In a country as small as Britain there is too little space to grow food, to walk, admire the view, build factories, offices, towns and cities. There is too little space for houses, especially houses. The population of the United Kingdom today is 63m, up from 42m a century ago and 4m more than in 2001. The main driver of this growth, immigration, means that the total is expected to reach 77m by 2050. While the population increase is far lower than in the 19th century and tends to ease during recession, the long-term rise seems certain to continue.

These people must occupy land. The UK as a whole is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe—taken by itself, England’s population density is the second highest in the EU, at nearly 1,000 people per acre. Yet it is housed as well as anywhere in Europe while retaining, virtually untrammelled, up to 93% of its surface area as “rural,” according to extensive research conducted as part of the “UK National Ecosystem Assessment” in 2011. This phenomenon has been achieved through town and country planning acts in place since the Second World War, delineating a boundary between urban and rural development. This boundary is now all but collapsing. Following reforms to planning regulations last year, there are currently calls to build up to 80,000 new houses on green belt land. This is despite de-industrialisation leaving more derelict land, probably, than ever before in British history. The nature of the housing market, heavily skewed towards the southeast of England, is directing builders towards the countryside, where it conflicts with rural communities and conservationists. The politics of land use, long policed by the planning system, has degenerated into warfare, and at its core lies housing.

Everyone wants a better house, preferably one with a garden in the country. A poll conducted for Prospect by YouGov took as axiomatic that this has led to a crisis in housing. Yet respondents showed little interest in relaxing rural planning for more building in the countryside. The overwhelming priority (along with reducing immigration) was for schemes of shared equity and fiscal incentives to use houses more efficiently. Other polls show similar results. The “English countryside” ranks with the royal family, Shakespeare and the NHS as evoking maximum pride among Britons. It is regarded as very precious. All political parties regard housing supply as being both the cause and the result of economic regeneration. In his last budget George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, sought to stimulate growth by giving a “kick-start” to house building, despite three years of such kicks having had no effect. House prices since 2008 had fallen by 11 per cent. Now Osborne pledged an astonishing £130bn to back interest-free “help to buy” loans, covering 20% of a house's price. There was an additional guarantee of up to 95% for some mortgages. For good measure Osborne also proposed that homeowners be allowed to build into their back gardens without planning permission.

The Treasury Select Committee and other experts were contemptuous of these proposals. Osborne seemed to be replicating America's Fannie Mae fiasco, during which an organisation that was partly government controlled found itself caught up in the great housing bubble that led to the credit crunch. Such huge sums from government would merely force up prices and not help buyers at all, while taxpayers would face large losses on the guarantees if prices fell. Emotion is rarely a sound guide to policy, and no policy comes with more emotional baggage than housing. Few Britons live without a roof over their head, yet a better house has acquired the ideological status of a “human right.” Politicians talk of the right to buy, the right to an affordable home, the right to family life, the right to community. For as long as I can recall, housing has been “in crisis,” irrespective of whether prices are rising or falling.

At the heart of policy is the concept of housing need. Each year statisticians announce predicted rates of “household formation” and thus the number of “new houses needed to meet it.” This concept of a fixed national accommodation requirement is a last outpost of Leninist social planning. The figure purports to chart marriage, divorce, immigration and children leaving home. It mysteriously always hovers round 250,000 “new households” a year. This figure bears no relation to shifts in social benefits, parental income or student finance. It takes no account of internal migration, social habits among different migrant groups or the rise in second homes (around 250,000 by 2009). Britons make widely varying demands on space, according to where they live and work, their means and social inclination. We all want our children to move on, except that when they do we expect government to supply them with an “affordable” home nearby. Such desires, unrelated to price, are a miasma. Cramming them into a crude statistic of “need” is no guide to policy.

Yet need has been gold dust to politicians and developer lobbyists alike. Housing policy first entered “the politics of the centre ground” in the 1960s. Tax relief for mortgage interest was introduced by Roy Jenkins in 1969 and grew to become the biggest ever middle-class subsidy. Its fiercest defender was Margaret Thatcher, who equated home-ownership with democracy, and was spending £7bn a year on relief by the time she left office. Economists accused her of inflating prices and diverting the nation’s savings from productive investment. Thatcher retorted (in her memoirs) that “most people are not born entrepreneurs.” The subsidy was curbed by Ken Clarke in the 1990s and abandoned by Gordon Brown in 2000. Shortly afterwards, around 70% of British households were owner-occupiers, compared with 43% of Germans and 56% of Dutch and French. The median age of first-time buyers was just 28. Even today, only 17% of Britons rent privately, usually regarded as an aid to labour mobility, against 48% of Germans. Nor has policy been kind only to homeowners. Britain pioneered social housing, from Octavia Hill, founder of the National Trust, and the early London County Council, through interwar slum clearance and on to post-war new towns. Such housing soon acquired an aura of entitlement. Housing points were awarded not just for need, but for place of birth, parentage, longevity, proximity and family size. Immigrants were accommodated with a generosity that became legendary across the distant world. Keys to east London flats were said to be traded in the markets of west Africa.

As housing became ever more politicised so it became nationalised. The central government moved vast numbers out of cities into the countryside. In the 70s, I witnessed the “decanting” of Moss Side, as thousands were sent in coaches to Skelmersdale and elsewhere, like dazed wartime refugees. In the woods round Meriden outside Birmingham, 60,000 people were dumped in what seemed like giant barracks. City centres depopulated. Cleared acres lay empty. There were, of course, never “enough” houses and it was always the government's fault. By the time the present government came to office, public housing had all but ceased and private housing was in the grip of recession. Prices that had soared in the boom years crashed, falling by a third in some parts of the country as demand dried up. Only in London’s economic area did they remain reasonably stable. The familiar signs of stagnation showed themselves. Some 400,000 plots with planning permission lay undeveloped. More than 660,000 homes were registered as empty in 2011, nearly half of them for more than six months. Roughly 1.5m sites designated for housing under urban renewal were not used. Developers had no interest in dipping into their land banks, though they did have interest in increasing those banks while prices were low.

Meanwhile tracker mortgages were cheaper than ever. At 3 to 5%, rates were a quarter of what they were when I bought my first house. What is making it so difficult for first-time buyers now is the size of deposits. Banks used to waive these given the expectation of constantly rising house values. That stopped when the bubble burst. House buying is now for those with access to savings, or with rich parents. Others must rent. But this is not a crisis, just a fact of life. Osborne's desire to stir the market to life with deposit guarantees makes some sense here, provided it is strictly short term. What makes no sense is Osborne’s other tenet, that economic revival is impeded by a shortage of land for development. Newly built houses seldom add more than 1% of Britain's housing stock, and rarely more than 10% of annual transactions. Even then, most new houses are still built in existing towns. Housing demand reflects, as it always has, the general state of the economy and of housing finance. Even the most ardent enthusiast for house building, the economist Kate Barker, admits that “changes in the supply of land have very little effect on short term prices.”

The recent, reckless housing boom was a demand phenomenon, fuelled by wild fluctuations in the availability of finance. Tracking by the Economist showed prices rising fast in America, South Africa and Australia, where there were few land constraints, and slow in Japan and Germany, where there were many. Britain and Spain were roughly in between. Supply of land was immaterial. Finance was the determinant. Yet ministers still maintain the opposite, impelled by the emotion attached to housing need and by developer lobbyists whose profitability is usually highest on rural estates. The overwhelming pressure of population in England is towards the southeast. Half a century of regional policy has largely failed to relocate economic growth to the north. There are many explanations for this, but experience abroad suggests that fiscal incentives have been weak and urban renewal inadequate. Growth has not been directed towards reusing the human and physical resources of the north, while the redirection of the economy into financial services has fuelled the magnetism of London. The gap between London and the rest of Britain continues to rise. Small terraced cottages go for £1m in Notting Hill, while similar (albeit rundown) properties in Stoke-on-Trent were priced at just £1 in a recent sale.

Housing policy is a derivative of such overall economic planning, but it too has been poorly directed. Since the war it has favoured dispersal from existing cities into the surrounding country. The central area populations of Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and Birmingham, as well as London Docklands, dropped dramatically in the 1970s. Cities died, and with them went their social, economic and physical infrastructure. Nikolaus Pevsner remarked that the dispersal of Merseyside over south Lancashire since the war had yielded the largest urbanised sprawl in Europe. “Countryside colonisation” imposed a vast, if unquantifiable, resource cost on Britain. The last government’s Urban Task Force, under Richard Rogers in 1999, argued forcefully that low density “suburban” living was no longer realistic. It was costly and environmentally destructive. At fewer than eight houses to the acre, journeys to work, shop or play tended to need a car. The task force recommended 16 or more houses to the acre as the minimum “sustainable” for village-scale communities. It was also commonsensical to concentrate development where there were already utilities and services. Under the last Labour government, a real attempt was made to re-engineer Britain’s economic development in this direction. Planning policy directed 70% of new building into existing urban areas. The resulting economic regeneration of central Liverpool, Birmingham and Newcastle was noticeable. New urban developments such as Kirkstall Forge in the once derelict Aire Valley outside Leeds pointed the way. With the coming to power of the coalition in 2010, intense commercial pressure was put on ministers to end this policy of “brown-field first.” This led initially to its removal from new draft planning guidelines. In its place was a drastic change in emphasis towards relaxing controls on building in the countryside. Whitehall regulations were openly drafted by the Home Builders Federation and other property groups. Business was now to take priority over conservation.

New plans had to be drawn up supplying rural land for development virtually everywhere. Labour's targets were taken as a base line and a requirement imposed to meet “five years of housing need,” with an additional buffer of 5%. This was to be applied even in protected parks and green belts. As before, the word “need” was left obscure. It was described as “need for all types of housing,” or a need to cater “for housing demand and the scale of housing supply necessary to meet that demand.” Given that almost all rural land is “needed” to the property market, this definition was intellectually chaotic. Where councils failed to meet their “deliverable” targets of new land supply, planning permission for any building could take place wherever it was “sustainable.” ; This phrase embraced some concept of energy efficiency, but in practice it was interpreted as “commercially viable.” Thus in Salford, Eric Pickles, the Communities Minister, allowed a development of 350 houses on green land outside the city, while ignoring land allocated by the council for 19,000 homes inside it.

Some of what was proposed made sense. Many planning regulations—like those on building materials, health and safety—were archaic, inefficient and unnecessary. Planning was too dilatory. A junior minister, Nick Boles, proposed to ease the use-classes order, enabling change of use between commercial and residential. He also sought changes in “right to light” rules and controls on rear extensions for a three-year period. These were controversial, though not all were unreasonable. He did nothing to end VAT on all conversions to existing buildings, while it remained waived on new builds. The new planning framework was toned down in its final 2012 form. But its axiom, that land supply was critical for economic growth, remained. Planning inspectors went to work on rural communities and the impact was instantaneous. Despite housing “need” being an overwhelmingly urban phenomenon, housing strategy was a matter of new building in the countryside. The result was open warfare.

The Cotswold town of Stow-on-the-Wold was told initially to increase its population by a third, or 1,000. Similar orders went out to Tetbury, Tewkesbury, Winchester, Petersfield, Ashford and many others, in each case sparking a furious local response. Nor was this assault simply on the southeast. Land supply targets were issued to Stratford-on-Avon, Sandbach and Yarm and green belts around Nottingham, Durham, Gateshead and Newcastle were infringed upon. The Campaign to Protect Rural England registered plans for 80,000 houses in green belts. The consequence of such breakneck deregulation is no mystery. Its domestic impact can be seen in the sprawl around Bristol, across the east Midlands or in south Essex. On a grander scale it is manifest in the unplanned acres of rural Ireland, or in southern Portugal, Sicily and Greece, much of it speculative building distorted by EU subsidies. A new European landscape is being born, of random buildings, often unfinished, scattered across hills and valleys. Similar development in New Jersey and southern California yields miles of “plotlands,” where suburban living is a slave to the motor car, and leisure a slave to hours of driving to find somewhere to wander free.

Economic sense would concentrate new development on the de-industrialised areas of Britain, on the millions of acres of already settled land where infrastructure is in place and higher densities are easy to achieve. There is no “need” to colonise rural Britain for new building. There is merely a demand from people wanting houses in the countryside, usually the same people who tell pollsters they want the countryside preserved. Curbing that demand through the planning system is painful and involves rural house prices responding to demand. But development should be determined by how most people want their country to look. They expect the environment to be policed. Just as there are parts of the countryside where new development is visually and environmentally harmful, so there are clearly parts where development is unobjectionable, where fields lack scenic or recreational value and where existing infrastructure can cope. Their need is only for sensitive planning.

Such a template exists already in the way we plan towns. Here are rules on sight lines, road widths, building standards and architectural conservation. There are no wind farms on Hampstead Heath or high-rises in Belgrave Square. We no longer demolish Georgian terraces or Victorian mills, much to the advantage of Bath and Hebden Bridge. A collective view has been reached on the future of Britain’s towns, agreed by land and property owners even where it means diminished profit. The same should apply to the countryside. Already some 15% of England and Wales is national park, green belt or within areas of outstanding natural beauty. A decision has been taken to preserve it, infringed only by the present government’s development targets. In my view, such classification by landscape value should extend across a far wider swathe of what people generally regard as “the countryside.” Agricultural land is already graded by its productivity and use. To this could be added its scenic and recreational value. Here there should be a strong presumption against development, even if regulation of existing buildings and land use might be more flexible than in national parks.

Scenically valued countryside should retain its character under “rural conservation area” status, much as urban conservation areas do. A lesser category of land might be that still classed as rural but of no significant landscape value. Again the phrase “presumption against development” would apply, but where there is no local call to retain it as rural, a change of presumption would be permissible. Planning authorities would be required to designate such land in their plans after local consultation. Planners with whom I have discussed this believe it to be perfectly workable under existing law. Perhaps more significant, in light of the present conflict, the final category of “permissible” change of use would almost certainly yield more development than the present battlefield, where uncertainty leads only to legal argument and delay. The advantage to all—residents and developers alike—would be certainty about the future use and appearance of the countryside. The intention would be to save what is most valued, while yielding building land where appropriate within a plan. But the key must be its value as countryside, not pressure from developer interests.

How a society orders its living space is a symbol of its civilisation. There will always be conflicts over land since, as Mark Twain pointed out, “they’re not making it anymore.” Some societies resort to fighting. Some let rip and regret it. Some try in a cultured way to argue and resolve disputes. British planning has become a war zone to a degree I have not seen in my lifetime. This has nothing to do with growth and even less to do with housing need. A crisis has arisen over the demands of a powerful lobby that has seen an opportunity in a government vulnerable to pressure. Yet the impact on the British countryside could be devastating, leaving it with the same visual ruination as across much of Europe. This would spoil the finest legacy that modern government has given the British people: a densely populated yet still gloriously rural landscape.

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Our MP, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown commented on the National Planning Policy Framework
These comments were made in March 2015. Do note that this is a relatively long item.

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