Long Marston: Town or Village?
PUBLISHED: 17:09 23 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:56 20 February 2013
Where in Warwickshire can we find room for more houses? Our towns are bursting, our villages too large, the countryside shrinking, the Green Belt under constant assault.
The Government proposes that local authorities should allow 43,500 new houses to be built in this county by 2026. With a 7,000 overspill from Coventry also proposed, this makes 50,000. A gross overestimate, most likely deliberate. Yet houses must be built. Affordable new homes are desperately needed.
Given that there must be building, and soon, which are the least objectionable locations? The places, surely, that have been previously developed. So let me remind you of the scheme for a town of 6,000 houses at the old Royal Engineers Depot at Long Marston. The site, a relic of the Second World War, needs a new use, but preferably one that does not disturb the rural area.
Needless to say, everyone who lives nearby is extremely anxious that the town should not be built. A society called BARD, an acronym with a local flavour, has attracted wide support for its highly effective campaign. The Council for the Protection of Rural England backs BARD over this. The town would not merely cover the Long Marston site, but stray into Worcestershire and use good farmland. The roads round the site could not cope with the extra traffic, the conservation villages of Mickleton, Weston-sub-Edge and Willersey taking the brunt.
Middle Quinton may be fading away it is hard to imagine a Government approval so the developer has submitted a more modest proposal, a 500-house village. Stratford District Councils Planning Committee accepted this at the end of last year, by a narrow vote. One thought was uppermost in every civic mind; 500 houses at Long Marston may prevent, for the moment, another threat, 800 at Shottery, that rural survivor on the edge of Stratford.
Take a look at the map. The houses will be on the south-eastern corner of the site. There are other, more doubtful, elements in this new approved plan. The worst is 150 holiday homes, which will surely become open-market houses? Between the two are three little circles and ten or a dozen shapes that look like open mouths. The circles are caravans, the mouths are holiday chalets. The dark green is existing woodland, the light green open space. The brownish-green oval at the top is a wild life site. The grey warehouses will continue in industrial use.
We objected to the 6,000-house eco-town. We accept the principle of the new plan; 500 houses are as large as some local settlements. The Council must delete the 150 holiday homes, for it will never prevent them becoming permanent residences. Its enforcement record is very poor.
New housing, not just round Stratford but across the county, will be increasingly controversial. Housing need will be calculated and planners told to comply with figures handed down from above. So the same problem will recur againand againand again. Hard decisions lie ahead of us.
To contact the Campaign to Protect Rural England phone 01926 494597 or visit www.cprewarwickshire.org.uk