Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Friday, 28 October 2011

Will the new town at Sherford ever be built? The next few weeks should provide the answer to that 5 year old question. Planning permission in principle was granted several years ago subject to the developers reaching agreement with local councils on how much Redtree, the developer, would spend on infrastructure projects including road links, the school and community facilities. This 3 inch deep agreement is called a Section 106 agreement and is common in all major planning projects. It is a complex document and it was always expected that it would take months to thrash out its details between Redtree and the planning authorities.
Just after planning was granted, the banking crisis hit and the bottom fell out of the housing market. Naturally this changed all the financial calculations on which the project was based and the developer has fought a rearguard action to save the new town ever since. It has now concluded its tortuous negotiations with the planners and a draft Section 106 agreement is out for public consultation. Ultimately it will be for our councillors in both Plymouth and South Hams to decide.
I understand the main bone of contention to be about affordable housing. Understandably the planners want this to be as high as possible, whereas in straitened financial times the developers need to achieve the best possible return on selling houses in the open market. I am assured that the amenities to be provided: the school, sports facilities, town centre and community park are not impacted by the changes. I am assured that the quality of the construction will be just as high as the original intentions.
I have consistently said that I would rather we did not do this development than do it badly.
I am now firmly of the view that this development should now get the green light, even though the amount of affordable housing may be less than first planned.  Undoubtedly our most pressing local need is the lack of suitable housing for our young people. I do not necessarily mean social housing of which there will always be a shortage; I mean houses that our children and grandchildren can buy or rent. Like the recent scheme at Market Road, Plympton which sold like hot cakes and the new housing currently springing up in Lee Mill which is selling well.
We desperately need housing for local people and the Sherford scheme is best placed to provide it.

posted by Gary @ 14:37