Councillor Marianne Overton, the Independent county councillor asks us to wish her luck in taking on the role of reserve member of the Central Lincolnshire Joint Strategic Planning Committee.
After reading her piece, I would rather wish for her a greater understanding of the evidence about population growth and the need for positive intervention to secure the future homes and jobs we self evidently need, and a greater appreciation of the fact that the public sector can still successfully influence the market for the public good.
Inward migration, increasing life expectancy, social changes creating more households, to name but a few, are all factors combining to significantly increase population. So growth, whether we welcome it or not, for demographic reasons alone, is coming to Central Lincolnshire anyway.
If the communities of Central Lincolnshire are to remain sustainable and viable communities, with all the amenities they need and with socially mixed and balanced populations in terms of age profile, then we need those communities to grow.
Public services are not stretched at the moment because of unsupported growth, but because they are being undermined by government cuts in public spending.
It is quite wrong of Cllr Overton to say that “our needs are being adequately met by existing modest development.” This is a profoundly misguided and complacent view that ignores the extent of housing need and the need for better access to well paid employment, especially for our young people.
The Central Lincolnshire Strategic Planning committee has a compelling vision for the future that I believe does command broad support across our communities.
A Central Lincolnshire that can grow and at the same time retain its character, a more vibrant economy, a place with easier access to affordable housing to rent or to buy, a wider range of sustainable energy sources to support sustainable growth, and yes the supporting infrastructure that makes this all possible.
It is the first time that we have such a well thought out, well evidenced and comprehensive plan for managing growth.
It envisages that a substantial proportion (40%) of the growth will take place as 8 sustainable urban extensions — sustainable because these will be built out from existing communities where their connectivity means you do not have to start from scratch in providing all the things new residents need to start functioning as sustainable communities.
The remaining growth, spread as it will be across many different communities and over a very long time span, will in most cases be quite “modest”.
The Central Lincolnshire Committee is at a very early stage in the public consultation on specific site allocations. A process that has in some instances quite unnecessarily aroused public concern when areas have appeared on maps and designated as sites for “possible development”. This does not mean that development will take place there!
Cllr Overton is right that there is a challenge for us between now and the adoption of the plan- this only serves to emphasise the importance of getting the plan adopted as soon as possible.
In the meantime Local Planning Authorities in Central Lincolnshire will be doing their very best to manage development successfully and in the public interest.
The Committee understands very well the need to ensure adequate infrastructure — the roads the schools the health facilities are in place to support the growth planned.
This is why, again for the first time, considerable effort has gone into identifying what infrastructure is needed, what it will cost, and broadly how these costs can be recovered, at least in part, from the profits likely to be made by developers.
The relationships between employment growth, housing growth, meeting the costs of infrastructure to support growth are complex and inter-dependent. The committee are very clear that they need to go hand in hand.
We need to look to the future for the sake of all of our communities in Central Lincolnshire, to understand the changes that are happening and to manage these successfully for the benefit of both ourselves and future generations.
So come on Cllr Overton, don’t play to people’s fears about change, join the committee in recognising the huge opportunity that now exists to secure the sustainability and improvement of our communities.