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Agenda item

Golden Valley Development - Supplementary Planning Document

To approve the Golden Valley Development Supplementary Planning Document and to delegate authority to the Head of Development Services to make any minor editorial changes to the approved Supplementary Planning Document, in terms of formatting, presentation and accuracy, prior to final publication.

Minutes:

17.1          The report of the Planning Policy Manager, circulated at Pages No. 101-507, attached the Golden Valley Development Supplementary Planning Document which Members were asked to approve.

17.2          In making a proposal, the Lead Member for Built Environment advised that the strategic site at west Cheltenham had been allocated thorough the Joint Core Strategy when it was adopted in December 2017. The site was formally designated for approximately 1,100 new homes and 45 hectares of employment land to be focused on a cyber security hub. The site had also subsequently been awarded Garden Community status by the government. In order to proactively influence the development and drive up quality, it was agreed jointly by Tewkesbury and Cheltenham Borough Councils to develop a Supplementary Planning Document in order to provide further detailed and site specific guidance to steer the development and help determine future planning applications. In early 2019, consultants Avison Young had been commissioned to support the preparation of the Supplementary Planning Document. The document set out the vision and objectives for the development of the area as well as providing a strategic masterplanning framework to ensure a comprehensive approach to the site. The Supplementary Planning Document was based around five key objectives of sustainability; land use; landscape; movement; and design quality and, under each objective, there were a set of detailed principles to inform and guide future development. Following a series of early informal consultation events with key stakeholders to develop a draft, the document was published for a formal consultation period which took place over five weeks between January and February 2020. This had included a series of four community drop-in events which had been attended by 210 people and a dedicated consultation website which had been visited by over 2,800 people. The feedback to the consultation had been considered and, where appropriate, amendments made in response. The proposal was seconded.

17.3          Members were advised that the Supplementary Planning Document was a culmination of the work to date and was presented at Appendix 1 to the report – this marked the final stage of the process with the document becoming a material consideration in the determination of future planning applications once it was approved by both Councils. Cheltenham Borough Council had already approved the document at its Council meeting on 20 July 2020, so Tewkesbury Borough Council was now asked to approve it as set out in the report. The Lead Member clarified that, although the first recommendation in the report sought ‘approval’ of the Supplementary Planning Document, it should be worded as seeking ‘adoption’ of the document meaning the decision of the Council would be to formally adopt the Supplementary Planning Document.

17.4          During the discussion which ensued, a Member indicated that, whilst he broadly supported the Supplementary Planning Document, he was disappointed that it did not include a vision for high speed broadband for communities and he would like to see high speed internet for 100% of houses and businesses in the Borough in future. Another Member expressed the view that he had not had time to thoroughly understand and review the document; however, he had a number of queries: Page No. 35 of the consultation section made a comment referencing ‘Chapter one’, however, it was not clear where Chapter one was located; consultants Avison Young had been appointed at a cost of £189,832 and he queried who had agreed the Terms of Reference and how much Tewkesbury Borough Council had contributed; the five week consultation period had run from 13 January to 17 February 2020 but how long had been set aside to quantify the results; the town’s Golden Valley development would see the United Kingdom’s first campus built around cyber technology, called Cyber Central, constructed with a 3,000 home Garden Community built next to GCHQ, Cheltenham Borough Council had said they had drawn up a list of six high calibre potential partners to deliver the project after its search closed earlier in the month – was the figure 1,100 or 3,000, how many were within Tewkesbury Borough and should that form part of the deliberations within the Planning Policy Reference Panel for the Joint Core Strategy review; the cyber business park; a campus focussed around the rapidly growing cyber technology sector would be completed by 2023 – was this a realistic target date; Cheltenham Borough Council had announced it had borrowed £37.5million from several Councils across the UK to purchase the land on the west of Cheltenham, next to Hesters Way, Fiddlers Green and Springbank – what was Tewkesbury Borough Council’s liability, if any, with that loan; the cyber security sector had doubled in value in the last year and was now worth £8.3billion – would Tewkesbury Borough Council see any benefit from that increase; and, as Policy DS7 was three years out of date and there was uncertainty on the densities and final number of houses – what was the timescale for a traffic assessment across the Golden Valley and wider road networks leading to Junction 10. In response, the Planning Policy Manager explained that the reference to Chapter one referred to the introductory chapter; the site was allocated in the Joint Core Strategy for 1,100 – the 3,000 likely referred to the potential wider area including the safeguarded land which was being looked at as part of the Joint Core Strategy review but that still required assessment which was why the Supplementary Planning Document referred to 1,100; and Policy DS7 was the transport strategy and was part of the evidence base for the Joint Core Strategy – this had been done based on expected growth in the Joint Core Strategy including the west of Cheltenham site – the Supplementary Planning Document had done some high level work but any application would have to do its own transport modelling and the Joint Core Strategy review would review all transport work. The Chief Executive explained that Cheltenham Borough Council had invested in land for housing and commercial development which was the way it had decided to help bring development forward. Tewkesbury Borough Council was engaged in the process as a local planning authority for the area falling within the borough – it was not a landowner in the area. The growth in the cyber industry was a big success for the UK, that sector would continue to grow and would be of benefit to Tewkesbury Borough in terms of growth in the area so this was an extremely important project with the jobs to be created of national and international importance. The Planning Policy Manager explained that the consultation had closed in February and the consultant team and Officers had spent a couple of months going through them and considering the implications for the plan; the document had been jointly commissioned and Tewkesbury Borough Council had contributed to the costs; the development of the site was a long term project, particularly housing – the 2023 figure was probably more for the cyber central element which might come forward earlier due to the investment / need; and all delivery timescales were best estimates at the time. Referring to the Member’s contention that the Council had not had long enough to consider the document, the Chief Executive reminded Members that the Council had received the draft document for approval for consultation previously and the changes since then had been minimal so the Council had seen the document as it had come through the stages to adoption. Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in some issues in terms of Member engagement being slightly delayed which was the reason the seminar had been held the day before the Council meeting - ideally that would have been held earlier but the intention was certainly not for Members to feel as though they had not had long enough to consider the document fully. It was quite a high level but vital document.

17.6          A Member indicated that he would vote in favour of adopting the Supplementary Planning Document; as with any project of this large scale there were some areas that everyone may not fully agree on but, on the whole, he was of the view it was a very exciting opportunity for job and high tech creation. In an ideal world, the Member seminar would have been held sooner but he understood why this had not been possible. Another Member agreed that she would vote for the adoption of the document but noted that she had struggled with such a large document and, whilst the seminar had been very informative, there had been a lot of information to absorb in a short time. She also asked for more notice to be provided for seminars so Members could schedule them into their diaries avoiding other commitments. The Chief Executive advised that those comments would be taken on board. In terms of the Planning Policy Reference Panel, Officers were already working on a schedule of meetings and work programme for the Panel which was linked to the Joint Core Strategy review.

17.7          Having considered the information provided, it was

                 RESOLVED           1.   That the Golden Valley Development Supplementary                                                Planning Document, as provided at Appendix 1 to the                                                 report, be ADOPTED.

2.     That authority be delegated to the Head of Development Services to make any minor editorial changes to the approved Supplementary Planning Document in terms of formatting, presentation and accuracy prior to final publication.

Supporting documents: