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Gloucestershire Business News

Major overhaul of 10,000-home Tewkesbury plan

The plan for Tewkesbury's 10,000-home Garden Town will be overhauled following a major review.

It criticised the council for not communicating well enough with the public or collaborating closely enough with developers on the crucial project.

It said the "golden thread" of strong programme management backed by appropriate planning policy was missing from the council's approach.

The gateway review was approved in March and carried out by Cratus Consultancy in April and May after "significant concerns" were raised by some councillors about delivery of the programme.

Its aim is to mitigate against the risk of piecemeal or poor development on land around Ashchurch. The council successfully bid for garden town status and was awarded £2.4m from the government in June 2021.

Cllr Richard Stanley, leader of Tewkesbury Borough Council, said the "fresh approach" would ensure a positive contribution for the community now and for generations to come."

The review found no fundamental concerns with the aims or principles of the garden town but made 17 recommendations for improvements.

They were voted through at a meeting of the full council on July 25 and will form the basis of a new approach, with greater focus on engagement with communities and robust programme management.

This will be brought back to councillors for approval in September 2023.

Cllr Stanley said: "We are committed to taking account of stakeholders' views and working more closely with local residents, parish councils, landowners and the full consortium of developers. "We can now begin the important work of developing a new programme that rebuilds meaningful community engagement and has an outward-looking communications strategy."

The review said a new name and identity for the garden town will be a key component in creating a "sense of excitement and ownership among communities".

The Craftus team included Steve Quartermain, former chief planner at Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (now Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities) for 12 years.

The review was funded from reserves and the council now hopes to secure more money from Homes England to fund the overhaul of the programme.

The council said given an anticipated budgetary deficit and uncertainty around funding it is "unlikely the council would be able to absorb the full annual cost of the project within its base budget".

The council is developing a Strategic Framework Plan (SFP) which builds on the Tewkesbury Garden Town Concept Plan and seeks to shape development, influence planning proposals and inform decision making; through setting out a clear framework that all parties can refer to.

Cllr Stanley said: "The report puts forward suggestions for delivering the Garden Town in ways that will satisfy not only current but also future needs, with the emphasis on delivering high-quality green homes and infrastructure capable of supporting healthy communities and fostering community spirit.

"Our fresh approach champions well-designed, holistically planned development, creating sustainable communities and enhancing the natural environment, with a focus on addressing the issue of climate change.

"This decision to progress with a new garden town approach reduces the risk of uncoordinated growth around Ashchurch and Junction 9 and prioritises high-quality housing and joined up decisions about infrastructure.

"This vote is an important step towards ensuring that the garden town makes a positive contribution for the community now and for generations to come."

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