EXCLUSIVE: Road to nowhere for Cinderford's Northern Quarter?
By Simon Hacker | 19th October 2023
Cinderford's controversial £100m Northern Quarter development site may well now be going nowhere.
Amid claims that Cinderford's hopes for regeneration of its Northern Quarter are in danger of being dashed, a Forest of Dean District Council meeting tonight is set to consider questions about the progress on the £100m project.
But a response from the council's leader shown to Punchline-Gloucester.com in advance of the meeting, suggests the book has been closed on the project amid the council's change of political leadership.
In March this year, Punchline reported on FoDDC's intention to move ahead on the £100m redevelopment following an inquiry into the site.
Recommendations included a new route for the spine road through Hawkwell Inclosure, relocating Steam Mills Primary School, the creation of a eco-visitor centre and looking at alternative residential development ideas such as self-build plots and community-led housing.
That month's report, presented by the Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee, was based on an extensive and lengthy enquiry by the committee and subsequent panels, that included substantial public and institutional evidence gathering.
However, fearing that no progress on the report was evident, Cllr Tim Gwilliam (Berry Hill ward, Progressive Independents) was due to request an update this evening on the Cabinet's position and urge resolution on key areas of progress, including planning applications for the development of work or live/work units on plots F1 and F2.
He was also set out a request for the Cabinet to use the findings from this inquiry to consider how the Cinderford Northern Quarter sits in the new local plan 2041, while "engaging with local educational and construction organisations to see if there is an opportunity to work in partnership with the Council in delivering residential development in a way that improves its viability and is better aligned to the challenging existing land conditions."
Cllr Gwilliam's question added a request for FoDDC to "Engage with Steam Mills Primary School and the Education Authorities to see if there is an appetite for discussion of relocation of the school to the Cinderford Northern Quarter in line with current road availability."
Listed on tonight's agenda, his question also requested: "In the short term, engagement with Gloucester County Council Highways, to request a 20mph speed limit outside the current school, during school hours and start the discussion as to whether all FoD school zones should have an automatic 20mph limit."
He also claimed that the Council would be "remiss not to consider, acknowledge and celebrate the deep mining heritage of the site in all new developments and future projects."
But in a brief response to Cllr Gwilliam's questions, Cllr Mark Topping, leader of the Green-led council, said: "This is a different Cabinet to the one that made those resolutions in March and we have a different approach to the Cinderford Northern Quarter."
In reaction to Cllr Topping's statement Tim Gwilliam told Punchline: "There goes the Forest... the Greens have decreed there will be NO Cinderford Northern Quarter develpment. Even I am shocked."
● Punchline-Gloucester.com will update on any outcomes of the meeting as soon as they are known.
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