I'm shocked to learn that the Secretary of State has chosen to approve the proposal for 800 houses in Shottery against the clear wishes of local residents, their elected representatives and the planning policy direction of the Government.
Whilst it is unfortunate that the core strategy is not more advanced, the Council was clear that the Shottery site was included in it's previous Local Plan not through choice but as a result of the previous Government's discredited planning framework. It's extremely frustrating that despite Parliamentarians having voted for the abolishment of that framework and the Localism Bill having achieved Royal Assent nearly a year ago this is not yet being reflected in decision making.
For the decision letter to declare that only "limited weight" should be given to "the proposed plan" to revoke the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy" when it is the clear will of Parliament and the stated aim of the Secretary of State to revoke Regional Spatial Strategies and return decision making powers to local authorities smacks of Civil Servants being unwilling to give up their centralised power.
Anne Hathaway's cottage is a central part of the Shakespeare story, which in turn is an integral part of this country's heritage and cultural legacy to the world. The decision letter clearly states that there will be harm to this "heritage asset" and it is disappointing for the Secretary of State to simply agree with the Civil Service that this will be "limited" given that he has not visited the site and particularly given that he agrees that "a degree of adverse effect on tourist numbers [as a result of the development] cannot be ruled out".
There is no disagreement that there is a need for more housing in the Stratford District, but this many houses, in this sensitive a location is not the answer to that challenge. The Council has made a clear indication of its preference for a dispersal policy to protect the character of our historic market towns and the future of our rural villages. Under the Localism Agenda this should have been respected. Instead this Civil Service led decision drives a coach and horses through the idea of Localism and the messages that Ministers have given out.
I will be making my views on this issue clear to the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister and have already made a strong representation on behalf of the people of Stratford to Nick Boles MP, Minister for Planning.