I thought I would share my speech given to full Council at Coventry City Council on 12th January 2016 in reference to future planning and development issues in our city, so here it is.
“I wish to make two short but in my view and the view of my colleagues, Cllr Naeem Akhtar and Cllr David Welsh, very important points with regards to the Local Plan.
Firstly, we are supportive of the changes to land currently designated as green belt at Charterhouse Fields being changed to local green space, as long as this provides extra protection to the open green space for public use.
I understand in conversation with the Cabinet member that is indeed the case. That is very helpful confirmation.
The reason this is so important to us as the elected Councillors in St Michael’s is because we support the plans of the recently formed Historic Coventry Trust under the visionary leadership of its Chairman Ian Harrabin, to bring life back to the building and reinvigorate and reimagine the surrounding area. This includes the Sherbourne Viaduct and pedestrian tunnel designed by Stephenson on the world’s first intercity railway which was given grade 2 listing by Historic England just before Christmas.
This whole plot is an essential green lung enjoyed by both local residents and visitors alike which needs protecting from development falling outside those aims described and understood in the overall scheme of a redeveloped Charterhouse as a whole.
Lord Mayor, I just need some clarification on the following:
What has been agreed with Bluecoats School is that the school will transfer land to the trust to create an open view of greenspace along the river from Charterhouse to the newly listed Stephenson Viaduct. These areas currently include the all-weather pitch, tennis court and lower playground as well as the car park next to Charterhouse which is mentioned in the local plan draft. These incursions into the river valley will be removed and relocated onto the allotments site. The river frontage will then become local greenspace, wildflower meadows, wetland and woodland.
This forms part of the approved Heritage Lottery Fund bid and subject to match funding, the works for relocation and landscaping are funded. This will recreate the natural valley with the school screened behind a belt of trees and is important to create a parkland setting.
Here is the point:
The removal of all of the land from the green belt protection would mean the potential for building on the whole area. I am not saying that this will happen, but nothing is legally committed.
Therefore, only the land of the allotments up to an agreed boundary should be excluded from greenspace protection.
Subject to this small point of clarification, I understand this Local plan will ensure future development of the site is subject to sufficient protections and scrutiny within the new plan which we welcome.
My second point Lord Mayor relates to affordable and Council Housing. It seems rather timely that just after the last meeting of Full Council where the Housing and Planning Bill was debated in this chamber, we should be considering the Local Plan.
I note how the Housing and Planning Bill undermines totally the provision of affordable housing with the forced sell off of council houses whilst extending the right to buy to housing association tenants yet providing no answer to the critical shortage of such properties. At the same time, the government has resolved to introduce an end to life time tenancies and replace them with short term rents bringing back on age of insecurity we, and indeed our grandparents, all thought had been banished in this country after the war.
I suspect the government will not believe they have fully succeeded until they see a return to back to back tenements and outside toilets in our towns and cities.
That’s why I welcome any strategies in this plan which look to encourage, support and indeed favour the building of affordable and yes, Council Housing, to deal with the clear demand which is there and growing.
It should also be noted home ownership has fallen every year since 2010, a record of failure for the Tory government.
I urge us all to redouble our efforts in opposing Tory plans to break up communities and families by forcing people into shoddy or dangerous accommodation or to leave the area all together because they have been priced out of the market due to soaring private rents caused by profiteering or ever increasing house prices brought about because of under supply of houses for sale.
Lord Mayor, if we can achieve these aims, Labour will have done a good job for the citizens of this city.”