There Nemesis is seems may well be the West Northamptonshire Joint Planning Unit, set up 3 years ago by the previous Lib Dem administration and supported by both the Tories and Labour groups ever since. There was one group showing dissent in the chamber when it's formation and funding was agreed at the time, I am sure you can guess who?
Anyhow the WNJPU has been busy over recent months receiving public consultations on its revamped rewritten and rehashed "Joint Core Strategy" the leading strategic planning document which set the planning framework for the whole of West Northamptonshire for the next 20 years. On Monday at the Guildhall this totally unnecessary Local Government Quango will approve the plan to then be put onto deposit. Cllrs David Palethorpe, Tim Hadland, John Yates and Penny Flavell will be there to represent the Borough Council, but as I explained to them at the time they supported its setup NBC Cllrs will be outnumbered by their counterparts in Daventry and South Northant's who may just feel that they have got a decent deal on the table, after all it seems as if they continue to get all the benefit from any expansion in grant funding whilst Northampton still takes the development brunt of the increases in new homes.
So, remember the pledge in the Tory's Borough Council Manifesto to seek an urgent review of new house building numbers for Northampton? If not let me remind you exactly what they said
"Northampton Conservatives will demand an urgent review of the Pre-Submission Strategy produced by the West Northants Joint Planning Unit and will call for a full and open justification of the housing and job numbers. We have strong reservations about the current plan including the number of houses, jobs and infrastructure that it considers appropriate."
Well here is what they will be signing up to next Monday
To meet housing need " a housing provision total of 50,153 dwellings for West Northamptonshire has been identified" and policy S4 states that "provision will be made for 33,680 net additional dwellings within the Northampton related development area (Northampton and its boundaries) in the period 2001 to 2026"
It is estimated that only about 30% have been planned for but not yet built or completed since 2001 in massive developments at sites including Upton and St Crispins' leaving over 20,000 new homes still to be crammed in somewhere else.
So much for the promised housing review and the localism bill for all that
And remember all that talk in the manifesto of scrapping the Town Centre First Policy and allowing out of town retail to support the ambitions of the towns sporting clubs. Well despite the urgent meetings within the first week of the administration, one of which I attended, it seems that the only important meeting will be next Mondays. Again as a reminder heres what they said in the manifesto
"a Conservative administration would abandon the „Town Centre First‟ policy in favour of a „Borough Wide‟ investment and regeneration pol-icy. A „Borough Wide‟ policy would mean we can continue to champion the Town Centre without having to abandon other parts of the town, to which Northampton Borough Council has equal responsi-bility, and would be more flexible and responsive to the unique needs of Northampton."
Lets see what the Joint Core Strategy if agreed on Monday says about all of the above shall we.
"Northampton town centre has suffered greatly from a decentralisation of retail, leisure and employment uses and there is a need to redress this imbalance as a critical strategic issue for the JCS to ensure the vision for Northampton is not jeopardized. Policy S2 seeks to focus new town centre development firmly back to Northampton town centre and the central area and Policy S9 seeks to focus retail development on the town centre."
"The importance of the Grosvenor Centre redevelopment and the focus on retailing within the town centre as a priority within Northampton Central Area requires that comparison retail outside the town centre must be heavily restricted to ensure that town centre proposals are not jeopardised"
NO FURTHER COMPARISON GOODS FLOORSPACE IS REQUIRED OUTSIDE NORTHAMPTON CENTRAL AREA OTHER THAN AT AN APPROPRIATE SCALE TO SUPPORT THE VITALITY AND VIABILITY OF LOCAL CENTRES.
So whats it to be guys? the Joint Core Strategy or your manifesto pledges? Do you keep the promises you made to the voters and to the Saints and the Cobblers or go with Tory flow in Daventry and South Northants, and what if you want to say no to its adoption but are out voted? what will happen then? and who was it who supported the setting up of this unelected quango in the first place?
Monday nights meeting it seems could be a key turning point for the new administration, lets just hope they have the courage to remind the faceless planners and the Cllrs from other districts just who is and isn't elected within the Borough of Northampton.