A REVIEW of Rugby’s blueprint for future development has been launched by Rugby Borough Council (RBC) which it says would keep planning decisions in its hands – as opposition parties claim it could put Green Belt land at risk.
The Council said the review of the Rugby Borough Local Plan – which earmarks land for future housing and employment with accompanying infrastructure across Rugby – would be ‘the quickest and most cost-effective way’ to align it with RBC’s Climate Change and Town Centre Regeneration strategies’, and also review new data on employment and housing need as required by the Government.
But Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors say they are concerned the proposal could mean developers putting more pressure on the Council to build on Green Belt land in the Borough.
An RBC spokesman said not updating the Plan would pose a ‘significant risk’ that the Council would be required to grant planning permission for new developments unless the adverse effects would ‘significantly and demonstrably’ outweigh the benefits.
He said: “This would reduce the ability of the council to apply its own planning policies – with the potential consequence of developments coming forward that the council would have otherwise considered unacceptable. It is also likely the council would lose more planning appeals and incur further costs to the taxpayer.”
Labour and the Lib Dems proposed a partial review of the Local Plan ‘that seeks to protect the Green Belt as a priority’.
Labour’s spokesperson for Planning and Development Coun Michael Moran said: “We favour a targeted, partial update that can be done at a fraction of the cost that really gets to address some of the town’s key issues.
“This Council must focus on its residents and start providing much-needed services such as schools, doctors and local amenities. We are already significantly over the target for house building set by Westminster.
“The last thing Rugby needs is ever more new houses built purely for developer profit. We have to stand up and protect what is left of our precious countryside.”
His Liberal Democrat counterpart Coun Neil Sandison added: “We have no need for a full review of the local plan since the existing one is still incomplete – we do not have, for example, a policy on Gypsy and Traveller sites, Housing in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) or Stadiums.
“What a full review and call for sites will do is reopen the flood gates to all the sites we previously rejected because they were in the greenbelt, open countryside or had poor connectivity to the road network.”
The Conservative-run Council’s Growth and Investment spokesman said the review would ensure the Borough was able to ‘properly’ manage growth.
Coun Ian Picker said: “While some commentators would prefer us to carry out a partial review instead of a full one, this would be more expensive in the long run and would be a quick route to a plan that does not take account of all of the relevant data.
“This would result in all applications having to be decided with a presumption in favour of sustainable development. We value our Green Belt and the need to deliver our climate change and town centre ambitions too much to allow this to happen.
“Finally, a full review of the Local Plan will enable us to introduce new policies in areas such as HMO development and stadia which others have highlighted as a concern.
“I look forward to working with others to address these issues and deliver a Local Plan that embraces the opportunities and meets the challenges the Borough of Rugby faces.”
The existing Local Plan – which allocates land for 12,400 homes, 110 hectares of employment land, and over 8,000 square metres of retail space up to 2031 – was adopted in 2019.
RBC says ‘significant consultation’ for the review will take place with councillors and residents over the next two years, with the Council set to adopt any changes by September 2024. Visit www.rugby.gov.uk/directory_record/942/ for more information.