The Housing and Planning minister, Brandon Lewis MP announced this morning that Didcot is to become Greater Didcot Garden Town. He said this will help with the delivery of infrastructure, 15,000 houses and 20,000 high-tech jobs.
Taken at its word, this is all about balanced, strategic and coordinated planning. It provides SODC with the context and authority to reject speculative development that puts the Garden Town concept at risk.
As part of the consultation process resulting in the current Core Strategy, SODC commissioned Chris Blandford Associates to produce extensive and detailed recommendations to preserve and enhance accessible natural green space around Didcot. The recommendation was a ‘green necklace’ (pictured here) with the Green Gap as the jewel. It is our understanding that this scheme, or one very like it, will become the ‘Garden’ in Garden Town.
It is surely inconceivable that SODC would approve any planning application on The Green Gap which they have publicly identified as being a centre piece of Didcot’s ‘green necklace’. It is surely equally inconceivable that either a planning Inspector or the Secretary of State would overturn any refusal on appeal. To do so would be madness and make a mockery of the entire Garden City announcement.
Brandon Lewis has been extremely consistent in his views about the importance of environmental considerations to the determination of planning applications. Earlier this year he wrote to the Planning Inspectorate to remind them that environment holds equal importance alongside social and economic benefits of new development. Indeed he pointed to a number of appeals where harm to the environment actually outweighed these benefits. (See this post for details)
On today’s BBC Radio he was asked what Garden Town status meant for Didcot. He answered “Real community, real sustainability, and good quality as well”. That’s hello Greater Didcot, goodbye Grainger. Surely?