Gary Rycroft column

Gary Rycroft.
Gary Rycroft.

There’s a lot of new houses going up in Lancaster and this looks set to continue as we apparently need a few thousand more over the next twenty years.

The “few” in that last sentence was deliberately vague as no one knows for sure how many.

The City Council have commissioned expert consultants to produce a report but there are ongoing debates about the future population forecasts being used as part of the calculation and other methodology including predicting local economic growth and employment. The undoubted outcome will be more houses and so the question, as ever, is where will they be sited?

Do we make the City of Lancaster spread out to the south and east?

Or do we build in some of the larger villages like Halton, Caton and the Kellets? My view is the latter makes sense in terms of helping shops and schools in the villages sustainable, but in that case transport links need to be addressed.

All of this means the Council Planning Committee are going to be busy.

Local planning decisions are sometimes controversial. On at least two occasions in the last year decisions made locally in support of residents opposing development have been overturned on appeal by National Planning Inspectors.

This can cost the local tax payer dear if the Inspector allows costs to be awarded against the City Council.

A less painful process is to influence Local Planning Policy as it evolves. The Localism Act 2011 was designed to take power away from Westminster and hand it over to local communities. Planning for our future housing needs is part of that.

The Localism Act does not confer power on the people to overturn planning policy but does enshrine the need for local authorities to consult.

This is what Lancaster City Council are doing at present.

One local group which has sprung up to promote debate is Lancaster Vision whose aims include “to promote transparency and to stimulate constructive and informed dialogue between relevant stakeholders” which they hope will “enable us to support growth where it is beneficial for the community as a whole.”