Cheltenham is set to embark on its largest expansion since the Second World War if final plans are approved early next year as part of the ‘Cheltenham Plan’.
The proposals, centred around making sure Cheltenham is ready for the future, aims to provide enough housing, employment and infrastructure to cope with the rising population over the next two decades. The plans also aim to help young people wanting to stay in the town but are struggling due to high house prices and crushing rent costs.
Cheltenham Borough Council, alongside The JCS (Joint Core Strategy of Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury) have earmarked the development of 35,000 new homes to be built in these areas before 2031. 11,632 new homes are planned for Cheltenham alone in order to prepare for the future of the town and the increased population by providing more affordable housing.
Developments across Cheltenham and beyond range in size and economic value. Planned sites include a new secondary school in Leckhampton in the south of the town and will provide 900 new school places, along with 250 new homes and an upgrade to an industrial park. However, work on building the new school has not started on the site on Kidnappers Lane.
Economic and employability opportunities will increase, due to the development of the cyber park in North West Cheltenham near GCHQ and upgrade the economic infrastructure in the area.
The plans also include planned residential areas for travellers. Two sites have been earmarked by the JCS. These sites are Castle Dream Stud on Mill Lane in Charlton Kings. The second site is adjacent to that site.
Across Gloucestershire, similar plans are underway. In order to prepare for the future and make sure there is sufficient infrastructure in place, all Gloucestershire councils have put in place their own version of the ‘Cheltenham Plan’. In total, over 60,000 new homes will be built in the county before the year 2031. Despite some plans starting earlier than others, Cheltenham Borough Council are currently in second last place following the release of their latest figures, as you can see in the thread below.
Of the 11,632 new houses planned, only 3858 homes have been accounted for (built or have planning permission). This means there are another 7,059 to be built (as of June 2019). That means only 33% of their target have been built. Only Gloucester City Council have a worse record with only 3993 homes completed out of a target of 13,287. That means they have only completed 30% of their planned new homes (as of September 2019).
On the other hand, Forest of Dean District Council are well in front, having completed 67.8% of their planned 5,162 new homes by 2031.
However, MP for Cheltenham Alex Chalk said the plan is necessary.
‘I am for it, because if you don’t have a plan, as we have learnt, nature abhors a vacuum.
You have to have a plan, and one of the frustrations was that it took so long to happen’.
However, Mr Chalk also called for the plan to be more sophisticated.
‘We can be much more sophisticated now, with Garden villages, which have a better balance between the urban and the natural, we can have much more healthy areas, and cycle’.
He also called for better travel connections, making it easier for those wanting to travel in an active way like cycling and hit out at original plans to merge Cheltenham and Gloucester.
‘ You have to have a plan, but you’ve got to make sure that the plan is the right one. We shouldn’t be pushing for a Los Angeles style urban sprawl where Cheltenham and Gloucester met up, but instead think where we can boost the local economy’.
‘Let us take this opportunity to say that active travel has got to be built into it so you are not having to retrofit at great expense.
Progress for the Cheltenham Plan has been slow. Building for the new 900 pupil school has not started, but plans remain in place for the school to be built by 2021 if plans are approved early next year.
However, some of the plan has been criticised as some of the Green Belt land has been earmarked for new homes. The land, at Arle nurseries in the north east of the town has been marked as the area where houses will be built on this green belt area.
Cheltenham Borough Council has earmarked almost £70,000 to carry out the planning and consultation process.
If plans are approved early next year by Cheltenham Borough Council, work on the plan will begin in 2020. The project is planned to be completed by 2031.