* Please note update re Campion Hills at the end of this preamble...
SIGNING IS NOW EVEN MORE IMPORTANT TO GET THE GREENBELT OUT OF THE PLAN!
Warwick District Council has prepared its draft Local Plan. After a backlash from residents in South Leamington and Warwick who protested about being burdened with the bulk of planned housing development, the Plans were modified, and Green Belt areas in the North of Leamington were added to the Local Plan.
These are Red House Farm (200 houses) and Campion Hills Recreation Ground (50 houses). Other possible options such as creating new small settlements within the district have not been included.
According to the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Green Belt land and public amenity land (recreation grounds, sports fields etc) should only be used in exceptional circumstances, and use must be fully justified. The loss of amenity must be compensated by provision of comparable facilities, stated in the Plan. The WDC Local Plan contains no admission of the loss of amenity and no provision for its replacement.
The “Landscape Sensitivity and Ecological & Geological Study” which supports the Local Plan has covered everywhere except the Red House Farm and Campion Hills areas. Only part of the Red House Farm site was included in the Greenbelt Survey, and Campion Hills Recreation Ground has not included at all. These are very serious omissions.
The NPPF says that ‘Areas of Tranquillity’, which have remained relatively undisturbed by noise and are prized for their recreational and amenity value, should be identified and protected. This does not appear to have happened. Newbold Comyn Country Park, Campion Hills Recreation Ground and Red House Farm land provide a contiguous public amenity linked by footpaths, which would be destroyed by building over two portions of it. Plenty use this amenity for travelling on foot or by bicycle within the area as well as for leisure.
The District Council’s Local Plan claims that the use of Green Belt land around Lillington for housing is justified: “The [Green Belt] areas proposed for release are justified as follows: Red House Farm and Campion Hills: important for the regeneration of Lillington”.
No further justification or explanation is offered in the Plan. Lillington is a (mostly) prosperous suburb of Leamington Spa, being home to around 11,500 people. ‘Lillington East’ (a small subdivision of Crown ward), is a very notable exception and has a score for multiple deprivation which puts it in the top 10-20% most deprived areas nationally, and a score for employment within the 10% most deprived nationally, based on 2007 figures. However, the demographic in Lillington has been changing and this information is at least 6 years old. The Local Plan contains no information as to how “Lillington” is supposed to be “regenerated”. Community leaders and community workers have heard nothing. There is no information in the Plan’s supporting documentation. There is nothing on the District Council’s website. Lillington is almost exclusively residential and has very little local employment opportunities. There are no large supermarkets, business units or office buildings. There is no employment land provision for the area in the Local Plan.
The essential qualities of Green Belt land are “openness” and “permanence”. Red House Farm area is a tranquil gem of unspoilt open countryside, probably the only place in the Warwick/Leamington conurbation which allows enjoyment of real countryside, free from roads and traffic noise, with good footpaths. The families of South and East Lillington, amongst others, enjoy this free, accessible, safe facility, taking their children to ride bikes and picnic, and paddle in the river. The area supports brown hares which are in drastic decline in the UK. The Riding School enjoys a safe, quiet area for horse riding. Add 200 houses, roads, cars, mowers, DIY noise, music and streetlights to the landscape and it will be ruined. Once Green Belt status is removed from the proposed building plot, the consequent degradation of the overall landscape and its quietness, loss of openness and permanence will help remove protection from the rest of the area separating Lillington, Offchurch, Radford Semele and Cubbington.
The Campion Hills is a jewel in Leamington’s crown and a prominent site with magnificent views across to Leamington to Brailes Hill, Ilmington Downs, and across Warwick and beyond. This is public amenity land which is used freely by Lillington people and others for recreational activities and is where the fairs and circuses come. The BMX track is here, too. Any development here would detract significantly from the appearance of the Campion Hills. The very late inclusion of this piece of land has prevented public consultation on the matter.
The inclusion of Red House Farm and Campion Hills in the Local Plan is totally unjustified and may well lead to the Plan being rejected at Government inspection stage, which leaves the District open to any sort of development.
At the WDC full council meeting on Wednesday April 23rd, the Local Plan was adopted after a vote, with various amendments including removal of Campion Hills from the Plan. However, Red House Farm land is still in. The further period of consultation now starts. There is still no justification for releasing Lillington Greenbelt. There are vague ideas about bulldozing flats at the Crest and replacing existing public service facilities (library, recently-built community centre, youth centre) and putting in a replacement multi-purpose facility.
The Greenbelt at Red House farm appears to be a carrot for a developer to take on the rest of the (yet completely unwritten) plan. Adding smart private houses at Red House farm changes the super output area statistics sufficiently to disguise the multiple deprivation. Demolition of social housing in East Lillington will reduce the density of social housing, again altering the statistics. Whereas a well designed, well thought out regeneration plan could do a great deal to address educational, housing and employment needs, there is no intrinsic need to use a portion of Lillington's greenbelt to achieve such a plan.
We, the undersigned, call on Warwick District Council to remove Campion Hills Recreation Ground and Red House Farm from the Local Plan, and retain all remaining Green Belt around Lillington.
The Protect Lillington Greenbelt petition to Warwick District Council was written by Diana Taulbut and is in the category City & Town Planning at GoPetition.