CONTROVERSIAL housing plans which have “split” residents in Longhope have been given the go-ahead for the second time in recent months.
Aster Group’s bid to develop around 1.2 acres of grassland next to Church Road was previously approved by Forest of Dean District Council planners in July.
However, the proposals for a dozen affordable homes for “local people” were brought back to the development management committee in August after complaints were lodged that the plans had not been considered properly.
The proposals for an exception site, which would prioritise people with ties to the village, were then deferred for a site visit.
The scheme was strongly opposed by dozens of residents and Longhope Parish Council had also raised concerns over flooding, impact on wildlife and safety concerns with the access onto Church Road.
But at the development management committee meeting on September 12, Councillor Jacob Sanders (L, Cinderford West) proposed following the officer’s recommendation to grant delegated permission for the scheme.
He said the country “has a dreadful shortage of housing for people who live on average salaries”.
“If you don’t have a lot of savings, it’s very difficult to get housing which has the security that allows you to put down roots in a community, register your children in school, make local contacts and know you will still be able to travel to the same workplace in a year’s time.
“That’s what we lack. There are far too few applications for new housing coming through that meet that criteria, this one does.”
This was seconded by Cllr Richard Burton (G, Newnham) who said the scheme’s benefits clearly outweigh any harms from the scheme.
Vicechairman Gill Moseley (LD, Newent and Taynton) said she too would support the plans but conceded there were difficulties with it.
“I’m sorry it seems to have caused a division in the community which is very regrettable. Clearly there is a need for affordable housing. I don’t disbelieve that at all.”
And she said she was satisfied with the expert opinion of the flooding experts.
Cllr Clayton Williams (C, Hartpury and Redmarley) raised concerns that if the field behind the site had anything other than grass on it, there would be “severe flooding”.
“All the mud would come down the hill,” he said. Cllr Ian Whitburn (I, Coleford) said he is all in favour of exception sites and they are needed “all over the place”.
However, he could not support the Longhope scheme due to his concerns over access and the steepness of the gradient out of the site.
Councillors voted to approve the proposal by six votes in favour to four against.