A report on the inquiry by the council’s Strategic Overview and Scrutiny Committee was presented to cabinet last week.
Cllr Richard Boyles (Con, Newnham) presented the wide-ranging report about the history and future options for the project.
He said the spine road to connect the site with the A4136 Gloucester road was key to “unlocking” the Northern Quarter.
“Whoever is on the cabinet is really going to have to understand the finances of laying out the spine road, what it is going to cost and make sure they understand the problems”, he said.
‘‘And understand any future plan is viable right from the start.”
He was asked by Cllr Andy Moore (Green, Pillowelll) if Gloucestershire County Council had set aside any money for the spine road.
Cllr Boyles said: “My understanding is that nobody has budgeted for anything.
“What we have to do is first look at how we unlock the site and that means is it even possible to build a spine road?
“Is there money to do that and if there is then what comes from that?
“Once we have achieved a spine road and the funding only then can the cabinet and this council even look at what is possible on the Northern Quarter.”
Recommendations in the report include developing an industry-community partnership to deliver limited housing, a visitor eco-centre, and to take a holistic approach to ensure sustainable development that respects the history of the site.
Based on those recommendations, cabinet have requested that officers proceed with planning applications for units on two of the plots; consider how the project fits in with the new Local Plan to 2041; engage in partnership working with local educational and construction organisations to deliver development which is “better aligned” to the land conditions; and engage with educators and Wye Valley Tourism to develop an eco-training and visitor centre.
Leader of the council Cllr Tim Gwilliam, who requested the inquiry last year, said: “The report is quite clear in recommending that we do look to achieve something on the site for the people of Cinderford and the Forest that is in line with the Cinderford Action Plan and with due regard for social, economic and environmental impacts and based on the findings in the report we can now move forward and help to create an exciting future for the area.
“We must at the same time also acknowledge the challenging site conditions and learn from the past.
“Now is not the time for arguing and more needless cost and loss.
‘‘We must accept that what was once considered achievable may no longer be and adjust our aspirations accordingly.
“The excessive and extra costs of the road are not an issue we can ignore and nor should we. It is a simple fact that further funding for extension of the road has not come forward in recent years, and there is no sign of it in the near future (although that may change), but neither is it the time for more delay, more self interested misinformation or scaremongering.
“We must deal with the here and now and the recommendations of a year long enquiry. What a thing it would be to make the Northern Quarter and the rest of the Forest of Dean the place for young people to study flora and fauna and perhaps even our climate. There would be no better place in the country and nowhere more deserving.
“This area of Cinderford provides us with the opportunity to work together to create something truly special on an important and historic site, not just for Cinderford itself, but for the whole of the Forest of Dean.”