A NEW draft Local Plan which calls for improved infrastructure across the Forest to cope with thousands of new homes has been approved by councillors.

The plan, which sets out where new homes will be built in the district over a 20-year period, was proposed to be updated by the council’s cabinet following consultation with residents, and taking into account new housing numbers for the district.

The new draft carries forward the council’s second preferred option as proposed by the council’s previous cabinet to promote existing towns and major villages to receive new housing, as opposed to the first preferred option to create a new settlement.

At a full council meeting on Thursday (October 19), Cllr Jamie Elsmore (Prog Ind, Berry Hill) questioned cabinet member for local plan Sid Phelps (Green, Lydbrook) on how the new draft differs from the last, which saw Cllr Phelps and his fellow Green cabinet colleague Cllr Chris McFarling (St Briavels) removed from the previous cabinet because of their opposition to it.

Cllr Phelps responded by saying the new draft was “a strategy for how we move forward from here”.

The plan would see Lydney receiving more of a share of the allocation as the biggest town in the Forest with the required current infrastructure, and calls for service improvements across the district to support new and existing residents.

The draft outlines that, under Government modelling, around 900 fewer homes are required to be built in the Forest to 2041 than initially thought, which it is hoped will allow for “greater flexibility” to housing development in the district.

Cllr Phelps noted that the Local Plan was and had been a “contentious” issue for councillors, but said he is “satisfied” the current strategy is fit to be taken forwards.

“We’re not going to please all the people all the time, but I will hope to please as many as possible and serve the district, as you all do,” he said.

Cllr Nick Evans (Con, Sedbury) said he could not support the plan as it “ignored” the 91 residents of his ward who opposed the second preferred option and 49 who supported but raised infrastructure concerns during the previous consultation.

Cllrs Harry Ives and Alan Preest (both Con, Lydney) were in agreement that the current plan is far better for Lydney than the previous iteration because of the decreased housing numbers for the town, which has gone from around 2,500 to fewer than 700.

Cllr Phillip Burford (I, Hartpury and Redmarley) asked Cllr Phelps for assurances that infrastructure would be provided to accommodate the new homes, particularly in the Newent ward with a plan for 375 homes having already been submitted.

Cllr Phelps responded: “You will know better than I do (as former chairman of the development management committee) that I can’t make those assurances, I can’t guarantee it.

“I think we have to lobby, and lobby hard, but I don’t think it’s within the gift of this council to absolutely ensure the infrastructure is in place.

“We will ask for it to be in place and we will push for it, we will lobby for it, but we cannot turn down a planning application because for example, the sewage works isn’t up to scratch.

“We will carry on lobbying and fighting and I’m sure you’ll join me in that.”

The draft was approved by 34 votes for, one against and one abstention.

The final stage of the process is a period of consultation with residents and businesses, which is set to take place next spring.