January Update on Lutterworth East
Happy New Year everyone!
Conscious that a few months have gone by without much communication so I thought that I'd update you on where we are at present.
Firstly, let talk about the planning application. Some of you may have heard that the application was going before the Planning Committee at HDC at the end of January 2020. This had indeed been the intention, however the Warwickshire Highways Authority has now required that further work is done on the impact of the development on the Gibbet Roundabout at the junction between the A426 and the A5. This is going to be redeveloped as part of the Magna Park project, however the claim is that Lutterworth East is going to increase traffic along that part of the A426 beyond the volumes anticipated, and therefore further work needs to be done. As a result, the planning application has been delayed beyond January, with an estimated date now being April 2020.
A meeting was held with HDC and LCC in November and a number of issues were discussed. The reality is that the housing is going to be built (there is nothing that we can do to stop this unless something comes up that halts the planning application in it's tracks!) and so the prime concern is to ensure that the impacts of the development on Lutterworth are minimised. Previously I have mentioned that there was a clause in the Local Plan which required the plans to have the support of the local population - this has been raised as an objection to the application, and I have been told that as this clause is merely an explanation of policy, rather than being policy itself, HDC do not have to comply with it. I leave you to form your own views on this.....Therefore I am focussing on something that is policy, and that is the requirement for HDC to remove or reduce the number of HGVs passing through Lutterworth town centre. The key question is, how are they going to do it? Both HDC and LCC have been challenged on this - LCC state that it is HDC's responsibility so they are offering no solution, and HDC say that they are looking at it. I understand that, as it is policy and it is a requirement of HDC to deliver it, they have to know how they will do it prior to planning approval, despite the fact that according to the policy they don't have to implement it until 2036! My personal view is that the only way that you can take HGV's out of the town centre is to send them down an alternative route (rocket science, this is not...). Currently, there isn't another route, however with the building of the spine road there will be. We are not getting positive vibes from either HDC or LCC that this is a solution that they will accept, so we await their deliberations and their answer to the problem. We will, however, continue pushing the point until we get an answer.
I am now reviewing the Construction Traffic Management Plan to determine the scale of impact on Lutterworth over the 17 years that it will take to build the development. A lot of work to do on this, however once done I will let you know what LCC's proposals are and whether or not there is cause for concern. We are told by LCC that their plans for Lutterworth East is that it is an "exemplar" development, which effectively means that it will be the best development that has ever been produced. We will wait and see...!
We also learned of the revised plans for the Whittle Roundabout. As you know, substantial works took place last year, and we thought that this was to provide the roundabout for the future. WRONG!!! The plans now reveal that they intend to scrap the roundabout, potentially move the 'plane to the side, and install a four way traffic light controlled junction. A picture of the proposal is included below (traffic from the M1 is coming from the right of the picture, and access to Lutterworth is therefore heading to the top of the picture), but I think that a key point that needs to be noted is that the plan includes two dedicated right hand turn lanes taking traffic in to Lutterworth from the motorway. My question would be, if traffic is forecast to reduce by 28% as a result of Lutterworth East, why are two dedicated lanes required to take fewer vehicles when one currently suffices? We are writing to LCC to get their answer and I will report back, as clearly the concern is that traffic volumes through Lutterworth will increase dramatically.
As far as I understand it, there continues to be no intention for the additional Doctor's surgery to be provided, not because LCC won't provide the building (they will) but the local practices don't want to have a base over there. A contribution of circa £1m has been requested for healthcare as part of the Section 106 agreement, but my understanding is that all healthcare provision is planned to take place at the existing locations. So, quite why £1m is needed, what they are going to do with it, and how an additional 7,000 to 8,000 people are going to be accommodated in the existing locations I am not sure. You may want to ask your doctor the next time you visit !!
Finally, timescales. When planning had been arranged for January, the intention was that the spine road construction would commence in the summer of 2020, with the first houses being started in early 2021. As planning had now been delayed we can expect these deadlines to move back. Further, LCC are proposing that the building is done through a Joint Venture between LCC and others - this has to be approved by LCC (Council as opposed to developer), and then the Joint Venture has to be set up once partners have been found. Not sure where they are on this, although I don't think that a vote has yet been taken by the council, so it is possible that this may delay things further. As far as finance is concerned, I'm not aware that they have this in place either, so again there may be further delays. One thing you can be sure of - as soon as these two elements are resolved, and subject to planning, the diggers will move in!
I'll update as soon as I know more.