Genuine and widespread engagement is a fundamental precursor to any large scheme. It helps sharpen the focus on local priorities, informs the direction plans should take, and ensures local people have a real stake in a project from start to finish. That is why meticulous consultation with local communities is given so much weight in both local and national planning guidance.
By now many of you will have no doubt seen the results of the informal consultation Rutland County Council ran on the initial plans for the St George’s Barracks site, which were published last week. I am glad to see that every single response has been made publicly available (with any identifying details removed). It is important that this process is as transparent as possible.
Reading through the comments, it is clear that a large number of people have concerns about the scale of the plans, and specifically, the number of homes proposed. This is something that has consistently been at the forefront of my mind, and as you can imagine, has featured prominently in all of my discussions with the Council and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to date. At the meeting I chaired in late June between Parish Councils, the County Council and the MOD, this was also a reoccurring theme.
We need to know the number of homes the MOD would deem acceptable on this site, something I have discussed at length with the relevant minister and senior officials. No concrete figure has so far been forthcoming, in part because the necessary feasibility analysis, which takes into account a range of factors, is yet to be completed. However, I have received firm assurances from the MOD that it will not seek to overdevelop the site with the maximum number of homes possible, instead choosing a path that is right for our rural Rutland. This is something I will press the MOD on again in a meeting I am hoping to schedule in September.
The recent consultation exercise also brought to light concerns about the impact on our local road network. This is an issue the Council are acutely aware of, and again, I will be convening a meeting with Highways England in the autumn to highlight the key pressure points and ensure the increased traffic can be properly managed.
I am confident that the newly formed St George’s Advisory Group – made up of local Parish Council representatives, the County Council and the MOD – will look at all of these issues with a fine-tooth comb. A more detailed plan for the site will be published later this year, and will be subject to a full public consultation. I have been very clear that the proposals must reflect the wishes of the local community. By working together, I have no doubt that we will be able to achieve this.