I don’t always support new housing developments in Leckhampton (there’s still time to object to Redrow’s awful new plan to build right in front of the AONB here using ref 21/02750/FUL).
But last week I gave enthusiastic support to one new development. Local developer Newland Homes brought forward a plan for 22 new homes on a former nursery site in Kidnappers Lane. 9 will be affordable, meeting the Cheltenham Lib Dem target of 40% of every new development being affordable housing. They’re on a so-called ‘brownfield’ site actually suggested by the parish council as appropriate for development – a good example of how trusting local people and their representatives, instead of trying every trick in the planning playbook to override local opinion, really doesn’t mean no homes being built anywhere. Newland spoke at length to Cheltenham’s professional planning department and to parish councillors as they revised their plans.
But most important of all every single house will be zero carbon when its occupied. This is going to be achieved through a combination of really good insulation, air source heat pumps and solar panels which will also send some electricity back into the grid to offset any non-zero carbon electricity that’s bought in. It’s a big step towards the Lib Dem goal of getting Cheltenham to net zero by 2030.
This is a revolutionary moment and something I’ve been campaigning for all my political career. When I was an MP the Lib Dems pushed the coalition government into setting a deadline of 2016 for all new housing to be zero carbon. As soon as the Conservatives took over on their own they got rid of that deadline despite the science surrounding the climate crisis getting more and more alarming with every passing year. So we’re struggling to persuade other developers like Miller Homes – hoping to build 350 new homes only a few hundred metres away – to build zero carbon homes because government rules still say they don’t have to.
But here in Leckhampton at least one developer is doing it anyway with our support, proving it can be done, by a private developer, with both open market and affordable housing. It’s possible and it’s commercially viable. At last, the revolution has begun. And I’m really proud that it’s happening in Leckhampton.