|The Staffordshire Structure Plan|
Following the Society's AGM on Thursday 16th February there was standing room only when our Chairman introduced our guest Mr Michael Plumb, Principal Planning Officer of Staffordshire County Council. An open invitation had also been sent on this occasion to the Borrowcop Residents Association and to the South Lichfield Occupiers Group and in welcoming the visitors our Chairman reminded the meeting of the need for continuous vigilance, compared to a demonstration of discontent over a single issue.
Mr Plumb in a professional and reasoned address explained the County's duty to prepare a "broad framework" upon which the Local Plan would put "flesh and bones". He suggested that the County Structure Plan, with its projection to the year 2001, had to be related to the Secretary of State's guidance for the West Midlands Region and warned that if the provision of housing was insufficient then the Secretary of State would increase it. (Many present will have been surprised to hear that Mr Ridley's powers are strong enough to negate local interests). Some loss of Green Belt land was inevitable, said Mr Plumb, if sufficient land for housing was to be available. He made reference to builders wanting more land. ("Surprise! Surprise" was heard in many quarters). He suggested that more houses provide more jobs - and many present will have wondered if this was intended to mean more than just those involved in construction. However industry, employment, retailing, mineral extraction and transport were all touched upon.
Questions and comments from the floor were always handled with courtesy and patience by Mr Plumb but one was left wondering if this was the right meeting for such a large turn-out - which one felt to be a demonstration not only of interest in the complexities of the planning system but also a protest against its consequences. Not all the local politicians present waited to be instructed by comment from the floor. The date has now passed for the submission of comments and observations on the County Structure Plan and we understand that a number of local organisations, as well as the Civic Society, have recorded their views.
The Lichfield Local Plan cannot be approved until the County Structure Plan has been confirmed. Many alert citizens of Lichfield will hope that a public examination of the Structure Plan will provide an opportunity for the Secretary of State for the Environment to be persuaded that Mr Plumb's "broad framework" will cause the "flesh and bones" of the Local Plan to result in 'municipal obesity' - that is over-growth which raises the danger of destroying what is left of Lichfield's elegant character.