6th November 2013

The major news this and last week is the escape of Alan Giles from an open prison near here. Mr Giles was coming to the end of his sentence for murder. It is curious that he absconded just a few months before the end of his tariff. Stranger still is that he worked in a charity shop in Alcester recently. This in itself is not strange or concerning as many criminals are released into society slowly, allowing them to adjust to normal life. It just came as a surprise to have happened so close or home. Like everyone else, I hope he is detained as soon as possible but in the meantime remember to lock those doors and check all outhouses. I felt it was telling that in the initial police bulletin announcing his escape they mentioned they were concerned over his safety as well as that of the public.

I have yet more concerns over planning issues for our patch and not just from the immediate area or for that matter the requirements of Alcester. Just a few statistics here (you note that I do not quote them too often!). One report (from the Rowntree Foundation) suggests that the UK is currently short of one million homes. That is a huge number considering that there are currently, approximately, 22 million homes in England. Of course the demographics are changing and I am sure there are many more single homes required at both ends of the spectrum.

My concerns centre over the District Council plans for Lighthorn Heath that would in reality create a new town. This site is adjacent to the Jaguar Land-Rover establishment who also want some of the same land for expansion. IF JLR’s scheme proceeds then the number of houses would be reduced meaning that the districts 5 year land supply, which is already significantly short, would need alternative land to be sourced. So the ripple effect means potentially more speculative planning applications here. So what is the message. Basically it means if Alcester does not have a Neighbourhood Plan then we cannot protect ourselves from such schemes. We must have the district core strategy in place before we can submit the NP, however ATC have decided to make best efforts in progressing the plan to coincide with the launch of the CP, or as close as possible. Needless to say that if the issued CP has significant differences to the draft CP then we reserve the right to challenge it. Sadly green belt seems to be no barrier to development. So we need your support and expertise to assist us in this work. Please let me know if you wish to help.

On a brighter note, We recently attended the Divali (or Diwali) Festival of Light in Leamington Spa. Divali is a five day Festival celebrated by both Hindus and Sikhs. The displays can be quite spectacular and can run into the Christmas lights period creating a spell binding display. This is a very traditional time for Hindus and Sikhs and if you are fortunate you may be invited to try some of their food especially made at this time; very nice for those with a sweet tooth. It is also traditionally the start of the Indian business year.

There are a few things happening in the town including the occasional closure of the high street for road works and of course there is Remembrance Day on Sunday. I hope that you will all be able to attend this very moving service. At the weekend Coughton Court are hosting a winter festival with many things to buy for that Christmas stocking.

Have a good week.