Rugby finally has a local plan after a majority of Conservative and Labour councillors voted it through at a special meeting of the borough council last night, Tuesday June 4.
More than 20 councillors spoke on the plan that has been many years in the making and subject to nearly 200 amendments after it was sent to the Planning Inspector.
In urging councillors to vote in favour of adopting the plan, council leader Cllr Seb Lowe (Con Coton and Boughton) accepted that there was opposition - both from fellow councillors and also from members of the public, around 20 of whom looked on from the Town Hall gallery.
Cllr Lowe said: “We face, this evening, one of the most important decisions that we as councillors could ever be asked to make. The decision we reach tonight will have far-reaching consequences for this borough - not just in the short term but for generations. And that is why I urge members to make the right decision, and to think very carefully about their reasons for doing so.
“Many of the members here tonight, and the people we represent, have been very vocal in making their views on this topic known. It is no secret that there are many - both inside and outside of this chamber - who have grave concerns about whether we should adopt this plan.”
He added that the only way to have any control over developments taking place in Rugby was to vote for the plan.
“Without a local plan in place, we will not be able to demonstrate a five-year land supply. It means that it will be open season for speculative developers in Rugby - we will see one refused planning application after another turned round on appeal.”
One of those opposed to the plan was one of those on the leader’s executive, Cllr Howard Roberts (Con Dunsmore) whose patch covers Dunchurch which has been subject to some of the most heated debates surrounding the plan.
He said: “The plans drawing my beloved Dunchurch to Rugby, in one stroke voiding us of village status, is an over-engineered unworkable solution to the transport network in the centre of Dunchurch.
“We are told there is no alternative and that a delay will cost money, take time and leave us open to speculative developments. In my opinion, the plan will change rugby for ever - we need to get it right. Sprawling urbanisation Rugby isn’t a town we chose to live in.”
None of the Lib Dem group voted for the plan and put forward an amendment prioritising air quality, infrastructure and a commitment to nature improvement areas including Cawston Spinney which was rejected by the controlling Tory group.
But there was support from Labour with all bar one voting in favour.
Cllr Mike Brader (Lab New Bilton) explained: “By not having a plan it seems that we will get all the developments that people object to plus a whole lot more. There are things in this plan which we all dislike I think but voting against it won’t solve these issues.
“I know there is a lot of anger about the local plan and the proposals but I say that anger should be squared towards the government for strong-arming local councils like ours for having to make a decision between a plan that we don’t really like or having no plan and having no control over our planning process.”
Councillors voted 22-13 to accept the plan with one abstention.