Embracing New Communities: Championing Community Infrastructure

The pressure for new housing, especially affordable, has highlighted the gap between the party’s national policy of pressing for new homes for new families through the community-focused effort by the local Liberal Democrat parties and the opposition from the communities they try and serve.

Because of this gap, the housing campaign becomes two-dimensional and revolves around arguments on the new development’s location, construction times, transport links, and on-road access. There is an easy (dare I say lazy) tendency to slip into NIMBYism; allowing those who shout the loudest drown out the area’s needs and those who want to call it home. The one issue that doesn’t get addressed through all of this is: How do we support a new community, and how do we support the communities surrounding it?

Due to a Joint Core Strategy with the neighbouring centres of Cheltenham and Gloucester, it is reported that, in terms of housebuilding, Tewkesbury Borough is the fastest-growing Borough outside of London. Many villages are being transformed beyond recognition; Bishop’s Cleeve – with a claim to fame of being the largest village in the country – has seen its population rise from 10,000 to over 19,000 since 2011. Ashchurch, a new garden town planned in the north of the Borough, will see enough homes for 10,000 new residents start within the next five years.

The scale of development has meant that (thankfully) NIMBYism would be impossible if even desirable. Instead, we have had to tackle the question posed above head-on; if these developments are to become new communities and impact the areas around them, how do we make sure they are supported? Our answer has been to campaign for the community infrastructure our area needs.

Rarely do we get newly proposed developments that don’t come, equipped on paper, with a variety of community infrastructure projects and promises to provide for the new homes and the surrounding community; parks, sports pitches, doctors surgeries, shops, schools, pubs – all adding to the saleability of the scheme to local authorities and then eventually to new homeowners.

However, like many Tory-run rural districts Tewkesbury Borough’s administration is stagnant. The administration has lost control of planning for our villages and failed to keep track of the overdue infrastructure. Only the hard work of Lib Dem councillors, candidates, and activists in championing this cause has let the public know what they are missing, what they have been promised, and through the inaction of the Conservatives, they have been denied. Diligently, we are making strong inroads into new and established communities because we are doing what Lib Dems have always done; because we care.

Liberal Democrats pride themselves at being in the heart of local communities. Still, that definition needs to move away from supporting the narrow view of some who worry that their view is being spoilt. We need to make sure we help turn houses into homes, and cul-de-sacs into communities; and that means fighting for the infrastructure that helps people in their new area, and us along with it.

* Ian Thomas is the pseudonym for a party member. His identity is known to the Lib Dem Voice editorial team.

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  • Of course nimbyisim is rife, people want to protect the area of their life where they can escape from the everyday stress and once they have achieved that will, perhaps a little selfishly, try to protect a little piece of sanity in an ever mad world. Perhaps you can enlightened me as to how the Lib Dems approach to building the houses needed compared with my own rather cynical view of developers being allowed to build what they like where they like if they give a nice donation to the party in power, usually the Conservatives, and promise to build all the usual amenities to sweeten the deal. I hope you can convince me that there is an alternative to turning once idealic areas into stereotype large building sites and still build the homes needed, by the way lax planning regulations can also cause misery and distress!.It took my wife and I until we were in our late forties to own our first modest terrace house, not helped by being self employed.

  • Helen Dudden 20th Jan '21 - 12:29pm

    I’m writing on the lack of category 2/3 housing.
    There are guidelines on the Health and Safety issues of Power Wheelchairs, and charging. The new lithium batteries, like all batteries, can produce different gasses as they charge. It’s been a problem accessing housing that caters for Power Wheelchairs. Of course, it makes sense that the Fire Risk is one important issue.
    There is a can’t do, but so far little can do.
    Power Wheelchairs get more adaptable, there is even a Power Wheelchair you can call on your mobile, it’s that easy. But housing has not caught up. Some housing is adaptable, some can be improved for certain disabilities. There are some that, simply won’t work.
    Very few properties are constructed to category 3. Five years, has been the average wait.
    Housing is a key issue, Social Housing is much needed. Decent Homes Standard, was never reached, as many providers struggled to provide more homes.
    When providing housing, all issues need to be considered.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Jan '21 - 1:03pm

    Excellent from Alex, Barry, Helen.

    Alex you need to read Barry. We can say that all need to be included. It is not little nimby vs big planners. We are not to systematically to back the developer or the govt. This is wrong. It is like the LVT issue, you cannot concede to the group where the individual who has a modest property is in fear of a supposed garden tax. I lost my house and my wife and I rent. No help when we did . We need all included. Barry writes here of a feeling for space and peace. Do not alienate those feelings, embrace the full panoply of residents.


    You ought to get more involved in disability policy in this party. Your comments are essential to read here. The individual is rarely heard even in this party, as well as they ought to be, though here it is better than most sites or parties.

  • Barry Lofty 20th Jan '21 - 3:05pm

    I can empathise with your position Lorenzo having lived above our leasehold business and bringing up our family there, it was home although some neighbours made life hell at times, it was never where we could have stayed forever and so can understand the need for more affordable housing but it seems to me that planners put the cart before the horse with regard to providing such things like surgeries, schools,dentists and other essential services, including catering for disabilities as Helen says.

  • Helen Dudden 21st Jan '21 - 10:42am

    I have forwarded to one of your councillors in Bath, Tim Ball, the information received, on the safety of charging Power Wheelchairs. It’s been difficult finding the guidelines. The Fire Officer knew about the situation. When charging, the batteries produce a gas, hydrogen with lithium batteries. Recommended, I was to use an RCD, to protect from power surges, over heating and broken cables. That’s a start.
    I know, the guidelines state where the Power Wheelchair should be charged but it’s not explained clearly enough. Social Housing needs to accept there is a need to provide category 3 and possibly category 2 with appropriate charging areas.
    I hope this helps those trying to find housing. The private sector is not the easiest way to be housed, unless you purchase a property that is suitable.

  • David Garlick 21st Jan '21 - 10:50am

    Two short points. Firstly and futuristically the population of the UK is forcast to peak around the year 2100. I expext that home availabilty and prices will look a little different way before the. Sadly I will not be around to see it.
    Secondly it would be a great step forward in the interim if, and it is a big if, we could support the settting up og Community Land Trusts to begin to ‘accumulate’ land and housing to be owned in common by ‘the Community’. Any developments to that land/ property would be decided upon by the community and any profits reinvested in the Community.

  • Suzanne Power 21st Jan '21 - 3:24pm

    I thoughoughly support the initiative proposed by David Garlick

  • Joe Crossley 21st Jan '21 - 4:16pm

    Great article, Alex – it’s so important to see Lib Dem councillors standing up for the rights of young people to have somewhere to live, and not the rights of existing homeowners to keep their town the same as it was when they were children.

  • Peter Hirst 22nd Jan '21 - 2:50pm

    We need tougher enforceable contracts between developers and councillors for the accompanying infrastructure to new developments. Also some body needs to hold councils to account for following through on agreements. If they were more publicly available and clearer, opposition parties could campaign on their completions within defined time periods.

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