Politics

Claims of lack of competency and some level of bias by planning committee with exit of Cheltenham businesses

It has been claimed that businesses in Cheltenham needing to expand are being forced to leave the town because there isn’t enough office space being approved by the borough council.

Paul Fong, a partner at Cheltenham based property consultancy firm Ridge (Ridge has more than 10 offices nationwide with a £50million turnover) has put this strong insinuation forward. He says the borough council failed to ‘’look at the bigger picture’’ by turning down a new business park on the edge of town over concerns about the impact of an attached Aldi. Fong is convinced other growing businesses will exit Cheltenham as well. (Mr Fong’s company currently employs 20 people and is located on the top end of Cheltenham’s high street)

Lack of office space is not in doubt since a large-scale housing and jobs blueprint called the ‘Joint Core Strategy’ covering areas like Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury backs this up.

Mr Fong raises a case of lack of competency with the planning committee with a not ‘’fit for purpose’’ agenda. According to him there is some level of bias, that the group of councillors should ‘’look at the prospects of the town and not just a small selection of the community.’’  Rejection of the business park by the planning committee which would have housed Ridge offices and other businesses (like Tewkesbury-based Bloor Home’s regional headquarters, a nursery establishment, other offices and the German discount store- Aldi) raises some eyebrows. Economic growth with job employment is not being recognised and Mr Fong says Cheltenham is in dire need of jobs.

Councillors from the planning committee kicked back on the grounds that Aldi would cause more traffic and pollution than the roads could contain. After all, they say there is already an Asda superstore on the land next door.

Responding, chairman of the council’s planning committee, councillor Garth Barns says, ‘’…committee bides by the planning rules. Commercial development is not part of our remit. It is up to individuals to decide what should be approved. We bide by the planning rules and the officers recommendations…’’

It has not been ascertained if an application will be re-submitted to the council.

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