Residents, council representatives and developers this morning (Tuesday) began a passionate two-week debate on the number of houses and jobs which need to be created across the Melton borough over the next 20 years.
They converged on the borough council offices for the opening salvos in the Melton Local Plan Examination - a public hearing which will decide development opportunities up to 2036.
Melton Council agreed on the details of their plan four months ago after a process which started way back in September 2013 and has involved re-drafts and consultations with residents, businesses and other interested parties.
Planning Inspector Mary Travers is leading the examination and her report will be decisive in whether the council’s proposals to build 6,125 homes over the plan period can go ahead.
The early exchanges surrounded the validity of plans to build at least 245 houses every year, a substantial increase from the 170 figure suggested in a Housing and Economic Needs Assessment (HEDNA) for Leicester and Leicestershire last year.
Council officials and consultants argued at the hearing that the higher number was justified to support the growth plans of the borough, to address a need for new housing and to help fund the proposed Melton Mowbray Distributor Road to ease traffic congestion.
Edd de Coverley, chief executive for Melton Council, told the inspector: “This is more than a planning document - it will transform the town of Melton Mowbray and its attractive hinterland.
“We have low unemployment in Melton but a third of people who live and work here earn less than the living wage.
“Building more housing will encourage more people to base their families in the area as our existing population ages.
“The building of the Melton Mowbray Distributor Road will also help with growth and the prospects of Melton achieving its potential have never been so good.”
Several developers, representing housebuilders including Barratt Homes, Gladman, Jelson and Davidsons, spoke on the first day of the examination and they argued that the 245 per year house build threshold was too low and that Melton would benefit from more homes being built over the plan period to service demand and aid growth.
A representative for Jelson told the hearing: “There is a huge and pressing need for new housing in the borough. There is no evidence at present to suggest that there would be any adverse effects whether the figure is 245 homes per year, 280 or even 330.”
Speakers were also present to represent parishes including Somerby, Bottesford and Long Clawson. They voiced concerns that too many houses were being earmarked in their communities and they would not be sustainable due to a lack of infrastructure.
There are currently 12 Neighbourhood Plans being finalised to represent the views of parishes and the development opportunities they believe are feasible with these being considered in the final report on the plan.
The inspector, Ms Travers, assured the hearing that all representations will be considered when she comes to a decision on whether to approve the plan.
She added: “The examination will remain open until I submit my report.”
The hearing, which is open to the public each day from 9.30am, continues tomorrow and Thursday and will resume next week on Tuesday through to Thursday with an option for an extra day on the Friday.