It is probably quite timely to offer up a reminder that the council is currently undergoing an extensive public consultation exercise on the latest draft of the core strategy, the strategic planning document that will shape the way the town develops over the next 20 years.
You may remember that we are actually repeating the preferred options stage of the consultation which was originally carried out early last year.
But due to the change in Government and the radical changes to housing policy in particular, not to mention the withdrawal of funding schemes like Building Schools for the Future and funding for a new hospital, the cabinet felt that it would only be right to take a step back and try and ensure that the core strategy takes these changes into account.
The draft document proposes a number of sites that could be brought forward for housing over the next couple of decades as well proposals around where industry should be sited.
The idea behind it is that this one document will make strategic planning much simpler as well as setting out a vision for the future growth of the town.
A new site for housing almost always brings about objection and debate and the core strategy has been no different.
The consultation on the previous draft document provoked more than 500 replies from the public, covering a wide range of issues.
The current draft of the strategy has been changed to try to address many of the issues raised.
Our planning team have been working tirelessly to try to speak to as many people as possible about the document and gain their views.
I have been to a number of residents’ meetings and have a few more to attend and what has really been encouraging is the level of understanding of the planning issues that affect different areas and that people don’t just want to object because something is being proposed on their doorstep.
There are too many different issues to consider to mention specific ones in this column but, as you would probably expect, the three sites that are raising the most interest are Claxton, Tunstall Farm and Quarry Farm.
Housing numbers, impact on traffic, the environment, schools and amenities are some of the main issues that exercise people’s concerns and it is a colossal task pulling everything together to produce a strategy that addresses people’s concerns and helps shape the town in the future as a place to live and work in.
I know Hartlepool can attract world class business to locate here and our housing offer needs to reflect that in the future.
I also know that we have a huge need for housing that people on lower incomes can afford to buy and our housing offer needs to reflect that in future.
We have an increasing problem with homes becoming empty and the core strategy needs to offer solutions.
The document needs to be robust enough to prevent any more landfill sites being granted and to give us the opportunity to gradually shift the dirty industries away from the centre of the town.
Most importantly, the core strategy needs to send out a clear statement that Hartlepool is a town on a mission to become one of the most desirable places to live and work in the North-East.
There is still plenty of time to have your say before February 11.
Even if you made a representation last time, please put in another response because things might have changed since and it is important that as many people as possible get a chance to air their views.
Members of the planning team will be more than happy to go along to a residents’ meeting, speak to you on the phone or even face to face but any submissions need to be in writing by letter or email. The addresses are; Planning Policy, Bryan Hanson House, Lynn Street, Hartlepool, TS24 7BT or firstname.lastname@example.org
The core strategy will then come to cabinet in the spring where we will make any changes that we deem appropriate before a final round of consultation on the final proposals.
Save what will probably be only a couple of minor tweaks, the strategy will be then sent to the Government, who will allocate a planning inspector to carry out an examination in public before making his or her recommendations, which I believe the council is pretty much bound to.
Every response from the public to the consultation at each stage of the process will be considered by the planning inspector. So if there are any misconceptions out there that this strategy is already a done deal, I can assure you it isn’t and that it will be a Government representative who will get the final say, so you will be listened to.
This is your chance to help shape the future of Hartlepool and I look forward to hearing from you.