Once a year all elected district councillors are invited to join officers from the council’s Development Control department to take part in a magical mystery tour to view the Good, the Bad and the Ugly buildings constructed over the last few years. This is to give an opportunity for councillors and officers to see the visual effect of planning decisions taken, and the learning outcomes all can take away to improve the quality of decision making.

This year’s tour on 17th April started at Lidl in Coleford. This site was a challenge for the designers due to the constraints imposed by the existing levels around the site and the need to minimise visual intrusion, which required a substantial number of concrete piles to be sunk on the north eastern side of the site to retain Old Station Way to prevent it from collapse onto the car park. If you look behind the timber boards you can see them all.

Over the course of the day we saw various new infill housing schemes in Coleford and Lydney of varying mediocrity and finally the splendid AccXel construction school in Cinderford developed by KW Bell, next to their offices.

At the end of the morning we visited a single storey timber framed Passivhaus in Clements End which was clad with timber. All of those attending agreed it was visually stunning. The contractor Scott Adams of Lydney-based Passiframe was on hand to talk about the construction costs which are about 5-10% higher than a standard developer produced masonry house but with extremely low heating cost meaning that the payback time to cover the additional cost can be as little as five years. There are over 40,000 of these properties in Germany but sadly less than 1000 in the UK. In Germany they are mostly used for social housing where tenants pay a fraction of the heating cost than their UK counterparts.

We are seeking a suitable site to construct a pilot scheme in the Forest of Dean to encourage developers to switch to this form of construction in the next few years as this is one of several options we will be recommending in the new Local Plan that will be going out for consultation in May. We will then amend and submit the Plan to the Planning Inspectorate for scrutiny later in the year. The Planning Inspectorate is under orders by the current government to reject Local Plans that require developers to build to a higher thermal standard than that required by the Building Regulations. It is evident that the thermal requirements of the Building Regulations in England are far more lax than the rest of Europe. Is there any connection between this and the evidence that many housebuilders donate to the Conservative Party? We should be told. The Government signed up to climate emergency legislation but routinely imprisons climate protesters from Insulate Britain and others calling the Government to account. Do we have political prisoners in the UK? Yes!