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SOLVE - Basinga April 2011

SOLVE – The Process Grinds On
I reported the initial results from the Council new housing consultation in the last edition. These were discussed at length at the Council P&IOSCOM meeting on 17th February. With 75% of respondents rejecting large numbers of new housing in the Borough the opinions of the electorate could not be made clearer to Councillors. Members from SOLVE and other groups under the ‘Best for Basingstoke’ umbrella gave good presentations and additional evidence to the committee. A number of actions were taken away by Officers including further analysis, in particular the paper responses and other comments. A webcast of the meeting, over 4 hours, is available on the Council website.
The Planning Officers, hamstrung by existing rules as the ‘Localism Bill’ is not yet law, continue to push for new housing at 750 units a year until 2026. Their interpretation of the consultation results reflected this, as did the Market Research Company ‘Qa’, contracted by the Council Planning Department. Many councillors thought that the ‘Qa’ conclusions should be withdrawn but it was pointed out they could choose to disregard these. During the presentations it was suggested that if we build fewer houses then we need fewer Planning Officers.
However, despite the highly questionable conclusions, the consultation was very successful with the response to the questionnaire being the most comprehensive anyone could remember. There were 1166 responses from Old Basing, Chineham, Lychpit and Newnham, 36% of the total. SOLVE believes this reflects the concern we all share and that the Planners and Developers must take note of this. Thanks again to our supporters who responded in large numbers.
Public consultation can be very difficult for those who are used to doing things their way. With Council Officers eager to protect their professional opinions and Councillors unable to blame Central Government, difficulties lie ahead when the ‘Localism Bill’ becomes law.
Currently, mid March, Council members are attending workshops on the ‘Draft Core Strategy’ and ‘Site Selection Process and Infrastructure’. There is nothing to report yet but let’s hope they listen to their electorate.
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Peter Bloyce, SOLVE
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