Wednesday, April 27 2011 @ 11:40 AM BST
Contributed by: Peter Bloyce
Hustings – Meetings 16th and 23rd April 2011
SOLVE arranged two meetings for Borough Council Candidates in the May local elections; Chineham on 16th April and Old Basing on 23rd April. Attendance at the Chineham meeting was disappointing whilst at the Old Basing meeting over 50 people attended.
Chineham Meeting 16th April
Simon Brookes - Labour. Was unable to attend and a statement was read out on his behalf. He said Labour did not oppose all development. There needed to be the right balance between rural and urban development. Most people do not oppose development and our villages need small development agreed and supported by a local community. Other policies include an end to urban cramming, decent back garden sizes and development no go areas such as environmentally sensitive land. We cannot have development imposed by the Council anymore than it is imposed by the Government.
Martin Beirmann – Independent. Was against Major Development Areas (MDA) in the Loddon Valley. He was not against development and suggested a revisit of the Manydown proposals. It was better to plan and have more say rather than have development imposed by Government. He pointed to a meeting between a Government Minister and house builders’ representatives where the government told them they had a target to build 450,000 houses per year in the UK.
John Downs – Conservative. Was totally against “Mass” development anywhere in the Borough. The infrastructure and water/sewerage was unable to cope. He favoured smaller developments, some villages would welcome this including affordable housing. He said that the community is at peace with itself and massive housing growth would destroy this. Despite the Government and Borough growth agenda he thought that economic growth could be treated separately.
Old Basing Meeting 23rd April
Liberal Democrat, Emily Lawrence, and Labour, Lesley Clarke, candidates were unable to attend for health and family health reasons. Representatives from their parties John Shaw, Lib Dem, and Paul Harvey, Labour, gave statements and answered questions.
Liberal Democrats - John Shaw said the sites east of Basingstoke should not be on the agenda and could have been taken out of the SHLAA. But the Tories had hidden behind this Officer led document and voted to keep them in along with other contentious areas. The Liberal Democrats had voted to get them removed. He did not believe the spin that these areas would not necessarily be developed as well financed Developers will push for these sites. The LDF should be in place by January 2012, this will be late and we are vulnerable to development. Shaw said no infrastructure no development. In answer to a question he said that they did not oppose all development just MDAs, many villages and communities welcomed small developments and that a robust Council plan should help control development going ahead without the necessary infrastructure.
Labour - Paul Harvey read out a statement on behalf of the labour candidate, Lesley Clarke. There were remarkable similarities to the statement read out at the Chineham meeting. They opposed MDA’s. The SHLAA was a material consideration and he agreed with Shaw that the Tory majority had failed to protect these sites in the SHLAA process. The Council leadership is weak, all too often they allow the Officers to take over and had failed to take responsibility. He answered the accusation that there was a change in Labour policy away from the top down planning in their SE Plan. Harvey said the Labour plans were a plan for this council; all councils should work for their residents. Harvey refused to give a housing figure saying this was meaningless pointing to recent figures which had been breached, 1300 plus a year in the past 3. Development should be in line with a neighbourhood plan. There was scope for regeneration in run down areas.
Steven Marks – Conservative. Said he had been a councillor for 9 Years representing Old Basing. He said we must act professionally when opposing plans and act within the law, new Government legislation is yet to be approved. He stressed on several occasions that we did not need all these houses in particular an MDA on Greenfield sites. Internal growth of the Borough is around 800 people per year, births over deaths, and this does not support massive housing growth. He was not anti growth but we should build what was needed locally. He was surprised to hear the bottom up approach from Labour.
Marks was questioned about his personal interest as a tenant farmer on the Kings Fund land. He said he had declared his interest and had consulted the Borough Solicitor who said he was able to vote on this issue. Marks said his family had farmed this land for many years and he emphasised the importance of continuing his family farm. However, he has so far declined SOLVE's help of free legal advice to evaluate his legal rights under the terms of his lease. (Note: SOLVE are familiarising themselves with all relevant legal issues.)
Both Labour and Lib Dem speakers had remarked on the SHLAA debate in which the majority Conservatives Councillors had voted to keep all the disputed sites in. Marks attempted to defend this but the Chairman, Clive Pinder from SOLVE, intervened to say that SOLVE had disagreed with the Conservative view on the P&IOSCOM. All the speakers praised local Councillors Cubitt and Godeson for their roles in defending the interests of Old Basing.
Peter Bloyce, SOLVE