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SOLVE- News May 2011

SOLVE has just had a meeting (mid April) with Basingstoke and Deane Planning Officers to discuss the evidence surrounding housing numbers in the Borough. It seems the Officers are unconvinced that there is more up-to-date information on household size trends and prefer to use extrapolations based on the 2001 Census. From our perspective it appears that the Planning Officers favour higher housebuilding numbers. Their interpretation of the Housing Consultation results confirms our view. If higher numbers, e.g. 750 per year, are accepted then all Greenfield sites, East or West, are at serious risk.

We have also arranged 'Town Hall Husting' meetings (16th April Chineham and 23rd April Old Basing & Lychpit) to which we invited all the Candidates standing for election to the Borough Council. They answered questions on their policies and plans for development in the wards. It is they who will be representing their voters’ views and ultimately decide, amongst others, how many houses the Borough needs over the next 15 years. A report is on this site.

Budget - The recent Budget contained proposals for relaxation of the Planning Laws to “promote growth”. There are several parts to these proposals and the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) guide is helpful (search for DCLG and look up “Planning and the Budget”). ‘Framework’ proposals are due to be published for consultation later this year. There are two proposals worth quoting from the DCLG Guide: 1. “At heart of the ‘Framework’ will be a presumption in favour of sustainable development”. This is widely interpreted that a developer can push ahead once the streamlined planning process is complete. Arguably this contradicts the ‘Localism Bill”, about which the Minister of State for Decentralisation, Greg Clark, MP, said - “reform to make the planning system more democratic and more effective, reform to ensure that decisions about housing are taken locally.” 2. “Changes to permitted development rights” - This could make it easier to use empty business sites, offices etc for housing and may release more brownfield sites in Basingstoke and elsewhere, thereby taking the pressure off Greenfield sites. To use a well known phrase - the devil is in the detail. SOLVE and our Councillors must watch this very carefully.

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