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Report August 2011

SOLVE – Report August 2011

The Council Planning and Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny Committee (P&IOSCOM) met on 16th June where the main item on the agenda was the future housing requirement for inclusion in the Borough Core Strategy. There were presentations from SOLVE, Countrywatch, Whitewater Valley Preservation Society and Save Manydown. Kate Tuck read out a letter from Maria Miller MP to the chairman of the P&IOSCOM. All urged the committee to reduce the level of housebuilding in line with the wishes of the public.


Maximum - 594 Houses per annum

After a long debate Councillors agreed the following:

• Support for the right houses in the right place set by the council and not central government

• Support the Localism Bill and push for local communities to decide their own future

• Support 594 houses per annum as a maximum

• Council Officers to fully work up the lowest option of 400 h.p.a and report back to the Executive Member for consideration

• The scale and pace of development must be dependant on the provision of the necessary infrastructure

• The council’s affordable housing policy should be reviewed to ensure it is aimed at residents with a long term association with the Borough

Site selection, due to take place at the P&I OSCOM on 20th July, has been postponed. We are told this will allow time to consider the Government's draft National Planning Framework expected to be published in mid-July. Secondly it will allow time for officers to investigate the implications of the housing numbers recommended by P&IOSCOM and the implications for the Core Strategy.

Political speeches on the subject of Localism and changes to planning laws from Ministers have given mixed messages over the past few months. At the instigation of SOLVE Maria Miller has written to Grant Shapps, Minister for Housing and Local Government, in an attempt to clarify issues. In his reply he repeated the main thrust of the Localism Bill, which gives a local authority the choice whether to accept the Planning Inspector’s conclusions so returning responsibility to local people.  SOLVE remains concerned that changes to the Planning Laws will negate any gains from the Localism Bill.

There has been some criticism of SOLVE from those who believe we are preventing houses being built for their children. SOLVE is not against new houses but we want ‘the right houses in the right place’. In rural areas this means small developments in communities that want them, not an environmentally damaging major development in the Loddon Valley.  There is no evidence that massive house building programmes lead to economic growth. If we look at Spain the evidence is to the contrary. Our children will not thank us if we allow beautiful countryside to disappear under a sea of houses.

It is not the shortage of houses that prevents first time buyers from buying; it is mortgage availability and the average salary to average house price ratio. When house prices are stagnant, or falling, developers, always looking to maximise profits, hold back on their building programmes. Currently there are around 2,500 homes with planning consent, not started, in Basingstoke. In addition we have over 1500 empty homes.

Peter Bloyce

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