SOLVE - The Council in turmoil.
Friday, September 30 2011 @ 11:15 AM BST
Contributed by: Peter Bloyce
SOLVE Report – What’s going on?
The meeting of the Council’s P&IOSCOM stretched over three evenings 20th- 23rd Sept. Under scrutiny was the Officers’ report for the ‘LDF (Local Development Framework) Core Strategy Housing Sites and Distribution’. This includes the controversial recommendation to build 4,000 houses on Greenfield sites.
Please read on for more - - -
The main points emerging, from both the public and councillors, over the three nights were:
• Manydown was included in the SHLAA as ‘available’, but has now become ‘not available’. It has been excluded from the recommendations although the land was bought with £10M of taxpayers’ money specifically for development. The Planning Inspector had made it clear that it should be considered in this LDF. Therefore its exclusion puts pressure on the rest of the Borough to take more houses.
• The Infrastructure in the Borough cannot take large amounts of housebuilding.
• The excessive Greenfield development to the NE of Basingstoke will turn the A33 into a chaotic nightmare.
• The water and sewage capacity is currently under stress. More houses will exacerbate this.
• There were a significant number of specific points for most other sites with Pyotts Hill, BAS121, coming in for most scrutiny.
The first evening was very lively with over 100 members of the public in attendance, including 26 speakers. At the start of the meeting there was a debate as to whether the process was fair and transparent. SOLVE and the majority there criticised the Chairman and senior Conservatives for involvement in both the site selection process and the Save Manydown campaign, raising questions over conflict of interest.
The report before the committee recommended a number of Greenfield sites to the NE and SW of Basingstoke but specifically excluded the vast Manydown estate owned jointly by the HCC and BDBC. This incensed many who, one after the other, questioned the process and the decision. The Chairman repeatedly said this was not up for discussion as it had been excluded from consideration. Representatives from various parts of the Borough did not accept this. They sought further explanation, in particular why the resolution “not to actively promote Manydown” translated into “not available” thus excluding it from consideration for 15 years.
After a rowdy hour this inconclusive debate ended and the formal public participation commenced. SOLVE and others put forward views on various sites with many returning to questions posed in the first part of the evening. The meeting adjourned at 10:15pm to be continued the following evening.
The second evening began with a motion from Cllr Biermann.
“The P & IOSCOM, having not had any opportunity in its function of ‘oversight and scrutiny’ to discuss or comment upon the veracity, interpretation or consequences of the apparent decision to not “actively promote” Manydown, is not in a position to comment on or endorse the site allocation proposals for the LDF.
Given the very clear concern expressed by residents from all around the borough on this matter, we call upon the appropriate members and officers to make a full and complete disclosure to this committee on why this piece of land, bought and owned on behalf of the tax-payers expressly for the purposes of accommodating (in a comprehensive fashion) additional housing, is now not being “actively promoted” as being available for development.
Only then will we reasonably and fairly be in a position to judge and comment upon the LDF site allocation report in front of us tonight.”
Another lively debate followed but the motion was defeated by the Chairman’s casting vote. However, it was decided to refer this question to the Economic Prosperity and Performance Committee (EPP) which meets on 4th October. The second part of the evening was devoted to Councillors’ questions on the content of the report before them. The main debate over the site selection was postponed into the third evening.
The third evening, Thursday, and a dwindling public attendance, was devoted to discussions on the content of the site selection report and the committee’s recommendations to the Council Cabinet for decision next Tuesday.
Strong views were expressed on the creaking infrastructure, the overloaded A33 and water problems. A motion to recommend to the Cabinet that - “Pyotts Hill, BAS121, be withdrawn from the recommended sites” - was proposed by Cllr Biermann (Ind) and seconded by Cllr Miller (Con). This was supported by Cllr Cubitt (Con) and also the Labour and Lib Dem councillors and passed. Following this it was also recommended to withdraw the much smaller site SOL 002, north of BAS121. These recommendations were due to go to the Cabinet on Tuesday 27th September for their decision. Unfortunately that meeting was cancelled at the last minute as it was inquorate (New date, provisionally, 17th October).
Although this is an important step in the right direction to save the Loddon Valley, we understand that the Council Officers are advising against this recommendation. Therefore agreement by the Conservative Cabinet is unlikely. The whole plan will have to be examined by the Planning Inspector.
SOLVE has attended other Council Committee meetings including the Joint Manydown Committee (JMC). This comprises Councillors from BDBC and Hampshire CC who manage the Manydown estate (820hectares). They were unable to help. It was also taken to the Audit, Governance and Accounts Committee where a motion to commission an independent review was defeated by the Chairman’s casting vote. During this debate the Council Chief Executive took the unusual step to intervene in the debate (he had been watching it on the webcast). We are attending the EPP (see above) on 4th October. SOLVE are building a case for Judicial Review should it come to that.
Although progress is slow, we are making headway and having an effect. This is most clearly demonstrated when you, as residents of the borough, take time to attend and observe the various council meetings. Your support, by doing this, is very much appreciated.
With the exception of the JMC, debates are available to view on the Council webcast. SOLVE urges supporters to write to the CE, Tony Curtis, at the BDBC to express your views. Individual letters are preferable, insist on a reply. The motion above encapsulates the basic difficulties.
Peter Bloyce SOLVE