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SOLVE - The Council in turmoil.

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

SOLVE - The Council in turmoil. | 3 comments | Create New Account
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SOLVE - The Council in turmoil.
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 02 2011 @ 04:50 PM UTC

I'm hugely sympathetic to SOLVE's aims, but you seem to give the impression here that you are now campaigning for massive development on MANYDOWN - in other words on vital greenfield, agricultural land. Which in turn rather undermines the case for preserving the greenfield sites to the east of Basingstoke and makes one wonder about your motives here.  By all means resist the unnecessary incursion into the beautiful Loddon valley, but don't start demanding that unsustainable numbers of homes be dumped on other areas, because all you do is alienate people from other parts of the borough and give the impression that all you care about is your own patch of land. I hope you reconsider these tactics and focus instead on the arguments against the development of the Loddon Valley, and not spurious arguments in favour of development elsewhere (least of all on greenfield and environmentally sensitive sites).

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SOLVE - The Council in turmoil.
Authored by: Peter Bloyce on Wednesday, October 05 2011 @ 04:50 PM UTC

'Basingboy', thank you for your comments. I refer you to the sentence in the first paragraph of my report.

"Therefore its (Manydown) exclusion puts pressure on the rest of the Borough to take more houses."

This came out throughout the debate from residents from all parts of the Borough. Perhaps I should have emphasised this more.

However, you should consider the following FACTS:

  • SOLVE are against building large scale developments on ANY greenfield site, Manydown included.
  • We do not believe that Basingstoke needs 4000 new homes on greenfield sites.
  • Basingstoke has already built more than its fair share of new homes in the last 10 years.
  • We rank 3rd in terms of new homes built in the South East and we have enough housing supply in land already committed or on ‘Brownfields’ for at least 9 years
  • We already live in the most populated part of Europe.
  • Our water and sewage systems already fail national and international quality standards.
  • Our transport, schools and healthcare facilities are already overstretched.
  • An independent survey of ALL Basingstoke residents made it clear that 74% of residents did not want any major new housing development....anywhere!

All of these are reasons to hold the Council to their commitment not to build on ANY greenfield site unless 'absolutely necessary' and not to build ANY new 'Major Development Areas'.

However, if the Council insist on ignoring the wishes of its residents we feel it is only fair and reasonable that ALL Greenfield sites identified in the SHLAA are considered EQUALLY. The exclusion of Manydown from the process was done at the eleventh hour and the residents of Basingstoke deserve a full explanation as to why and the process behind this. Particularly as it was £10M of their money which purchased this land in the first place.

 

No matter where we live, we will expect their Council to be fair, reasonable, balanced, evidence based, legal and to act constitutionally. The facts suggest this may not be the case at present. If we are wrong, The Council, members and Officers, have nothing to hide in subjecting themselves to an external, independent review of the process and why Manydown is no longer being considered for development at this time. We call on them to do so.

Peter Bloyce

SOLVE

Edited on Wednesday, October 05 2011 @ 04:53 PM UTC by Peter Bloyce
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SOLVE - The Council in turmoil.
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, October 06 2011 @ 09:45 PM UTC

Dear Peter

Thanks for taking time to respond. I agree with your comments and with your "facts" (although think you'll find that Basingstoke is now second only to Milton Keynes in new developments, once the figure from the past two years are taken into account!), but I'm afraid that I am not reassured by your first comment. Because there is a logic gap in that argument -  Manydown's exclusion doesn't put pressure on other greenfield areas in the borough. The shared argument that campaigners across the borough should have in common is that greenfield development is unnecessary (as well as being counter to government policy about the protection of prime agricultural land). In which case SOLVE should be delighted that Manydown has been excluded because it strengthens the case about greenfield protection. This rather extreme talk of judicial review, and the focussing upon the exclusion of Manydown (and the fervent calls by individuals like Councillor Biermann to develop Manydown seemingly at all costs) is logically at odds with the message you just posted in reply . Why is SOLVE not identifying more brownfield sites (they certainly do exist) and focussing upon the 1000 empty homes? Why is it only the exclusion of Manydown - which an Inspector has alreday ruled on, of course, and nothing has changed since then - that SOLVE is raising? Maria Miller has warned before about the dangers of creating an "east versus west" divide in the town (especially as this pits the wealthier east against less prosperous parts in the west) and on the need to focus on the bigger picture.

It's a real shame that individuals like Councillors Biermann and Watts have come out so strongly in support of Manydown development, even though this has failed in the past (listen to the people in the borough, councillors!). I do hope SOLVE won't make this mistake but will think carefully about its tactics from here on. Because you WILL lose the support of people from other parts of the town - people who want to protect our shared interests and heritage - if you focus relentlessly on Manydown's exclusion, as has been the case in recent comments. Our only chance of retaining Basingstoke's identity is by resisting ALL greenfield development, not by pitting one side against the other (and thereby doing the planners work for them). We don't need to develop on greenfield sites, whether in east or west, so I hope SOLVE will keep that message to the fore, and not create needless 'them or us' divisions. Otherwise, I'm afraid your message will get lost, and ultimately so will the greenfields we all wish to protect.

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