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Council Cabinet Meeting- 17th October 2011

LDF (Local Development Framework) Core Strategy Housing sites Distribution
Up for consideration by the Council Cabinet on 17th October, postponed from 4th October, was the housing site distribution, recommendations and comments, from the Planning and Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny Committee (P&IOSCOM) meetings on 20th- 23rd September. The P&IOSCOM recommended that BAS121, Pyotts Hill, be removed from the Greenfield sites to go forward.
There were 18 public speakers, including a number of Councillors, making representations on behalf of their local sites which included, Old Basing, Chineham, Popley, Down Grange and Basingstoke Golf Club. Yet again questions were asked why the Manydown site was not up for consideration. Most made the point that pressure has been put on their local sites because of this.

Manydown Company Bombshell hits the Cabinet.

Conservatives suspend Councillor Cubitt - Read on.

With their first ever intervention into this debate, a representative from the Manydown Company, freeholder of the Manydown land, dropped a bombshell for the Cabinet by saying that, from their perspective, the Manydown land is “available” for development.  The full text of his submission is:
Thank you, Chair. I represent The Manydown Company, which has interests in the land west of Basingstoke held jointly by your Authority and Hampshire County Council.
We urge you to treat the Manydown land on the same basis as all other available land has been, as a candidate for inclusion in the Core Strategy either in whole or in part.
We wish it to be clearly on the record that there is no obstacle to the development of the Manydown land as far as the management or ownership structure is concerned.
We have been assured that the two Councils acquired the land from the Company in 1996 to ensure that development to the west of Basingstoke comes forward in a planned manner under the auspices of the two Councils. Since that time the Company has structured its affairs to facilitate such development as and when required. From the Company’s perspective, the Manydown land is “available” for development, and has been managed over the past 15 years in a way that prepares it for this. We can also speak for the Company’s farming contractor in this respect. While not actively promoting the land, the County Council has also assured us that the land is available for development.
The SHLAA is the proper process for determining whether land is available for development and in that process the Manydown land was found to be a category one site. To disregard the findings of your SHLAA exercise, rely on a fiction that the land is unavailable and ignore a major opportunity on which significant taxpayers money has already been spent, raises major questions over probity. There are similar concerns over process and the use of the Council’s powers.
From your perspective, this introduces a vulnerability into the Core Strategy which could seriously derail the process with all the financial implications that may carry. The Company urge you to reconsider your position in the public interest. We are also asking for fairness. Ends.
Throughout the debate the Chairman, Andrew Finney, and Portfolio Holder, Rob Golding, repeated that the Manydown questions have been referred to the Economic Prosperity and Performance (EPP) committee on 1st November. Unfortunately its powers are limited and, like the P&IOSCOM, can only make recommendations to the Full Council or Cabinet.
All this made for a very lively debate with several interruptions from those in the public area including Councillors from all parties. Despite the representations, allegations, interruptions and hostility it came as no surprise that the Cabinet bulldozed on and approved the next stage of the LDF process. They rejected the recommendation to remove BAS121.
The Cabinet believed that without an LDF in place then the whole of Basingstoke is vulnerable to the developers’ agenda. SOLVE and many others believe that the unresolved Manydown questions will render the process unsound and we will be left with no plan to defend against developers.
The next round in the fight is the EPP on 1st November. We are exploring other options.
Full Council meeting 13th October - update. (Our last report should have read “October”, sorry for any confusion.)
Following the full Council meeting Cllr Onnalee Cubitt was subsequently suspended from the Conservative Party for having the courage to vote against the wishes of her party and supporting the wishes of her constituents. This, despite the fact that the Conservatives claim there are no whipping instructions on planning matters!
SOLVE remains an apolitical campaigning group that does not want to see any significant developments built on Greenfield sites. We believe that Councillors and Cabinet should put party politics and Councillor interests to one side in the interest of finding fair solutions that balances the wishes of all of Basingstoke residents, rather than protecting one area to the detriment of everyone else.
Council Webcasts - Those who watched the Council debate on 13th October will notice that the webcast was not available for part of the time. By coincidence it missed the whole of the debates on the Manydown issues (motions 2&3).
Peter Bloyce, SOLVE
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