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Council heads for JR clash

SOLVE Report – January 2012

It is unfortunate that the current Borough Council continue to defend their decision to exclude Manydown from the list of potential housing development sites.  Residents, Local groups, and Parish Councils from all over the Borough continue to make representations which fall on Council deaf ears.

The latest example was on the 23rd November at the Economic Prosperity and Performance (EPP) Committee which held a special meeting to review the Manydown decision.  There were 13 public speakers including SOLVE. The Manydown Company’s representative gave a presentation which amongst other things repeated their view that the Manydown land is, and has always been, available.

The committee referred questions of governance to the ‘Audit Governance and Accounts Committee’ which next meets on 27th February.  A Liberal Democrat request for a second legal opinion was voted down.  The proposer said - “Who would oppose a second opinion unless they were afraid of what it might uncover?”  There was a lively debate with questions from opposition Councillors.  However, this was made one-sided due to the absence of the regular Chairman and Vice Chairman and some Conservative members.  Opposition questions and comments were answered on a superficial level by the Officers with very little input from the ‘substitute’ Conservatives.  It was clear that the Conservative ‘substitutes’ were there to make up the numbers to use their majority to vote through a pre-arranged motion.

This motion was carried by the Full Council on 15th December after the Conservatives used their majority to push it through. This effectively kicked the issue into the ‘long grass’ by requesting that Officers research the “processes and issues” involved in developing the Manydown land. There is no time limit and SOLVE is well aware that this is a delaying tactic to ensure the Loddon Valley is developed first.

At the Full Council meeting a more specific motion, proposed by Councillor Biermann, to bring Manydown into the Core Strategy, before its adoption, was lost. It was supported by Basing Councillors Cubitt and Godeson. Disappointingly, Conservative Councillors from Chineham, Paul Miller and Elaine Still, opposed this. Despite his promises of support for the SOLVE aims during his election campaign earlier this year Basing Councillor Stephen Marks also opposed this motion.

SOLVE met Parish Council representatives from the east of the Borough on the 26th November. They gave us their support for a joint approach with Countrywatch to begin the Judicial Review (JR) process. As a result we have sent a pre-action letter to the BDBC Chief Executive on 14th December requesting a reply within 7 days.

Whatever happens with a Judicial Review and the future of the Manydown land, the Loddon Valley will still remain a target for Developers. However, if Greenfield sites must be developed, we remain confident that given independent and impartial assessment, the Loddon Valley will not be seen as a first choice.

Unfortunately, it's difficult for SOLVE to refrain from political commentary when the Conservative Party are clearly politicising the whole LDF Core Strategy, using their Western dominance of the political map to force through a lob-sided 'Anywhere but Manydown' plan. We can only hope our MP DOES NOT follow her Conservative Councillors’ lead, and continues to fight for what is ‘Best for Basingstoke’.

Peter Bloyce, SOLVE

 

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