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JR UPDATE plus COMMENT ON THE DRAFT CORE STRATEGY

 
Introduction and Judicial Review
 
The Judicial Review (JR), on behalf of the Manydown Company, took nearly 3 days only ending at 18:00 last Thursday, 15th March. The judge has indicated that he will take about two week to produce his verdict.  He recommended that they ask for an extension of the comment date but we don’t expect that to be agreed by the Council.

Although we cannot anticipate the outcome of the JR, SOLVE is encouraged by the facts that emerged over the 3 days. While BDBC continues to try and hide behind legal manoeuvring a number of key facts emerged under the Judge's questioning. That BDBC's Head of Legal's witness statement was 'inconsistent' with the facts and that Members had indeed been misled by his assertion that Manydown was unavailable for development. That the main reason why The Council had presented Manydown as unavailable was because The Conservative Administration, led by a group of Tory Councillors from wards in the west, did not want the land built on for political reasons.

Whether this JR succeeds or not, SOLVE remains confident that Manydown's exclusion is unlawful and driven by political not planning reasons. To that end, we will proceed with our JR at the Planning Inspector phase if necessary.
 
Comment now before 23rd March
 
I hope you will appreciate that the Core Strategy (CS) documentation runs to many pages and combined with the JR timing has caused a delay in issuing this advice. Notwithstanding the JR we recommend that supporters make comments before the current closing date of 23rd March. Comments should be short and succinct and there is no need to comment on every part of the CS.  The Council consultation http://www.basingstoke.gov.uk/browse/environment-and-planning/planning/ldf/consultations/presub-core-strategy/ has guidance with a form to complete and asks for a separate sheet for each representation. However, individual letters, not on a submission form, will be accepted and forwarded to the Planning Inspector. Comments on ‘omissions’ are valid where it relates to the process and outcome, e.g. Manydown.
References and page numbers are from Draft Pre-Submission Core Strategy Document.
 
Summary and main points for comment
 
Policy SS1 and SS2 Exclusion of Manydown, (pages 24 to 45)Manydown is not featured in the site selection; a blatant political decision. The decision making Councillors lack of impartiality and conflicts of interest have alienated the public who no longer trust the process. Removing Manydown land purchased with taxpayers money puts pressure on all other Greenfield sites. In the JR hearing, with reference to the Council's actions as landowner, the judge said "If the intention was to thwart development that would be unlawful".
 
Water Quality, - The south east is 'water stressed' (page 103, point 6.71) and the Loddon Catchment is currently failing to meet the required ecological status (paras. 6.38 and 6.39).  Development should not be permitted without a clear demonstration that river water quality will not deteriorate and that supplies can be guaranteed. 
 
Transport - Traffic on the A33 is already overloaded. The proposed developments in the north east will add to the congested A33. Section 2.4, “Transport Assessment, ongoing”. Plans cannot be put forward without completing this.
 
Policy SS2.4 and SS2.5 East of Basingstoke and Redlands (Pages 34 &35) –building here would impact on the local environment contrary to a raft of environmental policies in the CS. Combined with other sites in the NE this is contrary to the Council’s intention to avoid large scale sites or groupings. Seriously compromises the proposals for Green Infrastructure and the creation of a Biodiversity Project Area in the Loddon River Valley.  It would destroy the tranquillity of the Loddon Valley, cause pollution and intrusion of buildings on the higher slope. There is no “robust assessment” - loss of a large scale green space.
 
Incinerator and Sewage (SS2.4 and SS2.5) - A large housing development bordering on a waste incineration plant and an overloaded sewage works. These were built in the present locations precisely to avoid settlements.   Basingstoke’s residents, current or future, will avoid the Incinerator and the Sewage Treatment Works.
 
Policy SS 2.3 Razors Farm (page 33) and SS3.2 Upper Cufaude Farm is a reserve site (page 43) - Razors Farm is only viable in conjunction with Cufaude Farm. Integration makes the distinction between allocated and reserve sites pointless.
 
Read on for more detail
 
Much of the following is taken from the CountryWatch (CW) guidance sent to Parish Councils. It lists the main topics for comment with reference to the CS. You can get a full copy of the CW comments by emailing peterbloyce@btinternet.com please state your name and postcode.
 
Policy SS1 site specific allocations. Delivery of Spatial Strategy SS2 (pages 29-45).
Unsound – exclusion of Manydown BAS098
 
The CS is not sound because the General Public, most Councillors, and Borough Officers were mislead with regard to the BAS 098 Manydown site. Throughout the period 2008 to September 2011, Manydown (bought by the Borough with £10M of taxpayers’ money) was promoted as a category 1 potential site in numerous versions of the SHLAA and thus part of the “new homes” public consultation held in January 2011. Yet on 13th Sept 2011 it was announced by the Borough Council that the Manydown site was not available and they stated subsequently that the decision to exclude Manydown was taken in 2006. This was a blatant political decision because a  number of councillors involved in this decision had conflicts of interest and should not have taken part in the decision making process. Therefore SOLVE believes the process of selecting the Site Specific Allocations was not legally compliant.
 
The SHLAA process was a crucial and fundamental source of assembling, sieving, researching, and categorising potential sites for consideration for inclusion in the Local Development Framework and was the only source used for site selection in Sept 2011. The resultant exclusion of land at Manydown has produced a limited and inflexible choice of suitable sites to satisfy the required housing needs. This has forced sites to be allocated on the eastern flank of Basingstoke to the extreme detriment of one of the Borough’s unique natural environmental areas – the Upper Loddon Valley, and produced a confusing and contradictory set of policies in the Draft Core Strategy, particularly environmentally.
 
Policy SS1. (p26 – Para 3.23) is not sound and contrary to the statement that - “A large proportion of the growth in Basingstoke will be delivered through allocations around the town which will avoid concentration in one area”.   The proposals concentrate growth in the East and North East of the Borough, with no development to the West.
 
Water
 
Climate Change (page 103 point 6.71) recognises that the south east is 'water stressed',
but does not have policies which would lead to a reduction in abstraction from the aquifer(s). These policies should also include a combination of more stringent water conservation plus working with the utility companies to import water from the regions which have a surplus. This is particularly relevant as on 20th February the Minister for the Environment officially declared a drought in South East England.  A hose pipe ban is to be introduced from April 2012. The effect of more houses throughout the Borough will attract people from outside the area with little hope of enough water to supply them.
 
Water Quality - on page 53 of ‘The Green Infrastructure Strategy’ (Separate comments by 23rd March) see –
 
 
It refers to the Water Cycle Study Phases 1 & 2, the EA confesses that they do not currently (Feb 2012) have sufficient data on water quality. They may therefore have to advise that further development should be constrained if they judge the Band Status of the river be under threat.   
 
Policy EM4. Water Quality (paras. 6.38 & 6.39)
 
Para 6.38 confirms that the Loddon Catchment is currently failing to meet the good ecological status required of the river. This is primarily due to the discharge of treated effluent into the river.
 
Para 6.39 states that - “it is confident that further additional discharge is unlikely to cause a deterioration of the current physiochemical band status of the river”.
 
However, there remains a risk regarding the impact on the biological and ecological status that may result from additional development. Para 6.39 is far too weak and complacent. No development should be permitted unless it can be clearly shown that there will be no deterioration in the Status of the River. Any necessary work, perhaps including the piping of effluent downstream must be identified, funding agreed, and completed before permission for any major developments is granted.
 
Transport
 
Traffic on the already overloaded A33 would increase beyond its capacity. All traffic from the proposed developments in the north east will add to the congested A33 and produce ribbon development to a point dangerously close to coalescence within Sherfield village, and certainly set a precedent for further similar stretches of development.
 
In section 2.4, Summary of Issues to address it is stated that there are:
 
Traffic and congestion issues at key ‘hot spots’ in Basingstoke during the peak periods, despite there being a generally good road network with capacity (Transport Assessment, ongoing).”
 
 How can plans be put forward without completing the transport assessment? In our view such a fundamental omission calls into question the whole exercise.
 
 
Policy SS2.4. East of Basingstoke (Also known as East of Chineham or Pyotts Hill)
 
This site by its large size, and prominent location in the undeveloped and unique Upper Loddon Valley would:-
  
   a) Urbanise and have the most impact on the local environment contrary to a raft of environmental policies in the CS: e.g. “Background and the National Environment - “paras 6.1, 6.3, 6.4, and “Spatial Portrait of Basingstoke “. These specify river valleys as key features.
 
   b). be contrary to the Council’s intention to disperse development on Greenfields around the edges of the town and avoid large scale sites or groupings – particularly being in proximity to SS2.5 Redlands and SS2.3 Razors Farm, these totalling some 1,400 dwellings. (page 26, SS1 para 3.23)
 
   c). seriously compromise the proposals for Green Infrastructure e.g. to promote perhaps as a priority the creation of a Biodiversity Project Area in the Uppper Loddon River Valley, and be likely to disrupt and certainly alter the character of the only corridor / link between the Valley and Chineham.
 
   d). destroy the tranquillity of the Valley and cause pollution of the River Loddon quality which already requires safeguarding, improvement, and very specific management.
 
   e). not be successfully screened by trees for many years, including a proposed prolonged 10 year construction period, along the total length of the eastern site boundary, and even then would not disguise the intrusion of buildings on the higher slope.
 
   f). be completely contrary to policy EM 3, particularly the key third para requirements; also CW is not aware of any “robust assessment” of the loss of this large scale green space (the Upper Loddon River Valley), or that “ the views of the local community “ have been sought.
 
   g). allow traffic to access / egress Pyotts Hill which is currently incapable of taking any increased traffic to the river bridge at the junction of Pyotts Hill / The Street / Newnham Lane.
 
   h). be contrary to the CS “evidence Base” Landscape Capacity Study (November 2010) which recommends that the land within SS 2.4 north of Whitmarsh Lane not be developed and that SS 2.5 should preferably not be developed;
 
For the above reasons, amongst others, SS 2.4 should be deleted.
 
Redlands Policy SS 2.5.
 
Redlands many of the points made for SS2.4 apply.
 
Alternative - A reasonable alternative site, if housing figures are still required, to SS2.4 and SS2.5 would be to part of the Manydown site (1,350 houses as identified in the SHLAA).
 
 
Incinerator (SS2.4 and SS2.5)
 
It would seem bizarre to build a large housing development bordering on a waste incineration plant and an overloaded sewage works. The facilities were built in their present locations precisely because these locations were well outside the settlement boundary.
 
The Draft Core Strategy fails the Vision as it states “we create inviting places and communities where people want to live” and “we live and work in harmony with the natural elements and systems on which we depend”.   There is no evidence in any supporting document which shows that any of Basingstoke’s residents, current or future, would want to live close to the Incinerator and the Sewage Treatment Works.
 
SS2.4 Para vii states: Ensure acceptable noise and odour standards can be met within homes and amenity areas through suitable mitigation measures in light of the nearby incinerator and sewerage treatment works” . Without costings, timescales and an indication of who will be paying, this statement is meaningless.
 
 
Policy SS 2.3 Razors Farm
 
This site is hemmed in and only viable if SS3.2 is brought forward. Chineham Parish Council will make objections.  
 
SS3.2 – Upper Cufaude Farm is a reserve site. However, in the light of the proposed integration of these sites the last para of Policy SS2.3 states
 
“Master-planning of the site will ensure that it provides for the integration of any future development at the Cufaude Farm reserve site (policy SS3.2)”.
 
Thus the site is viable only in conjunction with Cufaude Farm, which is designated as a reserve site. This makes the distinction between allocated sites and reserve land completely spurious.
 
SS2.2 Popley Fields – Sherborne St John Parish Council will be commenting.
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