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Gazette Letter and a proud Sir Humphrey

Letter to the Gazette - Visit the Basingstoke Gazette for a letter from Clive Pinder on behalf of SOLVE.
Sir Humphrey Appleby would be proud
Manydown Development Company (MDC freeholders of the Manydown Land) - Submission to the Manydown Executive Committee who manage Manydown as leaseholders on behalf of the BDBC. It spells out very clearly why the latest attempts by the Council to exclude Manydown from the current planning process and the Officers’ recommendations on planning for future use, are both ill-informed and a deliberate attempt to effectively kick the issue into the long grass. A similar submission was put forward during the Judicial Review. We encourage you to take up the points raised with your local Parish, Borough and County Councillors.
From the MDC
  1. These representations are made without prejudice to the Company’s position before the court in the judicial review proceedings before the Hon Mr Justice Lindblom. Any future decision in relation to Manydown will be obliged to take the findings of that judgment into account.
  2. To be frank, the Officer’s report (‘the Report”) and the recommended decision are plainly an attempt by the Council to kick the issue of development on the Manydown land into the long grass, with an unnecessary “assumption” of starting again from scratch to consider all possible options, a protracted and drawn-out process, unnecessary steps, and inflated costs. 
  3. It is premised on the assumption that “the requirement is for a fundamental review of the options for Manydown, which will include comprehensive consultation with the public on its views and preferences” (para 9.1). This includes “a range of potential new options yet to be identified”. There is no basis for this assumption in the 15 December 2011 Council resolution, or otherwise. It is also inconsistent with the Council’s own view as local planning authority.
  4. The Report appears to be an example of what Sir Humphrey Appleby famously called “Plan B” to scuppering any project: make it appear long and expensive[1]. The Report estimates a cost of up to £500,000 for work to get to the point where the Council decides whether the land should be promoted or not. Total costs before a final decision on whether to promote the land for development are up to £1 million, with a timescale of three years or more (at Stage 11). Yet we note that Hampshire County Council’s email of 12 October 2011 to Karen Brimacombe estimates less than £250,000 to get to the same point (ie production of a development framework / masterplan). A great deal of work of continued value and relevance has already been done. 
Read on for more

[1] Yes Minister : Bed of Nails, Series 3, Episode 3.

5. The recommended decision is that a final decision on whether to promote the land for development would not be taken for three years or more – no ordinary landowner with such a site with the benefit of the SHLAA and the local planning authority’s site assessment would behave in such a way.

6. The work set out in the Report goes far beyond what would be necessary to consider whether the land has “any potential for future development” Much of the work would be done by the Defendant as local planning authority, and much of that after the inclusion of the land in a Core Strategy for example as part of a more detailed development plan document or area action plan.

7. The proposed decision would be irrational and unlawful as being contrary to the Council's statutory duties, in the same way as the earlier decisions were, because this is yet another attempt to frustrate rather than promote development of the land, by kicking the issue into the long grass by not making the land available to the council as local planning authority to consider for inclusion into the currently planned Core Strategy 
8.  The land ought to be promoted for development without delay without artificial constraints or hurdles being created, and not in the way proposed in the report, and in any event it should not be made unavailable, which is the current (unlawful) position. The proposed recommendation contained in the officer’s report does not cure this unlawfulness.
9. In addition to the irrationality on planning grounds,  the decision of the Council not to allow the site even to be considered by itself as local planning authority as part of the current core strategy  is also unlawful and irrational having regard to the Council’s fiduciary obligations. Quite apart from the fact that the price originally paid by the council with funds from the LSVT included a hope value for development, the benefits to the Borough if it takes its stewardship of the asset seriously: better infrastructure, better facilities, generous open spaces for public benefit, flagship development with top quality affordable housing- all at no net cost to the borough and leaving a substantial sum in the coffers of the Borough present an overriding case against refusing to make the land available at the current time for possible allocation.   Even development of a modest part of the land could deliver these benefits.
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