August 2012 Update
Monday, August 20 2012 @ 11:48 AM BST
Contributed by: Peter Bloyce
Council agree Independent Manydown Enquiry
At last the Council has come to terms with reality and accepted that a new Core Strategy must include Manydown. The Full Council meeting on 12th July accepted the Manydown Executive Committee recommendation to promote the Manydown estate for development. SOLVE will be watching very carefully for signs of undue delay.
Also on 12th July the Council debated, and accepted, the recommendation from the Audit and Governance Committee to employ Ernst and Young to conduct an independent inquiry into the circumstances leading up to the Judicial Review. A recorded vote showed all opposition parties in support, unfortunately 13 Conservatives continued to oppose this. An earlier attempt by the Conservatives to set up an internal inquiry was ruled out of order. Some councillors were concerned about the cost of an Independent Audit – some of the same people who were prepared to spend far more defending the unlawful LDF decisions!
The revised Core Strategy must be in place as soon as possible to avoid leaving the Borough open to premature planning applications. The outline planning application by David Wilson Homes to build on Kiln Farm, between Popley and Sherborne St John, is a case in point. With other opportunist Developers ready to follow suit, the battle over this application matters to all of us. The Development Control Committee (DCC) considered Kiln Farm on 4th July where around 100 members of the public attended. It was very refreshing to see a non-partisan approach from the Councillors who voted unanimously to refuse the application. Unfortunately the Planning Officers, who had recommended the application, poured cold water on the decision by pointing out that, in their opinion, the reasons for objections would not convince a Planning Inspector. However, selective use of planning guidance by the Council Planning Officers was unconvincing.
Critical date 12th September
The next critical date is the Council Planning and Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting (P&IOSCOM) on the 12th September where the Council Officers will present a revised and updated version of the SHLAA. SOLVE will be present at this meeting and we urge our supporters to be there.
We expect the updated SHLAA to include some or all of Manydown as an available and achievable site. Previously included sites will remain in the SHLAA at this stage. Some additional sites, both Greenfield and Brownfield, have become available for consideration. One such site is a 15 acre site at Wildwood Farm, Old Basing, at the western end of Newnham Lane. The threat to all our Greenfield sites remains.
Last year the P&IOSCOM recommended the removal of Pyotts Hill and Redlands, east of Chineham, from the list of selected sites but the Cabinet ignored this. Since then the Manydown judgment and the Council local election results has changed the political landscape; all the more reason for our supporters to be there on 12th September.
The Council Planning Officers continue to cite the South East Plan and its requirement for 945 houses a year up to 2027. It does remain a fact that the Government has not yet revoked this Plan despite their stated intentions. However, after lobbying from SOLVE, Maria Miller MP has written to the Council Leader and the Chief Executive confirming her belief that the Regional Spatial Strategy including the SE Plan is no longer appropriate. She has consulted the Housing Minister, Greg Clark, who has stated that it is the Government’s strong intention to revoke the previous Government’s Spatial Strategy. He makes it clear that it is for Borough Councils to set their own housing figures based on their own evidence and there is no requirement to revert to the SE Plan figures (945 pa). We believe that the housing figure (594pa as an absolute maximum) set out in the draft Core Strategy is still relevant.
The continuing housing slump means that developers are delaying their current and approved housing developments in an attempt to maximise their profits. This could be long term and these delays could last some years. However, the Planning Officers do not consider this important but continue to insist that we lack a 5 year land supply. The basis for these land supply figures was questioned by Councillors at the DCC. SOLVE also questions this, particularly as new sites are becoming available and there is evidence that Planning Inspectors elsewhere have rejected sites even where there is no five year land supply.
SE Water has admitted that, despite the recent extreme rainfall, there is a real threat now to our water supplies if we have another dry winter. Water stress across the Borough will continue; this is something Maria Miller MP has highlighted for some time now. If this is the case then building more homes and hence putting more stress on the Basingstoke water supply is madness.