SOLVE Report June 2013
Saturday, June 22 2013 @ 10:26 AM UTC
Contributed by: Peter Bloyce
Gridlock and much more
Gridlock Predicted - As part of the Local Plan, up to 2029, a Transport Assessment across the whole Borough was commissioned and is currently being conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff Ltd on behalf of the Borough Council. The assessment assumed that 770 houses per annum are built.
Their interim report was delivered to the Planning and Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny Committee (P&IOSCOM) on 30th May. They concentrated on the highway assessment and presented what can only be described as a terrifying picture of the future of Basingstoke traffic. This was headlined in the Gazette on Monday 3rd June as “Experts Predict Gridlock”; something many have been warning about for some time.
The consultants looked at 27 junctions and said that 25 would be over capacity by 2029 but that 7 are already over capacity now. The consultants’ interim report modelled two major roundabouts, Binfields Roundabout on the A33 and Kempshott Roundabout on the A30. There was a noticeable gasp from both Council members and public alike when the figures for the increase in traffic at these junctions were presented. In some cases morning rush hour traffic will increase 3 fold and delays by even more. All the major junctions in and around Basingstoke will be modelled and are expected to show similar increases.
Congestion problems can be mitigated by altering the junctions, e.g. slip roads, traffic lights, road widening, all requiring a lot of money. However, under questioning, the Council Officers were less than convincing when explaining where the money would come from. The consultants’ response to - What happens if the junctions are not changed? – was that such delays will cause people to change their travel arrangements. Some in the audience said people won’t want to come to Basingstoke. One solution, favoured by many, is to complete the ring road to the west of the town. Since so many houses are planned any solution is not going to reduce traffic amounts.
Local Plan Housing Numbers - On the 4th June the P&IOSCOM met to consider the annual housing requirement. Edge Analytics, demographic modelling consultants, presented an analysis and forecast with a number of options for consideration. The full report can be found on the Council website. Edge Analytics agreed that the report illustrated graphically that building more homes in Basingstoke has encouraged people to come here.
Following the presentation and some searching questions, Councillors, torn between the fear of the electorate and the Planning Inspectors, were reluctant to recommend a figure on the 4th June. The following evening, Councillors returned to the subject after consideration of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment where they accepted that the Borough should build 300 affordable houses per annum. They then recommended the Local Plan Housing numbers should be 748 houses per annum, a small reduction on the previous figure of 770.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), introduced by the Coalition Government, insists that Council housing targets take into account net migration. The Edge Analytics report demonstrates that building for local need only gives 550 hpa up to 2029. On the 6th June the Council Cabinet accepted 748 hpa as the figure which will go out to public consultation in the draft plan later this year.
Read on - Top Down Planning; CPRE Campaign; MP can't support 748; Tadley ONR Re-think; Massive Development Threat Remains.
Top Down Planning remains - The new Government promised much with the introduction of the Localism Act and abolition of the previous Government’s SE Plan and top down planning. In reality the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and consequent changes to the Planning Laws removed obstacles to building on Greenfield sites. Developers prefer to develop Greenfield sites, it’s more profitable.
House building, in a desperate attempt to kick start the economy, could mean that areas like Basingstoke will have more houses without the infrastructure to support them. We are constantly told there is a need for housing but there are some 400,000 units in England already started or with planning permission, and a million empty homes; no wonder many question this. Groups fighting to save the countryside are up against a very strong parliamentary housing lobby. The CPRE are currently running a campaign to ‘Save our Countryside’. They believe there are large areas of Brownfield sites which are being ignored by developers. CPRE is urging people to write to their MP - see http://www.cprehampshire.org.uk/
MP can’t support 748 hpa – Basingstoke MP, Maria Miller, has said she cannot support the latest housebuilding target. Mrs Miller has criticised excessive housebuilding in Basingstoke on many occasions previously, fearing the environment will suffer. She has questioned whether there is evidence that this is sustainable and would like to see plans for the infrastructure and how this is going to be paid for. SOLVE would like to thank Mrs Miller for her comments but would remind her that it is her government that has changed the planning rules, now heavily weighted in favour of development.
Tadley – The Office for Nuclear Regulations (ONR) has reviewed its policy opposing new housing close to AWE following a decision by the Community Secretary, Eric Pickles, that the 100 houses on the old Boundary Hall site posed an infinitesimal risk. Each proposed development will now be treated on its merits. There is the potential for 1000 homes at various sites around Tadley; homes which will have to go elsewhere in the Borough if developers don’t come forward. SOLVE has ensured that the relevant Councillors and Officers are aware of the updated policy.
Pyotts Hill - We understand that, despite leadership changes, landowners Hampshire County Council (HCC) are promoting 400 houses next to Pyotts Hill not the 900 that are still proposed for the draft Local Plan. Our concerns, therefore, remain over Pyotts Hill (900 houses) and Redlands Farm (150 houses, removed from the list then r-instated after another fiasco). In putting Redlands Farm back on the list of suggested sites, a doorway to development across the whole of the Loddon Valley could be opened. These sites are also very close to the Incinerator with all the attendant questions surrounding this. Make no mistake the threat of massive development throughout our area remains.
A revised timetable for the adoption of the Local Plan allows for public consultation in August/September. The full timetable can be found on the Council website, under ‘Planning’, ‘Emerging Local Plan’.
Peter Bloyce, SOLVE