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Report – March/April 2014 - No new Greenfield sites

A meeting of the Council Planning Infrastructure and Scrutiny Committee (PIOSCOM) on January 30th decided to recommend an unchanged Local Plan (LP) housing target of 748hpa. This went against the recommendation from the Borough Planning Officers to increase the target to 807hpa. Councillors had misgivings over the assumptions on economic and employment growth. One Councillor suggested the Officers were ‘naïve’ if they accepted these assumptions given the record on economic predictions in the past.

Councillors also questioned the consequences of the Council’s Economic Growth Strategy which is being used by developers to show the need for more people to move into the town rather than improve the prosperity of those already here. Handing developers a weapon with which to press the case for increased housing in the Borough was not the smartest move.

SOLVE has been lobbying Councillors to reject the Officers’ housing growth agenda and instead reflect the very clear wishes of residents across the Borough which is that we have already carried more than our fair share of development.

No new Greenfield sites

At the PIOSCOM meeting on 5th March to consider a revised pre-submission Local Plan (LP), Councillors accepted the recommendation of the Portfolio Holder (Councillor Mark Ruffell) not to add any new Greenfield sites to the revised plan. This means that the threat to Hodds Farm, Lodge Farm and Poors Farm has receded for the time being. Unfortunately Redlands Farm (150 houses) remains, as does East of Basingstoke/Chineham. These have been brought forward to 2017 from 2019 but the latter has been reduced to 450 houses from 900 during this plan period.

CountryWatch and SOLVE submitted a proposal to reduce the Local Plan period. In essence we are proposing a 15 year plan, 2011-2026, instead of the proposed 18 year plan to 2029. Adopting a 15 year plan, which is all that is required, reflects the position of some neighbouring councils and would reduce the Borough housing target by 2,400 homes. If the longer period is adopted it would allocate, some say blight, some sites for an unnecessarily long period of time and simply increase developers’ land banks. Some councillors were sympathetic but the majority, clearly weary of the process, did not wish to take this forward at this stage.

A further public consultation is due to begin in April for 7 weeks but will be restricted to the changes made since the previous draft.

Although it is good news that no new Greenfield sites are proposed, the lack of a Local Plan, adoption due in July 2015, leaves the Borough open to speculative applications from developers. This is already happening in other parts of the Borough. There is also no guarantee that the Planning Inspector will approve the plan. Councils and groups like SOLVE look on, often in horror, at planning decisions and recommendations in other areas in the country. The changes to the planning laws have, as many suspected, handed the construction industry all the cards leaving local people and Councils all over the UK frustrated and angry.

An adviser to Number 10 has warned that the Government's planning reforms have led to a planning 'free for all' and that the resulting 'physical harm' to the countryside could become the 'defining legacy of this government'. See SOLVE Facebook page.

Beware of misleading/false statements
We are coming up to the election season where some of our Borough Councillors are up for re-election. SOLVE is not a political organisation and will only endorse candidates who have demonstrated support for our cause. Some candidates may wish voters to forget their record or try to blame others, such as Hampshire County Council, for the Manydown fiasco. For the few who do read the election literature, don’t be misled.

The facts are - It was the decision of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to ignore representations by the landowner which caused a Judicial Review to expose their “unlawful” actions subsequently taking the Local Plan back to the drawing board. The voting record of those claiming otherwise speaks for itself.

Nevertheless, we would like to thank Councillors Cubitt, Godesen, Biermann, Tobin and Still for their continued support. There is more work to be done as we continue to defend sites in and around the Loddon Valley.

Peter Bloyce
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