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SOLVE Report January 2015

An Inspector Calls

Planning Inspector Exploratory Meeting – The Council has responded to the Inspector’s questions in a 37 page reply which can be found on the Council website along with all the documentation now in the hands of the Planning Inspector. By and large the Council defended their Plan at the exploratory meeting on 11th December.

Unfortunately from the start the Inspector made it clear that he thought the housing allocation of 748 hpa was not enough and indicated that he wanted a higher housing number (he suggested 850).

At the exploratory meeting there were a number of excellent presentations backed up by evidence. For once the majority of those present (ignoring profit seeking developers) backed up the Councillors and Officers in defending the plan with a number of points including:
• There is a massive infrastructure deficit and the shortage of public funds means there is little money to pay for all the changes needed to accommodate over 13,000 additional houses.
• There was much criticism of the Transport Assessment and questions over the costs of the roads programme.
• Water quality is already exceeding EU limits. The Water Cycle Study does not cover the last 6 years of the plan.
• Sewage processing is already at capacity.
• Basingstoke has built more houses than neighbouring Boroughs over recent years.
• Economic growth is not a given, we could end up like Ireland with a mass of unsold houses.

Needless to say Developers, in the main represented by agents whom, as far as we are aware, do not live locally, wanted more housing. The environmental issues on the Loddon Valley were given a good airing by some speakers, including the Hampshire and IOW Wildlife Trust. There were also a number of comments on the theme ‘Brownfield First’. It was noted that Labour and Liberal Democrat Councillors did not speak.

We would like to thank Councillor Onnalee Cubitt who, as ever, gave an excellent contribution and Maria Miller MP for her contribution to the meeting making a number of strong points about past housing over supply, the water cycle study, transport and, crucially, the ‘tipping point’.

The ‘tipping point’ is relevant to a higher house building figure, i.e. at what point are these numbers unsustainable. The Council indicated it was close to 748 hpa but agreed to consider this further. This is a fundamental question which, to his credit, the Inspector identified early on. The Inspector appeared sympathetic to the need for transport investment, another sustainable development constraint.

Unfortunately the Inspector, by saying he wanted more houses, started on the wrong foot and undermined any pretence that he is independent. He strengthened the views held by many that he was there to push a house building agenda which will trump everything - to Hell with the views of the residents, the council, their evidence and the massive infrastructure problems this will cause. Whatever happened to Localism?

In his summing up the Inspector named a number of key points for the Council to answer and said that a full examination is unlikely before the General Election. The Inspector’s letter to the council and key points are attached.

Meanwhile CountryWatch and SOLVE are re-looking at our proposals to reduce the Local Plan period, see the SOLVE report below for March/April 2014. This has merit where the Borough may be forced to plan for 850 hpa.

Peter Bloyce
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