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Update June 2012

June 2012 Update - An apology!
 
The first full meeting of the Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, after the High Court judgement, took place on 17th May. Needless to say the usual political points scoring and recriminations were present but, as expected, the Conservative motion on the way forward was passed by their in-built majority.
 
On the positive side, the motion does acknowledge that the Manydown land was acquired to achieve a properly planned comprehensive development. Despite the political differences there was a consensus that this must be progressed quickly with recommendations to the full council at their next meeting in July. Importantly the Council Leader, Councillor Sanders, accepted that the Council had acted unlawfully and apologised during the debate for the Council’s actions. The full text of the motion can be found on the BDBC website.
 
Given their previous record, SOLVE is well aware that the council leadership would like to delay inclusion of the Manydown land in the Core Strategy so we will be watching the process and the actions of local councillors very carefully. Whilst we wish to see a speedy solution we cannot accept a Core Strategy which does not include a balanced plan for housing across the Borough. We are confident that, given a level playing field, the Loddon Valley sites are the least suitable for development.
 
Election outcome and Councilor Cubitt resigns the Tory whip.
  

Gazette - Tory Stalwart Blistering Broadside

 
If you have not already seen this then please visit the Gazette website at:-
 
 
Those of you in Chineham, Sherfield on Loddon and Bramley please pass on to others in the ward. 
 
Don’t forget to vote on Thursday May 3rd.
 
The SOLVE team.

Local Elections, 3rd May – Use your vote

 
SOLVE remains an apolitical organisation but unfortunately we currently have no option but to fight a political battle. We support Councillors who support our aims of protecting greenfields to the North and East of Basingstoke in, and adjacent to, the Loddon Valley. To that end, at this time, we are supporting two Independents and a Conservative candidate standing for the Borough Council in the May elections. They are Jo Walke standing in Chineham, Chris Tomblin standing in Bramley and Sherfield and Cllr. Sven Godesen standing in Basing.
 
In our opinion Councillors Still (Chineham), Vaughan (Bramley and Sherfield) and Leek (Sherborne St John) have not been completely transparent in their communication over the Manydown issue. They have played a prominent role in the development of a Core Strategy that has been found to be unlawful, and not represented the best interests of their residents in this matter. For those reasons we are unable to support their candidacy.
 
SOLVE believes that the people in these wards are best served by councillors who have the courage to stand up for the interest of their own wards. SOLVE urges you to vote for a candidate whom you can trust to represent your ward, rather than their party, and we believe that Jo Walke, Chris Tomlin and Cllr. Sven Godesen will do this.
 
The SOLVE Team

COUNCIL LOSE JUDICIAL REVIEW: Manydown Exclusion Unlawful: Core Strategy Unsound

The Manydown Development Company (MDC) won an emphatic victory today in their legal action against Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.

Their Press Release, copied in full below, gives you the full story. The core points of the judgement are:

  • BDBC acted unlawfully in refusing to reconsider its landowning position in relation to the Manydown land BAS098; * BDBC acted unlawfully in approving its draft Core Strategy.
  • The High Court has quashed those decisions AND the related decision to refer certain matters to the Manydown Executive Committee for further consideration (in what was described in Court as a patently obvious "Yes Minister"  Plan B manoeuvre beloved of Sir Humphrey). It has ordered the Council to reconsider afresh its Core Strategy.
  • The High Court has pronounced that the decisions of both the full Council on 15 December 2011 and the BDBC Cabinet on 23 January 2012 were "irrational". On the latter the judgment says: "If [the Cabinet] had directed itself properly on the facts before it, it could not reasonably have reached the conclusion that the Manydown site was not available . There was no logical or defensible basis for the decision it took".
  • The Court found the Council's actions unlawful in that "the Council has sought to use its control of the Manydown site as a means of delaying the development of land that was acquired, with public money, for the express purpose of promoting development".

The Court has, without exception, granted the Company the relief it sought on the terms requested by the Company. BDBC has been ordered to pay the Company's costs.

SOLVE, who has worked closely with the MDC, congratulations them on their victory. SOLVE has claimed for a long time that the decisions taken by the Administration to exclude Manydown were wrong, so we are naturally pleased with the decision. We were told by the Chief Executive and by the Administration that our claims were “completely devoid of merit” and “fundamentally flawed”.

It is a shame that residents and landowners had to turn to the courts because they cannot trust their local Council. Now that a High Court Judge has made it clear that the Council acted unlawfully, we hope that both the Executive Officers and the Conservative Leadership will apologise and take responsibility for the illegal decisions.

They have misled the people of Basingstoke and wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds pushing through a planning process that has been proven to be fundamentally flawed and that was clearly motivated by party politics rather than what was best for Basingstoke. As well as re-inserting Manydown for consideration in the new LDF meaning a completely new plan should be developed, we expect someone to take responsibility for the dreadful waste of time and money this Administration has presided over.

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.
http://www.basingstokegazette.co.uk/letters/9595038.Exactly_who_is_misleading_who_/?ref=erec
 
 
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.

JR UPDATE plus COMMENT ON THE DRAFT CORE STRATEGY

 
Introduction and Judicial Review
 
The Judicial Review (JR), on behalf of the Manydown Company, took nearly 3 days only ending at 18:00 last Thursday, 15th March. The judge has indicated that he will take about two week to produce his verdict.  He recommended that they ask for an extension of the comment date but we don’t expect that to be agreed by the Council.

Although we cannot anticipate the outcome of the JR, SOLVE is encouraged by the facts that emerged over the 3 days. While BDBC continues to try and hide behind legal manoeuvring a number of key facts emerged under the Judge's questioning. That BDBC's Head of Legal's witness statement was 'inconsistent' with the facts and that Members had indeed been misled by his assertion that Manydown was unavailable for development. That the main reason why The Council had presented Manydown as unavailable was because The Conservative Administration, led by a group of Tory Councillors from wards in the west, did not want the land built on for political reasons.

Whether this JR succeeds or not, SOLVE remains confident that Manydown's exclusion is unlawful and driven by political not planning reasons. To that end, we will proceed with our JR at the Planning Inspector phase if necessary.
 
Comment now before 23rd March
 
I hope you will appreciate that the Core Strategy (CS) documentation runs to many pages and combined with the JR timing has caused a delay in issuing this advice. Notwithstanding the JR we recommend that supporters make comments before the current closing date of 23rd March. Comments should be short and succinct and there is no need to comment on every part of the CS.  The Council consultation http://www.basingstoke.gov.uk/browse/environment-and-planning/planning/ldf/consultations/presub-core-strategy/ has guidance with a form to complete and asks for a separate sheet for each representation. However, individual letters, not on a submission form, will be accepted and forwarded to the Planning Inspector. Comments on ‘omissions’ are valid where it relates to the process and outcome, e.g. Manydown.
References and page numbers are from Draft Pre-Submission Core Strategy Document.
 
Summary and main points for comment
 
Policy SS1 and SS2 Exclusion of Manydown, (pages 24 to 45)Manydown is not featured in the site selection; a blatant political decision. The decision making Councillors lack of impartiality and conflicts of interest have alienated the public who no longer trust the process. Removing Manydown land purchased with taxpayers money puts pressure on all other Greenfield sites. In the JR hearing, with reference to the Council's actions as landowner, the judge said "If the intention was to thwart development that would be unlawful".
 
Water Quality, - The south east is 'water stressed' (page 103, point 6.71) and the Loddon Catchment is currently failing to meet the required ecological status (paras. 6.38 and 6.39).  Development should not be permitted without a clear demonstration that river water quality will not deteriorate and that supplies can be guaranteed. 
 
Transport - Traffic on the A33 is already overloaded. The proposed developments in the north east will add to the congested A33. Section 2.4, “Transport Assessment, ongoing”. Plans cannot be put forward without completing this.
 
Policy SS2.4 and SS2.5 East of Basingstoke and Redlands (Pages 34 &35) –building here would impact on the local environment contrary to a raft of environmental policies in the CS. Combined with other sites in the NE this is contrary to the Council’s intention to avoid large scale sites or groupings. Seriously compromises the proposals for Green Infrastructure and the creation of a Biodiversity Project Area in the Loddon River Valley.  It would destroy the tranquillity of the Loddon Valley, cause pollution and intrusion of buildings on the higher slope. There is no “robust assessment” - loss of a large scale green space.
 
Incinerator and Sewage (SS2.4 and SS2.5) - A large housing development bordering on a waste incineration plant and an overloaded sewage works. These were built in the present locations precisely to avoid settlements.   Basingstoke’s residents, current or future, will avoid the Incinerator and the Sewage Treatment Works.
 
Policy SS 2.3 Razors Farm (page 33) and SS3.2 Upper Cufaude Farm is a reserve site (page 43) - Razors Farm is only viable in conjunction with Cufaude Farm. Integration makes the distinction between allocated and reserve sites pointless.
 
Read on for more detail

Manydown under the Spotlight

 
The Council Audit  Governance and Accounts Committee (AGA) has requested that an independent auditor examine the decision to exclude Manydown from the Core strategy.
 
The full story can be found on the Basingstoke Gazette website:
 

Core Strategy - Update on the Public Consultation

 

Consultation on the Pre-Submission Core Strategy began on Friday 10 February and ends on Friday 23 March 2012

 Note – The Council has decided to press ahead with this consultation despite the Judicial Review instigated by the Manydown Company.  Whatever the outcome of this, sooner or later we will need to comment on the Core Strategy and how it affects our villages and communities.

Summary - Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council (BDBC) has drawn up a set of policies and plans (Framework) that will determine future planning and development in the Borough. The Core Strategy is a planning document which allocates major sites and locations for development and housing in the Borough.  As well as housing, the strategy deals with the environment, infrastructure, transport, water, jobs and much more in BDBC over the next 16 years.

For consultation information and update - read on

SOLVE Report February 2012

Judicial Review Begins 

The Manydown Company (MDC) has put in a formal request for a Judicial Review and been granted, on 9th February, an expedited JR hearing scheduled for March 13/14.  This is separate from any SOLVE and CountryWatch JR.  We are in regular communication with the MDC and exploring how we can best support their action. In the meantime, and following legal advice, we are keen to avoid duplication of effort and ensure we spend our voluntary funding wisely so have held back on our formal JR action. Once progress on the MDC JR is clearer, we will consider how best to proceed.  Where possible we have put the legal correspondence on our web-site.

PRESS RELEASE: COUNCILS RESPONSE TO SOLVE & COUNTRYWATCH’S LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

 Press Release                                                                                                             
 

The councils response to solve & Countrywatch’s legal proceedings is Fundamentally flawed, Evasive and “lacks candour.”
SOLVE and CountryWatch’s legal team, led by Tony Child of leading London law firm DAC Beachcroft (a leading legal expert in Judicial Reviews of this kind, www.dacbeachcroft.com/people/directory/tony_child.htm, believes the Council’s response “is inconsistent with The Council’s ‘Duty of Candour’”, and “avoids addressing the grounds on which the legality of the Council’s decision is impugned”.
 

Clive Pinder of SOLVE said “It is clear to our legal team, who are nationally recognised experts in this field, that the Council’s legal position is fundamentally flawed and that their initial response is evasive by failing to address the key issues.
 
Click the image to see the full Press Release: