Inspector finds the Local Plan sound. – Good news for the Loddon Valley
The Planning Inspector has accepted the Basingstoke and Deane Local Plan as sound. He agreed the Council figure of 850 houses per annum and did not suggest any further Greenfield sites.
The news for Old Basing and Lychpit is very good. The Inspector does show an awareness of all the fears SOLVE and so many others have expressed, particularly over water quality, biodiversity, the special significance of the Loddon Valley, the need for mitigating measures to be undertaken and the need for careful monitoring to identify problems before they occur. Nevertheless, he has approved the first development in the valley despite all the representations so many of us have submitted. So it is understandable that some people continue to be sceptical.
Lodge Farm, Poors Farm and Hodds Farm, sites in the Loddon Valley, were put forward as omission sites by Taylor Wimpey in an attempt to get this area developed. However, the Inspector considered that these sites were not suitable or sustainable on several grounds. He repeated that – “the Environment Agency has objected on the grounds of Flood risk and impact on the river Loddon and associated wetlands on biodiversity grounds.”
He also cast doubt on the future viability of all these sites beyond this Local Plan, after 2029, saying – “Some representations hint at the possibility of these sites being brought forward beyond the plan period. Even then, I envisage major infrastructural work, on the assumption that the impact on the biodiversity of the Loddon Valley can be mitigated to an acceptable standard, although it is difficult to see at this point in time how this could be achieved.”
He was concerned about the East of Basingstoke (Pyotts Hill) site, scheduled for 450 houses, and Redlands Farm, scheduled for 165 houses, regarding noise and odour pollution. The Inspector said that – “Policies SS3.7 (Redlands Farm) and SS3.9 (Pyotts Hill) require the preparation of comprehensive noise and odour studies in conjunction with the utility provider, which would form the layout decisions.”
In reply to those who thought that the housing allocations were skewed towards the West and South-West the Inspector echoed our views by saying - “A significant proportion of recent growth in the town of Basingstoke, until the start of the plan period, has been to the north and north-east of the urban area. From this perspective, the change in emphasis to the south-west and west is no more than counterbalancing the previous growth trend in the town.”
SOLVE would like to thank all our supporters who contributed in any way to our campaign to save the Loddon Valley from inappropriate development. A special thank you our Local Borough Councillors, Sven Godesen, Onnalee Cubitt and Clive Pinder (Also founder member of SOLVE.). We have come a long way since the original threat to build 9,000 houses across the Loddon Valley.
SOLVE will continue to work with our Local Councillors as the plans for the East of Basingstoke site emerge. This report from the Planning Inspector adds further to our armoury in defence of the Loddon Valley. Nevertheless there is a lot to watch out for, such as monitoring the river water quality, flood risk, protection of the biodiversity and chalk stream environment and noise and odour pollution. These problems will not go away and we need to hold the Council planners and developers to account.
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council (BDBC) launched what is hoped to be the last public consultation on the emerging Local Plan on 21st December. The closing date for comments is 4pm on Monday 8th February.
As with previous consultations, comments must be confined to, as the Council notice states:-
“Only those representations that refer to a specific change or supporting document, that are made in writing, and are received by the council within the consultation period will be considered.“
The relevant documents and details of how to respond can be found on the Council’s website at http://www.basingstoke.gov.uk/localplanmods .
All the documents are available for public inspection at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council Offices, London Road during normal opening hours. They will also be available for inspection at all public libraries in the Borough.
The Inspector’s final report is still expected in March 2016. It will be up to the Planning Inspector to set out his conclusions on the housing assessment. The changes proposed by the Council, largely at the instigation of the Inspector, do not significantly change the Local Plan housing strategy. SOLVE is therefore hopeful that the Inspector will accept the Local Plan housing numbers and sites. We can then move on and once the Plan is approved SOLVE will be working with Local Councillors in order to monitor the actions of BDBC and Developers.
SOLVE is very aware that the Hart Local Plan is proposing 730 houses to the west of Hook, very close to the village of Newnham, posing yet another threat to the Countryside.
On 5th November representatives from SOLVE and SWAG (South West Action Group) accompanied Maria Miller MP to a meeting with the Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis MP. Maria Miller has issued a Press release see - http://www.solveloddon.org/filemgmt/v...php?lid=22
Although a question on housing numbers was not unexpected, reference to the SE Plan, revoked by the current Government, was unhelpful and surprising since this was a figure imposed by the previous Government for political reasons using questionable evidence.
Planning Inspector questions - In addition to the points made on 5th November the Inspector’s comments reflected many of our submissions, the Inspector questioned environmental issues on the Loddon Valley sites pointing out that these sites are near the Incinerator and potential green infrastructure. He asked for evidence that the LP was effective and how housing proposals square with the Council’s proposals for Green Infrastructure and the creation of a biodiversity Project Area in the Loddon Valley. He also questioned the resources available to implement the waste water treatment and the cumulative impacts on traffic congestion on key routes such as the A33.
The Inspector’s concerns will form the basis of an exploratory meeting, open to the public, with the Borough Council on 11th December. The Council will have to answer these questions or risk rejection of the plan.
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council Officers are considering the many comments sent in response to the public consultation. There are over 2000 comments from around 600 individuals and organisations from both last autumn and this year. We understand that at this stage there is nothing major which will require the plan to return to full Council so the draft plan should go to the Planning Inspector in the Autumn.
As you would expect, comments from other groups around the borough do not necessarily accord with our own. For instance, South West Action Group (SWAG) supporters would like less building to the south-west of the town and more to the east.
For information, under the draft Local Plan to 2029, Borough housing numbers on some Greenfield sites are as follows:- South West 1310 (Kennel Farm and Basingstoke Golf Course), North East 1560 (Pyotts Hill, Redlands, Swing-Swang Lane, Razors Farm and Cufaude Farm). Not included in the SW or NE are Manydown and Kiln Farm (towards Sherborne St John). Manydown is subject to a Master Plan currently being prepared separately.
Despite our differences we have been talking to SWAG about our common objectives. They are:
• Capping the annual housing target at 748, lower if possible, on the basis that Basingstoke has over-supplied in the recent past and that it should not be penalised for doing so now.
• Brownfield first – resisting any further incursion onto Greenfield sites. Instead, allowing brownfield, often unidentified, opportunities to be taken into account. See Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) below.
• Enshrining the idea of 'no development before appropriate infrastructure'. This includes exerting influence to ensure essential infrastructure is identified, funded and delivered.
• Trying to prevent pre-emptive development before the Local Plan is in place.
SOLVE and SWAG met with Maria Miller MP, during July. This was followed by a joint SOLVE/SWAG briefing paper for Maria to present to the new Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis, and/or his officials prior to a meeting.
Part of our case uses latest planning guidance, 6th March, from the then Minister, Nick Boles, which said, amongst other things:-
• “past over-supply of housing to be taken into account when assessing housing needs”. We believe that this policy is aimed exactly at Basingstoke’s situation. Housing completions in Basingstoke and Deane 2006-2013 was 39 houses per 1000 population. Amongst our near neighbours the next highest was Rushmoor 28, followed by Reading 26. Over the last ten years Basingstoke has seen the third highest housing completions in the country.
• “ensuring that infrastructure is provided to support new development, and noting how infrastructure constraints should be considered when assessing suitability of sites”. We believe that this should enshrine the idea of 'no development before appropriate infrastructure'. The BDBC Infrastructure Development Plan has a funding shortfall of £247 Million.
• “stressing the importance of bringing brownfield land into use making clear that authorities do not have to allocate sites on the basis of providing the maximum possible return for landowners and developers”. Read on for the (CPRE) report. See the CPRE “waste of space” campaign on http://www.cpre.org.uk/
Our goal remains to prevent over-development to the east of town across the Loddon Valley. The sites of concern to us are Pyotts Hill, (East of Basingstoke, policy SS3.9) 900 homes and Redlands Farm (adjoining Pyotts Hill to the north, policy SS3.7). These are the gateway to the Loddon Valley.
The Council has issued a special edition newspaper “Deciding the Borough’s future”. The document sets out the Council’s ambitions, yet is short on detail and glosses over the very real dangers associated with over-development on top of an infrastructure that is already at capacity. There is little mention of the very serious issues relating to traffic, water quality, sewage problems and general over-crowding that this plan will cause, and no concrete plans for how these issues will be overcome.
The SOLVE comments are summarised below. These are not exhaustive.
Infrastructure - There is an ‘Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP)’ to accompany the LP which gives a list of projects needed to accompany the housing development. Policy CN5 states: “New infrastructure should be provided prior to occupation of the development, or in larger schemes, prior to the occupation of the phase of the development for which it is needed.” SOLVE would normally support this ideal. However, implementation of this policy is unlikely, since figures presented in the IDP show that most major projects are not funded. Only a proportion of the money will come from developers as part of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) which has yet to be negotiated. CN5 is not sound.
Transport Assessment - Evidence Base, Report Number: 3512774A-PTG / 02 Dated August 2013, gives details of predicted traffic growth and suggested measures to tackle this. There are a number of comments that SOLVE will be submitting including:- Congestion on the A33; planned changes to junctions; public transport, in particular the suggestion of a bus gate [Volume 1, January 2013, p112] which will be vigorously opposed by local residents. These are major infrastructure projects and policy CN5 is paramount. With costs yet to be identified for these changes then the LP is unsound as CN5 is unworkable.
Flooding - Policy EM7 (p91) states that a sequential approach to development will follow national guidance, i.e. sites with a lower risk will be developed first. The plan contravenes the Flood risk policy since it has put Pyotts Hill (SS3.9) ahead of other sites with a lower flood risk.
Water Quality of the Loddon [Policy EM6. Water Quality. p88; Policy SS4. p47 and para. 4.10. p26] – The Council accepts that the South East is ` water stressed' and that River Loddon currently fails to meet `good' status under the Water Framework Directive. Present day technology cannot improve the status, para 4.10. Action needs to be proactive before development is committed, not reactive after the event.
Ecology and the Environment – This will be the subject of a separate submission.
Landscape Capacity – The studies of 2008 and 2010 recommended that the north of Pyotts Hill should not be developed. There should be a clear buffer between the conservation areas along Park Pale and any development. Redlands - SS3.7g, states – “This should not be developed in isolation”.
The Council’s ‘Planning and Infrastructure Committee’ consistently recommended that (SS3.9) should not be developed.
Incinerator and Sewage Works (Policy SS3.9 and SS3.7) – Originally these were sited away from settlements, now there are plans to put housing close by. The current Thames Water Business Plan proposes a new renewable energy unit alongside these sites to “pressure cook” sewage from areas as far apart as Guildford and Newbury.
Environment Agency – The EA recommended removal of SS3.9 from the list. They described it as “high risk”, (SHLAA all versions, including the last, version 7).
Number of houses, Pyotts Hill – The Landowner, Hampshire County Council (HCC), is promoting 450 houses on SS3.9 during this local plan period as opposed to 900 as proposed by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council. The site is therefore not fully available and is therefore unsound.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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. 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
Yes Minister : Bed of Nails, Series 3, Episode 3.
Since the formation of SOLVE in 2009 we have been successful in lobbying for lower housing growth in the Borough. Further, we do not support large scale development on any Greenfield sites east or west. However, the Council has reneged on their pre-election promise not to build large scale developments on Greenfield sites. The proposals in the Core Strategy for some 3,000 houses on Greenfield sites around Old Basing & Lychpit, Chineham, Sherfield-on-Loddon, Newnham, Mapledurwell & Up Nately and Bramley ignores the central theme of the public consultation that residents do not want to see these large scale developments.
This is a direct result of the Council’s decision to exclude 2,000 acres of land, Manydown, to the west of the Borough. Land bought specifically for planned development including housing. We believe that Councillors have a duty to consider ALL sites on their merits, not on procedural sleight of hand and backroom deals. Therefore our immediate aim is the get all potential sites considered on their merits. At the same time we are opposing large scale building on the sites to the NE. If we allow the proposed Core Strategy to go ahead then the threat to the rest of the Loddon Valley is very real.
Major house-building companies are pushing for these developments and ultimately 9,000 houses could invade the Loddon Valley and its hinterland. To put this in perspective, there are around 3,200 dwellings in Old Basing and Lychpit now. The plans could mean 20,000 extra people on your doorstep. These huge developments could swamp our communities. If these massive housing schemes go ahead, we can expect:
Destruction of a North Hampshire Conservation Area and important wildlife habitats
A significant loss of rural character to the east of Basingstoke
A complete loss of Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs)
Increased risk of flooding and pollution of the EU protected Loddon River
A massive increase in traffic, pollution and noise on already crowded roads. A nightmare A33.
Insufficient infrastructure to cope with the increased population
Increased school class sizes, hospital waiting lists and strain on policing
Many years of continual building work, noise pollution and heavy vehicles
It's time to make a stand
Visit – “What Can You Do?” for further information including how to donate to SOLVE.
You will recall that our councillors in the P&IOSCOM meetings will be selecting land for housing development. Agendas are published seven days before each meeting so we will confirm when our sites (102, 103 & 121) will be discussed.
You can check the agenda on the council web site here:
A further threat to our Environment – Comment now!
Closing date 17th October
During July the Government published its draft NPPF for public consultation. This could represent the biggest shake-up in planning for over 50 years and many organisations, including the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), National Trust (NT) and Friends of the Earth, believe this is a major threat to the countryside.
Developers have welcomed this document and have lobbied the Government for changes by pointing to their own research which blames planning laws as a barrier to growth in the UK. Like many, SOLVE cannot see why the planning system is held up as an obstacle to growth now when the current planning laws have been protecting the countryside for over 50 years with no discernable effect on growth either way.
Unfortunately, with the document as written, developers only need to show that their proposals will deliver growth. The assumption of a default ‘yes’ to sustainable development will have devastating impact on the environment and greenfield areas.