The Local Plan Hearings have now ended and the Inspector is considering all of the evidence put to him, both verbally and in writing. The timetable includes a public consultation period to be conducted by the Council on modifications to the Plan. The Council will process the submissions which will be sent to the Inspector for his consideration before his final report is published in March 2016. The final report will set out the Inspector’s conclusions on the Overall Assessment of housing need and all other matters discussed during the public hearings.
At the Hearing session on ‘Spatial Strategy and Housing Need’ the developers and the House Builders Federation pressed for more housing. All of them appeared to use the same highly selective evidence paying scant regard to things that matter to most residents such as the environment and infrastructure. Developers pressed for more houses at every opportunity during the hearings. I’m sure that the Inspector has heard it all before.
Many participants argued the case for more small sites which they said would speed up deliverability. Several questioned the zero allocation for Tadley, something that both SOLVE and CountryWatch have highlighted before. However, the Council, after taking advice from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), has since recommended that sites near the AWE should not be put in the plan but can be considered on their merits during planning applications.
The number of housing allocations in the South West (SW) of the town compared to the North East (NE) has been a constant gripe from the South West Action Group (SWAG) trying to reduce housing in the south west. This was supported by Taylor Wimpey as they look to develop across the Loddon Valley.
In response to this, with its often misleading information, Cllr Godesen wrote to the Inspector pointing out that housing has been focused around the NE of the town in recent years. SOLVE backed this up by showing that there has been 3 times as many houses built in the NE of the Borough as in the south west since 1991.
Evidence produced by objectors highlighted the problems associated with the sites close to the Incinerator and Sewage Works. There were also strong debates on the water quality of the Loddon and infrastructure deficits across the whole borough. It seems that these may count for little given the strong lobby pressing to build houses. I fear we are storing up major problems for the future. Once the developers have made their profits and moved on, this will leave all residents with a much poorer quality of life.
Despite wide differences of opinion and conflicting evidence the debates were conducted politely and in good humour. Our Local Councillors sent a letter to the Gazette which sums up many parts of the hearings. See below.
The Council has now released a list of amendments to Councillors for their comments. Following this there will be a further period of public consultation for seven weeks from 21st December.
It is our understanding that these are “minor” and that they do not constitute significant changes to the Plan or its strategy. If this is true, and The Inspector agrees, then we hope for no increase in house building numbers (850 per annum) and no additional housing sites.
The public consultations, on the changes since last October, ended on 22 June 2015. SOLVE had originally decided not to comment at this stage since we had already made our views known in previous consultations. However, given that CountryWatch commented and requested our support we decided to support their submission.
The SOLVE comments are as follows:-
“SOLVE has commented previously on the Local Plan at various stages with objections to the proposed development site East of Basingstoke, SS3.9, and other sites in the Loddon Valley. Whilst regretting that a further 100 hpa has to be found from Greenfield sites, SOLVE supports the Country Watch view that, given the evidence, BAS 133, Hounsome Fields, can be added to the site allocation.
We would remind all involved that the Flood Risk Sequential Testing found Hounsome Fields to have a lower flood risk than sites to the East of Basingstoke in the Loddon Valley which are high risk and not recommended for additional housing.”
The CountryWatch comments are as follows:-
“In October 2013 Country Watch responded to the Draft Local Plan consultation with an objection to the proposed Development site East of Basingstoke SS3.9. Paragraph 13 of that response acknowledged that in the Plan period greenfield sites would need to be developed but believed, for reasons set out in the preceding paragraphs 1-12 incl, that both the proposed sites SS3.9 East of Basingstoke and SS3.7 Redlands were un-securely located and should be deleted as unsound.
Country Watch believed that an alternative and better choice for a similar number of dwellings would be BAS 133 Hounsome Fields, and supported that belief with an initial non-exclusive list of comparative advantageous / dis-advantageous elements between SS3.9/SS3.7 and BAS133. Country Watch continues to believe Hounsome Fields would make a justifiable development site in preference to SS3.9/SS3.7 sites - and therefore SUPPORTS the proposed modification :- "The allocation of an additional housing site for 750 homes at Hounsome Fields in South West Basingstoke" and the consequential Policy SS3.12.”
Although the revised plan does not propose large scale house building between Old Basing and Newnham that was originally suggested, there remain serious concerns about excessive housebuilding throughout the Borough. SOLVE shares the concern of many residents and our MP, Maria Miller, that the massive hole in the budget (£190M shortfall in the February 2015 Infrastructure Plan) means that infrastructure will not be in place to support the housebuilding programme forced on Basingstoke by short-term National policies.
Basingstoke has been designated a “Growth Hub” by the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). Basingstoke is approaching full employment and a continued focus on growth can only come at the expense of drawing in new commuters and an increased population to the town. The practical outcome will be thousands more houses, pressure on schools, increased traffic congestion, inadequate water/sewage provision and the loss of green space. Given the budget shortfall it is difficult to envisage how this growth will improve the quality of life in the Borough.
In the meantime SOLVE stands ready to counter any attempt to increase housing development in the Loddon Valley.
Congratulations to Clive Pinder who has been elected to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council for the Basing Ward. Clive received almost 60% of the vote with a majority of over 2100. Clive joins Councillors Cubitt and Godesen from the Basing Ward supporting the SOLVE cause of preserving the character and integrity of the Loddon Valley from over development.
Local Plan – following the elections, work can continue on the Local Plan. The round of public consultations, on the changes since last October only, runs until 4pm on 22 June 2015. The remaining timetable remains as in the previous report (April 2015).
The Local Plan proposal for 450 houses on the site known as 'East of Basingstoke' (SS3.9, previously BAS121), next to Pyotts Hill, remains a serious concern. Therefore, despite the reduced housing numbers in this Local Plan there are unresolved questions including - River Loddon water quality, flooding, proximity to the Incinerator, sewage works and the Park Pale Heritage site, as well as transport and infrastructure.
The recommendation is that these houses are built on the northern part of the site and that this is developed in conjunction with 150 houses on Redlands Farm (SS3.7), in Sherfield-on-Loddon Parish. Beyond 2029 a further 450 houses could be built on SS3.9. There is still the continuing threat of thousands of houses extending east across the Loddon Valley towards Newnham.
The Local Plan also proposes 100 houses next to Swing Swang Lane on the triangle of land east of the Hampshire Clinic.
Clive Pinder has resigned from his formal role with SOLVE in order to stand for election to the Borough Council in the Basing Ward. Clive was instrumental, along with a few others, in establishing SOLVE from its formation in 2009. Like Councillors Cubitt and Godesen in the Basing Ward, he remains an active and passionate supporter of our goals. Our heartfelt thanks to Clive for his work with SOLVE. As in previous elections, SOLVE supports candidates, regardless of political party, who demonstrate, by their actions, support for our aims to protect the Loddon Valley from over development.
LOCAL PLAN - Update
The latest draft of the Local Plan was accepted by the Full Council on 26th March. This represents a positive outcome for SOLVE after years of campaigning. It is disappointing that the East of Basingstoke site (Pyotts Hill) still has 450 new homes planned. However, the overall result seems balanced and reflects the concerns that SOLVE and Old Basing and Lychpit residents had about development in the Loddon Valley.
This revised version of the Local Plan will now go to a further public consultation in May and June. A public pre-hearing with the Planning Inspector is due to take place on 21 July 2015 with full public hearing sessions due in October/November 2015. If changes to the Local Plan are made during the course of the Inspector’s examination, then a further round of consultation will take place on proposed modifications, prior to any formal adoption in early 2016.
Following the Local Plan Exploratory Meeting on 11th December, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council (BDBC) has accepted the Inspector’s suggested housing allocation of 850 dpa (dwellings per annum). This means a total of 15,300 new houses across the Borough by 2029, including 7,690 on Greenfield sites.
The Borough has to find an extra 1,800 dwellings on top of the original proposals in the draft plan. Further Greenfield sites around Basingstoke have now been considered, including sites to the north and east of Basingstoke. The agenda for the Economic Planning and Housing Committee on 4th March (plus the 12th March if needed) has now been issued and full details can be found at http://www.basingstoke.gov.uk/rte.asp...ingId=2140 . A map of the proposed housing sites around Basingstoke is at Appendix G.
In response to a request from BDBC, Hampshire County Council (HCC), owner of the site known as East of Basingstoke or Pyotts Hill (SS3.9), has rejected proposals to double the housing quota on this site to 900 houses. They say that their decision to limit development on this site to 450 remains and is not up for negotiation. They point out that they have already released a great deal of land around Basingstoke, including a half share in Manydown, as well as many other sites throughout Hampshire.
The HCC rejection of further development on SS3.9 during this Local Plan to 2029 is good news for the larger sites to the east (Lodge Farm and Poors Farm) because opening up these sites depends on the full development of SS3.9. This is not to say that these sites are not vulnerable in the longer term.
The Economic Planning and Housing Committee will review the updated proposals on 4th March. Borough Officers have put forward Hounsome Fields (750 houses) as an additional Greenfield site. This is south west of Basingstoke, adjacent to the Golf Course and Kennel farm, sites already in the draft Local Plan. The remaining numbers have come from contingency and Brownfield sites.
Within the Council there remain those who wish to develop in the east in order to take pressure off the other sites. SOLVE and our Local Councillors are very aware of this and will work hard to protect the Loddon Valley. Make no mistake. This remains a critical time for the future quality of life in and around the Loddon Valley and our Parishes.
Later this month the full Council meets to decide whether to accept the Local Plan going forward to the Inspector in the autumn. In the meantime, we have the small matter of a General Election, one of the many unknowns with which we have to contend.
Basingstoke is not alone. Despite opposition from Local Groups, Councillors and MPs, Planning Inspectors across the Country continue to frustrate elected Councils with their blind insistence on more houses. In our case, like many others, they seem to ignore infrastructure, environment, transport, and many other factors.
The question must be asked – what is the best way to address the need for housing in the UK? Endless housebuilding is not the answer. Other factors which must be addressed are infrastructure, environment, transport, quality of life and above all an unsustainable population growth.
Worth a thought - this Local Plan extends to 2029, 14 years from now. This is a long time. Go back 14 years to 2001 - the financial crisis was 6 years away and with it a massive housing slump. No one, least of all economists or house builders, can predict the future.
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.
The consultation on the changes to the draft Basingstoke and Deane Local Plan which, amongst other things, will determine the housing requirement in the Borough up to 2029, ends at 4pm on June 13th.
The consultation documentation is crystal clear and states "This is a focussed consultation where comments should only be made on the proposed changes to the Pre Submission Local Plan since the previous consultation"
However, we understand that the South West Action Group (SWAG) have been advised by the Planning Department that, if you did not comment on something in the last consultation, you can still comment, whether it is a change or not. These comments will be passed to the Inspector later this year for consideration, along with all previous consultation submissions. It appears that some SWAG supporters failed to comment previously and are trying to reopen the debate. It is difficult to comprehend that comments not related to changes can be restricted to SWAG, and the change in policy appears to open the door for developers to propose additional sites for development. This change in the consultation, not widely known, and in direct conflict with the consultation documentation, may leave the process open to challenge and further delay.
Given this, supporters that did not comment previously, and wish to do so, now have another opportunity. Previous SOLVE and CountryWatch comments can be found on the Council website and a summary is also on this website under the entry for October 2013.
The main points to highlight in submissions from SOLVE supporters at this stage are:-
• No new Greenfield sites
• The housing target remains at 748 houses per annum.
• Reduction in the number of houses on Pyotts Hill to 450 at the behest of the owners Hampshire County Council (HCC), Policy SS3.9.
• The provision for a western by-pass linking M3 Junction 7 to the A339, Policy SS3.10m. This was also identified in the Transport Study issue 4. SOLVE supports this as it will help relieve over capacity and congestion from Junction 6 and the A33 corridor.
• Housing on Pyotts Hill has been brought forward two by years.
• A further 450 on Pyotts Hill may be included after 2029, policy SS3.9.
• We are aware that Taylor Wimpey representatives have been surveying Hodds Farm recently. Hodds Farm is not featured in the Draft Local Plan.
• We object to the deletion “new residential development will not be acceptable within Flood Zones 2 or 3”, para 6.51. This is inconsistent with specific mention of site flood zones, e.g. SS3.9f and SS3.11k.
• Policy CN6 - Infrastructure changes should be in place before new housing is occupied. This policy should be paramount.
• Under the Environment Agency Water Framework Directive, the River Basin Management plans, due in 2015, must form a significant piece of evidence on relevant sites (para 6.45) and be included in all planning applications.
• The Manydown site has been allocated 3400 houses during the plan period. Previous Cabinet decisions agreed 4000. The Major Development Area Plan for Manydown should recognise this, so should the Local Plan.
Although the draft plan is not perfect, on balance, we support its submission to the Planning Inspector. Without a Local Plan the risk is high from developers actively exploring opportunistic planning applications before it is approved, e.g. Hodds Farm.
Details of the revised Local Plan can be found on the Council website consultation page at http://www.basingstoke.gov.uk/ . This includes the draft Plan with tracked changes for ease of commenting. (All references refer to this except where otherwise stated.)
Basingstoke and Deane Council have approved the draft Local Plan for another round of public consultation between April 25th and June 13th. The Local Plan will determine the housing requirement and sites in the Borough up to 2029.
Any comments should be confined to changes that have been made since the last public consultation. All previous consultation submissions, from the end of last year, will be forwarded to the Planning Inspector.
Borough Elections 22nd May
SOLVE remains an apolitical organisation. However, we support Councillors who support our aims of protecting the Loddon Valley from development. Therefore SOLVE is delighted to hear that Councillor Onnalee Cubitt is standing for re-election as an Independent in the Basing Ward. We are indebted to her for her continuing support and work within the Council on behalf of her residents. She has worked tirelessly, diligently and passionately for her ward and it is good to see that there are still some politicians with the courage and integrity to put the interests of their residents before their political career.
Onnalee has a wealth of knowledge regarding the local plan, its background and the difficulties encountered during its preparation. She is ideally placed to take this forward on behalf of all the residents in our ward and it would be a tragedy if she were unable to represent us in the future. SOLVE has no hesitation in supporting Onnalee.
Councillor Cubitt was not allowed back into the Conservative group because she had the courage and integrity to stand up for the people who elected her even if it meant voting against the party she has supported all her adult life. In essence Councillor Cubitt was unable to give an assurance that she would not put her residents before the party. It is deeply ironic that this comes at a time when the whole country is questioning the motivation of politicians.
A Conservative candidate, who was rejected by the Basing and Lychpit Conservatives, has been imposed on the Ward by people who do not live here and who were at the heart of the campaign to exclude Manydown from the original Local Plan. Onnalee’s stance was vindicated when a Judicial Review declared the Local Plan “unlawful” in 2012 (See below the report on 18th April 2012). This action, to reject Councillor Cubitt and impose a candidate, prompted a number of Basing and Lychpit Conservatives to resign from the party and support Onnalee’s campaign.
For the record, SOLVE does not endorse any other candidate or party standing in this May’s elections. Any claim, inference or oblique references by other candidates, either in the Basing and Lychpit Ward or elsewhere, were not agreed by SOLVE. We will continue to be loyal to those who have supported us.
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.
SOLVE and our advisors have been studying the many hundreds of pages commenting on the Pre-Submission Local Plan as a result of the public consultation. This has raised a number of issues and the Council Planning and Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny Committee (P&IOSCOM) debated these on 14th November.
The P&IOCSOM recommended further work and a requirement for a further public consultation should there be, as expected, major changes to the plan. A new timetable was agreed which means the plans will not be adopted until 2015.Amongst the further work required is:
The Borough’s objectively assessed housing need. Developers have made alternative proposals for a higher housing allocation. SOLVE and others have made proposals for lower housing numbers but these appear to carry less weight.
Amendments to site allocations, including the identification/assessment of new ones, as suggested by respondents. This includes changes to the Pyotts Hill site East of Basingstoke/Chineham now that the landowner, Hampshire County Council (HCC), has confirmed they will promote only 450 houses on this site before 2029.
There is now a danger that developers will make applications on land that was not identified in the original Local Development Framework. We are concerned that in addition to 450 houses East of Pyotts Hill, Lodge Farm (BAS102) & Poors Farm (BAS103) may be included because of this delay.
Taylor Wimpey has submitted a comprehensive 174 page report much of which is a re-hash of their previous rejected evidence. They want a massive increase in housebuilding in Basingstoke. In essence it would increase the number of houses in the Borough by 50% during the plan period up to 2029. Their main aim is the release of land owned by the Kings Fund, which Taylor Wimpey has options on, for housing to cover much of the Loddon Valley to the north and east of Old Basing and Chineham.
Hodds Farm also at risk – At the P&IOSCOM in November, Council Planning Officers presented, without warning, a further site to the East of Old Basing, Hodds Farm. Unsurprisingly, many Councillors were infuriated by this, in particular the lack of notification. Hodds Farm is land in Old Basing East of the VW garage, between the A30, the railway line and Ashmoor Lane with the potential for 1000 houses.
This site was rejected by the Planning Inspector in 2005. However, the submission from Taylor Wimpey, in which they said they ‘had an interest in Hodds Farm’, was not put forward by them as a specific site during this consultation. This was an initiative by the Borough Officers who have told us that they are “exploring alternatives”. It would be understandable if other Landowners and Developers, for example Pellipar Investments representing the developers of Hounsome Fields in the SW of the Borough, might also look for preferential treatment.
The possible inclusion of Hodds Farm will require further evidence such as a Landscape Assessment, sequential testing for flood risk, transport impact of an additional 1000 homes accessed off the A30 and the impact of a road linking the A33 to the A30 across the Loddon Valley.