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September Report Pre-Submission Local Plan

 Pre-Submission Local Plan- Public Comments
 
On the 25th July, at a Full Council meeting, a draft Local Plan (LP) up to 2029 was agreed.   Although it commanded a majority, the decision was by no means unanimous, with Councillors on all sides failing to support the plan for a number of reasons.
 
 As many will know the process has been subject to much delay mainly caused by attempts by some Councillors to exclude Manydown (proposed 3080 homes in this LP). Their actions and earlier Local Plan was ruled unlawful at Judicial Review, costing Council Tax Payers close to £1M.   Sadly, in the debates over the summer, some Councillors continued to press for more homes east of Basingstoke
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SOLVE's goal has been to minimise development to the East of town which bore the brunt of major development over the last plan period and where there are already clear signs of over-development. In doing so we seek to protect the Loddon Valley and its eco-system for the enjoyment of all in Basingstoke.  At the start of the process we were concerned that 9,000 homes would be built across the Loddon Valley. For this Local Plan the recommended number is 1050. 900 homes at Pyotts Hill, (East of Chineham) and 150 at Redlands Farm (adjoining Pyotts Hill to the north). The larger areas around Lodge Farm and Poors Farm encircling Old Basing to the North and East are not featured in the plan. This does not mean they are safe from development, as current proposals open up a gateway to the Loddon Valley.
 
The next stage is the public consultation on the Local Plan, has just been announced (23rd August) on the Basingstoke and Deane Council website at:-
 
 
This gives us all one more chance to comment on all aspects of these weighty documents. Comments should be in by 4th October. Following that, the Plan has to be approved by the Planning Inspector, next spring. 
 
SOLVE will be working with CountryWatch on our submissions using professional support as necessary and will publish a summary on this website.  This may help some of our supporters with their own comments. Submissions to the public consultation should include any points you may wish the Inspector to see. It cannot be assumed that Inspectors will see everything that has gone before in this long process.  However, the Council are seeking comments on ‘Legality’ and ‘Soundness’ which is explained on the Council website.
 
Given the number of adverse comments and criticisms from the public and local pressure groups during the preparation, in particular infrastructure deficits, it is difficult to see how the plan will get past the Inspector without some modifications. Privately, some Councillors think the Inspector will reject the plan.
 
To donate to the SOLVE fighting fund click on “What can you do?”. 
 
Peter Bloyce, SOLVE
 

SOLVE Report June 2013

 
Gridlock and much more
 
 
Gridlock Predicted - As part of the Local Plan, up to 2029, a Transport Assessment across the whole Borough was commissioned and is currently being conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff Ltd on behalf of the Borough Council. The assessment assumed that 770 houses per annum are built.
 
Their interim report was delivered to the Planning and Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny Committee (P&IOSCOM) on 30th May. They concentrated on the highway assessment and presented what can only be described as a terrifying picture of the future of Basingstoke traffic. This was headlined in the Gazette on Monday 3rd June as “Experts Predict Gridlock”; something many have been warning about for some time.
 
The consultants looked at 27 junctions and said that 25 would be over capacity by 2029 but that 7 are already over capacity now. The consultants’ interim report modelled two major roundabouts, Binfields Roundabout on the A33 and Kempshott Roundabout on the A30.   There was a noticeable gasp from both Council members and public alike when the figures for the increase in traffic at these junctions were presented. In some cases morning rush hour traffic will increase 3 fold and delays by even more. All the major junctions in and around Basingstoke will be modelled and are expected to show similar increases.
 
Congestion problems can be mitigated by altering the junctions, e.g. slip roads, traffic lights, road widening, all requiring a lot of money. However, under questioning, the Council Officers were less than convincing when explaining where the money would come from. The consultants’ response to - What happens if the junctions are not changed? – was that such delays will cause people to change their travel arrangements. Some in the audience said people won’t want to come to Basingstoke. One solution, favoured by many, is to complete the ring road to the west of the town. Since so many houses are planned any solution is not going to reduce traffic amounts.
 
Local Plan Housing Numbers - On the 4th June the P&IOSCOM met to consider the annual housing requirement. Edge Analytics, demographic modelling consultants, presented an analysis and forecast with a number of options for consideration. The full report can be found on the Council website. Edge Analytics agreed that the report illustrated graphically that building more homes in Basingstoke has encouraged people to come here. 
 
Following the presentation and some searching questions, Councillors, torn between the fear of the electorate and the Planning Inspectors, were reluctant to recommend a figure on the 4th June. The following evening, Councillors returned to the subject after consideration of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment where they accepted that the Borough should build 300 affordable houses per annum. They then recommended the Local Plan Housing numbers should be 748 houses per annum, a small reduction on the previous figure of 770.
 
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), introduced by the Coalition Government, insists that Council housing targets take into account net migration. The Edge Analytics report demonstrates that building for local need only gives 550 hpa up to 2029. On the 6th June the Council Cabinet accepted 748 hpa as the figure which will go out to public consultation in the draft plan later this year.

Read on - Top Down Planning; CPRE Campaign;  MP can't support 748;  Tadley ONR Re-think;  Massive Development Threat Remains.

SOLVE Report April 2013

The Housing Debate flares up
Residents from Overton and Whitchurch were incensed by the Cabinet recommendation to add more houses to their villages. As a result a special meeting of the Council Planning & Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny Committee (P&IOSCOM) was held on 28th March where Councillors from Whitchurch and Overton exercised their right to ‘Call in’ this decision. This is a process which scrutinises the reasons behind the Cabinet decision. The debate at the P&IOSCOM was very one sided with the Cabinet Portfolio Holder struggling to defend a weak Cabinet recommendation in the face of probing questions from all sides. 
 
Following this, the Cabinet, meeting on 15th April, decided to withdraw their Decision Notice (DN) agreed on 28th February. Unfortunately this means that 150 houses on Redlands Farm (SOL002), taken out by the withdrawn DN, have gone back into the Local Plan. This is a setback for SOLVE as it opens up the land east of the A33 into the Loddon Valley. SOLVE is working hard to ensure that yet another fiasco in this long running saga does not adversely affect the Loddon Valley.
 
Housing Numbers Methodology, P&IOSCOM meeting, 12th March. ‘GVA edge analytics’ (demographic modelling consultants) presented a review of the methodology behind the housing figure. This was a comprehensive report which mostly supported the current work of the Borough Officers. Amongst other things GVA recommended BDBC use the same or similar demographic model as used by Hampshire County Council.   More work on household size is required and they confirmed the view that – “if we build then they will come”. 
 
In answer to questions, GVA confirmed that Borough policy will play a big part in housing numbers and should be modelled in. This includes the vision and growth policies led by the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) including Destination Basingstoke. Some believe the unelected LEP growth ambitions and the consequent expansion of Basingstoke could destroy everything the people love about Basingstoke. Not something the electorate have asked for.
 
Worryingly, GVA gave a strong impression, based on recent decisions, that the Planning Inspectorate is biased in favour of building houses. This was not lost on some Councillors. The Inspectorate should be independent and if they are not, then our task of defending the Loddon Valley, if it comes in front of the Inspector, will be challenging.
 
Incinerator Health Risks - Unfortunately Pyotts Hill (BAS121) remains in the list, recommended for 900 houses despite the owners, Hampshire CC, saying they will promote only 450. At the Cabinet meeting in February one public speaker with a long background in the Pharmaceutical industry highlighted the continuing debate around alleged health issues living close to Incinerators. He suggested that if BAS121 is developed there is an ideal opportunity to test these claims and counter claims if the Developers and Councils fund a 10 year research programme amongst the new residents. He gave a long list of medical conditions which could be investigated. (The full list can be viewed on the Council Cabinet Webcast, 28th February, approx 2hr 58mins from the beginning.)
 
Read on for Tadley and Housing Number
 
 

SOLVE Update November 2012

 
The Good News. 
After representations from local Borough Councillors, Sven Godeson and Onnalee Cubitt, Hampshire County Council (HCC), the Landowner, has reduced the proposed yield on the Pyotts Hill site, east of Chineham (BAS121), from 900 to 450 homes in the 2013 to 2029 Local Plan period. This was done with the help of our County Councillor, Elaine Still. This is a step in the right direction. However, we believe the same arguments that were used to get this reduction would apply equally to the case for removal of this site from the Local Plan.
Local Plan & SHLAA
Following the Manydown High Court judgement, a draft revised Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), version 7, was published in September. As many will know, the SHLAA identifies sites which can be developed for housing as ‘suitable, achievable and available’. It does not mean that they will be developed. 
Version 7 includes Manydown and a number of new sites all over the Borough. The Council’s Manydown Executive Committee recommended that the Manydown land take some 3,200 - 4,000 houses over the life of the Local Plan, 2013 to 2029. This gives a bigger choice when it comes to site selection for housing in the Borough for the next 15 years. Some new sites have been rejected as not suitable and others, such as the all important Pyotts Hill (see above), east of Chineham, have been pushed back to 2018.
SOLVE, members of the public and Councillors identified inconsistencies and omissions in the SHLAA at the Planning Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny Committee (P&IOSCOM) meeting on 12th September. This included the Landscape Capacity Study from 2010 which recommended that ‘Area B’ north of Whitmarsh Lane, part of BAS121, Pyotts Hill, should not be developed.
In considering policies for the Local Plan the Committee agreed unanimously to include the River Loddon and Test Valley as High Quality Landscapes which should be protected under Landscape Character policy EM1, similar to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The P&IOSCOM site assessments will be on 17th Jan and 21st Jan 2013 followed by the Cabinet on 29th Jan 2013.
Housing Numbers: - an ‘Expanding Basingstoke’
For the revised Local Plan the Council Officers recommended that 770 houses a year, up to 2029, be built, as opposed to 594 in the original Local Plan. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) now requires net migration to be taken into account in the housing calculations. The 770 figure also assumed a much steeper decline in household size despite all the indications that this has levelled out.
At the P&IOSCOM meetings during October Councillors were uneasy about the prospect of building more houses than the local need, attracting those that want to come because – “it’s a nice place to live” and “if we build they will come”. The P&IOSCOM Chairman said that eventually we will build so many houses people won’t want to come here anymore. Councillors were also critical of the assumptions on household size and migration.
The P&IOSCOM recommendations to the Cabinet did not include a specific number allowing the Borough Officers figure of 770 to go forward. SOLVE calculations take this requirement closer to 600 hpa.
On a positive note the P&IOSCOM agreed, by a majority vote, that there were inhibitors to housing expansion in the Borough in particular the water supply and quality. Unfortunately there is a statutory obligation on the water companies to supply water and say “yes” when asked if this is possible, even though the honest answer is “no”. Ridiculous, given that the most heavily populated part of the UK, the South East, is the driest part of the UK and is recognised as being “water stressed”.
There remains a concern over the infrastructure deficit and it is still difficult to identify a plan as to how this will be addressed or, more importantly, paid for. We continue to face the prospect of building thousands of houses around the Borough with only minimal infrastructure changes.
On the 30th October, at the Cabinet meeting to decide housing numbers, SOLVE and many others gave presentations and urged the Cabinet to keep a lid on housing development. Unfortunately, despite all the above, the Cabinet approved an interim recommendation of 770 homes per annum with a future housing requirement likely to be between 730 and 770 hpa over the period 2011 to 2029.
However, the door remains open for a revision of this figure. In the words of the Council Leader – “this is work in progress”. We would like to remind the Council Leader that in the Borough Council elections the Conservative’s ran on a commitment to limit housing numbers to 594 hpa, and now after being elected have increased this by 30% to 770. 
SOLVE continues to question the figures and will be working hard and listening to residents who told a local consultation that they did not want high levels of house building. Let’s be clear, if building is allowed to continue at the pace currently planned all Greenfield sites around the town are in danger of being engulfed by an ever-expanding Basingstoke

Read on for the Manydown Independent Audit Report and NPPF restrictions.

August 2012 Update

Council agree Independent Manydown Enquiry
 
At last the Council has come to terms with reality and accepted that a new Core Strategy must include Manydown. The Full Council meeting on 12th July accepted the Manydown Executive Committee recommendation to promote the Manydown estate for development. SOLVE will be watching very carefully for signs of undue delay.
 
Also on 12th July the Council debated, and accepted, the recommendation from the Audit and Governance Committee to employ Ernst and Young to conduct an independent inquiry into the circumstances leading up to the Judicial Review. A recorded vote showed all opposition parties in support, unfortunately 13 Conservatives continued to oppose this. An earlier attempt by the Conservatives to set up an internal inquiry was ruled out of order. Some councillors were concerned about the cost of an Independent Audit – some of the same people who were prepared to spend far more defending the unlawful LDF decisions!
 
The revised Core Strategy must be in place as soon as possible to avoid leaving the Borough open to premature planning applications. The outline planning application by David Wilson Homes to build on Kiln Farm, between Popley and Sherborne St John, is a case in point. With other opportunist Developers ready to follow suit, the battle over this application matters to all of us. The Development Control Committee (DCC) considered Kiln Farm on 4th July where around 100 members of the public attended. It was very refreshing to see a non-partisan approach from the Councillors who voted unanimously to refuse the application. Unfortunately the Planning Officers, who had recommended the application, poured cold water on the decision by pointing out that, in their opinion, the reasons for objections would not convince a Planning Inspector. However, selective use of planning guidance by the Council Planning Officers was unconvincing.
 

Critical date 12th September

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.

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.

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: