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.
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.
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
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?”.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.