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.
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.
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/