ADD UPDATE, 21 October 2018: At a meeting last Thursday Eastleigh Borough Council voted to approve its Local Plan, despite all the holes identified by locals and expert bodies during the consultation period over the summer. This Plan, which includes proposals for 5,300 new houses on the green fields between Colden Common, Upham, Fair Oak and Bishopstoke, will now be sent to Whitehall for scrutiny by an independent Planning Inspector.
John Lauwerys, chair of ADD, spoke at Thursday’s meeting. For the benefit of our many supporters, we share his summary and his speech below.
SUMMARY OF THE MEETING
“I attended the council meeting on Thursday 18 October. There weren’t many people in the audience. Eastleigh Lib Dems, under their leader Keith House, had clearly been told not to speak on the Local Plan so none did apart from the Great Leader himself! ADD did not seek to encourage supporters to attend, expecting it to be a foregone conclusion that councillors would rubber stamp their leader’s flawed Plan.
As previously, the council failed to listen to anything. I gave my speech [below], as did two others, but we may as well not have done. The council then agreed to approve the draft Local Plan for submission to Whitehall – for the record by 25 votes (all Lib Dem) to 7 (4 Conservative; 3 Independent).
Gin Tidridge, an Independent Councillor, tried – without success – to argue that because not all the evidence was complete and the representations had not been made available to the councillors five days before the meeting, progress on the Local Plan should only be ‘noted’. I think this will now be added to the growing list of procedural faults made by the council, which might persuade the Planning Inspector that the plan process is not legally compliant.
If this Plan fails, councillors will only have themselves to blame. They have listened to no one bar Keith House and steamrolled it through. Their judgement day awaits.
Meanwhile, we continue to build our case for the Planning Inspector, who we anticipate – once appointed – will hold his/her enquiry in February/March next year. We will now embark on our final fundraising push so that we can hire the best possible consultants to help us consign this appalling Plan to the dustbin of history.”
ADD CHAIR’S SPEECH
“Mr Mayor, Members of the Council,
I am speaking on behalf of ADD, Action against Destructive Development.
It is nearly three years since the Council issued its Issues and Options paper which was intended to be the Regulation 18 consultation for the new Local Plan running to 2036. Inevitably the most controversial part of the Plan would be about the number and location of the additional housing the Council would need to provide to meet government targets. The Council has settled on a figure of 14,580 required between 2016 and 2036. Of this total all but 4,020 dwellings have been identified as deliverable through sites on which planning permission has been granted etc. The majority of the balance needed, 3,350 dwellings, were to be found through a major Strategic Development Option (SGO) which the Council itself narrowed down to either options B/C or options D/E. The final decision on which to choose was to be taken on the basis of objective evidence and in response to the views of the public.
The position the Council is in now is frankly surreal!
Despite lacking any objective evidence to support the choice, last December the Council confirmed that options B/C should be chosen to deliver eventually 5,300 houses with the construction of a new North Bishopstoke Link Road. Note that this option choice commits the Borough to build 2,000 more houses beyond 2036 into a quite uncertain future and these dwellings would HAVE to be built if the cost of the expensive new road is to be recovered from the developers. Moreover the recent Office of National Statistics population and households projections for 2036 have been revised down and show Eastleigh is expected to require just over 3,000 fewer households than previously estimated. This is referred to in paragraph 30 of your cover paper but no reduction is proposed to the housing targets built into the Local Plan. New government guidance on housing targets is promised soon but is it sensible to choose an SGO now which MUST deliver an eventual hugely greater number of houses than any targets require for Eastleigh’s benefit?
It is also quite clear this is not what local people want. The first consultation on the Issues and Options paper produced 592 objections to options B/C with just 25 in favour. In contrast 96 were opposed to options D/E and 65 in favour. The massive unpopularity of the options that the Council’s leadership is insistent on driving through is again shown by the response to the just completed Regulation 19 consultation. Of the total of 927 responses to the draft Plan 766 were opposed to options B/C and the new link road. If there were any remaining doubt on the part of councillors about the rejection of this choice of SGO, this would have been removed by the largest ever attendance by members of the public at the Council meeting last December when about 800 people came on a wet and cold night to show their opposition to the chosen draft Local Plan.
And this evening bizarrely you are being asked formally to approve a Plan without even having had the opportunity to read the representations made under the Regulation 19 consultation. The paper summarising the responses is woefully inadequate in giving councillors an indication of what has been said by the many respondents. So for example you are not being told that The Environment Agency ‘feels the plan is unsound in its current form’; that Natural England has ‘serious concerns that the development allocation (options B/C) will cause irreparable damage to some or all of the woodlands particularly Stoke Common Woods’; that Hampshire County Council regards the chosen SGO as an ‘isolated site… not in an inherently sustainable location’.
But of course the key decision on the soundness of the Plan fortunately rests with the Planning Inspector, soon to be appointed, who will hold an Examination in Public early next year. The ADD campaign has the support of thousands of local people who are determined to see a wrong headed Plan rejected. And by having already donated over £100,000 they have made it possible to appoint a full range of specialist consultants, together with a planning barrister, to expose the flaws in the draft Plan you are asked to adopt this evening.
Thank you councillors for you for your attention.”
John Lauwerys, ADD chair
18 October 2018