Eastleigh needs sustainable development – wake up Eastleigh council!

ADD UPDATE, 18 July 2019: To anyone who came of age in the 1960s, Eastleigh’s Local Plan has an eerily retro feel to it.

In those days, no one had heard of sustainable development or global warming. The car was king, you measured your success in life by the number and value of ‘motors’ in your front drive and you only used public transport or the bicycle if that was all you could afford. Extinction Rebellion were probably just a whacky new rock group and, as for Greta Thunberg, her parents hadn’t even been born.

Fast forward to 2019, and Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) don’t seem to realise that times have moved on. It is truly shocking that any authority – let alone one that claims to be ‘tackling climate change’ – should be promoting a totally unsustainable development in options B/C, which involves around new 5,500 houses and a major new road north of Bishopstoke, Fair Oak and Allbrook and south of Colden Common, Owslebury and Upham. The government requires that any new development should be sustainable. The UK parliament has recently declared a climate change emergency.

ADD has been investigating sustainable transport options including rail, bus, cycling and walking for the development proposals in the Local Plan. EBC has deliberately played down the opportunities for a new station at Allington Lane and for improved rail services in the area.

A new station at Allington Lane combined with integrated bus services, cycle and pedestrian routes could serve up to 7,000 households. The concept of local rail services in the Eastleigh-Fareham-Southampton Central triangle is being taken forward by Network Rail via their current Continuous Modular Strategic Planning (CMSP) procedure. This means that there could be a viable 30-minute service between Eastleigh and Fareham. This is supported by the Three Rivers Rail Partnership and Rail Future.

Over the life of the proposed Local Plan (to 2036), there are further proposals such as the Solent metro that will keep pace with development of the Solent Area.

On the other hand, options B/C are utterly car-dependant and could have been calculated to maximise carbon dioxide levels. Building a new road would destroy the most biodiverse part of the borough, and is as likely to contribute to traffic congestion as to relieve it, especially in the Allbrook/ Woodside Avenue areas.

More and more bodies are emphasising the vital need for sustainable solutions, including the recently published report by the UK Committee on Climate Change. In these circumstances why is EBC proposing development options B/C in the most remote parts of the borough far from all rail stations and other amenities? Why are they ignoring the potential to provide a new station and improved rail services, developing a truly sustainable and integrated transport service?

To quote a well-known sixties hit, The Times They Are A-Changin’. Wake up, Eastleigh.


ADD continues to build case against Eastleigh’s Local Plan, amidst further delays

ADD UPDATE, 25 June 2019: Several ADD supporters have recently asked about the progress of our campaign to defeat Eastleigh’s Local Plan, and the likely timing of Planning Inspector’s examination of the plan. Since its formal submission to Whitehall last October, the Planning Inspector has highlighted numerous areas of missing evidence and asked the council to fill these gaps as quickly as possible. The council committed to completing this task by last Friday (21 June) but, due to problems with their website (again), these new reports have still not been released to the public. Given the ongoing delays to this process, we now think the Examination in Public won’t start before October – at the earliest.

While the council continues to try and produce evidence to support its ill-conceived plan, the ADD team continues to build the most compelling case against it. Indeed, thanks to ongoing donations from our thousands of supporters, we have been able to engage – as we had hoped – the best planning, traffic, environmental and legal advisers to develop our arguments.

Yesterday, a team from ADD, CPRE and our planning consultants West Waddy met our barristers, Hereward Phillpot QC and Caroline Daly of Francis Taylor Building chambers in London (see above). We cannot of course at this stage disclose what was discussed – save to say that the mood of the meeting was “optimistic”.

Thank you again to all of you, locally and nationally, who have supported our campaign so far. If you have yet to contribute to our fighting fund, or would like to give more, you can find out how to do so here.

The ADD team will strain every sinew to show how unsound and environmentally damaging Eastleigh’s Local Plan is and to highlight the council’s lack of evidence to justify the choice it has made against the clear opposition of local people.

As we have said all along, together we can win this fight!


Letter to the Hampshire Chronicle: More concerns about the future of the River Itchen

Letter to the Hampshire Chronicle, 14 June 2019:  THE environmental threats to the River Itchen, and potential solutions, were recently highlighted by BBC’s Countryfile. Whilst reporting on the controversy over food company Bakkavor’s release of chemicals in the river at Alresford, the BBC also said many farmers were acting on environmental concerns. A river keeper has highlighted another danger in a letter to the Chronicle this week. As he writes: “Unfortunately, there is another, darker side to the picture – plans by Eastleigh Borough Council to build thousands of houses on land that drains, via a network of feeder streams, directly into the River Itchen. If these plans ever go ahead, the damage would more than cancel out all the advances highlighted in the programme.”


Councillor for West End South opposes Local Plan – in Oxfordshire. ADD: ‘Double standards and muddled thinking

Eastleigh News, 20 May 2019: The newly elected councillor for West End South has told how he became ‘a little hot under the collar’ when heard of plans to ‘pave over vast swathes of the green belt’ in Oxfordshire. Liberal Democrat Tim Bearder who is both a West End parish councillor and a borough councillor for West End South also sits as a county councillor in Oxfordshire where he is opposed to South Oxfordshire District Council’s Local Plan. In an article published in the Oxford Times last month Councillor Bearder warned South Oxfordshire’s Local Plan would result in a ‘catastrophic level of construction.” ADD have accused him of “double standards” in supporting Eastleigh’s Local Plan while opposing the Local Plan in his home county.


Eastleigh MP Mims Davies urges constituents to respond after EBC are forced to re-consult on proposed Local Plan

Mims Davies MP, 16 May 2019: The Member of Parliament for Eastleigh, Mims Davies, has urged her constituents to make sure that their voice is heard over the local council’s delayed Local Plan after Eastleigh Borough Council were forced into launching a new six-week consultation on over forty sites proposed for development across the Borough within the proposed Local Plan. The consultation comes after Eastleigh Borough Council was reprimanded by the Independent Planning Inspectorate in March for failing to properly consult on the proposed sites. The new consultation has already faced criticism after residents were unable to complete the consultation online, while the form on the website provided no details of where it should be sent once completed.


Eastleigh’s council fails to notify Bishopstoke parish of planning applications – parish chair declares: ‘We are not impressed’

Eastleigh News, 16 May 2019: Bishopstoke Parish Council have complained that Eastleigh Borough Council have failed to send them notifications of planning applications in the parish. At last night’s meeting of Bishopstoke, Fair Oak and Horton Heath Local Area Committee the chair of Bishopstoke Parish Council – Councillor Sue Toher (pictured) – addressed the local area borough councillors on behalf of the Bishopstoke Parish Planning Committee. Cllr Toher told the committee that since last July there had been seven instances when the Parish Council had either not received a notification or else they had received notifications for Fair Oak Parish council rather than Bishopstoke – in one case she said, they had received an application eight days after the closing date.


Why Eastleigh’s Local Plan is bad for the planet

ADD UPDATE, 9 May 2019: We have no right to complain about other countries destroying their environment when we are planning to do the same here in Eastleigh through the council’s proposed Local Plan…

A report published on Monday from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems (IPBES), an agency of the United Nations, warns that one million animal and plant species across the world are now threatened with extinction. The report has taken three years to compile and draws on 15,000 reference materials.

From the bees that pollinate our crops to the forests that hold back flood waters, the key factor in the threat to the natural world is human activity ravaging the very ecosystems that support human society.

The destruction of rain forests (between 1980 and 2000, 100 million hectares of tropical rain forest have been cleared to make way for cattle and palm oil plantations), the expansion of cities (the world’s population has doubled since 1970) and the pollution of our seas (remember the plastic in David Attenborough’s film?) are combining to destroy the habitats of plants and creatures at all levels.

What has this got to do with the Eastleigh Local Plan? Well, we may not be able to do a lot on the global stage – but we can prevent the wanton destruction of our local environment and biodiversity. The massive housing development proposed by Eastleigh Borough Council in their draft Local Plan, which includes 2,000 more houses than actually required by government targets, would obliterate some of the most attractive landscape in the borough, ravage several areas of precious ancient woodland and cause havoc with the eco-systems of the River Itchen. And, like the destruction in other faraway parts of the world, it is being driven by human self-interest, politics and greed.

There may be a need for additional low-cost housing in and around Eastleigh, but this plan does not actually provide it. There are other options available to Eastleigh Borough Council, which it has not even seriously considered.

The proposed site is located in an area that the council’s own research has identified as having the greatest biodiversity in the borough. And the Plan’s out-of-town location away from public transport could have been calculated to maximise car usage and so carbon dioxide emissions. All this from a council that boasts it is tackling climate change.

Although we might not be able to save the rainforests of South America and the wetlands of Africa, we can at least prevent the wanton extinction of our own ecosystems here in South Hampshire, by insisting that the authority comes up with a better, more eco-friendly Local Plan.

(The image accompanying this article is of a White Admiral butterfly in Upper Barn Copse, one of the ancient woodlands that Eastleigh’s Local Plan severely threatens, and would ultimately destroy.)


How Eastleigh’s Local Plan threatens one of the borough’s finest heritage assets

ADD UPDATE, 7 May 2019: Allbrook hosts one of Eastleigh’s most valuable heritage assets, but little has been done to promote its awareness. Now the council’s Local Plan threatens to degrade it further.

Allbrook Farmhouse was less than ten years old when artist Mary Beale and her husband Charles moved there in 1665 to escape the Great Plague in London. Unusually, it was Mary who earned the family’s living, from her portrait painting, while Charles supported her by managing the studio. This relationship is reflected in Mary’s ‘Essay on Friendship’, promoting equality of the sexes, also written in Allbrook. 

Her self-portrait, now in the National Portrait Gallery, was painted there and it is likely that many of her sitters’ portraits were painted there too. Quite possibly they included some fairly notable people of that era. We know that Izaak Walton, friend of the poet John Donne and author of ‘The Compleat Angler’, visited her at Allbrook. The rare survival of this location where Mary Beale lived and worked adds a further historical significance to Allbrook Farmhouse well beyond that of comparable Grade II listed buildings in the Eastleigh district. Yet oddly, to the casual passer-by, it is just another old building.    

History has not been kind to Mary’s former home. The Itchen Navigation, and later the railway embankment, were built within metres of it. Various alterations, neglect and the 20th century theft of its entrance door have detracted from its original appearance. In 1995 it escaped being turned into a pub restaurant. The 2008 Planning Inquiry saw opposition from, among others, Sir Roy Strong and Tracey Emin but, despite the claim that Allbrook Farmhouse was the only known artist’s studio from the 17th century still existing in Britain, its immediate environment was further drastically altered. The old farmhouse is now hemmed in by a new housing estate hard up against the property. The house itself was renovated and refurbished. Whether the racking where Mary dried her canvases survived these renovations is uncertain.  

The latest affront to this unique piece of Britain’s artistic heritage is the proposed building of the North Bishopstoke Link Road in Eastleigh Borough Council’s Local Plan.  This road scheme would involve closing off Allbrook Hill at the bottom and re-routing traffic behind the existing houses along a new road leading to Junction 12 on the M3. 

Originally conceived with a roundabout junction with Pitmore Road, it now proposes a tee junction. It appears that without the roundabout to slow it down, more and faster traffic from the motorway will then flow into the narrower section past Allbrook Farmhouse and require new signage and physical protection for the under-sized Allbrook railway bridge. 

Despite this, the legal requirement for an assessment of the impact on the setting of this listed building appears to have been ignored. Yet, similar to paragraph 129 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Eastleigh’s Local Plan policy DM12 states that development within the setting of a heritage asset will only be permitted where “it does not harm or detract from the significance or special interest of the asset, and sustains and enhances its special character and qualities. The more important the asset, the greater the weight that should be accorded to this criterion.”  It is hard to see how this can have been adhered to here if the ‘significance’, ‘special interest’ and ‘importance’ have not been assessed. Meanwhile the Local Plan seems almost deliberately to make no mention at all about Mary Beale.

Although its historical connection with her makes this Grade II listed building a particularly important part of Eastleigh’s heritage, this has been completely ignored by the council. While Eastleigh hosts a blue plaque in honour of comedian Benny Hill, and even a plaque to the somewhat obscure Noel Croucher, founding chairman of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the presence here of the pioneering 17th century artist and feminist, Mary Beale, has had no such recognition. 

At a time when women like Mary Beale are seen as forerunners for the feminist movement, this is a regrettable but perhaps not unintentional omission, given the implications the current Local Plan has for her old home.

Of the eleven published Grade II listed buildings of the same period as Allbrook Farmhouse located in the Eastleigh District, only Allbrook Farmhouse has its associated history included as a specific reason for it being listed. It is doubtful if any other listed buildings in the Borough, of any period, are of such importance artistically and culturally as Allbrook Farmhouse. 

Most councils would be proud of this asset, but not, it seems, Eastleigh.


Steve Brine MP writes to Winchester City Council on Eastleigh Local Plan

Steve Brine MP, 6 May 2019: Winchester & Chandler’s Ford MP Steve Brine has written to the likely new leader of Winchester City Council in the aftermath of last week’s local election results. Cllr Lucille Thompson is expected to form a new Liberal Democrat administration and the MP says he is keen to get early clarification about their approach to Eastleigh Borough Council’s controversial Local Plan process.

Mr Brine says: “There are grave concerns among many people about the impact of Eastleigh’s Local Plan on the communities I represent. They rightly want to know whether the now Lib Dem led Winchester will stand up to Lib Dem Eastleigh on behalf of our district or change the position held by the previous council leader.”


Winchester City Council election, 2 May: Max Priesemann, Green candidate for Badger Farm and Oliver’s Battery on Winchester City Council, writes…

ADD UPDATE, 28 April 2019: Ahead of the local elections on Thursday 2 May, Action against Destructive Development (ADD) has invited each candidate standing for Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC), and each candidate standing for Winchester City Council, to supply us with up to 350 words on their views on EBC’s draft Local Plan and its progress. The same invitation was extended to candidates in the parish/town council elections in our area.

As you will be aware, EBC voted to include ‘options B and C’ in its Local Plan, namely proposals for around 5,500 houses and a major new road north of Bishopstoke, Fair Oak and Allbrook and south of Colden Common, Owslebury and Upham, significantly affecting Boyatt Wood, Chandler’s Ford, Hiltingbury, Otterbourne, Brambridge, Highbridge, Twyford and Bishop’s Waltham. This draft Plan will be examined by an independent planning inspector later this year.

As part of our virtual hustings, Max Priesemann, Green candidate for Badger Farm and Oliver’s Battery on Winchester City Council, has sent us the following message:

“I have opposed Eastleigh’s plans since I became aware of them two years ago. I am especially against the proposed options B and C which would cause a substantial increase in traffic that itself will result in increased pollution and congestion in a wide area, including Otterbourne and other parts of the Badger Farm and Oliver’s Battery ward. This is understandably of great concern to residents in villages between Eastleigh and Winchester. Any council that acts against the result of its own consultations should lose its legitimacy.

Valuable ancient woodlands and their surrounding ecosystems should be preserved for wildlife and local communities. We need more woodland to absorb CO2 and fewer cars (and aviation) to contain climate change. Affordable housing is required for locals, but it needs to be planned sustainably. Our green belt must be protected especially while we could make use of brownfield sites.

Our towns and villages should be transformed to reduce the need for traffic by organising a flexible, frequently run, convenient and affordable public transport network. Focus on building routes for alternative forms of traffic instead of roads for cars. Build a tram network, encourage cycling and the use of small electrical vehicles like scooters etc. Cars waste a vast amount of space that can’t be used otherwise. (The airport wastes huge amounts of land too.) These areas could be greened into parks or indeed used for new social housing.

Our current housing crisis is due to lack of affordable housing not total number of houses. A land value tax would help to bring about this change. Large unused properties would have to pay more compared with smaller houses that could become more affordable instead.

Finally, covering up green spaces in and around our towns and villages will increase the risk of flooding. This is especially important as we will have to get used to more extreme weather events due to climate change that has already started and will accelerate if we carry on in the same way as we have done until now.”

Max Priesemann, Green candidate for Badger Farm and Oliver’s Battery on Winchester City Council