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Eastleigh’s MP and council leader respond to Sajid Javid’s letter on Local Plan delay

ADD Update, 23 November 2017: At ADD, we guard fiercely our political neutrality. We welcome anyone, from any political persuasion, who supports our central aim: which is to inform the debate for Eastleigh’s emerging Local Plan such that the borough ends up with a fully evidence-based Local Plan.

In this article, we post together the responses of Eastleigh’s Conservative MP, Mims Davies, and its Liberal Democrat leader of the council, Keith House, to the recent announcement by the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, that the government is poised to intervene in the housebuilding plans of 15 local authorities, including Eastleigh, if they do not publish their housebuilding plans or explain “any exceptional circumstances” why they cannot produce a Local Plan by the end of January next year.

Sajid Javid’s letter can be read here.

The response of Keith House, Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, can be read here.

The response of Mims Davies, Eastleigh’s MP, can be read here.

If we succeed in our central aim – a fully evidence-based Local Plan – we believe the best outcome will be achieved not only for the borough but also for its neighbouring communities and for its many visitors.

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Campaign for Better Transport: Eastleigh’s flawed plan risks driving away investment

Campaign for Better Transport, 21 November 2017: Situated in Hampshire between Southampton and Winchester, Eastleigh was formed in the 19th century as a railway town. Today, the area is blighted by significant congestion and air quality issues. Guest blogger Gin Tidridge, from local campaign group Action Against Destructive Development (ADD), tells us more: ADD was formed following significant concerns about Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s emerging Local Plan. At the heart of the proposals is a new development of over 5,000 new houses on greenfield sites, located on the borough’s northern boundary. Along with the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), all local MPs and all affected parish councils, ADD is campaigning to persuade EBC that there are more sustainable locations for new houses.

 

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Allbrook bridge: why Eastleigh council’s proposed new road will NOT solve any traffic problems

ADD UPDATE, 21 November 2017: On 26 September, Eastleigh Borough Council’s Local Area Committee that covers the town centre agreed to look into limiting HGVs at rush hour and during the night “within the area encompassing Southampton Road from Chestnut Avenue northwards to Twyford Road roundabout and west from the roundabout along Leigh Road and Romsey Road to Passfield Avenue.”

It is great that the Eastleigh LAC, which is made up of borough councillors, wants to address the environmental impact of lorries in the town centre. Concerns about the road surface deteriorating, noise levels and air pollution issues are very relevant to the lives of residents.

ADD would like to highlight to the LAC that, if the link road proposed for the massive new development north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak goes ahead, it will be unable to alleviate this impact.

Allbrook railway bridge is too low for vehicles over 3.7 metres high and – as such – there have been regular ‘bridge strikes’ over the years that have caused significant damage and confusion. Three days before this committee meeting, for example, two lorries (one pictured here) added to considerable congestion on the B335 as they attempted to pass under the bridge. On 8 October, two more lorries stopped at the bottom of Allbrook Hill whilst they reconsidered their route, blocking the road. On 17 October, another lorry blocked Highbridge Road as it made a multi-point turn to avoid the bridgeAnd, on 17 November, there was yet another incident with a truck, the photo above showing the resulting traffic issue. If lorries hit the bridge, they potentially jeopardise the main rail line to London.

No plans have been published to replace or raise this bridge if the new road is built, and transport experts consulted by ADD cannot see any way of economically adapting the bridge to address the height issue. Therefore, the new road cannot alleviate the numbers of large lorries trundling through the town centre. To suggest otherwise would be misleading.

If the council opted to replace the bridge, the cost of the road would soar way beyond anything that has been suggested up to now. In addition to the extra construction costs probably totalling well over £10 million, Network Rail would require significant payments. Replacement would be likely to result in delays for rail commuters over many months.

ADD opposes the proposed road for many reasons – not least because it does not offer a solution to Eastleigh’s traffic congestion. The published plans indicate that, due to the bridge, it would be physically incapable of diverting large lorries from Eastleigh town centre.

OTHER READING

Emerging Eastleigh Local Plan – An Allbrook Perspective, Dave Betts, Allbrook and North Boyatt Parish Councillor, 26 October 2017

Eastleigh’s monster housing plan hit by rail and water double whammy, ADD Update, 9 July 2017

Fair Oak resident urges EBC to reject options B and C “on the basis of traffic alone”, Matthew Waterman, presentation to Eastleigh Borough Council, 15 December 2016

Eastleigh’s Local Plan and the spectre of King Canute, ADD Update, 14 December 2016

Councillors raise questions about Allbrook bridge, answers unclear, ADD Update, 29 October 2016

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Sajid Javid says government will directly intervene in local councils not publishing housebuilding plans

Independent, 16 November 2017: Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has said the government is poised to directly intervene in the housebuilding plans of 15 local authorities across England in order to tackle the “broken” housing market. These include Eastleigh Borough Council, which is still without a Local Plan six years after the end of its last one. Putting the authorities “on notice” and warning that a lack of sufficient progress will “no longer be tolerated” by his department, Mr Javid said they had until the end of January 2018 to put forward their housebuilding plans or to explain “any exceptional circumstances… which, in their view, justify their failure to produce a Local Plan under the 2004 Act regime.”

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New song against options B and C: a lament about this destructive cataclysm. Listen now!

ADD UPDATE, 19 November 2017: Ahead of Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s critical meeting on its emerging Local Plan on 11 December, at which we believe the council will decide to pursue its options B and C (namely plans for 5,200 houses and a new link road north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak), Ray Bellinger, a local resident, has composed and recorded THIS BRILLIANT SONG about the folly of EBC’s decision-making (the pictures are his too!). As Ray sings, “is this really what you want to do?” See his full lyrics below. PLEASE SHARE WIDELY! Thank you Ray.

Meanwhile, please, please attend THE CRUCIAL MEETING ON 11 DECEMBER: 7PM AT THE HILTON AT THE AGEAS BOWL.  We need EVERYONE against these proposals to be there.  

RAY’S LYRICS: IS THIS REALLY WHAT YOU WANT TO DO?

Eastleigh council is it true?
That you’ve decided too
To go ahead, as you’ve planned
To build roads through this beautiful land

To build housing where you say
Will only go to pave the way
To show contempt for thousands who
Lodged their protests straight to you

Destroy fields, the woods and river too
Is this really what you want to do?
When thousands have said it isn’t right
It would look like you’ve acted out of spite

A destructive cataclysm
Environmental vandalism
Locals, groups and other councils agree
Vote no to plans local plans B&C

A destructive cataclysm
Destroy fields, the woods and river too

Is this really what you want to do?

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Is the Eastleigh Local Plan going down the pan?

ADD UPDATE, 13 November 2017: One Eastleigh Borough councillor lifts the lid on how he was advised to go to the toilet rather than take part in a crucial vote.

Cllr Mark Balaam says he was “shocked” to be advised to go to the toilet if he intended to vote against the administration’s recommendation, rather than take part in the vote, when December’s meeting of the full council decides on Eastleigh’s emerging local plan. Cllr Balaam had told senior Lib Dem group officers that he was profoundly unhappy with the proposals to concentrate a massive new development and road in the most environmentally sensitive areas of the borough.

Instead of taking the ‘toilet’ advice, he resigned from the Liberal Democrat group and joined his former colleagues Steve Sollitt and Sarah Bain, who had made the same decision during the summer.

“I did not become a borough councillor to avoid difficult decisions,” he says. “I have always stood up for environmental issues.

“My main concerns about the Local Plan are around the risks to the ancient woodland. I don’t think it comes close to offering the reassurance needed about the woodland and copses to the north of Bishopstoke.

”I was led to believe that environmental sustainability was one of the key policies of the council. The leadership has put me under pressure, but I refuse to buckle or vote against my conscience on this red-line issue.”

While the prospect of dissident councillors queuing up for the toilet at the crucial point during next month’s council meeting may raise a few smiles, the pressure being put on those councillors from the majority Liberal Democrats who oppose the leadership is anything but a joke.

“It is clear from conversations with council colleagues that there are significant concerns about elements of the local plan,” he says.

His stance has been strongly welcomed by campaigners against options B and C of the emerging Eastleigh Local Plan.

Richard Izard, a senior Liberal Democrat councillor in neighbouring Winchester and a former city mayor, said: “I warmly congratulate Mark Balaam on having the courage of his convictions.  I desperately hope that my friends and colleagues in Eastleigh will have the good sense and flexibility to avoid what would otherwise be an environmental and social disaster.”

Cllr Mark Balaam’s resignation statement in full:

“I have resigned from the Liberal Democrat Group on Eastleigh Borough Council. This is largely out of concern with the direction that the council seems to be heading with the Local Plan.

“My resignation from the group is a result of finding it difficult to reconcile voting on conscience with blind loyalty to a party position. On such an important issue, I feel that I have no choice but to put my environmental concerns above any political ambition or group loyalty and I will not be tied down to a party line on a fundamental issue as the Local Plan. Accusations of predetermining the Local Plan are simply not true. I have serious concerns about the proposals put forward in the draft Local Plan. You can’t predetermine a Local Plan as it is not planning but planning policy.”

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Another Eastleigh councillor quits over plans for thousands of homes near ancient woodland

Daily Echo, 11 November 2017: A COUNCILLOR has quit his party over concerns that plans to build thousands of homes near ancient woodland would cause “serious environmental risks”. Cllr Mark Balaam has resigned from the ruling Liberal Democrats group on Eastleigh Borough Council following his concerns about the impact the proposed development would have on ancient woodland and wildlife. This comes after Cllr Steve Sollitt and Cllr Sarah Bain resigned from the party in August following their concerns about the deliverability and viability of the scheme. Cllr Balaam, who is now sitting as independent, said councillors have to represent every resident of the borough. “I am not prepared to put political loyalty over a conviction in protecting our wildlife and natural heritage”, he added.

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REMINDER, COMING UP: UPDATE MEETINGS ON EASTLEIGH LOCAL PLAN – FIND OUT MORE

ADD REMINDER, 12 November 2017: Over the next couple of weeks, ADD will be holding UPDATE MEETINGS ON EASTLEIGH’S LOCAL PLAN across the large area that Eastleigh Borough Council is likely to choose as its preferred development site at ITS NEXT KEY MEETING ON 11 DECEMBER (please, please attend this meeting: We need EVERYONE against the plan to be there).

As many of you know, this plan involves a monster housing sprawl (5,200 new homes) and a major new road north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak and south of Colden Common, Owslebury and Upham, significantly affecting Allbrook, Otterbourne, Brambridge, Highbridge, Twyford, Chandler’s Ford and Bishop’s Waltham too (the council’s options B and C). Click here for a map.

We will be sharing our research on Eastleigh’s emerging Local Plan, updating you on the campaign’s progress and hearing your views and questions. Please join us if you can: simply come to the meeting most convenient for you.

  • Tuesday 14th November, 7pm, Colden Common Community Centre
  • Wednesday 22nd November, 7pm, Bishopstoke Methodist Church
  • Monday 27th November, 7:30pm, Fair Oak Village Hall
  • Thursday 30th November, 7pm, St Peter’s Church Hall, Boyatt Wood

Click here to see a flyer on the meetings: please distribute as many as you can, either via email or hard copy.

WHY IS BUILDING OVER 5,000 HOUSES NORTH OF FAIR OAK AND BISHOPSTOKE THE COUNCIL’S MOST DESTRUCTIVE OPTION?

Destructive traffic impact

  • The development will only be accessible by road, far from infrastructure. The Campaign for Better Transport agrees that local traffic will get will get worse without a public transport solution.
  • The new road will use the current Allbrook railway bridge, frequently flooded, too low for large lorries: it cannot ease Eastleigh’s truck congestion.
  • The council expects the 26,000 extra daily traffic movements to be channelled via the M3 at junction 12. We assess congestion will increase on all local roads, through our communities, villages and the South Downs National Park.

Destructive to our communities

  • The Campaign to Protect Rural England supports our campaign, concerned that quality of life will be damaged in our area.
  • Fair Oak will double in size, with fewer accessible green spaces.
  • The new road will divide Allbrook, splitting the village in two.

Destructive to our woods, River Itchen and wildlife

  • The Woodland Trust say that building the road in the 120 metre gap between Crowdhill Copse and Upper Barn Copse will damage their Sites of Ancient Natural Woodland.
  • The Test and Itchen Association are concerned that the road will damage the Itchen which has European conservation status.
  • Acres of countryside and miles of footpath will become housing estates. Naturalist Chris Packham describes this as “eco vandalism”.

PLEASE COME TO ONE OF OUR UPDATE MEETINGS AND – IN PARTICULAR – MAKE SURE YOU ATTEND THE KEY COUNCIL MEETING ON MONDAY 11 DECEMBER: 7PM AT THE HILTON AT THE AGEAS BOWL, SO30 3XH

TO CONTACT US, PLEASE EMAIL US AT [email protected]

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Green Party MEP for South East recommends Eastleigh Borough Council revisits Local Plan options

MAKING THE CASE AGAINST OPTIONS B AND C: KEITH TAYLOR, GREEN PARTY MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT FOR THE SOUTH EAST REGION…

ADD UPDATE, 9 November 2017: At Eastleigh Borough Council’s full council meeting on 20 July, representatives from environmental groups, local community groups and elected bodies all spoke AGAINST the council’s preferred proposal for its emerging Local Plan, namely a monster housing sprawl (5,200 new homes) and a new link road north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak and south of Colden Common, Owslebury and Upham (its options B and C).

Since the end of the summer, ADD has been publishing what these representatives said about options B and C, so that everyone can clearly understand the arguments against them ahead of the council’s next key meeting on 11 December (Please, please attend this meeting: We need EVERYONE against options B and C to be there). As we have stated all along, we are fighting for an evidence-based Local Plan for Eastleigh and will continue this struggle until we have won. 

In this post, we publish the statement made by Keith Taylor, Green Party Member of the European Parliament for the South East region. He said:

“This gathering is extremely important in highlighting strong public opinion to the proposed development [north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak – options B and C] and the significant impact it could have on the local environment if it goes ahead in its current form.

“I recognise the urgent need to address a social housing crisis, not just in Eastleigh but across the UK. But I would, along with the local community, urge Eastleigh Borough Council to reconsider its plans for the development of over 5,000 dwellings and a new road in an area of open countryside around many ancient woodlands and the River Itchen to the north of the borough.

“Instead of putting our precious and protected environment at risk, the council could be taking a more ambitious approach to developing brownfield sites and redeveloping older estates. Instead of giving the green light to building for private landlords and ignoring the need for social housing, they could and should be providing for the people most in need.

“Residents and local groups are rightly concerned about the impact this development could have on the River Itchen, a world famous chalk stream which brings jobs and money into the local economy and which has been afforded the highest possible protection in EU law by virtue of its designation as a Special Area of Conservation under the Birds and Habitats Directives.

“Eastleigh Borough Council has a legal obligation to maintain the integrity of this site. Any developments likely to have a significant effect on a Special Area of Conservation must be subject to an appropriate assessment and take a precautionary approach that would halt development if serious adverse effects cannot be ruled out. Failing to carry out such an assessment properly, as a ClientEarth report reveals is a persistent problem, or failing to comply with its legally binding outcome would be a breach of EU law. In such circumstances, the Commission would be entitled to issue proceedings in the Court of Justice.

“The Birds and Habitats Directives are the cornerstones of the EU’s biodiversity policy. They are hoping to conserve Europe’s most endangered and valuable habitats and species irrespective of political or administrative boundaries. I urge Eastleigh Borough Council to revisit the options and work towards a strategic development that puts the environment and local residents at its heart and supports a development that truly addresses the housing needs of the region.

“I would therefore like to share my objection to the plans in their current state and call on Eastleigh Borough Council to take into consideration the opinion of local residents and the important environment in the area of the proposed development.”

OTHER READING

Angling Trust and Fish Legal urge Eastleigh Borough Council to change course on Local Plan, ADD Update, 8 November 2017

Woodland Trust rebuffs leader of Eastleigh council on claim that plans for 5,200 houses adequately protects ancient woodland, 19 September 2017

Woodland Trust urges Eastleigh Borough Council to reject plans for 5,200 houses in north of borough, ADD Update, 11 September 2017

Allbrook and North Boyatt PC: Options B and C “direct attack” on wildlife, with “increased” traffic risk, ADD Update, 5 September 2017

Chris Packham video opposing options B and C goes viral with over 17,000 views, ADD Update, 25 April 2017

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Eastleigh Lib Dems continue to split over Local Plan

Eastleigh News, 8 November 2017: Another councillor has resigned from Eastleigh’s ruling Liberal Democrat group over the direction of the Local Plan and has joined rebel councillors Steve Sollitt and Sarah Bain who who have been sitting as the Independent Liberal Democratic Group since resigning in August.

Referring to the council’s decision to identify land north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak as its preferred Local Plan (its options B and C involving 5,200 houses and a new link road), Cllr Mark Balaam said he found it “difficult to reconcile voting on conscience with blind loyalty to a party position.”

He added: “On such an important issue, I feel that I have no choice but to put my environmental concerns above any political ambition or group loyalty.”

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