Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) is without a Local Plan. Its last attempt to agree such a plan was thrown out by the planning inspector in 2014. A new plan, which will cover the period to 2036, is now emerging. Our aim is to inform the debate to ensure the best outcome:
- We recognise that as a growing, successful borough, Eastleigh needs to provide thousands of new homes to hard-working people. Managed well, developments of this nature could make a significant contribution to the economic, cultural and social fabric of the borough. These developments are inevitable, but need to be done right.
- EBC’s emerging Local Plan identifies two Strategic Growth Options (SGOs), namely options B and C or options D and E, one of which it says must be chosen if the borough is to deliver the 3,350 houses it says it needs beyond the numbers already identified in the plan period.
- Despite these SGOs being developer-led, we believe that if EBC chooses the right option, the resulting developments could bring widespread benefits across the borough of Eastleigh: (i) they could improve transport links by opening up rail connections between Eastleigh, Fareham and on to Portsmouth; (ii) they could help build stronger communities by creating comfortable homes, including affordable homes, for families and doing so in a manner that integrates these new homes successfully into the borough, building stronger, closer ties between people; and (iii) they could also be managed in a way that minimises environmental impact. Eastleigh is fortunate to have some of the finest countryside in South East England and this needs to be carefully preserved.
- A plan to deliver each of these requirements already exists. However the leader of the council’s apparent preferred choice for its SGO – options B and C (in Allbrook, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak) – threatens to create an isolated community on the northern edge of the borough, separated from the rest of the borough, hampered by inadequate transport links (which will be heavily road dependent) and one which risks irreparable long-term harm to the beautiful countryside.
- The wrong choice would be a major blow for the whole of the borough as well as several adjacent communities, now and for generations to come. It could cause real, lasting damage and fail to capitalise on the positive potential development of this scale could bring to the borough.
On 23 December 2015, Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) published its Local Plan 2011-2036 (Issues and Options), which set out eight spatial strategy options for meeting its planning needs. On current evidence, we believe EBC’s options B and C (see developers Highwood and Drew Smith’s proposal here), which include the proposed North Bishopstoke link road, are by far the most destructive and impractical and the other remaining options are significantly better. In particular we believe the proposals for the alternative SGO presented (though apparently discarded) by the council offers a more sustainable solution than options B and C because:
- They are closer to the centre of the borough and more readily relate to the employment areas of Eastleigh and Southampton.
- They could be well served by an integrated transport strategy, including cycle routes and walkways into Eastleigh, a new station on the existing rail line (and/or a rapid transit system to Eastleigh or Hedge End stations), and a new Junction 6 of the M27.
- They are of less environmental quality than options B and C.
- This development area was favoured in the past by EBC’s own planning department and met with the approval of major conservation groups.
Our plan is to persuade decision-makers of the merits of our arguments by reference to clear evidence.
Some people ask why we focus our time opposing options B and C (in Allbrook, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak) and encouraging more sustainable options rather than fighting the housing numbers imposed upon us by Eastleigh Borough Council (for it is EBC that sets these numbers, with guidance from PUSH).
First of all, everybody should know that, whilst we recognise we need more housing, we resolutely oppose the level of EBC’s housing numbers. That said, we also recognise that, as volunteers, our time is in short supply so we have decided to support the excellent work being carried out by Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) who are challenging these numbers on everyone’s behalf. CPRE is a highly respected organisation and has the resources to do this far more effectively than we ever could, at EBC, PUSH and government levels.
As part of this work, CPRE is campaigning to ensure EBC makes the best use of PDL (previously developed land), otherwise known as brownfield land, including all aspects of regeneration and even housing estate densification/redevelopment if appropriate and suitable. On this matter, CPRE does not believe that EBC is being nearly ambitious enough in its targeting of redundant land. Take, for example, EBC’s decision last year to grant the site of the former civic centre approval for a new car show room, two fast food outlets and some offices but no housing at all! If anyone wishes to support CPRE’s work in this regard, please contact Caroline Dibden, chairman of CPRE South Hampshire at [email protected].
Secondly, as everyone knows, EBC had its last Local Plan rejected by the planning inspector in 2014. Officially this was because the Plan had “a number of shortcomings in relation to housing need, the identified housing requirement and housing supply”, although EBC only ever seems to refer today to the housing need. Given that EBC sets the housing numbers (and for council tax revenue purposes, it is in its interest to have as many houses as possible in the borough), we take the view that if CPRE’s efforts to reduce the numbers are unsuccessful, we must have a plan to address the consequence.
And the consequence is that EBC will look to choose options B and C as its preferred SGO. If this is the hand we are dealt, we believe that we must set out in clear terms, with all the supporting evidence, why B and C is the least sustainable, deliverable and affordable of the two options..
Of course, the best possible scenario for Eastleigh would be a council-led, rather than a developer-led Local Plan, which would think holistically about the needs of the borough. This would allow areas such as the grossly underused railway works site to proposed for new employment-related development and/or for housing to be built close to the transport hub at Wide Lane (adjacent to Eastleigh station, Southampton airport and junction 12 of the M27). But it is clear – sadly – that this is too much to ask of this council. For now.
We outline elsewhere the multitude of reasons why we oppose options B and C and advocate other available, more sustainable options, but we hope this adequately addresses why this is the focus of our campaign, rather than the housing numbers per se.
Eastleigh Borough Council has a choice. Help us to ensure the council makes the right choice. Make your voice heard. Join our campaign today.