Councils at loggerheads over Eastleigh’s emerging Local Plan

ADD UPDATE, 24 November 2017: Two Hampshire councils have fallen out big time over proposals to build thousands of new houses on greenfields.

It has emerged that Winchester City Council has written to Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) leader Keith House saying it’s in no way convinced that the proposals – which are Eastleigh’s favoured options for its emerging Local Plan – will work. The proposals, known as options B and C, are to build over 5,000 houses on greenfields north of Bishopstoke and serve them by a new link road which has to squeeze between protected ancient woodlands and then cross the EU protected floodplain of the River Itchen before trying to get through a railway bridge that so narrow its seen over 20 lorry crashes in the last few years.

In a damning letter over the summer, Winchester leader Caroline Horrill accused Keith House of ignoring requests for meetings and a failure to communicate. She wrote: “Our communities have repeatedly asked to meet with you or your officers, a request that to my knowledge has not been met.” She added: “I would like to be able to assure our councillors that Eastleigh is adopting a sound, evidence led approach and that there will be full and meaningful consultation with neighbouring communities. I am sorry to say that I believe I cannot give those assurances at the moment.”

What’s worse, she wrote, is the lack of cooperation. She explained: “I am fully committed to cooperate with you in the development of your [Local] Plan but I do not believe that you and your team are providing us with the opportunity to do so.”

And, worrying about the landscape, she commented: “There are very significant issues as yet unexplored and a lack of evidence as to how they can be satisfactorily resolved. These include the landscape and habitats impacts, local infrastructure delivery and most significantly from our point of view, the impact on traffic and movement in the area… I am very concerned that the timescale proposed in your officer’s report [published last summer] will not be achievable unless it limits the time available for research, evidence gathering and consultation and engagement to an absolute minimum. That would not be acceptable to those communities in Winchester which may be affected by the development or to the City Council.”

What also concerns the Winchester leader is that part of the planned new road is actually in Winchester territory.

She wrote: “We will have an obligation to satisfy ourselves about [the] modelling and analysis before we could grant consent. There is also the issue of the broader landscape and visual impact that a new road could generate, not to mention the change from open countryside… I believe there is good reason for us to see shortcomings in your approach and good reason for us to seek reassurance about how you will deliver your timetable and the appropriate level of public engagement – which we do not believe has been sufficient so far… I have to say that Winchester is not satisfied with extent of the dialogue between our two authorities and I look forward to hearing how this can be resolved as you progress your Local Plan work.”

In his reply, Keith House – who hopes his council will make a definitive decision on its Local Plan this December – wrote: “I am unaware of any outstanding requests for meetings regarding our Local Plan and would appreciate clarification on your assertion. Eastleigh’s Local Plan is fully evidence based.” He added his council had not taken a decision on the Local Plan, rather had simply published “a work in progress to give clarity to our local communities on our direction of travel and to enable discussion with key partners such as your Council ahead of decision making later in the year. I would be grateful if you would make this clear to your Council as this point is clearly made in our Cabinet Report.”

EBC is due to decide on its Local Plan at its next full council meeting on 11 December. Despite all the arguments against options B and C, it is widely believed that councillors will vote in favour of these proposals. IF YOU OPPOSE THESE PLANS, PLEASE, PLEASE ATTEND THE CRUCIAL MEETING ON 11 DECEMBER: 7PM AT THE HILTON AT THE AGEAS BOWL. 

We need to prove to the planning inspector next year the strength of our opposition to these plans.