Eastleigh Local Plan: The moment of truth has arrived. And truth is… there’s still not enough evidence!

ADD UPDATE, 3 December 2017: On Friday night, Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) published its proposed Local Plan. As we have long predicted (not least because the council has so clearly signalled), the plan involves building 5,200 new houses and a new link road north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak and south of Colden Common, Owslebury and Upham, significantly affecting Allbrook, Boyatt Wood, Chandler’s Ford, Otterbourne, Brambridge, Highbridge, Twyford, Chandler’s Ford and Bishop’s Waltham too (the council’s options B and C – see an annotated EBC map above). To read all the papers, click here.

The experienced team at ADD, together with our professional advisers, are currently combing through every detail of the council’s plan. It’s clear the council is still short of much critical evidence and that certain important myths, carefully crafted over the last few years, have taken hold. We will outline our full objections in the next few days.

As we have stated from the beginning, all we want is a fully evidence-based Local Plan for Eastleigh. The council’s plan, by their own admission, is NOT evidence-based and is therefore full of ifs and buts.

For example, paragraph 111 in the Report of the Local Plan Advisor states: “It is important to recognise that there are some specific areas of evidence which are as yet emerging and/or uncompleted. These primarily relate to transport modelling, the Habitat Regulations Assessment and consequent environmental mitigation. Engagement and consultation will continue until the Local Plan is submitted. Therefore the conclusions to date will need to be kept under careful review to identify whether or not they remain valid once the Local Plan evidence is complete.”

As regards transport modelling, paragraph 1.2.2 of the traffic report (appendix 11) by SYSTRA, the international engineering and consulting group, notes that there will be “significant /severe traffic congestion impacts” occurring from the combination of the new road and 5,200 new houses. In following paragraphs, SYSTRA traffic engineers say they are still searching for solutions to the congestion B and C will cause. Their initial suggestions only attempt to address problems within Eastleigh itself. They do not mention the already severe traffic issues of Colden Common, Twyford, Upham and Owslebury.

This is not surprising to us, although it must be a major disappointment to Eastleigh’s leaders who have hailed the new road as providing “a solution to take traffic off Bishopstoke Road”. The traffic engineers’ first report was delivered just before the 20 July full council meeting. After more than four months, and presumably intense pressure to deliver a solution, they have still not come up with a viable and effective set of ‘patches’ for the problem.

Given the only justification for this scheme is this new road, SYSTRA’s findings are a massive hole in the heart of the Local Plan proposals.

Paragraph 130 of the Report of the Local Plan Advisor says: “If the outstanding evidence does not support the approach taken then the final Plan will be changed to reflect this; and if this results in a major change to the Local Plan, it will be brought back to Council for a decision.”

The Local Plan Advisor clearly believes, like the rest of us, that the council is still short of sufficient evidence to decide on its Plan. However, despite previous commitments by Councillor House, leader of the council, and other councillors, that they should wait on making a decision until all the required evidence is available, the council is now being asked to approve a scheme – options B and C – before that evidence is available!

Given this, it is hard – if not impossible – to see how councillors could vote in favour of this “plan” on 11 December. To do so would be folly. Surely, for all our sakes, it would be better to wait until all the evidence is available and then decide – as they themselves have said all along. Indeed, as recently as 16 November, Councillor House said: “Getting it [the Local Plan] right is more important that doing it fast”

Whilst the ADD team works hard to analyse these plans, we ask one thing of the many of you who oppose them.

That is – please – to turn up to the council’s meeting at 7pm on Monday 11 December at the Hilton at the Ageas Bowl (SO30 3XH), at which we anticipate councillors will – unbelievably – vote in favour of this flawed plan (despite the huge outstanding holes).

Next year a planning inspector will have to scrutinise Eastleigh’s Local Plan. Whilst it will already be clear to this inspector (whoever he or she may be) that there is vast opposition, locally and nationally, to the council’s intentions (and the council’s decision-making is totally unsound), it would be excellent to demonstrate our opposition again on 11 December. Please, please do come. And bring all your friends and family with you!

Together we will win this battle – but only if we stick together!