ADD UPDATE: 26 March 2022: The long-running saga of the Eastleigh Local Plan will finally end next month when Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) formally gives a revised version its approval after getting the green light from the planning inspector, Christa Masters. The new plan is radically different (and in our view hugely improved) compared to the one originally favoured by the council in December 2015.
Most importantly of all, proposals (so-called Options B and C or the Strategic Growth Option) to create an urban sprawl the size of a small town to the north of Fair Oak and Bishopstoke, encompassing the most eco-sensitive parts of the borough, are no longer there. The associated link road, essential for Options B and C, has also been removed.
As anyone familiar with ADD’s activities will know, these changes are exactly what we and our supporters had hoped to see.
ADD chair John Lauwerys commented that the amended plan, which has been approved by the inspector, puts the final seal on more than six years of intensive campaigning. “This has been a huge community effort involving hundreds of local residents, and it is fantastic to see all our hard work bear fruit,” he said.
In her 50-page final report, Ms Masters goes into some detail as to why she rejected the original plan in a letter sent to EBC nearly two years ago. In doing so, she echoes many of the objections put forward by ADD. These include the impact on the South Downs National Park, the failure to give adequate consideration to alternative development sites, sustainability issues, insufficient gaps between communities, and the likely effect on traffic.
On the national park she says: “Additional traffic at the sort of level predicted by the evidence base could have a detrimental effect on the communities concerned.”
On the failure to give adequate consideration to alternative potential development sites, she expresses “serious concerns in relation to the assessment of individual reasonable options… On this basis it cannot be demonstrated that the preferred SGO [Strategic Growth Option] is sound.”
On traffic, she highlights “the distance people would need to travel, the ability of people to walk and cycle, the propensity to use public transport and the level of delay on the highway network. Overall, the evidence base does not justify the selection of the SGO as the preferred option in this regard.”
Inevitably, however, this is not the end of the story. As Ms Masters points out, work on the next Eastleigh Local Plan will have to begin soon, and should be complete within the next five years. The need for vigilance is never-ending.