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Eastleigh council expects to agree modifications to Local Plan in May

ADD UPDATE, 7 February 2021: ADD supporters will have noticed a lull in our activity recently. The reason is that we have been waiting patiently for Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) to respond in full to the planning inspector’s letter of 1 April 2020 – something it originally planned to do by the end of last year. It now appears, however, that we will have to wait until May to learn EBC’s response as much of the necessary work has still to be carried out.

You will recall that the inspector Christa Masters instructed EBC to make substantial changes to the Local Plan. These include the removal of Options B and C (the massive proposed developments in Fair Oak and Bishopstoke) plus associated link road. The next step in the process is for the council to propose modifications to give effect to these required changes and, until that happens, there is very little that interested parties such as ADD can do.

So how long will that take? The council has not said publicly. However, in a letter to the council asking for confirmation of the revised timetable, Ms Masters says she understands EBC is still completing technical work for the Sustainability Appraisal and Habitats Regulations Assessment; and that the main modifications to the Local Plan are now expected to go to full council in May.

There would then be a six-week consultation period starting in June when it is likely that ADD will want to make further representations. After that, depending on the issues raised, the inspector might hold a further examination in public. Alternatively, she could decide this was unnecessary and instead issue a final report, which would sign off the revised local plan.

We estimate that this could all take until the end of the year – six years from the original Issues and Options consultation in December 2015. If that seems like a long time, anyone who cares about the area and its environment will agree that it is of paramount importance to get it right. After all, the results will be with us for ever.

We will, of course, keep you posted of developments as we learn about them.

Click here to read the inspector’s letter in full.

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‘Delight’ as government agrees to restore its previous local housing numbers

ADD UPDATE: 21 December 2020: ADD is delighted to end this very difficult year with some Christmas cheer for its supporters and all who care about our area and its environment.

The government has announced details of how it will replace its proposed algorithm, published on 6 August, which would have required local authorities in the South East to raise dramatically their housing targets. It would have meant a 21% increase for Eastleigh, amounting to several thousand additional homes, casting doubt over our hard-fought victory at last year’s planning inquiry. The revised policy will instead concentrate more development in existing urban and brownfield areas such as Southampton, where the necessary infrastructure already exists, and in parts of the North and Midlands.

As a result Eastleigh’s housing targets will still be those applied to the draft Local Plan for 2016-36, which included the controversial Options B and C and associated link road. The plan was, of course, the reason for ADD’s four-year battle with Eastleigh Borough Council to protect Bishopstoke, Fair Oak, Allbrook and the River Itchen from unnecessary and highly destructive development.

Our position was upheld by the government planning inspector who, in a letter dated 1 April, instructed the council to delete these proposals. The council and its ruling group later agreed that there should be no development in rural parts of Fair Oak and Bishopstoke for at least ten years, and supported calls for the area to become part of a new green belt.

“We are naturally very pleased with the government’s change of heart,” said ADD chair John Lauwerys. “The decision to abandon the government’s algorithm and to continue with the previous target for Eastleigh means that the council can be expected to maintain its new and welcome approach.” ADD was one of 507 community groups to respond to the government consultation on the algorithm, setting out the reasons why we regarded it as fundamentally flawed.

He paid tribute to the “highly effective” efforts of our three local MPs, Paul Holmes, Steve Brine and Flick Drummond in arguing against the proposed new housing targets – and to CPRE for its formidable, evidence-based lobbying. Winchester residents, especially those who were horrified by the proposed Royaldown development between Winchester and Hursley, also have reason to celebrate as the city council had faced a whopping 48% rise in its housing targets.

Is that the end of the story? Not quite, as we have yet to see the final shape of the Eastleigh Local Plan, which is expected early next year. What’s more, the government continues to propose giving developers greater freedom whilst reducing the scope for local people and authorities to influence decisions. Whilst it is very hard to see Options B and C returning in anything like their original form, do not be too surprised if we have to fight more opportunistic and inappropriate schemes in the future.

ADD wishes its supporters a very happy Christmas in these challenging times. We thank you for your continued support. We think you will agree that in at least one respect this has been a very positive and successful year.

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Campaign group’s fear at planning proposals

Hampshire Chronicle, 20 October 2020: COUNTRYSIDE campaigners CPRE have raised major concerns over radical plans to change the planning system. As reported in the Chronicle, the Government is consulting on the largest overhaul of the planning system in 70 years. Nationally and locally in Hampshire, CPRE has convened a coalition of over 40 housing, planning and environmental organisations in opposition to the White Paper. CPRE Hampshire is finalising its detailed response to the consultation which closes on October 29. The charity has produced a summary for its members and the public to help with their own responses and has shared this with all town and parish councils in Hampshire. ADD supports CPRE’s position and is submitting its own consultation response to the Government’s flawed proposals.

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Help protect woodland from government planning changes: join a free seminar – with ADD participation – on Thursday 15 October

ADD UPDATE: 10 October 2020: One reason we were overjoyed when the government’s planning inspector rejected the main part of Eastleigh Borough Council’s Local Plan in April was that her decision protected the ancient woodland that is such an important part of our area’s natural heritage. No fewer than seven areas of ancient woodland might have suffered irreversible damage had Options B and C (the plan for 5,500 new houses and a major new road north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak) gone ahead in the way that the council had intended.

Unfortunately, it turns out that this is by no means the end of the story; there is still much to do. The government recently announced its intention to remove existing protection for most of the country’s ancient woods and trees, leaving them vulnerable to damage and destruction from development. The government’s policy would also reduce the say that communities can have on decisions affecting their local trees. So our woodland in Eastleigh and Winchester, as in the rest of England, is again at risk – probably more than ever before.

Want to help protect our woodland?

If you want to find out more about this threat, please go to this page on the Woodland Trust’s website.

Even better, why not join a Woodland Trust webinar at 12pm this Thursday, 15 October to learn more and to explore what you can do to help? Given ADD’s work with the Woodland Trust, John Lauwerys, ADD’s chairman, and Caroline Dibden, Vice Chairman of CPRE Hampshire, have been invited to join the panel, so you will see at least two familiar faces! FOR A FREE TICKET, PLEASE CLICK HERE.  

It is not too late to make a difference

These proposals are part of a wider, radical overhaul of our planning system, which would make it much harder for local people to have any influence over the futures of their communities. ADD believes the proposals to be potentially highly damaging and fundamentally flawed in many ways. We have submitted our views as part of the government’s consultation on the changes, which are meeting considerable opposition, not least from its own MPs.

To learn more about ADD’s position and how these proposals might affect Eastleigh and Winchester, click here.

 

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Government’s planning proposals – will we have to fight all over again?

ADD UPDATE, 7 October 2020: ADD is increasingly being asked what impact the government’s new planning proposals will have on Eastleigh’s Local Plan. The short answer is we don’t yet know because the proposals, which are out to consultation, may change considerably before any legislation is introduced. But one thing is certain – we do need to be ready to fight again. Indeed, ADD and CPRE are already making representations, as are Upham and other parish councils. CPRE has also published an excellent summary post alongside a petition, which we ask everyone to sign (before the 29 October deadline), and share with friends.

When Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s cabinet decided in June to scrap Options B and C (the plans for 5,500 houses and a new road north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak) and put a halt to all new development in the countryside for at least ten years, it looked like the whole saga was coming to a happy conclusion. Unfortunately this may no longer be true.

You may have heard that the government wants to make it much easier and quicker for developers to build new homes, by-passing any local community involvement except in those areas designated for conservation. One obvious possibility is that it might give builders the green light for opportunistic and largely unchecked development in much of our area, including Mortimers Lane and other parts of Fair Oak. A depressing prospect indeed.

Of even greater concern to ADD is the less publicised requirement for certain, mostly rural councils to build many more houses than was previously the case. The government is proposing an algorithm that would – at a stroke – require Eastleigh to find room for over 3,000 more dwellings on top of the 15,000 target already in place up to 2036. For its part, Winchester would see its target rise even more, by 48%. (Since much of Winchester comes under the South Downs National Park, that amounts to an effective 80% increase in the areas where it can be delivered.)

ADD believes there are huge flaws in the government’s plans. Indeed, after the summer’s fiasco over public examination results, it defies belief that it could place so much reliance on another algorithm in such an important policy area. The algorithm places scant, if any, attention to local circumstances. It is likely to incentivise the building of larger houses rather than the starter homes that we need; it encourages the development of greenfield rather than brownfield sites; and it pays no attention whatsoever to the impact on climate change. Nor is it at all clear how the government arrived either at its total target of 300,000 new homes a year for the whole country or the local components of it.

The proposals are not yet law. They face considerable opposition and may well be amended. Moreover, we do not know how EBC (or Winchester City Council) will respond. We hope that EBC will show imagination and respect its recent pledge, made on several occasions, to protect all green spaces in the borough. It would, though, be extraordinarily complacent of us to assume that all will be well. We must watch and be ready to react. And, yes – whether you live in Eastleigh or Winchester – we ask you to be ready to fight again.

Having said that, we remain optimistic. The new legislation would not abolish local plans. If the council were to designate the Options B and C areas for development, they would still have to go before a planning inspector. And the arguments that won the day at the end of last year would be as valid and powerful as ever. So, to use a well-known phrase, we must hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

To see ADD’s representation to the government on its proposed planning changes click here.

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Eastleigh cabinet confirms decision to delete Options B and C from Local Plan

ADD UPDATE, 30 June 2020: At a meeting last Thursday, Eastleigh Borough Council’s cabinet voted unanimously to accept the modifications required by the Planning Inspector if she is to approve the Local Plan. These changes include the deletion of Options B and C and associated link road (also called the Strategic Growth Option) – proposals that ADD has been fighting for more than four years.

Council leader Keith House also pledged to block any speculative development in those parts of Fair Oak and Bishopstoke that were previously earmarked for an additional 5,500 homes under the Local Plan. In fact, he promised that all green spaces in the borough would be protected.

In response to a question from independent councillor Gin Tidridge, he added that there were no plans to work with Winchester City Council to safeguard the route of the link road since it was no longer on the table. There will be discussions, instead, with Hampshire County Council on improvements to the Chickenhall Lane roundabout in Eastleigh and the nearby station road junction. Taken together, he said, these would greatly assist traffic flow. There are also plans for a new cycle route between Horton Heath and Eastleigh.

Disappointingly from an ADD perspective, there was no mention of improved rail links. Overall, though, the cabinet meeting represented as good an outcome as we could have expected. In particular there was no longer any suggestion that Options B and C might be reintroduced when the Local Plan is reviewed.

‘No new housing in Fair Oak and Bishopstoke countryside for the next ten years’

The impression that Options B and C are no longer part of the council’s thinking was reinforced by the latest Fair Oak edition of Focus** – the mouthpiece of the ruling Liberal Democrats. One of their local councillors, it said, had successfully sought an assurance from the leader that there would be no new housing in the countryside around Bishopstoke and Fair Oak for the next ten years.

If this proves to be the case it represents a tectonic shift in council policy – and something we can all celebrate in these otherwise difficult and challenging times.

 

** The article contained one significant factual error. “The Government’s Local Plan inspector wrote to the Council in April,” it said, “stating that the Council was delivering more homes than anticipated, so the Local Plan could be brought forward without 6000 homes around Fair Oak and Bishopstoke.”

For the record, she did not say this. She said the proposed Strategic Growth Option was unsound. She then commented that, because the borough had plans to deliver sufficient housing through to 2031, it could address any shortfall in the next review.

 

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New research puts huge value on South Hampshire’s countryside

CPRE Hampshire, 22 June 2020: Last year, CPRE Hampshire commissioned independent research by NEF Consulting, part of UK think tank the New Economics Foundation, to explore the social, economic and environmental value of the countryside in South Hampshire – the area where CPRE is campaigning for a new Green Belt to prevent urban sprawl.

The findings of this research were announced today and conclude that this countryside could generate almost £26 million a year in terms of health, wellbeing, economic and ecosystem benefits if protected by a Green Belt.

If you love walking along the Itchen in Eastleigh, exploring the woodland at Bishopstoke or walking in the Forest of Bere, then sign CPRE’s petition to show that you think South Hampshire should remain green.

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Hundreds join ADD for virtual public meeting on Eastleigh’s Local Plan

ADD UPDATE, 5 May 2020: Hundreds of supporters took part in an hour-long ADD webinar on 29 April to discuss the latest developments with the Eastleigh Local Plan. Presented by Kate Beal Blyth, the virtual public meeting gave people the chance to question ADD chair John Lauwerys and committee member Caroline Dibden, who is also vice-chair of CPRE Hampshire – the countryside charity. The overall conclusion: although the planning inspector’s recent letter to Eastleigh Borough Council was a great boost for our campaign, there is still work to do. For those who were unable to join us, or who would like to view the webinar again, we have uploaded a recording here. Thank you again to everyone for your wonderful support.

 

 

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Join us for our ADD Live! interactive webinar – TONIGHT – 29 April 2020, at 7.30pm

ADD UPDATE, 29 April 2020: Please join us for our first ADD Live! interactive webinar TONIGHT at 7.30pm. We will be briefing our supporters on the current status of Eastleigh’s Local Plan and what it means for our area – and answering your questions. Our webinar will last one hour.

Please register in advance for our event using this link.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

We would love to receive questions in advance. If you have a question, please email [email protected] and we will do our best to make sure it is answered on the night.

We hope you, your families and friends remain well. Thank you again for all your support. Hope you can join us tonight!

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Eastleigh Borough Council’s Local Plan slammed by Colden Common chiefs

Hampshire Chronicle, 26 April 2020: A BOROUGH council has been slammed over its local plan after facing dozens of objections. As previously reported the Planning Inspectorate turned down plans for 5,200 homes near ancient woodland between Bishopstoke and Fair Oak within Eastleigh Borough Council’ s Local Plan. Now Richard Izard and Maggie Hill, chair and vice chair of Colden Common Parish Council respectively, have written an open letter to council leader Cllr Keith House. They say the plan was “questioned rigorously and found wanting in so many respects”. The councillors are also unhappy with how the borough is dealing with feedback from a planning inspector who raised concern over two of the draft options.

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