Blog

We’re there! Inspector approves revised Eastleigh Local Plan – with huge development north of Fair Oak and Bishopstoke deleted

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.

More

Nature reserve in Bishopstoke and Fair Oak moves a step closer

ADD UPDATE: 13 March 2022: Exciting plans to create a permanent new nature reserve in Bishopstoke and Fair Oak are a step closer after a vote by the Bishopstoke, Fair Oak and Horton Heath Local Area Committee of Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) last week. The committee agreed unanimously to back a scheme drawn up by local Independent councillors Lou Parker-Jones and Gin Tidridge that would see the natural environment preserved “in perpetuity” on land currently occupied by Stoke Park Farm.

Stoke Park Farm originally made up most of the Option B part of the Eastleigh Local Plan, which would have created an urban sprawl roughly the size of Petersfield. It was removed on the direction of the planning inspector, along with adjacent Option C.

Describing the farmland as “an essential breathing space…a place of exceptional beauty”, Cllr Tidridge stressed that the intention was to create a nature reserve rather than a country park. However, she envisaged that there would be footpaths to make the land accessible to the public.

EBC has already agreed to buy the farm, which is mainly in Bishopstoke but crosses into Fair Oak, to use it for nitrate/phosphate mitigation purposes. Doing so will enable the council to meet a legal requirement set out by Natural England to offset the harmful effects of nitrogen and other chemicals from new housing entering the sea and other waterways. Because fertilisers used in agriculture also produce nitrogen, finding alternative uses for the land will satisfy this requirement.

The plan has still to be approved by a full council meeting of EBC, but appears to have the support of all political groups represented on the authority. Cllrs Michelle Marsh (Lib Dem) and Steve Broomfield (Conservative) also spoke strongly in favour.

ADD chair John Lauwerys was among members of the public to speak at the meeting and also gave the proposed nature reserve strong backing.

Helen Douglas, chair of Fair Oak and Horton Heath parish council, applauded the initiative. She called, however, for the creation of other green spaces elsewhere in the parish. She highlighted the needs of Horton Heath in particular, as it is currently undergoing extensive development.

More

ADD welcomes Eastleigh Borough Council move to protect Bishopstoke natural environment

ADD UPDATE, 14 February 2022: Action against Destructive Development (ADD) has welcomed news that Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) is purchasing farmland in the former Option B area of the Local Plan – and that it has pledged to protect it as a green space.

EBC leader Keith House said: “This land will remain undeveloped, help protect land between our communities and provide environmental benefits for the long term.”

EBC is in the process of acquiring Stoke Park Farm and Manor Farm in Bishopstoke, land that the council had originally earmarked for housing as part of a 5,500-home expansion of the borough. In April 2020 the government planning inspector instructed the council to withdraw the proposal, along with the adjacent Option C development in Fair Oak.

EBC says it is now considering a number of options, including “additional woodland planting, creating habitats for biodiversity to thrive such as the Southern Damsel Fly, or left in natural states as additional green space such as meadows or wetlands, preserving our gaps between our towns and villages.”

Welcoming the council’s decision, ADD chair John Lauwerys said: “This is great news for the residents of Bishopstoke and Colden Common – and for anyone concerned about our precious natural environment. It means that the development on the option B area including the planned new link road will never take place. And, given that Option C was dependent on the link road, that too now seems consigned to history.”

Purchasing the land will enable EBC to meet a legal requirement set out by Natural England to offset the harmful effects of nitrogen and other chemicals from new housing entering the sea and other waterways. Because fertilisers used in agriculture also produce nitrogen, finding alternative uses for the land will satisfy this requirement. There are currently a number of developments planned for the borough, including more than 2,000 homes at nearby Horton Heath being developed by EBC.

More

Eastleigh Borough Council’s revised Local Plan proposals go to consultation

ADD UPDATE, Thursday 10 June 2021: Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) has published its revised Local Plan following the Planning Inspector’s letter of 1 April 2020, which instructed the authority to delete Options B and C (the ‘Strategic Growth Option’ north of Fair Oak and Bishopstoke).

Anyone wishing to comment on the modified proposals has until 21 July to do so. ADD will be sitting down with its planning consultants to prepare its response. Although EBC is no longer proposing 5,500 homes north of Bishopstoke or a link road leading from Allbrook to Lower Upham, we still have a number of detailed concerns. We will inform supporters when we have finalised our submission.

Click here for details from EBC, including – should you wish to do so – how to submit your own representation.

More

Graham Mole – an appreciation

ADD UPDATE, 5 April 2021: We were deeply saddened to learn recently that Graham Mole, a passionate supporter of ADD and a resident of Bishopstoke, had passed away. A former TV producer who later became a respected angling journalist, Graham was a member of our media group, where his ideas and commitment made a valuable contribution to our work.

“Graham was such a great contributor to the ADD campaign, bringing his journalism skills, experience, address book, ideas and an amazing amount of enthusiasm to fighting options B and C,” says local councillor Gin Tidridge. “I was always struck by his genuine passion for saving the Itchen and woods from the damage the development would have caused.”

The one big consolation is that Graham (like Martin Larkin, another great ADD supporter who died last year) lived long enough to witness the campaign’s success. We know that this gave him great satisfaction. Everyone at ADD offers heart-felt condolences to his widow Annie and the rest of his family.

More

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.

More

‘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.

More

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.

More

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.

 

More

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.

More