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As Botleigh Grange Hotel goes bust, Eastleigh’s Local Plan examination moves to council’s HQ

ADD UPDATE, 21 January 2020As reported in today’s Daily Echo, Botleigh Grange Hotel & Spa, the venue for the examination of Eastleigh Borough Council’s Local Plan, has gone into administration.  An ADD supporter who has been to several of the examination’s hearings so far, told us: “It’s no surprise! At the last session I attended there were notices up saying the spa and pool were closed, the lift was out of order, and the heating wasn’t working!” Another ADD supporter said: “The hotel failed a food hygiene inspection before Christmas, so the writing was on the wall. Given all the problems with the Local Plan, you couldn’t make it up!”

For those of you wondering where the remaining two hearings of the examination – on Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 January will be held, ADD’s chairman, John Lauwerys, commented: “Louise St John Howe, the Programme Officer, has confirmed that the final two days of the examination will be held in the council’s offices at Eastleigh House [Upper Market Street, Eastleigh, SO50 9YN].” He went on: “On the final day, the hearing will start at 9.30am dealing with site allocations in Allbrook etc and continue immediately afterwards with matter 14 on Delivery and Monitoring. That latter session will deal strictly with the issues raised in the Planning Inspector’s main issues statement.”

He concluded: “My understanding is that there is little chance we will gain any clues about the Inspector’s thoughts on the soundness of the council’s Plan at this meeting. This is largely because there are so many issues on which she has requested further information and until that has been submitted and she has had a chance to consider it she can hardly reach a conclusion.”

As always, we will do our best to keep our supporters fully informed.

 

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Tiny Allbrook bridge, the planned escape route for 5,300 new houses, floods badly… again

ADD UPDATE, 16 January 2020: The bridge under the railway line at Allbrook has flooded… again. This matters because Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) want to use this tiny bridge as the principal exit to the M3 for a new estate of 5,300 new houses and 30,000m2 of employment buildings. This proposed development north of Fair Oak and Bishopstoke is central to Eastleigh’s Local Plan, the soundness of which is currently being examined by Christa Masters, the government’s independent Planning Inspector.

Alongside numerous other organisations and individuals against Eastleigh’s Plan, ADD has been representing our thousands of supporters at the Inspector’s examination, which is due to end on 29 January.

There are many reasons against Eastleigh’s proposals, not least that not all the viable alternatives were properly explored.

The Allbrook railway bridge is just one, very visible, reason why it makes no sense. Last week, we reported how the height of the bridge is a major problem for HGVs, which have a habit of striking the top of it. Eastleigh’s plans to raise the headroom by just 15cm by straightening and re-profiling road won’t be enough. Severe problems with a similar bridge in Romsey prove that point.

There is another problem facing this inadequate bridge, namely that in very heavy rainfall, if the pump installation fails or is overwhelmed, the road floods – as it did again yesterday.

As one resident told us: “At around 10am yesterday morning I drove through what I guess was about 9 inches of water under the bridge at Allbrook. While I took photos, one small red car stopped fearing to go through the flood while a lorry driver joked that if it carried on like this he’d need a ferry to get through! My car went through OK although being a hybrid I was a bit concerned about the electrics. It would only take a vehicle’s engine to stall under the bridge for it to block traffic and creating large tailbacks.”

He added: “A friend who phoned last night said there was still water under the bridge in the evening. While it may have been an extreme storm that caused this flood, we will see many more of them with climate change.”

Conservative estimates suggest that the proposed development will generate an additional 25,000 daily vehicle movements, including a 30% increase in HGVs. If these drivers wish to head west, their principal escape route will be under this tiny bridge. Sounds sensible? If the Planning Inspector approves Eastleigh’s proposals, expect long delays.

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Eastleigh’s plans to adjust the level under Allbrook railway bridge won’t be enough – just ask Romsey!

ADD UPDATE, 5 January 2020: As reported in the Romsey Advertiser last month, Romsey residents have been “venting their anger” as HGVs continue to crash into a low railway bridge in Greatbridge Road. This happened twice in December alone (see a picture from 11 December above), taking the tally to 22 times in the last 15 years.

As ADD supporters know, we have our own problems with a low railway bridge at Allbrook, which has itself been struck by five HGVs in the last three years. Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) now want to build 5,300 new houses, and 30,000m2 of employment development, on land to the east of Allbrook, the main access road for which will end up going under the Allbrook bridge. Indeed, by EBC’s own calculations (which we believe are underestimates), this development will lead to 30% more HGVs passing under the Allbrook bridge by 2036.

As part of its Local Plan, EBC say that they will lower the road under the Allbrook bridge to ease lorry traffic but even with these alterations (which will increase the effective headroom under the bridge by 15cm to 3.85m), the height will still be way less than the 4.3m clearance of the clearly inadequate Romsey bridge. Meanwhile, as we all know, the Allbrook bridge floods badly, so lowering the road will hardly help solve this problem either. Can Eastleigh’s proposal really be a sustainable one?

Christa Masters, the Planning Inspector currently examining Eastleigh’s Local Plan, will restart her hearings next week. The hearing on Wednesday (8 January) will focus on ‘transport, infrastructure and delivery’. Expect the Allbrook railway bridge to feature!

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Update on Planning Inspector’s examination of Eastleigh’s Local Plan

ADD UPDATE, 8 December 2019: The Planning Inspector’s examination of the Eastleigh Local Plan has now adjourned until 8 January 2020. ADD would like to thank the hundreds of people who demonstrated at the Botleigh Grange Hotel to show their support on 22 November. It was a great turnout when you consider the difficult timing (8.30am on Friday), the lack of parking space and the lousy weather. There was considerable media interest with both main local TV channels, Radio Solent, Wave 105, the Daily Echo, Hampshire Chronicle and Eastleigh News providing coverage.

Turning to the examination itself, it has been an intense couple of weeks for ADD and our advisers, but we feel we have made our case effectively. Christa Masters, the Planning Inspector, has listened carefully to the many people presenting their critical views of the Plan.

She can be congratulated for her thorough knowledge of all the mountains of papers relating to the Plan, her control of the examination and attention to detail in the way she takes Eastleigh Borough Council to task over their responses. There have been some interestingly long silences as Eastleigh scrabble around for answers to her calm but keen questioning.

ADD’s barrister and planning consultants have been incisive in their probing of Eastleigh’s evidence and the reasons why the two options (B/C and Allington Lane) have not been properly compared. In this they have been ably abetted by Caroline Dibden of the Campaign to Protect Rural England and ADD chair John Lauwerys.

We were especially pleased that Professor David Sear of Southampton University could testify to the damage that the development would in his view cause the River Itchen, a direct contradiction of the case presented by Eastleigh. He is a world expert on chalk streams, and his evidence will be particularly hard to counter.

The Inspector will have several months after the end of January to reach her conclusions on the soundness of Eastleigh’s Plan, so it is of course far too early to have any sense of her decision. However, we believe we are putting up a strong case. We are, of course, hugely grateful to ADD’s supporters whose financial contributions have made it possible to acquire the necessary professional support.

The examination reopens at 9.30am on 8 January at the Botleigh Grange Hotel (details here). Members of the public who wish to attend are free to do so. 

In the meantime, we wish all our supporters a very Happy Christmas and New Year.

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General election, Flick Drummond, Conservative candidate for Meon Valley, writes…

ADD UPDATE, 4 December 2019: Ahead of the general election on 12 December, ADD has invited each candidate for each constituency that will be impacted by Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s Local Plan and, in particular, its plans for a ‘Strategic Growth Option’ (SGO) of 5,300 houses and a major new road north of Allbrook, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak, to supply us with up to 350 words on their views on the SGO.

On 3 December, Flick Drummond, Conservative candidate for Meon Valley, sent us the following email:

“I am opposed to the planned development of 5,300 houses (Option B and C) by Eastleigh Borough Council on some of the last green space in the Bishopstoke area. The road infrastructure is already bursting at the seams. Residents in Durley, Curdridge, Owslebury and Upham have all complained to me that traffic is becoming unsustainable and minor roads are clogged up at rush hour.

There are still brownfield sites which should be prioritised for house building in Eastleigh. I am not against house building as we need more houses especially affordable ones, but they have to be in the right place, next to public transport and easy access to shops and public services. Our green spaces and strategic gaps should only be built on when all brownfield sites have been used.

I am also concerned about the environmental impact on the River Itchen with the run-off from the roads especially the new proposed road which will be over the Itchen. This is a Special Area of Conservation and has salmon and trout that spawn up the river.

I urge Eastleigh councillors to revisit their Local Plan in conjunction with neighbouring councils and work on a long-term sustainable plan that makes sense to all local residents.”

Flick Drummond, Conservative candidate for Meon Valley

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General election, Sam Jordan, Labour candidate for Eastleigh, writes…

ADD UPDATE, 27 November 2019: Ahead of the general election on 12 December, ADD has invited each candidate for each constituency that will be impacted by Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s Local Plan and, in particular, its plans for a ‘Strategic Growth Option’ (SGO) of 5,300 houses and a major new road north of Allbrook, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak, to supply us with up to 350 words on their views on the SGO.

On 27 November, Sam Jordan, Labour candidate for Eastleigh, sent us the following email:

“To get straight to the point, I am against Eastleigh Borough Council’s Local Plan, specifically Strategic Growth Options 5 and 6 (formerly Options B and C), and I was pleased to be able to support ADD and local residents on 22nd November by attending the protest at the Botleigh Grange Hotel.

With any housing development there can be controversy. However, we must use a sensible and balanced approach in our choices for development locations, prioritising residents, infrastructure and the environment. The planned new communities north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak comprising 5,300 dwellings and serviced by a new road that will cut through our precious countryside, endangering wildlife and woodland, does none of that. It is also difficult to reconcile how Eastleigh Borough Council can declare a Climate Emergency, then push for the destruction of the very areas that help prevent such an emergency.

Quite apart from the environmental and ecological damage the new road will bring, it is hard to imagine how it will alleviate the traffic congestion Bishopstoke, Fair Oak and Eastleigh experience on a daily basis, and despite claims to the contrary, I fear it will make things worse.

Throughout the whole Local Plan exercise, Lib Dem run Eastleigh Borough Council, for whatever reason, has refused to properly consider other options. I have lived in Eastleigh for 30 years and, like other residents, remember how years ago £385,000 (possibly more) was spent by the council on work to progress a Major Development Area in Allington Lane. It had plans for road, rail, schools, doctors and other key infrastructure. The Council even went so far as to officially name the new town “Allington” before suddenly calling a halt to the project.

As a local person I understand the need for housing, but not only should this be the right kind of housing, it should also be in the right place. SGOs 5 and 6 are, quite simply, the wrong place. Anyone who lives in the area, understands the area, or shares a love of nature, knows that.”

Sam Jordan, Labour candidate for Eastleigh

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General election, Paul Holmes, Conservative candidate for Eastleigh, writes…

ADD UPDATE, 27 November 2019: Ahead of the general election on 12 December, ADD has invited each candidate for each constituency that will be impacted by Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s Local Plan and, in particular, its plans for a ‘Strategic Growth Option’ (SGO) of 5,300 houses and a major new road north of Allbrook, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak, to supply us with up to 350 words on their views on the SGO.

On 27 November, Paul Holmes, Conservative candidate for Eastleigh, sent us the following email:

Politicians are often criticised for not giving straight answers so let me be crystal clear – I am opposed to this Local Plan.

I share many of the concerns that ADD and local residents have with the plan in its current form. I am clear that it would damage ancient woodland, damage local wildlife and generate more traffic and congestion. The answers and evidence that Eastleigh Borough Council have supplied in support of the plan have so far been inadequate.

This is why, like many of you, I attended the Examination Hearing at the Botleigh Grange Hotel last week and made these points to the Inspector.  The Strategic Growth Option (Options B & C) in the plan would cause irreparable damage to the environment and the character of the community. Given the detrimental impact that the plan would have on our quality of life, it cannot be allowed to go ahead.

There are also several missed opportunities with the current plan. There is insufficient focus on developing brownfield sites, the council is delivering more homes than is required and it is putting them in the wrong location.

Furthermore, the process that has been followed by the council is as bad as the plan itself. Eastleigh Borough Council has been without a plan for almost a decade and this has allowed speculative and unsuitable development to take place in the borough. One plan has already been rejected and officers were still preparing technical documents after the consultation closed. This does not represent a fair and open consultation.

There is no doubt in my mind that this plan is unsuitable in its current form. My solution would be to bring the council and the community together to devise an exciting new plan that protects our environment, and quality life, whilst clearly setting out where development should and shouldn’t take place.

If the council continues on its current course and refuses to listen, then I will continue to stand with ADD and local residents and oppose the plan with all the energy I have.”

Paul Holmes, Conservative candidate for Eastleigh

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General election, Lynda Murphy, Liberal Democrat candidate for Eastleigh, writes…

ADD UPDATE, 26 November 2019: Ahead of the general election on 12 December, ADD has invited each candidate for each constituency that will be impacted by Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s Local Plan and, in particular, its plans for a ‘Strategic Growth Option’ (SGO) of 5,300 houses and a major new road north of Allbrook, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak, to supply us with up to 350 words on their views on the SGO.

On 26 November, Lynda Murphy, Liberal Democrat candidate for Eastleigh, sent us the following email:

“I understand concerns about Eastleigh’s Local Plan and, if elected as your next Member of Parliament, I will be independent of the council. I would represent all views and concerns, and challenge the council when I see it necessary.

Please be assured that I would want to do everything that I can to make sure that we protect as much green space and countryside as possible for our wildlife to live and thrive in, as well as for future generations’ enjoyment. I will also campaign to make sure there are sufficient wildlife corridors, as well as better walking and cycling routes.

However, I am very aware that as a country we have not addressed the significant shortage of housing that’s needed for many decades. Every council, no matter what colour is in charge, has to show where and how many homes they will allow.

The government’s planning inspector concluded the previous Local Plan draft was not sound as it did not provide sufficient housing. So this new Plan has had to increase the amount of new homes. That does mean, unfortunately, that many of these will have to be built on previously undeveloped land: there just isn’t enough brownfield land available.

I know there are concerns about traffic and congestion. The borough’s policy is to provide the infrastructure on development sites at the start, helping alleviate the impact additional development brings. This also fits in with their recent climate emergency declaration.

I have enquired about the ancient woodland, and have been assured that it will be protected. There will be measures such as low-level lighting to protect bat corridors, as well as extensive green buffers between the woodland and new development, unlike previous generations of building. I am pleased the council has achieved agreed statements with Natural England, Forestry Commission and Forestry England.

Our borough council have had their hands tied by this Conservative government. A Liberal Democrat government would give local authorities increased powers to reject new developments that do not meet sustainability standards, including their impact on the natural environment and contribution to climate change.”

Lynda Murphy, Liberal Democrat candidate for Eastleigh

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Letter to the Daily Echo: Our animal shelter petition is not causing “needless worry”

Letter to the Daily Echo from Annette Lodge, Chair of Trustees, St Francis Animal Welfare, 26 November 2019: “I AM surprised that council leader Keith House thinks our petition to save St Francis Animal shelter is ‘creating needless worry’. If he wants to persuade the community it’s needless, it’s really very simple: all he has to do is issue a categorical assurance that in this or any development plan he will personally protect St Francis Animal Welfare by allowing sufficient open space and belts of noise-abating woodland around us, to protect both us and the people in any new houses. Sadly candidate Lynda Murphy has yet to give us any assurances on this either, or to reply to us…

 

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General election, Steve Brine, Conservative candidate for Winchester, writes…

ADD UPDATE, 26 November 2019: Ahead of the general election on 12 December, ADD has invited each candidate for each constituency that will be impacted by Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s Local Plan and, in particular, its plans for a ‘Strategic Growth Option’ (SGO) of 5,300 houses and a major new road north of Allbrook, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak, to supply us with up to 350 words on their views on the SGO.

On 26 November, Steve Brine, Conservative candidate for Winchester, sent us the following email:

“I went to the Examination in Public at the Botleigh Grange Hotel last Friday and the words below come directly from my address to the Planning Inspector.

‘Eastleigh’s Liberal-run authority has been without a Local Plan for years meaning it has no organised way to protect the borough from over-development or make provision for ordered development affecting the lives of thousands of local people.

The draft Local Plan incorporating a proposed SGO (Strategic Growth Option) – known as Options B&C – proposes some 5,300 houses on the northern edge border of Winchester and Eastleigh, threatening a changed way of life for the communities I have represented in Colden Common, Twyford, Hursley, Otterbourne and Shawford for almost a decade.

I have worked for many years alongside campaign group ADD, and other local MPs, to resist this Plan. Today is a chance for me to address the inquiry directly and give a voice to the thousands of my constituents who, while hugely impacted by the SGO if it went ahead, have no say over it because they live in the Winchester district and as such don’t get the chance to elect councillors in the Eastleigh borough. We are very worried about that ‘democratic deficit’ but also traffic chaos in the villages I represent as well as the environmental impact on many fronts.

There is no question in my mind, and many of those I speak on behalf of, that this Plan with its disastrous options B&C should be thrown out.'”

Steve Brine, Conservative candidate for Winchester

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