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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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Register for ADD Live! interactive webinar – this Wednesday, 29 April 2020, at 7.30pm

ADD UPDATE, 25 April 2020: Please join us for our first ADD Live! interactive webinar this Wednesday, 29 April, 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 safe and well. Thank you again for all your support.

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The Eastleigh Local Plan – where are we now?

ADD UPDATE, 21 April 2020: We recently reported that Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) intends to press ahead with Options B and C – the monster developments north of Fair Oak and Bishopstoke rejected by the planning inspector – once the current Local Plan is formally approved.

At the same time we promised to provide our own considered assessment of what might happen next, once the ADD committee had met to discuss it. In summary, we remain optimistic that Options B and C and associated link road, whilst not yet dead and buried, are unlikely ever to see the light of day. Nonetheless, ADD and our supporters need to be on full alert.

Where are we now?

EBC’s refusal to accept the planning inspector’s main conclusions – that Options B and C are flawed and inappropriate – is incredibly frustrating. ADD supports the building of new homes of the right kind in the right location, but the current Plan does not address Eastleigh’s housing needs. Of all the available options, it would wreck the most eco-sensitive parts of the area whilst maximising CO2 emissions.

There are two key points that we would like to make: 1) We think it highly unlikely that EBC will ever succeed in justifying Options B and C; and 2) it will nonetheless probably be necessary for ADD to make further representations once we see what the council is proposing.

What the council is saying

EBC’s initial spin suggested that the planning inspector’s recent letter was an endorsement of its Plan, even though she made it clear that Options B and C and associated link road are unacceptable. EBC has since accepted that it will indeed have to delete these options from the Local Plan, but hopes to reintroduce them at a later stage when it comes up for review. It argues that Christa Masters did not say the Plan was unviable (true, but nor did she say it was viable) and all it needs do, therefore, is gather some more evidence and then make a few tweaks to justify the original scheme.

It is worth noting that Council Leader Keith House told councillors at their meeting in December 2017 they could make a decision on the Local Plan as they already had 98%-99% of the necessary evidence; it could be left to the chief executive to assess the rest. Nearly two and a half years later, and the planning inspector has identified that there are still huge gaps and inconsistencies in the council’s evidence as well as flaws in how it was gathered. What does this say about how decisions are made at EBC?

What ADD is saying

The inspector is very clear in her letter dated 1 April: “The selected option of B and C does not represent the most justified and reasonable way forward.”

A large part of her criticism does relate to the council’s failure to carry out an evaluation of the alternatives on a comparable basis and flaws in the justification for gaps between settlements. EBC could, in theory, go back and rectify these failings, though in ADD’s view any thorough and objective research and a proper comparison with other possible Strategic Growth Options would rule out Options B and C.

It is important to note, however, that the inspector also highlights weaknesses that are embedded in Options B and C: their impact on the landscape and the South Downs National Park and the fact that they would encourage greater car use (described by the inspector as “a fundamental drawback”). The inspector has yet to publish her final report, and she may yet identify further shortcomings in Options B and C.

Times have changed

In the five or more years since EBC started work on the Local Plan other issues have emerged to make it hopelessly out of date. The council has since declared a climate emergency; adopting Options B and C would make it impossible to meet its target of becoming a carbon-neutral borough by 2030. The new housing would be so utterly car-dependant that it could have been designed to maximise CO2 omissions.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the Local Plan was based on a 2014 assessment of likely population growth and housing needs in Eastleigh. Since then revised population and household growth projections from the Office of National Statistics imply that the need for extra housing is likely to be significantly less than previously estimated. This means that the 3,350 houses proposed to be delivered in an SGO will not be needed in the time covered by the Plan.

The more you consider it the Local Plan looks obsolete, as well as flawed.

What now?

  1. The ball is in the council’s court. It must respond to the inspector, proposing modifications if they are to achieve an acceptable Local Plan. These will include deletion of Options B and C and the link road.
  2. There will then likely be an iterative process during which the council and inspector agree the modifications she requires. This may involve her asking the council to prepare further reports.
  3. There will then be a six-week consultation period for interested parties, including ADD, to make comments on the proposed modifications and supporting studies.
  4. The modifications should then be finalised.
  5. The revised Local Plan will come into force once the inspector has given her approval and issued her final report and the full council has approved the revised version.
  6. The council will then be free, if it wishes, to commence an early review of the new Local Plan.
  7. We estimate that stages 1-5 will take about a year – though that is a very rough guess.

How can ADD’s supporters help?

Firstly, a big thank you to everyone who has helped us in so many different ways – by delivering leaflets, lobbying their local representatives, attending meetings, contributing their expertise for free, writing letters and emails, providing us with useful evidence and information and, of course, giving us their hard-earned cash. All that and more may become necessary all over again.

Right now, though, there is little to do except watch and wait. Once we have read the inspector’s final report and seen what the council proposes, we will certainly be in touch again, if not before.

In the meantime, we hope everyone stays healthy and safe.

With best wishes

John Lauwerys
Chair, Action against Destructive Development (ADD)

PS Please remember to take part in our ADD Live interactive webinar at 7.30pm on Wednesday 29 April. We will be briefing our supporters on the status of Eastleigh’s Local Plan and answering any questions you may have. FULL DETAILS WILL APPEAR ON OUR WEBSITE SOON.

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Please SAVE THE DATE for an ADD Live interactive webinar at 7.30pm on 29 April 2020

ADD UPDATE, 19 April 2020: ADD will be holding its first ADD Live interactive webinar at 7.30pm on Wednesday 29 April 2020. We will be briefing our supporters on the current status of Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s Local Plan and answering questions you may have. Registration and participation details will be released next week. In the meantime, please SAVE THE DATE.

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Eastleigh Borough Council may look to revive Options B and C “a lot earlier than in five years’ time”

ADD UPDATE, 16 April 2020: In an article last week, we wrote that Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) had confirmed it will remove Options B and C – its proposals for 5,500 houses to the north of Fair Oak and Bishopstoke – from its Local Plan, together with the proposed link road.

The assurance came in an email from EBC’s chief executive Nick Tustian after ADD chair John Lauwerys had tackled him on comments implying that Options B and C could still be included despite an instruction from the planning inspector to delete them from the Plan. Council leader Keith House had accused ADD of having misled the public when we said that the inspector’s letter meant that Options B and C would have to go.

Despite this good news, our article cautioned that Nick Tustian had gone on to say that the council might revive Options B and C when the next Eastleigh Local Plan comes up for consideration in five years’ time.

On Monday, we heard again from Tustian who wanted to clarify that although the council is required to review its Local Plan within five years, it might well decide to do so sooner than that.

He said: “To the best of my knowledge we haven’t committed ourselves to when this review will be as that is something councillors will be asked to consider. We will want to be satisfied that we can meet future housing targets and be clear on where that development will be as soon as possible and I can see the review being a lot earlier than in five years’ time.”

As we said last week, while we don’t believe it will ever be possible to justify Options B and C (especially in view of the increasing emphasis on fighting climate change), EBC’s refusal to abandon Options B and C “shows the need for continued vigilance”. Tustian’s latest message makes this crystal clear.

In the meantime, we continue our work on an assessment of the way forward, and what needs to be done to secure the future environment and quality of life of our area. We will share our results as soon as possible.

Thank you again to our thousands of supporters for your encouragement. We’re so grateful and hope everyone remains safe and well.

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Eastleigh confirms it has shelved Options B/C and new link road

ADD UPDATE, 12 April 2020: ADD has obtained confirmation from Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) that Options B and C – its proposals for 5,500 houses to the north of Fair Oak and Bishopstoke – will be removed from its Local Plan, together with the proposed link road.

The assurance came in an email from EBC’s chief executive Nick Tustian after ADD chair John Lauwerys had tackled him on comments implying that Options B and C could still be included despite an instruction from the planning inspector to delete them from the Plan. Council leader Keith House had accused ADD of having misled the public when we said that the inspector’s letter meant that Options B and C would have to go.

Unfortunately that is not the end of the matter. Tustian went on to say that the council might revive Options B and C when the next Eastleigh Local Plan comes up for consideration in five years’ time. Although ADD is highly sceptical that this will be a serious possibility, it shows the need for continued vigilance.

Here is an ADD statement on the matter:

“ADD has received assurances from the chief executive of Eastleigh Borough Council that Options B and C will be removed from the Local Plan, as instructed by the planning inspector. There is now an opportunity to devise a Local Plan that, unlike the present one, genuinely addresses Eastleigh’s housing requirements without wrecking the environment. ADD would be more than willing to make a constructive contribution to this process. We don’t believe it will ever be possible to justify Options B and C, especially in view of the increasing emphasis on fighting climate change.”

ADD will publish an assessment of the way forward, and what needs to be done to secure the future environment and quality of life of our area, after its next meeting.

In the meantime, we thank our thousands of supporters yet again for your support and hope everyone stays safe and healthy at this difficult time, particularly over this Easter weekend.

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