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Campaigners hail victory as inspector refuses ‘flawed’ housing plan

Hampshire Chronicle, 11 April 2020: PLANS for 5,200 homes near ancient woodland in Hampshire have been turned down. Planning inspector Christa Masters said the plans for 5,200 homes and an access road on land between Bishopstoke and Fair Oak should be removed from Eastleigh Borough Council’s Local Plan. She said the process of considering the reasonable Strategic Growth Option (SGO) alternatives has been “flawed”. The council has now been asked to reconsider the proposals which would impact upon villages such as Colden Common, Owslebury and Twyford. The authority stressed its proposed SGO has not been dismissed nor found unviable. Action Against Destructive Development (ADD) said the inspector’s recommendation is exactly what ADD has been campaigning for and have now offered to work with the council.

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Bitter row breaks out after plans to build 5,200 homes are thrown out

Daily Echo, 8 April 2020: A ROW has broken out after plans for 5,200 homes near ancient woodland in Hampshire were turned down. Planning inspector Christa Masters said the plans to build 5,200 new homes and an access road on land between Bishopstoke and Fair Oak should be removed from Eastleigh Borough Council’s local plan. She said the process of considering the reasonable alternatives was “flawed”. The council has now been asked to reconsider the proposals. Writing on social media, Eastleigh MP Paul Holmes told council leader Keith House the plan was unworkable. He wrote: “Your flagship element of the plan, which you personally championed, has been ruled out of scope and your processes questioned in evaluating other sites. The local plan is in tatters.”

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Victory for common sense as Eastleigh Local Plan Inspector supports sustainable development

CPRE Hampshire, 7 April 2020: The government’s Planning Inspector has examined the Eastleigh Local Plan and concludes that the potentially damaging Borough Council’s Strategic Growth Option would see large tracts of countryside disappear and should be removed. Eastleigh’s preferred option for 5,300 homes, industrial space and a new road with bridge over the River Itchen, has been deemed unjustified and represents the least sustainable option in terms of transport. CPRE Hampshire has always maintained that the proposals would amount to huge urban sprawl close to the South Downs National Park, with an unnecessary new road which would contribute to the climate emergency. Caroline Dibden, Vice Chair of CPRE Hampshire, says: “The future for Eastleigh and its communities looks brighter. Common sense has prevailed.”

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MPs condemn Eastleigh’s Local Plan after inspector’s letter

Eastleigh News, 6 April 2020: A letter from the planning inspector advising the Eastleigh Borough Council of her ‘significant concerns’ with their Local Plan has sparked a row between council leader Keith House, objectors and local MPs. Christa Masters has written to the council to itemise ‘significant concerns’ with the Local Plan, in particular the process by which the Strategic Growth Option (options B and C) was selected and instructing the council to delete the relevant policies from the plan. In an email to Eastleigh News Cllr House defended the plan and said that although the inspector has rejected policies based on options B and C – the site itself was still viable and that none of the options had been ruled out.

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Eastleigh Local Plan – inspector demolishes council’s evidence

ADD UPDATE, 6 April 2020: ADD has given a strong welcome to the Planning Inspector’s letter to Eastleigh Borough Council in which she instructs the removal of Options B and C and the North Bishopstoke link road from the local plan.

This is exactly what ADD has been campaigning for since early 2016, arguing that the plan would have created a massive urban sprawl, caused huge and unnecessary environmental damage and lead to traffic chaos without significantly addressing Eastleigh’s housing needs. In her letter Christa Masters states in paragraph 41: “I therefore conclude that these policies should, therefore, be deleted from the local plan.”

She also criticised the process by which the council drew up the plan as flawed, saying that insufficient consideration had been given to other possibilities, something that ADD has consistently argued.

“This is a tremendous day for those thousands of ADD supporters who have worked tirelessly and contributed hard-earned cash to support our efforts. The inspector’s letter means that Options B and C can no longer go ahead and that the plan should be fully evidence-based, which has always been our main aim,” said ADD chair John Lauwerys.

“The leader of Eastleigh Borough Council appears to be in denial claiming that this marks some kind of victory for him, which suggests that he hasn’t actually read the inspector’s letter. However, ADD would be delighted to work with the council and share our knowledge to help it come up with a local plan that genuinely meets the housing needs of the area and does not cause avoidable environmental damage.”

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Inspector promises advice on Eastleigh Local Plan ‘as soon as possible’

ADD UPDATE, 28 March 2020: The news that Eastleigh Borough Council had posted a letter from the Planning Inspector on its website on 25 March initially caused us a flurry of excitement. The next major step in the Local Plan process is for Christa Masters, the Planning Inspector, to write an ‘advice letter’ to the council following the recent Examination in Public, at which interested parties including ADD presented evidence. Although not the final document, it will give a strong indication of her thinking about the Plan and therefore of our chances of having it declared unsound.

As it turned out, she had written to say, in effect, that she needed more time and that the advice letter would be issued ‘as soon as possible’. It is now more than two months since the public hearing ended, but gaps of this length and longer are quite common in Local Plan examinations even without the impact of Covid-19. So we will all have to remain patient.

ADD thanks the public for its continued support and will, of course, inform you as soon as we learn anything substantive. Click here to read the full letter. In the meantime, we hope you remain safe and well in these challenging times.

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Yet more flooding causes Eastleigh police to close proposed access route for 5,300 new houses

ADD UPDATE, 17 February 2020: It’s now 19 days since the Planning Inspector completed her examination of Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s Local Plan. She is now considering the evidence before reaching her preliminary conclusion, due soon.

In the meantime, the realities on the ground are clear for everyone to see. In the recent storm, for example, the road under the railway bridge at Allbrook, which is the key access route to and from the proposed estate of 5,300 houses, flooded yet again. This time police decided to close the road (see image above), stating: “Please be aware that Highbridge Road has now been closed (under the railway bridge at the bottom of Allbrook Hill) and no vehicles will be allowed through. The decision has been made for the interest of Public Safety and the likelihood of vehicles becoming stranded while trying to navigate the flooding.” 

Comments on social media reflect what we have been saying to EBC since the idea of its preposterous estate was first mooted over four years ago. One person wrote: “Wow, houses planned over there and that bit of road is going to be the main access route – another well thought out plan by the council!!!!” Another said: “Not sure any thought has been given to this all too familiar situation here!” Meanwhile a third wrote succinctly: “Mother Nature (and Eastleigh Police) pass judgement on EBC’s Local Plan!” Quite. 

Thousands of local people and many local and national organisations are against Eastleigh’s Plan, for numerous reasons. ADD has been working with them – day in, day out – to ensure it never flies. As judgement day approaches, we hope more than ever that the Planning Inspector will agree. We will keep you posted! 

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As the examination of Eastleigh’s Local Plan closes, the wait for a verdict begins

ADD UPDATE, 31 January 2020: On Wednesday afternoon, the Planning Inspector closed her Examination-in-Public of Eastleigh’s Local Plan with a short statement in which she thanked those who had taken part in the hearings and those who had attended. She declared that she would be writing to Eastleigh Borough Council in due course and that, until then, they should put a hold on progressing any of the many action points she had identified over the course of the examination. (These action points comprise clarifications and corrections to the text of the Plan, as well as the provision of additional evidence.) Asked by an Eastleigh planning officer about the likely timing of her letter, she said she was unable to give an answer.

The hearings were conducted over 14 days, beginning on 21 November last year. A welcome break was taken for Christmas. The Inspector heard representations from a total of more than 30 individuals and groups, including ADD, CPRE – the countryside charity, the Independent Group of Councillors (Bishopstoke ward), the Environment Agency, Natural England, several parish councils and housing developers.

ADD was represented not only by our chair, John Lauwerys, but also by our planning barrister (on the first two days of the hearing) and planning consultants, as well as a number of experts on transport matters and on the environment. We feel that we and our ‘allies’ put a very strong case at the examination, and we await the Inspector’s letter to the council with cautious optimism.

To all our supporters, thank you for your help, encouragement and donations, without which we could not have come this far. As soon as we know more about the next steps, we shall let you know!

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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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