Angling Trust joins voices in opposition to Eastleigh Borough Council development plans for Bishopstoke area

Hampshire Chronicle, 21 March 2017: THE Angling Trust has written to Eastleigh Borough Council to protest against its plans for 6,000+ new houses and major new road north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak (options B and C of its Local Plan), saying that the proposals endanger the health of the River Itchen.  The letter states: “The trust, as the national representative body for all forms of recreational fishing, is concerned that plans to build thousands of homes on or near the River Itchen’s Special Area of Conservation [SAC] would cause irreparable damage to one of the world’s most iconic chalkstreams… It is an offence under EU law to damage an SAC and were this to happen the UK could be found wanting by the Court of Justice.”


CPRE: “Building newer and bigger roads isn’t working” – will EBC listen?

CPRE, March 2017: In a thought-provoking new report, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) reveals that road-building is failing to provide the congestion relief and economic boost promised, while devastating the environment. It directly challenges government claims that ‘the economic gains from road investment are beyond doubt’; that road-building will lead to ‘mile a minute’ journeys; and that the impact on the environment will be limited ‘as far as possible’. The report shows how road building over the past two decades has repeatedly failed to live up to similar aims. As Eastleigh Borough Council considers its Local Plan options, will it listen to this compelling evidence? Click ‘more’ for the report and a short video summarising its conclusions.


Mind the gap: Woodland Trust delivers blow to Eastleigh council’s options B and C

ADD UPDATE, 10 March 2017: At Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s full council meeting on 15 December last year, Keith House, EBC’s leader, told the 300+ local residents present: “[I want to pick up on] one comment, which is the suggestion that has been made by some that this council would destroy ancient woodland [woodland that has been in existence since at least 1600] at Stoke Park Woods or Crowdhill Copse – absolutely not. This council, I am confident, will not see the disruption of any ancient woodland [even] if we were to progress ultimately with any development at Bishopstoke/Fair Oak [so-called options B and C of the council’s emerging Local Plan]. So these things matter… when developers come to us saying you’ve got to have houses between two sets of woodlands, we will quite rightly turn round and say: “No, you can’t do that. That doesn’t work in terms of the environment and the protection of… the community.”

Several other councillors, including Councillors Vickieye Parkinson-McLachlan, Trevor Mignot, Margaret Atkinson and Derek Pretty – not to mention Martin Hawthorn, the agent for the developer Highwood – also pledged to protect the area’s ancient woodland. Councillor Parkinson-McLachlan told those present that “it is incumbent upon us to preserve those woodlands intact with the whole variety of wildlife that we currently see and which makes us so special”, while Councillor Atkinson said that failing to do so would be a “travesty”. Summing up, Keith House also said: “We need to be very clear: there are no proposals from anyone to destroy ancient woodland, and I hope that everyone in the room, everyone understands that and takes it on board.”

In the last couple of weeks however, the Woodland Trust has reiterated its deep concerns relating options B and C of EBC’s Local Plan, namely the proposed development of 6,000+ new houses and a major new road at Allbrook, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak. If EBC chooses these proposals, currently its favoured options, the Woodland Trust believes it will be “hugely damaging” to two of its ancient woodlands, Upper Barn Copse and Crowdhill Copse, between which its proposed new road would be built – see our annotated version of the developer’s map above. 

Moreover, as the map shows, the developers are saying to the council that they should “have houses between two sets of woodlands” (not only between the Upper Barn and Crowdhill copses but also between Upper Barn Copse and Stoke Park Wood, another ancient woodland owned by the Forestry Commission), so, if Keith House is true to his word, presumably he will now “turn around and say: ‘No, you can’t do that’”? (Given the woods and the fields between them are designated by the council as priority biodiversity areas/links, it seems extraordinary he hasn’t said this already – but that’s a different story).

The Woodland Trust noted in a 2012 report that “only 12% of the [UK’s] landscape is native woodland, and of that only 19% is classified as ancient woodland.” It is therefore not surprising that the Trust is concerned.  Alongside hundreds of other individuals and organisations, it made strong representations against options B and C during EBC’s consultation period at the start of last year but in recent comments, Oliver Newham, the Trust’s senior campaigner for ancient woodland, has emphasised how the development will be “hugely damaging”, adding: 

“The Woodland Trust is extremely concerned about proposals that could see thousands of houses built close to areas of ancient woodland near Bishopstoke. Ancient woods are hundreds of years old and act as havens for wildlife. They are very sensitive to change, each one unique and irreplaceable. Ancient woods need properly protecting from the impacts of development. We are particularly concerned about the prospect of a road being built between two of these woods, Upper Barn and Crowdhill copses. Any road between these woods would sever important wildlife corridors and further isolate the woodlands from each other. The woods would also be exposed to increased noise, light and other damaging impacts. We would urge those that love woodlands, particularly those with local experience of these woodlands, to do (and carry on doing) everything they can to convince decision-makers that these woods need protecting, not polluting.”

In the 2012 report, entitled ‘Impacts of nearby development on ancient woodland’, the Woodland Trust referenced the significant amount of research that has been done into the various ways in which road and housing developments can degrade, and ultimately destroy, ancient woodland. These included ‘chemical effects’ (vehicle emissions), noise, vegetation clearance, light pollution and fragmentation (see pp 6-12).  The report also covered the effectiveness of ‘buffer zones’ as a means of mitigating the damage caused by development (see p.19). In this section, it detailed how  100-200 metres is necessary “to protect plant species from the effects of vehicle emissions from roads; 300 metres is necessary to “to protect woodland bird species from the effects of roads”; and 400 metres is necessary “to protect woodland bird species from the effects of urban development”.

Given that the gap between Upper Barn Copse and Crowdhill Copse is approximately 175 metres, and all of the woods will be within 400 metres of the proposed development (see map), we cannot see how EBC would be able to build its proposed new road and housing without ultimately destroying the ancient woodland. Even if the road was realigned to run down the centre of the gap between the two woods, the maximum buffer possible would only be 83 metres. Martin Hawthorn, the developers’ agent, talked about the need for “substantial buffers”, but obviously there isn’t the room. 

Given the clear promises made by Keith House and several of his fellow councillors to protect ancient woodland, surely this makes it a showstopper?

To support ADD in our campaign against options B and C, please offer your servicesdonate to the cause or simply join our Facebook group.

To find out more about the Woodland Trust and how to save Britain’s ancient woodlands, click here


Council planning 6,300 homes on green field site, plus a bypass through protected area

Country Life, 9 March 2017: In Hampshire, the council at Eastleigh is considering a plan to put 6,300 homes on green fields, served by a bypass squeezed between two ancient protected woodlands once used by King John. Equally serious is that the bypass will intrude on and then cross the River Itchen, which enjoys the EU’s highest level of protection as a Special Area of Conservation. Conservation organisations are livid, particularly the Woodland Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The scheme is opposed by three local Tory MPs and local Green Party MEP Keith Taylor. The EU fine for damaging a Special Area of Conservation could be about €40 million (£34.2 million). The Government stated recently that ancient woodlands should be as protected as green fields.


Eastleigh’s MP and Council Leader both “committed” to Chickenhall Lane Link Road – can they now make it happen?

ADD UPDATE, 5 March 2017: Further to the open letter that Mims Davies, Conservative MP for Eastleigh, sent to ADD last week, in which she spoke positively about the progress she is making to lobby for the Chickenhall Lane Link Road (CLLR), we invited Keith House, Liberal Democrat leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, to share his views with us too.

Whilst Hampshire County Council and the highways consultants supporting the developers’ proposals for option E have concluded that development in Allington Lane does not require the construction of the CLLR, this new road would open up land for housing and employment uses in a very suitable location and provide a genuine bypass for traffic going through the centre of Eastleigh. ADD is therefore an enthusiastic supporter of the CLLR.

Happily, we received the email below from Keith House yesterday, which makes clear he too supports the CLLR. Whilst we recognise, and understand, the need for political banter between Eastleigh’s two leading politicians, we are pleased to have it on record that both leaders are “committed” to the road.

Keith House writes:

“Mims Davies has no credibility on the Chickenhall Lane Link Road. She pledged during the 2015 election campaign to have funds in place for this bypass within 100 days of the election, and repeated this promise at the election count. She has failed to deliver on her promise. The Council, and local community, has to pick up the pieces on this failure. The Council’s commitment to this road has been clear for more than 20 years. We all need an end to excuses and broken promises made just to win votes.”

As a non-political group of local residents that simply wants the best for Eastleigh and the surrounding area, we urge both politicians to put aside their differences and work with other key stakeholders, all of whom we understand also support the road, to make it happen. As the 1,100+ people who have signed the petition in favour of the CLLR will testify, this will be a very popular move.

In the meantime, we thank Councillor House for his comments. We have also invited EBC to respond to our recent article on the relatively small infrastructure investment needed to support options D and E of the Local Plan. We look forward to receiving a reply on this issue too.


Mims Davies sends open letter to ADD, we invite Keith House to give his views

ADD UPDATE, 3 March 2017: ADD has received an open letter from Mims Davies, MP for Eastleigh, in which she criticises Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) for the delay in its emerging Local Plan and its preference for options B and C, namely the development of 6,000+ new houses and a new road at Allbrook, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak.

In her letter, Mims Davies also notes with dismay the council’s claim that the principal alternatives to B and C are not feasible without the much-wanted Chickenhall Lane Link Road.  She believes this to be incorrect, and two very separate issues. That said, like the 1,100+ people who have signed this petition in support of the Chickenhall Lane Link Road, she says she is actively lobbying for the road, which she believes EBC has been less than active in promoting.

As a non-political group, we have invited Keith House, Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, to give us his views on the Chickenhall Lane Link Road project and will post his response on this – and indeed anything to do with the Local Plan – as and when we receive anything.  

Mims Davies writes:

“Planning in our area dominates my mailbox. I regularly receive emails, letters, phone calls and social media messages about the threats to our green spaces posed by Eastleigh Borough Council’s delayed Local Plan. I have long been campaigning against options B and C alongside many residents and of course Action Against Destructive Development. The emerging Local Plan is more than just about housing: it is about infrastructure, jobs and commercial space and the potential new plan tackles other possible strategic housing sites. Much has been said about these strategic options but sadly with an emotive issue such as this there have been inaccuracies emerging.

“To be clear from the outset, I am not a Councillor nor do I make or wish to make the decisions about strategic sites, housing number assessments or the evidence base used to construct a Local Plan. My job as an MP is to stand up for residents and give them a voice in Parliament and in the constituency. The Council’s role is to work with residents and stakeholders in a clear and transparent process looking at all the options for housing, jobs and opportunities for the best outcome for our communities. Ordinarily MPs are rightly happy to leave planning matters to their Local Council. The residents writing to me believe the situation is so dire that I have had to step in and explain the process to them.

“Put simply, options B and C represent an appalling loss of green space and amount to environmental vandalism. Stoke Park Woods is a beautiful area and once we destroy Ancient Woodland it never returns. Moreover, the old planning adage that once you tarmac over a field it never comes back is true. Before being elected to Parliament I was a Councillor for six years and I know that there are times when a scrappy old field at the end of the settlement can be a reluctant but appropriate site for well-designed housing. The situation we find ourselves however is the other extreme: our natural heritage under threat.

“The situation has arisen because of the way that this Local Plan is being constructed. Residents are up in arms about the potential options and yet very little listening seems to be being done by the Council. It has taken an age for Eastleigh Borough Council to get a submission ready plan for Inspection. While 74% of England now has an adopted Local Plan we are still waiting here in Eastleigh. In the meantime piecemeal applications such as that at Pembers Hill Farm seek to pre-empt that process – one of the reasons why I asked the Secretary of State to call in the application.

“Clearly, one of our key issues is the lack of sufficient infrastructure. I have noticed the rather lazy response by Eastleigh Borough Council to my call for alternatives to B and C. They claim that others are not feasible without the Chickenhall Lane Link Road. This is not correct and is an attempt to dismiss residents’ genuine concerns about green space. They are two separate issues.

“I am continuing to lobby Government and the Local Enterprise Partnership and all stakeholders for their key support on bringing forward the much needed Chickenhall Lane Link Road. I am hosting a summit to discuss this with key local stakeholders at Southampton Airport this month. This is necessary as I have had feedback from Government that the bid will be stronger and will continue to move positively forward with all the stakeholders if Eastleigh Borough Council show a greater level of support for it than they have to date, including in the work they do around their Local Plan.”


EBC urged to treat fairly the infrastructure needs of its Local Plan options

ADD UPDATE, 2 March 2017:  ADD has long argued that Eastleigh Borough Council’s options D and E (around Allington Lane) for its Local Plan provide the best solution to Eastleigh’s housing needs.  Anyone reading the report prepared by planning consultant, West Waddy, last December will see just how compelling the arguments are – whether viewed from a planning, financial, human, practical or environmental perspective.

Surprisingly, given the strong desire in certain quarters to push through options B and C (at Allbrook, Fair Oak and Bishopstoke) as quickly as possible, EBC’s own infrastructure report largely agrees with our analysis, describing B and C as the riskier way forward.

So EBC was absolutely right to vote unanimously at its meeting on 15 December to keep all options open until councillors have more information to consider.  Was this, we wonder, just a tactical retreat – or is the leadership going into this process with a genuinely open mind?

Whichever options eventually go ahead will require considerable investment in supporting infrastructure.  And EBC is certainly going to great lengths to find ways of financing the so-called and misnamed North Bishopstoke bypass, which is deemed necessary for B and C.  We understand the council is negotiating a £50 million loan to pay for the road up-front – a bold gesture for an authority as mired in debt as EBC. (This sum almost certainly underestimates the road’s cost, but that is another story.)

So, in a spirit of impartiality, we hope and assume the council is devoting similar energies to finding ways to fund the infrastructure needed to support options D and E, which all the independent experts who have studied the plans agree is the best way forward.  The relatively minor modifications to existing roads needed to make D and E viable would certainly cost much less than £50 million.  Indeed, there would be enough money left over to fund, in addition, a new railway station at Allington. Now, that really would alleviate traffic congestion in Eastleigh and make it a greener place to live.

We wait with bated breath to learn what EBC is doing to research the infrastructure needs for D and E and the best ways to meet them.

We have invited EBC to comment on this article and will post any response if and when we receive one. 


Concerns over plans for 6,000 homes north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak

Hampshire Chronicle, 15 February 2017: A WINCHESTER parish councillor has expressed concerns over plans to build more than 6,000 homes in Eastleigh. Chairman of Owslebury Parish Council John Chapman appealed for more information on options B and C of Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s Local Plan, which would see development north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak, as the parish was already experiencing a disruptive volume of commuter traffic. In an open letter, he asked how EBC would reconcile its obligations under its transport plan to reduce residents’ need to travel by car with its preference for development proposals which offered poor access to the railway. Councillor Chapman’s letter comes as an application to build 250 homes in Fair Oak, in option C, was approved by EBC last month.



As the government’s white paper protects ancient woodland, a reminder of EBC’s brutal plans

ADD UPDATE, 14 February 2017: In the wake of last week’s government housing white paper, in which Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid gave greater protection to ancient woodland, we have decided to publish a four-minute version of Rob Byrne’s video (first shown last summer) exposing the scale of destruction of Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s options B and C for its proposed Local Plan (on land north of Allbrook, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak).  As more and more people now know, these options, which include the development of 6,000+ new houses and a major new road on beautiful countryside that includes no less than SIX sites of ancient woodland are – incredibly – the council’s favoured plan, so take a look at what could be lost before it is too late.

To view developer Highwood Group’s plan, and its path of destruction, click here.

As Mims Davies, MP for Eastleigh, said in the House of Commons after the publication of the white paper: “I welcome the protection of ancient woodland because, at the moment, the only answer in Eastleigh is ‘out of space’ development dropped on ancient woodland.”

In response Sajid Javid said: “I agree with my hon. friend… she is right about ancient woodland. She has spoken to me about that on a number of occasions, and in the white paper I did not see why ancient woodland should have less protection than the green belt, as is the case currently. That is why we are upgrading the protection of ancient woodland to the same level as green belt.

As EBC targets a springtime publication of its preferred outcome, let’s hope it realises soon, for everyone’s sake, that options B and C are both undeliverable and unsustainable.

To view the new version of Rob Byrne’s video, click here.

To view the full version, published last summer, click here.