Parish council chairman urges EBC to do full diligence on Local Plan

David Ashe, chairman of Upham Parish Council, presentation to Eastleigh Borough Council, 15 December 2016:  I’m speaking to you tonight as chairman of Upham Parish Council on behalf of Upham and with the consent of John Chapman, my opposite number at Owslebury, on behalf of his parish also.

However I’m not just here to tell you about your lovely local national park and how you mustn’t build anywhere near it.

We are realists and know that you have some hard choices to make.  Equally we know you will do your neighbours the natural courtesy of making sure that the decision you take is the best possible one given all the evidence available, and we welcome [Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council] Keith House’s words on this.

Hard choices indeed between a development that is strung out along a road [options B and C in Allbrook, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak] or one that is centred around a railway station [options D and E in Allington Lane].  Which is better for the planet?

Or a development which is on the fringe of the borough remote from the town centre [B/C], or one that links easily into the town centre and supports and re-inforces it [D/E].  Which is better for Eastleigh?

I have to say we are mystified by the report before you today.  On the one hand it provides (with some omissions) a preliminary and fair SWOT analysis of each of the schemes, and stresses the amount of work there is to do to develop this.  Options B and C are identified as being the highest risk option, with Allington Lane (which you identified 15 years ago this month as being the only acceptable location for a major greenfield development in the borough) scoring only one threat as against four for B and C.  Yet it then leaps to the conclusion in the recommendations before you that you should forge ahead with B/C and dismiss D/E.  There seems no logic to this.

Obviously B and C dangles the carrot of a possible answer to congestion problems in the shape of the North Bishopstoke relief road.  However for a road-based proposal there is, astonishingly to us, no traffic study work that backs this up.  What little evidence there is, Hampshire’s preliminary strategic traffic study done a year ago, is very noncommittal.  There is no work yet done on the impact of these houses on the narrow lanes to the north and east of them.

When Keith House met with us two months ago [at a Winchester Southern Parishes meeting in Bishop’s Waltham on 24 October 2016], he was very clear that this road would need to be built by Eastleigh ahead of any development.  He is absolutely right about that, as to do otherwise would be to condemn Fair Oak and Bishopstoke to 20 years of traffic misery as the fields between Upham and Fair Oak fill with houses.  Even if the road does provides relief, a 95% complete relief road is no relief road at all.  Yet even assuming it were technically possible this is a huge financial decision. The £31 million budget from the county doesn’t cover a long length of road, any works to the infamous Allbrook railway bridge nor anything to cover Network Rail’s potential request for a ransom payment.  Have you debated how this cost, which could comfortably exceed £50 million, is to be paid for?  Would the money be better spent elsewhere?

So, with so many risks hanging over B and C and so much work to do to find out more about them, we would urge you to consider again your paper’s recommendation 3 and put both options on a level playing field.

So whats the rush?  Why leap into a decision before you have to and before you know the full facts?  Keith House has said this evening that you need to take your time.

We would urge you to do your due diligence, as you said you would in July [at the last full council meeting on 21 July 2016], before you narrow down your options.  To do otherwise risks having your plan thrown out a second time as being unsound.  This would just create a developers’ free for all, bad for you as councillors, bad for us as your neighbours and a disaster for the whole borough.


Local resident reminds EBC of “awesome responsibility” over Local Plan

John Lauwerys, presentation to Eastleigh Borough Council, 15 December 2016: Over the coming months leading to the draft local plan in May 2017, you have collectively the awesome responsibility of determining forever the future physical character of the borough.  The paper on the two strategic growth options show either could make the biggest contribution to delivering the additional housing required by 2036.  The SWOT analysis shows there are many more weaknesses and threats in the case of options B and C (in Allbrook, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak) compared to D and E (around Allington Lane).  The report makes clear further investigation is required before any decision can be reached on which to include in the draft Local Plan which must be evidence based if the council is to avoid its plan again being rejected by the Planning Inspector.

However, you are asked to agree the extraordinary recommendation this evening that even before supporting evidence is available, a clear preference should be expressed by the council for options B and C.  Why is the highly experienced leader of the council and his cabinet making this surprising proposal?  Keith House is a gifted salaried full time politician who has led Eastleigh Borough Council with distinction for 22 years so would not propose this course of action without good reason.

He says it is primarily because options B and C would enable the building of the North Bishopstoke Link Road which would relieve traffic congestion in Eastleigh.  He also says that the borough will borrow the necessary funds to deliver this road ‘upfront’, recovering the cost from the developers of the 6,200 houses. He does not admit to the financial risk this involves.  He also dismisses options D and E because he says that without the delivery of the Chickenhall Lane Link Road, the traffic from development in Allington Lane could not be managed.  However, none of the expert traffic studies completed to date support any of these contentions.

Another suggestion has been made as to why the leader favours options B and C, the most beautiful and environmentally sensitive areas remaining in the borough which could together deliver all of the balance of houses needed by 2036.  Namely that development in these areas might incur less opposition from potential Lib Dem voters than building elsewhere in Eastleigh. It would be outrageous if the future character of the whole borough were to be determined by party political interests and I am sure Lib Dem councillors will not allow this to be seen to be the case.

Surely the borough which regards environmental concerns as a priority would not want to choose the strategic option which will generate 30,000 extra traffic movements per day? Rather should it not press for a new station to be built at Allington Lane and support in every way the proposed Solent Metro Link which could serve development in the options D and E areas? That really is about giving meaning to the council’s slogan ‘Tackling Climate Change’.

The choice of which strategic option to include in the new Local Plan must be on the basis of sustainability.  Only the completion of the further studies identified in your report will provide the vital evidence you need.  Tonight is not the time to make an ill-judged premature decision.


Fair Oak resident urges EBC to reject options B and C “on the basis of traffic alone”

Matthew Waterman, presentation to Eastleigh Borough Council, 15 December 2016: Approximately 85% of existing journeys in the vicinity of options B and C are made by car.  The addition of 6,000+ extra homes in these areas, which are rural, not urban, would introduce approximately 30,000 extra traffic movements to the already heavily congested local roads, per day.

It has however been suggested that these options would be supported by a ‘strategic relief road’.  It is very concerning to local residents that additional traffic would be encouraged to pass under the small railway bridge at Allbrook, which already suffers from significant flooding.  Inviting additional vehicles to Mortimers Lane would be similarly detrimental in that it can often take longer than 10 minutes to join Winchester Road, even when the M3 isn’t busy, causing motorists to divert through the small village of Durley.

The proximity to the M27, which is likely to be used by a significant proportion of any future residents on a daily basis, is also a key issue.  Options B and C are the furthest from this strategic road link than anywhere else in the borough, and to reach it, residents would be forced to drive several miles across the borough on already congested roads.  The same can be said for those residents who would seek to use the train to travel to their place of work.  Due to the distances involved, and lack of an effective and sufficiently practical bus service, they would be forced to use their vehicles to make their way to the station.

If further development must take place on the proposed scale, and I’m not saying it should, especially as we are currently seeing rampant residential construction throughout the borough, it would be entirely judicious to pursue those options that are supported by the construction of a much-needed additional train station, especially one that is sited appropriately close to the new development. This would not only allow the use of trains without needing to drive to the station for new residents, thereby encouraging walking and cycling, but would also allow existing road users to switch to rail.  This would provide a significant mitigation to development in the borough, which incidentally, the public does not consider to be part of Southampton.  The pursuit of such fundamental principles, and those development options that permit them to be realised, should be a priority for any borough council, but particularly one that openly advertises its efforts to tackle climate change.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I am hopeful you will now agree that options B and C are clearly the worst and you will reject them on the basis of traffic alone. Should you however disregard this considered advice, please remember that the public will hold you, you, and all of Eastleigh’s borough councillors directly accountable for the resultant chaos on the borough’s roads.

Thank you.


Hampshire MP urging civic chiefs to listen to residents ahead of meeting on controversial Local Plan

Daily Echo, 15 December 2016: A HAMPSHIRE MP has urged civic chiefs to listen to residents ahead of its meeting on the controversial delayed Local Plan.  Eastleigh MP Mims Davies has written a letter to the borough council calling on them to reject options B and C of the emerging Local Plan.  Those options would see more than 6,000 houses and a new major road being built in the area north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak, also impacting on villages south of Winchester.  A council meeting in Hedge End tonight is expected to draw hundreds of residents against these proposals and in favour of alternative plans, options D and E, on land between Allington Lane and Burnetts Lane, north of the M27.


EBC’s Local Plan: Developers’ plans revealed – questions councillors should be asking

ADD UPDATE, 15 December 2016: Last night, ahead of Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s full council meeting tonight, EBC called a meeting of all parish councillors to discuss the council’s emerging Local Plan.  To keep readers abreast of our activities, we thought you would be interested to see the letter we wrote to all parish councillors ahead of last night’s meeting.  As you’ll see, this letter includes links to the proposals by developers Highwood and Drew Smith for options B and C (Allbrook-Bishopstoke-Fair Oak), and by Bovis and Hallam Land for option E (Allington Lane South).  Interesting reading!  We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at tonight’s meeting at 7.00pm at Kings Community Church, Upper Northam Road, Hedge End, Southampton, SO30 4BZ.


Dear Parish Councillors,

At your meeting on Wednesday evening [14 December 2016] Eastleigh Borough Council will be briefing you on one of the most important decisions Councillors will ever take about Eastleigh’s future.

The Progress Report for this meeting shows that Eastleigh’s plan process is being led by the developers rather than your planning department, with the developers’ proposals for B and C (Allbrook-Bishopstoke-Fair Oak – click here for developers’ proposal) being compared to those for option E (Allington Lane South – click here for developers’ proposal).

The analysis [in the Progress Report] shows that options B and C are much the riskiest proposal, with no fewer than 4 significant threats to delivery compared to E’s one.  It notes that the new North Bishopstoke Relief Road associated with B and C ‘could reduce congestion’ although further work is required to prove this.  Hampshire Highways’ preliminary comments on this road are wary of suggesting that it could provide any more ‘relief’ than to reduce the dire effects of putting a new settlement the size of Petersfield on the north and east of Fair Oak/Bishopstoke.  Hampshire County Council (HCC)’s other preliminary suggestions for reducing congestion are dismissed.

Even assuming that it works, the relief road will of course be 100% useless as a relief road until it is 100% complete.  This is why [EBC leader] Keith House has told neighbouring Councils that Eastleigh will shell out to build the whole road before any money comes back from the development.  But in addition to the huge cost of this (the £30M quoted by Hampshire only covers two thirds of the length, and leaves out any works to the Allbrook bridge), buried on page 17 of the [separate EBC] infrastructure report, is the threat that Network Rail may, as part of allowing works to the bridge, require a share of the development profits for the whole development.  In Network Rail’s own words this could result in a significant value being due to Network Rail which could significantly impact on the viability of the development option.

  • So why is the conclusion to throw the Council’s efforts into supporting the riskiest proposal?
  • Are these two developer proposals being assessed on a level playing field?
  • What’s the rush, when enough evidence is not yet there?
  • Are councillors being led by the nose towards an option that is good for the developer but bad for Eastleigh?
  • What discussions have Eastleigh been having with Network Rail about the Allbrook bridge?
  • What discussions have EBC had with Winchester about the work required to build a road within the Itchen river Special Area of Conservation, which in the words of this report will ‘only be allowed in the most exceptional of circumstances’?
  • What are the funding arrangements for the road if EBC have it built before the infrastructure as Keith House has undertaken? How can they ensure the borough is not saddled with an unrepayable debt?
  • Why, when Eastleigh are so keen to be seen ‘tackling climate change’ are they choosing to support a car dominated development strung along a road, in preference to a sustainable community, centred (if option D land is included) around a station.

These questions matter to Eastleigh so much because, if Councillors rush into a decision before the full facts are available, the plan will be thrown out by the inspector as being unsound. This will leave everyone, both in Eastleigh and around it, to suffer the consequences of a developers’ free-for all.

In case you are interested we attach a report by independent planning consultants on the progress of the plan so far. The exec summary and appendix make a good read.

We hope you have an enjoyable and illuminating evening on Wednesday.

Kind regards

Action against Destructive Development


EBC meeting tomorrow – can you get there early?

ADD UPDATE, 14 December 2016:  TOMORROW IS THE DAY.  We need EVERYONE to attend Eastleigh Borough Council’s full council meeting to register our opposition to options B and C of the council’s emerging Local Plan.  As supporters know, not only are these options the most environmentally damaging of EBC’s proposals but they also offer no prospect of linking to a sustainable public transport system.  They will therefore – without doubt – generate huge additional traffic congestion for the whole area.

PLEASE DON’T THINK OTHERS CAN GO FOR YOU.  Set everything aside: COME YOURSELF – AND BRING FRIENDS TOO.  This is a community event that is vital to our future.  WE MUST SHOW LARGE NUMBERS!  If you do nothing, it will be too late.

The meeting will be held at 7.00pm tomorrow, 15 December, at Kings Community Church, Upper Northam Road, Hedge End, Southampton, SO30 4BZ.

One question for you all: ITV Meridian News will be doing TV interviews outside the Community Church at 5.45pm tomorrow. If you are able to get there by then, to show support behind our interviewee, please email [email protected].  We would be really grateful to anyone who can make it!

BBC South Today and BBC Radio Solent will also be covering the story – so stay tuned!



Eastleigh’s Local Plan and the spectre of King Canute

ADD UPDATE, 14 December 2016: Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s recently released infrastructure report on the viability of options for its Local Plan raises some very serious practical concerns regarding the planned new road essential to the viability of options B and C.  As readers know, this road would run from Mortimers Lane in the east towards the M3 in the west, squeezing under the Allbrook railway bridge along what is now the Highbridge Road.

Amongst the sea of concerns, the report highlights several problems with the tiny Allbrook railway bridge, which – if the new road is built – would need to accommodate an estimated 30,000 extra daily car journeys resulting from the proposals’ 6,000+ new houses. Although another EBC paper identifies (p.13) the need for “further technical investigation, including investigation of alternative strategies” for dealing with the constraints of the bridge, the problems seem so large that no amount of additional investigation will ever provide a solution.  Rather, it will simply waste both time and taxpayers’ money.

On page 16 of the infrastructure report, EBC focuses on the poor visibility of the eastern approach to the bridge, stating: “Realigning Highbridge Road on the eastern approach to the bridge… and by improving the horizontal and vertical alignment of the road, would help to improve forward visibility on the approach and exit from the bridge.”

As regards the vertical alignment, just how much can the road be lowered on the eastern side of the bridge without impacting the Itchen Navigation?  The water level in the Itchen Navigation on the south side of the road, and under the road bridge itself, appears to be roughly the same height as the road surface level under the railway bridge.  The Itchen Navigation road bridge and the railway bridge are very close to each other so – if lowering the road is possible – a new road bridge would also be required (and one that somehow still allows fish to access the fish ladder in the old lock on the north side of the road).  Moreover, to add to the folly of this harebrained scheme, it’s worth remembering that to close the Itchen Navigation – something that would be virtually inevitable to carry out this kind of work – requires an act of parliament!

Another passage on page 16 of the report refers to the need to widen the road under the bridge by removing the footpath under the bridge.  It states: “In relation to pedestrian and cycle access particularly under the railway bridge further work is required to identify potential alternative routes.  The onus would be on the potential developers [Highwood and Drew Smith] to identify route options which could possibly involve the use of the current underpass for the Itchen Way located slightly further south and then providing a new bridge link onto the western side of the river.  Current thinking is that some form of pedestrian provision is likely to still be required under the existing rail bridge, as this will remain the desire [sic] line that people are likely to want to use.”

Local residents don’t need to be told that using the towpath, as suggested, would be a most unattractive, and even dangerous, option, particularly at night time. Only a few years ago, the murderer of poor Georgina Edmonds at Brambridge was believed to have used this towpath route, and it was not far from here, while walking along this towpath, that a 21-year-old student called Joan Lesley McMurray was murdered in 1969.

So the statement that people would still prefer the current route under the railway bridge, in full view of passing traffic, is very well founded.  This is the route that most people will continue to take – with or without the pavement.

Page 16 also refers to 18 incidents of “bridge strikes” – oversize vehicles hitting the railway bridge – since 2008.  What the report omits, however, is any mention of the number of times an oversize vehicle has to stop short of the bridge and turn around, often causing serious traffic problems and needing police intervention.  While additional signage may reduce this problem, it is unlikely to stop it completely (as we know from the failure of lorry drivers to adhere to road signs for the Chase development in Bishopstoke).  With huge increases in traffic, further road alterations would be needed to allow errant vehicles to turn around quickly and safely.

These are only a few of the many reasons why options B and C are so unsuitable.  As we have said before, not only are they the most environmentally damaging of EBC’s options but they also offer no prospect of linking to a sustainable public transport system.  They will therefore – without doubt – generate huge additional traffic congestion for the whole area.

EBC’s failure to get the Planning Inspector’s approval for its previous Local Plan must have been an expensive mistake, although a Freedom Of Information request to “estimate the cost of the Draft Local Plan rejected by the Inspector” was side-stepped.  Now history is being repeated with the council pursuing another inappropriate plan that will, in all likelihood, be similarly rejected by the Inspector, wasting huge additional sums of taxpayers’ money.

Unsurprisingly, local residents are, in their thousands, scratching their heads as to why Keith House, the Lib Dem leader of the council for over 22 years, seems so determined to find ways to overcome the clearly insurmountable problems associated with options B and C, whilst at the same time being unprepared to make any effort to address the relatively few issues associated with the alternative proposals in Allington Lane (options D and E).  

Would it be disingenuous of us to think that this has something to do with the fact that supporting the Allington Lane proposals would place a large development next to the ward that elected him and might put his re-election in jeopardy?  Let’s hope not.  Nimbyism is unattractive at the best of times but in our leaders it is both destructive and dangerous.  In the face of all the evidence so far, at least we can take solace in what happened to King Canute.  This deluded monarch’s spectre currently looms large at EBC’s headquarters!


Letter to the Echo: Don’t rush to a decision on the Eastleigh Local Plan

Letter to the Daily Echo from the chairmen of Owslebury Parish Council and Upham Parish Council, 13 December 2016: EASTLEIGH Borough Council is meeting on 15 December to consider the next steps in the production of a much needed Local Plan.  The plan could well affect not only the residents of Eastleigh, but those in Winchester district as well.  So it is a matter of great public concern the evidence base for the plan has still not been published, with many fundamental reports (such as a proper assessment of the traffic implications) still awaited.  Surely Easteigh Borough councillors at their meeting tomorrow cannot narrow down the options until there is proper assessment, publicly available, of the related implications?


EBC infrastructure report admits to serious obstacles to options B and C

ADD UPDATE, 12 December 2016: An Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) infrastructure report updating councillors on the viability of options for its Local Plan reveals a multitude of reasons why councillors will be swimming against the tide of evidence if they decide to pursue options B and C – in Allbrook, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak – at its crucial council meeting this Thursday.  Significantly, buried at the back of the report (pp 17-18), is a new reason: Network Rail’s potential right to share in the massive profits of the scheme, which – if true – would likely blow it out of the water.

Amongst numerous infrastructure-related obstacles, the report majors on problems associated with the proposed North Bishopstoke ‘link road’, which would carve its way through glorious countryside to accommodate the estimated 30,000 extra daily traffic movements resulting from the planned 6,000+ houses in the scheme. In particular, the report focuses on the tiny Allbrook railway bridge, under which this road would have to pass and which – as local residents have been saying ad nauseam – is totally ill-equipped to cope with the massive increase in traffic.  As the report admits, the bridge is not only prone to substantial flooding, but also too low (“there have been 18 ‘bridge strikes’ since 2008″) and too narrow (“HGVs generally give way to each other if two are approaching the bridge at the same time” causing “delays on the approaching links”).

Critically, neither Hampshire County Council, as the highway authority, nor Network Rail have been prepared to give EBC assurances that they would sanction the plans for the new road.  As the report states: “Further work will be required… in terms of technical delivery; safety for road and rail users [from, for example, ‘bridge strikes’]; and potentially significant additional costs impacting upon the viability of the proposals.”

Indeed, on this last point, discussions with Network Rail have highlighted a potential showstopper.  According to the report, Network Rail could have the right to a share in profits from the whole development if works to the railway bridge make the scheme viable.  “This could result in a significant value being due to Network Rail which could significantly impact upon the viability of the development option,” says the report.

A spokesman for the group Action against Destructive Development (ADD), which strongly opposes options B and C and is urging the council to favour far more sustainable proposals in Allington Lane, said: “This report provides yet further reasons to question why on earth EBC is so keen on pursuing options B and C.  On numerous measures, the plans just don’t stack up.  Extraordinarily, though, councillors are set to commit huge sums of additional tax payers’ money on Thursday to try and square the circle. It’s simply not possible.  Ultimately this will be proven, but at substantial cost to the council’s reputation and already-stretched purse.  The proposals in Allington Lane are both sustainable and deliverable.  We want new houses and the council has a workable plan right under its nose – let’s hope councillors smell it soon, before it’s too late for them and their electorate!”


Campaigners express concern over future of housing decisions in Hampshire after controversial intervention

Daily Echo, 10 December 2016: Action Against Destructive Development (ADD) this week delivered a planning consultant’s report to Eastleigh Borough Council ahead of its full cabinet meeting on 15 December, where policy-makers will discuss the local plan for the area.  ADD’s report outlined the group’s opposition to the council’s favoured option to develop in the area north of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak, which would see 6,000+ houses and a new major road being built (the so-called options B and C). Instead it outlined why the council should pursue preferable options near Allington Lane.  In a covering letter to the report, ADD appealed to the council “to engage in constructive dialogue before ruling out these options.”