George Osborne has announced he will tackle the ‘forces of stagnation’ by ripping up planning laws to allow the development of housing on sites like the former Botley SDA.
Speaking during the emergency economics debate in this week’s recalled parliament, the chancellor said housing development is needed to stimulate the nation’s economy, reinforcing a message from the department of Communities and Local Government that the presumption for planning applications would in future be ‘yes’ – despite the provisions of the forthcoming Localism bill.
Controversial housing plans like the Botley SDA are now being revived by councils who are scrambling to identify sites to comply with the government’s Draft National Planning Policy Framework.
George Osborne’s ’ forces of stagnation’ jibe would appear to be directed against the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England who have claimed that the loosening of planning laws will put large swathes of greenbelt land under threat.
Eastleigh Borough Council is currently conducting a public consultation into the future of housing development in the borough where there are nearly 6000 people on the housing list.
Shortly after the general Election the council shelved the unpopular Strategic Development which would have seen 6000 houses built in the Botley area but the council now says it needs to build almost 10,000 new homes in the borough by 2029 in order to meet demand.
With the majority of brownfield sites either already used or earmarked for development the council says it has choice but to consider Greenfield sites – which in the short term could mean 2,500 built in the disputed Botley/Boorley Green area.
Paul Miner of the CPRE said:
“Current planning laws favour the reuse of brownfield sites but the new rules effectively remove the protection for greenfield land – the countryside.
“Developers will go for the areas where the local plan has identified a need for housing as it will be harder for the council to refuse permission. Any builder refused permission will simply appeal, citing the local housing shortage.”
In Leicestershire last week, developers won an appeal to build 230homes despite locals unanimously rejecting the plan.
An inspector appointed by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government said the “pressing need” for more houses in the area outweighed the need to protect green spaces.
Although the government is showing the stick to councils who do not have a housing strategy in place, it is also offering a juicy carrot in the form of a ‘New Homes Bonus which’ would see councils who permit building rewarding with cash payments equal to the council tax raised on new builds – payments which would be worth hundreds of thousand of pounds to Eastleigh Borough Council.
At a packed meeting of the Council last month over 100 campaigners from the Botley area once again put the case to the council for the preservation of local greenbelt only to be met by accusations of nimbyism from Lib Dem members who proceeded to unanimously vote in favour of development on the previous SDA site.
During same meeting John Milne of Eastleigh Conservative Association raised concerns that the public consultation was flawed and reminded the council that their previous public consultation – into the possibility of a directly elected mayor – only produced 13 responses and although they were largely in favour the recommendation was ignored.
Critics of the council’s latest consultation are objecting to responses being limited to one per household and are concerned that the public are only being invited to choose between a site in Allington Lane or Boorly Green – they are unable to vote on proposed housing schemes on Stoneham Park or Woodhouse Lane.
Campaigners will be out in force in Botley today drumming support for a possible local referendum.
Photo: Peter Facey