Eastleigh’s Planning Policy officer has expressed doubts over the ability of the current Local Draft Plan to deliver jobs growth over the next 20 years. He has also cast doubts on the viability of the River side project and the choice of Boorley Green as a development site.
The frank assessment was delivered at a meeting of the resources committee last week which had convened to consider the controversial Draft Local Plan – the blueprint for the future direction of the Borough which also contains proposals for up to 10,000 new homes.
Towards the end of a two hour meeting John Caldwell, Conservative Councillor for Hiltingbury East remarked he was surprised to learn that over the last decade the borough had lost 160,000 square metres of employment space and he was concerned that skiled workers were having to find work outside the Borough.
This led him to ask Tony Wright the Planning Policy and Design Manager:
“Do we believe in this plan that we will have sufficient employment space in the borough?”
Mr Wright replied:
“No. I don’t believe that this plan as published, contains sufficient proposals to accommodate desirable job growth over the period”
“I say that primarily because I have a very big question mark in my mind over the extent to which Eastleigh River Side will contribute any net increase in employment floor space over the plan period.”
In 2008 the Council had announced that the proposed River Side development at the end of Chickenhall lane would create 9,000 new jobs – however this has not happened – a failure which Council Leader Keith house has blamed on the recession.
Mr Wright also seemed critical of the decision to go with development at Boorley Green which was made by Cabinet following the recent Borough wide consultation.
“I think the decision to go for Boorley Green and not for Allington Lane has put the final nail in the coffin of securing the Chickenhall Lane link road and therefore ever making positive use of the green field sites of the business park east of the Airport.”
Despite this somewhat less than ringing endorsement of the current Local Plan, Keith House was upbeat about employment prospects saying he was ‘Sure something will happen on some of these sites’ and assured the committee that ‘The airport will grow’ – although passenger numbers have been falling over the last 12 months as the recession and prices bite.
Councillor House also said he felt there was an increasing trend for people to work from home.
The latest job figures released yesterday by the ONS show the number of jobseekers in Eastleigh is up by an extra 200 on the year at 1433 claimants, but the number of vacancies at the Southampton Road Jobcentre grew for the seventh consecutive month.
Eastleigh Council meet tonight to debate the Local Draft Plan at the Civic Offices at 7 pm. The meeting is open to the public.