In a special meeting of the Hedge End, West End and Botley Local Area Committee, the controversial development of 1400 new houses at Boorley Green was granted Outline Planning Permission, subject to a few conditions, this evening, 18th February.
The meeting was held in the main hall of the Kings Community Church, a much larger facility than is customary for HEWEB, because a large audience was expected. The Borough Councillors and the Officers present were not disappointed, with several hundred residents packed into the auditorium.
Cllr Rupert Kyrle was in the chair this evening and he opened the meeting firmly, with an appeal for the public to be respectful and to let the various speakers and the Council members have their say without any interruption.
Cllr Kyrle also explained that although the Councils “standing procedures” limited the time for members of the public to speak at the meeting, he intended to use Chairmans discretion to override that. He then listed how long each of the speakers would be given, further explaining that those speaking for and those speaking against the application would, in total, be allowed exactly the same time if they chose to use it. In the event, Cllr Kyrle exercised his discretion further and didn’t hold the speakers too tightly to their allocated time.
Before getting to the main business of the evening, HEWEB considered and approved an application to develop a new retail unit in Charles Watts Way, on the former Wildern Mill site. Besides the new store, which is to be occupied by NEXT, the development will also include 41 new homes and much improved access for pedestrians and cycles connecting with the Hedge End Village Centre.
Previous applications for the Wildern Mill site have included blocks of flats extending to 13 storeys, subsequently reduced to 7 storeys. The Council previously rejected all of those applications, but unanimously supported this latest application for the Wildern Mill site. Planning permission was granted for a period of two years, to ensure early delivery of this scheme plus the jobs and the new housing that it promises.
The more contentious business of the evening, was the development at Boorley Green. A lengthy presentation by Council Officials explained what is proposed for the site and the related developments at the Maypole Roundabout and the Sundays Hill Bypass. Their presentation also highlighted that the main problem for Eastleigh Borough Council is that it has a shortfall in its 5 year housing land supply.
The application was said to feature lower density housing on the edges of the site with higher density housing in the centre, but there would be nothing over 3 storeys high.
Also said to be included in the development are a new pub, a primary school, some allotments, a community orchard and sports pitches.
The total provision for open space, at over 30 Hectares, was said to be nearly three times the minimum area proposed in the emerging local plan.
Proposals to cater for the additional sewerage were said to include a storage tank and overnight pumping via a new pipeline to the nearest suitable location, which is 10km away.
Besides infrastructure improvements to the Maypole Roundabout and development of the Sundays Hill Bypass, plans to reduce the impact of traffic were said to include promoting a reduction in car usage and increased use of cycling, a comment that provoked howls of derision from the audience…
The opponents of the scheme, and there were many, then had their chance to argue the case against the development.
First-up was the Botley Parish Action Group. Their presentation was competently delivered, drew numerous rounds of applause and a standing ovation at the end.
Several “P” words, premature, predetermination, prejudicial and politically- motivated (which drew the largest round of applause!) were to prove a recurring theme amongst subsequent speakers.
One of the strongest and much repeated arguments against the application, was that granting Outline Planning Permission now, whilst the local plan was still in the development phase and some way from being formally adopted, was premature, would predetermine the local plan and would prejudice any subsequent inspection or reviews. It was also argued that if the application is granted, there would be a legal challenge and it is “very likely to succeed”…
Interviews from Botley Parish Action Day February 2
Another line of attack was that even if Outline Planning Permission was granted, the development would have very little impact on the Council’s ability to deliver new homes within a five-year period.
The neighbouring villagers of Durley and Curdridge, supported by their MP, George Hollingberry, the MP for Meon Valley, argued that the impact of the additional traffic on their rural lanes and villages had not been properly taken into account.
They collectively argued that whilst the effect of additional traffic within the Borough of Eastleigh had been considered, the impact across the boundary with Winchester City Council had been completely ignored. Cllr Kyrle was later to say, in his summing-up, that he thought that particular argument was a bit of a cheek, as it worked the other way too. Developments at North Whiteley, within the boundaries of Winchester City Council were going to push extra traffic through Botley, but that fact had been ignored…
One objector warned of the risk of flash flooding if the development proceeds, suggested that Jacksons Farm would be a better alternative and observed that Eastleigh Borough Council have invested millions in a Hotel and Golf Course at the Ageas Bowl, but are now proposing to destroy a Golf course and Hotel in Boorley Green….
Another highlighted that the existing sewerage arrangements are inadequate, running through back gardens in the existing houses at Boorley Green and already having a tendency to overflow.
An alternative solution was proposed by one objector. Build a new Junction on the Motorway, Junction 6 to open up a new route into the northern edge of the M27 and be the gateway to the Itchen Valley. It would also better serve the Chalcroft Distribution Park, which currently forces HGV’s to use rural roads…
Dr Colin Mercer, Chairman of Botley Parish Council, was blunt, setting the tone when reminded that he’d been allowed 15 minutes, by saying;
“I’m going to take the time that I need”
He went on to say that it was the most severe challenge to Botley that he had known. He explained that what was shown on the plan to be a pipeline was actually six pipelines located just 0.9m below the surface, rendering a 100m stretch of land that had been earmarked for phase 1 of the development unusable. He further observed that the perceived benefits would only be a benefit if the new houses are there. Don’t build the houses and the benefits aren’t needed…
Dr Mercer strongly urged the Borough Council to think first and listen with care. He also observed that he’d had more success with Winchester City Council, whose plans had been to an independent review, but he found Eastleigh Borough Council, by contrast, to be undemocratic. All he could do here was make a statement. He was not allowed to join in the debate. It was “galling” that Botley was being treated so badly.
Dr Mercer concluded that the local plan would be jeopardised if the application proceeds, but stressed that Botley would work with the Borough if the application was rejected.
He closed by observing that on the assumption that the Botley Councillors would vote against the development, only five more needed to vote against the party line to save Botley. He then suggested that the chairman (and colleague on Botley Parish Council), Cllr Rupert Kyrle, acting in his capacity as Mayor of Eastleigh, should propose a motion to the effect that the application be dropped. Cllr Kyrle looked horrified and said nothing…
The Developers naturally spoke in favour of the proposed development, highlighting that even the tiniest of hamlets was a once new development. Explaining that there would be an interface between the existing houses of Boorley Green and the new development, i.e no new houses would adjoin the old ones, the spokesman likened the development to a “Garden City”…
A spokesperson for First Wessex also spoke in favour of the development, on behalf of those who need homes in Eastleigh. That drew some heckling from the audience, who not very tactfully suggested that the homes should be built in Eastleigh…
With the arguments for and against well and truly aired, there was a short adjournment, prior to the members debate, which resumed at 11pm.
Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, Cllr Keith House, opened the members debate, re-iterating the problem with the 5-year housing supply and further explaining that if the Council decided to reject Outline Planning Permission, subsequent appeals and inspections would most likely mean that the development was imposed on the Council. The Council would have much less influence over its design.
Cllr House was careful to explain that he didn’t regard the objectors as NIMBY’s. Just people with an honest concern and agreed that traffic leaking out of the development to Curdridge and Durley was an issue.
However, this discussion was about Boorley Green, not Allington Lane and although he acknowledged that some planners preferred the Allington Lane option, the alternative solution that had been put forward by the objectors could not be considered in this meeting. He later added that the Highways Agency had completely ruled out the possibility of developing a new Motorway Junction.
Cllr House also said that the Jacksons Farm alternative was an option that the Council was reluctant to pursue, because it would open the way to other housing developments that would be even worse for Boorley Green.
The audience, by now, had sensed the way the decision was going and there was a lot more heckling.
Cllr Peter Hughes battled through that, explaining that lots of smaller developments wouldn’t raise enough in developer contributions to pay for infrastructure like the Sundays Hill bypass.
Cllr Cathie Fraser, also a Botley Parish Councillor, supported the view that it was much better that the local Council decide the shape of the housing developments in the area, but described the situation as a cataclysmic dilemma. She expressed great concern over the sewerage arrangements and proposed an extra condition, to the effect that this should be resolved much earlier than is currently proposed, right at the outset of the development. Cllr Fraser was the first Councillor to take a tough line with the hecklers, threatening at one stage to ask the chair for an adjournment.
Cllr Dan Clarke was the first to speak about representing the whole community and the difficulty that young people face in getting onto the housing ladder. He was also the first to speak about “people who are not in the room”, referring to individual people and families who are in need of better housing but have not organised themselves into an effective campaign group. By now, with Dan being equally tough with the hecklers and concluding that “prevarication is not acceptable”, the audience was starting to drift away.
Botley residents protest march February 2
Cllr David Goodall further antagonised the audience by referring to them as “you lot” on at least two occasions, but dug in and proceeded to find a way of demolishing many of the arguments that had been put forward by the objectors, no matter how tenuous. Bizarrely he claimed there was a baby boom and explained how when couples move into a house they tend to have babies, so they need a bigger house, then the children grow up and want a house and how the Council has a duty to plan for that. One wag in the audience was heard to observe “So we need family planning”…
One of the good features of the development, Cllr Goodall observed, before finally saying that it was a viable solution and that he supported it, is that we have three times the minimum amount of open space.
Cllr Derek Pretty continued the theme, explaining that the Borough must make provision for new housing, 9,500 new homes are needed across the Borough and 50% are to be on brownfield sites, but that would have to be increased to unacceptably high levels of housing density if greenfield sites could not be brought forward. Sharing the concern about sewerage, and acknowledging that he was going to be heckled, Cllr Pretty concluded that he had no other option but to support the development.
Cllr Louise Bloom subsequently elaborated on the “people who are not in the room”, explaining that they were people who needed housing and either didn’t or couldn’t speak up for themselves in the same way that the people in the audience had effectively organised themselves into a campaign group.
Cllr Tennant explained that one such person had intended to speak in favour of more housing, but had been put off from doing so because of the hostile public gallery.
Cllr Welsh said that the biggest problem was that nobody wants change, and explained how in her 50 years in Hedge End she’s seen massive change. Hearing Cllr Welsh suggest that it was now Botley’s turn was too much for some, which triggered a substantial departure from the auditorium and much anger was vented on the way out.
The focus of the debate now returned to the chairman, Cllr Rupert Kyrle, who said that he found it all very difficult. It was a plain fact that significant additional housing is needed, but there was great difficulty with highways and developments outside of the area were also affecting J7 and J8 of the M27.
Cleverly adapting the other Councillors argument, about people not in the room, Cllr Kyrle said he was happy to wave a flag for bats, for all feathered and fluffy things that don’t have a voice either. To the only round of applause of the members debate, Cllr Kyrle thus publicly concluded that he couldn’t support the development.
Subsequent extra discussion of the Highways issue clearly only served to further infuriate Cllr Kyrle. Hampshire County Council’s suggestion of a short ‘turn right’ lane on Mill Hill, for vehicles turning right into Winchester Street, drew a terse “So which listed buildings do they want us to knock down?” rebuff.
Kyrle’s frustration was obvious, but he somehow managed to retain a dignified position commensurate with his role of chairman, and Mayor…
The motion to grant Outline Planning Permission was subsequently carried by a margin of 10 to 1, with two abstentions. The meeting closed at 00:30am.
Speaking to Eastleigh News, after the meeting, Cllr House said;
It was a long evening. It was always going to be a difficult set of decisions, but we have to take responsible decisions on behalf of the community and sometimes those are difficult. We heard during the debate from a lot of passionate people who are concerned about the community they live in, or play golf, but we also heard as the debate went on from more and more of the issues about all of the people who weren’t in the room, all the people who have housing problems, all the children and grandchildren of us that we know are going to struggle to get on the housing ladder. And those are some of the voices we wanted to make sure we responded to as well as make sure we preserve the key gaps between all our communities. This is the only strategy that will preserve the gaps between Eastleigh’s Towns and Villages in future.
Asked about the Councillors enthusiasm for a plan that gives three times as much open space as the minimum requirement, Cllr House responded;
The applicant has worked really hard on this and its actually a very low density development. A lot of green space, playing fields and park-type space, allotments and orchard. Lots of things that are going to be of benefit to the wider community in Boorley Green and across Botley for the future. Lets also not forget that there’s going to be a school and school playing fields there, which means that for the first time ever, Boorley Green children will be able to walk to school in Boorley Green.
When asked if that ratio was now fixed, whether the Council could retain that ratio of open space when the detailed plans are submitted, Cllr House replied;
Well its now absolutely fixed because that’s the outline planning permission that we’re going to issue. The developer can’t change that now. The developer has to submit detailed applications for each parcel of land over probably the next four to five years, which are in accordance with that outline planning permission.
In a statement issued after the meeting, The MP for Meon Valley, George Hollingbery said;
“The Lib Dems are facing both ways on green space. Their campaign has consistently pledged to protect our beautiful countryside. But at the meeting the Lib Dem Council showed that they have no intention of backing down on their plans to build on Greenfield sites.”
“The Lib Dems have voted through plans to build 1,400 houses on green spaces in Boorley Green. This is part of the Lib Dem Council’s wider plan for development, which would see 5,000 new houses on green spaces. Local people will now know that the Lib Dems’ campaign pledge to protect green spaces in Eastleigh is not worth the paper it is written on.”
“The Lib Dem-run Eastleigh Council needs to stop blaming others and start taking responsibility for the decision it takes as the local planning authority. This is after all what the councillors are elected to do.”
Botley Parish Council now have to decide what to do next. An extraordinary meeting of Botley Parrish Council has been arranged for 7:45pm February 19, in the Diamond Jubilee Hall at the Botley Centre.