Councillors booed at Bishopstoke planning meeting

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Angry Bishopstoke residents booed their councillors last night after the go-ahead was given for a new housing estate in the village.

Around 280 objections had been received by the council and over 100 locals crammed into the council committee room to try and persuade the area committee to kick out plans for 85 new homes.

But a presentation by planners made it clear they considered there were no valid reasons to refuse outline planning permission and recommended councillors to vote for it despite the local opposition.

The new estate will be on greenfield land bordering Church Road and Breach Lane.

Planners stressed there was an urgent need for housing in the borough and the new development would provide 30 much needed social houses – this number was described as ‘disproportionate’ by one resident while another argued that the overall number of houses should be reduced to 45.

Planners said the council was falling behind in its requirement to provide new housing stock.  The estate when built, would bring the total number of new homes in Bishopstoke to 260 when taken together with the retirement village being built at the former Mount hospital site.

Planners also warned that the 10,140 housing target in the local plan may have to be revised upwards due to rising demand for housing in the area.

Residents told the local area committee members that there aren’t enough at local schools or doctors surgeries and that the extra traffic would bring even more congestion to Bishopstoke roads but the objections were systematically knocked down by the planners despite heckling from residents.

One officers’ suggestion that there would be no more than 40 extra vehicles on the road at peak times was met with ironic laughter, as was the assertion that existing GPs would be able to cope with extra patients – several villagers shook their heads in disbelief.

Not in dispute was the lack of school places but planners said the county were already looking at possibilities including the expansion of existing schools – although some doubts emerged as to whether this could be achieved.

A representative for the developers said that they would provide £300,000 for new traffic measures and also money to support local schools.

Furthermore, 1.2 hectares of land set aside for an allotment, a community orchard and leisure use would be handed over to the parish council.

But a resident told the members ‘We don’t want an allotment at the cost of more houses’.

Cllr Anne Winstanley, who is also Chair of Bishopstoke parish council, said that while she sympathised with the protestors she represented all of Bishopstoke residents including those in housing need and would vote for the proposal – at which point she was booed.

Cllr Des Scott – who also sits an Fair Oak parish councillor upset some by describing the plan as ‘small beer’ and added that he thought it was ‘good’ due to the level of developers contributions and their proposed provision of community  facilities.

After the meeting an audience member angrily harangued Cllr Scott.

When Cllr Scott said:

“I would give my right arm for a Chickenhall Lane link road“

an audience member replied

“Well do it.”

Mike Thornton- who is also a Bishopstoke parish councillor as well as a borough councillor and Eastleigh’s MP – spoke strongly in favour of the development and passionately defended the need for more social housing.

This was quietly listened to (parliamentary debate is honing his public speaking skills) but he lost the audience when he appeared to suggest protestors were being selfish and he was heckled towards the end of his speech.

Thornton reiterated the points raised by the planning officers – that refusing an application after a recommendation on no defensible grounds would likely result in an immediate appeal from the applicants which they would win, resulting in costs.

Indeed, in 2008 the council lost a planning appeal over a proposed development at Wildern Mill at a cost of £145,000.

Residents were clearly feeling frustrated and one resident approached the chair to complain “You are not listening to us” but the vote to permit outline planning permission was passed unanimously.

All committee members were present except Cllr Angela Roling.

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