In a well attended but surprisingly tame meeting of the Planning & Highways Committee at Fair Oak & Horton Heath Parish Council this evening, residents and Councillors found that they were of exactly the same mind over Eastleigh Borough Council’s proposals to develop over 750 new homes in the Parish.
The purpose of the meeting was to agree the Parish Council’s response to the latest consultation on the Borough Council’s local plan. The consultation process ends on 2nd December and the Parish Council’s response will be submitted tomorrow, 26th November. A copy of the document will also be posted on the Parish Council’s website.
This evenings meeting was however an opportunity for local residents to express their views to the eight Parish Councillors of the Planning and Highways Committee.
More than 50 residents turned up for the meeting, including Maria Hutchings (Conservative Candidate in the recent Eastleigh by-election) who again spoke passionately about the inappropriate and unwanted development in the Borough and received a round of applause as she returned to her seat.
Introducing the debate was Cheryl Gosling, Clerk to the Parish Council, who explained the findings from the 75 submissions that had been made to the Parish Council.
- Only two people had written in to say that they supported the proposed development and there was an overwhelming majority (97%) against the proposal.
- The biggest single issue was congestion, with infrastructure, schools and loss of countryside all featuring strongly in the concerns that were raised with the Parish Council.
After a short silence, when questions were eventually invited from the public gallery, Matthew Sharfman was first to speak-up, saying;
I don’t feel that they’ve actually considered the jobs that are required for these houses. Our Borough hasn’t the best record of attracting high calibre jobs to the Borough. We’ve lost good jobs at Ford and we’ve gained minimum wage jobs in retail. Our Borough Council is exacerbating the situation, by making this hotel which is only going to add more congestion and more minimum wage jobs. They’re not going to pay the mortgage. How do we all get out of the Parish and out of the Borough to get to Southampton or Winchester or Portsmouth, to go to our places of work to pay for these mortgages…?
Maria Hutchings then spoke saying;
I’ve been to so many Parish Council meetings around the constituency where time after time I hear people talk about the lack of infrastructure and oppose development in this constituency.
We are now talking about almost 11,000 homes in Eastleigh
We have issued a Freedom of Information request to the Borough Council about where these figures come from.
Apparently, in 2010 there were 6000 people on the social housing list. I believe that has reduced somewhat to 5,000
We are talking about housing for people in this area. Local people I have spoken to across the constituency are blatantly clear that if we have housing it should be for local people, for people with local connections and front-line workers and armed forces.
Eastleigh Borough Council failed to provide a sound local plan for Eastleigh when Woodhouse Lane was refused to them.
Now we’ve 750 houses in our area.
Where we live in Burnetts Lane, shortly after we moved in, almost six years ago, we had a crematorium built behind us. We now have a road planned behind our garden. And opposite, possibly, a meat processing plant.
I know from speaking to the people here and people outside, they are saying who is truly representing us…?
When we go to Full Council, as I understand it, two of our Borough Councillors potentially cannot bring our issues forward because of their own personal interests. They’ll have to abstain…
The question of adequate representation was to recur throughout the meeting, with residents particularly asking about Borough Councillor, Cllr Roger Smith’s interest in land that is proposed for development. Towards the end of the meeting, there were even calls from the public gallery for Cllr Smith to “do the honourable thing” and “resign”, though these largely fell on deaf ears and didn’t draw a reaction. Cllr Smith, who also serves on Fair Oak and Horton Heath Parish Council, was not present at this meeting and Cllr Philip Speary, who was chairing the Highways and Planning Committee, had already indicated that he couldn’t possibly comment on such matters.
Cllr Speary did however make it clear that all members of the Highways & Planning Committee, none of whom are also Borough Councillors, were there to represent the residents and that they would dutifully submit all of the points that had been raised with them to the Borough Council, along with a few more of their own.
Other points raised from the public gallery this evening included one very frustrated couple who had just moved into the area, only to discover a few weeks later that there was a large development planned on their doorstep. As Mrs Chambers explained;
The plan had not been published when our searches were done. Although I also phoned the planning department at Eastleigh Borough Council, we were not told that there was anything in the pipeline.
Steven Wood, from Horton Heath added;
The whole local plan consultation process is fundamentally flawed. We have been given the absolute bare minimum of time to respond on something that is absolutely of paramount importance. Eastleigh Borough Council is hell bent on pursuing this and getting this option through, regardless of what we might say or what we might do. This is a process that will alienate large chunks of the community.
Apart from the residents difficulty with Cllr Smith, the mood of the meeting was generally supportive of the Parish Council, with any hostility being directed towards Eastleigh Borough Council, the Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council – Cllr Keith House and Mike Thornton MP, rather than the members of the Planning & Highways Committee who were in the firing line this evening.
When the questions from the public gallery ended, the Planning & Highways Committee discussed the draft submission that was in front of them and what they had heard from the public gallery. Other than the call for Cllr Smith to resign, there was no heckling, because the Planning and Highways Committee were clearly of the same mind as the residents.
All of the Councillors present spoke about the plan, all were clearly against the proposals and supportive of the document that was in front of them. In the event, their discussion was brief, lasting barely 10 minutes, with agreement to include some additional points that had been raised from the public gallery and a rather pointed observation that;
The committee is disappointed that the consultation is taking place after the Borough Council have already decided that development in Fair Oak and Horton Heath is their preferred option…
The local plan consultation ends on Sunday, but you still have time to submit your comments via the Eastleigh Borough Council website.