Lib Dems continue to split over Local Plan

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Mark Balaam ‘ I have no choice’  pic: EBC

Another councillor has resigned from Eastleigh’s ruling Liberal Democrat group over the direction of the Local Plan and has joined rebel councillors Steve Sollitt and Sarah Bain who who have been sitting as the Independent Liberal Democratic Group since resigning themselves in August.

Cllr Mark Balaam who was elected in 2015 for Eastleigh Central said he found it “difficult to reconcile voting on conscience with blind loyalty to a party position.”

Referring to the council’s decision to identify land north of Bishopstoke and Fair oak as their preferred local plan options (options B and C) for development of new housing and a link road Cllr Ballam said:

“On such an important issue, I feel that I have no choice but to put my environmental concerns above any political ambition or group loyalty and I will not be tied down to a party line on a fundamental issue as the Local Plan.

“I am impressed with how the Independents on the Council have remained focused on the environmental damage that the draft plans for option B seem to present to the ancient woodland to the north of Bishopstoke. Although not in the ward that I represent, councillors have to represent every resident of the borough and I strongly believe that there are serious environmental risks attached to the draft Local Plan.”

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Keith House: “Council yet to reach a decision on local plan” pic EBC

Reacting to the news Council Leader Keith House said independent councillors had “buckled under pressure” and accused them of backing development in the green gap South of Bishopstoke:

“Sadly some councillors buckle under the pressure of having to make difficult choices and Mark and two others buckled to support the ADD political pressure group line of predetermining the Council’s Local Plan backing development across the countryside gap merging Bishopstoke, Fair Oak, Horton Heath, Hedge End and West End, with no new infrastructure and potentially irreparable environmental damage.”

In an email to Eastleigh News Independent group leader Steve Sollitt denied any suggestion of pre-determination and said that his group was still “open minded” as to the best options for Eastleigh’s local plan but added they did not believe Option B was viable:

“We don’t believe the road with Option B in particular is achievable and will cause significant environmental damage north of Bishopstoke and in Allbrook village.

“In addition, we do not believe that the building of this road will relieve the existing road network through Bishopstoke and Eastleigh Town and could put more traffic onto the roads through Boyatt Wood and Eastleigh North.”

Cllr House insisted that while no decision had been taken yet, Option B seemed to be the most sustainable:

“The Council has yet to reach a decision on the Local Plan, but noted in July that the most sustainable solution appeared to be to create a new settlement north of Bishopstoke, with an expansion of Fair Oak and a major new road linking to the M3 to help stop traffic pressures on Bishopstoke Road getting worse.”

Eastleigh’s councillors will be considering the best planning option for the Borough Local Plan at their next meeting on December 11 at the Ageas Bowl Hilton (7pm).

Councillors will be facing up to their ‘difficult decisions” in the knowledge that they will all be facing the electorate in May’s “all out” local election.

  7 comments for “Lib Dems continue to split over Local Plan

  1. John Edwards
    November 8, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    The house of cards continues to crumble.

  2. Rob Byrne
    November 8, 2017 at 5:52 pm

    More spin but less cuteness than Bambi on a frozen pond. ADD does not draw up local plan options, he does. AND if he is so worried about merging communities why has he given planning permission already for non stop housing on the land east of Allington Lane from Dean Rd, Fair Oak, wrapping around Horton Heath all the way to Boorley Green! ADD is against destructive development wherever this council propose it!

    • Martin Kyrle
      November 10, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      Tell us where you’d put the houses instead. Tell us PRECISELY where in the borough development could take place which was NOT, in your opinion, destructive. I ask this question as a former chairman of the Planning Committee, and then of the Local Area Committee.

      • David Betts
        November 12, 2017 at 7:11 pm

        So, by definition you are supporting Destructive Development! There needs to be some out of box thinking here. Eastleigh Borough is densely developed and the remaining natural space is largely protected under environmental legislation. Just because a space is there does not make it fair game to develop. If housing needs are deemed to out weigh the protection deemed necessary then this should be clearly declared. Similarly the routing of a major new road through a restricted railway arch has to be properly addressed instead of, as present being ignored. The route of this road, if built must require the complete addition of a new unrestricted arch with appropriate funding secured. This must be incorporated into a final decision on any Local Plan option.

  3. mark baylis
    November 9, 2017 at 11:58 am

    In response to Cllr House’s misleading comments, ADD is a campaign group, not a political organisation. We do not seek to pressurise anyone. We rely purely on the strength of our arguments, which have won us widespread support.

  4. John Edwards
    November 10, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    With regard to Martin Kyrle’s question about where to put housing, its my belief that we are coming to a time where we have to say, sorry, were full.

    This brings me onto another aspect of planning that should in my opinion, be carried out under a regional authority. Perhaps this is just one reason why the abolition of borough councils in Hampshire appeared on the agenda over the past couple of years.

    The fact that EBC has produced planning options where nieghbouring councils were not consulted upon.

    Its also obvious that neighbouring councils can see that they too will be impacted. Does this reinforce the concept for a county wide planning policy under one authority? But this does not help us now on in the near future.

    What will help is everyone not voting Lib Dem next May. You’ll be pleased to learn that Ukip will be fielding a full slate of candidates next May.

  5. J Worner
    November 10, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    The borough of Eastleigh only has 5% natural environment compared to 36% built on, 10% Green Urban and 49% farmland. This natural environment is a very precious commodity. A significant portion of this natural environment is the area known as Stoke Park woods – ancient woodland, hedgerows and associated open land once the hunting ground of King John and part of the ancient forest of Bere. It is the largest block of woodland remaining in the borough, is designated as a Local Biodiversity Action Plan area and is highly valued by the local community and visitors from further afield. Development of the Stoke Park wood area, as proposed in the emerging local plan, WILL have a devastating effect on the biodiversity and landscape of this precious area. Eastleigh Borough Councils plans for this place are shocking! I truly cannot understand why this option was ever considered let alone now promoted as the option of choice.It defies logic. It is irresponsible to say the least and hugely concerning that a borough council appears to give it no value, is prepared to squander such a precious commodity and in doing so deny future generations the opportunity to benefit from what it has to offer. And this is from a Council Leader who describes himself as Green on his Twitter profile and wants to ‘preserve’ green gaps and provide green infrastucture – how curious..

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