The news that the Housing Minister Sajid Javid has written to Eastleigh Borough Council to warn them they were now expected to publish their draft local plan by September sparked a war of words between Eastleigh’s Conservative Mp and its Liberal Democrat Council Leader Keith House.
Following the publication of the letter, the MP for Eastleigh, Mims Davies wasted no time in issuing a statement strongly criticising the council over the plan’s slow progress and its content:
“The Secretary of State felt strongly enough to put a warning shot across their bows, and it is my strong belief that the Council has really only just done enough to avoid further action.
It is important to point out that this process is absolutely no endorsement of the Plan they’re working on and merely to say they have done just enough to hold officials from the Department back from coming through the door to take them to task.
I do feel very concerned like many local residents that even if the new and very late timetable is adhered to and the Plan comes forward, it is made of sand, and it may not get past the scrutiny of the independent inspector as recent stormy and hugely attended meetings have shown.
This is absolutely the final warning for the Council to buck up and make sure that they produce a sound, supported Local Plan based on evidence which will protect green spaces and plan for the housing that we need.”
The Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, Keith House was equally swift and candid in his response:
“Mims Davies sadly does not understand the issues and with her colleagues has been obstructive throughout with no ideas to meet housing need.
The Borough Council has agreed its Local Plan and Mims knows this though she could not be bothered to attend the key Council meeting in December. The Local Plan could not be published in the run-up to elections due to purdah. It will be published after the elections for full public consultation before being submitted to the Government. Ministry officials know this and even today have been in contact with the Council.
The Liberal Democrats have put forward a Local Plan that meets housing need, delivers real infrastructure improvements to tackle traffic congestions, provides for school and GP facilities and saves gaps between our towns and villages.
The Conservatives have offered no solutions and would simply hand the Local Plan to Whitehall officials to deliver with urban sprawl merging us with Southampton. Mims Davies and her Conservative councillor colleagues should be ashamed of their failure.”
Sajid Javid wrote to Eastleigh Borough Council to say that while they had made “welcome progress” the continuing lack of a plan was “undermining public confidence” in the planning system and he warned:
“Any further significant delays in meeting your timetable will cause me to have considerable doubt as to whether your Council is doing everything that is necessary in connection with the preparation of its Local Plan.
I will not hesitate to consider how to use the full range of powers Parliament has given me to ensure that a Plan is in place.”
With May’s crunch local elections now just weeks away, the signs are the Local Plan is likely to be a key issue.
The full letter from Sajid Javid can be read here: