The newly-elected Leader of Eastleigh’s Independent Group, Councillor Louise Parker-Jones, has said she is ‘disappointed’ by the Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable who branded her supporters as ‘nimbys’.
Dr Cable made the comments following last week’s local elections when Eastleigh’s Liberal Democrats were returned to power with an increased majority but lost all three seats in Bishopstoke to Independents over proposals for 5,000 new homes in green space in the North of the ward.
Cllr Parker-Jones told Eastleigh News:
“I was disappointed that Mr Cable would take such a glib attitude towards the residents of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak. They sent a very clear message that their views hadn’t been listened to and the result was for them to put their trust in somebody they believe will represent their views. I don’t there is anything to be gained from name calling.”
Parker-Jones also dismissed criticism from Council Leader Keith House who said the Independents lacked a plan and had misled voters into thinking that the unpopular Local Plan could be stopped simply by saying ‘no’.
The Independent Leader said:
“It isn’t for us to have a plan, ours is to work with the council to find a good solution and that means looking at all the evidence. Evidence is missing and decisions have been taken without the air of transparency, decisions have been delegated to someone without any accountability, an unelected public official, and that is holding the residents of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak in contempt.
“The Local Plan in the ownership of the council. It’s for the council to decide and there are a whole host of options that need to be considered. Unfortunately, its only being focused on one area, and its being done without the views of the residents, without the views of experts and with key evidence missing so things such as biodiversity, habitat, transport – all the things that are fundamental in making this plan a success in getting the right houses in the right places and not the wrong houses in the wrong places – which we believe that Local Plan is attempting to do.”
“We’ve never said that we can stop the plan. What we’ve said is that we want to contest it. We want to be sure our voices are heard in its development and we can certainly do that now there’s a local area committee with three independent people – that’s absolutely unheard of across the Eastleigh Borough so we will have a lot of control.”
While the Borough Council has determined which area’s are to be developed under the Local Plan, the Independents will still be able to make the decisions on any planning applications within the Bishopstoke, Fair Oak and Horton Heath area as they hold the majority of seats on the local area committee. The Independents have three seats, the Conservatives have one seat and the Liberal Democrats two. If a decision is dead-locked then the casting vote will be made by the Chair – likely to be occupied by one of the independents. Although they can’t ‘stop the plan’ – they could potentially stop planning applications within it, but in considering applications councillors have to be mindful of council planning officer’s advice. A refusal to permit a development while the planning advice is to approve, would most likely result in an appeal and as there is a ‘presumption in favour’ of building, the council could be faced with paying the appeal costs.
The Councillor also insisted, contrary to suggestions made by rival Lib Dem candidates during the election campaign, that the Independent group would seek to protect green spaces throughout the local area including the gap between West End and Bishopstoke, South of West Horton Lane and Whalesmead:
“If a developer puts forward any land that includes options B and C, or D and E, that has to be considered. If its an area of sensitivity, then we will fight to get it stopped.”
Cllr Parker-Jones took the opportunity of thanking those who voted Independent, describing the result as a win for the community:
“As a result of the elections we’ve got so any people to thank particularity the community – this is a win for them. It’s not a win for me or Gin Tidridge or Ray Dean it’s a win for the it’s an opportunity for them to have their voices heard, for us to listen to them and to take them seriously and not let them be held in contempt any further.”