Government warns council over Local Plan

The Government has warned Eastleigh Borough Council that it might step in and take over responsibility for its housing plans if it fails to make progress in producing a Local Plan.

If this happened the council may have a Local Plan imposed on it.

In a letter to the council Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), gave the council until January 31 to explain why it doesn’t have a plan in place yet.

The DCLG said that although 70 local planning authorities have yet to adopt a plan they have written to just 15 of them, including Eastleigh, because they have:

  “Recently either failed the duty to cooperate or failed to meet the deadlines set out in their Local Development Scheme”

In a statement the Minister described the UK housing market as ‘broken’ and said that not enough houses were being built – partly it said, because local authorities did not have up-to-date plans showing where they may or may not be built.

In February 2015, Eastleigh had to go back to the drawing board after its first Local Plan was rejected by the planning inspector because, he said, it didn’t plan for enough new homes – in particular new affordable ones.

On December 11 the council will meet for a crunch vote on their new Local Plan and the council’s preferred options of housing development on land North of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak (Options B and C).

There has been fierce local opposition – not just from the residents most likely to be affected by the development of 5,000 new homes but also from residents close to the route of a proposed M3 link road that will stretch across countryside from Upham to Allbrook.

So far this year three councillors have stood down from the ruling Liberal Democrat group to sit as Independents because of their concerns over the direction of the local plan.

It is likely they will join the opposition Conservative group on December 11 in voting against the council’s favoured options – though this is unlikely to prevent their adoption.

Campaign group Action Against Destructive Development (AADD) have already told their supporters it is likely that the council will vote in favour of B and C.

Javid’s intervention is also likely to put pressure on the council to progress with B and C as any other option will require more time to be brought forward.

In a statement released by MP Mims Davies, the Leader of the Conservative Group at Eastleigh Borough Council, Councillor Judith Grajewski said:

“Eastleigh Borough Council has failed in its duty as the local planning authority to make a Local Plan in a timely manner and failed to listen to local residents. I take no pleasure in seeing us move a step closer toward the responsibility for making a Plan taken away from the Council. However, the last Plan expired in 2011 and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been spent on failing to get a new Plan in place.

“It seems right that the Secretary of State is now holding Eastleigh Borough Council to account.”

Davies too had scathing words for the council, claiming residents did not have confidence in them as a planning authority:

“I have long been calling upon Eastleigh Borough Council to get on and produce a well-supported Local Plan, so that my constituents can have confidence in their important role as our local planning authority. 92% of local authorities have now completed a Local Plan, however, Eastleigh Borough Council is still not among that number.

“This has had a direct impact upon our local area, its infrastructure, and therefore upon the lives of my constituents. Instead of benefitting from a clearly set-out plan which sets out where development can, and cannot take place, based upon the views of local residents, we instead have witnessed the onslaught of approval of speculative applications time and time again under the current administration at Eastleigh Borough Council.”

Council Leader Keith House agreed that the Secretary of State was “absolutely right that producing a local plan matters” adding:

“We have been working hard to establish the right principles and the right sites for future development in the borough and have been working closely with the Department of Communities and Local Government. We will be making a decision on our local plan at our Council meeting on Monday 11 December. Getting it right is more important that doing it fast.”

“The Local Plan looks forward to the 2020s and 2030s. What is most important is that we get the homes we need built now. That’s what the Council has been doing, ensuring a five year supply of land with homes of all tenures under construction meeting local housing need. We are determined to get the right quality and mix of homes in the right places and ensure infrastructure comes alongside homes, not as an afterthought. Getting the right roads, schools and community facilities, and ensuring countryside gaps between our communities are maintained all matter to local people.

“As well as building the right homes in the right places we have also stopped the wrong houses being built in the wrong places, defending sites around the Borough from unwanted speculative development. We look forward to the Government supporting our Local Plan and helping us get it in place following a public examination next year.”

The Council meets to consider the Local Plan at the Hilton at The Aegeas Bowl on December 11 at 7pm. The meeting is open to the public