• Eastleigh by-election row sums up planning chaos to come

    19th February 2013 | News | Claire
  • In Chris Huhne’s old constituency of Eastleigh, the LibDem controlled council does not have the pre-requisite five year housing land supply, and has just approved an application for 1,400 houses on a greenfield site. 

    There is no allocation for the scheme in the council’s Local Plan but planning officers recommended approval, presumably because of the lack of a five year housing land supply.  Enter high profile political row between Tories and LibDems, each blaming the other for the state of planning and the district getting 1,400 houses it didn’t want.

    Planning minister, Nick Boles, never normally short of an insult or two for people who like the countryside, is being uncharacteristically quiet on the matter, with the LibDems claiming that he has been gagged.

    Here is the rather fascinating story from Planning below and here – http://www.planningresource.co.uk/Development_Control/article/1171359/by-election-housing-row-intensifies-1400-home-approval/ …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    A bitter by-election row over housing plans has escalated after the Lib Dem controlled council where the vote is taking place last night granted permission for a 1,400-home development.

    Voters in Eastleigh, Hampshire, go to the polls next week to select an MP to replace Chris Huhne, the former Liberal Democrat energy secretary who resigned as an MP earlier this month after he admitted perverting the course of justice over claims his ex-wife took speeding points for him a decade ago.

    The Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates standing in the by-election battleground have been embroiled in a row over development on greenfield sites.

    The row has now intensified after plans to build 1,400 homes on an 81-hectare site at Boorley Green were granted outline planning permission at a meeting of Eastleigh Borough Council’s Hedge End, West End and Botley local area committee last night.

    The plans propose the demolition of a golf driving range and groundsman’s equipment store and the development of 1,400 homes, along with with educational, community, employment, recreational and retail facilities.

    An officer’s report had recommended that the plans be approved.

    The report said that Eastleigh Borough Council has a shortfall in its five-year housing land supply.

    “With an inability to demonstrate such a supply, it is appropriate to apply the presumption in favour of sustainable development unless the adverse impacts significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the National Planning Policy Framework policies,” the report said.

    It said that there is no adopted development plan that identifies sufficient housing to meet the “clear housing land shortfall” and that “waiting for the emergence of the local plan would not accord with national policy”.

    The Conservative Party has seized on the council’s decision to approve the development and have published literature accusing Lib Dem candidate Mike Thornton – a local councilor – of “facing both ways on development”. The Tories say that Thornton has previously voted for 5,000 new homes on green spaces, but has pledged in his campaign to protect green spaces and countryside.

    In a statement issued this morning, the Tory MP for the neighbouring Meon Valley constituency, George Hollingbery, accused the Lib Dems of “facing both ways on green space”. He said: “Their campaign has consistently pledged to protect our beautiful countryside. But at the meeting the Lib Dem council showed that they have no intention of backing down on their plans to build on greenfield sites.”

    But the Eastleigh Lib Dems have hit back at the claims.

    They have accused the Conservatives of “gagging” planning minister Nick Boles.

    Eastleigh Borough Council leader Keith House said: “The Conservative planning minister has called for building on open land and attacked ‘hysterical scaremongering of latter-day Luddites’ who oppose it – is that why the Tories are running scared of him coming to Eastleigh?

    “They have to answer a simple question – who speaks for the Tories on planning? If it’s their own planning minister, why won’t he come to Eastleigh to see the Liberal Democrats putting his instructions into action?”