A number of constituents have contacted me, following last week's public meeting in Overton about future housing development. I have been in touch with the Cabinet Member for Planning, Cllr Horace Mitchell, who has sent me the following letter about the Basingstoke & Deane Draft Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA)
"Residents in some parts of the Borough have been led to believe that the Draft SHLAA represents proposals by the Borough Council to allocate particular sites for development at particular levels. For example an email circulating widely in Overton refers to:
Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council's proposal to build 550 new homes in Overton by 2017.
The Council has no such plans.
The same email further asserts that:
if you want to know why we are being targetted [sic], it is because the new (Conservative) councillors for Kempshott and Oakley have decided that Oakleystoke will not now happen, and they need to look elsewhere to fulfill [sic] local housing requirements.
This is misleading and could be interpreted as malicious. Neither individual ward councillors (from any political party or group) nor any member of the Administration (cabinet) has had any input to the SHLAA report, whether to include sites or to exclude them.
The only exception to this has been that the Cabinet Member for Finance, Property and Performance was informed by officers of the approach regarding council-owned sites. The only discussions (in all party committee) about the SHLAA have been to explain to members the purpose of the consultation and to gain their agreement to the form of consultation. The Council has no control over the nature of the SHLAA, this is determined by Government guidance. No allocations have been made and no sites have been excluded or included by any process influenced by elected members.
As the title states and as clearly laid out in supporting texts, the SHLAA is a Government requirement as part of our Local Development Framework evidence; it seeks to assess the potential of land that might come forward for development, not to allocate land for development. The sites listed in the draft SHLAA have been proposed by a wide range of organisations, including landowners and developers; they have not been selected by the Council nor does inclusion in the consultation draft imply any level of endorsement by the Council. The sites submitted have been appraised by independent consultants. Their brief has been solely to consider each site. The present purpose is to enable residents and others to comment on the process and methodology.
The circulated email suggests that the Council is disregarding the provisions of the South East Plan and other salient matters:
Their [ie the Council’s] plans appear to take no account of the infrastructure of both Overton and Whitchurch, ignore the fact that we are outside the South of England Regional Guidelines map of areas suitable for development, and take no no account of the Village Design Statement we all worked so hard to publish in 2002.
This is also incorrect. The Draft SHLAA explicitly states that
"in the draft SE Plan, the town [Overton] falls within the ’Rest of Hampshire’ sub-region which has a relatively small housing requirement, reflecting the Plan’s intention to direct new development towards major urban centres such as Basingstoke. Any new development should reflect the needs of the town, meeting local housing needs and ensuring the future viability of its existing facilities and services."
As is clearly explained in the report and supporting texts, the SHLAA does not assess sites against the whole range of relevant policies, only in terms of their potential to deliver housing against much broader criteria. As the SHLAA text itself makes clear:
It is for the LDF process to determine the level of development suitable for the settlement [Overton].
The SHLAA is one element in the evidence base for the Local Development Framework process. Residents are urged to ‘sign up’ to be informed about the progress of the LDF process, which is subject to detailed consultation at each stage. The first in a series of newsletters has just been published and is automatically sent to every resident who has expressed an interest by emailing email@example.com or calling a member of the Forward Planning Team on 01256 845796 or 845532.
Cllr Horace Mitchell
Cabinet Member for Planning & Infrastructure
Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council
24th October 2008
Since getting this letter, Overton Parish Council have contacted me asking me to publish the letter they sent in response. This is below. I will also publish any reponse from Cllr Mitchell.
Cllr Horace Mitchell
Cabinet Member for Planning & Infrastructure
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council
21st November 2008
Dear Cllr Mitchell
Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA)
Sir George Young MP has drawn Overton Parish Council’s attention to your response (on his website) to concerns raised by Overton parishioners following the SHLAA meeting held in Overton on 16th October 2008.
The Parish Council is deeply concerned by the implication in your letter that as a result of attending the meeting to discuss the Parish Council’s response to the SHLAA, residents in Overton were led to believe that the potential development sites for the village are actual proposals. If you were concerned that the residents of Overton were being misled surely rather than go into print on a third party's website, it would have been responsible of you to have contacted the Clerk to Overton Parish Council to offer guidance and advice rather than send your response to every Borough Councillor and our MP. It would also have been useful to have agreed at committee level that a Borough officer would be available to attend meetings within potentially affected parishes as indicated in the Borough Council’s adopted Statement of Community Involvement.
Without this support, the Parish Council agreed that the residents of Overton should be informed of the SHLAA documents and its proposals for potential development so that 1) any comment that residents made could be incorporated within the Parish Council response and 2) as many people as possible could be involved in the ongoing consultation surrounding the Local Development Framework (LDF). Consequently an insert was placed in our monthly newsletter, News and Views (delivered to every household), and a date for a public meeting was agreed.
As a result of the meeting and publicity, in excess of 60 names were sent to the Borough Council for addition to the database – I also understand that (as a rough estimate) 130 of the total responses received (out of 350) to the SHLAA document are from Overton parishioners. This clearly demonstrates the success of Overton Parish Council's robust efforts to involve the local community in the ongoing LDA process. In reality, ‘potential’ development sites become ‘actual’ development sites. Overton is not interested in planning by stealth and the Parish Council is not so naïve as to believe that no houses will be built in the coming years. If residents do not start to make an intelligent stand against this potential gross overdevelopment at the beginning of the LDF process, then it is the opinion of the Parish Council that Overton will have ‘missed the boat’ in making the planning authority aware from the outset of the community's strongly held views that even considering such sites as suitable for housing, and in the numbers suggested, is totally unacceptable.
Given that you did not attend the meeting, Overton Parish Council is requesting an apology from you with regard to your allegation. A copy of this letter has been sent to Sir George Young with a request to add it to his website in response to your comments.
Clerk to Overton Parish Council