Planning inspector raises concerns about housing figures in emerging Hampshire local plan

Out-Law News | 27 Oct 2014 | 4:55 pm | 1 min. read

A planning inspector has written to a Hampshire council to raise concerns about "fundamental matters at the heart of the [emerging] local plan" for the area, including an apparent lack of explanation for the council's chosen housing targets.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council submitted its local plan (LP) to the secretary of state for communities and local government for examination on 9 October. The LP, which is intended to guide development in the Borough until 2029, proposed the delivery of 748 homes per year during the plan period.

A letter to the Council (6-page / 183 KB PDF) sent on behalf of planning inspector Mike Fox, who was appointed to undertake the examination into the soundness of the LP, said "the inspector is seriously concerned that the LP may not provide a sufficiently robust platform for providing new homes in Basingstoke and Deane or an adequate strategy for delivering that objective".

The letter said that the inspector could not "find any explanation for the choice of the LP figure" of 748 homes per year, and questioned the basis of the Council's departure from the 945 homes per year given in the preceding South East Plan. The inspector asked for evidence that the Council had considered factors including cross-boundary migration, market signals and the need for certain house types in coming to its estimation of the area's objectively assessed housing need.

The inspector also sought clarification as to why the Council's strategic housing market assessment included only a Basingstoke housing market area, as opposed to the larger area considered in preceding plans. "What has changed to justify going it alone?", asked the inspector, noting that "this clearly links to [the Council's] duty to co-operate [with neighbouring authorities on housing provision]".

The letter said that the Council's affordable housing strategy ought to be included within the LP document, and that the "appropriate level of detail" should be provided within the LP for major development proposals, including "the allocation of sites and policies for their development".

The inspector also had "concerns about the deliverability of a number of other aspects of the LP", the letter said. These concerns included a lack of evidence that "aspirational policies, such as ... for a new railway station at Chineham, are deliverable within the plan period", rather than being unsound due to their sterilisation of development land; and that the environmental impacts of key policies had been properly considered.

The inspector has asked that the Council responds to his initial concerns by 28 November.