I joined a large group of Basingstoke Planning Officers, Councillors, Residents and not so local developers to present evidence to Mr. Fox, the Planning Inspector chosen to opine on the soundness or otherwise of our ‘Local Plan’. Headline: What a waste of time, energy and resource. Mr. Fox started out by saying he thought we must be smoking something if we thought he would ever accept the 748 target, or words to that effect. He liked to slip into ‘street cred’ vernacular every now and again to suggest he wasn’t quite the government controlled autocrat we all suspect he is. Well, de didn’t disappoint. After 6+ hours of presentations from Councillors and Officers who did a good job of explaining that:
a) we cant always count on economic growth
b) even if we could, we are stuffed full already and the public purse is beyond broke so who is going to pay for all the roads, water, sewage, schools, clinics etc? (hint, it wont be the developers)
c) water quality already breaks most acceptable quality measures
d) sewage already runs where it shouldn’t (although Mr. Fox seemed to imply it was running in a lot of the evidence presented)
d) Basingstoke has been the most prolific builder of new homes in the South East so maybe, just maybe, we deserved a little rest?
Mr. Fox decided he was right and we were all wrong. So to hell with elected representatives, the considered opinion of planning officers and the wishes of residents; Mr. Fox says we either increase the number of homes we build by 15% or he’ll send us all to the naughty corner and we’ll have to stay there until we agree with him. In other words, its his way or the highway (and that highway will be jammed as well).
So much for localism!
But it was a good day to be a developer, especially as none of them live locally.
PS. Special mention to the efforts of Cllrs Cubitt & Ruffell, Maria Miller MP, Stafford Napier (SWAG) and Andrew Dodgshon (Head of the Basingstoke Planning Officers), all of whom who did their best to let reasons reign; but nobody was raining on Mr. Fox’s parade. Certainly not any Labour, LibDem of UKIP Cllrs who were conspicuous by their silence. Which is a shame as I think its important we know what everyone’s ideas and suggestions are.