If you build it…..they will come.

It’s a story as old as time. The belief that just by building something, people will want to buy it. It was dramatized in a great film – The Field of Dreams.

Here in Basingstoke, pleas to build more houses, especially affordable ones, fail to acknowledgement the very unique situation that Basingstoke faces. In our borough, building too many homes not only suffocates the infrastructure and services that existing residents depend on, it also exacerbates the capacity problem by encouraging more inward migration.

We have built more homes per capita than any of our neighbours. 170% more homes than Hart, 50% more than Reading and 77% more than West Berkshire. This house building splurge has not solved the problem. It’s just opened the floodgates. Basingstoke’s forecasted population growth of 33% between 2001 and 2031 is twice that of Hart and West Berkshire, with 60% of that growth coming from inward migration. Basingstoke’s eyes have been bigger than its stomach for a while. The evidence proves two things. We never get the infrastructure and services we need to support more houses. And if we build them, they will come. So who are we building homes for? We know from The Council’s own research that 75% of residents believe we have built enough homes already and on past evidence it isn’t for local people. So the only people who benefit are the developers.

Basingstoke is a developers ‘field of dreams’. For those of us who already live here, too much more development will become our own nightmare.

We need to catch our breath.

This week the Council will sit down with the Planning Inspector to answer a set of questions that the Inpsetor raised about our proposed local development plan. The headline summary is that the Planning Inspector would like to see Basingstoke build more homes. This despite the fact that Basingstoke has consistently built more homes that it was required to under previous plans, on average 17% more than required over the last 10 years. Compared with Hart we have built more than twice as many homes per person than they have, and it’s a similar story with Reading, Winchester and West Berkshire. The plan we have proposes 748 new homes a year, which is almost 50% higher than the initial figure presented. For Basingstoke to build more than this would be madness, and we must ensure that no building starts until the appropriate infrastructure (roads, schools, clinics, water & sewage etc.) is in place. Basingstoke has carried far more than its share of the housing burden over recent years. We need time to absorb that growth and to catch our breath. It’s all very well for the Inspector to have eye’s bigger than our stomach, but it’s the residents who will suffer from very unpleasant indigestion if he has his way. The Council must hold firm on its plans to build no more than 748 homes a year. Even that amount will leave us feeling bloated.