CALLS to slash the number of new homes built in Basingstoke and Deane each year have been given renewed impetus following fresh evidence that Basingstoke has far exceeded its annual requirement in the past six years.
Figures show that Basingstoke and Deane has seen an average of 1,029 homes built per year since 2006 – nine per cent above the Government requirement of 945.
Further analysis reveals that the borough has built 40 per cent more homes than neighbouring Reading in the past five years, and 58 per cent more than Wokingham.
“We have taken enough housing in the last 10 years and we can’t continue to grow at these rates,” said Basing independent councillor Onnalee Cubitt.
“Just because we have been good citizens and accepted this growth does not mean we should continue to be the fourth fastest-growing town in the South East.” In the South East, only Ashford, Aylesbury Vale, and Milton Keynes were set higher new homes targets under the old South East Plan.
The new revelations have upped the pressure on the borough’s planning chief Cllr Donald Sherlock to devise an annual housing target that will satisfy both a national Government keen for economic growth, and people who say too many homes will damage the environment and overstretch the town’s infrastructure. Tomorrow, Cllr Sherlock is set to announce that between 735 and 770 new homes will be the final annual house-building figure.
The yearly target will form the crux of the borough’s Local Plan which states how many homes need to built, and where they will go, from 2014 to 2029.
Town planning experts, and the borough’s Conservative decision-making Cabinet, believe that up to 770 is needed for Government to approve the plan. But supporters of a lower target, who include Conservative Basingstoke MP Maria Miller, below, say a figure as low as 594 could be used as the benchmark. The supporters of a lower figure argue that the difference of 2,640 homes over the 15-year life of the local plan would save the countryside from becoming swamped in housing developments.
At a planning and infrastructure meeting last week, Cllr Cubitt urged the council to appeal to the Government for leniency in light of the borough’s historical building rate. She claimed that the council can argue that the extra homes built since 2006 can be added in to the borough’s calculations of how many homes will be needed from 2014. However, this presumption has been disputed by the borough’s former planning chief, Cllr Rob Golding. “Backdating housing from 2006 in a plan for 2014 is stretching things too far,” he said.
And leader of the council, Cllr Clive Sanders said the Cabinet are wary of falling foul of the Government’s requirements.
He warned that if the council’s Local Plan is rejected, the Government’s planning rulebook, the National Planning Policy Framework, states that planning applications for new homes should automatically be approved.
“The objective is a sensible plan that’s best for the borough,” he said. “This is not going to be an emotional reaction. It (the housing figure) is based on good, solid facts.”