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Mayor claims recession is hitting council's house plans
10:29am Friday 15th February 2013 in News
A SLUMP in house-building caused by the recession is undermining one Hampshire authority's housing strategy, it is claimed.
That's the view of Test Valley's Lib Dem borough councillor and Romsey's mayor Mark Cooper.
He says there is adequate housing land supply but build¬ing work has slowed down in the recession leading to TVBC falling short of its targets.
Parts of the TVBC's Core Strategy were rejected by a government inspector for the south-east England a couple of years ago.
Now some councillors say the delay in formulating new local plan for the borough is allowing developers to jump the gun and win approval to build on green fields not allo¬cated for new homes.
They fear more housing estates, similar to the 800-home Abbotswood develop¬ment near Romsey, will swallow up the countryside.
Nearly 2,000 new homes are planned at Whitenap, on the southern outskirts of the town within the next 20 years or so.
However Mr Cooper said: “Not having a Local Plan in not really the issue. The old local plan is still in force and the housing numbers in the old plan agree with the South East England Plan housing numbers,”
A new draft local plan (this time entitled Local Develop¬ment Strategy) to take us up to 2029, which proposes 10,026 dwellings for the borough is due to be published in March or April for public consulta¬tion.
Mr Cooper said: “What mat¬ters to the Government is housing delivery, which is under-performing because of the recession, not housing allocations which are suffi¬cient and will not be that much different in the new plan.”
Mr Cooper warned the slow¬down in house building could have serious consequences for Test Valley's green fields.
“Whilst there is slow deliv¬ery, developers are making applications to get planning permissions 'in the bag'. They then either don't deliver or deliver very slowly and we can't count the houses 'per¬missioned' against the SE Plan requirement, only the ones actually built and occupied.”
To keep up with its new local plan target would require 557 homes per year to be built in Test Valley.
A TVBC spokesman admit¬ted that it was falling behind government housing targets.
He added: “This is not due to the lack of permissions but more about the rate of deliv¬ery due to the economic cli¬mate.
“The impact of the shortage of housing land means that sites which have not been allo¬cated for development may get permission because of the need to follow national guid¬ance.”
TVBC said the most recent example is the Sandy Lane site, close to Abbotswood, where an application to build 33 homes was granted.
The Local Development Strategy will go before the full council next Friday .
It includes a revised gypsy and traveller site allocation in the borough.
Public consultation starts in March and will run until April and again from September to October.
The document will be sent for Government approval in February next year.
A public inquiry in to the plans will be held in April 2014 and the document could be adopted by October 2014.
Borough cabinet spokesman for planning and transport Martin Hatley said: “Although it is regrettable that time scales for the delivery of the Revised Local Plan have had to be amended, I am pleased that we now have a revised timetable to focus on.”