COUNCILLORS will be asked to comment on a recommendation to build 850 new homes each year for the next 14 years at a meeting tonight.

As previously reported by The Gazette, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council submitted their draft Local Plan, which will guide where new homes are built across the borough up to 2029, in October.

But, planning inspector Mike Fox, who will decide if the planning blueprint is adopted, expressed concerns about the “soundness” of the plan at an exploratory meeting at the borough council last month.

He raised key issues with the current state of the plan, including concerns over the viability of 40 per cent affordable housing on all developments across the borough and raised questions on the environmental impacts of the incinerator, in Whitmarsh Lane, Chineham.

However, the planning inspector’s main concern was over the figure of homes built each year – 748 – which has been set by the borough council.

Mr Fox told the borough council that they should adopt a yearly figure of up to 850 new homes to put them in a better position when the plan is examined later this year.

And now councillors on the borough council’s economic, planning and housing committee will be asked to provide comments and recommend to the decision-making Cabinet that the figure of 850 is adopted.

The figure has been based on a need to support a high level of jobs for the borough’s successful economy after Mike Fox said that nationally the economy was improving and more homes needed to be built to support this.

Mr Fox also suggested that the borough council should include a figure of new jobs which are hoped to be created across the borough year in the Local Plan.

This has been set at between 450 and 600 new jobs a year.

Councillor Mark Ruffell, Cabinet member for planning and infrastructure, said: “Following the helpful and constructive meeting with the planning inspector in December, we are asking the committee to look again at the housing figure.

“The inspector made it clear that the evidence base that we had used was robust, but he indicated that the trend (economic activity) that we had selected was likely to be regarded as pessimistic leading to a housing figure that would be regarded as too low.

“I look forward to hearing the discussion at committee as we take the next steps towards finalising a balanced plan for our borough’s future.”

However, the deputy leader of the borough’s Labour group, Cllr Paul Harvey slammed the delay in adopting the plan.

He told The Gazette: “It continues to leave Basingstoke vulnerable to a development free-for-all. We are obsessing and talking about numbers but the real issue is that we don’t have a five year land supply and we have no way of preventing sites from coming forward for development before we even get close to adopting the Local Plan.”