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Council leader’s dismay over Lilly site briefing
COUNCILLORS alerting residents to radical plans for a landmark Basingstoke site could have harmed the borough authority's influence over the outcome of the milestone scheme, claims the council's leader.
Developer Lemon Land wants to build about 650 homes and flats, a boulevard of shops, 200,000 square feet of commercial space and relocate Basingstoke College of Technology to the Eli Lilly site and neighbouring Victoria lot in Kingsclere Road, South View, according to councillors briefed on the plans. It also plans to turn Lilly's art deco white office building (pictured) into a hotel.
Basingstoke and Deane borough councillors Laura James and Paul Harvey, who represent Norden ward, are concerned about what they feel is a lack of consultation on the plans and rushed to tell residents about the proposals after being briefed on them two weeks ago.
But Conservative council leader Cllr Andrew Finney this week said he believes the actions of the Labour councillors have weakened the borough's influence over the developer, which has since announced its intention to present its plans to the public next week.
Cllr Finney said: "My major disappointment is that the actions of the local ward members, in going to the press and the local public prior to the conclusion of negotiations with the developer, has jeopardised our ability to influence what the developer might be seeking to do."
Cllr Finney was responding to further comments from Labour group leader Cllr James, who is worried the developer and BCOT will submit their planning application in July - before they have had time to seriously consider residents' views.
Cllr James said: "If the residents say we don't want BCOT at the front, we want the housing at the front and BCOT by the railway line, you're not telling me that's achievable in three weeks."
She added: "We could see a development like this slip through the net and I think it's important the Conservative-led administration makes a statement - are they in favour or not?"
Cllr Finney rebuffed Cllr James' call, saying it was inappropriate for him to make a definitive statement of support or opposition to the proposals because the borough council is the authority that will grant or refuse planning permission.
He added the council's role in the Lilly site was limited to securing a new home for BCOT and a proposed home for the learning campus, which is designed to bring a university presence to the town.
Cllr Finney tackled a warning from Cllr James that Lemon Land's proposals must not be considered in isolation from other possible development plans for South View, including a suggested housing scheme for Vyne Meadows car park and other open space north of the railway station, because infrastructure would struggle to cope.
He said the pre-May 2006 ruling Liberal Democrat-Labour administration, which Cllr James and Cllr Harvey were part of, allocated the land for development.
The council is attempting to honour a commitment to a comprehensive consultation on the various sites, but the ward members had "impaired that" and "made it more difficult in the short term", claimed Cllr Finney.
Cllr James has written to three of the council's Cabinet asking them to support an appeal to English Heritage over a failed attempt by Basingstoke Heritage Society to have Lilly's landmark white building listed to offer it some protection.
A fortnight ago, Cllr Horace Mitchell, Cabinet member for planning and infrastructure, told her there is no appeal mechanism, but in her letter Cllr James said English Heritage, which decides on listed status, told her there is.
- Local residents will get their chance to hear about, and comment on, the planned scheme for the Lilly site at a special event next Wednesday evening. An exhibition at the site will be open to the public from 3.30pm to 8pm on June 19 and 20 and from noon to 3pm on June 21.
- An exhibition focusing on the BCOT plans will run at the college's Worting Road campus between June 23 and June 27, from 8.30am to 4.30pm.