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Pressure grows to set borough homes target
PRESSURE is mounting on the borough’s planning chief to find a yearly house building target that will appeal to two deeply divided sides of the debate.
Councillor Donald Sherlock, Basing-stoke and Deane Borough Council’s Cabinet member for planning, is tasked with deciding how many homes should be built annually until 2029. He is expected to present his decision at a borough council Cabinet meeting on October 29.
Currently, 770 homes per year has been suggested as the annual target – higher than the 594 figure suggested this time last year.
Cllr Sherlock is faced with trying to satisfy two opposing camps – those who argue that 770 is the minimum required to pass the Government’s stringent scrutiny, and opponents who say that the borough needs to slash that figure amid fears overdevelopment will harm the environment.
“This debate demonstrates that determining housing numbers is not an exact science,” said Cllr Onnalee Cubitt, speaking at last week’s planning and infrastructure committee.
“I think it is no more comparable to horoscopes.
“What I would like for us is what the people of Basingstoke want and that is a significant reduction in the number of households being built in the borough.”
Committee councillors expressed fears that building more than 12,000 homes across the 16-year life of the borough’s Local Plan would cause irreversible damage to Basingstoke’s River Loddon, and overstretch the borough’s creaking infrastructure.
The annual housing target is a key part of the borough’s Local Plan – a detailed blueprint outlining how many homes and jobs will be created, as well as what infrastructure will be put in place.
It is expected to be adopted in 2014, but first must be approved by the Government’s Planning Inspector.
Council experts involved in drawing up the house-building target stress that if the 770 figure is rejected, the borough risks having its Local Plan thrown out by the inspector – potentially leaving the borough at risk of uncontrolled development.
Cllr Gary Watts said: “If we go for the 594, then officers have said they can’t defend this figure. I think we are playing fatal politics.
“We have officers working on this in a professional manner, so we have to look at it holistically, and I think we have to be realistic.”