Despite the vote going the wrong way, (as we had fully expected) we remain convinced as ever that we can defeat the council’s proposed Local Plan. Indeed the Council’s extraordinary decision, which hands over the most important decision affecting Eastleigh and surrounding area for a generation to be taken by an unelected officer without allowing councillors or the public to scrutinise the facts, will make it even more likely that the plan will fall when it goes before the government inspector for a final decision.
The occasion highlighted the extraordinary lack of evidence to justify the council’s decision and the failings in its process.
The meeting gave conditional approval to options B and C, which would involve 5,200 homes near Bishopstoke and Fair Oak and an environmentally catastrophic new road. Councillors also voted to give the final decision to the chief executive, who will have to assess the outstanding evidence when it is ready.
Council leader Keith House justified this affront to democracy with the blatantly untrue statement that only about 1-2% of the necessary evidence was missing. In fact, as the council report acknowledges, there are still 14 uncompleted studies waiting to be received – 37% of the total. These include highly significant traffic, environmental and flooding assessments.
Around 800 supporters who had braved the freezing weather applauded enthusiastically as they heard more than thirty submissions against the proposals from a wide range of speakers, including a river keeper on the Itchen, the Woodland Trust, Campaign to Protect Rural England, numerous parish councils, Winchester City Council and local MP Mims Davies.
There then followed a debate. Several majority-party councillors who spoke appeared not to have read the report, and were unable to produce a single piece of hard evidence to support their arguments. It had all clearly been orchestrated in advance. Speakers from the opposition Tories and the Independent Liberal Democrats spoke out against the plan, but were hopelessly outnumbered. The final vote was 25 for; 9 against with one abstention. We will publish the recorded vote as soon as it is available.
The concluding speech by Cllr House was littered with factual errors and highly contentious statements presented as facts. He did not quite say: “I am the only person who understands this subject, so you guys were just wasting your breath.” But he might as well have done.
Despite this entirely expected setback, we remain confident of ultimate victory.
- There is insufficient evidence to support the plan when it goes to the government inspector;
- It contradicts national planning guidelines in many important respects;
- The outcome was clearly pre-determined in advance, which is not allowed;
- Hampshire County Council (the Highway Authority) has written to EBC to express concern at the lack of supporting evidence;
- Winchester City Council, which must give planning permission for any changes on Highbridge Road (despite what Cllr House said), opposes the plan;
- Many powerful groups are vehemently against it;
- The new road may be undeliverable as EBC has seriously underestimated the cost.
To keep up the pressure, we will soon be asking everyone to dip (further) into their pockets to pay for our continued use of professional advisers. Stay tuned!
For now, thank you all for your magnificent support. It is hugely appreciated. Together we will succeed.
In the meantime, a happy Christmas to you all