The Basingstoke and Deane Borough Councillor Donald Sherlock, proposer of an increase of 200 houses to the Whitchurch allocation, was last night challenged on the interests of businesses he is involved in.
That was just one of the many questions posed at the Basingstoke Cabinet Meeting which was packed out with nearly 150 people from across the Borough, including a very strong representation from Overton, another area to be affected. Rarely do so many turn up at such meetings.
Only a suggestion
In opening the Meeting at the Civic Offices the Leader of the Council, Councillor Clive Sanders, explained that the document under discussion was “only a suggestion” and that much more work and investigation was required before any firm decisions could be made. He said that no decision on house numbers or exact locations will be made at this meeting.
Objections from Whitchurch
Over 50 people had registered to speak including over ten from Whitchurch.
Whitchurch Town Councillor John Clark, Chairman of the town’s Development Committee, led for the local objectors. He passed on the Town Council’s firm rejection of the proposals with strong complaints over the lack of notice for this sudden change, no local consultation, and concerns over the lack of any information on any associated infrastructure.
Whitchurch Borough Councillor Keith Watts followed, saying he had only found out about the proposals a week ago. He argued that there was no evidence to support 550 homes, and the previously agreed 350 figure had been derived from detailed examination of local needs. He said this sudden increase goes against the spirit of ‘localism’ and undermines trust in democracy, adding that he thought this was politically motivated. He would fight this as far as it can go.
Also amongst those speaking against the proposals for Whitchurch were Julie Peters who called for consideration to be given to Neighbourhood Planning and Steve Climpson who asked if a similar 28% increase in population was to be imposed on Basingstoke, saying that bigger was not always better.
Other residents referred to a petition that had raised 262 signatures in just 48 hours stating that if all those had exercised their right to speak for two minutes it would take over eight-and-a-half hours, while Les Jordan summed up many people’s views when he said the Borough needs to act on the differences between objections that may be deemed as NIMBY-ism but were really “please stop chucking that over the fence when no-one’s looking”.
Enormous impact on the town
Pressure on the schools, the surgery, the transport system were all raised along with the enormous environmental impacts of such a large increase over such a short timescale.
The Borough Mayor also supports Whitchurch and Overton
Amongst other speakers, The Worshipful the Mayor of Basingstoke & Deane, Independent Councillor Martin Biermann from Chineham, also spoke up for those objecting to the methods being used by the Council, saying:
“Overton and Whitchurch have been seriously dumped upon, I cannot understand how they can possibly come up with responses in a matter of days”.
The fight will go on
While Cllr Sherlock’s paper was accepted, it was explained that the figures and locations were provisional and that as a working document they may change. While the ‘suggestions’ remain they will have to go into a draft Local Plan then to the full Council, and if approved there would then be a public consultation stage. Keith Watts has said “We need to continue to build up the pressure to influence that meeting later in the year.”
Many present said that the fight will now go on to ensure that the final decision will be that Whitchurch takes no more than the originally proposed 350 houses.
Meanwhile Cllr Sherlock’s response to the suggestion that he may have commercial interests that could conflict with fair decision making, and should thus be declared, stated “I don’t believe I have any interests to declare at all”.
UPDATE 2013-03-02: An edited version of the meeting is now on the WhitchurchHants YouTube channel HERE. The full webcast is on the B&DBC website HERE.
UPDATE 2013-03-13: An edited version of the 31 January 2013 meeting of the B&DBC Infrastructure & Planning meeting (where Bramley’s suggested 200 new homes proposal was discussed) is on YouTube HERE.