Council Leader questions Minister over Planning Guidance

As promised at a recent Cabinet meeting, the Leader of Winchester City Council Cllr George Beckett, has written to the Minister of Housing and Planning to question the planning guidance that threatens greenfield sites in the district.

In his letter Cllr Beckett explains that the required housing numbers do not reflect the current economic situation, the reality of how major sites develop over a number of years, or that smaller sites known as windfalls come about unexpectedly.

He further explains, "The City Council has accepted that we must meet the housing requirement, and are making plans to do so as we prepare for submission of our LDF Core Strategy. However, because of the way in which Government’s planning policies impact upon us, we now find ourselves being advised that we have no option but to approve the release of several medium sized sites in sensitive greenfield locations.

"At the heart of our problem lies the apparent inflexibility over the requirement that the Council has a five-year supply of land for development adequate to meet our targets. Our LDF will identify several major sites across the District which will deliver in total some 7-8,000 homes, along with medium sized sites which could realise a further 800-1,000. There is also a consistent history in the District of small to medium sites not identified in our Local Plan steadily being brought forward, yet because of the inflexible guidance these cannot be taken into account at this stage.

"We have a good reputation with major house builders for a constructive approach to development but that process cannot be rushed, and so it is inevitable that the development progress will not be steady and will not provide an even flow of homes over several years. I am advised that the requirement for a five-year supply must assume an average annual requirement and so allows us to take no account of the reality of delivering large sites.

"The position is exacerbated by the fact that we face a major recession at present. Whilst house-builders are still seeking to build in Winchester, they will only build what they can sell and those inevitable, and hopefully short-term, delays are further disrupting the delivery of the smooth progress we are apparently required to achieve."

Cllr Beckett has called for a meeting with the Minister to discuss how Winchester can secure the development needed and required by the South East Plan, but avoid overdevelopment.

The letter can be read in full via the link below