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Hampshire council to consult on local plan due to ‘brutal housing targets’

Words: Laura Edgar
Petersfield, East Hampshire / M Rose, Shutterstock_1693289680

East Hampshire District Council has announced that it is going to hold a consultation later this year on its local plan because of the government's ‘brutal’ and ‘flawed’ housing methodology.

The council last consulted with residents in 2019.

This latest consultation, which will be held “towards the end of the year”, will seek views after changes to national policies, rising housing figures and the need for higher environmental standards.

The current local plan was adopted in 2014 and covers the whole of the East Hampshire District, including those parts inside the South Downs National Park. The emerging local plan covers the areas of the district that are not located within the South Downs National Park.

Richard Millard, leader of East Hampshire District Council, said the emerging local plan journey has gone way beyond difficult and challenging.

“It has been divisive, bruising, and at times unpleasant. It has fractured communities and turned councillors against each other. The reason for the acrimony is easy to discern: the government’s brutal housing target which eclipses everything else in the plan-making process. Forget the semantics that it is a ‘housing need’ figure; it is for all practical purposes a rigid target. We are not alone.

“Other authorities, in trying to find acceptable solutions, have made no progress over years of seemingly futile attempts to advance their plans that do not meet the imposed housing need. This approach runs the very real risk of leaving planning decisions to be made in a local policy vacuum with government inspectors making decisions that have huge implications for our district with no accountability to our residents.

“We need to go back and think again about how homes are delivered in East Hampshire. The government methodology is deeply flawed and is focused on a misleading algorithm for what is needed without any real consideration of what is possible. It is based on district-wide data and does not make any concessions for the South Downs National Park, which is a separate local planning authority, heavily constrained by its landscape designation."

Millard explained that in March, the district's housing target was increased by 650 homes over the emerging plan period. The council, he said, won’t hesitate to challenge what it feels is wrong and unfair.

The council is also preparing a supplementary planning document (SPD) to help with the consideration of planning applications, in response to increased development pressure on the countryside around villages.

Image credit | M Rose, Shutterstock