Local MP Maria Miller is calling on all Basingstoke and Deane Councillors to unite and reject the “Independent’ Party’s proposal to ratchet up our house building numbers, due to be debated on Thursday, and to act in the best interest of all local resdients by slowing down new house building so the NHS and other local services can catch up.
Maria said, "Basingstoke residents want to see new house building slow down yet the ‘Independent’ Party now leading the Council propose the exact opposite, with a policy that actually ‘ratchets up’ house building over the course of the next 10 years. This is not what Basingstoke needs and not what residents want. When it comes to our new Local Plan there is no ‘straight jacket’ from Government and the Council should not appear to be misleading residents to think this is the case. Instead residents expect every ounce of energy to be used to fight for a Local Plan that is right for Basingstoke, significantly reducing the overall number of new homes, to a number that reflects what our community needs rather than 5 decades of delivering new homes needed for London and next door local authorities. The Government is completely clear they want Local Councils to decide on house building numbers and our councillors must seize that responsibility now and insist on a Local Plan that’s right for our whole Borough.
“Basingstoke has built homes at double the rate of the rest of the country; 150,000 houses in the past 50 years. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has confirmed to me in writing that he ‘’want[s] to recognise that some areas have historically over-delivered on housing – but they are not rewarded for this.’’ He explains that the government will ‘’allow local planning authorities to take this [high historic housebuilding] into account when preparing a new local plan, lowering the number of houses they need to plan for.’’
“Reiterating this new approach, the then Minister for Housing and Planning, Lucy Frazer, confirmed to me on the record in the House of Commons, that ‘’ it should be taken into account if areas have already over-delivered and taken significant housing.’’
“To help deliver these changes, the Government will regard the Standard Method (the formula for calculating housing need) as an advisory starting-point to inform house building plans not delivering a mandatory requirement. The shortcomings of the Standard Method in generating build numbers for places like Basingstoke have been pointed out by many others, including The Home Builders Federation, who highlight that the formula relies on 2014 census housing projections which do not accurately reflect future needs and ‘bake in’ low housebuilding targets in areas that have historically under-delivered.
It is disappointing that the new ‘Independent’ Party administration is ignoring what the Government is saying and seem intent on sticking to unsustainably high housebuilding levels, with their foundations in the policies of the last Labour/Liberal Coalition that ran Basingstoke Council in more than a decade ago.
"So many of the Councillors who now have responsibilities for running our council stood for election on a mandate to reduce house building in the areas they represent, but now could be inadvertently backing a plan that would mean even more house building because they are not being made aware of what Government has said. After 50 years of consistently high housebuilding, Basingstoke Councillors can argue for our Local Plan to reduce housebuilding numbers because of our 'exceptional circumstances' and - as the quotes above show - this is perfectly consistent with the Government’s position that historic housebuilding entitles us to make this case.
“But if this crucial evidence isn’t presented to justify reducing house building numbers the Planning Inspector could insist our Local Plan house building numbers are increased even more. Any promises to protect villages from new house building can only be delivered if we are arguing strongly for lower overall house building numbers in our Plan.
“Because of Basingstoke and Deane’s rapid growth we are now the 27th most rapidly ageing community in the country, and our local services haven't had time to adjust: just one example is local demand for GP services has increased by a third and the NHS cannot keep up, at a time when the whole country is experiencing a shortage of qualified GPs to serve their communities, making a difficult situation much worse. Any new house building plans must be linked to the completion of our new HHFT Hospital, fully funded with £900million ring fenced, which will be completed by 2032.
We are only one of a handful of communities that can make the argument of having achieved historically high house-building levels, so we have to fight hard for this evidence to be heard, and that might include fighting legal challenges by developers who have, for too long, seen Basingstoke as an open door for house building. Councillors must seize this opportunity, speak up, show the developers we have had enough and fight for change.
We have a short window ahead of this Local Plan to slow down house building so the NHS can catch up - after all, this is what residents want and this is what their elected representatives must fight for."