CONTROVERSIAL policies to build more than 10,000 homes in the New Forest have been approved by district councillors amid a failed bid to delete land in Lymington earmarked for 100 properties.
New Forest District Council voted 42-13 to back the Local Plan, which sets out which sites outside the national park can be developed between now and 2036. They did so despite the plan including three contentious sites, including one next to Oakhaven Hospice.
The vote followed party lines, with Conservatives who control the authority largely supporting the plan and the opposition Liberal Democrat group and an independent member voting against.
There was an attempt to take the Lymington site out of the plan. However, it was defeated by a wide margin.
Some Tory members admitted they did not like the policies. But they voted for it after deputy leader Cllr Edward Heron warned defeat could cause central government to impose its own quota of homes of up to 20,000.
Lib Dem Cllr Jack Davies rubbished Cllr Heron’s claims and accused him of “scaremongering”.
The mood of many was summed up by Tory Cllr Maureen Holding, who said: “To be honest I do not like this plan. I honestly do not think it will do justice to the Forest.
“But we have to vote for it because it’s being imposed by central government, and if we do not, we will lose control completely. Reluctantly, I will vote for it. I do know we are going to have to do an awful lot of work along the way.”
As reported by the A&T, the Local Plan went through two public consultations and was scrutinised by government planning inspectors and stakeholders. It features 18 major housing sites in towns and villages.
The document sets out a minimum number of homes to be built on each and overarching development rules. It has a target of providing 300 homes per year for the first five years, with an aim that 35-50% of new homes will be affordable housing to rent or buy.
The allocation of land does not mean automatic planning approval, however. Developers must still get permission to build.
While most of the strategic sites have been relatively uncontroversial, three have caused consternation among locals, with most criticism focusing on Site 6, which concerns land at Ridgeway Lane and Lower Pennington Lane in Lymington.
Despite assurances by NFDC of rules to ensure in-character development, it caused the formation of protest group Pennington and Lymington Lanes Society (PALLS), and the Lymington Society was also strongly opposed.
Lymington councillors Andrew Gossage, Barry Dunning and Anne Corbridge – who each backed the Local Plan – all reported constituents lobbying them to vote against.
Cllr Gossage said his mind was “made up” by a conversation he had with an elderly man living in a shed in Pennington who wanted to get on the affordable housing list.
Cllr Gossage said NFDC had a “moral obligation” to “do whatever it takes” to provide housing for those in need, noting the social deprivation levels in Pennington were high. He promised to push to get the most appropriate housing.
Cllr Corbridge added a warning that members “simply could not afford” to vote against the plan.
Their arguments helped other councillors vote down the motion to delete Site 6 from the plan, which had been proposed by Lymington Independent member Cllr Jacqui England.
Lib Dems endorsed her call, with Cllr Davies calling on members to “look after the interests” of the public.
Opposition leader Cllr David Harrison added: “We need to show the public and the local electorate that we are there for them.”
Another site debated was land south of Fawley power station where 120 homes are proposed as part of the site’s wider redevelopment of up to 1,500 new homes by the Fawley Waterside consortium.
However, there are concerns the A326 will struggle to cope, with the route dubbed “the longest cul-de-sac in the south of England” by Lib Dem Cllr Malcolm Wade, who said it needed drastic improvements.
Councillors are actively exploring spending millions of pounds on revitalising the long-shut Waterside railway line to reduce the amount of cars on the roads.
At the meeting, several members – including cllrs Wade and David Harrison – stressed the A326 aspect was paramount to the success of that land being developed.
“I call upon this district to ensure it does all it can to produce the correct result and ensure we have proper mitigation and a proper strategic plan in terms of this vital road link,” Cllr Wade insisted.
Although it was not raised at the meeting, a third site criticised has been land at Snails Lane, near Ringwood, mostly because of its close proximity to the Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve.
Gladman Developments has already submitted a plan to develop 143 homes there despite warnings by locals that it regularly floods, and public objection from wildlife campaigner Chris Packham.
An opposition group has accused the council of “listening with deaf ears”, and said it was considering its options.