National park affordable housing rules watered down by government inspectors

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A proposed national park requirement for 50% affordable housing has been demoted to a “target” (Photo: stock image)

NATIONAL park authority rules proposing to force builders to make half of every housing development affordable have been watered down by government inspectors.

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The NPA had wanted to include the policy in its 122-page draft Local Plan saying that any scheme of 11 homes or more “must” have at least 50% meeting “affordable” criteria.

But after a two-week public examination last November of its 20-year keystone planning strategy for development in the national park, planning inspectors have told the NPA to make the rule a “target” instead.

In their subsequent report, the pair of inspectors, Kevin Ward and Caroline Mulloy, backed the NPA’s overall target of 800 homes by 2036 – despite it falling short of government calculations for local housing need due to being in such a protected area.

However, draft affordable housing rules have been weakened by the inspectors to become a target to take into account future schemes’ financial viability.

For smaller developments of three to 10 homes there will also be a target of 50% affordable but with an equivalent financial payment acceptable as a fall-back. One or two homes will not have to make any affordable contribution.

Under the draft Local Plan, which runs to 2036 and covers development dating back to 2016, about 300 homes will be provided by five major site allocations across the park.

One of the most high-profile is the Lyndhurst Park Hotel which retirement developer Pegasus Life controversially wants to demolish to make way for about 90 homes but has twice been refused permission.

The amended rules indicate about 50 dwellings in a “mixed-use” development and weaken the NPA’s suggested requirement of “tourism and residential” – possibly hampering hopes to retain a hotel there. A transport assessment will also be required.

However, supporters of saving the building, parts of which date back to date back to about 1810, will be heartened by the survival of policy stating “historic elements of the existing hotel building must be retained”.

Among the most significant changes is the deletion of 30 homes proposed in Calshot, on land south of the B3054, which is currently owned by New Forest District Council and earmarked for a cemetery.

The inspectors said that because Calshot is not one of the national park’s “defined villages” where development is less strictly controlled, major construction there could not be justified.

The NHS proposed part of Ashurst Hospital to be included in national park housing policies

Instead, a proposed new insertion is about 30 homes, plus potential residential care facilities, on what the NHS says is surplus land at Ashurst Hospital.

The birthing centre there would be unaffected by any development, and the inspectors insisted on tight controls for any new housing – including possibly banning cats and dogs – which is next to open Forest covered by Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status.

Elsewhere in Ashurst, the inspectors accepted the NPA’s plans for about 60 homes in a field off Whartons Lane – against the wishes of the parish council which was among opponents predicting flooding, worsening traffic and a loss of grazing.

In Sway 40 homes have been allocated for a field south of Church Lane, next to a pro-posed swathe of public open space of the same size.

Land has also been allocated for 120 dwellings within the national park as part the wider 1,500-home Fawley power station scheme, which is mostly under NFDC’s planning jurisdiction.

Other changes by the inspectors include a policy allowing landed estates to build new homes for their workers, which can now be used by retired employees too.

They backed NPA rules applying to homes that are not replacements for existing properties that limit their floor space to 100 square metres. They would also be stripped of permitted development rights for extensions, to ensure a “balanced” stock of housing sizes.

In response, Steve Avery, NPA executive director of strategy and planning, told the A&T the inspectors had broadly backed its policies, pointing to size limits of new homes, for example, as well as affordable housing proportions, and five housing allocation sites to meet local accommodation needs.

Mr Avery said: “Importantly, key aspects of the draft Local Plan have been endorsed by the inspectors through their recent correspondence and the publication of the schedule of proposed main modifications.

“We await the inspectors’ final report, which will set out more detail on their conclusions and is expected in summer 2019.”

The next step is a public consultation on the inspectors’ proposed changes, which started on Tuesday and ends on Friday 31st May.

Comments will only be considered in relation to the proposed main modifications and not other parts of the Local Plan. They will be sent to the inspectors for consideration in their final report, due to be published later this year.

To comment email policy@newforestnpa.gov.uk or write to Policy Team, New Forest National Park Authority, Lymington Town Hall, Avenue Road, Lymington, SO41 9ZG.

To find out more go to www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/planning/local-plan/.

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