DEVELOPERS have been trying to weaken planning rules as New Forest District Council’s proposed new policies go under the microscope, its deputy leader has claimed.
Cllr Edward Heron told fellow councillors that construction companies and landowners had been arguing for higher densities, less affordable housing and reduced environmental controls in the draft Local Plan.
The keystone document contains development rules until 2036 for the area outside the national park, and has a target of about 10,500 homes.
It is currently being scrutinised by government-appointed planning inspectors at public hearings at NFDC’s Appletree Court HQ in Lyndhurst.
Cllr Heron, the Conservative cabinet member for planning and infrastructure, was reporting back to a meeting of the full council in response to a question from Cllr Christine Ward about the progress of the draft Local Plan.
He said: “The hearing sessions have been very well attended by a range of development industry interests.
“In general their interests have sought changes to the plan to remove or weaken policies that the council considers important to ensure development is of a high quality, addresses local housing needs and protects the local environment.
“Many site promoters would wish to see development at higher densities and less environmental controls.”
Parts of the draft Local Plan have provoked protest as they propose allowing development of hundreds of homes on some green belt areas, such as between Ridgeway Lane and Lower Pennington Lane in Pennington, next to Oakhaven Hospice.
Cllr Heron added: “There has also been significant concern expressed by a number of organisations and parties about the potentially harmful impact of development on the nature conservation sites in the district and the ability to mitigate those impacts.
“The RSPB informed the inspector that in their view this was the most difficult Local Plan area to deal with in the country.”
The council’s plan had been described by the planning inspectors as “over-optimistic” in terms of the speed at which most of the allocated sites could be delivered, Cllr Heron admitted – although he said that was helpful to ensuring an “achievable” plan.
NFDC has agreed to prepare more detailed development briefs with the promoters of the larger sites to ensure they are “properly planned,” he said.
The last day of the hearings was due to have been Thursday 18th July.