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Christchurch areas included in BCP Council plans to use greenbelt to meet housing demand

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A HOST of Christchurch greenbelt sites could be included in council plans to meet a shortfall of 5,500 new homes.

Even with a forecast of increased housing density and building heights in urban areas, BCP Council predicts such a shortfall against the government-set target, writes Josh Wright of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

As a result, it has agreed that every greenbelt site put forward by developers be included in its Local Plan consultation this summer.

Sites at Burton, Bransgore and Walkford are included
Sites at Burton, Bransgore and Walkford are included

In the Christchurch area, that includes a string of sites in the greenbelt east of Salisbury Road along the length of Burton.

There are more north of Burley Road on the western edge of Bransgore, one adjoining Chewton Farm Road and Gore Road in Walkford, and a fourth in a strip of land between the River Avon and the edge of Christchurch.

Cllr Mike Brooke, who heads up the working group overseeing the planning blueprint, said that “at this stage, this is the only way forward”.

The council is required to produce a Local Plan across the conurbation, which sets out its priorities for development of the area, including how it will meet government housing targets.

Earlier this year this target was increased to 2,700 homes per year, despite councillors saying this was “unhelpful”.

They have criticised the use of “out-of-date” Office for National Statistics data from 2014 rather than more recent 2018 information and has said this “should be challenged”.

But councillors were told at a scrutiny board meeting that the council was not yet able to do this.

Nor, they heard, was this the case for the use of “duty to co-operate” arrangements which could see new homes in neighbouring council areas count towards the target.

“It is essential that we do look at greenbelt development and exhaust the opportunities there before asking Dorset Council, for example, to take on any shortfall we might have,” Cllr Brooke said.

Consultation on the Local Plan is expected to start in either July or August.

Councillors were told that after the use of urban sites, the council would have a 9,000-home shortfall which would reduce to 5,500 through encouraging higher density housing.

This is expected to shrink further through new planning rules that make adding storeys to existing blocks easier, and the conversion of office space to residential. Precise numbers are unknown.

But some councillors have warned against greenbelt use, including Cllr Lesley Dedman who said it was “a risky undertaking” and that there was a need to protect these “precious” areas.

However, councillors agreed that they be included in the consultation.

“We will hear a great deal from many residents about the protection of the greenbelt but, looking back, many parts of our conurbation wouldn’t exist if they hadn’t intruded into what was then the green belt,” Cllr Ann Stribley said.

Scrutiny board chair Cllr Stephen Bartlett said this was not the council “committing” to greenbelt development, rather that it was a process required before the housing targets can be challenged.

And the cabinet member for regeneration, Cllr Phil Broadhead, added that not doing so risked the council being “forced into giving away greenbelt that we really don’t want to”.

Permission to start the consultation is expected to be requested of the council’s cabinet in July with the consultation beginning soon after.

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