MORE of the protected green belt should be freed up for housebuilding around New Forest towns, a planning enquiry at Lyndhurst has been told by developers.
The examination into the district council’s draft Local Plan setting out how 10,000 new homes can be built over the next 18 years opened at the authority’s Appletree Court HQ on Monday.
Presided over by government planning inspectors Kevin Ward and Caroline Mulloy, the hearing is scheduled to run for more than a month, and will hear from landowners, conservation bodies, building firms and other interested groups.
It will examine the soundness of NFDC’s keystone Local Plan document for 2016-36, which includes proposals to open up parts of the green belt to meet housing targets.
However, NFDC was accused of misapplying its own strategies by giving undue weight to the green belt in areas like Lymington and New Milton which are identified as major town settlements where the most building should occur.
Speaking for landowner Meyrick Estates, Ms Jackson said: “Lymington is a second-ranked, first-tier settlement which has an allocation of 285 and New Milton has 290 homes. Hordle – which is a village – is 260 – there’s a mismatch there.”
She pointed to the 2016 first draft of the local plan, which included a green belt site in New Milton which could deliver a further 500 homes.
Ms Jackson went on: “Mr Williams [for NFDC] has said there were no further site opportunities – I’m afraid again the 2016 plan showed there were site opportunities for development in the greenbelt, and at that point a suggested for site allocation for significant development in New Milton – a first tier settlement and a second rank town.”
However, the inquiry heard that when the Fawley power station site came forward with an allocation of 1,380 dwellings, several major housing sites were deleted from the plan including one north of Lymington for 870 homes, 120 north-east of Everton, and 500 north-west and south-east of New Milton.
In Milford, allocated land north-east of the village has shrunk with the deletion of a site west of Barnes Lane – cutting homes from 270 to 110. A site north of Hordle was also reduced from 150 homes to 100.
Ms Jackson said: “Ringwood, Lymington and New Milton had allocations which, combined, were at 2,390 dwellings. All of those were wiped out in the strategy of these higher order towns.”
Accusing NFDC of applying green belt policy in an “uneducated way” she said: “Yes, green belt is a factor but where it’s properly assessed for, it really impacts on a site-by-site basis and it hasn’t been done here. It’s been done in a very harsh way.”
Speaking for Pennyfarthing Homes, Ms Bennett said: “Where you have a town at the top of the hierarchy then the strongly performing green belt wouldn’t necessary set aside that overarching consideration of sustainability.”
She added: “The green belt has become a barrier to locating in the most sustainable areas. It is quite clear that there needs to be a review of the green belt so development is located towards the most sustainable areas and that simply has not been done.”
A spokesperson for Ken Park Planning described the allocation of 285 homes in Lymington as “particularly unreasonable”.
He said: “Yes, it’s great that the Fawley site has come in. It is a brownfield site, however. Why was the consideration not given to building some of the additional homes that the national park can’t deliver?
“Additional land should be allocated elsewhere within the district, for example in Lymington – which is a high ranked settlement and is capable of meeting that need.”
The Local Plan will be supplemented by a second phase of changes adding more detailed policy and identifying smaller plots of land for development.
However, Mr Williams for NFDC said that there were no plans to include green belt areas in the second phase. Once ratified, any additional building in the green belt would only be possible in exception site policy.
The Local Plan, which applies to New Forest areas outside the national park, details 18 major sites on the outskirts of towns and villages which will be developed with between 100 and more than 1,000 dwellings.
As part of the plan, green belt areas will be declassified to make way for 1,500 homes, with another 1,380 new homes allocated on the former site of Fawley power station.
The areas of green belt which are set to be built are in Lymington (285 homes), New Milton (290 homes), Ringwood (480 homes), Milford (110 homes), Hordle (260 homes) and Bransgore (100 homes).
The plan also identifies non-green belt sites in Totton where 900 homes can be built and another in Marchwood where 860 new homes are earmarked.
Speaking for Pennyfarthing Homes, Ms Bennett said: “Once you’ve made a decision to release green belt land because exceptional circumstances exist, there is nothing in policy that guides you to go through the process the council has gone through to start rejecting greenbelt sites at the most sustainable settlements.”
The examination in public continues until 18th July.