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Row about where to build in Whitchurch
HOUSING plans for Whitchurch were set to be challenged by borough councillor Keith Watts last night.
He has accused officers at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council of acting “irrationally” by ignoring housing plans drawn up last year.
The borough council drew up a draft Core Strategy to show where housing could go in the future, but this was binned last year after a High Court judge ruled that it was unlawful and irrational to leave out land at Manydown.
The council is now setting out a replacement for that plan.
But Cllr Watts said that it ignores all the detailed site assessment work done in 2011, and recommends sites for housing which were previously deemed unsuitable.
The 328-page document was set to be discussed at the council’s planning and infrastructure meeting last night.
Cllr Watts said: “The administration is pretending that 2011 never happened. So they are turning the clock back to 2008.”
He said this was when the first version of the development blueprint for the borough was published with no expert judgements on the suitability of sites for house-building.
He added: “As an example, a site near The Gables in London Road, Whitchurch, part of which is in the Laverstoke and Freefolk Conservation Area, was assessed by conservation officers in September 2011. They wrote that ‘the site received a strongly negative assessment due to the fact that the development of the site would harm the character and appearance of the Conservation Area’.
“But a report written for Wednesday’s meeting says ‘to ensure consistency of process, it is considered appropriate at this stage to continue to retain the site as a Category One site’ (that is, suitable for housing development).
“Consistency is over-rated if it means because we were irrational last year, we must also be irrational this year.”