Friday, 27 September 2013

Tory Land Flip Flop Dooms Hedge End Fields

Green Field or Party Political Football?
Tories at Hampshire County Council have changed their minds and are now willing to release green field land they own at Woodhouse Lane for housing. Perhaps I am too cynical about party politics, but it is pretty obvious the Tories said one thing before the May 2013 elections and now with four years before the next county council elections they turn their backs on the Botley and Hedge End countryside.

Predictably local Lib Dems, including cabinet members Cllrs Keith House and Louise Bloom have jumped at the chance to concrete over the last remaining area of agricultural land in Hedge End. At Thursday's cabinet meeting the Lib Dems were unanimous in adopting a strategy that puts 800 more houses in Hedge End.

What is worse, the Lib Dems got their numbers wrong in the first version of the local plan, and they now need to build over a thousand more houses in Fair Oak and Horton Heath.

Perhaps the least edifying aspect of the cabinet meeting was the party political spat between Cllr House and Cllr Olson, the leader of the Chandlers Ford and Hiltingbury Tories, over whether the county council u-turn is the first or second time they have flip flopped on this.

Meanwhile there was hardly any debate about the merits of alternative locations, such as the eyesore car boot sale land near Windhover Roundabout. This land is of little environmental value, is not used for agricultural purposes, and is right on the doorstep of the employment possibilities in Southampton. And existing bus routes go right past it. How is that less sustainable than Woodhouse Lane?

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

New Lib Dem Attack on Green Fields

Local protesters opposed Lib Dem "huge housing plans"
Eastleigh Lib Dems' first attempt at drafting a new local plan in 2012 ended in embarrassment. It is not clear if the Lib Dems were incompetent and did not check that land at Woodhouse Lane owned by the County Council would be available for housing. It may be that Hampshire Conservatives wanted to play political games and changed their mind about whether to release the land, as the Lib Dems claimed at last week's Town Council meeting.

Whatever the reason, the Lib Dems were left with a plan that was short of nearly 2000 houses according to their own calculations of how many houses will be needed in Eastleigh by 2029. And they are having to go through the local plan process a second time, with a new version of the plan due to be published for consultation soon.

The last consultation was incomplete and inadequate as some Hedge End residents pointed out. Others discovered too late that the Lib Dems had decided to put a site for travelling show people at the bottom of their gardens. The Lib Dems then shut down my attempts to have an alternative proposal debated at Town Council.

So where are the Lib Dems planning to put the houses this time? Cabinet has six options to decide from at its special meeting on Thursday (26 September).

Option A is the area of open land between the Windhover roundabout and the boundary with Southampton, much of which is currently used for car boot sales, and is of little value in terms of biodiversity, landscape or heritage.

Option B would extend Horton Heath into green fields to the south and west. The additional traffic generated by nearly 2000 houses would come through Hedge End to get to the motorway, and it would put the fields between Horton Heath and Boorley Green at risk of infill development.

Option C would extend the already planned massive develpoment at Boorley Green west into green fields to the north of the railway at Hedge End.

Option D spreads the required housing across four sites: one would extend the Boorley Green development into green fields to the south, the second would use some of the land in Option B, with the rest to the south of Bishopstoke and to the north of Fair Oak.

Option E would distribute the new houses across three sites; to the north of Fair Oak, south and west of Horton Heath and, based on the assumption that the County Council will change their mind, 800 houses on the green fields at Woodhouse Lane.

Option F shuffles some of the same cards to share the development between Boorley Green, Fair Oak and Horton Heath. 

What could embarrass the Lib Dems even more is that some of these sites are in the area to the north of Hedge End that they were claiming to have "saved" from development as recently as July this year.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Town Councillor Seriously Ill

It was announced at Town Council on Wednesday that Cllr June Watson is seriously ill. June has a long and respected record of service to Hedge End. She was Chair of Hedge End Parish Council in 1987 and Mayor of Eastleigh in 1995. We wish her well.

Her fellow Lib Dems voted to grant her indefinite leave of absence. This means she will not lose her place as one of Wildern ward's town councillors if her illness prevents her attending for six months.

Picture credit: Hedge End Town Council

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Badger Friendly Councillor

Hedge End's county councillor Rupert Kyrle wants to save Hampshire badgers. His motion before council on Thursday 19th September would ban DEFRA's hired guns from extending their cull onto land owned by the county council.

"Noting the start of the badger cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire and the possibility that DEFRA may roll out the badger cull across the rest of the UK, Hampshire County Council agrees not to allow the badger cull to take place on any of its county owned or leased land, given that the science is not proven nor conclusive that a cull of badgers is the answer to eradicating Bovine TB from the countryside. 

HCC agrees that more research should be undertaken by Government and the scientific community to find more effective and cheaper vaccinations for badgers and cattle to help eradicate this terrible and costly disease from the countryside: the Government’s policy is based on results from the randomised badger culling trial (RBCT) and agreed by a panel of scientists which stated that based on an average of five years’ culling plus a 4 year post cull period over an area of 150km2, the incidences of Bovine TB in that area could be expected to reduce by a mere average of 16% and HCC further agrees that this is not a good enough reason to warrant the culling and potential eradication of any species from our countryside, especially as there are other species of animals, including cattle, which are known to spread the disease."

It's a good motion, although it could mention that the Coalition cull is not bothering to examine the shot animals to determine if they had TB in the first place, so they will not know how many badgers will have been sacrificed for no reason at all.

Unfortunately Lib Dems don't have a good voting record on this issue. In June MPs had the chance to stop the cull, but most Lib Dems chose to follow their Tory colleagues and let the wildlife massacre go ahead. 

Update Thursday 19th September: Other county councillors reported today that Rupert's motion was passed.