Thursday, 10 March 2016
Lib Dems Accused of Conflict of Interest
"Land at Hatch Farm" was transferred to the Council in the 1980s as public open space. The "meadow-like" land was enjoyed by West End residents for informal recreation for a couple of decades. Then the Lib Dems started the process of changing its designation from "public open space" to "land allocated for housing". The next step was a "development brief" which invited housing on what was a green space. Unfortunately for the Lib Dems, their failure to present an adequate Local Plan means the Council's agreed policy for this land is still that it should be protected as public open space.
The planning application for a hundred houses was referred to the committee by officers because it was "contrary to the Development Plan" and the site was "within the ownership of the Borough Council". Large numbers of interested West End folk in the public gallery were presented with a rather unedifying spectacle of the Council being asked to give the Council permission to build houses on land owned by the Council. And all this had been given the OK by the Council's own legal team.
The residents association also pointed out that houses built on the site would be at risk of flooding, and the additional traffic would block already congested roads. They were also frustrated that the report included the private gardens of the new houses were counted when calculating how much public open space would remain after development.
West End Lib Dem Bruce Tennent agreed with the local residents and supported their objections on the grounds of traffic gridlock and flood risk. However, he was put in his place by Lib Dem leader Cllr Keith House. "We have already agreed housing here in principle", he said. Voters had to understand the difference between listening and agreeing. The Lib Dems had listened but they did not agree with the objectors. There would be less flooding risk after the houses were built , the remaining open space would be "improved", and Hampshire County Council did not agree that development here would make existing traffic problems worse. The Lib Dems had to sacrifice green space here to protect green space elsewhere in the Borough.
Lone Conservative member Cllr Hall accused Cllr House of "threatening" the committee. Cllr Hall was uncomfortable about the apparent conflict of interest, wanted to defend the principle of public open space, and agreed with Cllr Tennent that putting more green space under concrete and tarmac was likely to make flooding problems worse.
Planning permission was granted by eight votes to two.
Link to Is it Keith "Million Houses" House?
Photo from @CllrKeithHouse