Promoting a high quality place to live

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Winchester City Council has today taken Part 2 of its new local plan to Cabinet. As part of our ongoing campaign to ensure Winchester remains a high quality place in which to live we made a brief presentation. What we said is set out below:

As many of you know, I have made a number of presentations over the past 3 years to members, officer and the public on the issue of how we effectively plan our cities future. The consistent theme has been my belief that we should and still can plan in such a way that change, and in particular the delivery of large numbers of houses, becomes a positive benefit rather than a threat to the well being of this city. Well planned housing development can result in significant benefit to our city. Poorly planned development or the complete absence of planning will at best leave the outcome to chance. This is in my view to miss the opportunity and possibly even negligent. LPP2 is a significant opportunity. I passionately believe that without a clear vision that opportunity will be missed.

Where we put houses matters, possibly even more than the numbers. Placed in a considered way the delivery of housing will achieve more than just the delivery of houses. It could enhance communities, bring improvement to neglected parts of our city and help us meet our environmental responsibilities. Done poorly it will destroy the much cherished character of this city and fail to deliver even the housing number we need.

To date I have seen no evidence that this council is adequately engaging with either the threat or opportunities offered by LPP2. What are these threats:

Without a robust allocation of housing sites we will see housing supply diminish and in time, houses won at appeal and in the wrong places. We will loose our ability to plan the future of this city.

Current proposals are based on a presumption in favour of development entirely within the cities existing boundaries. This is a presumption in favour of a saturated city. There is no evidence that this is a vision for our city endorsed by the public. It also presumes the use of city centre sites which, in our view, are too valuable for as yet undefined civic functions to be used for housing.

It is already becoming clear how hard it is to deliver target numbers on sites within the settlement. Even harder is the delivery of affordable housing and sustainable design. These are important responsibilities which this council will be held accountable for.

Our analysis has revealed that many of the housing sites set out within the SHLAA are undeliverable, unviable, in appropriate and in unsustainable locations. We also believe that the reliance on windfall sites is highly questionable in an increasingly saturated city. Past patterns will become increasingly unreliable.

The council has already recognised that it cannot be confident on delivering more than 334 units from the 420 originally identified in the SHLAA. This raises significant questions about the delivery of the 910 units identified from windfall. As a minimum we need reserve sites outside the settlement boundary to give us a much needed 5% buffer. That will at least defend us against future appeals when housing supply slows.

A better way is to proactively plan the future of our city. We should and still can take control of where and how housing is delivered in this city. This will require a careful consideration of sites outside the settlement boundary. My experience is that the people of Winchester are open to this and intelligent enough to understand the issues.

Sometimes a well selected and carefully planned development outside the settlement boundary can bring greater benefit and do less harm than development within the existing settlement.

In the last year the council has commissioned work on Stanmore and the Station Approach. We welcome this. We are also pleased to see that the council are in the process of commissioning a similar planning framework for Winnal. My fear is that this piece of work comes too late. I hope not.

The brief for this piece of work states that the council are looking for new housing sites on the edges of Winnal, one assumes outside the settlement boundary.

It is essential that LPP2 leaves open the possibility that this important piece of work can reach openended conclusions. To do this you must make sure policy can embrace its findings. The brief states:

The edges of the Winnall neighbourhood offer most potential for new housing, potentially funding infrastructure improvements within the neighbourhood. This in turn might prompt a policy issue to be resolved around future designation of these areas for housing or business use.’

We humbly suggest that now is the time to resolve these policy issues.