Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Legal advice over housing sites in Basingstoke

Campaign groups in Hampshire are taking legal advice over a council's decision to rule out building houses on a site bought for that purpose.

In 1996 the Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition council spent £10m on land at Manydown, Basingstoke.

It planned on building 8,000 homes on the 820-hectare (2,000 acre) site.

But the new Conservative-led Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council is looking at a series of other sites including Basingstoke Golf Club.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council plans to build an average of 594 homes a year until 2027.

'Conflict of interest'

Campaigners believe the greenfield site at Manydown was dropped from the council's list of possible sites in the summer because a number of key Conservative councillors campaigned in the last election on the basis that they would save the site from development.

Clive Pinder from SOLVE - Save Our Loddon Valley Environment - a group campaigning to stop the construction of new homes in Basingstoke, said there had been a "conflict of interest".

He said: "Manydown was bought with rate and taxpayers' money with the purpose of building houses on it.

"We would rather the council built houses on brownfield sites, but if they have to build on greenfield sites we are asking them to please do it in a fair, transparent and balanced way."

Conservative councillor Andrew Finney, leader of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, said: "Inevitably local councillors are going to represent the views of their local residents.

"To say that one, two or three local councillors can impact the decision of the whole council in this respect is a fallacy."

'Complete mess'

Labour councillor Paul Harvey, from the borough council, said the process for deciding where new housing should be built had been unfair.

"This whole process is a complete mess," he said.

Mr Finney said the land at Manydown had been jointly acquired by the borough council and Hampshire County Council to protect it from "inappropriate development".

He added that the borough council had taken the decision not to promote the land for housing development in 2006, and that the county council made the same decision in 2009.

"There are planning issues which prevent it being appropriately developed at the moment - water, roads, schools, shops - the stuff that makes communities work," he said.

"Unless we can find a way of resolving that issue we will not be promoting the land for development."

A meeting will be held by the council on 23 November to discuss Manydown.

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