Wednesday, 13 April 2016

NFA Planning & Transport 2015-16

In anticipation of Saturday's NFA AGM, we look back at this year's work. In his annual report from our Planning & Transport Committee, Chair Graham Baker discusses the Government's now constant shifting of planning goalposts, the threat of the rising property market to Commoning, and inadequate compensation for the thousands of homes planned for the Forest's borders.

The concord with the National Park Authority has persisted and monitoring applications for development has become a reduced part of the committee’s job. Still we argue about fences, about contribution to affordable homes, about the size and bulk of replacement dwellings, but these are the arguments at the margin - the difference between a man with a job and a man with a passion.

In development control these days we are usually supporting the National Park Authority and are generally on the winning side. Supporting them against Parishes where valuable principles might be sacrificed for local convenience, against applicants wishing to misuse valuable back up pasture, against developers determined to try every avenue to gain a bigger house, against those seeking to overturn decisions at appeal and most of all supporting them in resisting Government attempts to relax the planning rules. Working with the National Park Authority and the Campaign for National Parks, we have succeeded in gaining exemption from many of these relaxations. But proposals come thick and fast; before the results of the last one on significant changes to national planning policy are known, two new consultations have been announced, both containing many dangerous proposals.

The more we succeed in keeping unwanted development at bay, the more attractive the area becomes as somewhere to live and the more house prices have risen. In November 2015, the average property in the National Park cost £531,162 that is 14.2 times the local average wage, a higher ratio even than London. If land-based occupations are to survive the next 25 years we must secure more homes for local people unable to afford market housing.

Driven by a Government determined to ever increase house numbers, our surrounding Planning Authorities have become the main threat to the Forest. Thousands of homes are planned south of Romsey, on the Waterside, at Fawley and East of Christchurch. Everyone recognises that each house built increases recreational pressure on the protected areas of the National Park and everyone agrees that the Authorities should compensate for the damage that it will do. But the compensation is inadequate, and as part of the revision of the New Forest National Park local plan, the New Forest Association will campaign for sensible mitigation contribution used for effective, long term measures.

Chairman - Graham Baker

The NFA's Planning & Transport Committee does a huge volume of work, not just wading knowledgeably through planning applications which may be of concern, but increasingly, as the objectives of neighbouring Authorities force us to look strategically, they review development, green space provision, mitigation and compensation outside the Forest's borders. Despite this daunting task, Graham signs off:

"The planning committee is in good heart and up to complement. Burley gives us cause for concern, and if there is someone from the village who would like simply to check planning applications each month for likely problems, I ask them to contact me."