Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Councillors agreed to revisit the potential of unused sites

On Saturday there was an article in the Hampshire Chronicle ("Planners considering adding extra houses to 2,000-home Barton Farm development") reporting that there are "new government guidelines allowing firms to avoid the payments on small-scale projects" which "will cost the council up to £920,000". This means a shortfall for the affordable housing budget. Winchester Cabinet members are now thinking about adding extra houses to the Barton Farm project and "fringe countryside and urban plots previously deemed unnecessary may also be developed".

Following that, a look at the 14 January WCC Cabinet meeting agenda (meeting notes not available yet) yielded item 9 to be "Changes to Government Guidance on Planning Obligations – Impact on Affordable Housing Provision" which was accompanied by a report (PDF file) of the assistant director (chief housing officer), page 6 mentions "Abbots Barton" (sic) as an example for possible developments:

"Therefore, while there is no planning policy requirement to identify more landfor housing, whether affordable or market, Members could choose for reasonsof housing policy to take a more proactive approach to developing ‘exception’sites, particularly in Winchester, just as is being proposed by Draft Local Plan2 Policy WIN 9 for Abbots Barton. If so, the scale and scope of any sitesearch would need to be carefully defined given the number and scale of sitesaround the Town which are being promoted for development through theSHLAA and Local Plan Part 2. Local Plan Policy CP4 allows for “exceptions”affordable housing sites to be allocated in order to maximise affordablehousing provision. Such housing would be considered to be additional to“general” housing supply for the purposes calculating delivery of the District’soverall housing targets. Such an approach has the potential to compensatefor affordable housing foregone as a consequence of changes to nationalplanning guidance. It also provides the opportunity to accelerate the rate of delivery (and increase overall supply) in order to meet housing needs morequickly, efficiently and effectively." 

This is definitely something to be watched to make sure that our much loved park is not becoming a target for development again.

Affordable housing is definitely needed, however a healthy balance needs to be found between building density and open spaces. On that note, here is a Guardian article from earlier in January that struck a note: "Children in our towns and cities are being robbed of safe spaces to play".

January morning sunshine at Abbotts Barton green