BRAMLEY PARISH COUNCIL
Member of the Hampshire Association of Local Councils
Clerk: Mrs Maxta Thomas, PO Box 6967, Tadley, RG24 4XG
Tel: 07810 692486
To all residents in Bramley
The proposal by Wates to develop a site of 140 dwellings at Stocks Farm has raised the subject of specifically this site and general development matters amongst the community. Many residents have expressed their views and raised questions on the various Face Book groups and spoken with Parish Councillors expressing mainly concerns but some in support of the proposal, though the former significantly outweigh the latter. Bramley Parish Council want to try and address the whole topic in the following. To some who have “seen it all before” this may appear long winded but those less familiar with the processes involved may hopefully find it informative.
The following is very much a summary of how it all works.
The Government determines the national housing need which is then allocated to the various Local Council areas. The Local Council, in our case Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, then develops a Local Plan which identifies suitable locations e.g., Bramley for development. It then allocates a number of new houses to each location. There are several criteria used such as local need, suitable sites put forward by landowners, and the Borough Council Officers’ views of sustainability in a given location. The Borough Council then has to demonstrate to Government Inspectors that it has a rolling five-year land supply, i.e., five times the average annual requirement to meet the Government targets. This works as a process (even if not palatable to any given community) if the landowners and developers choose to build in line with the targets, but they do not for a variety of reasons. This leaves the Borough Council short of the five-year land supply numbers. This is the situation they find themselves in now. Not demonstrating the required land supply numbers means that the current Local Plan (Borough) and the Neighbourhood Plan (Parish) are rendered toothless regarding sites and numbers. This allows opportunistic land owners and developers to put forward proposals such as Wates have now done in Bramley.
As far as we can tell the consultation documents distributed by Wates have gone to very few residents and only to those living the west of the railway line. Those living to the east of the railway line need to be aware that additional sewage, drainage, and traffic will impact the whole village. Additionally, new residents from this site would put further strain on the few services (Surgery, School in particular) that exist. Therefore, the opinions and views of the whole Bramley community should be put forward. The opportunity to formally express your support or objections will only be available if and when this proposal becomes a formal planning application. Please note that comments and debates on Facebook, however heartfelt and reasoned, will not be considered by the Borough Council. How to make a comment on an application is covered in guides available on the Borough Council and Parish Council websites and can be found via the following links https://www.basingstoke.gov.uk/comment-on-a-planning-application and https://www.bramley-pc.gov.uk/planning-applications/submitting-comments-on-planning-applications/ . It would be wise not to assume that someone else will cover your views on a development, and it is the number of individual comments that can affect the progress of an application through the Borough’s process. i.e., ensure the application goes before the Borough’s Development Control Committee. This ensures the application has an airing outside of the Officer’s view. Should an application be refused, an applicant can appeal the decision and take it to a Government appointed Inspector who reviews the case and passes judgement. To be honest the appeal process has not gone well for Bramley in the past.
What is Bramley Parish Council’s view on this proposal?
Currently there is not a development planning application for us to discuss and decide upon. However, we have opposed recent developments based on the unsustainability of Bramley to absorb more housing. The Borough Council is currently undertaking a review of its Local Plan as Government targets have increased. In response to this we have submitted a summary of factual documents, which can be found via the following links to our website https://www.bramley-pc.gov.uk/submission-to-the-economic-planning-and-housing-committee/ and https://www.bramley-pc.gov.uk/further-submission-to-economic-planning-housing-committee/ .
In case you are unaware, Bramley is classified by Borough Officers as a “Small Local Centre” i.e., we have services that are accessible to the surrounding communities; unfortunately this appears to make Bramley vulnerable to further planned development rather than those surrounding communities. We have provided evidence to Borough Officers that these services are at breaking point and just because they are here does not mean that they have more capacity.
The lack of a five-year land supply and any consequent opportunistic proposals makes the fight harder. Borough Council Officers are directed via the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to accept only objections based upon planning considerations e.g., loss of views is not a reason, but impacts on biodiversity, landscape, lack of specific infrastructure are examples of material planning considerations. More information on material planning considerations can be found here: https://www.planningportal.co.uk/faqs/faq/4/what_are_material_considerations
Bramley Parish Council has worked over a number of years to explain Bramley’s situation to Borough Councillors and Officers and our representations are being listened to by a number of Councillors but, and here is the reality check, small rural sites are easier and quicker to develop than large sites. When there is a lack of a deliverable land supply then proposals such as that from Wates do become “low hanging fruit” for the Borough Officers enabling them to meet their targets.
Bramley Parish Council has a fact-finding meeting with Wates on 5th November and we will feed back anything we find out to the community. In addition, it will be a discussion topic at our next Parish Council meeting on 16th November, but please be aware we cannot make a formal decision until an application is presented to the Borough. I, as Chairman of the Parish Council, will be asking Parish Councillors to agree to hold an open meeting specifically on this topic, should an application be forthcoming.
Wates have submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment application, reference 21/03344/ENSC on the Borough Planning portal. The link is as follows: https://planning.basingstoke.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=R1MYQWCR0AP00
It is essential that they are compelled to carry out this assessment thus comments to that effect should be made to the Borough Council using such criteria as biodiversity, impact on agriculture, drainage/sewage, air quality through increased traffic and conservation areas.
Any subsequent planning application for building will require separate comment. Comments are not necessarily carried over from one application to another.
I believe we can deduce from their inadequate consultation document and this screening application that their intentions are to put forward a formal planning application in the near future. The consultation “BRAMLEY HAVE YOUR SAY” questionnaire issued by Wates as you would expect only refers to a number of facilities some may want but it does not say that the cost is 140 houses, loss of good agricultural land, and hundreds of daily extra vehicles movements on the C32 (The Street/Sherfield Road). The survey tempts you to say “yes”. These “yes” responses will be used to support the view that Bramley accepts this development proposal to the Borough Officers. Be careful what you wish for!
There are also details of various independent infrastructure surveys commissioned by the Parish Council in the last couple of years, which can be found at https://www.bramley-pc.gov.uk/planning-applications/bramley-infrastructure-report-october-2019/
We urge you as individuals to put your views to the Borough Council at the appropriate time and in a format with content that Borough Officers will have to take notice of when assessing a planning application.
The Parish Council will keep you informed.
Cllr A W Durrant on behalf of Bramley Parish Council
A copy of the above letter can be downloaded to share or send to friends/neighbours here: Development in Bramley – November 2021