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|District Group Report|
Hart & Rushmoor District Group
by Hugh Sheppard
In common with CPRE branches and district groups across the South East, the committee is finding its hands tied while two important planning issues stay unresolved. These are the proposals under the South East Plan and for the Special Protection Area known as the Thames Basin Heaths. After far, far too long, monitoring these issues still saps much too much time and energy on behalf of our membership and supporters.
Planning in both Hart and Rushmoor is hamstrung in terms of the bigger picture and in implementing specific applications. In theory, the district Local Plans are due for replacement by more comprehensive Local Development Frameworks, but these need to be informed by the housing allocations of the South East Plan. As both districts also house large areas of Thames Basin Heaths, consideration of the required housing numbers and of the mitigation needed to protect rare bird species is inevitably inter-related.
Major Applications and Inquiries, such as that for the Queen Elizabeth Barracks site or the Aldershot Urban Extension, can still be dealt with under supplementary arrangements but, as with Dilly Lane*, the outcome will not depend solely on the Planning Inspector who conducted the Inquiry. Instead, approvals are decided by remote control on behalf of the Secretary of State, Hazel Blears, and her new Housing Minister, Caroline Flint.
Are we downhearted? I suppose the answer is 'Yes' to an extent, but your committee is made up of born optimists, to which we have added the names of Simon Cubbage and Paul Spencer, while John Bennison is the re-instated Observer on behalf of Hart Council after a gap of some years. Welcome all.
Stop Press: A planning inspector has just refused two applications in adjacent Surrey Heath because of the potential impact on the rare bird species of the SPA. Quite a precedent for Hart and Rushmoor!
* We await the outcome of Hart's legal challenge to the approval by Hazel Blears for 170 homes on a greenfield site, overturning the Inquiry Inspector's recommendation.
This page updated 9th April 2008
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