Press release for immediate use:

Dated 4th September 2018

Christchurch Labour Party takes exception to various aspects of the Christchurch Local Plan Review as follows, and also provides suggestions and ideas for how this may be improved:

  1. Desirability

Developers will be expected to contribute towards flood defences and mitigation.  Will this be cost effective for them, and how will this affect their desire to include the proposed 35% of affordable housing?  There would also be increased costs for owners/tenants regarding home insurance in an area of flood risk, which the report acknowledges will only be adversely affected by climate change in years to come.

  1. Urban Density

The plan considers that following the Urban Design and Density Study, density could be increased where public transport is sufficient and quotes the Town Centre and Highcliffe as examples of areas where this could apply.  Whilst we concur about the Town Centre, we view public transport in Highcliffe as completely inadequate for this designation.

  1. Local Transport

Burton has an inadequate public transport system and is unsuited to an increase of some 500 additional dwellings. Burton already suffers well known access problems at the Stony Lane roundabout and the access at Salisbury Road onto the fast moving traffic using the dual carriageway of the Christchurch bypass.  We view the proposals for upgrades around Stony Lane roundabout as inadequate and unlikely to have a positive effect.

  1. Innovation of Land Usage

The plan does not seek innovative ways of bringing unused land designated for employment purposes, of which there is a good deal in Christchurch, into use for housing purposes and thus has had to resort to the use of Green Belt designated land for this purpose. This should always be a last resort, if allowed at all.

  1. Rent caps

To ensure some level of affordability, we would like to see the plan include steps to prevent escalating ground rents and other unfair leasehold practices by developers.

  1. Affordability and Housing Mix

The continuing target of 35% of new housing to be affordable is welcomed, but note that this has been missed in the past and we are concerned that there appears to be no positive process to ensure that this target is met.  On the contrary, the ambition that developers will make  CIL payments to improve Infrastructure, possibly including flood defences, mitigate against achievement of the target, handing developers ammunition to claim that their schemes are unviable with affordable in the mix.

The 10% target for small sites of less than half an acre will likely yield no affordable units and thus require greater than 35% affordable units in larger sites to meet the overall target.

  1. Social Housing

The plan contains no ambition for local government to act as a provider of housing.  We believe that doing so would enable provision of housing for young people and other groups which may be poorly served by commercially developed housing. With the local house price to income ratio at 12:1, ‘affordable’ must mean exactly that.  80% of value will still remain very much out reach for the many.

  1. Transport Infrastructure

The plan is lacking ambition in the area of transport which may well undermine the whole plan in terms of attractiveness as a place to live.  There are no new schemes proposed and no attempt to analyse the cost of current and potential congestion or solutions to it.

For example, a Dorset County Council report concluded that there was a feasible route for a Northern Bypass for Christchurch linking the A35 with the A338 but it concluded, with little evidence, that it was poor value for money.  The transport section of the plan should as a minimum include work to analyse that conclusion.

  1. Car Parking

The plan has ambition for increased employment but no solution to the parking demand that will be generated. Parking in the Town Centre for employment purposes is already under severe pressure following recent re-designation of parking spaces to short term use.  We believe that the plan should include a policy that developments include adequate parking.

A Park and Ride scheme should be considered to alleviate the amount of vehicles attempting access to the congested Town Centre area as a minimum.

  1. Clean Air Zones

The whole of Christchurch should be designated a clean air zone and effective monitoring systems must be installed, monitored and acted upon to properly police this policy.

Chairman of Christchurch Labour Party, Andrew Dunne, says:

“Whilst we appreciate the vast amount of work that goes into such a plan, we believe that use of green belt and areas of flood risk is unacceptable without other options apparently being scoped, such as re-designation of employment and industrial sites.  We also have grave concerns regarding traffic congestion that our Borough already suffers from, and the associated noise and air pollution.”

Andrew also says “With the house price to income ratio at 12:1 locally we are one of the most expensive areas to live in the country.  Any new housing must be actually affordable to local people and families who seek to live and remain in this area.  The 80% of value figure designated affordable has no meaning in this context. We cannot keep pricing ourselves out of the market.  Why not get building social housing again, and provide for those who need it?”

ENDS

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