Ringwood Town Council is considering its response to the first part of the draft Local Plan Review issued by New Forest District Council (NFDC). This Review proposes that Ringwood should allocate 3 major sites for housing development for 1280 dwellings to be built in the next 20 years.

The three sites are located at (PDF map):-

• Site P – North and South of Moortown Lane (750 dwellings)

• Site Q – Between Eastfield Lane, Nouale Lane and A31 (400 dwellings plus 5 hectares employment area)

• Site R – Adjacent to Snails Lane (130 dwellings) – actually in Ellingham, Harbridge and Ibsley Parish

The reason for the three to fourfold increase in housing demand over the present Plan target of 21 dwellings per year for Ringwood (which is being met) arises from central Government population forecasts, which, for the New Forest District, amounts to accommodating an extra population of 22,000 in the next 20 years. The NFDC report states that the majority of this increase will be made up of those over 65 retiring here from outside the District.

Following the outdoor Open Forum held on 27th July, when views of local residents were heard, the Town Council’s Planning Committee considered its first response to these demands on 5th August. This will be followed up in early September with a final response approved by Full Council by September 16th.

The main recommendations the Committee is proposing at this stage are:-

• Our Town should not become increasingly a retirement dominated community. Young and working age people should have at least equal access to affordable home ownership here, in order to live and work in an economically and socially thriving community.

• Accordingly, any increase in housing numbers should include at least 50% affordable housing with the remainder for open market housing. The affordable proportion should include significant provision for “starter homes” for those aged under 40, and for those waiting on the Housing Register who have demonstrable local connections.

• It was noted – with dismay – that necessary infrastructure (roads, schools, surgeries, flood prevention measures etc.) will only be determined after the sites have been agreed. Our Council continues to maintain that housing development must be planned with matching infrastructure outlined at this planning stage, to demonstrate to the Town that the proposed housing sites will be adequately serviced in all respects before we accept them as viable.

• In particular, the extra 1150 dwellings proposed for the south and east of our Town require a new relief road connecting Christchurch Road to the A31 at Poulner. It was noted that a previous Planning Inspector had rejected site Q (Lynes Farm) for development there, because the existing road system would be unable to cope with the extra traffic. The proposed increased development at site P, and the existing plans for Crow Lane west, will further exacerbate the traffic problem. Unless there is a relief road to support the existing road structure, we will not support proposals for development at the southern and eastern sites P and Q.

• The idea of developing on the Green Belt (site P) – particularly south of Moortown Lane – is opposed, because the unique setting of our Market Town is maintained by its distinctive position within the Avon Valley countryside, safeguarded by the Green Belt status. Encroachment into this environmentally sensitive landscape compromises both Town and countryside. Rather than allow development on the Green Belt, we recommend that more intensified development take place on identifiable brownfield and whitefield sites.

• A new Local Plan for Ringwood should give strong emphasis on expanding the provision of learning and vocational skills for both young and those seeking re-training to promote more highly paid employment opportunities within the Town. The economic success of our Town in the 21st century requires high valued added businesses to locate here, which partly depends on a skilled local workforce being available. Local high grade employment opportunities should form part of a new Local Plan, insofar that appropriate sites and infrastructure should be allocated.

• Provided Ellingham, Harbridge and Ibsley Parish Council agrees to site R being acceptable, our Council suggests this site may well be suitable for housing provision for the ageing population, who may be less liable to commute along the A338.

These recommendations will be further discussed and resolved at the 2nd September Planning Committee Meeting, followed by approval or modification by Full Council before the 16th September deadline for submission to NFDC.

Members of the public, including community and residents groups as well as individuals, are of course welcome to submit their own comments to NFDC (www.nfdc.gov.uk/localplan2016) and indeed to write to the Town Council on any comments they have on the above.

The Town Council will be displaying exhibition material provided by NFDC in Ringwood Gateway during office hours between Tuesday 30th August and Friday 2nd September, and between 10am and 4pm on Saturday 3rd September. Despite a request for this exhibition to be manned, the District Council is unable to staff it. There will be forms for members of the public to complete, and comments will be reviewed by the Town Council and then passed on to the District Council.