Basingstoke and Deane Borough: Context and Issues

Open22 Jan, 2024, 10:00am - 4 Mar, 2024, 11:59pm

 

2.1 This section provides an introduction to the borough of Basingstoke and Deane.  It sets out key facts about the borough and its residents and highlights the main issues that will need to be addressed over the Plan period. These issues have been identified though consultation with communities and stakeholders through the plan-making process to date, the Integrated Impact Assessment process, the Local Plan evidence base and other wider sources of information. The issues have been used to inform the Local Plan Update’s vision and objectives which are set out in Section 2.

Overview

2.2 Basingstoke and Deane borough covers an area of over 63,000 hectares (245 square miles) of north Hampshire. Much of the borough is attractive countryside, with the western part falling within the North Wessex Downs National Landscape. This high-quality natural environment defines the wider borough’s character, its communities, economy and environment, and significantly contributes to residents’ and visitors’ quality of life. 
2.3 The borough’s principal settlement is Basingstoke which is the focus for key services and employment. The town was a traditional market settlement which developed rapidly between the 1950s and 1970s to accommodate part of the London overspill. It has a range of distinctive neighbourhoods, including traditional historic areas in its centre (which are conservation areas), and more recent developments at Beggarwood, Rooksdown and Sherfield Park.
2.4 The borough’s second largest town is Tadley, in the north of the borough, which is adjacent to the licensed nuclear installation at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston (AWE). Tadley is within the AWE Detailed Emergency Planning Zone (DEPZ) where new residential development is not permitted unless it can be demonstrated that it can be accommodated within the Off-Site Nuclear Emergency Plan to the satisfaction of the Office of Nuclear Regulation. This constraint has limited significant growth in the area and an average of only 23 new homes per annum have been delivered in the town over the last ten years (since 2013).
2.5 The borough also has a number of other rural towns and larger villages including Overton, Whitchurch, Bramley, Kingsclere, Oakley and Old Basing, in addition to a scattered network of smaller villages and hamlets. Many of these villages have historic cores with a high quality built environment within and around conservation areas.  Many of the borough's towns and parish councils have adopted neighbourhood plans to shape development in their areas.

Issues to address

  • Maintaining and enhancing the distinctive character of the borough, its settlements, the different areas of Basingstoke town, and the surrounding countryside.
  • Enabling local communities to have a say in shaping and managing change within their local area, including through neighbourhood planning and involvement in shaping local regeneration schemes.
  • Managing population growth in close proximity to the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE)/Detailed Emergency Planning Zone (DEPZ) in Aldermaston.
  • Maximising opportunities for development of previously developed land.

Climate Change

2.6 The council is extremely concerned about the impact of human activity on the natural environment and declared a Climate Emergency in July 2019 setting the aim of making Basingstoke and Deane borough carbon neutral by 2030. This has been supported by a Climate Change and Air Quality Strategy setting out a range of actions to achieve this target. In 2021, the borough had a net carbon footprint of approximately 1 million tonnes of CO2 taking into account emissions from industry, homes, travel (including on the M3 as it passes through the borough) and carbon absorption (for example, through trees). 
2.7 Like the rest of the country, the effects of climate change are already being felt in the borough, including hotter summer temperatures and increases in peak rainfall. These have widespread impacts upon the welfare of residents and the environment.

Issues to address

  • Reducing the borough’s carbon footprint whilst delivering new development to meet needs.
  • Increasing the borough’s resilience to the effects of climate change.
  • Improving the energy performance of existing buildings.
  • Reducing emissions from transport and existing uses.
  • Generating renewable and low carbon energy in a way that is sympathetic to its surroundings, including maximising opportunities on existing buildings and structures.
  • Maximising opportunities for absorbing carbon dioxide (for example, through tree planting).
  • Minimising the use of resources including water.
  • Maintaining and improving air and water quality.

Population

2.8 The number of residents in the borough has notably increased since Basingstoke’s designation as an expanded town in the 1960s and the population had reached 185,200 at the time of the 2021 Census. The population increased by 17,400 people since 2011, approximately 10.4% compared to 7.5% for the South East and 6.6% for England. Approximately 63% of the borough’s population live in the urban area of Basingstoke.
2.9 The borough has a relatively young population compared to neighbouring local authority areas, but the proportion of older residents, particularly those aged 75 or older is increasing[1]. In the future, there is expected to be an increase in the proportion of households with no dependent children, and a reduction in the average household size[2].

Issues to address

  • Responding to the changing needs of a growing population, including timely infrastructure provision.
  • Responding to issues arising from the changing population structure, in particular the increasing number of older people.

Amount, Type and Affordability of Housing

2.10 In 2021, the borough had approximately 79,000 dwellings. The number of dwellings has increased by 8,125 since 2011, which is approximately 11.5% compared to 9.0% for the South East and 8.5% for England[3]. There is a higher proportion of houses (83.3%) than flats (16.4%) in the borough when compared to the wider south-east region (77.7% houses and 21.6% flats).  A higher proportion of households in the borough live in socially rented properties (17.9%) and shared ownership properties (1.9%), compared to the wider south-east region (13.6% socially rented and 1.4% shared ownership)[4].
2.11 The council had a requirement to deliver 850 dwellings per annum in its Local Plan (2011-2029) that was adopted in 2016. After the adoption of the Plan it took a couple of years for the allocated sites to start delivering homes, after which the delivery rate exceeded 1,200 homes in the three years from 2018/9. Delivery rates have fallen in the last few years but remain high. Despite the previous high delivery rate, the council is currently not able to demonstrate a five year supply of future deliverable housing sites to meet the housing requirement.
2.12 Although housing in Basingstoke and Deane is relatively more affordable than some other parts of Hampshire, affordability is an issue for first time buyers and households on low incomes who cannot access home ownership. This is particularly the case in rural areas where house prices tend to be higher. There is therefore a high demand for affordable housing in the borough. There are currently approximately 5,000 households on the council’s rented housing register[5], which has increased from approximately 4,000 households in April 2022. There is also a high demand for intermediate types of affordable housing and there were approximately 1,800 households on the Help to Buy register when that closed in March 2023[6]. The council has since established its own Low Cost Housing Register, which contains about 500 households and is growing in size.
2.13 The borough’s housing stock has a mix of dwelling sizes, and 27% of households live in homes with four bedrooms or more[7]. However, these are not distributed evenly across the borough and there is a greater proportion of large dwellings in the smaller rural settlements where there are higher levels of underoccupancy.
2.14 In April 2020 there were 1,459 residents in sheltered housing and 952 residents in nursing and residential care homes[8]. The ageing of the population over the Plan period will result in increasing requirements for specialist older persons’ accommodation with varying levels of care, as well as adaptable and accessible homes that enable residents to stay in their own homes. The borough’s self-build register identifies a demand for plots from people who would like to self-build, and there is also an increasing need for Gypsy and Traveller pitches.

Issues to address

  • Providing a sufficient supply of new homes with a mix of sizes, types and tenure to meet needs.
  • Restoring and maintaining a five year supply of deliverable housing sites.
  • Meeting the needs of households on the housing register.
  • Addressing affordability issues through an emphasis on social rent, recognising that owner/occupation, even with relatively lower house prices in the borough, is out of reach for households on low incomes.
  • Meeting specific identified housing needs including rural housing, adaptable and accessible accommodation, specialist housing for those with care needs, providing self-build opportunities, and provision for gypsies and travellers.

Economy, Employment and Education

2.15 The borough’s close proximity to London, excellent road and rail connections, the ports of Southampton and Portsmouth and the airports of Heathrow, Gatwick and Southampton have all helped its commercial success. The majority of working borough residents carry out their work within the borough. Residents that commute out of the borough to work in other nearby centres such as Newbury, Reading, or London, are counter-balanced by workers that commute into the borough from other parts of Hampshire and surrounding counties. Overall, the borough provides over 88,000 jobs (2023 BRES data).
2.16 The borough has a strong and diverse economy, focused on Basingstoke, and a good balance of businesses across a range of sectors, including advanced manufacturing and ICT; financial/business services; logistics/distribution; environmental technologies and rural businesses. The small business community is the bedrock of the borough’s economy, with large companies being a critical part of past and future success. Incubating, innovating and unlocking entrepreneurial talent will also be a key to maintaining a thriving economy.
2.17 Estimates of unemployment within the borough stood at 2.5% of the population aged 16-64 in March 2023, which is similar to the South East average (2.8%) and below the England average (3.8%). Basingstoke and Deane has a well-qualified workforce, with 35.2% of the population aged 16 and over educated to degree level or equivalent. This compares to 35.8% in the South East and 33.9% in England. There were also fewer people in the borough with no formal qualifications (14.2%), compared to the South East (15.4%) and England (18.1%)[9]. Improving skills remains a key aspiration however and there is an aspiration to introduce a university to Basingstoke which will help to support local businesses.
2.18 Employment floorspace in the borough is concentrated within Basingstoke Town at the established employment locations which, combined, provide approximately 353 ha of employment land. However, a number of these employment sites contain premises that are reaching the end of their functional life. It will be important for the borough to maintain a supply of quality employment land and premises of the right quality, type and size.
2.19 One of the borough’s most important employment areas is Basing View, an existing business location in a prime location in close proximity to the town centre and railway station. The council has worked proactively with partners to regenerate the area, improving connectivity and appearance while facilitating the delivery of new employment and supporting land uses. This regeneration will continue to enable the area to respond to changing trends and needs.
2.20 The borough also has a thriving and prosperous rural economy with a diverse range of land-based and non-traditional rural businesses. The rural economy needs to be supported to enable these businesses to grow sustainably, and to provide opportunities for agricultural and other land-based rural businesses to diversify.

Issues to address

  • Providing and protecting sufficient employment sites and premises of the quality, size, type and location that meet the needs of established businesses and inward investors and provide knowledge-based and high value jobs.
  • Supporting the regeneration and/or redevelopment of existing employment areas (including Basing View)
  • Supporting businesses to deliver clean growth, supporting innovation in green technologies and jobs.
  • Supporting high quality education, skills and learning across the borough to provide a highly skilled local workforce, supporting ambitions to deliver a university. 
  • Supporting sustainable rural businesses and the diversification of the rural economy.

Green Infrastructure and the Natural Environment

2.21 The natural environment of the borough is highly valued by residents and visitors, both for the quality and diversity of the biodiversity and also for the attractive setting and recreational opportunities that it provides. The council declared an Ecological Emergency in October 2021, highlighting the damage to the natural environment and the ecosystems within it due to human activity.
2.22 The borough straddles the geological areas of the Thames Basin and the Hampshire Downs with the southern half of the borough dominated by chalk downland and the northern half influenced by deposits of clay and sands. The landscape in the west of the borough is recognised as nationally important, and more than 20,000ha have been designated as a part of the North Wessex Downs National Landscape.
2.23 The borough supports various types of green and blue infrastructure owing to its varied geology and important river systems including the Rivers Loddon, Test and Enborne. The impacts of future growth will need to be managed, with improvements to water services infrastructure, to maintain water quality and ensure compliance with required water quality standards under the Water Framework Directive. Some of the borough’s water bodies do not meet good status under the Water Framework Directive and the borough is within a region that is ‘water stressed’.
2.24 Extensive areas of the borough’s green infrastructure are protected designations including 20 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), one National Nature Reserve (NNR), more than 820 Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) wholly or partly within the borough and 9 Local Nature Reserves (LNRs). 7.5% of the borough is covered by Ancient Woodland.
2.25 In addition to the important habitats within the borough, there are some restrictions on development to the east of the borough on sites in proximity to the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area. It is also necessary to ensure development in the catchments of the River Test and River Itchen are nutrient neutral, to prevent harmful impacts upon protected nature conservation sites in the Solent and River Itchen.
2.26 Although only a small percentage of the borough is within floodplain, parts of the borough are vulnerable to groundwater, surface water and sewer flooding. New development will need to manage flood risk and take into account the effects of climate change.

Issues to address

  • Protecting and enhancing the borough’s landscape and ensuring a net gain in biodiversity, including through supporting Local Nature Recovery Networks.
  • Improving green infrastructure accessibility and connectivity.
  • Protecting and enhancing the special qualities of the borough’s waterways, including the River Loddon, Test and Enborne.
  • Ensuring new development is safe from flood risk and doesn’t increase flooding elsewhere.
  • Protecting, managing and improving the quality of the borough’s water environment and ensuring sustainable water use.
  • Ensuring development does not have a harmful impact upon protected nature conservation sites outside Basingstoke and Deane.
  • Protecting and providing local greenspace to meet the needs of residents, including addressing deficiencies in some parts of the borough.

The Built Environment and Communities

2.27 Basingstoke experienced rapid growth in the 1960s and since that time the town has continued to expand with the addition of new communities. Whilst many areas are attractive places to live, some areas of the town are now dated and in need of regeneration. A number of successful regeneration projects have positively improved the quality of life for existing residents and contributed towards creating safer, better-designed and more integrated communities. The council wants to continue to actively facilitate and support a collaborative regeneration programme to maximise the significant benefits that can be provided. Priority areas include Buckskin, South Ham and Winklebury. The council also wants to drive up housing standards for all residents and ensure that homes are built to high liveability standards.
2.28 Newer development has often lacked identity and a sense of place. The council recognises the need to ensure a higher standard of design in future new developments, creating beautiful and distinctive places. The council also recognises the importance of local communities shaping their own areas in the way they want and neighbourhood planning has been a successful way of supporting localism.
2.29 The borough benefits from a range of historic assets which contribute to the character of the borough, including over 40 designated conservation areas, a significant number of listed and locally listed/notable buildings, Scheduled Monuments and other archaeological sites, including important historic tourist attractions such as Basing House, Highclere Castle, The Vyne and the Roman settlement at Silchester. The borough’s heritage assets make an important contribution to local distinctiveness as well as local recreation, education, and the tourism economy.

Issues to address

  • Supporting regeneration of some parts of older residential housing areas.
  • Driving up housing standards to ensure new homes provide a liveable and comfortable environment for all residents. Creating neighbourhoods where residents feel safe and which have a high quality of design, are beautiful, healthy, sustainable, inclusive and locally-distinctive.
  • Ensuring communities continue to guide change in their areas through neighbourhood planning.
  • Conserving, enhancing and improving understanding of the borough’s historic environment, in light of pressures for growth and change.

Retail, Leisure and Culture

2.30 Basingstoke town centre provides a wide range of facilities and services for local residents and visitors. However, the way in which the centre is used continues to change most notably with the demand for retail floorspace reducing.  Changes are therefore needed to make the centre more sustainable and resilient to change. A Town Centre Strategy has been prepared to guide future change and help to deliver a revitalised, well-connected, attractive and greener centre with a broad range of shopping, leisure and cultural experiences where people enjoy spending time.
2.31 There are also designated centres in Brighton Hill, Chineham, Overton, Whitchurch and Kingsclere supported by a network of smaller neighbourhood centres and local shopping parades that help to meet residents’ day-to-day needs.
2.32 Residents and visitors enjoy a wide range of publicly-provided leisure services and facilities in and around the borough such as arts venues, theatres, museums and sports facilities, parks, local nature reserves and woodlands. This is complemented by a range of private sector attractions such as cinemas, health clubs, an ice rink, golf and tennis clubs and equestrian facilities. The availability of such a range of facilities and services is a significant benefit for residents and an attraction for visitors. The council has adopted a new masterplan to deliver a revitalised and better connected Leisure Park in Basingstoke, which is fit for the 21st Century and offers improved facilities for all.

Issues to address

  • Delivering a revitalised Basingstoke town centre and maintaining the vitality and viability of other centres in light of changing leisure and shopping patterns.
  • Maintaining and improving the balance of high quality and well located local facilities to support sustainable communities.
  • Regenerating Basingstoke Leisure Park to create a more diverse range of experiences for residents and visitors.

Infrastructure and Travel

2.33 There are concerns that infrastructure has not kept pace with the level of growth that has occurred in the borough, and that some existing local and strategic infrastructure is in need of upgrading or replacing. This includes school provision, healthcare and sewage infrastructure. Strong and sustainable communities must be supported by suitable infrastructure in order to maintain the quality of life of residents. It is therefore important that key community services and facilities are protected whilst a proactive approach is taken to infrastructure planning, working with partners to ensure that the right infrastructure is delivered in the right location at the right time to support new development. The provision of new strategic infrastructure, such as a hospital and healthcare campus, will be supported. An Infrastructure Delivery Plan for the borough sets out what infrastructure is required and when.
2.34 In terms of transport, the borough is well connected by road and rail across the region. The M3 runs through the borough from east to west, passing to the south of Basingstoke, and the A33 and A339 provide connections to the M4 corridor and beyond. It is recognised that there are some traffic and congestion issues at key ‘hot spots’ in Basingstoke during the peak periods, despite there being a generally good road network with capacity at other times.
2.35 Basingstoke is well connected by rail to London and the Midlands and has direct connections to Reading and Southampton. There are also railway stations at Whitchurch, Overton and Bramley that provide connections to Basingstoke and beyond.
2.36 There is a regular bus service in and around Basingstoke connecting neighbourhoods to the town centre and the station, although there is less public transport availability in rural areas which limits accessibility to facilities and services for residents. The council’s Transport Strategy aims to deliver fast and direct public transport corridors to Basingstoke town centre from new development areas.
2.37 There is generally good walking and cycling connectivity across Basingstoke Town and there are plans to enhance key corridors through the Local Cycling and Walking Improvement Plan (LCWIP). Outside Basingstoke there is a network of walking and cycling routes, and a number of long-distance walking routes pass through the borough.

Issues to address

  • Ensuring that the right infrastructure is provided in the right location at the right time to ensure that needs are met and existing residents are not disadvantaged by new development.
  • Ensuring that community services and facilities are protected and enhanced.
  • Supporting the delivery of new strategic infrastructure, including a hospital, to support new development and mitigate impacts.
  • Enhancing opportunities for active travel such as walking and cycling through enhanced connectivity, particularly along key corridors and to improve access to the public transport network.

The Borough’s Role in the Region

2.38 Basingstoke and Deane shares its boundary with six other local authorities, and it is necessary to ensure the Local Plan’s strategy is coordinated with the borough’s neighbours and other authorities further afield. Whilst the borough is generally a self-contained Functional Economic Market Area (FEMA), there is some economic movement between the districts in terms of commuting across the borders to work. Communities close to the borough’s boundaries also utilise some of the borough’s services, and vice versa, and some residents are reliant upon neighbouring areas for access to higher order services, highlighting the complex cross boundary issues that exist. For example, local residents rely upon the towns of Newbury to the north, Andover to the west and Hook to the east for higher order services including retail and education. There is also significant economic movement between the borough and Reading which is also a significant retail destination.
2.39 In terms of housing, people also migrate to and from neighbouring districts, the wider South East and London. However, the borough’s housing market is relatively self-contained. Overall, Census 2021 showed that of the borough residents that had moved within the previous 12 months, 54% already lived in the borough prior to their move. Within some parts of the borough, this level of self-containment was as high as 73%.
2.40 The Local Plan needs to take account of the wider challenges, issues and opportunities affecting neighbouring areas as well as the wider region. This includes such issues as the impact of commuting on the area’s strategic transport network and other cross boundary issues such as ensuring the provision of suitable employment floorspace. The environment is also a significant cross boundary issue with landscapes, ecological corridors and river catchments running across borders. A joined-up approach across the region, through the development of Local Nature Recovery Networks etc. will be key to ensuring opportunities are maximised.

Issues to address

  • Working with neighbouring authorities and other bodies to address a range of cross-boundary issues including the environment, transport, housing and employment.

 

Figure 2.1: Summary of the key constraints in Basingstoke and Deane Borough

Click to enlarge map

 

 

[1] ONS Sub-National Population Projections, 2018

[2] ONS Sub-National Household Projections, 2018

[3] Census 2011 Table QS418EW and Census 2021 Table RM204

[4] Census 2021 Table TS054

[5] November 2023

[6] The Help to Buy Scheme ended nationally on 31 March 2023.

[7] Census 2021 Table TS050

[8] Data from Elderly Accommodation Council, reproduced in Housing Market Assessment (2020)

[9] Census 2021 Table TS067

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