PLANNING applications for future housing developments have been a key focus for councillors in Fordingbridge.

The mayor of Fordingbridge, Councillor Edward Hale, reflected on the past year at the town council’s annual assembly last month.

He said: “Any review of the last year has got to start with planning applications as that has occupied a large amount of town council time. Although we all knew there was housing allocated to sites 16, 17 and 18 in the Local Plan I assumed this would come through gradually over the next 15 years or so. Instead we have had applications on all of these sites already along with another potential large development.

“These applications have been difficult to review as any response we make has got to take account of the Local Plan. All councillors can do is to try and minimise the impact of these on the town and try to arrange benefits for the town using CIL (community infrastructure levy) spending.”

He said the town council raised many concerns over Site 16, Station Road, Ashford over highways provision and asked New Forest District Council (NFDC) to explore the option of linking site 16 to site 17 (Whitsbury Road) to reduce traffic flow to Station Road.

Cllr Hale said: “Unfortunately, there were issues on ownership of the land and how to cross the old railway line so this could not be taken forward.

“However, I am pleased we explored this option and see this as an example of how a local council can try to achieve the best from a development.”

He added: “Similarly for site 17 and 18 (land at Burgate) we have suggested the link to the A338 should be included early in the schemes so it can be used by construction traffic and new residents. Planning officers have supported this and we are waiting to see if the developers will agree to change the sequence of building on these sites.”

Cllr Hale said there was now “closer working” between the town council and NFDC’s planning department.

Over the past year the council has been working on two main building projects - the pavilion at the recreation ground and the town hall.

He said there had been some additional costs and security issues at the pavilion site but the works on the changing rooms were a “great improvement”.

The work is due to be completed this month.

However, the proposal to adapt the town hall to accommodate tourist information staff, Cllr Hale admitted, had “not progressed so well” with the design plans “struggling” to get approval from the conservation officer.

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