Statement to the New Forest National Park Authority Meeting 28 March 2013
by Martin Lander
The Commoners Dwelling Scheme, this so called affordable housing scheme is not available to the poorest commoners or those in the greatest need. It is a scheme that is exclusively reserved for the wealthiest members of the commoning community.
When it comes to supporting Commoning, this scheme is surprisingly ineffective. Only about 6% of the increase in commoners numbers since 1992 can be attributed to the Commoners Dwelling Scheme.
The New Forest National Park is the most densely populated National Park in the country. This makes the open spaces of this National Park all the more precious. It is immensely damaging to The New Forest to have a scheme that results in the development of its greenfield sites.
One aspect of this scheme that needs urgent attention is the size and design of permitted outbuildings. The boxed section steel sheeting barn approved last tuesday was 7 times the size of the dwelling. Whatever happened to traditional building materials Brick, Slate, Tile, Oak – Boxed section steel sheeting - its a disgrace
But the greatest outrage has been caused by the way in which this scheme is being administered by the National Park Authority.
Members of the Commoners Dwelling Scheme Panel receive no training, no guidance and the ones we have spoken to are completely unaware that their role is any more extensive than to certify that the applicant is a practising commoner.
It no wonder that The Commoners Dwelling Scheme Panel have failed to:
Examine whether the applicant owns the land on which they are applying.
Examine whether the applicants existing dwelling meets their housing need.
Examine whether the applicant can common from their existing dwelling.
Examine whether the applicant has access to other land from which they can common.
Examine whether the applicant meets the local qualification as specified by Policy CP11.
All of which they are required to do for the applicant to pass stage 1 but none of which has been carried out properly.
It is inappropriate if not illegal that the planning officer mentoring this scheme should sit on the panel deciding it.
And Who could possibly have set up a panel the majority of whose membership is drawn from the Commoning community and whose role is to administer a scheme which is only of benefit to Commoners. It is like setting up a panel of turkeys to decide the future of Christmas.
Oh And when you ask to see the minutes of their meetings – They don't keep any! Ha!
This Commoners Dwelling Scheme Panel is not fit for purpose
This Scheme is of benefit to commoners in that they are able to apply for a dwelling where no one else would be considered, so long as they comply with quite strict rules. The assessment of the applicant should be carried out fairly, applying those rules. To not apply those rules or to bend them in favour of the applicant is not providing a further benefit to commoners, it is simply alienating public support, and bringing the entire Scheme into disrepute.
That is exactly where we are now. This scheme has been brought into disrepute by the National Park Authority themselves. Please suspend this scheme before you do any more damage.