Those who objected to the removal of the land along Stoneham Lane from the Strategic Gap will be pleased that the inspector has upheld their objection. She noted that in the Hampshire Structure Plan, the gap had long-term importance and therefore the boundary should not be changed unless there has been some significant change that affects the separation function of the previously designated land. She disagreed with the Council that only land north of the motorway was necessary for a strategic gap or that the motorway itself provided a major barrier. For the traveller along the M27, a gap on both sides is very important because it contributes to the perception of movement through an undeveloped corridor between the two settlements.

She did however say that a park-and-ride scheme was not necessarily incompatible with strategic gap designation. But the proposed bus garage would be inappropriate in a strategic gap.

As for a park-and-ride scheme at Stoneham, she decided that it should be deleted from the Local Plan. Park-and-ride schemes to the east and west of Southampton would be implemented first and the need for park-and-ride on the north side of Southampton should be reviewed in the light of the demand following operation of these other two sites. There is also concern about traffic saturation in the section of the M27 around junction 5 and congestion on Stoneham Way. Although the City Council owned the land and wished to safeguard the site for possible park-and-ride, they needed to be realistic about the prospect of such development within the local plan period. They should be sensitive to the planning blight that this could cause to the adjacent residential area. Even if a northern park-and-ride scheme is needed, there should at least be a full Transport Assessment and liaison between Southampton, Eastleigh and Hampshire County Council on the most suitable site.

In the light of the inspector’s report, the City Council will publish proposed modifications to the Local Plan in June for public comment.

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