This is a collection of the stories about Daniel Park in Whitchurch, Hampshire leading up to it being recognised as a Queen Elizabeth II Field-In-Trust (QEII FiT) during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.
The QEII Fields Challenge was launched in the autumn of 2011 by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge – who, it is believed, came to Whitchurch as a young boy to learn to fly-fish in the River Test.
The scheme created a deed to protect the public park forever as recreational space. This sounded straight-forward at the time – and it was – except the Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council later wound up giving itself the right to run a road through it!
Back in the autumn of 2011, the local councillor for Whitchurch in Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council (B&DBC), Cllr Keith Watts, successfully lobbied for Daniel Park to be nominated as QEII Field. For whatever reason, and different to many other councils in the UK, B&DBC decided to have a public vote to select 1 field in the entire Borough to become a Field in Trust. The voting concluded in November 2011.
Daniel Park received the most votes – not only in B&DBC but in the entire UK! – for any park which was put out to the public for a vote (pedantic: there were other parks with more votes, but they weren’t in a competition to be selected, their councils were just using the voting system as publicity for a park they had already decided to protect as a QEII Field).
However, in February 2012, when progress should have already been visible about the deed to establish Daniel Park as a QEII Field, hints, and then later evidence appeared which showed that the Council was going behind the public’s back to reduce the size of the park that would become a QEII Field!
This did not go down well with the campaigners, who then took up the charge through this website to raise awareness of the shenanigans at the Borough Council. A campaign was established and numerous articles appeared here.
In the end, after a vote one way, then the other way, the Council created the QEII Field but with a 20m wide strip left out so that a possible road could be built through Daniel Park to service a future housing development on the land next to the park. That land is also owned by the Borough Council.
The Daniel Park QEII Field story is still alive even a year after the voting: now the Borough Council have suggested that the road may be built sooner – much sooner! – than they first indicated.
In the beginning…a vote for Whitchurch
23 October 2011: Vote now to keep open space… (Community Groups > Leisure)
25 October 2011: Vote for Daniel Park as Queen Elizabeth II Field (voting link)
- Between the 23rd October and 18 November, hundreds of people voted for Daniel Park to be a QEII FiT by the Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council (B&DBC)
- In total 330 people cast their vote in favour – the most for any ‘voting’ field
- It is worth noting from the start that B&DBC own Daniel Park, which is next to the primary school
- The same Council also own the land adjoining Daniel Park, which they have earmarked for possible future housing
- Aside: the story Is Whitchurch marked for Basingstoke overspill? included this map which showed the various proposed housing sites in town including the land beside Daniel Park referred to as ‘WHIT-010A’
18 November 2011: Vote for Whitchurch – Last Chance!
- Last day of online voting in the QEII FiT competition
14 December 2011: Whitchurch – Top in the UK
- Daniel Park receives most votes in UK for QEII FiT competition
But after voting closed: Shenanigans; and so a campaign began…
6 February 2012: Cllr Watts reports to Town Council
- B&DBC Cllr Keith Watts read from his report to the Whitchurch Town Council (appendix B in the minutes HERE)
- It hinted at things not being as straight-forward as first thought…
- He stated, in part: “[Fellow Cllr] Eric Dunlop and I put a motion to the same meeting [of B&DBC] calling for a panel of Officers and Members to progress the work necessary to complete the dedication of the Queen Elizabeth Field and establish long term management and maintenance arrangements. This has, so far, not gone as we had hoped so we will be returning to the subject at the Council meeting on Thursday 9th February.”
28 February 2012: We didn’t vote for a Road – Whitchurch Betrayed?
- Evidence presented that B&DBC officers together with Fields in Trust have been acting behind the scenes to remove part of the Park from the scheme
- B&DBC could have excluded this strip of land for a possible road from the public vote – but they didn’t – and now they are doing so without public consultation
- a ‘betrayal that must be investigated, and that allowing such a manipulation would be an unacceptable breach of faith’
- FiT statement which includes, “it is not within our powers to define the area that the Council chooses to protect”
- B&DBC statement which includes, “The council owns the adjoining site, which could, in the future, provide for local housing need”
- B&DBC officers write in their report to the Council: “If sufficient land is not excluded from the deed of dedication of Daniel Park, the council would have to seek the formal consent of the FiT to construct an access road.”
6 March 2012: “Mission Accomplished” – QEII Park
- First feedback direct from the B&DBC Committee Meeting, details to follow (see next item)
- Proposal by (unelected) officers to retain 20m wide strip of land for a future road is seen as a ‘breach of trust’
- Town Council had voted unanimously to oppose any retention of land across the park for a road
- Video: A town councillor, local residents and Borough councillors all speak strongly to B&DBC Economic Prosperity and Performance Committee Meeting against the officer’s report to ‘hijack’ part of Daniel Park
12 March 2012: Daniel Park – Latest: Where is local democracy?
- B&DBC (unelected) officers state in their report to next week’s Cabinet meeting that they are not accepting last week’s committee decision which opposed reservation of a strip of land for a possible future road
- Local campaigners feel this is ‘a real stab in the back for Whitchurch’ and question if democracy exists within the Council
16 March 2012: Stop the Daniel Park Road: LATEST – and a Petition
- Community groups meeting votes unanimously in support of opposing B&DBC plans to reserve 20m strip of land
- Petition started
- Letter from Sir George Young, MP
18 March 2012: Whitchurch Councillor responds to consultation on QEII Field
- Cllr Keith Watts’ full written response to report that will be considered at B&DBC cabinet meeting on the upcoming Tuesday
21 March 2012: ‘Road to Nowhere’ over Daniel Park is a breach of trust
- Whitchurch residents and councillors presented a case to B&DBC cabinet that it was committing a ‘breach of trust’ with the local community
26 March 2012: Daniel Park – Standing up for Whitchurch? – Watch the video
- Mentions that the webcast of the meeting referred to above has been obtained
- Includes comment from local resident Les Jordan who says he has sent a message to Private Eye about this “debacle”.
28 March 2012: Daniel Park – Decision is Challenged
- Cllr Keith Watts gains support of other Councillors to ask that the decision of the B&DBC Cabinet to reserve land for a road across Daniel Park be ‘called-in for scrutiny’
11 April 2012: Children plant the Jubilee Oak
- Newly formed Friends of the QEII Field arrange planting of the Jubilee Oak in Daniel Park by local children, aided by teh Mayor and Mayoress amongst many others
(Aside: on 17 April 2012 Cllr Watts reported on his councillor website [HERE] that the High Court ruled that B&DBC had acted unlawfully in regards to house planning)
20 April 2012: Daniel Park reaches Private Eye
- Issues gets national attention through Private Eye article ‘A road runs through it’
- Lampoons B&DBC for not fully recognising the results of a vote that itself arranged
11 May 2012: Daniel Park – a sad day for fairplay
- B&DBC votes on 9 May to uphold earlier decision to reserve 20m wide strip across Daniel Park for a possible road
- Cllr Keith Watts reported the details HERE about the ‘last ditch’ challenge to keep Daniel Park intact
- Video: B&DBC Cabinet Meeting (edited) (full length webcast is HERE).
At last, protection and dedication but not for it all
8 July 2012: Daniel Park dedicated to The Queen
- The Mayor and Mayoress of Basingstoke & Deane dedicate Daniel Park as a QEII Field
- Plaque unveiled
- Daniel Park now protected by Deed from any future development (except for a 20m strip of land)
Now, another broken pledge from B&DBC?
25 October 2012: QE2 Field – will Council break another pledge?
- a road may be built decades sooner – 2014 perhaps! – than originally stated by B&DBC
- Cllr Keith Watts writes to the Cabinet Member responsible for the Council’s role as landowner stating that the Deputy Leader of the Council “went over the top in his assurances that this site [WHIT-010a] would not be developed for a long time and that it wouldn’t happen unless the local people want it”.
- Cllr Watts promises a “strong and bitter campaign”