It was standing room only as people packed into the Gill Nethercott Centre to hear some suggestions for future housing in Whitchurch. Local Borough Councillors for the town, Keith Watts and Eric Dunlop, were presenting their ideas for housing on the area south of Testbourne.
Chaired by local vicar Kelvin Inglis, the meeting opened with a request to “Generate light rather than heat” in recognition of the potential for controversy over the subject.
Background and local need
Keith ran through the planning background of what has led to the need for development, explaining that taking the local Housing Needs Register* into account showed 25 homes per year were necessary – a total of 350 over 14 years.
Of these 150 were already planned for the Bloswood Lane sites, and that he and Eric believed the best location for the remaining 200 needed over the period 2019 – 2027 was to the south of Testbourne.
A copy of his presentation with plans can be downloaded below**.
As the meeting progressed, ably controlled by Kelvin, there were many probing questions from the floor, the answers to which helped clarify the main points.
Unsurprisingly in a straw poll, most of the audience were from ‘south of the river’ and it was also apparent that there were few ‘young’ people present, those most likely to be in need of housing in the future. Their input should surely count. However there was some earlier bemusement at the attendance of a Tadley Town Councillor, taking an interest in Whitchurch issues.
Housing to the north?
As expected several questioned the choice of site, with some suggesting that north of the town was more appropriate, as the railway station was a prime facility for travel to other employment locations. However, Keith argued that area was better for industrial/business use with a potential link road from the old A34 into Ardglen.
Traffic through the town was of major concern to many, with claims of increased congestion as vehicles would head north through the centre, although similar could occur if housing were to the north, as traffic could head south. Potential use of the Knowlings for a Recreation and Sports Centre, traffic congestion in Micheldever Road, and provision of local services and infrastructure were also raised.
It was stressed that the plans from the Borough Councillors were simply suggestions, and that further consultations and detailed planning permissions would still be necessary. There could also be other options and Keith and Eric said they would work for the best for the whole town, especially in provision of housing for local needs.
Those present were urged to help develop a clear local planning policy through creation of a Neighbourhood Plan as without such a Plan development would be out of local people’s hands.
Following the meeting, Borough Councillor Keith Watts said:
“I was encouraged to see how many people came to hear our case for housing development and provision of sports fields in the south of Whitchurch. We had a frank exchange of opinions and Eric and I were given some serious points to think about.”
“I hope that people from all over Whitchurch will be just as keen to take part in the neighbourhood planning activity that the Town Council will soon lead.”
A deep interest in housing issues
Overall, although some strong views were expressed, it was a well-attended positive meeting that showed local people have a deep interest in housing issues and the effects that development can have on the environment and quality of life in a community. It was also encouraging to hear that our local Councillors are open to further discussion and will be looking at all options.
* HOUSING NEEDS REGISTER (Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council)
* * PRESENTATION BY Cllr WATTS (Download pdf file)
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