It was an informative and positive meeting held last night (Tuesday) in the Methodist Church, as around 25 residents interested in the future of Whitchurch met at the first ‘Volunteers Meeting’.

Purpose – Housing Location
David George, chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, outlined the purpose of the Neighbourhood Plan, and how input from local people is essential for the town’s future. If the Basingstoke and Deane Local Plan is approved, the town will need to find land for 350 new homes. Land at Bloswood Lane is already allocated for 150 of these, with the Neighbourhood Plan determining where the remaining 200 should go.

Community teamwork
David explained how this will require considerable teamwork, research and interaction with the community in order to build up a credible ‘evidence base’ for the decisions. Above all he said “it will be fun”. It was also noted that the Plan area was the Parish of Whitchurch and not just the town area.

Four preliminary public meetings had already been held where residents indicated the main topics to be considered in determining the housing areas, with traffic and parking being high in people’s interest. In addition liaison had already taken place with Basingstoke and Deane Council and with local industry, and there were plans for wider local involvement through questionnaires and online surveys over the approximate 18-month timetable. Reference was made to the town’s Design Statement of 2004 and how that will be closely aligned to the Plan (link below).

Progress and the future
It was stressed that the ‘evidence base’ needs to show significant community involvement before it can be accepted, prior to a local Referendum being held on the final Plan’s content. It was also suggested that those involved were probably best to be impartial on town matters to ensure accurate and fair collection of data.

Support is essential
The Steering Committee is looking for volunteers to take on key roles either in lead or supportive ad hoc roles, in subjects such as housing, industry, traffic, and infrastructure. It is also looking for support for running events, fundraising, IT help and logging the evidence, as well as numerous other tasks. It was very encouraging that several people came forward with a meeting planned for 16th October.
There was also confirmation that all minutes, documents and information will be placed on the new Neighbourhood Plan website in the quest for transparency.

“Delighted”
David closed the meeting thanking everyone for their support saying that he was:
“delighted at the turn out and pleased to see a doubling of the committee size which provides a sound basis on which to proceed.”

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The Presentation Slides are here: Whitchurch Neighbourhood Volunteers Meeting

The Whitchurch Design Statement is here: Whitchurch Design Statement

The Plan’s website is here: Whitchurch Neighbourhood Plan

Comments (2)

  • Jacqui

    I have a few questions about the Bloswood Lane development and the possible other 200 houses:

    1. How is the centre of Whitchurch supposed to cope with another ~700 cars?
    2. How can Bloswood Lane be a good place to build these 150 houses as all residents will travel through the centre of town to get anywhere (except maybe St Mary Bourne)? Just look at a map. Bloswood lane turns into a narrow country lane.
    3. Where are all the children going to go to school? The primary school is already full and I suspect the secondary is close to capacity. All children will be at risk travelling to school on foot or by car as there will be so many more people travelling to the schools. Micheldever Road is already chaos at school times!
    4. How will the doctor’s surgery cope with so many new residents?
    5. How will all the emergency vehicles stationed in Whitchurch get through all the new traffic?

    In my opinion Whitchurch would struggle to cope with the proposed 39 new homes on the Bloswood allotments, let alone 350 more. If you live in the south of Whitchurch and need to travel north on the A34 you have to go through the centre, also vice-versa. Travelling to Andover or Basingstoke also require going through the centre of town. I already avoid the centre of town on my way to work by cutting through small country lanes, that is the only other option and is ironically quicker.

    The long and short of it is that the way Whitchurch is designed almost everyone has to go through the centre of town and in the centre of town most residents have to park on the road as there is no off-road parking. Whitchurch simply does not have the infrastructure or the facilities (schools, etc) to sustain any more large development. When will planners realise this?

    Adding more and more housing onto existing villages, town and cities is not the way to go. If we built new towns they could be designed to take extra development in the future. Some may argue that we do not want to build on green-field land, but what is the difference between building on a green field next to a village and a green field somewhere else? A new town with its own facilities and expandable infrastructure, in a commutable spot (i.e. near a good/improvable junction on an A road) is the only viable solution as old towns were not designed to take the number of people the planners want them to. It will cost more initially (infrastructure like water, electricity, etc) but will mean not having to worry about bypasses for that town in the future, proper planning for future expansion and happier residents because the town structure works. It will also mean the creation of new highstreets and new opportunity for local business.

  • TC

    I completely agree with you Jacqui. When I went to one of the meetings about the Local Plan (not to be confused with the Neighbourhood plan mentioned above) and I spoke to the representative from Basingstoke and Deane, I asked him if the council had considered building a new town to house the large allocation of houses the government has given them rather than continuously adding more houses to existing settlements. He looked slightly aghast at this suggestion and replied ‘No’. I asked why not and he laughed as if I had asked rather a stupid question and said it would cost millions in infrastructure costs so is not even considered as a possible option. I find this very annoying as it implies that adding houses to existing settlements is the cheap option and all they appear to have considered in their Local Plan is where to build the houses, and not if the settlements can actually cope with the allocation. In addition, any funding to enlarge schools, surgeries etc will be paid for by the developers of the sites, there appears to be no council funding for this at all.
    The unfortunate truth however, is that the decision to build 350 new houses in Whitchurch has already been made by Basingstoke & Deane and is about to be included in the Local Plan, which is currently being prepared by them. The Neighbourhood Plan (the one mentioned above) has no power or ability to stop this from happening. The Neighbourhood plan is simply a document put together by local people who have volunteered to help, which will enable the town to influence where and where not we want those houses to go in Whitchurch, and what changes or upgrades in infrastructure we would like to see to try and accommodate this new development. If we do not produce a Neighbourhood Plan, then the decisions about where the houses will be built will be entirely up to Basingstoke & Deane planners, and the town will not have influence over it at all.

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