This was highlighted when the local Campaign for Real Ale group requested the Borough Council Planning Department impose an Article 4 Direction on the Harvest Home, which would have halted demolition until at least a planning application for a subsequent use had been considered. By imposing such an Article it would allow there to be full local consultation and for any changes to be put in front of elected councillors for decision. However Basingstoke and Deane have refused, allowing the decision to be made by officers.
Demolition before consultation
However the campaign has now spread wider, with a large number of residents concerned that the character and social fabric of the town is at serious threat without there being an opportunity for local input.
Even the fact that the Harvest Home is a listed ‘building of local interest’ has had no effect and campaigners claim that the Borough Council is not following its own published planning guidance.
Request from residents
At the last full Town Council Meeting local residents made a request for the Town Council to issue a statement to the Borough Council expressing their concern at the present situation.
After the meeting local resident Andrew Reeves-Hall, who had helped with the Whitchurch Design Statement, said:
“The Railway Hotel – gone; The Harvest Home – demolition imminent. What historic part of town will be next?”
“Big Society will turn into a Big Joke if the borough council continues to ignore the views of hundreds of locals and the elected Town Councillors.”
The Council agreed that it would send a letter to the Chief Executive of Basingstoke and Deane expressing concern that developers have found a way to exclude elected councillors on planning matters.
Also at the Town Council’s meeting was John Buckley from CAMRA who said that the campaign was encouraged by the local support, adding:
“Local communities should have a say in whether they lose their social amenities, but Basingstoke Council and its councillors are denying Whitchurch that opportunity. They have the tools that would allow public consultation but refuse to use them, instead allowing an officer to make a remote decision.
Concern for future plans
With a Town Plan for Whitchurch presently in its early stages, the ability to have local input without it being over-ridden is of high concern. In the comprehensive letter to Basingstoke the Whitchurch Town Council wrote:
“In the light of moves for local people to engage within their local communities, and to take greater responsibility through Town Community Plans, it seems a retrograde step not to recognise local feeling towards the history, character and social amenities of where they live.”
“Residents are becoming increasingly upset that our rural market town is slowly but surely losing its highly valued shops, pubs and valued buildings that are so important to our community”
The letter has also been sent to Sir George Young MP, and County and Borough Councillors.
The full letter…
To read a full copy of the letter visit the Whitchurch Town Council website:
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