Do we really need another new mini-town in Hampshire?
PUBLISHED: 12:08 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 12:27 20 March 2017
Do we really need another new 'mini-town' swallowing up more of the green fields of Hampshire? Alice Cooke thinks not
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting”…isn’t it?
Are Fleet residents being taken for a ride? Is a planned 700-home development going to benefit the community, or make life difficult?
I took Religious Studies at school but would not describe myself as biblically minded. However I was reminded recently of the passage in Proverbs 31:30: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting”, when thinking about the plight of the Fleet fields. As I am sure most readers are aware, a plan was submitted in December to build 700 homes on the 146-acre green field site known as Elvetham Chase. It forms what planners describe as a ‘natural second phase’ to the Calthorpe Estate scheme at Elvetham Heath. But some residents are appalled.
The plan would include 700 homes in a new ‘mini town’, 280 of which will be affordable, along with a new primary school and country park. But the pleas of in excess of 80 local residents to date have fallen on deaf ears.
Traffic is an existing issue, thanks to new developments off Hitches Lane, in Church Crookham, and in Hartley Wintney. One local resident described the situation as ‘ludicrous’, and added: “The local system simply can’t cope as it stands, never mind if they build 700 more homes.”
The new car park at Fleet railway station is full every morning, and local bus services were recently reduced, so they certainly can’t cope with any extra traffic – in short the current infrastructure around Fleet is already overburdened. The fact that there will be a new primary school is good news, but education beyond that seems not to have been considered – a nearby secondary school, Calthorpe Park, recently expanded to cope with increased demand, and another, Court Moor, can’t be expanded due to ‘footprint limitation.’
It begs the question that communities up and down the country would like an honest answer to… why are brownfield sites not being investigated instead of more green spaces being eaten up?
The Fleet and Church Crookham Society has also objected. It said that the application “is both premature and in the worst possible location”, adding: “A more strategic delivery plan is required, rather than bolt on urban extensions that do not add sufficient essential infrastructure.”
Before you brandish your placard and head for the fields, there are two sides to this story and at least one Elvetham Heath resident has written supporting the plans. Peter Young said: “There is a huge shortage of housing in this area. The current site is mostly grass and trees. It would be better used for desperately needed new housing.”
Emma Gruenbaum of Wates Developments, the firm behind the plans, said: “Elvetham Chase will make a significant contribution to delivering Hart District Council’s housing supply requirements. In addition it will generate millions to be spent on improvements to the local transport network, school places and other community facilities.”
Is this NIMBYism, and must we in Hampshire accept that because of our transport links to London and the south east, we will become increasingly urban? And is that necessarily a bad thing?
This country mouse happens to think so, but maybe it’s time to face facts…