Thursday, April 23, 2009


And so, at last, the LDF debate

Last night, in a 6 hour meeting ending at 1 a.m., Winchester City Council agreed the Core Strategy Preferred Options paper for the Local Development Framework (LDF). This now goes to "Pre-Submission Consultation" (a curious stage at which consultations have to be carried out but, apparently, no substantive changes can be made to the document). The current plan calls for the LDF to be submitted to central government for examination in July 2010.

The two major issues addressed in last night's debate were the proposal to allocate Barton Farm for the building of 2000 houses and the proposal to build a "Knowledge Park" on Bushfield Camp.

I have considerable reservations about both proposals. I believe Barton Farm, a stretch of farmland reaching into the city, helps give Winchester some of its unique flavour and that building there will both destroy this and add hugely to congestion in our narrow streets and at our already busy road junctions. As far as Bushfield in concerned I believe that the principal of building an out of town business park away from public transport and near to a motorway junction is wrong on environmental grounds. I also fear that such a development would offer little or no spin-off benefits to the rest of the local economy.

Both of these proposals were approved by council. However, a Liberal Democrat amendment on Barton Farm was also agreed. This added the words "This allocation will only be released when monitoring shows it is needed to meet the requirements of the South East Plan." The intention of this amendment was to buy time, by ensuring that Barton Farm is at the bottom of the list of allocated development areas not at the top.

Despite the amendments which, in my view, substantially improved the proposals I still could not bring myself to support the Core Strategy. I was therefore one of the minority of councillors who voted to reject the whole document.

Locally, there was good news for Oliver's Battery. The threat to build 2000 or more houses between us and Compton or at Pitt has now been removed for at least the life of the LDF. This was always a nonsensical idea and the strength of local feeling expressed through letters and surveys helped kick it into touch.

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