Take One Last Look
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The Barton Farm development project is to go ahead, after Communities Secretary Eric Pickles gave it the green light – just 1 year after rejecting it. Mr Pickles had to review his decision when it was ruled unlawful.
CALA Group Limited received approval on 2 October for its long-running application to build up to 2000 new homes at the site it owns on the northern edge of Winchester, after promoting the site for 14 years. During that time there have been demonstrations, enforced changes to the plans, dismissals, a public enquiry, three legal challenges – and now a successful appeal.
CALA says the plans will include the provision of 800 affordable homes within the project – around 40% of the total.
Winchester and Chandler’s Ford MP Steve Brine called it: “a bitterly disappointing decision from the coalition Government.”
Leader of Winchester City Council – Keith Wood – also said he was personally disappointed, but that the council now has “no choice” but to follow the decision.
FROM OUR MP:
Steve Brine has fought long and hard to stop the development from going ahead: “This is a bitterly disappointing decision from the coalition Government. CALA homes have very deep pockets and have relentlessly pursued Winchester over many years until they got what they wanted. Because of the appeal system it was always possible they’d win one day and today it looks like they have.”
Steve thinks that it was becoming increasingly difficult to save Barton Farm from the moment it was identified a reserve major development area by Winchester City Council in 2004: “A very real problem for campaigners opposed to development was the fact they had to get lucky every time, whereas CALA had to hit the jackpot just once. I want to pay enormous tribute to the Save Barton Farm Group and the thousands of people who continue to support their campaign. Assuming Barton Farm is developed, 2,000 houses on this site will in my opinion ultimately make the city a less comfortable place to live. We will get used to it, and not too many years from now we’ll no doubt struggle to remember how it looked before, but a special piece of the landscape setting of Winchester will be gone forever.”
Steve says he will now engage positively with CALA to ensure they live up to their promises: “We will have to see if they give us the high quality development promised. I will also be keeping very close tabs on the affordable element of the housing to see if it really does deliver new homes for local people and dramatically reduce the council waiting list.” He says that he’s seeking an early meeting with Winchester’s state secondary heads, as well as Hampshire County Council, to discuss the effect on secondary school places that development on Barton Farm will accelerate.
FROM THE CITY COUNCIL:
Winchester City Council rejected the planning application in 2010 on the grounds that it was premature, stating that there was little evidence to suggest that the housing need and lack of development had reached the levels required to release this site. The Secretary of State initially supported the Council’s position but had to review his decision when it was ruled unlawful. Previously, the Council tried to influence the design, infrastructure and layout of the scheme throughout its development rather than risk a poor quality scheme being taken through the planning process.
Cllr Keith Wood, Leader of the City Council, says he is personally disappointed that the time has come to release the site for housing: “The Secretary of State has applied his own rules and we have no choice but to follow them. We argued strongly about the application, but we have been overtaken by events. The Council now needs to ensure that the development of this site generates all the promised benefits to the community. We plan to set up a forum to help ensure that the development minimises the disruption to Winchester residents, and the infrastructure requirements are implemented properly and promptly.”
The Council has previously involved stakeholders and local residents to get their contribution to the master planning of the site to help address local issues and ensure the development sits well in the context of Winchester. Given the history of this site the Council chose to take the responsible step to influence the design, infrastructure and layout of the scheme throughout its development rather than risk a poor quality scheme being taken through the planning process.
FROM THE DEVELOPER:
CALA Homes Group Land Director, Robert Millar, told Winchester Today that he welcomes the appeal decision: “We now look forward to continuing to work positively with the Council and local community to deliver a high quality development. Coming so soon on the back of stimulus packages designed to support the construction industry, we feel this decision provides a major boost to the entire house building sector and reaffirms the Coalition’s stance on the role the house building industry can play in supporting a wider economic recovery.”
Robert insists that local people will benefit greatly from the decision: “It will be a major contributor to stimulating the local economy and creating long term jobs. Furthermore, it will make a significant contribution to the chronic shortage of affordable housing enabling key workers and other local people to live in their own city. We will shortly be examining the detailed design for each of the phases in line with our master plan to ensure that much needed housing is delivered as soon as possible.”
2,000 homes will put even more pressure on core services including sports facilities. Will Cala chip in from its ‘deep pockets’?
FROM THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS:
The Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Winchester City Council, Kelsie Learney, told Winchester Today of the party’s disappointment: “With a Conservative Council, Conservative MP and a final decision by a Conservative Secretary of State, there’s not much left of the Conservative promise to ‘Save Barton Farm’. This is very disappointing for those of us who have been consistently campaigning against Barton Farm. We’ll carry on working hard to make sure the development is of the highest quality with roads, shops and school places put in place to minimise the impact and get what benefits we can for local people but it’s inevitable that this development will change Winchester forever.”