MORE HOUSING COMING OUR WAY?
Most of you have probably seen the recent headlines in the local papers about a further consultation on the Local Plan Review, starting in September 2019. This will seek your feedback on ten possible housing sites, four of which are within Four Marks and Medstead, and one of these four includes parts of Ropley parish. To protect the nature of Ropley we need all of the village to respond to this consultation as such significant development on and just beyond our boundary will have significant impacts on all of us.
The Local Plan sets out policies covering building for housing and employment, including where new houses can be built, and now has to be reviewed every five years, taking a considerable amount of time and money. East Hampshire considered the options very carefully before publishing the draft Local Plan for the initial consultation which took place in February and March 2019.
The draft plan proposed two very large housing sites, one at Bentley and the other at Whitehall and Bordon that would provide all the necessary infrastructure as the best option for future development.
There is only a need to have two of these huge sites in the whole district.
The Bentley site at Northbrook Park is detached from Bentley village so would not impact existing residents to the same extent as some other sites. It provided all the infrastructure necessary for an independent new village including a school, shops, community buildings with employment land, recreation space and access to both a train station and dual-carriageway trunk road. The developer there has consulted with local residents and councillors for several years and they have been able to input into the developers ideas.
The proposals at Whitehill and Bordon provide for around 1300 additional dwellings across two sites, adjacent to sites with existing permissions for development as part of the overall Whitehill and Bordon regeneration programme. This programme provides for significant infrastructure including a new town centre, leisure centre, health hub and school to support the dwellings for which permission exists and the housing proposed in the Local Plan review.
EHDC recognised in the draft Local Plan that villages in the north-west of the district, particularly Four Marks and Medstead, have recently had too much development too quickly. These developments have occurred in a random way, driven by developers who exploited the absence of an up-to-date local plan prior to 2014 to force through planning applications at appeal, usually with minimal contributions towards the infrastructure required to support new residents. The result of this has been villages that are now significantly deficient in infrastructure.
EHDC officers agreed that time was needed for recuperation and to ensure the new residents were fully absorbed into our villages before we were asked to take significantly more homes, therefore one new site for 160 new homes in Four Marks and one site for around 60 new homes in Ropley Dean were the only sites included in the draft local plan in our area, with these sites to be built out between 2028 and 2036.
New housing proposals rarely enjoy a warm welcome but your councillors believed that the strategy for well thought out, well planned and self-sufficient new communities as presented in the draft plan was a good way to approach future development, and that the muted public reaction to the earlier consultation indicated a broad acceptance of these proposals.
There was however a backlash from local landowners and their developers that their sites had been excluded from the plan. They did not recognise that our villages had had enough development with very little new infrastructure in the last few years. They have pooled their sites in our area to create larger offerings and demanded that a further consultation was held to look specifically at the large site options so now we are being asked to look at these.
Four of those large sites are in Four Marks and Medstead, with one extending into Ropley. None of the developers have presented any of their plans for these sites to local residents or councillors so until the end of August we will have no idea what is proposed!
What we do know is that there is a site referred to as Four Marks South, basically most of the land between Blackberry Lane and Alton Lane for more than 600 houses. The Winchester Road site is for 800 houses at the western end of Four Marks, and includes the site already proposed for 160 houses at Barn Lane and adds three large fields within Ropley parish on both sides at the top of the dual carriageway (Soke Hill) as you approach from Ropley. On the Medstead side of the railway line a site to the west of Lymington Bottom Road towards Soldridge is proposed for more than 600 houses, and to the east of Lymington Bottom Road a fourth site filling most of the land towards Five Ash Road would provide another 600 houses.
On top of these there is an even larger site at Chawton Park Farm, by the A31/A32 roundabout, for 1200 houses. This would massively increase the population of Chawton by around 600%. The impact of any of these five sites on traffic flows along the A31 would be huge.
Remember that only two sites from the whole district will be selected to go forward to the next part of the plan.
The other five sites in this consultation are in Alton, Bentley, Horndean, Liphook and Whitehill & Bordon.
EHDC officers, supported by an external Sustainability Appraisal, concluded for the draft Local Plan that the two sites at Bentley and Whitehill & Bordon were the most sustainable.
So what happens next?
The EHDC re-consultation begins on 3rd September until 15th October. There will be six drop-in sessions for residents to examine all ten site proposals and talk to both developers and EHDC officers about them (see here for full details). The most relevant of these sessions will be two held at the Alton Assembly Rooms on 3rd September (4-7pm) and 14th September (10am-2pm), so please attend one of these to review and discuss the proposals. After that consider which you think are the best two site options of the ten and then WRITE and send in your comments to the district council. EHDC have aso published a list of answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the consultation – this can be viewed here.
You need to think about how each site would affect you, your family and your community. As examples: How would traffic be affected both getting onto, off of and along the A31? How would schools, both senior and junior, be affected, bearing in mind the existing development plans in Alton and Alresford. How will utilities including sewerage be updated? What about employment and leisure? Whitehill & Bordon have fantastic new leisure and social facilities – how would the developers proposals compare to these?
What are your Parish and District Councillors doing?
There have been meetings between Four Marks, Medstead, Chawton and Ropley councillors to think about how our objections will be written and now best to work together. Once the developer’s proposals are fully revealed we will consider our views and communicate these to you through the myropley.org.uk web site. All of us will be attending at least one but probably more of the drop in sessions, please talk to us – we need to know your thoughts.
These proposals will be discussed at the Ropley Parish Council meeting on 3rd September, and if there is sufficient demand we will convene a further specific meeting during the consultation period. There is also a meeting to explain and answer your questions on Sunday 8th September at 4pm in Four Marks Village Hall. Before then we will have gathered as much information as we are able so that we can share it with you. Please make a note in your diary and pass the dates on.
YOUR VIEWS ARE CRUCIAL AND YOUR LETTERS OF OBJECTION WILL MAKE THE DIFFERENCE TO THE FUTURE OF OUR VILLAGES
TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY AND HAVE YOUR SAY
Ropley Parish Council
Ropley, Hawkley & Hangers Ward