One of our members – Bill Fraser – has family that live in Western Canada and often come and visit Winchfield.
On hearing the council’s plans to over-develop Winchfield by adding 5000 houses in a new town Bill’s brother, John, felt compelled to put his thoughts down for everyone to see.
I reproduce them here with permission:
Our family live in British Columbia, Canada, but have often visited relatives in Winchfield.
Perhaps unsurprisingly from our viewpoint it seems that the south of England is over populated and overbuilt already! But it also makes us wonder if the need for yet more housing has been lost in the larger picture.
London and the surrounding area (like Vancouver B.C.) requires affordable housing. However in British Columbia there is an what is called an “Agricultural Land Reserve” (ALR) that surrounds Vancouver. The ALR is land that has been set aside as farm or potential farmland, and because of its value to food production, no other use is permitted – housing developments included. The result has been that over the years despite growing rapidly Vancouver has been unable to expand outwards. Instead it has has solved the problem by building vertically, leading to an iconic skyline of tall buildings.
The options in the local plan submission appear to presuppose a need to build in rural areas. It doesn’t open the other debate over whether this area has more value as rural farmland. It also seems to ignore the larger question of whether London and other large municipalities should themselves increase housing density within their jurisdiction instead of offloading the responsibility to surrounding areas.
Creating new high density housing in a rural area is more than a planning issue, it is a social, economic and environmental experiment. The negative consequences may not be realised until years or decades have passed at which time it is too late to turn back. Basically to an outsider this is a poor idea, and has the appearance of short term development profits being allowed to overrule good sense or the desires of local residents. The developer having built will move on, but the community unfortunately will have to live with the results into perpetuity.
If local housing is required, then it should be confined to established urban areas. Commuting distances in Britain are short, and needed infrastructure already exists in larger centres. There is no need to build out into the surrounding rural areas making bedroom communities. This is the mistake still made in too many North American cities. The difference being that there is a lot more real estate here. English cities are well equipped to deal with the impacts that follow increases in population. Not so much the rural areas.
As a bystander, it is easy to imagine this is a worry for local people. This is not a proposal to build one or two houses – and despite the plan to build in stages, it is not organic growth. This is a mega project that will alter the character and nature of local communities forever, and probably not for the better. Radical changes are seldom without problems, and this appears to be radical change with little upside, but a huge potential for unforeseen pitfalls on every level, from social issues to an expectation of insufficient services. Development is usually done at the lowest cost to the developer.
If there is strong local opposition to this plan, that opposition has to be listened to.
By going ahead when a community is totally against development requires more than planning permission, it also requires social license. From the amount of push back from the community, it appears that license is missing.
We hope that good sense prevails.
Our thanks to john for taking the time to pen those relevant thoughts.
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. Just to remind you in Question 4 we recommend that Approach 1 is Priority 1, Approach 2 is Priority 2 and Approach 3 is Priority 3. In Question 5 we recommend that Approach 4 is Priority 1. The priorities of the remaining Approaches is not important.