What John Prescott thinks of developing Winchfield...
I heard an interesting tale not long ago about the former Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. The story goes that when Labour were in power he was shown Winchfield, a tiny village with around 700 residents, and was told that there were plans in motion to develop it into a brand new town. His reply? “Well, there’s a motorway over there, and a train station right next to it, it’s a no brainer!”
Since the Conservatives have been in government they have missed their own building targets every single year, despite our so-called “stronger economy”. Now the term ‘Housing Crisis’ is branded everywhere, with regular pledges from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, stating preposterously high building targets that they are - given their current record - inevitably going to miss.
Due to this national under-development, Central Government has given Hart a fairly high building target to reach by 2032 of around 7,500 homes. Somewhere in the region of 3,500 homes have had been granted planning permission, some of which being on brownfield sites. These developments are simply extensions to our existing towns and villages, but crucially don’t come with any money to pay for improvement to our infrastructure, be it our schools or surgeries. The result is just more pressure on them all.
An interesting opportunity for development has arisen in Pyestock, the area has been on our radar for some time, as it had been earmarked to become a massive supermarket distribution depot with somewhere in the region of 10,000 heavy good vehicles making their way to and from the M3 every 24 period. These plans have been scrapped, despite work having already started on building the depot. Now there are proposals to turn the area into a village, to be named Hartland Park. The developers St Edward Homes and Hart District Council, in their press release, have said that the development will be a “Sustainable new village with homes, shops, community space and residential amenities”. It would be interesting to know what their definition of sustainable is.
How many houses you say? Well, depending on who you listen to the number is somewhere around 1,000 to 1,500 homes. Also, due to the location of the area, it could be Rushmoor Borough Council that bears a significant proportion of the pressure on schools, roads and doctors’ surgeries, hence why the use of the word sustainable is so important.
In principal, we are in favour of a development such as Pyestock. However taking the upper limit of the potential 1,500 homes that this project would bring, it would still leave 2,500 homes left to build before we get in trouble with Central Government. Let’s be clear about one thing, nobody is born with the desire to build thousands of houses in their own countryside, however the reality is that if we stand a chance of meeting this quota we will inevitably need to build on greenfield sites, Pyestock becoming Hartland Park is not going to be the the golden solution.
One can argue all day long about whether we need these houses, or debate on exactly how many homes to build. As an alternative, why don’t we think long-term? Anti-development campaigners argue about numbers and dates, why not look beyond this and think about the next 50 years? Why not build a truly sustainable future for our area, and by doing so have it done our way? All of these things can be achieved by developing Winchfield into a new town, and building enough homes to go beyond 2032.
As William Hague said, “Half of you won’t be here in 30 or 40 years’ time…”