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Civic campaigners today set to battle over future of Bushfield Camp
7:00am Wednesday 13th March 2013 in Winchester
WINCHESTER civic campaigners were today fighting to save Bushfield Camp from being earmarked for development.
A planning inspector recently designated 20 hectares of the site as ‘land allocated for employment’ after it was initially labelled an ‘opportunity site’ in the city council’s district local plan.
But as the Chronicle went to press members of the City of Winchester Trust were pressing a cabinet meeting to protect the land.
Cabinet was debating the findings of the inspector's report and the trust was set to argue Bushfield was too important to Winchester’s natural landscape to be lost to development.
A report to Cabinet is urging support for the inspector’s changes. Without it the local plan would remain unadopted, there would be years of delays, opening the district to the risk of no planning control.
But speaking before the meeting, trust member Patrick Davies said: “This change of wording makes Bushfield Camp incredibly vulnerable now. There are provisos that come with it but employment can mean absolutely anything and who knows what sort of employment we are talking about?
“We have been campaigning to save it for years because it is a vital part of the Winchester landscape. We are all for more jobs but not there.”
The trust also wants the council to create a ‘green belt’ around Winchester to link up with the South Downs National Park and preserve the countryside.
Bushfield Camp was an army base until the 1970s and has previously been targeted by developers. Owned by The Church Commissioners, it has been linked with supermarkets, housing, and more recently a ‘Knowledge Park’ for hi-tech firms.
But Bushfield Down Supporters Group have been trying to have the site registered as a village green to prevent future development.
John Leonard, who founded the group although he is no longer a member, said if development was unavoidable it should be at the camp rather than nearby downland.
He said: “If development becomes inevitable then I would support it at the camp area but I would also demand as much as I one can that it was of the right quality and did not become an eyesore given its position near the wild downland.”
Mr Davies added the trust could not mount a legal challenge against the inspector’s decision.
He said: “It’s fair to say there is no way we have the resources to contemplate any judicial review.
The timing is very tight and we would have to put up significant sums of money so there’s no realistic prospect.”
The local plan was approved by the inspector following the inquiry last autumn. It is a blueprint for 11,000 new dwellings across several sites over the next 20 years, including 4,000 in Winchester.
But detailed plans for the number of houses at each site are still to be approved by another inquiry to follow later this year.