Review of 2013: January to March

Basingstoke Gazette: The January 1 arson attack The January 1 arson attack

JANUARY: AN arsonist starts the new year by setting a string of fires across the city centre, including Phase Eight boutique, the High Street and the goods yard behind shops in Upper Brook Street.

Quick action by Bengal Sage restaurant staff stops the fire spreading. Mohammed Ahmed and Shahid Rahman Khan use buckets of water to douse the fire. The firebug, Sean Clements, 47, is later jailed for six years.

Barton Farm continues to fill the news pages, despite already having outline planning permission. More than 100 people write to the Chronicle calling for a thorough rethink of the scheme.

Ten NHS managers lose their jobs in the takeover of the Royal Hampshire County Hospital by the Basingstoke-based Hampshire Hospitals’ NHS Foundation Trust. But they trouser an average £48,000 each and the biggest payout is around £145,000.

The city council plans to spend £10.5m on new homes for the elderly, the biggest housing scheme in the city for more than 20 years. The likely spot is Chesil Street car park and residents express dismay at losing their spaces.

The snow returns, giving everyone the chance to test their sledges on Oram’s Arbour and St Giles and St Catherine’s hills.

There are concerns about safety after a boy collides with a bus next to the market stalls in the High Street. Fortunately, he is not seriously injured, but civic chiefs later introduce railings.

Meanwhile, 150 residents in Alresford meet to discuss where up to 500 new homes should go in the town to 2031.

FEBRUARY: PUPILS at Weeke Primary come up with a novel way to advertise for a new head to replace Maggie Hastie, who retires after 12 years. The school council makes a YouTube video featuring a tour of the school and students holding flashcards of the attributes they want to see in the new head.

Momentum is growing for Winchester’s first “free school” with Barton Farm the favoured site for the new primary that will be state-funded, but out of the local authority control.

The Hat Fair merges with the Theatre Royal in a bid to help preserve their futures. Hat Fair boss, Kate Hazel, hopes the event will not lose its special atmosphere.

Villagers in Barton Stacey oppose plans by the Ministry of Defence to sell for housing the “Tennis Court Field” and The Green, traditional play areas.

Traffic wardens in Winchester are to be equipped with tiny spy cameras so they can film aggressive motorists, following a number of incidents.

Bishop’s Waltham is thriving after seeing several new shops open in the past year, defying fears over a triple-dip recession.

Parish councillor, Barry Nicholson, says there is a real “buzz” about the town that awaits the building of the Sainsbury’s store.

The city council hopes to buy the New Queen’s Head pub in Stanmore to build a new “community and leisure hub”. The revamp will see potentially more than 400 new homes. It will also entail demolishing more than 70 homes, the loss of open space and allotments. Later it will emerge many residents in affected homes have not been told. Whoops!

Olympic cycling gold medallist, Dani King, from Hamble, helps open the newly-restored Hockley Viaduct.

MARCH: HUNDREDS of poorer households will be hit by the new “Bedroom Tax”, changes of housing benefit that penalise people with “spare” bedrooms. Labour city councillor, Chris Pines (Winnall and Highcliffe), says: “I’m almost at a loss for words. It’s disgusting. It penalises the poorest of the poor.”

A cat gives new meaning to the phrase the “engine purrs”, hitching a lift under the bonnet of an Audi A3 from the city to Bursledon. Boris was shaken, but unharmed. Owner, Ross Brimfield, of Upper Brook Street, said: “I don’t know if he’s an adrenaline junky or an absolute idiot!”

A Stanmore family have an unusual birth experience. Amanda Reid gives birth to Archie on the kitchen floor of their home in Kings Avenue with the help of partner, Scott Richardson and daughter Lucy, 16, who wants to be a midwife. Amanda says: “It’s a bit of a shock. Scott did really well. We have got a good story to tell Archie when he’s older."

Winchester Prison’s new governor, David Rogers, faces a tough challenge after a damning report slams falling standards. Amidst a catalogue of failures are two severely disabled prisoners crammed for 23 hours a day into a cell designed for one.

The Government removes the final hurdle for the £130m redevelopment of Silver Hill, Winchester, approving the compulsory purchase order which allows developers to secure land ownership and start work.

But critics say the scheme is out of date and based on a 10-year-old vision of retail.

Are bones being exhumed from St Bartholomew’s churchyard, Hyde, those of King Alfred the Great? Time will tell.

For April to June see the website tomorrow.

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