Residents' anger as planning chiefs approve 12 council homes on rare green space in Weeke

First published in News Basingstoke Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

RESIDENTS in Weeke criticised Winchester civic chiefs as they gave the green light to build homes on one of the suburb's last green spaces.

City councillors approved plans for 12 council houses to be built on a park in Westman Road, saying it was dangerous and rarely used.

The council received 39 objections from residents and a petition opposing the application received 240 signatures.

Ewan Craig, representing the objectors at a planning meeting on Thursday (August 21), said that plans to build 2,000 homes in nearby Barton Farm would provide ample affordable housing and recreation space was a higher priority for the area.

He said: “There is no demonstration that Barton Farm or other sites fail to meet exceptional need.

“The east side of Weeke will become a desert of open space," he later added.

St Barnabas is already one of the city's most deprived wards for recreation space, with a 12-acre shortfall of parks and play areas under landscape guidelines.

But site visits by the council showed that the single-acre park was rarely used.

Mayor of Winchester Cllr Eileen Berry, who has lived in the area for more than 40 years, said: “It's always been use it or lose it. Every time I've gone there, there has been nobody there.

“It's not safe there, it's a disgusting area. It has never been used to its full capacity.”

Planning chiefs hope that improvements to Taplings Road Community Centre, half a kilometre from Westman Road, could make up for the loss of facilities.

Local ward councillor Anne Weir criticised the committee for a lack of transparency and stressed that improving Weeke's other green spaces would be crucial to “legitimising” the use of open space for housing.

“If we can get a really substantial improvement in community facilities in Taplings Road, we may have something substantial to offer to residents,” she said, “but it's not going to increase the space. There is a net loss.

“Views in Harestock and St Barnabas communities have been co-opted to support this application, which in fact drives a cart and horses through the values and aims expressed [by residents],” she added.

Cllr Michael Read said the secluded park was “very dangerous” because it cannot be seen from nearby houses.

“The advice that was given to us by the police was 'never have one entrance, never have corners, there should always be an escape for children,'” he said.

“This is a piece of land we should not be inviting young people to even be attempting to go down.”

The new homes, ranging from one to three bedrooms, are aimed primarily at the elderly and 'downsizers'.

Local people on the social housing waiting list will be given priority on all new homes at first letting.

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