THERE have been an array of highs and lows across Basingstoke and Deane throughout 2017, and your Gazette team has been at the heart of it all, trying to cover as many events as possible.

Our team has taken a look back at what has been an eventful 2017 in Basingstoke and Deane.


JANUARY started with a big hearted little girl spreading some Christmas cheer to homeless people in the borough by delivering them hot food.

Five-year-old Bella Wiles from Basingstoke decided she didn’t want any presents for Christmas, but instead wanted to help rough sleepers. She asked her parents to spend the money they would use to buy her gifts to help keep homeless people warm.

Bella was inspired to help homeless people after walking past a man sleeping rough in December 2016 whilst on a family holiday in Cornwall.

The selfless youngster was labelled a ‘guardian angel’ by people on the streets.

A TEENAGER was convicted of arson at a Basingstoke church.

The 14-year-old boy appeared at Basingstoke Youth Court on January 6 and received a detention and training order for offences including arson.

He was convicted of arson for a fire that destroyed a wooden shed at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, in St Michael’s Road, South Ham, on Wednesday, July 27, 2016.

The 14-year-boy was also convicted of seven offences of criminal damage to property, and single offences of assault by beating, possession of a knife blade/ sharp pointed article in a public place and theft by finding.

The church moved back into its home later on in 2017.

PERSIMMON Homes came under fire from desperate residents who had spent seven months trying to move into their new property.

The site in Aldermaston Road, Sherborne Fields, was slated to be ready to move into by July 2016, but buyers suffered one delay after another.

However, as the due date approached, Persimmon Homes wrote to residents to report that while the semidetached properties had reached foundation stage, a complication had meant that the window for completion had been moved to between September and November.

BASINGSTOKE Lions Club kickstarted its golden anniversary year with its annual swimathon – this year in aid of helping disabled swimmers compete at the 2017 Special Olympics.

Each year, the club – which this year marked its 50th anniversary – hosts a swimming competition in a bid to raise funds for local charities and causes. But this year, it raised as much money as possible to fund swimmers from the Basingstoke Bluefins (Disability) to represent the South Region at the Special Olympics in Sheffield.

Businesses, local groups and teams of people were urged to take part in the swimathon – which aimed be the biggest ever held by Basingstoke Lions Club.

THE COMMUNITY rallied round in a bid to save a Basingstoke secondary school which was under threat of closure.

The governing body which runs Fort Hill Community School, in Winklebury, requested an amalgamation with Cranbourne Business and Enterprise College (CBEC) due to the lack of numbers on the roll for the next academic year.

The news was met with anger and frustration from parents whose children attend Fort Hill.

The move was eventually approved by Hampshire County Council and the school is now all but closed.


A DOCTORS’ surgery came in for criticism from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) saying it is “not fit for purpose” following its latest inspection.

The Bermuda and Marlowe practice, in Shakespeare Road, Popley, was given a “requires improvements” status by inspectors following a routine visit.

The surgery has had its issues in the past after Bermuda and Marlowe practice merged in 2014, but since then the surgery said staff has been doing its best with the resources it has.

Following the inspection which was carried out on July 5, 2016, it said that the surgery – which has approximately 13,400 registered patients – required improvements in safety, effectiveness, being well-led and in its response to patients.

CAMPAIGNERS gathered to protest at a local woods after the Forestry Commission threatened to destroy the area with an energy facility.

Around 40 councillors and residents joined forces to hold signs that read “Save Basing Wood” at a planned Forestry Commission event, which aimed to promote use of the woodland area.

Local councillors called it “ironic” that such an event should take place just months after it agreed to allow Camborne Energy Storage to build a battery energy storage site in the Carpenters Down, Popley woods.

The plans were later withdrawn and CES confirmed that no new plans had yet been submitted. At the last minute the Forestry Commission cancelled the event.

HUNDREDS of jobs were under threat after a communications giant revealed it was moving out of Basingstoke. Motorola Solutions, which had operated from the town for more than three decades, announced it will move its European operations from its home in Jays Close into Central London - in a move which would affect approximately 250 employees of the company.

The American data communications and telecommunications provider became the third major employer in the borough to move its services away from the town, after energy firm SSE left Basingstoke in 2015.

IT WAS the one day of the year where wacky hair styles are the norm across Basingstoke and Deane.

The annual Mad Hair Day event is one of the big dates on the St Michael’s Hospice fundraising calendar, which helps raise thousands of pounds of much needed funds for the continual running of the hospice, in Aldermaston Road.

With local schools, hairdressers and residents of the hospice all getting involved in the fun the campaign collected more than £6,000 from this year’s event.

THE results of the Winklebury by-election were announced at the civic offices, where the 43-yearold Labour candidate Angie Freeman won with 824 votes.

A big part of Cllr Freeman’s campaign was helping the fight to save Fort Hill Community School, and she said she was hoping in her new role she can make a positive impact on the community.

Cllr Freeman said: “I think the people of Winklebury have had enough of being messed around, and I want to get things back on track for our community.


A NEW performing arts scheme was “open for business” and invited local groups to get involved and use its facilities.

Market Chambers Performers Together (MCPT) is an arts and community based project which aims to promote and provide rehearsal space and performance based opportunities for all ages from its premises in Church Street, Basingstoke.

The Market Chambers stood empty since 2012 but in 2016 MCPT were given permission by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to use the space.

It is run by a steering committee, of representatives from the community, Basingstoke Amateur Operatic Society (BAOS), Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society (BATS), BAOS Limelight, and BATS Next Generation (BNG).

BRAVE Steve North, who was thrown off a bridge when a car ploughed into him, had a message for the community who have rallied round to help: thank you.

With thousands of pounds raised for his rehabilitation and a huge outpouring of support, Mr North, 38, gave his first interview to The Gazette in which he expresses immense gratitude for the public’s response.

Mr North plunged from the Worting Road bridge on his birthday in September 2016, falling onto a small grass verge next to the busy A340 below, where the actions of a driver saved his life.

A FAN campaign was launched to protect Basingstoke Town Football Club after dramatic events left the club’s future up in the air.

Keep Football in Basingstoke had the aim to help save the club after a huge row erupted between the outgoing chairman, the Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and fans. Rafi Razzak, chairman of BTFC, confirmed in November he would be leaving, ending his ongoing financial support.

A DYING woman whose wish it was to see a steel band had it granted thanks to pupils from a Basingstoke school An appeal was launched on Eagle Radio to find 68-year-old Patsy Houghton, who is living with dementia in Chertsey, a steel band who would play in a care home for her.

After hearing about Patsy’s plea, Brighton Hill Community College Steel Band promised to make it a reality and took to the stage to perform for her and others at The Orchard Dementia Centre.