Read how Winchfield Parish Council and Action Group used Parish Online to provide hard evidence and maps in building the case against forming a new town with over 5000 new homes
Winchfield is a small rural parish (population 660) in Hart District, Hampshire. It is centred on an important Norman church which sits in unspoiled countryside, and the whole area provides a vital recreation facility (walking, cycling, riding etc) for all the towns in the District. And yet for the last 6 years the village has been the victim of a relentless but ill-founded campaign by the urban District Councillors (supported by the Developers) to turn Winchfield into a 5000-home New Town.
Similar battles are being fought in hundreds of sites across England and Wales, and most people naturally assume that the pros and cons of each case will be fairly assessed, and that a major greenfield development will only be approved if there is no sensible alternative. But that is sadly not the case. All too often totally unnecessary developments are being approved because the resources of David (the rural parish) are no match for the vested interests of Goliath (the Urban Parishes combined with the Developers and the Landowners).
However, Winchfield is making good progress in its battle. The draft Local Plan which proposed Winchfield New Town has been withdrawn and the New Town does not feature in the latest version of Hart’s Local Plan which is being submitted for Public Consultation soon. A large part of Winchfield’s success can be attributed to its policy of using Parish Online to collect and present hard evidence to make its case.
Christine and Meyrick Williams have been key figures in Winchfield’s campaign. Christine is a member of the Winchfield Action Group (WAG), a community organisation dedicated to maintaining the rural character of Winchfield. The Winchfield Action Group licenses its own copy of Parish Online to support its work. Meyrick is a Parish Councillor and he uses Parish Online to coordinate data collection and analysis between the Parish Council and the Winchfield Action Group. Christine says:
“We have used Parish Online to build over 30 new data layers to help us make the case against the New Town and to help us develop policies for our Neighbourhood Plan. These layers include Boggy Land, Trees and TPOs, Hedgerows, Significant Views from the Canal and Footpaths, Birds and Bats, Road Widths, Population Density and Assets of Community Value. Parish Online allows us to structure the data layers exactly as we want them and to attach documents and photographs to particular assets. Parish Online has allowed us to punch well above our weight by presenting hard evidence in place of woolly sentiment.” Meyrick says “Parish Online has given us access to over 200 public data layers from Natural England, English Heritage, Environment Agency and other organisations as well as Ordnance Survey Maps/AddressBase and Getmapping’s photography. But in addition we have commissioned 3D Street Level photography of the entire parish from Getmapping with tools to allow us to measure road widths and tree heights. This allows us to disprove some of the erroneous claims made by the developers – for instance that country lanes can be widened without the need to destroy ancient trees and hedgerows. The Street Layer data was very affordable at £30 per kilometre”
Figure 1: Street Layer in Parish Online being used to create an evidence base for country lanes
In February Winchfield’s Neighbourhood Plan succeeded at referendum with 99.4% of voters in favour and an outstanding turnout of 62% of the electorate. The Neighbourhood Plan calls for the character of Winchfield Village to be protected, and, under the Localism Act, Hart is now bound to give much more weight to Winchfield’s case against the counter claims of the Developers. Andrew Renshaw, the Winchfield Parish Chairman, says:
“The Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan was praised by the District inspector as an excellent example of a clear and well-presented plan. I don’t think we could have achieved such a high standard without the many maps composed and printed by our community team using Parish Online”
Figure 2: Andrew Renshaw (Parish Chairman, 5th from right) celebrating the successful Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan Referendum with members of the Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan Committee and the Winchfield Action Group
Figure 3: An Illustration from the Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan showing Woodland and Hedges