“The right decision for Hampshire’s people, Hampshire’s economy and Hampshire’s countryside.” That was the Dever Society’s reaction to today’s announcement that the Government has rejected Eagle Star’s bid to build a major new ‘eco-town’2 at Micheldever Station.
“The Government’s decision will be greeted with huge relief throughout Hampshire,” said the Society’s Chairman, Richard Cowen. “The county’s local authorities have carefully considered Hampshire’s housing needs over many years, and have a clear vision for where those new homes should be built. In contrast, Eagle Star’s eco-town proposal was just a cynical, profit-driven re-hash of the failed scheme3 it’s been promoting since 1990”.
Last year, an independent review of the draft South East Plan4 roundly rejected Eagle Star’s arguments for a large new town at Micheldever. The Inspectors’ report stressed that such a town would become a focus for long-distance commuting, and would divert resources from planned regeneration projects in other parts of the county. The report was backed by Winchester City Council and Hampshire County Council, as well as by other local authorities and every local MP.
The Dever Society supports the principle of low-carbon development, as well as the existing plans to meet the need for new homes in mid-Hampshire5. However, Eagle Star’s proposed new town is, and always has been, in completely the wrong place. Had it found favour, some 1,250 acres of beautiful Hampshire downland, which forms a green buffer between the developed north and south of the county, would have been lost forever.
“Our thanks are due to everyone who has supported us over the years,” Richard Cowen continued. “We’re particularly grateful to all those who have recently helped us convince the Government that an eco-town at Micheldever Station would have been a dreadful mistake.”
“We realise, of course, that Eagle Star and its parent company, Zurich, will not give up – but neither shall we. This decisive verdict gives us even more ammunition to defeat the threat. Now, after numerous rejections of its scheme, we shall intensify our efforts to convince Zurich that a huge new town at Micheldever has no future in Hampshire. Membership of the Society is free. Just ring us on 07958 241738 for details, or visit our website at www.deversociety.org”.
More follows …
Notes for Editors
- The Dever Society is an amenity society for the Hampshire Downs and the Dever Valley, and is a registered charity affiliated to the Civic Trust. The Society’s principal objective is to conserve, protect and celebrate the countryside in this part of Hampshire. In particular, it is concerned with conserving and enhancing the Hampshire Downs, which comprise the county’s rural heartland. The Downs provide a unique and valued resource for those who visit and enjoy the countryside, as well as forming an essential feature of the agricultural economy of the county.
- The Government’s eco-towns initiative calls for ten new towns as part of its national target to build 3 million new homes by 2026. Eco-towns will be small new towns of at least 5,000-20,000 homes. They are intended to exploit the potential for complete new ‘zero-carbon’ developments – and, where opportunities exist, schemes should make use of suitable surplus public sector or brownfield land.The Government’s eco-towns prospectus, published in July 2007, can be downloaded from http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/ecotownsprospectus
- Eagle Star launched its scheme for a new town at Micheldever in 1990, to be called ‘Micheldever Station Market Town’. Its original proposal was for a 5,000 dwelling town with its centre at Micheldever Station, housing around 12,500 people.Since then its plans have grown steadily. With 12,500 new homes and a population of around 30,000 people, the new town would come close to rivalling nearby Andover, with 39,000 residents, and Winchester, with 42,000. In time it will undoubtedly coalesce with both, as well as with neighbouring Basingstoke. Traffic and light pollution will stretch deep into the surrounding countryside, far beyond the new town itself. A rail traveller between London Waterloo and Southampton will see hardly a field during the 80-mile journey.
- The South East Plan will provide the blueprint for development in the south east region for the period 2006 to 2026. Following a lengthy Examination in Public into the draft Plan, the panel of inspectors published their report on 29 August 2007.Rejecting Eagle Star’s proposals for Micheldever, para 26.33 of the inspectors’ report stated: “Micheldever would have a significant impact … by diverting resources away from the sub-regions and undermining the regeneration aims for South Hampshire.” The inspectors also considered that any new settlement at Micheldever “would become a focus for long-distance commuting, not a sustainable community.”Visit http://www.southeast-ra.gov.uk/southeastplan/plan/inspectors_report.html to read the full report.
- Winchester City Council is already at the forefront of creating sustainable communities. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment has reported that the council’s West of Waterlooville Development is one of only five ‘sizeable housing schemes and masterplans … which could be described as places designed for sustainability’.The City Council’s emerging Local Development Framework (LDF) will make provision for the housing numbers acknowledged in the South East Regional Plan in sustainable locations. These plans do not include Micheldever Station.
The Dever Society: 07958 241738 (office hours)
Tessa Robertson: 01962 774690
Mobile: 07714 759517