The Hampshire Downs and Dever Valley lie at the heart of a rolling rural landscape, with extensive views and varied wildlife. Large areas of the downs were once wooded, but gradual clearance over thousands of years has created today’s fertile farmland. This productive agricultural area makes a significant contribution to national food security, whilst forestry and other enterprises boost the local economy.
Throughout the farming year you may see fields of wheat, beef and dairy cattle, or flocks of sheep. The villages, with their attractive thatched cottages and welcoming country pubs, are an essential part of Hampshire’s tourist economy. The River Dever winds down the valley to join the famous River Test – both popular fishing waters.
Further east, the extensive Micheldever Wood is carpeted with bluebells and primroses each spring. The woodland is open to the public, and its well-defined tracks are ideal for walkers. Game birds and wildlife thrive in unsprayed field margins, and local farmers are working with the RSPB to help rare stone curlews recover near Micheldever. Buzzards and red kites are also increasing in number.
Yet a dark shadow hangs over this peaceful landscape … In 1990, insurance giant Zurich/ Eagle Star announced its plans for a new town at Micheldever Station, near Winchester. The Dever Society was founded to fight Zurich/Eagle Star’s original proposals, and we are still working to defend Hampshire’s rural heartland. Supported by some 7,000 members throughout Britain and overseas, the Society has helped to defeat a succession of Zurich/Eagle Star’s proposals at every level of the planning system. Nevertheless, the company remains firmly committed to its new town ideas. Its ambitions have grown steadily over the years, and mid-Hampshire still faces the threat of a major new settlement.
With 12,500 homes, Zurich/Eagle Star’s latest proposals would create a town over two-thirds the size of Winchester. Development on this scale would devastate the local landscape and its wildlife. Local and regional transport networks, already under intense pressure, would be stretched to breaking point. Whilst we strongly support appropriate affordable housing to meet local needs, we must remain strong until Zurich/Eagle Star has finally abandoned its discredited plans.