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“Last year’s triumph over the proposed eco-town was your Battle of Britain,” Douglas Paterson2 told distinguished guests3 and Dever Society members at their Annual General Meeting in Micheldever Station on Monday evening4. But, he cautioned, “the war isn’t over yet!”

Members were reflecting on the defeat of Zurich/Eagle Star’s eco-town proposals for Micheldever Station last spring5. That proposal, said the retiring Chairman Richard Cowen, “was arguably the most serious challenge that the Society has faced since its inception in 1990. Had Eagle Star’s proposals made it onto the Government’s eco-towns shortlist,” he explained, then “a new town at Micheldever Station would have been virtually unstoppable.”

Looking ahead, Richard Cowen drew comfort from the disclosure that Eagle Star is ‘considering its options’ after years of its bullish reactions to being rejected. “This was the company’s biggest-ever set-back, and their significant change of tone gives us some hope,” he said. “But, for as long as Eagle Star continues to own the land, the threat will remain.”

The Society’s President, Professor Khalid Aziz, paid tribute to Richard Cowen and retiring committee member Phil Bryant, as well as all those who had worked tirelessly with the Society to defeat Eagle Star’s scheme. “You may have seen this evening’s news that the proposed eco-town at Ford in West Sussex may be going ahead6,” he said. “Ours was an expensive fight, but make no mistake. It was a very necessary one.”

The Society will remain vigilant under Douglas Paterson’s leadership as it looks forward to its 20th anniversary next year. Referring to the name of a local field that his family has farmed since the Second World War, Douglas concluded; “we’ll fight Eagle Star on The Beeches if we have to!”

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Notes for Editors

  • Founded in 1990 to combat the threat of a new town at Micheldever Station, the Dever Society is a registered charity affiliated to the Civic Trust. Our main objectives are to conserve, protect and celebrate Hampshire’s rural heartland. The Hampshire Downs and the Dever Valley are a unique resource, not only for local residents, but also for everyone who visits and enjoys the countryside. The area is also an essential feature of the county’s agricultural and tourist economy.

    The Society is supported by almost 7,000 members, drawn both from Hampshire and throughout the UK.

  • Douglas Paterson moved to Hampshire at the age of 10. A passionate musician since his schooldays, he also read Geography, Agriculture and Political Theory at London, Reading and Cambridge Universities respectively. Douglas has played viola with the Schubert Ensemble since 1990, and now combines a successful musical career with running the family’s arable and dairy farm between Micheldever and Sutton Scotney.

    He takes over as the Society’s Chairman from Richard Cowen, who has held the post for the last five years.

  • Winchester City Council Leader George Beckett, Councillor Steven Godfrey and Councillor Barry Lipscomb were amongst those present, as well as Prospective Parliamentary Candidates Steve Brine (Conservative) and Martin Tod (Liberal Democrat).
  • The Society’s 18th Annual General Meeting was held at 7:30pm on Monday 19th January 2009 at the Warren Hall, Micheldever Station.
  • In November 2007, Zurich/Eagle Star’s proposals for Micheldever Station Market Town were amongst a total of 57 applications submitted for Government consideration. The Dever Society immediately launched a vigorous campaign to defeat the proposals, which it branded as ‘a cynical re-hash of the failed scheme that Eagle Star has been promoting for the last 17 years.’
  • All the applications were judged against a set of criteria that included high environmental standards, sustainable travel, high quality design, and community involvement. Eagle Star’s proposals were amongst the 42 schemes rejected in April 2008, following the initial sift.

  • The proposed eco-town near Ford in West Sussex is a ‘strong proposal’ that could be amongst the first five developments given the go-ahead this spring. The news was broadcast in a report on BBC South Today on Monday 19 January 2009 – see link for more details.

Further details

The Dever Society: 07958 241738

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