Villagers concerned at ‘over-development’

Monday 6th November 2017 3:00 pm
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Fern Farm land is being considered for gypsy homes

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THE deadline to submit comments on the South Downs National Park Authority’s first ever Local Plan is fast approaching, with many Greatham residents left concerned by some of its proposals.

People have until Tuesday, November 21, to submit feedback on the draft document, which will replace more than 1,000 policies from 12 different local authorities. Most contentious for Greatham villagers is the South Downs National Park Authority’s thoughts on land deemed ripe for development.

The Local Plan has identified a site in Petersfield Road considered suitable to provide up to 40 residential dwellings and land at Fern Farm, in Longmoor Road, where gypsy and traveller sites could be provided.

The community group Greatham Voice has now crowd funded £1,240 to pay for professional guidance on how the “small rural community of 800 residents” should respond “objectively” to these draft proposals.

Last Friday around 40 local people met at Greatham church hall to discuss the matter and collaborate their concerns. Many feel that, while not opposed to new homes per se, the proposal represents overdevelopment.

This comes as a speculative planning application (SDNP/17/05087/PRE), to redevelop the highlighted Petersfield Road site (Liss Forest Nursery), suggests three possible scenarios.

The first option comprises 39 houses and a care home; the second includes 65 houses or flats, and the third proposes 59 houses on the land. As the application, submitted by Cove Construction Ltd in Aldershot, is at an early stage, specific details are sparse. But it will have alarm bells ringing for anyone who felt a relatively meagre 40 homes was already too high a number.

South Downs National Park Authority chairman Margaret Paren said the document “looks rather different” from most other local plans because “it must recognise the national importance of the landscapes and our duty to conserve and enhance them”.

“The South Downs Local Plan puts these nationally important landscapes first – they are the reason the South Downs became a National Park and they must sit at the heart of every planning decision we make,” she added. “But our communities matter too, many of whom have undertaken their own neighbourhood plans.

“Some communities need to be able to grow, but this has to be in a way that respects the local environment and the wider National Park.

“The plan also sets out the high standards that all proposed development must meet to protect and value nature, both for its own sake and also for the vital services it gives us such as clean water, food and space to breathe.”

The authority is asking people to make their final comments before Tuesday, November 21, and, while the consultation is mainly looking at the “soundness of the plan”, it will consider all feedback.

Every comment will also be passed, exactly as submitted, to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate which will respond to them as part of their examination.

Around 112,000 people live in the national park, and the national park authority said these communities “need access to affordable homes and places to work”.

But it added that “putting the landscapes first” meant making sure “we get the right growth in the right places”.

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