Don’t destroy our golf course!

Botley Park Golf Course

Eastleigh’s former Chief Executive Chris Tapp addressed the Council Cabinet last month as it met to consider revisions to the local plan. The Botley Park golfer spoke up for the club threatened with redevelopment as a housing estate.

“One of the things in which l had real pride, during my 14 years as Eastleigh’s Chief Executive, was the way in which the Council handled strategic planning business, and in particular structure and local plan work.

The Council was determined to promote a properly sustainable, and environmentally appropriate, approach. It resisted attempts by others to foist on Eastleigh less than sustainable options for development. We were pretty successful at this, and were able to ensure that most significant development was in locations, which protected the countryside, related well to the Borough’s infrastructure, and tended to strengthen existing communities and local economies.

With Eastleigh Council taking over the prime responsibility for its own local planning, l had expected this green, sustainable approach to continue. I have been very sadly disappointed.

You all know that major development at Boorley Green would never be more than a big housing estate plonked in the middle of some of the best countryside in the Borough, well away from the sort of transport, shopping, employment, and community facilities it would need to be sustainable.

The various sustainability and environmental studies the council had in 2011, underlined the iunsuitability of Boorley Green. They clearly demonstrated that it was neither the best, nor the least worst, location for major development. This has been further underlined in the hundreds of objections, you have yet to consider properly.

The area around Allington Lane, is more suitable on just about every significant criteria. And –

  • development there would help strengthen the prosperity of Eastleigh Town Centre — rightlya key priority for the Council and
  • that area has the capacity for additional development in a future plan period – saving furthercountryside from the ravages of future development.

I have top level confirmation, that your decision to opt for Boorley Green was not supported by recommendation from your Planning Policy Team. And also that, at the September 2011 meeting, when you made your choice, you had no evidence before you on the respective merits of Boorley Green or Allington Lane. Your decisions were not justified by the evidence you had. They are clearly flawed.

A key element of the Council’s approach is fast unravelling. You tried to “sell” the concept of development around Botley, both in the draft Plan, and to the Botley community, on the basis that

it would bring the Botley bypass. However, in the light of Hampshire County Council’s position, the bypass remains a very desirable, but sadly unrealistic, pipe-dream.

This evening the Cabinet is considering re-affirming its commitment to major development, which would swamp Boorley Green, and would change Botley forever – the Borough’s one last truly historic and rural village.

Do you have any new evidence to support that re-affirmation? No, you do not. The updated sustainability, habitat and transport appraisals are not yet ready. And no doubt in part these are being done to paper over the lack of evidence, in a belated attempt to justify the 2011 decision to opt for Boorley Green. And there won’t be a bypass, so that’s even more traffic pressures, and air quality issues. You now need to stop and think.

Two final points.

First, that the Council is planning to destroy the Borough’s best and most mature golf course, and with it the almost certain closure of the 4 star Botley Park Hotel, at the same time as it is intending to take on enormous financial and other interests in a new 4 star hotel and the golf course at the Rose Bowl (Ageas Bowl), has not escaped public attention and criticism. The Council may want to kid itself that these interests do not conflict or compete. Councillor House described to me, the objections on this basis from the Golfers and many others, as a “red herring”. Well he and we can agree on at least one thing — from either perspective, it is fishy.

Secondly, if the development at Boorley Green goes ahead, how long would it be before Winchester Council plans for the development the area in their District adjoining Boorley Green?

Such a development –

  • would look to Botley and Hedge End for much of its transportation and community infrastructure, so protecting most of the Winchester District, whilst we get the pressures and the traffic; and
  • it would create the enormous Strategic-Development Area the Council successfully resisted -and your previous tears shed over the SDA would be seen to be crocodile tears.

In the very apt words of Councillor Wall in other circumstances, I fear you see this as a policy doomed to successl  Many others see it as a policy which fails — fails Botley, fails your professed support of golf in Strategic Policy S14, and fails the Borough.

Please, think again, and long and hard. To change your minds in the light of the latest circumstances, and all the objections you have had, is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. Please do not blindly follow some pre-determined party line. Not just collectively, but  – also each as individuals, you have the public duty to get these major decisions right. Please take them in the interests of proper strategic and long-term planning, and not political expediency.

Please do the right thing. Please do not destroy our golf course, and with it the lovely countryside setting around Boorley Green.”

Council page on Eastleigh’s draft local plan here

Online consultation form for comments here

Read more posts about the Local Plan

Photo: © Copyright Peter Facey

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