Natalie Bennett, the newly elected Green party leader, has said that Eastleigh Borough Council’s plans to build 1,300 houses on historic parkland “make no sense” and has urged local residents to oppose them.
The party leader was visiting Green Party members in Southampton yesterday but took time out to see for herself the threatened land in Eastleigh’s green belt and to add her voice to the to campaign to Save Stoneham Park from the bulldozer.
Unusually perhaps for a party leader, Ms Bennett arrived by bus – and soon experienced difficulty in crossing the road due the sheer volume of traffic on Chestnut avenue.
Once safely across she joined campaigners demonstrating outside the Doncaster farm car park as they waved placards with slogans like “Goodbye trees – Hello concrete”.
Many motorists caught in a stream of bumper –to- bumper traffic on the approach to the Stoneham Lane roundabout honked their horns in support or made thumbs up gestures.
“If you think this traffic is bad – wait till they build another town here” shouted one objector at the frustrated drivers.
The assembled protestors – who included representatives from Hampshire gardens trust – heard Ms Bennett say that she believed local people had the right to determine what kind of development happened in their community and that many of the planning ‘consultations’ that were being held across the country in the name localism were little more than sham exercises.
Describing the proposed development plan for 1,300 houses as ‘a commuter town’ she said development should consist of smaller units with more housing for elderly residents to liberate much needed larger accommodation which many are currently under occupying.
One resident pointed out that building on green field sites was far cheaper for developers than brown field sites.
Responding Ms Bennett said that developers had to be incentivised to use brown fields sites first :
“at the moment If a developer has a choice between a 10% profit or a 20% profit they are always going to choose 20%”
The Save Stoneham Park campaigners have already held a series of rambles across the site which Conservatives , Labour and Ukip activists have united to support and the Green party leader was also taken for a short ramble across along the same Capability Brown landscaped route escorted by campaign organiser Pat Ford.
Ms Bennett seemed impressed by what she saw:
“I think you have a beautiful space that should be maintained as it is now as an amenity for the area.
“The idea of 1,300 houses here and the idea of putting more traffic on to really busy roads makes no sense at all.”
Ms Bennett said she would be highlighting nationally the threat to local green belts and said she would refer to Stoneham Park specifically as an example.
As Eastleigh’s MP Chris Huhne is in court this week defending a charge of perverting the course of justice Bennett was asked if her visit to Eastleigh was in any way connected to the selection of a candidate for a possible by-election should the trial go against the MP but the party leader insisted that candidate selection was a matter solely for local branches themselves and was a process she could not interfere in.
Just back from Stoneham Park Eastleigh, a beautiful natural space that needs to be preserved, not have 1,300 commuter homes built on it.
— natalieben (@natalieben) October 3, 2012
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Consultation on Local Plan which includes the propsoals for Stoneham Park ends on October 12 view details and leave comments here