Next Tuesday 23rd December there is an important planning meeting at TVBC’s Beech Hurst offices where the Northern Area Planning Committee will consider two applications from Taylor Wimpey the main developers of Augusta Park.
The second of these (on the agenda) is a request to reduce the affordable housing content of future builds from 40% to just 10% which has quite rightly been recommended for refusal. Andover needs affordable homes and the developer’s attempts to renege on agreements to supply them should be rejected.
Equally important is the first application asking for permission to build an extra 350 homes on the site originally allocated for a secondary school. This is totally unacceptable and Len Gates as an ex senior member of the borough’s planning committees has lodged the following objection to the application.
“I am disappointed to see that planning officers are flying in the face of common sense in recommending approval for this application.
History: If we consider the history of the Augusta Park development it is clear the housing volume and density has been pushed well beyond deliverable or viable numbers. What was originally planned as a development of 1750 homes was increased to 2500 to accommodate houses originally planned for sites on the south side of town. Objectors at the time argued that such a large concentration of new homes on one site would fail to meet housing targets and additional sites would be needed. One such site was Picket Piece where additional homes were subsequently approved because the developers at Augusta Park could not meet building/sale targets. In addition smaller applications have slowly pushed the housing totals at Augusta Park upwards. If this application is approved the final total will be over 3000 homes. Such a large scale development is not in the best interest of current or future residents. The original plan was approved as a new community. Not just homes but community facilities, shops, businesses, and schools together with adequate transport infrastructure. Too many of the associated community facilities are still to be delivered and yet the developer is arguing for even more houses instead. If this proposal is approved the viability of the new community will be brought into question.
Schools: The site was earmarked for a secondary school and many residents moved to Augusta Park because of this promised school. The decision by Hampshire County Council that the site in no longer needed was made in 2010 before development started at Picket Piece, before homes were built on the Shepherd Spring School site and part of the Roman Way School site. All these developments plus other across Andover and the additional 350 homes planned will generate the need for additional school places if not immediately then in the near future. The planning officer’s report acknowledges the additional 350 houses will need extra primary school places. Why is there no provision for future secondary school places for these same children? To build on a site allocated for a school merely pushes the needed school site to another, less sustainable, site. It puts the short term financial interests of the developer above the long term interests of the community.
Open space: The site is in the countryside as designated by planning policy. The fact that it is allocated for development as a school does not mean it is also acceptable to develop the site for housing. The site is 9Ha; if developed as a school a considerable part of that area will be given over to open space as playing fields etc. The proposals, with just 0.8Ha of open space and 0.2Ha of allotments, will result in a loss of open space and unacceptable over-development of the site. It will also mean that when a new school is needed, which it will be, a further 9HA open space site elsewhere will be lost to the town. There is no immediate need for further housing sites in Andover. Applications already approved mean the borough has in excess of the required housing land supply. No decision on house building here is required at this time. Far better that the whole area is retained as undeveloped open space or designated park land/allotments or community resources that an irrevocable decision to build unwanted and unneeded homes.
Highways: The developers and planning officers accept these new houses will generate extra traffic on the already overcrowded local road system. Access will be through the busy Enham Arch or the single track Finkley Arch. Neither is adequate for the existing traffic in the area and further tinkering with traffic flows by installation or revision of traffic light systems as proposed will not solve this. It has been previously argued and subsequently obvious that the existing road network is inadequate for the 2000+ homes on Augusta Park. It certainly cannot accommodate traffic from over 3000 homes.
Employment and environment: The site is adjacent to the railway line and Walworth Industrial Park. As objectors have already said large scale housing development here may prejudice future employment opportunities on the south side of the railway line. A community needs jobs as well as homes. Cramming homes in to what is acknowledged as a noisy site adjacent to industry is not in the interests of the community. The proposed earth mound and 5.5m acoustic fencing will be an unacceptable eyesore to both residents and train passengers and is out of keeping with the local environment. It is far better to keep an open space between houses and the railway and industry.
In conclusion the application should be rejected because
- It has not been shown that the decision that the site is not needed for a school is still valid. In fact the opposite is probably the case.
- The site is open countryside despite being part of a development area. Allocation of the site for a school does not mean it is suitable for housing.
- There is no proven need for extra housing on the site or in Andover as a whole. Development would lead to a loss of open space.
- The local road network is struggling to accommodate current traffic levels generated by existing developments. This would just make matters worse.
- The location of houses on the south of the site and the proposed screening are unacceptable and out of character with the area.”