Planning permission approved for more homes

Despite widespread local opposition Taylor Wimpey have been given planning permission for a further 350 homes at Augusta Park. The new site was originally reserved for a new secondary school for the town and many residents in Augusta Park bought homes in the mistaken belief this school was to be built.

Opposition to the plan was lead by local Liberal Democrats including town councillors Barbara Carpenter and  Len Gates. Len spoke against the plans at the borough’s planning meeting when Tory councillors ignored local concerns and voted the proposal through. Full details can be found here and here.

Local conservatives continue to dismiss objections while residents ask quite rightly when are they to get the infrastructure every community has a right to expect.

The case of the disappearing parking spaces

Residents of Camelot Close have rejected claims by local Tories that additional parking spaces have been allocated to them. The reports in March suggest the councillors had recently got planning permission for 12 extra spaces.

In reality what happened was that Aster Communities applied to convert an existing open space into car parking. Councillors approved the plans by email just before Christmas. No formal meeting was held to discuss it despite objections from residents concerned about loss of open space used as a play area and the proximity of the new parking to their homes.

Andover Town Council and residents commented that the twelve spaces were too narrow. As many residents park vans and large cars at home wide spaces are essential. This may loose two spaces. Twelve becomes ten.

 Access to the new area is via an existing turning head where two and sometimes three cars currently park. These spaces would therefore be lost. Ten becomes seven.

 Having received permission for the car park Aster now propose to build three more houses on open green space in the same area leading to a loss (according to Andover Town Council) of a further six parking spaces.  Seven becomes one.

 Finally it is reported that one of the new spaces is to be a disabled space despite no resident asking for an allocated space. One becomes zero.

 If and/or when both proposal go ahead Camelot Close residents will have lost one paved open space used as a play area, and one grassed open space also used for play and parking. The net gain – one disabled parking space?

Say NO to a reduction in affordable housing

Alamein Liberal Democrats are calling on councillors to reject proposals to cut the number of affordable homes in Andover. In a recently submitted planning request Taylor Wimpey, developers of the Augusta Park site, have applied for a change of their obligations so the number of affordable homes is reduced from 40% to 30%.

The 40% figure was agreed when planning permission was granted and is a mixture of rented and shared ownership homes. The change would apply to houses yet to be built at Augusta Park and could mean a loss of 200 affordable homes. Taylor Wimpey has recently received permission to build 350 additional houses on land originally intended for a new secondary school at Augusta Park.

Lib Dem spokesman Len Gates said “the 40% figure was part of the legal agreement with Test Valley and reflected the needs of the local community. It has been shown to be economically viable. A previous attempt to reduce the number of affordable homes was recommended for refusal. Taylor Wimpey’s attempt to change it now boosts their profits at the expense of local residents.”

Fellow campaigner Sheryl Scott-Clarke added “on Test Valley’s housing register there are over 2,000 people in housing need. Many of them could be accommodated by the 40% requirement which is part of the council’s planning strategy. New development must reflect the needs of local residents. The council planning department and councillors should ensure its policies and targets are met.”

Campaigners are recommending that local residents join them in submitting objections to the proposals. This can be done via the council website here. The application number is 15/00437/OBLN.

Another 350 houses for Augusta Park


Augusta Park

In a disappointing debate last night local councillors approved the plans for 350 new homes on the school site. Far too many empty seats and too few of those there made any comment at all. Councillors who can spend hours debating minor changes to a country cottage seemed tongue tied when it came to a massive new development in the town. The only real voice of dissent was Cllr North who tried to build a case against the plan on traffic grounds but failed to follow up on incomplete and inaccurate answers from council officers.

Alamein Focus team leader Len Gates spoke against the application and the text of his speech is attached here (Speech of 12 Feb 2015). His comments and those of local residents who objected by post or on-line were on the whole ignored. Speaking after the meeting Len said “I was disappointed to see Cllr North arguing against the plans on just traffic grounds. His attempts to dismiss other objections and blame the county council for not using the land didn’t help his case.”

Even more disappointing was the lack-lustre performance by the other two Alamein councillors. Cllr Brook half-heartedly supported Cllr North; Mrs Whiteley made no contribution to the debate and voted for the plan.  Mrs Whiteley has previously ignored local concerns and voted for plans to build 50 houses on the Shepherd Spring School site.

All of this is in stark contrast to the pledges made by the three when elected four years ago.

In an election special from May 2011 (Election leaflet May 2011) their contract with voters included promises to

 “Speak up for the Ward in Council Meetings to ensure that Alamein Ward gets the best deal” and “speak up for the area, when planning applications that affect you are submitted and we will always make sure the views of residents are known at Planning Committees.”

In August 2011 Phil North wrote on his website

“The extra houses are not in the Local Plan and instead of jumping in and welcoming these plans we need to go back to first principles and remember that. After the 2,500 houses were approved we warned against any further development north of the railway line – just think about the junction at the Enham Arch. It is clear there may need to be a re-jigging of the plan because there is to be no Secondary School – however over development is not the answer. When the contract with the developer for improvements to local infrastructure was drawn up with the Council it was based on 2,500 homes. To add almost another 400 dwellings will have a huge negative impact on the infrastructure and surrounding villages. ”

So much promised so little delivered.


Residents say planning policies have failed

During November and December Alamein Liberal Democrats surveyed over 900 residents on their views of local planning policies. Replies were overwhelming critical of the Tory run council and its policies.

Over 70% of respondents agreed strongly, and a further 20% agreed, with the statement “Andover has grown with many more homes but no other facilities.” Just 5% disagreed with the statement. A similar margin of 90% called for improvements in local roads to cope with the extra traffic generated. The only crumb of comfort for planners was the overall satisfaction with the current level of affordable housing.

When asked what extras facilities were most needed 84% said more shops, 58% wanted more and better local employment and 54% wanted more/cheaper town centre parking. All of these and more were promised as the “planning gain” when the original housing plans were approved.

Commenting on the results Lib Dem spokesman Len Gates said “the Tories policy of building large numbers of homes in the hope that other benefits will follow has obviously failed. Residents have been left with massive housing developments on one side of town and nothing else. The council now need to deal with this. The Tories should not be approving more large scale housing developments in this town without making sure there are also adequate facilities to cope.”

Town Council must be consulted on planning

Len Gates has written to the head of planning to ask why Andover Town Council was not consulted on the planning application for 350 new homes at Augusta Park. The application site is bordered on two sides by Andover Town parish and all traffic to the site will have to access it either by Smannell Road or Walworth Road both roads are in Andover Town. “When I read the planning officer’s report on the application I wondered why there was no comment from Andover Town Council” he said. “The extra traffic will have an adverse effect on roads in Alamein and St Mary’s wards and especially on Enham Arch and the Enham Arch roundabout but the elected representatives for these areas were not asked to comment.” Barbara Carpenter, town councillor for Alamein ward said “the new developments at Augusta Park have already increased traffic along Smannell Road adding a further 300+ car movements a day without proper consultation is unacceptable.”

The full text of the request to TVBC’s head of planning is as follows.

I have been looking at the above application and applied to speak on it at tomorrow’s northern planning committee meeting. I understand the application has now been withdrawn until a later date.

 I noticed there is no comment from Andover Town Council. Although the application site is in Smannell parish it is bounded on two sides by Andover parish and one of the most contentious issues is the extra traffic it will generate on roads in Alamein and St Mary’s wards. Under the circumstances I would expect some comment from the town council but when I spoke to town councillors they advised me ATC was not consulted.

 This to me appears contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of planning guidance regulations.  If my memory serves me correctly for similar applications in the past all parishes affected were asked for comments and in some cases spoke at NAP.

 Given that the application is currently withdrawn pending resubmission would it be possible to request comment from Andover Town Council please.

Len and Barbara are awaiting a response from Test Valley planners and in the meantime will be ensuring local concerns about this development are conveyed to the planning department and planning committees. The application is expected to be considered by Test Valley’s Northern Area Planning Committee in February.

Holding developers to account

Barbara Carpenter and Len Gates have contacted Test Valley Borough Council to ask for action to deal with substandard works carried out in Tiberius Road.

The attached pictures show works carried out by contractors working for the developers at the old Shepherd Spring School site. Footpaths grass verges and gardens have been dug up and badly relayed. Local residents are naturally appalled at the standard of the work and contacted Len and Barbara asking for action. Check this website for news on the response form TVBC and the contractors.

Tiberius Road ATiberius Road DTiberius Road B


More houses for Augusta Park?

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.”

Thank you Viking Way

Out and about again this week speaking to residents in Viking Way. Thank you for your positive response and my apologies to anyone I missed. I’ll try and call back later but if you need to speak to me in the meantime please phone or email.

As in other areas residents are disgusted with the condition of  local roads and speeding traffic in the area. The state of Viking Way is appalling and untouched despite several people reporting it. The potholes are dangerous and should be filled immediately. No doubt the county council are waitiing in the hope that the developers at Augusta Park will do the job for them!!

Residents also expressed concerns about the increase, and speed of traffic, in the area, especially outside the school entrance. I have raised this before with Hampshire Highways and will continue to push for proper crossings both on Viking Way and on Roman Way. Local residents and their children deserve decent roads and safe crossings especially on roads destined to be some of the main access routes to the new housing at Augusta Park. This is the least the council and the developers can do for all those already inconvenienced  by the new housing developements in the area.


Crossing condemned

Roman Way Crossing

Councillors promised road improvements and traffic calming outside RomanWaySchool, including a safe crossing to the bus stop. But contractors put the crossing in the wrong place, closer to the busy Newbury Road junction. Residents have condemned the new crossing as useless and dangerous. Parents are also worried about increased traffic past the school despite county council claims there is no problem.

I agree with the residents and parents. The crossing is not good enough and must be improved.  I am pushing highways officers to improve road safety on, and approaching, the new crossing.