|Which Direction are the Planners Taking Hedge End?|
At this month's Annual Parish Assembly (not Annual Town Assembly or Annual Village Assembly) the first person to stand up in the "Public Questions" part of the agenda asked the Chair to settle the issue whether Hedge End is a village or a town. Cllr Jane Welsh made clear that in her eyes, it is a village. Although she conceded that some of the "newer" folk might see it as a town. As Jane has lived here for over fifty years, "newer" folk are probably most of the rest of us!
Unfortunately for Jane and the village people, you don't have to go far to find evidence for township:
On the Town Council web site, Hedge End is described as "the fastest growing town within the Borough of Eastleigh over the last twenty years. The town now has a population of over 20,000 across some 693 hectares. Yet for most of its existence, Hedge End has been little more than a small village on the outskirts of its close neighbour, the parish of Botley."
And on Eastleigh Borough Council's site we find: "Like much of the Borough, Hedge End was a rural farming area dating from the 13th Century. In the late 19th Century it became known as the 'Strawberry Village' with a substantial market garden and strawberry growing areas. Today it is a modern town with office parks, out of town superstores and residential areas, on the main transport route of the M27."
Then there is Stephen Tanti's book "Hedge End: From Village to Town" which wouldn't have the same ring if it had to be called "Hedge End: Still a Village".
The Draft Local Plan published by the Borough Council and supported by local Liberal Democrats - which would put nearly 4,000 more houses in Hedge End and Botley - generally avoids the controversy by referring to "settlements" and "district centres", although the planners' guard does slip when it refers to Eastleigh as the "The main town in the Borough" and goes on "It includes two other large urban areas – Chandler’s Ford and Hedge End – ...". A "large urban area" sounds more like a town than a village to me.
I have been there when Cllr Welsh has opposed inappropriate developments in Hedge End, but battle after battle has been lost in the face of the Lib Dem bulldozer. Hedge End is no longer a small, primarily rural community with a church, pub and shop, surrounded by green fields. If the Lib Dems get their way, the last tract of undeveloped countryside in Hedge End will disappear under more concrete, and the urbanisation of this historic fruit-growing village will be complete and irrevocable.