Monday, 19 March 2012

Village / Town Controversy Reignites

Which Direction are the Planners Taking Hedge End? 
The Liberal Democrats in Hedge End can't have expected that, twenty years after they decided to rename Hedge End Parish Council as a Town Council, it would still be causing arguments in the local community.

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.


  1. Good blog Keith.

    What got me at the Parish Assembly though, was when I asked "What is the advantage of being a Town Council as against a Parish Council....?"

    "None" was the answer from Cllr Welsh.

    I don't dispute that, I was pleased with her honesty, but was also frustrated to finally hear it confirmed that those arguing against Township and wanting Hedge End to remain a Parish in 1992 were spun all sorts of spurious arguments, dare I say it, "Porkies", by the Councillors of that era, so that they could engrandise themselves by becoming a Town Councillor rather than a Parish Councillor and realise their dubious ambitions for Hedge End...

  2. Think big is the key to percieved success. Soon, Hedge End will one day be a city. So much for the self importance of inflated egos!!

  3. Well, one advantage (OK a small one) of Town vs Parish is that there is no longer any confusion with the Parochial Church Council. Over the years there is also a saving in ink as Town has two fewer letters.

    I discovered recently that Salisbury City Council is a parish council, so you never know.

    1. That's a good point Keith, about distancing local Government from the Church. I'm persuaded. Yours is a better answer than Cllr Welsh's...

      So how many more houses would we need, for Hedge End to become a City...?

      Second thoughts. Lets not go down that route. Lets not encourage, SEEDA our Borough Councillors and the developers.

  4. I thought Hedge End was just a motorway junction serving a giant trading estate around which a middle class ghetto has sprung up. I am surprised to learn it has only received township recently as I'd quaintly assumed the title was an archaic vestige of a more prosperous medieval past.
    The idea that it should merit township status just because it has a branch of Marks & Spencer is so preposterous as to be barely credible.
    If Hedge End is a town because it has a population of 20,000 then so is Chandler's Ford.

  5. LOL Stephen - I think you have hit the nail on the head and town/parish is decided by population size. I agree that Cllr Welsh has a village mentality and lives in the past but that doesn't stop change. However, as Hedge End is the home of the esteemed leader of Eastleigh Council, perhaps it will soon be granted 'royal' status.

  6. ...and Chandler's Ford has a branch of Waitrose which easily trumps M&S!
    Here in Easltiegh we boast Lidl - cheap but not popular with over-mortgaged shoppers from our 'garden' suburbs as they only accept cash.