Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Wildern Mill: Lib Dems Change Their Minds

Derelict, Delapidated and Dangerous  
A Hedge End brown field site is no longer targeted for housing according to changes to the Draft Local Plan agreed by the Lib Dem cabinet at Eastleigh last week.

The derelict Wildern Mill is a reminder of the days when local Lib Dems listened to their voters and stood up for them against developers' interests, fighting all the way to the High Court if necessary. 

Planning Application Rejected

A planning application for 184 flats at Wildern Mill proved almost universally unpopular with nearby residents and was thrown out by the Local Area Committee in 2005.  The decision was overturned by the unelected central government inspector and subsequent legal attempts by the Council to quash the plans were ultimately unsuccessful.  The protracted legal arguments did have the effect of delaying any development until the market for flats had become less attractive, and they have never been built.

Included in Plan

Once the legal battle was lost however the Lib Dems embraced the plans and included the 184 flats in the evidence base and housing calculations for the original Draft Local Plan with the comment  "The developer has started work on the site to maintain the validity of the planning permission. Site owner considering alternative uses".  Local residents and councillors had hoped that those "alternative uses" would be less dense housing in character with the other estates around Turnpike Way, and not massive blocks of flats.

More Houses on Green Fields

The Lib Dems have now done another U-turn and want to designate the land for business or industrial use again. 

Whilst admitting that nobody seems to want the 184 flats to be built and there is a gross shortage of employment provision for Hedge End and Botley in the Draft Local Plan, it is a shame that a consequence of converting this brown field site back to industrial use is that even more houses will have to built on local green fields

The Wildern Mill site has been neglected and has become a dangerous eyesore, but the change of designation introduces uncertainty once more as to what is going to replace it.  If the Draft Local Plan threatens to make a new planning application for appropriate housing more difficult, the developers may be provoked into going ahead with the unwanted flats for which they already have permission.

Consultation on the proposed changes to the Plan is due to start on 1st June.

Link to cabinet report (see pages 32-33)


  1. There is an example of this policy in reverse in Eastleigh TC. The Centris site – formerly part of Pirellis - was supposed to provide up to ‘500 new jobs’ (LibDem newspeak for 330, they use a different numerical system to the rest of us-base 500).
    The idea was that all the new houses on the Pirelli estate would spur the demand for local jobs but that simply didn’t happen.
    At the time I predicted to a campaigner “I reckon it will all end up as flats” and lo, now after six years of lying as barren wasteland OAP processing specialists McCarthy &Stone are putting the finishing touches to 56 flats on the site.
    Presumably the same thinking prevails - building 10,000 new houses will stimulate demand for employment land.
    At the moment we have over half a million sq feet of vacant employment land to let – That’s retail, offices and industrial units – there is no shortage of commercial or industrial property within the borough.
    The employment land detailed in the cabinet papers would add an extra 15 hectares.
    I’m not sure where all this employment is going to come from? Is supply going to create its own demand?
    I reckon it will all end up as flats

  2. It is strange that last year the Lib Dems were convinced that Riverside was going to meet all its employment needs for the plan period. Less than a year later they have had to eat humble pie and admit they were wrong.

  3. In 2008 they reckoned Riverside was going to provide 9,000 jobs. NINE THOUSAND.In 2008 there were only 800 jobseekers in the whole borough so I wonder
    1) Where are the people for these jobs going to come from? 2) Where would they live?
    I fear Pete Stewart might have the answer to Q1 as for where they might live while re Q2 Riverside was a PUSH development project that went in tandem with Botley SDA - 6,000 houses were slated for NE Hedge End.
    Jobs would create the demand for housing.
    We no longer have plans for those 9000 jobs but we are still getting the housing.
    It's hoped, HOPED, that 10,000 new houses will create those 9,000 jobs.