|Derelict, Delapidated and Dangerous|
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)