Thursday, 12 July 2012

Wildern Mill: Another U Turn in Prospect?

Derelict Mill Buildings 
As reported by Hedge End Blogger in May, Lib Dem Eastleigh Council appeared to have changed its mind about Hedge End's most eligible brown field site.  Originally assuming that the owners would go ahead with their existing planning consent for 184 flats, amendments to the Local Plan published for consultation in June re-designated the site for "employment" purposes, that is research and development, studios, high technology, laboratories, light industry, general industry, wholesale warehouses, distribution centres or repositories (but not retail).  As a consequence more green fields were to be sacrificed for housing between Hedge End and Bursledon.

New Proposals

The Lib Dem master plan has been thrown into confusion as households living near Wildern Mill have received a letter from a firm of planning consultants announcing "proposals for mixed-use retail and residential development".

It goes on to promise "a comprehensive scheme, delivering greater employment and more prestigious retail development as well as a vastly improved, lower density, primarily house-based residential offer", and invites local residents and businesses to a couple of public exhibitions to be held at the Turnpike Pavilion on Saturday 21st July (9:00am-12:00) and Monday 23rd July (4:30pm-8:00).

Town Councillors will be briefed on the exhibition next week, and the consultants are apparently already talking to Eastleigh Borough planning officers and councillors.

Pros and Cons

Although it is obvious that the best possible use should be made of this brown field location,  the proposals do not appear to be without possible controversy.

We have to assume that Eastleigh do not want any more retail development (otherwise they would have included retail in the permitted uses proposed in the Local Plan amendments).  There are already plenty of large retail warehouses and supermarkets in Hedge End, and smaller units would be setting themselves up in competition with existing shops in the village centre.

The existing plans for 184 flats were unpopular because they were out of character with the surrounding housing developments and squeezing that number of units into the available space would generate major problems with the existing infrastructure and roads.  A "lower density offer" sounds better, but I wonder what is meant by "primarily house-based"?

We will have to wait a few days to start to get the answers to these questions and concerns, but what is certain is that the Lib Dems' Local Plan will need to be rewritten yet again, if these proposals are to go ahead.  And that could be good if it means some of the threatened green fields could be saved.

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