Thoughts following the SWAG meeting at Hatch Warren Community Centre
On 31st May almost 200 local residents attended the South West Action Group (SWAG) meeting, where Councillors, council officers, developers and health care professionals answered questions about some of the future developments that will affect south-west Basingstoke. It became clear the major concerns were;
- Traffic. Neither Basingstoke nor Hampshire Councils have any idea how to cope with the huge volumes of through and local traffic that will be generated by new homes – 2,500 along the A30 down to junction 7, and 3,400 at Manydown – and the additional facilities at the Leisure Park. There was talk of a western by-pass, to take traffic away from the A30 corridor, but the route discussed (from junction 7 up to the A339 passing between Oakley and Kempshott/Buckskin) won’t happen, and it’s hard to see how it could work if it was routed further west. So, the extra traffic volume will all be funnelled along the A30. While they’re looking at ways to “improve” the series of roundabouts – the new one between the golf club site and Hounsome Fields, Hatch Warren, Kempshott and Brighton Hill roundabouts – the existing road system, even if “improved”, simply won’t be able to cope with the new traffic volumes. All that will definitely happen is that changes will be made, causing huge disruption while they’re being done, and they won’t solve the problems. Substantial additional rat-running will take place through Kempshott, Hatch Warren and Beggarwood, and the improvements to the Winchester Road roundabout, which have largely worked at present, will be overwhelmed.
Although the HGVs to and from the digester are regulated, and mostly stick to the restricted access times because they have been forced to do so, the rat-running traffic that will be generated over the next few years will not be subjected to any controls. The County Council officer didn’t get a good reception when he stated that any road safety measures aimed at protecting local children would only be considered once there was a proven record of deaths or injuries! So, let a child die, then consider road safety.
- Gipsy/traveller provision. Given the debacle of the failed Peak Copse site down by junction 7, when all the gipsies were housed in one place, Basingstoke Council have now decided to scatter permanent pitches throughout the Borough, allocated to the new housing developments. The 2 pitches allocated to Hounsome Fields are now going to be placed near the poor souls who live in Trenchard Lane, and presumably there will be 2 to 4 pitches allocated to the Golf Course site – will they be put at the Beggarwood end, or down by Peak Copse itself? A further concern for Kempshott residents has to be the 6 to 12 pitches that will be required for the Manydown development; although it’s likely they will be imposed on Wootton St Lawrence, another option is that they could end up somewhere near Fiveways/Pack Lane.
- Healthcare. Now that the proposed critical care hospital down near Wyevale Garden Centre has been cancelled, the CCG are looking at ways to deal with the huge and obviously increasing demand on healthcare. Lots of fine intentions, all sorts of buzz-words, but the upshot was that they don’t know what to do. What they are going to do is try to merge all the GP surgeries, and have different locations for different services provided by the GPs. How that will play out, and the impact on patients – particularly the elderly and the vulnerable potentially having to travel substantial extra distances to access those services – is a major concern. The head of the CCG said they’d be trying to use new technology to help people avoid the need for extra travel – somehow I cannot see a 90 year old using Skype to “access a healthcare professional”.
- Motorway Services. It was obvious that nobody – residents, Councillors, MP – wants an MSA either by junction 6 or on the greenfield site opposite Hatch Warren – and that everybody knows there is no actual need for another MSA between Fleet and Winchester. The current Applegreen proposal is to build opposite Hatch Warren, with flyovers to and from the northbound carriageway. The main areas of local housing that would be affected by the noise, lights and pollution run from Mayfield Ridge down to the Portsmouth Arms, and this idea was roundly condemned by everybody. Given what usually happens when everybody in an area opposes a completely unsuitable and unnecessary development, I think it’s highly likely this MSA will be given the green light in the near future. But then perhaps I’m just cynical.
- Schools. While new schools are provided for in the plans for the new housing sites, it was obvious that these new schools will not be built before the houses, and probably not until the houses are all, or nearly all, built. The existing schools in the area will be squeezed even more than they are at present, for the foreseeable future.
I have no connection with SWAG, although I have worked with them on some of the local issues they have addressed; these are just my personal thoughts on some of the major issues raised at the meeting on 31st May, and you may or may not agree with my take on these issues. I hope the above will prompt more local residents to look into the matters that are going to have a huge impact on our lives over the coming years, and to get involved in trying to mitigate the impacts.
Huge thanks must go to Stafford Napier and his colleagues at SWAG for arranging this meeting to enable residents to be informed and to air their views, for SWAG’s continuing efforts to mitigate the effects of necessary development on the local community, and for their efforts to stop unnecessary developments. I would also thank the Councillors, officers, developers and healthcare professionals who gave their time to try and answer questions; although we give the officers, particularly, a hard time, they’re on a hiding to nothing – they are given impossible briefs by their political masters, and then have to find solutions to the problems caused – and sometimes there simply aren’t achievable solutions.