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'We'll wage bitter battle over Whitchurch park'
A BITTER campaign over a piece of land in Whitchurch will be fought if it is under threat of development.
That was a promise from borough councillor Keith Watts about land in Daniel Road, reserved as recreational space in honour of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Local people won a national ballot for it to be saved as a park forever.
But a strip of land through the newly-named Queen Elizabeth Field has been left out of the special dedication by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council in case it is needed as an access road to a potential 200-home development in The Knowlings.
Cllr Watts said he believed that council officers working on the current Local Plan development blueprint for the whole borough had indicated The Knowlings could be under houses by 2016, with the access road going in two years earlier.
Cllr Watts has written a letter to Cllr John Izett, Cabinet member for property and finance, about the matter, reminding him of the assurances from deputy council leader Cllr Ranil Jayawardena at a Cabinet meeting in March, that the land would not be developed “for a long time and that it wouldn’t happen unless local people want it”.
He wrote: “I expect the administration to stand by what he said. I promise a strong and bitter campaign if it does not.”
But Cllr Izett told The Gazette: “As Cllr Watts knows, there are currently no plans to develop The Knowlings. It is council-owned land that is outside the Settlement Policy Boundary of Whitchurch.
“While I repeat there are no plans to develop this site, as a responsible local authority, it would be wrong to bind the local community on how it decides on its housing needs. In order to provide homes for the people of Whitchurch in the years ahead, the council may need to consider a number of alternative sites.”
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