Monday, 24 June 2013

In conversation with Steve Brine

So this morning the writer of this blog entry met with a campaigner from Weeke (more info) to talk with Steve Brine (MP for Winchester and Chandler's Ford) about the loss of green space in general and also about the housing developments in Weeke and Abbotts Barton in particular. Shame I forgot to bring my camera.

My main objective was to talk about how Winchester is losing more and more open unstructured play space but also ball game areas. People soon will only have commercial sports venues available for their free time if this trend continues and Winchester City Council builds on every single small stretch of land it owns. What does the Council get in return? Just a small number of houses in each area, with small gardens, and even less open play space for the people in these houses and the already existing residents.
  • In Weeke the plan is to take a well protected and well used ball game facility away, to replace it with what? A playground in the centre of a road. According to WCC this area is in use already, so it’s NOT ADDING new space (see WCC plans). 
  • In Abbotts Barton WCC is shaving away at the only real community asset, the big park, offering space that has in the past been prone to anti-social behaviour (the so called Cadet site which is no unused and turned to scrub land - see WCC plans). Instead the community could do with a good ball game area that is well overlooked in our current park and wouldn’t be too close to houses (as long as none are built there). In addition, the space planned for appropriation is far bigger than needed for the houses the Council want to build (see WCC meeting report), so are they planning more houses later?
  • Slightly different but still important in this context: there are plans to revamp the older children's play area at the leisure centre (North Walls Recreation Ground) to become a skate park only, so no more ball game facility (see design plans).
Even more worrying, WCC is reviewing the Open Space Strategy and reducing the amounts of space allocated per 1000 population (see the WCC meeting notes):
  • play: reduced from 0.8 ha per 1000 population to 0.5 ha per 1000 population
  • sport: reduced from 1.6 ha per 1000 population to 0.75ha per 1000 population
With this change some parishes automatically have no shortfall of open space any more.

Will these numbers get simply reduced more and more until Winchester also can be classed as having sufficient open space (see current status)?

The open spaces are needed more than ever, as more and more families move into Winchester, a trend which is also having an effect on available school spaces and can be felt throughout the community. Where will all of these children play? Yes, we have the fenced in play parks but they are meant for younger children; there are hardly any facilities for older ones. And sometimes it is just nice to have a big open space for games that need that.

Mr Brine came out to Weeke to see the playing area at Westman Road for himself. As he is not a city councillor (or in command of them!), all he can do is listen to us and relay our concerns to those people who make the decisions. He seemed very sympathetic with our cause despite reminding us of the huge number of people on the housing list. His main advice was that people who are concerned really need to write a letter or send an email to their City Councillors to make their voices count, individual letters are the way to go!

So, if YOU are concerned about what happens to our green spaces in Winchester, please write to the Councillors listed on the Action! tab!