Friday, 12 July 2013

What can YOU do to save the parks?

It is nice to have a group of people who run a campaign to save a park. It is also great that we got more than 500 signatures on our petition. We've been on the radio and in the papers. We have been to council meetings and had speakers on our behalf there.

However, Winchester City Council is not interested in what we are saying and some questions have never received answers - as apparently to them it seems like a campaign by just a few people.

So, this is where everybody who has an opinion on losing the parks in Abbotts Barton comes in, that includes YOU! We simply cannot keep going without more people having their say individually!

The good news is, that it is actually quite easy to have your say!

You don't need to call anybody or speak at a council meeting, you don't need to be on the radio or in the papers. All it takes is a short letter or an email to some or all of the people we have listed on our Action! tab. There is no need to worry about your writing skills or whether it needs to be very formal. All you need to do is to write something that lets the councillors at Winchester City Council know what you think about their plans. If you could include that you 'object' to some or all of their plans, they have to take it into consideration. To help you along we have compiled a list of items that you may use and change as you see fit. Use as many as you like and if you find other good reasons please add them to your message too!

You could also let US know what other reasons for objection you have given to the Council, and we would also be very grateful to receive a copy of your letter if you are happy with letting us have it. Our contact details can be found via the Contact page.

Here is an example letter:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to object to the building of houses on parts of the main park in Abbotts Barton and the land at Dyson Drive as outlined on your website

The reason(s) for my objection is/are
[insert your reason(s) here]

[Your name and full address]

You might not like (in no particular order):
  • that the councillors have decided to start building on the empty green spaces ('greenfield sites') at Dyson Drive and Charles Close/Chaundler Road better known as THE PARK, instead of investigating further into the available 'brownfield sites' (like the garage areas). The green spaces were recommended for appropriation at the last Housing Delivery Committee meeting of 22 May.
    (The land at Hillier Way is also part of that plan but this group does not object to that site for new houses. Of course you can do that as an individual!)
    If money should run out on this project, we might never see any houses and/or new parking and storage facilities on the garage sites as promised - but we will have lost a big chunk of parkland

  • that the plans for appropriation include about a third of the main park which would allow for more buildings at a later time. (We have been told that the row of houses planned along Charles Close would be all that's going to be built - so under no circumstances would we like this area to be extended, which could be done easily once the land has been appropriated.)

  • that there are no tree preservation orders on the big (and small) trees in the park. This means they can be removed if councillors decided to build more houses there in the future.

  • that the councillors are reducing the amount of play area available for the whole of Winchester and not just Abbotts Barton by building on our parks without really giving anything back that makes up for the loss. Once it is gone, it will be gone forever and Winchester is already low on the amount of space it should provide for sports and play according to its Open Space Strategy. On top of everything else this Strategy is just undergoing a change that sees numbers for land to be held available for sports and play even more reduced - see WCC meeting notes from 26 June).

  • that the councillors want to build on the main park and in exchange offer the land around the cadet hut as a new green area. As pointed out before by the Save The Parks Group this is not trading like for like as the park is an ideal area for unstructured and safe play that can easily be overseen, whereas the 'cadet site' is not suitable for activities like this (and was given up in the past once before because anti-social behaviour problems). The latest maps by WCC have shown plans for an extension to the existing fenced in play area, but this is not really needed when you have the big park to play.

  • that there are not many play spaces for 'older children' to start with in the north of Winchester, reducing the size of our well overlooked park could contribute to more anti-social behaviour as it drives young people away.

  • that it was expressed in a council meeting that the big park is mainly a dog walking area - this is certainly not the case! It is used by many different people for many different purposes (e.g. ball and other games, sun bathing, picnics, sledging, community events, children's birthday parties, animal watching, etc.). A lot of these activities would and could not be done in the land behind the Cadet hut.

  • that with no road or other natural border around any new houses on the park, people will have to keep some distance from the new buildings when playing, so this means we will effectively lose a third of the big park if the councillors go ahead with their plans of building houses along Charles Close.

  • that the map 'dotting' process at the consultation event was not a proper democratic means of getting an opinion as some people were using a lot more dots than they were supposed to do and nobody was supervising this. On top of that the yellow dots were later interpreted as people showing support for certain sites - but at the event we were told the yellow dots stood for 'not as bad' as the other areas. So really only a dot free area would have been a supported area.
    In addition to that the councillors had the land around the cadet hut included in the consultation map despite later saying in a council meeting that they were not expecting to be able to build there because of the status of the land and the location outside of the estate. This could have been found out before going through the consultation exercise and gave the residents the wrong feeling of having a choice.

  • that the councillors are reducing the amount of parkland despite many houses in Abbotts Barton not having adequate gardens. The gardens are small because there was so much parkland available at the time when they were built! Especially at Charles Close some houses have only tiny patio sized gardens and the flats have no gardens at all. The parks were designed as an integral part of the overall original estate's housing scheme to provide sufficient outdoor amenity close by for those 47 dwellings as well as serving valuable play amenity for the rest of the estate which also have smaller than usual gardens.
    We don't know it yet, but any new council houses built might not have a lot of garden space either, so the open spaces will be needed more than ever!

  • that the planned houses on the park along Charles Close are in a difficult location to build something that goes with the surroundings. In urban planning terms building on the side of Charles Close can never be an acceptable intervention into the existing street and parkscape scenes - destroying timeless rules of acceptable urban morphology - proposing houses sideways on to the road and park is completely unacceptable.

  • that the current plan for Dyson Drive fills up half of the space with houses, leaving the rest as 'play space' - we all know full well that this area will not be used much for playing once there are houses so close nearby, the 'no ball games' signs will surely come soon after. Thinking this through logically, it would actually make more sense to fill this space up with houses and not use any space on the big park instead as that leaves more proper play space altogether.
    (The Save The Parks Group would like this space AND the big park not to be built on at all but again: you can take any view on this as an individual.)

  • that that the councillors seem to ignore that the RT. 1/ RT. 2 Status (Important Open Amenity Area / Recreation Area) was bestowed on Dyson Green for a valid reason which has not altered in time and is surely now even more valid with all the new housing going up (e.g. Abbotts Walk and the new development across Worthy Road at the former MOD site) since that original designation.
    (The RT. 1/ RT. 2 status can be seen on the policy maps available via the Local Plan Part 1, adopted by Winchester City Council in March 2013! For your convenience: Policy map key / Northeast Winchester policy map.) On this same map, the whole park area in Abbotts Barton is shown as 'countryside'.

  • that the settings and approaches to the city are at stake. The main park forms part of the river Itchen’s green corridor into Winchester when entering by foot from the North on the Kings Way footpath. The river Itchen is a Special Area of Conservation and is on the border of the South Downs National Park.

  • that the number of council houses to be built on the park is quite negligible anyway. The councillors should rethink their strategy to find better suited places where they can build more new houses/flats than in Abbotts Barton. Winchester City Council could also possibly re-develop existing buildings (e.g. Avalon House) and find other brownfield areas like the piece of land at Bar End that is currently in use as a council parking area.

There will be a Cabinet meeting coming Wednesday (17 July) and one of the business items are the minutes of the Cabinet (Housing Delivery) Meeting held 22 May (note: at this point we are not sure if this meeting will have any influence on when the appropriation process will start as it seems to focus on other items from the notes). It would be great if you could write to the councillor(s) of your choice before that date - but if you don't manage to do that, please write anyway! It is important that your voice gets heard!

It is also important that as many people as possible hear about the plans, please let all your neighbours and friends know.

Whatever you do and if it's only a short letter/message to one or many councillors, thank you for your efforts!