Frequently Asked Questions
Why has the council decided to build council houses?From April 2012, the system of local authority housing finance (known as the housing revenue account, or HRA) underwent the most significant and far reaching change since the war – as local authorities took on full control of managing the income and expenditure relating to housing, without having to deal directly with central government. They can now keep all the rents they receive from their council house tenants. As Winchester City Council owns council houses, they are now able to make their own decisions on how and in what way they invest in tenants' homes. This also means that they can now build new homes using surplus rental income.
How many council houses is Winchester City Council planning to build?According to Winchester City Council’s Housing Development Strategy 2012/13 – 2018/19, the council is planning to build around 30 homes each year for the foreseeable future.
Why has Abbotts Barton been identified as a suitable area for building houses on?The Council owns the Greenfield sites in the Abbotts Barton estate as well as the land on which the garage blocks are built therefore building houses here is a cheap option.
Why have greenfield sites been selected for house building?Cost, it is cheaper to build on land that they already own.
What is a greenfield site or greenfield land?Winchester City Council uses this definition: “Land or sites which have not previously been developed or which were developed but have now blended back into the landscape.”
Haven’t we got enough greenfield space in Winchester?NO, we haven't. The Council’s own Local Plan acknowledges that there is a significant shortfall of play space (12 hectares) and of sports provision (26 hectares) in the town and that therefore the “priority will be to retain existing provision and secure improvements”. In addition, their Policy WT1 – Development Strategy for Winchester Town states that “the spatial planning vision for Winchester Town will be achieved through... retention of existing open space and recreation provision and not releasing this for alternative purposes, given the amount of the existing shortfall”.
So why aren’t the council building on brownfield Sites?In Abbotts Barton, two of the proposed sites - the garage blocks at Austen close and Colbourne Court - are being described as brownfield sites. As we are concerned that the majority of the plans for housing in Abbotts Barton are on Greenfield sites, we have asked the council to provide us with the list of brownfield sites that they have considered or are considering for building council houses on.
The Council’s Local Plan Part 1 states that in the “short to medium term” they would expect to be able to use a “mixture of development and re-development opportunities” to meet the housing targets required (overall housing, not just council housing) and that only “in the longer term” the situation may arise where “Planned greenfield releases may be necessary”. Their decision to use greenfield sites in Abbotts Barton conflicts with this statement.
What is a brownfield site or land?The definition of a ‘brownfield site’ or ‘brownfield land’ is not completely clear cut. There is no legal definition of ‘brownfield land’ in the UK, but there are a number of government policies that refer to ‘previously developed land’. This term, and the definition of it from the government’s planning policies (PP3) have been adopted by Winchester City Council.
Why are the garage blocks being referred to as ‘brownfield’?The garage blocks are clearly not greenfield sites, but whether they can be reasonably referred to as ‘brownfield’ or even ‘previously developed land’ may be a question that needs to be asked, particularly as they are currently in use.
Why can’t the council build on the Abbotts Walk development?Abbotts Walk is the new, privately developed housing estate of 90 houses being built off Francis Gardens at the north end of this estate. The developers are unable to build on the part of the site that leads down to the nature reserve for ecological reasons - it has been designated as Open Space. The Council would not therefore be allowed to build there. They would also need to purchase the land.
Why can’t the Council build on the field beyond the Abbotts Walk development?This field is likely to come on the market, if it hasn’t already. The Council is prioritising building on land it already owns.
Have we been consulted?The ABCDAG met with the New Housing Project Delivery Team in September 2012 to ensure that the community would be involved in what was happening as soon as possible. As a result, the Council held a consultation event in a marquee near Symonds Court on 11 October 2012. Despite the downpours, over 180 local people attended. There were no specific plans at this stage; the purpose was to gain locals’ views on the principle of new housing in Abbotts Barton and their responses to other issues such as parking and school catchment areas.
Residents’ feedback was therefore available to be used to help shape the Council’s ‘masterplan’ which was shown at the second event on the 6 December 2012. Around 150 locals attended this event which presented the first opportunity for us to see exactly what is being planned for Abbotts Barton.
Further details about the events and the plans that were displayed at the December event can be found here.
Can I still comment on these proposals?You can still make your views known about the draft plans for Abbotts Barton by contacting the temporary Chair of the Housing Delivery Committee - Council Leader Cllor Keith Wood, any of the local councillors (Cllrs Hiscock, Maynard and Nelmes), your county councillor (Cllr Mather) and the project team itself: email@example.com.
At this stage, it is important that you make your views known as soon as possible. We will keep you informed about the next opportunities for consultation after the meeting on 27 February. At some point, the Council will submit a planning application, effectively to itself. There will be a formal consultation period as part of this process.