On Tuesday 2 October the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced his decision to approve an appeal by Cala Homes to build 2,000 homes at the Barton Farm site on the outskirts of Winchester.
A row about the future of the site has been raging since the late 1990s when the developer bought the land. In 2010 Winchester City Council rejected a planning application on the grounds that the development was premature and that that volume of housing was not yet needed in the area.
The Secretary of State initially backed the council's rejection of the scheme, but after the decision was ruled unlawful he had to reconsider - and on Tuesday 2 October he accepted the Planning Inspectorate's recommendation to approve the development.
Residents living near the site have held several demonstrations and organised petitions over the years, even setting up the 'Save Barton Farm Group' - a campaign to fight the development. Those against the project cited that it would cause more traffic jams, contribute to a flood risk, mean a loss of high quality farmland and ruin the city's landscape. There has been varied reaction to the decision to give the project the go-ahead:
Local MP Steve Brine has fought against the planned development. In the wake of Tuesday's decision, he has said he will meet with the area's secondary school heads and Hampshire County Council to discuss the potential impact on school places in the area.
– Steve Brine, MP for Winchester
"This is a bitterly disappointing decision from the coalition Government. CALA homes have very deep pockets and have relentlessly pursued Winchester over many years until they got what they wanted. Because of the Appeal system it was always possible they'd win one day and today it looks like they have.
"I think it was becoming increasingly difficult to save Barton Farm from the moment it was identified a reserve major development area by Winchester City Council in 2004 and a very real problem for campaigners opposed to development was the fact they had to get lucky every time, whereas CALA had to hit the jackpot just once. I want to pay enormous tribute to the Save Barton Farm Group and the thousands of people who continue to support their campaign.
"Assuming Barton Farm is developed, 2,000 houses on this site will in my opinion ultimately make the city a less comfortable place to live. We will get used to it, and not too many years from now we'll no doubt struggle to remember how it looked before, but a special piece of the landscape setting of Winchester will be gone forever.
"As I have always maintained, I will now engage positively with CALA to ensure they live up to their promises and give us the high quality development promised. I will also be keeping very close tabs on the affordable element of the housing to see if it really does deliver new homes for local people and dramatically reduce the council waiting list."
Although initially against the development, now that it has been approved in a statement on its website Winchester City Council said: 'Given the history of this site the Council chose to take the responsible step to influence the design, infrastructure and layout of the scheme throughout its development rather than risk a poor quality scheme being taken through the planning process.'
– Cllr Keith Wood, Leader, Winchester City Council
“Personally I am disappointed that the time has come to release this site for housing but the Secretary of State has applied his own rules and we have no choice but to follow them. We argued strongly about the application, but we have been overtaken by events. The Council now needs to ensure that the development of this site generates all the promised benefits to the community. We plan to set up a forum to help ensure that the development minimises the disruption to Winchester residents, and the infrastructure requirements are implemented properly and promptly.”
News: Two thousand homes approved at Barton Farm: The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to... http://t.co/5z0qSnsR
The developer - CALA Group Ltd said it welcomed the appeal decision and was now looking forward to continuing to 'work positively with the Council and local community to deliver a high quality development'.
“Coming so soon on the back of stimulus packages designed to support the construction industry, we feel this decision provides a major boost to the entire housebuilding sector and reaffirms the Coalition's stance on the role the housebuilding industry can play in supporting a wider economic recovery."
– Robert Millar, Group Land Director of CALA
“Local people will benefit greatly from this decision. It will be a major contributor to stimulating the local economy and creating long term jobs. Furthermore, it will make a significant contribution to the chronic shortage of affordable housing enabling key workers and other local people to live in their own City. We will shortly be examining the detailed design for each of the phases in line with our masterplan to ensure that much needed housing is delivered as soon as possible.”