By Cllr Graham Cockarill, Cabinet Member for Place
Shapley Heath – the name of the garden community project that Hart District Council is exploring in the Winchfield and Murrell Green area – has divided opinion across the district. Claims and counterclaims about its pros and cons dominated the recent local election.
Despite strong opinions and heated debate about the need for a new settlement, I believe we can work together to build consensus on what a new community should look like, regardless of whether it is built at Shapley Heath or somewhere else in the future.
The launch of a communities’ survey is the first of several consultation opportunities for residents as we explore the opportunity to build a garden community. The survey gives residents the chance to share their thoughts and ideas on a range of topics including transport, green spaces, community, homes and heritage. It asks residents about important issues for the future like work, leisure and shopping.
Some of the opposition to Shapley Heath has been built on legitimate concerns regarding building homes on greenfield land, and the impact a new community would have on the roads in the area. However, the same challenges will face the district regardless of where the homes are built, as we don’t have enough brownfield land to meet long-term housing demands.
Other claims about Shapley Heath have been constructed to scare residents. The project is exploring up to 5,000 homes, not 10,000. Far from destroying the high street in places like Hartley Wintney and Odiham, the new settlement could provide new opportunities and customers for our entrepreneurial small businesses.
Ignoring the opportunity at Shapley Heath will result in more of the same when it comes to building homes in Hart. It means more housing estates built on the green fields around our existing towns and villages. It means more traffic in our towns. It almost certainly means no new secondary school in the district and more pressure on our medical centres.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 edition of Hart News.