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Cllr Mark Cooper on the Whitenap Development

January 21, 2020 4:42 PM
Originally published by Romsey and Southampton North Liberal Democrats

The key events in my Borough year are the start of the Ashfield Development process, which was one of the main motivations for standing again in the Tadburn Borough and Town elections in 2019; the stunning local election results on the 2nd May; the takeover of Southern Area Planning Committee by the Liberal Democrats and finding myself Deputy Test Valley Borough Mayor.


On the 11th of February 2019 the Ashfield Partnership, the developers of the Whitenap site, gave a preliminary briefing to Romsey Councillors. There was little said other than to explain the 'Principles' of the Ashfield Partnership. This was followed by a site visit in May attended by a small Above:- The Test Valley Borough Council Local Plan Map for the Whitenap development The black triangles are designated open space which extends the Whitenap Playspace on Botley Road southwards and westwards towards the railway. Beggarspath Wood will remain. PC= Pedestrian and cycle access only while V= vehicle access. The access off Whitenap Lane is to the area of The Barns only.


group of community representatives, including local Councillors, the Romsey and District Society and the Romsave Group.
Whitenap is designated for 1,300 dwellings in Test Valley Borough Council's 2016 Local Plan. I suspect Whitenap will not get underway for some time as the Ashfield Partnership will want to complete the Luzborough development first, then the 300 dwellings at Hoe Lane, before they start on Whitenap. There is also an expectation they will only release 100 dwellings a year so development will be very slow.


The most important role for Councillors in this process is to keep the development in line with Test Valley Borough Council's Local Plan which was the result of many years of negotiation. I will fight to ensure the open space provision stays mainly at the north of the Whitenap site and is, effectively, an extension of the Whitenap Playspace westwards up to the railway line. This allows both the new and the existing residents to have access to quality open space and creates a modest buffer between Tadburn and Whitenap. The plan permits cycleway/pedestrian access only from Tadburn Road. The sustainability of the new site also depends on a cycleway/footpath access over the railway and on into Romsey.


I spent more than 10 years opposing and then amending this scheme through planning committees, plans panels and public enquiries. In 2013 I opined to my Tory colleagues that with the removal of the earlier planned road bridge over the Southampton railway line, there was absolutely no reason why the Whitenap proposals map should show the 'Local Centre' in the northern part of the site. Further, it was wrong to allocate all the open space around the existing woodland. It had been placed there on the advice of English Nature to separate the domestic animals and children of the housing area from the wild animals of the woodland. The Plan required 6 hectares of employment land. "Employment sites don't have cats, dogs nor kids," I said, "so let's place the employment site alongside the woodland boundary and then all the open pace can be shifted northwards to act as a buffer between Tadburn and the new Whitenap, benefiting both sets of residents."


I had a map prepared, too. Then one of the Tories said, "I think Mark's right." It was like a dam burst. Everyone agreed, it seemed. The officers saw the logic instantly and the plan in the current Borough Local Plan (see left) was produced. Fortunately, English nature agreed as well and the plan was adopted as the site's blueprint in January 2016.