Winchfield Parish Council
*** VACANCY FOR A PARISH COUNCILLOR, February 2017. See under Parish Councillors ***
Winchfield is a small village and parish in north-east Hampshire. Its nearest neighbours are the villages of Hartley Wintney, Dogmersfield and Odiham.
Frequently referred to as the green lung of Hart, Winchfield has retained its rural character. Comprising about 760 hectares, it is crossed from east to west by both the M3 motorway and the main railway line between Waterloo and Southampton, while at the southern tip is a stretch of the Basingstoke Canal, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The population of about 600 is scattered between several small settlements and farms.
Winchfield has an iconic Norman church, two pubs and a modern Village Hall. St Mary’s Church, built around 1150, is the oldest Grade 1 listed building in Hart. John Arlott, writing in the June 1977 issue of ‘Hampshire’ magazine about Hart District, said: “Winchfield, in the centre of the district and on the Basingstoke Canal, is worth visiting if only to see the church. It is unusual in having survived the age of Victorian restoration with much of its fabric – all except the modern north aisle, the 16th-century south porch and the 19th century renewal of the top of the tower – virtually as it was when the medieval masons finished it eight centuries ago.”
Winchfield largely comprises a mix of farmland, mainly arable and grassland, and areas of ancient and semi-ancient woodland of oak, beech and chestnut, with some fine expanses of bluebells and primroses. The slowly-flowing Basingstoke Canal encompasses most of these habitats and more.
However, this rural idyll has been under serious threat after Hart Council voted in November 2014 to "test" a new settlement proposal by Barratts for up to 5,000 homes. Such a prospect is strongly opposed by the Parish Council, local residents who have formed the Winchfield Action Group (http://winchfieldactiongroup.org) and the WeHeartHart campaign (http://wehearthart.co.uk)
Although as at February 2017 Hart Council has now shifted its focus to a new settlement nearby at Murrell Green, Winchfield remains under threat.
Meanwhile, Winchfield's Neighbourhood Plan has been overwhelmingly endorsed by residents at referendum. It goes before Hart's Cabinet on March 2 and is then due to be "made" officially by Hart Council on March 30 after which it will form part of Hart Council's official planning policy for any development proposed in the parish.
The Examiner's Report was received on October 4 and Andrew Ashcroft MRTPI concluded: "The Plan proposes a series of policies and seeks to bring forward positive and sustainable development in the plan area. There is a very clear focus on safeguarding local character and promoting distinctive housing development. It also includes a series of Watch Points. The Plan has been significantly underpinned by community support and engagement. It is clear that all sections of the community have been actively engaged in its preparation."
RESULT OF REFERENDUM ON THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 2
The question asked in the referendum was: “Do you want Hart District Council to use the Neighbourhood Plan for Winchfield Parish to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?”
See the Neighbourhood Plan page for full details.