Winchester City Council is consulting with local residents on their proposals for the future of housing allocation in Winchester. This is a significant window of opportunity to influence the future of our city. We would encourage everyone with an interest in our shared built environment to get involved and have your say.
We have for many years promoted a visionary approach to planning the future of our city. Our aim has been to encourage planners to locate new development proactively, focusing not just on the minimisation of negative impact but also realising the potential to maximise positive impact. This more positive approach to inevitable change allows us to gain greater control over the future of our city. It is an approach that faces the reality of change and seeks to openly discuss the alternatives. Over 1/2 Billion pounds is about to be spent in our city and we need to ensure we get more than 4000 houses in return. The whole should be greater than the sum of the parts. This requires vision.
Winchester is currently lacking a spatial vision for its future. Various disjointed master plans have been commissioned for parts of the city but there is no overriding framework. The city is working under the presumption that all future development could and should be accommodated within the existing settlement boundary. This is a presumption in favour of a saturated city. It is a presumption that has not been properly debated or tested. It is an approach that creates significant risks.
Over the past decades Winchester has seen a significant amount of infill development. Slowly but surely every open space is being filled in. This is fundamentally changing the character of our city. Is this what we want? Is this what is best for our city? We believe there are significant downsides to this approach and propose that a number of housing sites located outside the existing settlement boundary could result in less harm and importantly, more positive impact. These sites are within walking distance of the city centre, in locations where people would love to live, have very few neighbours and can guarantee the delivery of 40% affordable housing and sustainable design. These are not things that can be guaranteed on many of the sites that are currently proposed for development within the settlement boundary. Many of the proposed development sites are located within the Conservation Area and are in danger of irreversibly changing the character of our town.
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We are calling for an informed debate on the issues. We want an integrated vision for the future of our city to inform our decision making. That is the only way that the whole will continue to add up to something greater than the sum of the parts.