Abbotts Walk Meadow – Winchester City Council Letter

Winchester City Council should have sent all residents of Abbotts Walk a letter regarding the meadow & open space.

Essentially, it looks to be giving additional detail about the site meeting minutes that have been shared and conveys a bit more of the background that didn’t come across before.

I’m sure people have their own views on each of the issues, so I will just jot down some thoughts:

Introduction

I had been led to understand the consultation would have originally happened before the transfer, based on an email form Stuart Dunbar-Dempsey on 18 Nov 2013:

Dear Mr xxxxxxxx

Thank you for your email. Your understanding of the arrangements for the provision of children’s play facilities at the Redrow development is correct. The s106 agreement included a sum of £65,859 to be paid by the developer to the City Council for the provision of play facilities on site, in lieu of them providing a facility themselves.

This amount has been ‘ring-fenced’ for this purpose but as you correctly state the development is some way off being completed and the land has not been transferred to the City Council yet. The intention would be to ensure that by the time the land was transferred a plan for a facility will have been agreed.

There has been no design work so far. However plans have progressed for the main area of open space to the rear of the development.

As the open space will also be available to adjacent residents, a meeting was held with some residents, elected Council Members, the developer and council officers on 20th March 2012. It was agreed that above all the main area of green space should be a safe area for children to use: well away from any vehicle manoeuvring area, enclosed and contained but well overlooked.

It was also agreed that there should be some formal play facility but only for the very young but that the specifics should wait until enough residents had moved-in before organising a consultation exercise.

So yes, you would be most welcome to contribute to the discussion when the time arrives however this will not be for at least another year to allow the developer to lay out the open space to a satisfactory condition and to maintain it for 12 months.

Issue 1 – Boundary

Seems like somewhat a moot point as the planning condition is in and the HIWWT stance seems pretty firm. It might be a possible ‘bargaining chip’ for issue 2, but then that negates the initial argument that required access to be blocked so unlikely. My understanding is that the public right of way is not the sensitive part, but the area across the river.

Issue 2 – Future of the meadow

It clarifies where the incendiary term “sterile municipal green space” came about. No mention of HIWWT’s specific plans but guess that is for them to propose. It doesn’t mention that they were asked to ‘develop’ their proposal either. Appreciate there’s a slight chicken and egg situation as they need to develop it in order to propose it, but still seemed somewhat premature to have kicked that off before even this letter.

Issue 3 – Play area

A bright primary coloured play area probably is inappropriate in this space. More natural woody type equipment could be appropriate, which happens to be what Tetlow King, the original master planners specified. The earlier email also stated:

It was also agreed that there should be some formal play facility but only for the very young but that the specifics should wait until enough residents had moved-in before organising a consultation exercise.

So not really sure what was agreed at the 2012 meeting. However, the councils ‘saved policies’ at the time were to adopt the NPFA 6 Acre Standard. My reading of which, as the Chaundler Road play area is between 430-640m walking distance of the homes on the development, requires a LEAP (Local Equipped Area of Play for under 8’s) as they are more than 400m walking distance or 280m linear distance. The policies were superceded in 2013, where the distance looks now to be set at 480m, but a significant number of homes are still beyond this. Just not sure whether an individual meeting would be allowed to override standing council policy. It may seem close to the other play area, but I think that may just be because Winchester is particularly short, it only has a quarter of the play space it should have across the city. That’s no excuse to keep to a poor standard of provision though.

It’s also worth noting the amount of money was index linked in the S106 agreement.  The most up to date number appears to be £79655, but will depend on when it actually gets paid. The interest forms part of the commuted sum and should not be transferred off elsewhere by my understanding.

Issue 5 – Future Maintenance of remaining spaces

If the other spaces are initially transferred to WCC, surely they are no longer part of the ‘managed land’ that homeowners are responsible for paying service charges to the management company for, at that point (as part of the title deed covenants). Can the management company then take on ‘additional land’ and ask homeowners to support that through service charges? Pragmatically, as it’s the same land it may seem sensible enough, but I guess the extreme example is, could the management company be given/acquire a piece of land several miles away and charge homeowners here to maintain it! I’m no legal expert, but it might not be as straightforward as it seems.

Issue 6 – Drainage Basin

Redrow and WCC need to stop calling it a ‘pond’! I understand this is going to be looked at in more detail by the council’s drainage engineer, but the basin and weather is relatively is dry at the moment so difficult to check.

Conclusion

The May elections look set to add a bit of a delay, although I guess there’s nothing to stop residents setting up a meeting for an informal discussion, inviting councillors and council officers (not sure if they’d be allowed to attend though)? just a thought.

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