Democracy can be a fragile and even an elusive thing. It is usually argued that practical decision making is the reason for local communities’ expressed desires being over-ridden, particularly when it comes to planning matters.
There is a feeling of deep frustration amongst some on Hayling because promises to ‘listen to local communities’ does not seem to be happening. Particularly since the Goldring Development Appeal only a few years ago, it increasingly appears that local planning decisions that might be in favour of local wishes are then faced with expensive appeals and pressure from London to accept more development than already agreed or indeed actually needed by local people.
In Hampshire's Regional Plan, we understand that Hayling already has its 600 housing quota allocated for the next 10 years; but already another development company, O’Dell’s, has this winter proposed, on its website, a 3 storey building with 18 flats and associated car parking for the corner of Station Road and West Lane in West Town. O'Dell's has already invited comments at this public stage, notifying Andy Lenaghan, and in November apparently stated that it would be directly contacting nearby residents. Thanks to Andy's timely notice, through our email below, we immediately informed those of our members on email of O'Dell's plans and website link. Whilst attractive re-development is usually welcome, feedback to us has already shown that residents are deeply concerned about the impact that this development will have on an already quite busy narrow road with much pedestrian use. It must be appreciated by the company and Planners alike that just a few hundred yards away about 75 new family homes plus additional commercial premises will also feed onto Station Road; this is the main access and egress route already for all roads to the west. The sharp eyed have also noticed that O'Dell's proposed narrow parking bays are unsuitable for modern vehicles and appear to make no allowance for their visitors not to mention the shoppers - unless this is a gated development.
The imminent closure of The Hayling Billy highlights a failure to genuinely listen to local people. For many people, having a 'local' where they can walk to or is close by proves a much needed social point both daytime and evenings. Additionally the boot sale is well known and also local. With such an established popular site, it is disappointing that, yet again, local efforts to preserve a valued amenity are over-ridden.
Whilst Churchill’s proposals for flats and small business at Pullingers’ original site has, we understand, been turned down, will the Hayling Billy site also be used for flats? If so, will they be suitable for the younger Hayling adults who want to stay on the Island but already find it expensive to do so? There are also many retired, senior citizens locally who would happily down-size, releasing their family sized homes to a younger generation, but who are reluctant to do so because of the associated costs - Stamp Duty and Removals for example.
We understand that Hayling is fortunate in having Grade 1 farming land, and we know that once such land is built on - for a regional even national population that may fall as well as rise - it can no longer feed us. The Station Road development was such land held in reserve. We should be asking how many people are displaced from London and the South East’s developed sites as a result of properties bought as investments and not lived in. Can a small country afford to permit such luxuries? We are told that we need housing, but if all housing was bought by local people to live in, might that go further to solve our so-called housing crisis?
As a small island joined to the mainland by only a 2 lane highway, whose attraction to the welcome holiday visitors throughout the year lies in the very nature of its traditionally rural roads and hedge lined fields that inhibit urban traffic, Hayling needs special consideration. Finally we have yet to learn what is proposed for the NatWest building. It would a welcome democratic opportunity if Islanders were canvassed as to what they would like to see at this location.
Our first public meeting will take place on Thursday February 18th 7:30 pm at the URC when we will have presentations by Chichester Harbour Conservancy and how it affects Hayling so make it a date. Watch out for more details nearer the time. We can always be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.