Situated in Hampshire between Southampton and Winchester, Eastleigh was formed in the 19th century as a railway town. Today, the area is blighted by congestion and has several air quality management areas where pollution levels exceed health standards set by the European Union.
Guest blogger Gin Tidridge, from local campaign group ADD, tells us more.
Local campaign group, Action Against Destructive Development (ADD) was formed following significant concerns about Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC)’s emerging Local Plan. At the heart of the proposals is a new development (strategic growth option, SGO) of over 5,000 new houses on greenfield sites, located on the borough’s northern boundary.
It is far from current infrastructure and would require a damaging new road across open countryside to access it.
Along with the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), all local MPs and all affected parish councils, ADD is campaigning to persuade EBC that if a major development is required, there are more sustainable locations for new houses. These locations could include a new rail station, with cycle routes and pedestrian paths linking into Eastleigh town centre for employment, education, leisure and sustainable transport links connecting to the wider area. They would minimise road traffic and congestion.
Although EBC’s plan is yet to be finalised, the council’s stated preference is for this remote SGO and a damaging new road and is likely to formalise its position on 11 December. The council has been persuaded by property developers that this new “road to nowhere” will solve the borough’s traffic issues.
No traffic study has been published that supports this hypothesis and no consideration has been given to “induced traffic” – the increase in car movements that new roads create.
Recent research that CPRE commissioned indicates that this approach will most likely increase traffic and congestion.
The road is unlikely to bring any wider benefits and as well as causing significant destruction to the borough, it’s probably going to make traffic levels worse.
The new road is planned to pass between two sites of ancient woodland managed by the Woodland Trust, a gap that is only 120 metres wide. It will also pass close to the river Itchen Special Area of Conservation, a strictly protected site with European status. Jack Taylor of the Woodland Trust has rebuffed EBC’s assertion that buffers would negate impact on the Trust’s woods, stating that “the severance of this area of natural habitat between our two ancient woodland sites, and Stoke Park Wood, will result in severe fragmentation.” He goes on to explain that “there just isn’t the space for this road to be feasible.”
Part of the new route will utilise an existing rail bridge in the village of Allbrook. Being just 3.7 metres high, and too narrow for lorries to pass abreast, there have been many incidents of lorries getting stuck under the bridge, jeopardising the mainline rail route to London. The plans do not extend to replacing this bridge, presumably due to prohibitive cost. The new road would also split the community of Allbrook in two.
The proposed development area is currently countryside enjoyed by local residents, on the edge of the South Downs National Park. Eastleigh has one of the highest levels of female inactivity in Hampshire. Reducing the opportunity to exercise in a traffic free environment is counterproductive to EBC’s Health Action Plan.
ADD is urging EBC to be more imaginative and to develop a Local Plan supporting fully integrated sustainable transport. Building a major development north of the town will be ecologically devastating, reducing the quality of life for current and future residents.
Eastleigh deserves better than to be blighted by ever increasing traffic, making the area less appealing for investors and workers and impacting upon local economic prosperity.
Guest blog by Gin Tidridge, an ADD campaigner