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Decision on Barton Farm expected imminently
THE wait over the decision on Barton Farm will go on for several more agonising days.
The Government had been due to announce its decision on 2,000 homes on the farmland on the northern edge of Winchester on or before yesterday. (THURS Sep 27)
But for an unspecified reason the announcement is now due early next week.
The communities secretary Eric Pickles is making the decision after last September wrongly sending it back to the made in Winchester, following a public inquiry.
The developer Cala Homes challenged that stance and Mr Pickles admitted his mistake in February on the eve of a court hearing.
Now Mike Emett, land director at Cala along with the anti-development campaigners, is enduring another wait.
It has been nearly 20 years since the land emerged as a potential site for housing and was first identified as a reserve site for homes in 2003. Cala’s current application was made nearly three years ago.
Mr Emett said: “I have no idea what the decision will be. We have been through so many twists and turns that I could not begin to second guess what the Government will do. This is off the Richter scale, by far the most drawn out scheme in my experience.”
He said that all the general comments about development coming out of Mr Pickles’ Department for Communities and Local Government indicated the decision would be to build. He said: “All the rhetoric about house building, increasing supply, kick-starting the economy points in one direction.”
The decision on Barton Farm will be watched by professionals across the country. “The house building industry, planners are saying this case is a litmus test to see whether the Government is serious about house building,” added Mr Emett.
In December the city council allocated Barton Farm as a site for 2,000 homes in its local plan. Some 800 homes will be social housing available for rent to those on the council waiting list.
A two-week hearing into the local plan is due to start at Winchester Guildhall on October 30. The Save Barton Farm Group say they will challenge the figures for housing need on which the city council rely. It has not ruled out further legal action.
Gavin Blackman, chairman of the Save Barton Farm Group, said: “Given the impending inquiry into WCC's core strategy document, you would have thought Mr Pickles would have deferred any decision until after the Inspector has published his conclusions.
“However, whatever the decision, our objections to the fundamental flaws in the core strategy document will remain the same and we will present them as such at the inquiry."