There are pluses and minuses to living close to a big city. The pluses come in the form of jobs, facilities and shops, the minuses come with success bringing expansion into the neighbouring countryside.

The southern part of Test Valley has long felt itself under threat by expansionist pressures of neighbouring Southampton, which city has been growing for at least 200 years. In 1954, Millbrook was transferred to Southampton and then in 1957, the city was eyeing up Nursling and Rownhams.

At that time, Nursling and Rownhams was a parish in Romsey and Stockbridge Rural District Council (RDC). This Council covered all the countryside around Romsey as far north as the Stockbridge area. It was one of the four councils that were merged to make Test Valley District (now Borough) Council.

In March 1957 Southampton wanted to develop 400 acres of land in Nursling and Rownhams. Pressures were on all councils to build houses for people to live in and Southampton was rather short of suitable land. The RDC was vehemently opposed to the proposal, one councillor suggesting that Southampton should build over its commons.

The National Farmers Union was also strongly opposed to Southampton’s plans and made points about agricultural land and valuable woodland. The RDC was not keen on the proposed development but particularly did not want any boundary changes because the loss of income from rates would make the finances of the District very difficult. They were still feeling the loss of Millbrook’s rates.

One of the councillors pointed out that Southampton aimed to grow to 240,000 people in 1971 and suggested that if they did not ‘stick fast’ Southampton would expand all the way to Lockerley with a population of 300,000. According to the latest figures, Southampton’s population is now close to 254,000 people, but much development has taken place on land outside the city.

The RDC was undermined by Hampshire County Planning Committee which had felt it would be reasonable to allow housing by Southampton between ‘the South Coast Road and Southampton’s Borough Boundary’. This area would mean that parts of Chilworth and of Nursling and Rownhams would cease to be protected by Green Belt status. Nonetheless, whether with the rates in mind, or for other reasons, the County Council said it would oppose any expansion of Southampton’s boundaries.

The same pressure from Southampton still exists to this day. Unless Southampton swallows up everything around it as London did, the tension will be with us for a very long time to come.