LETTER: Opportunity to be lost forever

Your mention last week that future funding of the Southern Gateway Masterplan will be taken in secret prompted me to check the results of the public consultation that were a headline in your paper a few weeks ago.

Only 71 people responded to the public consultation on the Southern Gateway Masterplan; they made 350 separate comments.

At the district council’s cabinet meeting last November, a report on the outcome noted that the Masterplan ‘had good publicity and a large number of comments were made’.

Are 71 a large number? Did other residents, like me, find this online consultation difficult to complete?

Here is a selection of comments posted on the consultation website:

“The consultation process has been woeful”, “almost impossible to be able to express disappointment with the proposals… all geared to ‘which of our options do you prefer’, “your consultants (need) to produce a more concise summary”.

Of the 350 comments, 198 (58 per cent) favoured replacing the railway crossings.

A typical comment was ‘the building of so many houses without tackling the railway crossing is too problematic to be implementable’.

During the consultation, a petition was delivered by local architects Martin Winch & Richard Hutchinson which they called Freeflow and which proposed a bridge crossing; it had 280 signatures of support.

That’s four times the number who responded to the consultation.

The cabinet report concluded that the Freeflow plan… ‘would have a negative impact on viability in excess of £25 million’.

So it’s dismissed and the Masterplan is approved keeping both rail crossings and now we read that the funding decision will be taken in secret.

This is a once-in-a-generation lost opportunity. Especially when you realise that the Masterplan covered land next to both crossings.

This land will now be built upon leaving no opportunity to revisit what is widely considered Masterplan’s biggest weakness.

Christopher Mead-Briggs, The Street, Itchenor