Two reasons. Firstly to make the most efficient use of land responsibly to meet local housing needs. In light of the constraints and priorities identified Whitenap is unable to match the Council's aspirations for 1,300 homes and other uses, set out in Policy COM3 of the adopted Local Plan. The area south of Tadburn is, however, the least ecologically and topographically constrained.
Although coming fairly close to the Local Plan objectives, the Ashfield Partnership believes that it’s not right to stretch, let alone maximise, housing numbers where this puts at risk the ability to retain important natural assets elsewhere on the site. We would rather build fewer homes in the more sensitive parts of the site to make not just a better place, but one which is landscape and ecology led, and creates opportunities to achieve net biodiversity gain. That’s only possible if we make best use of this area.
Secondly we believe that it’s best practice to connect, rather than to separate, communities. We would prefer Whitenap to be geographically part of Romsey rather than becoming a dormitory suburb. Being able to reach the town centre on foot is also important so we aim to shorten that distance.
The uses proposed on the northern boundary are connecting uses. The Primary School and the Community Orchard achieve separation while also promoting the opportunity for good social connections.
Even at its narrowest point, our space is still 40m wide and with suitable landscaping, an attractive area of public open space will be created that can be enjoyed by existing and new residents
The work that has been undertaken leads to the conclusion that a bridge is not technically necessary for Whitenap. However, the Ashfield Partnership acknowledges that it remains desirable, would provide wider benefits and is indeed achievable. We are working closely with the two councils and other stakeholders to ensure its funding in terms of construction and its delivery at an early stage. We aim to promote good connectivity and we think there is a good solution available.
Our masterplan shows the position of a potential future bridge crossing point.
Whitenap is geographically downstream of Romsey. Everybody is rightly concerned about the risk of flooding and concerned that new development will exacerbate a problem popularly believed to be that much more difficult owing to climate change.
Only the best enduring design solutions will be accepted by the Environment Agency and the Local Flood Authority. The Ashfield Partnership will want to be confident that Whitenap genuinely improves matters. The engineering advice is that we can.
It might appear to be logical that development creates more run off than agricultural uses given all the introduced hard surfaces. But farming does not hold back surface water in the way that carefully designed solutions as part of new development can. These sustainable urban drainage systems release water in a much more controlled fashion.
Whitenap can only proceed if it satisfies the relevant authorities that it’s design securely achieves that perfectly proper requirement. In addition, the Ashfield Partnership is concerned to make best use of rainwater so that gardens and other food production areas within the scheme can be naturally irrigated in dry periods.
But engineering is only part of the story. Our approach to the sustainable management of surface water includes designing all ponds and streams so they improve habitats for wildlife and enhance the local landscape.
Following substantial exploration this is the location favoured by both Test Valley Borough Council and the education authority, Hampshire County Council. The Ashfield Partnership, although open to other locations, recognises the guidance provided and is content to support it. As stated above a new Primary School close to Tadburn creates good connectivity and social interaction between the present and new communities.
Three reasons. Why would we want to hide development by camouflage? The Ashfield Partnership is confident about building beautifully, so Whitenap should be visible.
Secondly, we must make the best and most efficient use of the allocated land available for development. Unnecessary reductions in site capacity would put pressure on the Council to release other greenfield land in the area to meet housing needs.
Thirdly we believe that development fronting, for example, the Luzborough Lane will serve to civilise that road aiming over time to become a street. Where new development turns its back on existing roads and is obscured behind a planting buffer, traffic speeds will not be reduced.
The Masterplan seeks safe pedestrian crossings of the Luzborough Lane to make available the Estate's hinterland. The Luzborough Lane should be permeable. A planting buffer would reinforce it as a barrier.
This approach makes possible a safer and more direct route to The Mountbatten School for children from North Baddesley so they don’t have to use the busy highway network. In the same way future residents of Whitenap may wish to enjoy the Estate’s hinterland on the other side of the road.
The pandemic has taught us all many things. The scope to explore, to absorb all that the countryside offers, to appreciate the natural world, comprehend how we can connect with local food production, and how we can take exercise are obvious outcomes. These were always the driving aspirations of The Ashfield Estate in shaping how best to respond to the challenge of development. In other words, the pandemic has underwritten this more liveable approach.
We have never subscribed to a zoned development approach which promotes commuting, believing in a more locally focused economy and the desire to be able to walk or cycle to work and to meet other daily needs. So we integrate uses following successful models elsewhere by pioneers of the legacy movement.
Working from home is now a reality but we do also wish to promote a range of workspace within the scheme. Our approach is to match demand but by being very selective tailoring provision so that it meets our broader aspirations for sustainable living.
Put simply we don’t support for Whitenap the customary model of a zoned business park or industrial estate that is favoured by the Local Plan.
There are many very good estates locally that offer larger plots for factories and warehouses. We think that the character of Whitenap is much better suited to smaller business models.
We have also tried to strike the right balance between the provision of housing and jobs on a site that cannot achieve everything that the Local Plan seeks.
In light of all the research the Ashfield Partnership has conducted, we make a strong case that the south western site access is best provided on Luzborough Lane to the east of the Ashfield Roundabout. A roundabout in this location would sit level with the land around it, can be well designed, is more environmentally friendly, and reduces pressure on the existing network. In addition, as part of a series of measures along Luzborough Lane including a second access to the east it can contribute to the slowing of vehicle speeds to make a safer highway network for all users.
But above all it seeks to achieve for Whitenap a scheme which does not look towards Southampton but instead connects with Romsey.
The detailed investigation by geo-physical (ground radar) assessment followed by trial trenching has confirmed that there is no archaeological constraint. Our surveys have been agreed by the County archaeologist.
The Ashfield Partnership has listened to the views of its neighbours and does not propose any car connection with or through Tadburn. A pedestrian / cycle access is proposed onto St Barbe Close linking through to Tadburn.
However, Hampshire County Council, as Highway Authority, has asked us to canvass the local community’s views through this consultation of the potential to install a bus gate at the St Barbe Close access to link to Tadburn Road and facilitate bus access to and from the site to the north. They have asked us to include the following link in our consultation material to show the sort of thing they had in mind:
Whitenap is an allocated site in the adopted Revised Local Plan and this area is shown as unconstrained and appropriate for development. That said we would wish to work closely with neighbours at the reserved matters stage to arrive at a design which is both sensitive and pleasing.
We see this as a huge challenge, but we also aim to escape the tick box system which reduces most schemes to become the lowest common denominator. Sustainability is about how we all live our lives anticipating how the places we leave behind work for future generations.
The question is whether, by design, Whitenap can enable residents to make the right choices. More on this subject is available on the website but it’s a very broad approach informed by long term thinking.
We believe that we have achieved a delicate balance between making the best and most efficient use of this allocated site and retaining important landscape features.
On the flatter, less constrained parts of the site, we can achieve densities of around 32 dwellings per hectare. The local centre will achieve higher densities because we can create flats above commercial buildings. In the smaller, irregularly shaped areas around the veteran oak trees, densities are around 20-25 dwellings per hectare.
The Masterplan, by design, envisages subtle separation from the railway line, which in conjunction with an acoustic barrier and the design of the new homes will create a very high quality environment for new residents. In addition, this makes use of good land for food production while recognising that the Government’s requirement for electrification of the rail network will mean that, by the time this area is occupied, trains will be very much quieter.
It’s a general observation but The Ashfield Partnership is designing for the very long term so worrying about the present noise from diesel trains, and designing accordingly to meet regulations, is unwise.
That said, our layout will meet relevant noise standards as a result of acoustic mitigation and building design.
Our ecologist has been surveying the site for over 10 years and as a result we know an enormous amount about the site’s habitats and species. We have also undertaken full surveys of all trees and woodland on the site, as well as landscape assessments. This evidence has enabled us to classify and grade all trees and hedgerows and to use this classification to inform decisions affecting the masterplan such as the position of the main site access, internal roads and the position of new homes.
The masterplan shows the removal of two sections of hedgerow of lower quality in the north and south of the site to create internal roads and new homes. Where possible, internal roads pass through existing field gates, but even then, small sections of hedgerow either side may need to be removed to make the gap wide enough. One non-veteran tree is removed to create an internal road. This tree is part of a line of trees in an existing hedgerow and was identified based on the classification.
One veteran oak tree is removed to create the main access. The alternative access off the Ashfield roundabout provided for in the Local Plan would result in considerable loss of Grade A trees and habitat suitable for protected species of bats and disruption to a watercourse, the negative effects of which would far outweigh those of the loss of a single veteran oak.
The masterplan is led by landscape and ecology. The proposals allow for biodiversity net gain. The retention and positive management of Beggarspath Wood and the retention of important trees and hedgerows within the site is the cornerstone of habitat protection and enhancement. The creation of new permanently wet ponds and woodland pasture provide further opportunities.
New oak trees will be planted within the site using acorns from veteran oak trees already on the site and the wider Ashfield Estate. These will be the veteran oaks of tomorrow. New hedgerows comprising native species will also be planted.
The scheme will also deliver a large area of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) that will be located partly in Beggarspath Wood and partly to the east of the A27 in Luzborough Plantation – as envisaged by the Local Plan. The Luzborough Plantation proposals will be the subject of a separate planning application. Delivery of the SANG and its long term management will be secured through a binding S106 agreement. This Greenspace will provide a significant local resource and benefit to the residents of Whitenap and the wider area.
The vision for Whitenap is clearly articulated in The Ashfield Design and Community Code – Luzborough (September 2018) which can be viewed elsewhere on this website, link below. The section on The Ashfield Partnership on page 11 explains the relationship between the landowner and the three developers who will deliver the new homes and other elements of the scheme.
The Ashfield Partnership comprises the landowner - the Ashfield Estate - and three Dorset-based developers, Wyatt Homes, Morrish Homes and C G Fry & Son Ltd. The landowner will retain ownership of key “public” parts of the site and its hinterland and as such has a long-term commitment to creating beautiful development and a thriving new community. The involvement of the developers at this stage means that we can be confident that what we are showing on the masterplan can actually be built.
There is the opportunity to provide a walking / cycling route through Beggarspath Wood on the route of the easement for the powerlines. This would provide a direct route between the northern parts of the site / Tadburn and the Luzborough Plantation SANG and North Baddesley beyond via the new crossing of Luzborough Lane.
There would be alternative albeit less direct routes available via walking and cycling routes within the development.
The Local Plan provides for a new access junction onto Whitenap Lane to serve development at Whitenap Barns. This area includes a small paddock of land near Five Elms Drive and The Covert that is to be developed for new homes. There would be pedestrian / cycle links into the remainder of the site but through traffic would be prevented by measures such as bollards or similar design features.
This low level of development would result in a relatively modest number of new vehicle movements along Whitenap Lane in a weekday peak hour. Whilst we recognise that there are periods of the day when Whitenap Lane can get busy, particularly at school start /finish times, the traffic analysis has demonstrated that this level of increase is not significant and not give rise to highway safety issues.
The Local Plan provides for two points of access into the site off Luzborough Lane - one improved access off the Ashfield Roundabout and one new access with the A27 Luzborough Lane to the east of the Ashfield Roundabout.
Our Masterplan shows two new accesses onto Luzborough Lane. Following further detailed evaluation, the access off the Ashfield Roundabout would have adverse impacts on Grade A trees and ecology and would have resulted in a very “engineered” design because of differences in levels between the site and the existing roundabout. Our preferred option is for the main access roundabout to be further east. Luzborough Lane is not a trunk road where there is an emphasis on providing an unimpeded route for through traffic. The access strategy will contribute to reducing vehicle speeds and making a safer environment for all highway users along Luzborough Lane without causing congestion. This includes creating a safe environment for a pedestrian crossing to the Luzborough Plantation SANG.
The role of the Ashfield Estate and the three developers means that we can be very confident that what is shown on the masterplan will be built. The Design and Community Code confirms that the Estate will continue to own parts of the site as well as in its hinterland and as such has a vested interest in delivering a beautiful new community and ensuring its long term health and wellbeing.
Furthermore, the Partnership will also enter into a binding S106 legal agreement with the authorities that will secure the delivery of social, community and off-site transportation infrastructure as well as affordable housing – many of the essential ingredients of a balanced and mixed sustainable new community.