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Long wait enrages residents

FURIOUS campaigners fighting controversial plans to build a block of flats close to their homes were forced to wait more than three hours before hearing their fate.

Around 30 residents sat patiently in the Hart Council chamber while councillors discussed a number of other applications in detail and had a refreshment break.

And when the application finally came up for discussion it was all over in about half an hour, with development control councillors backing the flats plan for land behind the Oatsheaf pub in Crookham Road.

Residents slammed the decision and are preparing to call in the Ombudsman to investigate.

Karen Ingala, who spoke against the application at the meeting, said: “The council really seemed to be on the side of the developers in that they defended their decision to deny the public information.

“In the week leading up to our residents meeting outdated plans were on file for the public to view.

“Short of employing the services of a psychic, how are the public to know there are amended plans hidden away on file?

“It is of no use to quote policies at the public when there are such serious consequences to withholding information, even if it was inadvertent.”

Mrs Ingala said residents were unhappy that councillors did not even debate the loss of trees the development would cause.

“It appears that while councillors can debate minor points ad nauseam, we the public have only three minutes to make our points without the opportunity to shout from the public gallery.

“It would appear that time considerations work in favour of the council at the expense of the public long-term interest. You cannot replace a mature oak tree in less than 50 years.

“One councillor briefly mentioned placing a preservation order on the established trees on the south boundary but such was the committee’s apparent rush to get through the evening that this point was not debated. Debate — what debate?

“There is little comfort for residents if I am commended on an eloquent speech but we achieve nothing in terms of results for reasonable requests.”

Mrs Ingala, who lives close to the proposed development in Stanton Drive, added: “Why, in addition to putting thousands of new homes at either end of Fleet, do we need to have an extra 40 flats squeezed into a pocket handkerchief piece of land? This will change the nature of the locality overnight and ruin the quality of life for so many people.

“It seems that while we won the sympathy vote of a number of councillors their hands were tied by national policy — this is wrong.”

Urging councillors to throw out the plans, Mrs Ingala said: “As a teacher and a mother I understand the need for low cost housing but we all deserve better than this monstrosity.”

She warned the flats would overlook people living in Fraynes Croft, which will be less than 11 metres away, and more than 20 trees, including mature oaks and the wildlife they support, would be lost.

Hart refused permission to knock down a coach depot, plus two houses off Crookham Road, to make way for a three-storey development comprising 42 one and two-bedroom flats last May.

Councillors ruled it would have resulted in over-development of the site and overlooking of nearby homes.

A government inspector threw out the scheme before Christmas but the applicants submitted a revised scheme of 40 flats which has now been approved.

Councillors on the Fleet and Church Crookham Planning Advisory Group objected to the latest application, warning of their “serious concern” about extra cars using “the busiest road junction in the district”.

But the development control committee approved it after a report from planning chief Ron Percival, even though the only difference between the two applications was that the latest did not have two flats in the roof facing Fraynes Court.

“I believe that the inspector’s concerns about overlooking have been overcome,” his report states.


Charlotte Neal
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