Making It Up as They Go Along?

September 2, 2016

The Council's July issue of the Alton Area Regeneration News (anybody seen the August one yet ?) says a few things about what they plan for Petersfield Rise, Fontley Way and Dilton Gardens . . . . but does it mean what it says ?


Quite apart from the problem of do we want this 'regeneration' and 'decant', we have the problem of what is even planned ? The fact that one building is being scheduled for demolition, but is not mentioned anywhere in all the documentation coming out since July, is worrying.


 The Masterplan document is the first mention of the use of Alton East. Page 144 of the document lays it out:

* 60 homes to be built

* 5 sites proposed:

Petersfield Rise shops and car park

‘Concrete structure’ on Fontley Way

Youth Club site and car park

Car park and open green space on Bessborough Road

Area between Kingsclere Close and Roehampton Lane


In addition, one of the presentation boards on show during the 'preferred option' phase of the Masterplanning process did not go into specifics as to number of homes, but proposed the use of 4 sites:

Petersfield Rise shops and car park

‘Concrete structure’ on Fontley Way

Youth Club site and car park

Car park and open green space on Bessborough Road


This has now become:

* 30 homes to be built

* 3 sites proposed:

Petersfield Rise shops and car park

The Small Steps/One O'Clock Club site at Fontley Way

Youth Club site and car park


So then of the 5 original proposed sites, 2 have remained over the two years since the masterplanning stage, 3 have been dropped and 1 new one introduced. The shops and community hall at Petersfield Drive and the Alton Youth Club (shut down years ago by the Council, losing us another valuable local facility) have been targeted throughout, and the unused 'concrete structure' at Fontley Way has quietly become the Small Steps building.


In addition, the Council has had nothing to say in any public communication about Sherwood Lodge (the 'White House'), a four-flat late Victorian building adjoining the Petersfield Rise planned demolition zone. We do know that its occupants (it is a Council-owned building) have been given their marching orders, and we do hear that the site is being 'considered' by the Council for decant purposes, so it is puzzling that only a ringing silence comes from the Council on the subject.


Likewise we also hear that the Alton Community School site next to the Small Steps building is also under the Council's consideration for decanting into. Likewise, we hear no comment from the Council on this subject.


The now almost-unused Alton Activity Centre site at the bottom end of Harbridge Avenue has almost disappeared  from public discussion. We are minded that it adjoins the Alton West demolition zone exactly as Sherwood Lodge adjoins Petersfield Rise, and the Alton Community Playschool adjoins Small Steps' Fontley Way site. For all anybody knows, this will after the lapse of a little time come 'under consideration' by the Council or its chosen developer for decanting, and the children's little centre and playground will disappear for ever, much as the facilities at the Alton Youth Club at Dilton Gardens have gone.


The change in emphasis over the years is also interesting. The 'preferred option' presentation board had this to say about the Alton East:


"In addition to the transformation of Alton West, there are opportunities for renewal in Alton East. The local centre at Petersfield Rise could be improved for residents, providing high quality shops and new homes in the form of a residential-led mixed-use development on the existing local centre site and car park.


The Alton Youth Club site and surplus land at Bessborough Road and Fontley Way are well suited for high quality single family homes.



* Petersfield Rise noted as a neighbourhood centre in need of renewal

* Broader retail offer needed for the residents on this side of the Alton

* Too many empty buildings including the Highwayman and Youth Club

* Improvements needed to retail and service buildings"


The Council paper 16-277, which defines the current plans for the Alton East, dwells very firmly on the need to decant residents from Alton East in order to make things easier for the current prospective developer, as apparently all the bidders still in the running in May had asked (not surprisingly) about this. The paper goes on to discuss the possibility of using compulsory purchase powers, after mentioning that effectively the consultants it brought in found the 'preferred option' proposals unworkable. The paper has nothing to say on the subject of 'renewing' or 'improving' Petersfield Rise, and the 'broader retail offer' seems to have been completely dropped. These phrases would seem to have been little more than window-dressing.


A more realistic motive is disclosed in paper 16-277's recommendation that the three sites - Fontley Way, Petersfield Rise and Dilton Gardens -should all be considered as one job lot for planning application purposes, ignoring the fact that these ate three separate sites with three separate local identities. The obvious reason for wrapping the three into one is the convenience of pushing the whole decant proposal through: after all, it'll be either the Council, or its 'chosen development partner', that'll be making the application(s).


So in short, we have vague plans nestled in the ruins of other, older, discarded plans. Just as the first set of proposed changes changed into the second, and now the second has become the third, who knows what form the fourth will take ?


Those who are concerned about the current proposals should come to the Alton Community Hall on Thursday 8th September at 11:00 for a public meeting for all to discuss their feelings on this matter.

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