News and updates

Ringwood Society    Spring Newsletter 2020

Well here we are again with the Spring Newsletter –  although at the time of writing we seem to be in the middle of a wild monsoon rather than approaching spring. 

The talk by Kevin Stubbs in the Meeting House on Traditional Buildings and Materials in Ringwood was very successful and the Society Exhibition highlighting the Listed Buildings in the town is proving very popular to the extent that we have already been asked to have another exhibition next year. Thanks to Joe Moorhouse and Mary Baldwin in particular for producing the whole event. It is interesting to note that some “historic” buildings are not listed and we have made a request for nominations for new entries. It is also distressing that many of the existing Listed Buildings are empty and two are almost derelict.

We keep battling on with our projects and I am pleased to see that the beech hedging has been planted along Mansfield Road. I am sure it will look great in a few years time. We are also looking at extending the planting and improvements on both sides of the road but things are not straightforward and there are always financial constraints. Sadly there is little progress regarding the human sundial in the Market Place although apparently things will start happening when the weather improves. Other plans include planting along the metal fencing in Carvers and a plea for more seats along the Bickerley.

The proposal for a Neighbourhood Plan is under discussion by Ringwood Town Council and there will be a lot of public consultation. It is recalled that some years back New Forest District Council had a Local Plan based on development north of Hightown Road but this was made obsolete by the Government’s direction to have a new plan based on far more housing to satisfy growing demand. This does talk about infrastructure etc but in the absence of detail there needs to be a plan to take Ringwood into the future. There are obviously many things to consider, some of them conflicting. New development could bring new opportunities and prosperity but it is important that Ringwood retains its identity and character and does not become just another commuter town on the map. 

Jeff Wickens     Chairman          February 2020

Ringwood Society Autumn Newsletter 2019

It has been a busy time on the Society front. The developers of Strategic Site 14  – Land North of Hightown Road – have produced their plans and held a public  exhibition at The Elm Tree. The plans are not a lot different to those in the submission document and include a link road onto the high level A31  Poulner/Hightown junction. Whilst recognising  local trepidation about the proposals  there is also concern about the developers apparent laissez faire approach towards how the junction would be made, the number of heavy vehicles it and the road through the estate would be taking as part of the link road to Christchurch Road and the way they are viewing  the site in isolation to  other development including that on Site 13    Land at Moortown Lane. Talking of which, the owners of this site commissioned a lengthy report which recommends differences to the layout shown in the submission report, deleting the north part of the link road and an increase in the number of dwellings.  Again the plans do not appear to reflect other development.  Overall the Society strongly recommends that there should be a design brief for both sites.

There has also been news which very basically involves an Agency Grant to Hampshire County Council to make improvements in Ringwood. Their ideas include completely shutting off West Street from the A31, reversing the flow of traffic along Meeting House Lane (under review) and a “welcome” sign  and central reservation planting between the town centre roundabout and the A31 underpass roundabout.  Some of this is controversial and whilst the grant is to be grasped with open arms, there are those who think the money could be better spent.

The Society is looking to hold another exhibition at The Meeting House, this time on the Conservation Area and listed buildings.  As a prelude to this Mary Baldwin has kindly agreed to speak on the history of some of the listed buildings at our Open Evening Meeting on MONDAY  21st October in the Ann Rose Hall, Greyfriars at 7.30pm.  We look forward to seeing you there.

Ringwood Society Autumn Newsletter 2018

Wow!  what a summer we have had. Wonderful weather, the royal wedding and the FA cup on a big screen in the Market Place, the Pedal Car Race and, of course, the Carnival.  Next year will see the return of Fanfare for Spring on Saturday 18th May.  There is no doubt that Ringwood punches above its weight and long may it continue. 

On the Society front the revised Local Plan has been published at long last. The number of dwellings has been reduced but the density will be increased and there will be a link road of sorts which will  join on to the A31 at Poulner.  I am still having trouble reconciling  the Council’s statement that most of the housing will be for older people moving into the area. Where are they coming from and what about our younger people who cannot get on to the property ladder?  Hopefully high density will not mean poor design and poor quality which will only cause problems in future years.  What about existing houses which will inevitable become available with an ageing population?  If the current  pattern continues they will probably be doubled in size and made to look like New England beach houses – which is not unwelcome if done properly. 

Our efforts to improve the town have slowed down due to budget considerations but we soldier on. The good news is that the Fridays Cross clock has been returned to its former glory and was awarded  a Society Certificate of Merit  and we are looking forward to the new Fridays Cross sign which will be painted above The Cellar. 

The A31 is as congested as ever but we are assured that once the improvement works actually commence, they should take no longer than a record 33 weeks to complete. 

We had a successful exhibition in the Meeting House and a town centre clean-up day in May which we are aiming to repeat in November – watch this space.

Want to know more about the Local Plan? – Cllr  Jeremy Heron will be speaking on this at our Open Meeting on Thursday 18th October, 7.30pm at Greyfriars. I look forward to seeing you there.

Jeff Wickens – Chairman Oct 2018

Our Response to Local Plan Review 2016 – 2036

There is no doubt that additional housing is needed and Ringwood must take its fair share. The Local Review is comprehensive but does not address many important issues.

It is noted that whilst the present NFDC plan calls for 196 houses per annum, the new plan calls for an additional  587 – 687 more houses per annum ( a total of 1280 in Ringwood in addition to the 130 already planned) .  It is appreciated that NFDC and HMG want a step change in planning policy but trebling the number and confining it to the areas outside the National Park needs more explanation.

The Plan states that the need to build more houses in the NFDC area  is driven by an increase of 22,000 in the 65+ age group.  It is not clear whether this means (a)  the majority of the proposed 1280 homes in Ringwood  will be for this group – if so, it will significantly affect the type of housing  and facilities required  and (b) whether the majority of the group will be moving into the area to retire or are already resident in the area and want to downsize  or go into residential accommodation.

Apparently the number of working people will fall but it is not clear whether  this refers to the population indigenous to the NFDC area.  It is submitted that there will be a demand from people wanting to live in Ringwood but work elsewhere.  There is an opinion that the majority of those presently working in and around Ringwood do not live in Ringwood and the majority of those living in Ringwood work elsewhere all of which places a high demand on traffic routes.

The new Plan specifically calls for new infrastructure ( para 5.92 – 5.102) but it does not indicate any actual provision at this stage. Taking account of the infrastructure facilities etc (  which are addressed in Appendix A)  there is unlikely to be sufficient room for them and the stated number of houses. This would suggest that the intention would be to provided the facilities elsewhere but in practice there is little or no other  space available.

Serious consideration must be given to the road system, traffic and access to sites P and Q. Christchurch Road, Hightown Road and Eastfield Road are totally unsuited to the amount of traffic they are expected to cope with at the moment let alone with another possible 1000+ cars. The report recognises but makes light of this issue and this is a serious fault.  Indeed the consultant’s Transport Impact Conclusions call only for” mitigation” alterations to major junctions and traffic lights to control the Eastfield Road / A31 which we submit would be dangerous and cause major congestion. We call for a link road or at least provision for a link road between the A31 with Christchurch Road and major changes  to the A31 junction at Poulner. Highways England steadfastly refuse any improvements and this  “logjam” must be removed. If provision is not made now the land will be build on and there will not be another opportunity to  deal with access and congestion  issues.  It is submitted that the present policy of making people walk of ride bicycles to work and shops is unrealistic.

The report indicates that there is no wish to build on Green Belt land but site P is wholly within the Green Belt. Part of the site is presently used for recreational activities which were provided because previous reports stated that Ringwood was short of recreational space. Site P is shown as high value Green Belt and there should be an assumption of not allowing development. However there is a threat that if the target is not achieved then other land must be found elsewhere. The question is where ?

There is no mention in the report of changing the use of land. It is submitted that there are sites in Ringwood presently used for light industry/commercial uses  which would be better located elsewhere allowing the  town centre sites to be used for  housing, especially for the elderly.  Carvers Industrial Estate, for example,  may be able to accommodate  100+ homes depending on the type/density.

The report mentions the importance of Local Sustainability Objectives including the importance of conserving heritage ( part 4  table 4.1), avoiding over development (5.85),  good design (5.74) and, local distinctiveness (5.75).  It is very important to preserve the identity of the town but it is questioned whether this is possible if the target is to be reached. There is a fear that there will be high rise buildings and very small houses which will not pass the test of time.

The proposed major improvement to the slip road/ exit from Ringwood – A338/A31 junction must be reinstated. This presently causes major congestion causing significant  environmental, economic and social concerns .

Throughout the new  plan there is a threat  that if  NFDC does not build all 1280 houses, irrespective of any infrastructure needs, and does not encroach into the Green Belt then developers will have carte blanche to build wherever they want and/or HMG will draw up  plans  whether the residents like it or not.  Surely it would be better do away with the threats and  look sensibly and  holistically at what could be provided on the land taking account of recognised criteria including the type of housing, employment and infrastructure requirements  both now and in the future and  come up with a number of houses which can realistically be built.

If infrastructure requirements are to be sacrificed in order to achieve the 1280 target there  should be a risk assessment to determine the consequences as regards traffic congestion, access,  safety,  structural  considerations and the impact on the quality and ecological importance of the National Park  and other important  sites. A 10% increase in population requires 10% more facilities.

Could this be another example of Governments entering into situations with no clear plan of how to deal with the consequences?

Jeff Wickens  – Ringwood Society – Sept 2016

Chairman’s AGM Report

New businesses in Ringwood

It’s been a hectic few months. Regretfully Ringwood has not escaped the recession and lots of shops and businesses have come and gone. The good news is that Allum & Sidaway are moving into one of the High Street’s most historic shops, Framptons is being rejuvenated and there will be a new coffee shop at Fridays Cross.

Local developments

The Government’s new planning proposals continue apace and it is good to hear at the autumn meeting that New Forest District Council should be able to counter at least some of the more extreme demands for development.

There are some challenging times ahead which will be especially important for Ringwood, as without a vibrant commercial centre the character of the conservation area will quickly change.

On the one hand there is no doubt that Ringwood has some quality shops offering great service and is well placed as a pleasant and convenient shopping location. The high cost of travel could benefit the town and there is likely to be a future increase in housing and associated population who will need to shop.

On the other hand the recession, the growing trend for on-line shopping and the competition from superstores and complexes such as Castle Point and West Quay are a threat.

Overall, I do wonder whether or not there will be an increase in the demand for more retail development and, if so, where it will be located. There is apparently a trend towards bigger shops and it will be interesting to see how long it will be before there is an approach for out-of-town retail development on the ex-Wellworthy site. It would be a great shame if there were long term gaps in the main shopping areas and perhaps there could be a policy which aims to take a planned approach to these issues rather than see them happen piecemeal.

Southampton Road enhancement

The new planters and seats have now been installed in Southampton Road and, whilst I know there was some controversy about the cost and disruption, I personally think that the whole area has been much improved.

Meeting House Lane

The Meeting House has re-opened after extensive renovation and looks wonderful and if you have not been in the building recently, I urge you to visit and you will see what I mean.

The Ringwood Gateway building is well on the way. Personally I still don’t like it but the design for the new piazza looks very promising.

News about the Society

By the AGM we should have our new leaflet and we hope to unveil our website and email address. These have taken a while to develop and I would especially like to thank our members Anne Osborne and Ann Cole for all their patience and hard work.

Thanks also to our President Steve Rippon-Swaine for the financial support in making these projects possible. The AGM will see Gladys McBurnie retire. Gladys has been our Honorary Treasurer for many years and we thank her for her long and loyal service.

Apologies for my non appearance at the Autumn meeting – I had the opportunity to go to Nepal and it was interesting to see a place where I doubt there are any planning laws at all!

The AGM will be at Greyfriars on Thursday 15th March at 7.30pm and our speaker will be Executive Member Mary Baldwin who will be talking about the Meeting House.

Jeff Wickens
February 2011