Community poll could decide future of field next to Denmead landmark

A PUBLIC poll which could determine the future of a much-loved piece of land next to a village landmark is to be held.

Sunday, 25th March 2018, 2:22 pm
Updated Sunday, 25th March 2018, 2:25 pm
Residents will decide whether or not they want a field next to Denmead War Memorial Hall to be rented out cheaply

A PUBLIC poll which could determine the future of a much-loved piece of land next to a village landmark is to be held.

Denmead residents will be asked whether or not they want the field adjacent to the area’s War Memorial Hall to be rented to the hall’s committee for a ‘peppercorn’ price.

The land is owned by Denmead Parish Council (DPC), which received backlash for removing a ‘dilapidated’ fence around the field, and replacing it with knee-high rail fencing.

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Residents fear the council is opening up the land in order to sell it for development – rendering the War Memorial Hall useless.

Janine Pert, 62, lives near to the site and called for the poll, which is being overseen by Winchester City Council.

She said: ‘The reason people are up in arms is because if the land and car park next to the hall if is sold off for building, the hall is rendered useless.

‘The council took down the original fence leaving the space open and dangerous for the children who play there.

‘The council was sent 176 letters asking it to leave the fence up. They said people couldn’t use the field as the gate outside it was always locked – I went there a number of times and it never was.

‘I’ve taken the steps I believed were correct to call this poll – but no public meeting has been held, and there’s been no dialogue with the parish council.

‘This is all being done out of passion by the people of Denmead.

‘We believe the council are opening up the land for development.’

The hall was built in the 1920s to honour the locals killed and wounded in the First World War.

A petition on which asks DPC to keep the grounds as a safe fenced play area for children has received almost 950 pledges of support.

Councillor Paula Langford-Smith, chairman of Denmead Parish Council, said: ‘The fence was dilapidated.

‘All we did was open the space up for use so that we didn’t have to dispose of it, we put the knee rail fencing up as a compromise because the Denmead War Memorial Committee was unhappy with nothing there.

‘We’re not legally allowed to rent the field out for a peppercorn price, so the poll is pointless.

‘But we will consider the results at our next full council meeting on April 7.’

Responding to claims the poll had not been put through the correct processes, chief executive of Winchester City Council, Laura Taylor, said: ‘A request for a parish poll was put to Denmead Parish Council at their meeting on February 21, 2017 – but it is the returning officer for the city council that organises the poll, just like many other elections.

‘There are several ways a parish poll can be called and the fact this request for a poll was raised at a parish council meeting rather than a parish meeting has been discussed with the parish council.

‘I support the decision to hold the poll rather than ask the resident to request the poll again at a different meeting.

‘The outcome of a parish poll is not binding but enables the views of parishioners to be heard on local matters.’