RON TATE: The Centenary Wood idea struck a chord

Residents and tree wardens at Centenary Wood
Residents and tree wardens at Centenary Wood

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IN 2014 Havant planners rose to the challenge to find a suitable way to celebrate the Royal Town Planning Institute’s (RTPI) centenary.

They had just negotiated a development agreement linked to a new housing estate, known as Redlands Grange, at Emsworth, built by Bloor Homes and Bellway.

The agreement included the landscaping of more than 40 acres of open space, which comprised more than 12,000 native woodland plants.

A large proportion of these were planted during the celebration year to form new woodland in the heart of the area that will be known as Centenary Wood.

Since then, as the housing drew nearer to completion, new and established nearby residents have been engaged as more features have been added – footpaths, parking, seats, footpaths, play areas, a community orchard and an oak and steel sculpture that takes inspiration from the surrounding history, landscape and landmarks; the South Downs, the Hampshire/Sussex boundary, the local river, bridge, water mill and church steeple.

During 2015, Hampshire Farm Meadows was decided by public vote as the future name of the public open space.

To mark the milestone of the formal handover of the land, officials and residents gathered in November to see the mayor of Havant, Councillor Faith Ponsonby, accompanied by her consort and husband Michael, plant an oak tree and inspect the newly-installed sculpture designed by Charlie Carter.

The idea for Centenary Wood struck a strong chord.

Often planning is seen as just buildings but, week in and week out, planners are discussing planting and landscaping schemes that contribute towards the enhancement and creation of places.

Planners must be instrumental in the planting of millions of trees every year and they will survive as amenities to be enjoyed for generations.

It is very special how new residents and established occupiers of nearby housing are integrating with a common purpose, to develop the space in the way they want.

In the late 1960s planning pioneered community engagement and this project demonstrates how this involvement can add to the success of place-making.

A poignant note was struck by Havant Borough Council’s senior landscape architect, Michelle Good. While expressing her delight at the works so far, she drew attention to the recent and sudden sad passing of Councillor Colin Mackey who had devoted much energy to his involvement with the project.