VILLAGE residents are ‘thrilled’ with the results of a community poll – which to them marks a step forward in protecting a much-loved piece of land.
A total of 889 people voted for the field adjacent to Denmead 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 was criticised for removing a fence around the field, and replacing it with knee high rail fencing.
Residents are worried the land is being prepared for development, which will ‘render the hall useless’, and are fighting to protect it.
But the council said the fence was ‘dilapidated’ and in need of repair and the hall is not under threat.
Villager Janine Pert, who called for the poll to be set up via Winchester City Council, said: ‘For a parish poll the fact that 998 people voted is amazing.
‘Residents who think the land should be rented to the Denmead War Memorial Hall Committee are absolutely thrilled with the results.
‘The passion among voters on the night were high, people really care about this.
‘Many of the voters have lived in Denmead for a long time and love the history of the village.
‘We’re trying to protect the hall itself and I hope now, we can have a discussion with the council to decide the best way forward.
‘They don’t legally have to do anything, but residents need to be listened to.
‘The question upon which the poll was based was supposed to be agreed by the council, I was never told a peppercorn rent wasn’t viable, so if that’s their comeback now it’ll be disappointing.’
Of the 5,967-strong electorate, 998 ballot papers were issued, providing a turnout of 16.72 per cent.
A total of 106 people voted ‘no’ in the poll.
Residents said DPC took down the original fence, leaving the space open and dangerous for the children who play there.
Councillor Paula Langford Smith, chairman of DPC, said: ‘We aren’t at all surprised at the results, as people were told the War Memorial Hall was under threat which simply isn’t the case.
‘With almost 6,000 people entitled to vote, the actual number of ‘yes’ votes was very low, so it’s clear most people didn’t feel affected by the issue to make them want to vote.
‘The poll is on the agenda for the meeting today, but we have limited powers to do what the poll asked for. The Local Government Act states councils are not able to give peppercorn rents.’