OPEN LETTER TO WINCHESTER CITY COUNCIL
Open space, greenery, nature and wildlife are of vital importance to human health and happiness. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown this into sharp relief. During the UK lockdowns, parks, recreation grounds, nature reserves and other green areas provided some respite from confinement. Since then, open spaces have offered the principal means of spending time with family and friends while maintaining “social distance”. Yet, the post-COVID recovery could threaten these very spaces, with the government’s emphasis on “build build build” yielding new housing targets and planning laws that will make development far easier.
The city of Winchester is surrounded by beautiful countryside, some of it protected through designation as national park or nature reserve or “site of special scientific interest”. Within the city’s settlement boundary, however, the publicly accessible open spaces are fairly small and only a few have limited forms of protection. Several sites listed in the 2016 Local Plan Open Space Strategy have since been developed (e.g. The Valley), as have some areas designated as “locally listed historic parks and gardens” (e.g. Pitt Manor).
The city’s main public sports pitches and recreation grounds sit just outside the settlement boundary. They have remained relatively unthreatened while designated as “countryside”. However, only two sets of playing fields, King George V in Highcliffe and the neighbouring Garrison Ground, are legally protected with Fields In Trust. Community mobilisation has been essential to the process of getting these areas properly protected.
Similar efforts to protect other key areas of recreational open space in and around the city should be considered NOW, in light of the proposed new planning laws. Sites within or just outside the current settlement boundary are particularly vulnerable to development pressure. In addition to long-term protection, some sites could be enhanced through biodiversity management, whereas others would benefit from new recreational facilities or other measures to support public access and use.
 10 Downing Street (2020) ‘Build build build’: Prime Minister announces New Deal for Britain press release, 30 June 2020, link
 Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (2020) Planning for the future consultation, 6 August 2020, link
We are asking Winchester City Council to extend legal protection to all public recreation grounds, sports pitches and parks across the city of Winchester. As a priority, Fields In Trust designation should be sought now for the following open spaces:
North Walls Recreation Ground (including Devil's Island)
Stanmore Recreation Ground
St Matthew’s Field, Weeke
Chilcomb sports ground
St Giles Hill
This campaign was successful!
Further to the Open Letter and discussions with Tesco PLC, the company agreed to sell the Garrison Ground to Winchester City Council in December 2016. The council then committed to safeguard it for sport and leisure use, and has developed an 'urban design framework' that incorporates the Garrison Ground into a Winchester Sport and Leisure Park with sports pitches and play areas alongside new indoor facilities.
We have fed into the consultation process for the park, and encouraged Winchester City Council to protect all remaining playing fields at Bar End with Fields In Trust. THEY HAVE NOW AGREED TO DO SO! (as of early 2020)
Thank you to all who supported these efforts!
FAO: John Allan, Non-executive Chairman, and Dave Lewis, Group Chief Executive, Tesco PLC735 signatures
We write as concerned residents of Winchester in Hampshire, to ask for your support.
As you may know, Tesco PLC owns land at Bar End, Winchester, which is on your asset disposal list. This land was put forward for housing development – presumably by Tesco PLC – via the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) for Winchester's Local Plan.
Tesco PLC's land at Bar End, known as The Garrison Ground, is a prime sport and recreational venue for our community. It is home to the Winchester City Flyers women's and girls' football club and the Winchester and District Girls Football League, as well as to Winchester Amateur Boxing Club. It supports grass training for the Winchester and District Athletics Club, and every year hosts events ranging from Cancer Research UK's 'Race for Life' to the local Fun Fair. It's also an important venue for kickabout football, informal play, and dog walking.
The ongoing use of the Garrison Ground for sport and recreation is essential to our community. The City of Winchester has a shortfall in sports grounds of more than 11 hectares, and desperately needs new publicly accessible swimming pools, sports halls and synthetic turf pitches, to meet the requirements of a growing population and in particular increasing numbers of children and young people. Certain facilities – such as those for gymnastics – are completely absent from the local area. Bar End is the best place for any new facilities, but we will need to retain as much open space as possible there too.
In short – we cannot afford to lose the Garrison Ground to housebuilding or to any other non-sports related development.
Please will Tesco PLC work with us, the residents of Winchester, to protect the Garrison Ground and to develop a community sport and recreational hub at Bar End?
Your land could make all the difference to the future of our City and District. Please give us, and our children, a sporting chance.
To all signatories: you can sign with your name and email address (or phone number if preferred). Upon signing, you will receive a thank you email, which includes an option to unsubscribe from further updates. Thank you for your support!