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