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Setting Down a Visual Marker – Whitchurch, Hampshire.

Setting Down a Visual Marker – The campaign builds to save the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Whitchurch, Hampshire.

Whitchurch is a gateway town to the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which sits on the settlement’s northern boundary. Despite this being a protected landscape, it currently faces a massive threat from opportunist land speculators, trying to develop thousands of houses in this protected area – contrary to national legislation.

Jackie Browne, co-ordinator for Whitchurch Walkers are Welcome says, ‘whilst we all recognise the need for proportionate growth, the proposal to build thousands of houses and industrial units across the walking trails leading to the North Wessex ridge, Watership Down and the Harroway, ‘the old Way’, an ancient long distance chalk trail that dates back some 6,000 years, is simply outrageous, it makes a mockery of the AONB’s protected designation. Increasing the footprint of the town by 33% would destroy its sense of place, its strong rural and heritage identity and threaten the town’s tourism industry.

The campaign to protect the North Wessex Downs AONB at Whitchurch is gathering momentum and has attracted support from notable celebrities including Bill Bryson, who says, “The North Wessex Downs is a rare and lovely landscape, but it is also painfully finite. What a tragedy it would be to lose it.” To remind people of this, Whitchurch Walkers are Welcome and Whitchurch Conservation Group have joined with the North Wessex Downs AONB Partnership, to lay down a visual marker and remind people that they are entering a National Protected Landscape.

Other North Wessex Downs Parishes have shown interest and Jackie for one would be happy to see these visual markers at all major gateway points into the AONB.

Pictured alongside Jackie (centre) are David Gosling, Whitchurch Conservation Group, Councillor Lucie Follett Maitland, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Councillor for the ward of Whitchurch, Overton and Laverstoke, Paul Miller, the Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council representative to the Council of Partners (CoP) of the NWDAONB, whose aim is to enhance and protect the natural beauty of the AONB and Ann Shepley, Communications Officer for the North Wessex Downs AONB Partnership.

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