Many constituents in Whitchurch have contacted me on this important local issue.
Of course I understand the concern at the prospective loss of a well-established building that has provided valuable services over many years, and its replacement by a high density development. The decision is initially one for Basingstoke and Deane Council to determine.
What is happening in Whitchurch is a consequence of two policies from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. First, he has given Hampshire County Council a very high target for new housing provision in the Structure Plan, and directed them to find the necessary sites through the district councils. This has put extra pressure on small towns such as Whitchurch - who are being obliged to find space for more new dwellings than the local authorities believe to be necessary.
Second, he has taken powers to "call in" any planning application where the proposed density is below a certain figure, and he can then increase it.
This is behind the renewed activity in Whitchurch and other towns and villages in my constituency.
I have opposed the figures in the Hampshire Structure Plan. I believe Hampshire should make provision for the growing numbers needed to satisfy local demand; local people are entitled to decent homes, and we should provide affordable housing for those on low incomes. But Hampshire should not continue to provide for further inward migration from London and the Rest of the South East.
Finally, nursing homes face considerable difficulties. On the one hand, they have had to comply with a number of regulations that have driven up costs; on the other hand, Social Services departments have been squeezed by Whitehall and have been unable to increase the fees they pay for residents whom they sponsor. The local authority rates lag way behind the commercial ones in Hampshire. A combination of these two factors have led many nursing and residential home owners in my constituency to stop trading and sell up.