It was standing room only for the 7pm meeting at the Fairground Hall at Weyhill. 321 residents from the villages near the airfield poured into the hall to hear more details of what was proposed, and to learn about the campaign to have the application turned down.
"Until the meeting, many people had no idea of the scale of what was proposed. Some thought it was just another supermarket"
The meeting was introduced by the Chairman of Penton Grafton Parish Council, Deborah Graham, who handed over to Sir George.
"I spoke for ten minutes, putting the application in the broader context of Andover's economy, and of the recently produced Andover Vision Document."
"My case is that we need a Business Park to complement the successful manufacturing and distribution base we have in the town." Sir George paid tribute to the many successful manufcaturing companies in the town, such as Britax, Stannah Lifts and Twinings. "This is a unique opportunity to rebalance the local economy, to offer a wider range of jobs to those who want to work locally and to raise the incomes of those in local employment."
Sir George referred to the recently published Andover Vision document, which urged the town to be ambitious and specifically said that the Airfield should be used to bring new skills into the town and create high quality employment opportunities.
Sir George was followed by Ian Marshall, Chairman of ROADAC, a local campaigning organisation originally set up after a proposal was made to build a unit for mentally ill patients at the formwer Rothsay Hostel. That campaign had a successful outcome, as a nursing home was being built on the site instead.
Following him were Rhonda Smith and Marc Catchpole, who gave more details of the Goodman's application, and of the transport and environmental consequences. The "mega-shed" will be half a mile long, with 200 loading bays; each bay would service three containers an hour. With rigid time-tabling and penalties for being late, drivers would arrive early and risk blocking up local roads while waiting for their slot.
A lively debate ensued, with campaigners putting forward their concerns covering issues of the scale of the development, the design – which doesn’t seem to match the aspiration of the Local Plan , and traffic impact on road safety and environment. Concerns were also expressed about the low levels of traffic estimated in the Developer’s application against what has been experienced in other locations.
In response to a question about the position of Hampshire County Council, who are the Highways Authority, County Cllr David Kirk said that, while there had been informal discussions at officer level, the County Council had not formally responded to TVBC with its views. He also made it clear that HCC would need to satisfy itself as to the true level of vehicle movements and would demand appropriate improvements to the road network to cope.
A lively Q&A session followed the formal presentations, with lots of questions about the process, and how best to make an effective objection to this development. Participants were reminded of the material points to include in any letters of objection and the 7 Key Action Points which people need to take – including voting on Sir George's website!
BBC South Today covered the piece on their 10 O’Clock News slot. BBC Radio 4 Today Programme were also present, capturing input for a piece they are developing supermarket power to be run later in the month.