BROWNFIELD sites are moving to the top of the planning agenda as civic chiefs work to plan housing for the next 15 years.

Campaigners are calling for Winchester City Council to focus on previously developed land before considering greenfield that would be lost under the Royaldown and Micheldever New Town proposals.

The Save South Winchester group, set up to fight Royaldown, a plan for 5,000 houses between Oliver’s Battery and Hursley, is calling for the city council to review their brownfield site definitions.

Recently Cllr Caroline Horrill, Tory group leader, said she was surprised the council only had 18 sites on its brownfield register.

Hursley resident and Hampshire county councillor Jan Warwick said: “I hope the city council will now take a good look at what the potential is to accommodate development on any site which has simply just previously been developed rather than only refer to their very limited brownfield register.

“Consequently, any site noted as ‘previously developed land’ in the SHELAA (developers’ wish list) should fit within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) definition and could be added to a new Winchester brownfield land register.”

But one site long considered brownfield is Bushfield Camp, the former Army base near Badger Farm disused since the mid-1970s. The camp, not to be confused with Bushfield Down, is designated in the current local plans as a potential business park.

However, the camp is so long disused that much of it has reverted back to nature and might no longer be considered ‘brownfield’.

The definition on the Planning Portal website of the Department of Communities and Local Government says the definition of ‘Brownfield’ excludes “land that was previously-developed but where the remains of the permanent structure or fixed surface structure have blended into the landscape in the process of time.”

The Chronicle has reported the campaign to preserve nearby Bushfield Down, the countryside between the camp and Badger Farm.

Campaigner Bo Priestley said by the Government definition the camp was not longer brownfield but had over 40-plus years reverted back to countryside: “Though wooden huts still marched across Bushfield Camp site until the army abandoned it in the 1970s, today it seems like the place that time forgot. Nature has reclaimed this 20-hectare site, once part of Compton Down, but now cut off by Badger Farm Road.

“The tarmac paths and parade ground are still there, plus a few brick walls, but the rest of the camp has melted back into a joyous tangle of brambles and scrub, loved by rabbits, birds and butterflies.

“Fifty years on, I wonder, is this now more ‘greenfield’ than ‘brownfield’?”

Adrian Fox, city council strategic planning manager, at the recent local plan advisory panel meeting, said many people were confused by what ‘brownfield’ means.

“There are sites around the city that one would assume are brownfield but are not,” although he did not name any such sites.

Mr Fox said many people wrongly thought back gardens are brownfield.

As reported in the Chronicle last week, a call for brownfield sites will be part of the consultation over the local plan, set to be launched on Monday February 15.

The Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) wants brownfield to be the priority for development. It says there is enough brownfield land in Hampshire for 27,900 homes.

Cllr David Killeen, chairman of Hursley Parish Council, said “as an example the Save South Winchester team did a quick review of Winchester City Council’s own list of current SHELAA sites in the Winchester District but not included in the Winchester Brownfield Register. We found 36 sites on previously developed land that could accommodate approximately 2,300 new homes and new employment without the need to touch our green fields and rural downlands. With a bit of effort, we could have the best of both for our area-protected rural green belt and sustainable brownfield development.”