The Heritage Bank has been given copies of official County Council documents which describe a battle that was raging in the area 40 years ago.
Hampshire’s proposals states that “It seems probable that the number of visitors wishing to visit the top of Butser Hill will increase dramatically in future years, posing the problem of extensive areas of car parking and the need for improving the network of completely unsuitable minor access roads.”
“Therefore it is suggested that an alternative method of getting people to the top of Butser Hill should be investigated. The requirement would be for a cheap form of transport that could operate a shuttle service between the Park Reception area at Cannon Ball Corner and the hilltop. This must be achieved without spoiling the appearance of the slopes to Butser Hill and, therefore, the tracks, rails or means of support must be largely concealed.”
“Perhaps some form of monorail with an inconspicuous low track could serve the purpose” state the proposals.
The same proposals contained plans to build over 4 miles of roads inside the Queen Elizabeth Forest to provide “scenic drives” for cars and a one-way system of loop roads to serve a number of picnic sites in the woods. Ideas for camp sites (and possibly even large-scale caravan parks) have also been discussed.
These proposals were set out in a new ‘Management Plan for the Butser Queen Elizabeth Country Park ‘ in November 1970. In March 1971 Buriton Parish Council’s Annual Meeting recognised that some of the proposals could be beneficial by providing somewhere where people visiting the countryside in ever increasing numbers for their leisure could go to learn about nature.
A local Action Group was formed to fight the more extreme parts of the proposals, petitions were signed, letters written to local newspapers and Members of Parliament lobbied.
By the end of the year the County Council had adjusted its ideas, initial planning applications were withdrawn and an amended scheme prepared. Instead of scenic drives for hundreds of cars, one short length of forest road (1,350 yards) was agreed, larger picnic areas were omitted and car parks re-located to fit into the landscape. Nothing ever came of the suggestion for a monorail on Butser Hill.
The local Action Group, led by Peggy Larken, became the Buriton Village Association and has subsequently supported the Parish Council on other important issues. It celebrates its 40th birthday in 2012.