Planning Priorities: time to rethink

The timetable for approving Fareham’s Local Plan will have to be re-assessed. With most of life and endeavour currently on hold, the only certainty is that plans will change once the plague has passed.

The urgent and very necessary responses needed to combat COVID-19 have ensured that there will be no ‘getting back to normal’ – leastways, it will be some new kind of normality.

I believe the pre-pandemic timetable for our Local Plan must be changed for three reasons.

Firstly, the priorities demanded by Westminster will, inevitably, be changed. Almost certainly priorities for Health, Housing, Education and Economic reconstruction will need to be reviewed. It may be expected that infrastructure priorities will be redefined, with Roads and Rail investments seeming less vital than transition to full fibre connectivity.

Secondly, the case for greener planning has shifted beyond debate. The pattern of economic stimulus applied after the 2008 global crash cannot be replicated. Public investments will, this time around, demand public return – and that means far more than job recreation. The investment justifications must also demand pro-active support for commercial efforts to combat climate change.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the Local Plan as it stands has no democratic mandate. If the May 2020 local elections had gone ahead our communities would have known exactly what they were voting for. In earlier commentary we had questioned the adequacy of Local Plan consultation. In the post-pandemic rebuilding of the UK we will campaign for far greater devolution of authority to Local Authorities – a shift away from the over-centralisation of recent decades.

It will take some time for our country and communities to recover. We should certainly not crash on with any Local Plan based on old ideas without the support of local people.

This is Fareham in 2020.

3,700 of our local children (nearly 1 in 5) are living in poverty.

That may be better than the UK average but still grim.

No ifs and no buts. This has been created by Tory policies.  They have no shame.

According to the Social Metrics Commission, nationally 14.3 million people in the UK are now in poverty and more than four million people are trapped in deep poverty. Seven million people, including 2.3 million children, are affected by what it terms as “persistent poverty”. An estimated 1.5 million people in the UK are in poverty as a result of benefits cuts and high rents. (source: ByLine Times).

What can you do about it? You can vote Liberal Democrat in May’s local elections. Fareham Libdems fought for and won funding for a second homelessness outreach worker in the borough. Liberal Democrats care and take action.

That’s Why They Call It The Blues

There’s no denying the entrenched Conservative devotion of our parliamentary constituency but in contrast to their large gains elsewhere, Fareham folk bucked the trend, with the Lib Dem vote more than doubling.

The marginal growth (0.7%) in the Tory share of the vote was underwhelming given that they must surely have benefited from former UKIP voters (2.7% in 2017) who this time had no Brexit Party candidate to absorb their anti-EU angst.

Certainly not all former Labour supporters shifted to Green or Yellow – our gains together (9.1%) well exceeded Labour’s 7.1% loss – and some of these gains surely came from the Tory ranks. 

The overall result was entirely as expected – the Conservative majority for Fareham remained about equal to the number of voters who chose not to vote.  Allied to the feedback from our engagement with the community the shifts do, however, reflect a very high regard for the Libdems’ work within Fareham Borough Council.

Whatever happens in national politics, our communities will need to find a way through diktats from Whitehall.  Across Fareham’s local communities we take heart that we have a growing number of folk with their feet on the ground and the good sense to curb the Cons.

Note also that, at last, growing awareness of the climate crisis is beginning to be reflected in voting patterns.  The doubling in the Lib Dem vote came after Fareham Lib Dem councillors “walked the walk” by introducing a Climate Emergencey motion adopted by the Council, and there was also a small increase in the Green vote.

This General Election coincided with a Spring Tide.  Regardless of Whitehall’s lobby-constrained incapacities, our coastal communities know very well that major shifts in all our lives will be needed.