With friends like these…

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage recently called for decisions on two proposed housing developments in Fareham’s Strategic Gap to be taken away from the Planning Inspectorate, and ruled on instead by the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.

Yes, that Robert Jenrick! The Minister many say should resign because of his part in giving newspaper tycoon Richard Desmond permission for a huge London property development the day before it would have become liable to a £50million Community Infrastructure Levy.

(Community Infrastructure Levy – CIL – is not some obscure, punitive tax imposed at the whim of a Council which Mr Desmond described as “Marxists”. It’s the contribution developers all over the country pay to councils to provide facilities like schools, clinics, road improvements and play areas – the infrastructure put under strain by new housing developments.)

As it happens, Fareham’s Planning Committee this week voted unanimously against the two proposed developments, totalling 190 homes in the countryside between Newgate Lane and the new relief road. (Full story here). But the developers had already appealed because of delay in considering them, so they will go to the Planning Inspectorate.

Fareham’s planning officers cited 14 issues on which the proposals conflict with the Borough’s adopted policy, and elected planning councillors voted 8-0 to back their recommendation of refusal.

It’s disappointing that this clear local consensus should have to be re-examined by an outside official. But at least we have the comfort that HM Planning Inspectors have made several recent rulings protecting Fareham’s Strategic Gap, which benefits Gosport as well as Fareham.

It’s hard to see why Gosport’s MP believes that Robert Jenrick would be a better friend to our countryside. And indeed, any Housing Minister appointed by Boris Johnson should be regarded with suspicion. Johnson’s henchman – some say puppet-master – Dominic Cummings is said to believe that MORE planning decisions should be taken away from local councils and given to Whitehall.

Fareham’s Conservative councillors blame central government for the increasing demands for more house-building. But it’s not so long since those same Tory councillors were standing outside polling stations urging us to vote for – you’ve guessed it – THIS government.

Snarl-up over M-way funding

Progress on the 6,000-home Welborne development is at risk because the Tory Borough Council, County Council and Government cannot get their act together.

The three bodies are playing pass the buck over funding for the new Junction 10 on the M27 which is vital for the project to go ahead.

There was a report last summer saying the money needed to be guaranteed before Hampshire would do the work but it is has still not been sorted.

Now a report for decision on Tuesday (January 14) by the County’s transport chief makes this ominous recommendation: “That the Director of Economy, Transport, and Environment be authorised to make preparations for a potential suspension and termination of the County
Council’s role as scheme promoter to avoid abortive work or expenditure, pending resolution of the funding and delivery arrangements for the Scheme.”

The report calls on the Hampshire County Council(HCC) to seek “firm agreement with Highways England to ensure that there is clarity around their role in the delivery of the motorway elements of the Scheme”.

And it asks HCC to “support and work with Fareham Borough Council to secure Government funding for Welborne to ensure that the Junction 10 Scheme can be fully funded and delivered.”

With the Tory government making elaborate promises to its new-found voters in the North and Midlands, can we have any confidence it will cough up the necessary cash in the  South, where they assume they can take voters for granted?

You can see the full report here.

Welborne needs a rail link

Land has been earmarked alongside the Fareham-Eastleigh railway line for a station to serve the planned 6,000-home garden village at Welborne.
Fareham Lib Dems strongly support the idea – our Planning and Development spokesman Cllr Jim Forrest has convened meetings between Council officers and rail chiefs to advance the project.

Fareham Council has put the case for a Welborne station in its response to a consultation by Transport for the South East.
However, the Council quotes a cost of £68-78million, based on a study by Network Rail.
That figure assumes “maximum risk” for all aspects of the project, with provision of station buildings from the outset. The pressure group Railfuture estimates a basic station could be provided at much lower cost in the early stages of Welborne. See details here.

A single-platform station at Cranbrook, Devon, a similar development to Welborne, opened in 2015 at a cost of £5million.

Giving residents access to a rail link from the start would encourage rail travel rather than car use, building a customer base which would enable a more elaborate station to be developed as the village grows.

A simple station like Botley’s could serve Welborne in its early years