Post it, don’t pencil it

Everyone who wants to see an end to Tory domination in Fareham is urged to register for postal votes to help Lib Dems make major gains in Hampshire’s biggest – ever Local Elections on May 6.

And the need to vote is heightened by the Government’s announcement that electors voting in person will have to bring their own pen or pencil to the polling station – and the risk of voters being turned away if they forget to do so.

Of course preventing the sharing of objects we handle is vital in curbing the spread of Covid-19. But a much easier and cheaper way to make voting safe would be to hold all-postal elections – something the Government has stubbornly refused to do.

There have been big changes since the last local elections in May 2019, and with increasingly centralised control from Whitehall, the local Conservatives are in disarray.

Several former Conservative councillors from Fareham have already turned independent – no longer willing to toe their party line. Senior leadership has come under scrutiny, with a Fareham – based Tory County Council cabinet member resigning after being found to have broken council rules.

Fareham’s Liberal Democrats chairman Peter Davison said: “ Last year’s Local Elections were postponed and so there’s now a re al opportunity to make a difference.

“We will be contesting 15 Fareham Council seats and a further 7 for the County Council. The political shape of councils across Hampshire may soon look very different – especially if the turnout rises above the usual 40%.

Peter Davison says, “ We are finding that voters are very keen to have their say, but we sense that the ruling Conservatives are rather hoping that voter numbers will remain low , and would rather postpone the election yet again. ”

“By contrast, Fareham’s Lib Dem councillors and all our candidates are still working hard for their communities. Their everyday work of sorting local concerns is very important and voters now really appreciate the local Lib Dems’ attention to detail. ’

“Postal votes are far safer and easier, and anyone can apply for one. The Conservatives are just 12 weeks from their day of reckoning – make sure your vote brings them to account.’

Goodbye garden village?

A funding fiasco means that the 6,000-home Welborne estate will be less effective than promised in providing homes for people who really need them.

The developers, Buckland, will have to pay a bigger share of the cost of improving Junction 10 on the M27. Buckland has agreed to double its contribution from £20million to £40million. But they say this means they will have to reduce the proportion of affordable homes provided as part of the development.

A revised planning application for Welborne can be seen on the planning pages on Fareham Council’s website. The application number is P/17/0266/OA and residents have until January 25 to comment on it.

Bukland will also now be unable to provide Passivhaus buildings – homes and other buildings which need less energy for heating and cooling – or Life Time Homes, which are designed to be accessible and adaptable for everyone from young families to older and/or disabled people.

The shortfall comes because the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership has withdrawn £25million it had pledged for the £75million junction. Delays to the Welborne project meant the LEP’s contribution could not be spent before a government-imposed deadline. But Welborne cannot go ahead without guaranteed funding for the junction.

A Government contribution to the junction will have to be increased from £10million to £30million via Homes England.

Jim Forrest, Lib Dem spokesman on Planning and Development on the Council, said: “Reductions in affordable housing make a nonsense of the argument for developing on greenfield sites. And the loss of adaptable homes undermines efforts at all levels of government to fight the climate emergency.

“If Ministers are serious in their estimates of housing need, they should have enabled the LEP to stand by their commitment. Instead they are undermining the concept of a Garden Village, and running the risk of making Welborne yet another over-priced, soulless estate.”

This revised Viability Statement attached to the new application sets out Buckland’s arguments for the changes.

We need councillors, not cyphers

Fareham’s Local Plan could be derailed because of yet another change of mind by Whitehall, yet the Council committee which oversees planning strategy is not due to meet until after the May elections.

The Full Council meeting on December 17 was told that the Government had vetoed a reduction in the assessment of Fareham’s housing need. Numbers would be revised back upwards – just as consultation closed on the Publication Local Plan which had been based on the reduced figure.

The news came days after the Chairman of the Planning and Development Scrutiny Panel told members that its January meeting would be cancelled. No other meetings were scheduled in the current municipal year.

But even before the housing announcement, Panel members were unhappy at the cancellation.

Councillors Jim Forrest and Shaun Cunningham, the Lib Dem and Independent spokesmen on the Panel, had written to the chairman asking him to reconsider.

They cited a number of important and urgent issues which the Panel should be considering, including:

  • The future of the Welborne plan, which is overshadowed by doubts over funding for the motorway junction it depends on;
  • A progress report on schemes to solve the Nitrates issue, in particular clarification on how a proposal for rewilding the Strategic Gap between South Fareham and Stubbington could be funded;
  • The future of our shopping centres – district and local centres as well as the town centre. Threats to traditional shopping were apparent even before the impact of the pandemic.
  • Prospects for improving fibre-optic cabling in the borough to meet the growing demand for online access for work, shopping and leisure – again a trend accelerated by the pandemic.
  • Examination of the Partnership for South Hampshire’s Statement of Common Ground and its suggestion of Strategic Development Opportunity Areas.

Jim Forrest says: “The modern council structure, giving power to a six-member Executive has led to quicker decision-making. But it needs close scrutiny by specialist panels of councillors, to ensure decisions are well thought-out and reflect what residents want. Planning and Development isn’t the only panel being starved of business.

“Councillors are being reduced to cyphers, rubber-stamping the actions of an increasingly unaccountable elite. Fareham needs the support of all its councillors in fighting off Whitehall’s vision of an urban sprawl across the whole of South Hampshire.”

Swans in danger

A local resident has recently reported a number of dead swans in the Fareham Creek area, and they have been found to have had Avian Flu.

Fareham Borough Council’s Environment Department have confirmed to
Councillor Katrina Trott that they are liaising with both the lead agencies, DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and the
Environment Agency.

Katrina has now received this report from FBC’s Head of
Environmental Health:
“As you know now the swans that died a couple of weeks ago were
tested by DEFRA and the result was positive for Avian Flu, also
contacted and advised at the time were APHA (Animal and Plant
Health Agency) and Public Health England.

“It appears that there was a process in place where DEFRA advertise
the DEFRA helpline on 03459 33 55 77, and this is where dead
birds should be reported. They will either come and remove the birds
for testing and/or contact the Council’s depot to arrange removal of
the birds.

“It seems the APHA are only interested in more than 5 birds
and that’s really only for surveillance in the environment and to allow
them to take measures to protect farmed birds.

“Public Health England have informed us that the strains of Avian flu
found in the UK recently pose little risk to human health and we were
advised yesterday that we could put signs up if we wanted to.

“Coincidentally yesterday some more dead swans were reported on
the Cams Golf Course side and we are arranging for signage to be put up as soon as possible now, which will basically advise the public
not to go near dead birds and advise them to report to the DEFRA
helpline.

” We urge you NOT to walk along the coastline of Fareham Creek
where swans congregate and certainly not to feed the birds at
this time.”

Paula Headley, a caring and very concerned local resident contacted Katrina, and DEFRA, RSPB and RSPCA. Fareham Borough Council
is at last producing and placing notices.

Praise must go to Paula who had already placed notices in the area to warn the public, as shown here.

Reprieve for Downend Road

Ashley Brown of the Portchester Focus Team writes: We are pleased that the Planning committee again refused the Planning Application from Miller Homes to develop 350 dwellings east of Downend Road.

As in the previous refusal the issue was all about traffic generation and traffic/pedestrians crossing the Downend Railway road bridge.

The developer, in light of the previous refusal, proposed that there should be a pedestrian footpath on the western side of the bridge with single file traffic controlled by traffic lights over the bridge.

The issues that came out in the Planning committee discussion were that the proposed development would increase the traffic on Downend Road by a third.

The pavement over the bridge did not link to the development because anybody walking out of the proposed development would have to cross Downend Road to get on to the footpath.

The proposed traffic lights did not have a pedestrian crossing phase: if it had, this would lengthen the time delay for traffic movement.

Traffic exiting The Causeway was also an issue in light of the recent experience when repairs were made to the bridge with temporary traffic light control. That caused congestion in the area and traffic could not exit out of The Causeway.

This was at a time when traffic volumes were at about 80% of traffic before Covid 19 lockdown.

We can imagine the effects of fulltime traffic lights at the bridge in normal times, with the extra traffic from the development.

The highway department had done all their traffic modelling on traffic volumes presented by the developer and did not carry out their own independent count; the modelling showed that only six vehicles would queue at the traffic lights at peak periods.

We thank all the members of the public who gave a deputation to the committee as to why the planning application should be refused.

The Planning committee rejected the application with five members voting against the application and four voting in favour of the application.

Stop Whitehall’s power grab

Liberal Democrats have warned that the Government’s planning proposals will “disempower” local authorities like Fareham and allow developers to “run roughshod” over local communities’ wishes.

A motion accepted at the Party’s Autumn Conference, making it official party policy, lays bare the risks of the Government’s proposals, which the Party says amount to a Government “power grab” that will encourage more speculative development at the expense of the affordable housing urgently needed in Fareham and elsewhere.

Instead of going ahead with planning reforms, the party is calling on the Government to match the Lib Dem ambition to build 100,000 social homes for rent every year.

Cllr Jim Forrest, Fareham Lib Dem spokesman on Planning and Development says: “People living in areas like Fareham are the people best placed to make sure planning decisions shape our communities for the better.

“We know many local people and organisations are putting a lot of work and thought into the upcoming consultation on Fareham’s Local Plan, which will shape the development of the Borough through to 2037.

“But this Conservative Government’s planning reforms will strip away local people’s ability to shape those decisions and is a developer’s charter.”

“These proposals, which do nothing to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing, undermine our climate commitments and put our local heritage at risk.”

Liberal Democrat Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson Tim Farron MP said: “The Tories’ proposals serve the interests of wealthy developers, giving them carte blanche to run roughshod over local communities’ wishes.”

Floating on the current

It is difficult to avoid the endless promotion of electric cars — but when will we ever see a similar transformation of boats?

The idea of swapping out a smelly diesel engine, gear box and fuel tank for a small electric motor and a larger battery pack seems a fair idea — we could surely use the extra space and enjoy the relative silence. But the design considerations (not least weight distribution) might suggest that electric boats will more likely be entirely new designs rather than conversions.

Looking at full marinas, it seems we don’t actually go to sea very often and, from an ecological viewpoint, the other saving grace of cruising is that when we do, we aim to use the engine as little as possible. Of course, we constantly check the fume-filled cooling water to reassure ourselves that the engine is not overheating. Then we drive home — and probably wonder whether our next car will be fully electric.

Logically, when environmentalists prioritise emissions reduction, surely their first target would be cruise ships and cargo vessels running their generators day and night whilst in dock — wafting their pollutants across great cities already fuming about car fumes.

Ferries — particularly for Greek island hoppers — are another obvious target for technology ventures like Artemis who have vast experience of hull design, wind/electric hybrids and autonomous yachts. Next up, surely, green campaigners will demand that fishing fleets deploy solar panels and wind energy to keep their winches winding at sea.

Occasional cruisers pottering in the Solent would seem a relatively minor issue compared, say, to the amount of untreated sewage and galley waste that we sailors dump overboard. When did you last moor in a marina with a pump out facility?

The Solent, that South coast haven for yachties, holds a murky dirty secret — Nitrate pollution. Partly, pollutants are run-off from fertilised fields and urban housing and partly from untreated drain-water and sewage. Out on the water, most of us try not to fall overboard but a fair few of us curse weed-tangled propellers. Some water-sports enthusiasts delight in closer contact with waves but are disgusted by sampling our outputs — and that’s before we take account of the plastic dumped in our waters. UK coastal waters are, reportedly, second only to the USA in terms of plastic pollution.

Long before we get around to electric boat building, or the rewiring of pontoons for heavier current consumption, there’s surely much to be done cleaning up our maritime mess.