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.

Fighting for more trees

Lib Dems called on Fareham Council to plant more trees in the Borough, using part of its large capital reserves rather than adding to the increase in Council Tax.

A one-off spend of £100,000 would enable the Council to plant 500 extra trees, whose benefits would last for generations.

The Council has reserves of  £5,500,000 – more than twice the amount it is obliged to keep in reserve to cover unforeseen changes in spending.

Lib Dems put the proposal for extra trees as an amendment to the Budget for 2020-21, in line with the Council’s recent pledge to fight the Climate Emergency.

Councillor Jim Forrest, said in the Budget debate: “Fareham has won countless Britain in Bloom awards, showing we have one of the finest Grounds teams in the country. We’re asking the Council to give them a little more strength to their elbow, to preserve our planet as well as to beautify our corner of it.”

The Tory majority on the Council voted down the amendment, but Lib Dems will continue to press for environmental and recycling projects to tackle the climate emergency.