Fareham’s new realities

Gone are the days when the daily trek to Waterloo or wherever swallowed the early and late hours. Now employers question why their ventures spent so much on offices and why they ever needed physical meetings – and the scope for Fareham to be more than a sleepy dormitory town is so much greater.

Just a few months back the demise of local shopping was a real concern. With the collapse of some chain stores, and the ravages of Covid, it still is. But with the shift to online shopping for the boring essentials and much more working from home, the future scope for Fareham’s small ventures is tremendous – more potential daytime customers and less money drifting away every day on the train to town.

Are we caring enough for local small retailers? How do we ensure that the money stays longer within our local economy? Could the shopping centre’s landlords be persuaded to revive its half-empty malls by offering low-rent space to the niche small retailers of West Street?

As for the online revolution, what a pity, as a community, we never invested in a decent full fibre digital provider instead of those creaking copper merchants whose products daily demonstrate their stuttering distorted inadequacy on our screens.

When Covid kicked off everyone hoped that we’d soon get back to normal. Now, we are learning that many of us can live and work very differently. That old moribund economy has gone. Welcome to a very new normal – a Fareham of fresh opportunities.

Last chance to make it YOUR Plan

REMEMBER – Friday December 18 the deadline for the consultation on Fareham’s Local Plan, which will shape the Borough from now until 2037.

If you want to comment, go to the consultatation pages HERE on Fareham Council’s website which givse advice and links on how to view documents and maps, and how to make comments.

The material there is by no means the whole story. The draft text of the Publication Local Plan, approved at the Council meeting on October 22, runs to 300 pages, summing up literally thousands of pages of evidence and years of work by our council staff..

Some light reading…

You will be able to see the main document in the minutes of the October 22 Council meeting , and get a flavour of the discussion that took place.

Minutes of the Planning & Development Scrutiny Panel, which discussed the draft plan on October 8, have already been published. Those two meetings were marathons of almost five hours each, so your councillors have given the plan a thorough examination.

It’s not a simple process to make comments, but it’s worth making the effort if you care about our town’s future. Your comments will be read by a Government planning inspector who will rule on the plan.

But to carry weight with the inspector, they must be based on one of three grounds set out on pages 8-9 of Fareham TodayCompliance with planning laws, Soundness in meeting the needs of the area within national planning policies, and Co-operation with neighbouring councils and other public bodies.

Most public attention on planning focuses on house-building. But remember that there are other equally important factors, such as employment, shopping, transport, climate and the environment.

Urbanisation comes through roads, supermarkets and industrial units as well as streets and homes.

We all want to preserve the best features of our immediate surroundings as much as possible. But the quality of our home area depends on the health and prosperity of our wider community. As Liberal Democrats, we seek to ensure that Fareham’s Local Plan is the best it can be for all of Fareham’s people.

Councillor Jim Forrest

Lib Dem spokesman on Planning and Development.

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.”

Water pollution in the Solent

The water environment within the Solent region is one of the most important for wildlife in the United Kingdom. There are high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus input to this water environment causing algal blooms which suffocate much of the invertebrate life with knock on effects on other wildlife. Whilst the biggest contributor to the nitrate is agriculture, a bigger population also causes an increase in nitrogen discharges. 
Since a European court case in 2019, planning authorities have to ensure that any new housing development within 5.6k of the Solent EU protected sites does not add to the nitrates by applying mitigating options elsewhere. This has caused development to stall across the south coast including all of Fareham Borough. 
The Conservative Government is applying pressure on local planning authorities to “build,build,build” whilst another arm of the same Government, the Environment Agency, is insisting that the planning authorities first satisfy themselves that there will be no harm to the protected sites from further development.
Fareham Borough Council has been working with Natural England to find a solution to get building started again. These include:-

  • A £2.3m grant from the Government to provide mitigation
  • Delegating authority to one Officer for many of the stalled applications, thus removing democratic oversight
  • Signing a legal agreement with Hampshire Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) to use land they have bought and taken out of agriculture and using the reduced nitrates to sell offsetting ‘credits’ to developers to enable them to build

Planning decisions have re-started and the majority Conservative party are voting unanimously to approve. The Lib Dem (and Independent) Councillors have fought to stop these developments being approved until more robust mitigation is applied. They have also worked hard to delay a decision on signing the (HIWWT) legal agreement and voted against the delegated officer authority being extended. Unfortunately, it’s all about the numbers. More Lib Dem Councillors are needed for us to make a difference and stand a chance of winning these arguments to save our environment rather than putting more money into the pockets of developers. 

Cycle pathology

Local councils have put in temporary schemes to improve walking and cycling safety in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

They are bidding for funds for more projects.

In the longer term, we need high-quality permanent improvements to encourage a shift away from unnecessary, polluting car journeys to healthier walking and cycling.

The Government recently announced funds would be made available to encourage such projects.

But as this well-researched paper by Fareham Liberal Democrat and international tri-athlete David Abrams shows, none of Fareham’s current cycle routes would qualify for funding. On Your Bikes.

David is engaging with Council officers and the cycling charity Sustrans to seek better solutions.

Off yer bike: Barrie’s story

Like many people lucky enough to have a garden to use during the Coronavirus lockdown period, I accumulated much more garden waste (grass, weeds, etc) than usual. During this time the waste collection service was suspended and the recycling centre closed so when the service restarted I had plenty of garden waste to dispose of.

I have tried composting in the past but have not got sufficient/suitable space.

I looked at buying the green disposable garden waste bags from the council but considered the £40 charge for 25 bags or £10 for 5 bags a bit steep. However, even more off-putting, I am told by FBC that these bags are NOT made of a compostable material and the bags are not recyclable because there are no manufacturers that will recycle it.

Being green in colour does not make them compostable or bio-degradable and disposable means they are emptied of their contents, added to non-recyclable waste, and burned for energy recovery (how much energy can you get from a plastic bag?!).

Taking green garden waste to the recycling centre by car would be an unnecessary journey along with the associated air pollution.

 So I looked at cycling, carrying the garden waste in a small trailer, a mere 15 minute ride from Stubbington to the Grange Road recycling facility.

This time I am thwarted by HCC who state that ‘entering the recycling facility on a bicycle would be considered ‘pedestrian access’ and that this has always been ‘discouraged’ as HWRCs do not have pedestrian accesses. HCC also ask that customers use a vehicle to enter and exit sites safely to help ensure the safety of customers and staff and also to avoid accusations of queue jumping: not forgetting that I am ‘safe’ to cycle on the roads to the facility!

Considering council tax goes to support the recycling facilities, the costs of additional ‘green’ bags and the end product being sold back to us at a profit (no doubt) it seems as though we are being taken for a ride.

Barrie Webb

Covid: Knowing our place

We should all be thankful that here in Fareham we are one of the Local Authorities least affected by Covid-19.

Leicester’s latest local lockdown, however, raises key questions for all Local Authorities and their communities.

It is now abundantly clear that Leicester’s local management was not fully aware of its Covid-19 crisis. Central government had a rough idea that there was a problem but didn’t share the data or act on it quickly.

But would our Local Authority have managed any better? How well do we know our place? Fareham’s Borough Council is surely not a mere agency of the national Head Office – or at least we would hope not. For who can trust the current competence of Head Office?

Here in Fareham, we and all our residents and local employees need to know that our Local Authority is totally on top of the metrics. And the only way that we will know that is by openly publishing critical up-to-date information.

We should, at least, know the answers to seven basic questions:

  • Is our local population infection rate under control?
  • Is our local healthcare system capacity sufficient?
  • Do we have sufficient local testing and contact tracing, and is the system working effectively and efficiently?
  • How well are folk in Fareham complying with public health safety measures?
  • How well are we ensuring the protection and preparedness of essential workers?
  • Are we protecting and preparing places where people are gathered – like Care Homes?
  • What are we doing to ensure preparedness of businesses for reopening?

The answers for Fareham may be comforting, but this is not rocket science*. These are very basic questions that sit on top of a host of finer detail – essential metrics that must be monitored locally to ensure your community management is in safe hands.

Since the crisis in Leicester, more data on infection rates in every Local Authority has become available but few places, if any, have a complete overview of the current situation in sufficient detail to enable rapid hyper-local responses to any new outbreak. Any lack of local insight illustrates dependency on over-centralised systems – an abdication of local authority.

Here in Fareham, we are truly fortunate to be among the least-affected, but questions of trust remain: How well do we know our place? What can we do locally to reduce the future risk of dependence on outsourced management?

*A full list of the main and subsidiary metrics was compiled by Johns Hopkins University together with a clear specification of the granularity required to identify ‘at risk’ sections of society. The list shown above is a local adaptation of an American text issued by Bloomberg Philanthropies.