Changing the lightbulbs

Are Fareham’s communities thriving? And, if not, what can be done?

There are umpteen ways of gauging local communities. Do people want to live here? Is there work? Good schools? Full fibre? Are the natives friendly? Affordability? Clean air?

Positive answers to most of these questions are very much in the hands of the local council. How concerned are Councillors with Fareham’s 3000 households suffering fuel poverty or the families reliant on food banks to feed their children? What priority will they give to climate change actions?

It is far too easy to shift the blame for all our local woes onto central government – just as it was for them to shift the blame for their poor economic management onto ‘foreigners’. If you feel that your community is not thriving, it’s well worth asking why.

Within the patch managed by Fareham Borough Council we have many different communities and many different priorities – but how many of those standing for election next May really understand what’s going on?

Communities vary – some are tight-knit, cohesive and strictly law-abiding. Others might be looser, more individualistic and yearning for freedom. The balance between tight and loose will always be shifting. What matters more is how much support there is for stuff that really matters – our social foundations and the environment – and serious efforts to tackle our shortfalls.

But how much do we really know about our communities here in Fareham? Your Council has started to try and measure the air damage from its own operations but there is much more to discover – and no requirement (yet) for local businesses to do similar audits.

Similarly, we know a little about fuel poverty (affecting very nearly 3,000 local households) but we must surely focus on the details for all aspects of healthy living. It may be complex, but tools are available , and there is little excuse for ignoring deprivations.

Next May we will have no ordinary local election. Our Council seats come up for re-election every four years. But with the deferred elections from last May, half of all Council seats will need to be filled. Time to focus a spotlight on our communities’ priorities. How many Councillors do we need to change Fareham’s light bulb?

Should we be blooming wild?

With the longer nights very much here, after a difficult year for our community, it can sometimes feel somewhat bleak. However as with all things there is hope and we can all be inspired to make positive changes.

Something we found particularly uplifting this year was the seeming “bounce” our local wildlife enjoyed during the quiet of lockdown.

People spending more time walking, cycling and really reconnecting with our beautiful local area. Hopefully, this may be one thing that sticks, bearing in mind climate change and mental well-being.

Could we be achieving more locally to promote flora and fauna though, with some municipal greens and roundabouts being “rewilded” into flower meadows, which are so important to butterflies and other invertebrates?

I’d like to know if there is an appetite for more “community meadows” or even “public orchards” instead of grass monocultures. Do let me know if this is something you would support.

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.

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.

Route out of lockdown

Our government doesn’t need to fret over how to get out of lockdown. It just needs to look to the Australian state of Victoria.

Their first criterion was to get to less than 5 new cases a day (roughly 1 per million people). That target was achieved by taking the whole situation seriously with strict lockdowns in different areas. Then having achieved the target rate, the changes to each lockdown rule were announced, along with a timetable for the changes.

The rules were clear; everyone knew what they were, why they were there and therefore they were generally well supported. And Victoria was the worst performing state in Australia re Covid! 

The contrast with the way the UK Conservative government, with all its resources has mishandled the pandemic could not be more embarrassing.

Anyone know what the tier 1/2/3 rules are? It’s tricky because they vary for different areas.

Anyone know what the criteria are for moving into or out of each tier? Is it any wonder there is a strong impression of the government making it up as they go? We deserve better.

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.”