Hospital issue a key point in Havant election debate

Chip shop oil thieves caught on CCTV

It's an issue that has left the community reeling - and it's got competing politicians hot under the collar too.

The long-promised but quickly axed plans for Oak Park Community Hospital was one of the main biting points of The News sixth pre-election hustings in Havant.

Housing, education and even fox hunting were debated in what was a lively hustings at Leigh Park Community Centre last night.

Liberal Democrat Alex Payton, Labour's Rob Smith and David Willetts, the current Conservative incumbent of the Havant seat, clashed over the fallout of the axed hospital.

Mr Payton, a barrister, told the audience he did not accept that all hope was lost and said his party were the only ones still pushing for the much-longed for facility.

He accused Mr Willetts of not doing enough to save the hospital and compared him unfavourably with the Chichester MP who successfully fought to keep open the A&E unit at St Richard's Hospital, Chichester, last year.

'A campaign to keep St Richards' is different to a campaign to open something that does not currently exist', said Mr Willetts.

'We need to get health needs met. There are several different ways in which it can be done and the best way should be a community hospital, but I'm trying to be imaginative and flexible.'

None of the candidates supported the figure of 6,300 new homes which central government has told Havant Borough Council must be built within the next 20 years.

But Mr Willetts said there was an urgent need for new housing for families. 'Young families come to my surgeries and they are sleeping on sofas at friends houses, camping in spare rooms or the kids are sleeping box in a box at the bottom of the bed. There is a real problem locally.'

Mr Smith, a teacher, said he favoured a figure of 4,000 new homes and said: 'I think it is necessary for government to lead on this. I do think local authorities need that push.'

Mr Payton said the Liberal Democrats would make gardens greenfield sites in order to stop back garden development.

They each agreed that Portsmouth City Council - which owns large swathes of the area's social housing - should take more responsibility in tenants needs in the Leigh Park area.

When quizzed only Mr Willetts supported overturning the ban on fox hunting.

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