T he arguments have raged long and hard about proposals to build thousands of new homes north of the M27 at Fareham – and they are sure to be rekindled with the next stage of public consultation into the plans.
And again, part of the controversy centres on the consultation itself, with critics saying that the one-month period announced by Fareham Borough Council is too short.
One describes the engagement of the electorate as little short of feeble, saying there is not enough detail about each option for people to have a real say and, anyway, the exercise is being held at the wrong time of the year because many people are off for a summer break or will soon be busy looking after children on their school holidays.
These are handicaps to the fullest possible consultation, we agree, although we hope that those who want to have a say will nonetheless be able to find an opportunity to do so.
It is undoubtedly important that as many people as possible exercise their right to express an opinion – good or bad – on the various proposals for the development, and that they ask any questions which they feel are unanswered.
With that in mind, we are pleased to see that the council is enabling people to have their say via the internet, although it seems unclear as yet how that will not risk a repeat of the embarrassing about-face of last year, when the council shelved its internet-based consultation results, saying that they had been skewed by people from outside the area.
Council leader Sean Woodward has promised that the views of residents will help mould the way ahead, not only in where exactly homes go, but how many of them are built.
He is absolutely right to say that it is critically important that areas of green are kept in the new conurbation. Equally, the infrastructure to support the new homes must be properly planned.
The consultation arrangements themselves might be under attack, but we hope that people do exercise the chance to state clearly what they want for the future of the borough of Fareham.