Business is high on the election agenda in Havant

West Street, Havant Picture : Melanie Leininger

West Street, Havant Picture : Melanie Leininger

An aerial picture of Highlands Road, Fareham

Transport and health are key issues for Fareham election candidates

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David Willetts, Havant’s MP for 23 years, has retired from the seat which saw him win with a majority of 12,000 in 2010.

The all-male line-up of Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green Party, Ukip and Conservative candidates vying to take his place have been hitting the campaign trail hard since January.

But is it still a safe Tory seat? We look at the issues Havant residents want answers to before making their minds up ahead of the May 7 general election.

The regeneration of town centres, support for small businesses, transport problems and demands for new housing are all concerns important to the people of the historic market town.

Business

IT was clear from The News’ Havant election hustings that helping small businesses is a top priority for all the candidates.

The local authority is doing what it can with limited resources by giving out grants to new, small businesses.

But candidates will need to offer something more.

There have been calls for relief on business rates for small firms as well as a reduction in National Insurance payments.

Emsworth, Leigh Park and Hayling have active business associations and more needs to be done to support them with incentives such as reduced parking in town centres.

Figures released by the Office of National Statistics revealed the number of jobseekers in Havant fell in March.

There were 1,272 jobseekers last month compared to 1,353 in February – a drop of 81.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the town and, if they are thriving, there will be even more jobs and a better skilled workforce.

One idea put forward is finding a way to put the high number of empty units to good use.

Another was extending the small business rate relief beyond those who already get it.

Flexibility is also seen as a key factor in helping small businesses to develop – giving local authorities the power to use their discretion when it comes to business rates.

Development

THE first thing people see when they step from the railway station into Havant is not the town’s abundance of beautiful nature reserves or historic buildings.

What they are greeted with at the gateway to Havant is three large 1960s blocks of shops with flats on top.

The run-down buildings, with plenty of empty units and broken metal awnings over-hanging the pavements, are an eyesore.

For many years there has been talk about how to revamp the area but the problem has been that there are a number of different landlords involved.

But now it looks as if it will finally be transformed.

The derelict Star pub, on the corner of North Street, has now been demolished.

And there is a £15m plan to bulldoze that central block and build 120 new apartments with six shops.

A question mark hangs over the rest of Market Parade.

Developers have revealed proposals for a parkside development of restaurants, a gym and a new forecourt to the railway station, but no decisions have been made.

There is also the issue of the unsightly railway bridge linking Market Parade with the Public Service Plaza which is in such a state of disrepair it is propped up with scaffolding.

Residents will want to know how the development can be tied in with replacing the bridge and see the transformation concluded, making the gateway to Havant more welcoming.

Traffic

AS Hayling residents know only too well there is just one road on and off the island.

During peak rush hour that can mean a long wait in traffic snaking all the way from Langstone Road to the seafront.

And in the summer with the huge number of tourists flocking to the island, plus their cars and caravans, traffic jams are the norm.

Hundreds of new homes are set to be built by 2026 to meet government housing targets and people want to see the supporting infrastructure to go with them.

That means a better transport network.

Both Hampshire county and Havant borough councils have spent money upgrading cycle routes on to the island – and a lot of money has been spent on the Billy Trail.

The A27 cycle path from Portsmouth is well used.

But last month administrators were called in when the Hayling Island ferry company closed abruptly.

So, apart from the cycle path, most people have to rely on cars to get on and off Hayling.

More investment in public transport has been called for, particularly since the number of buses to parts of the island were cut in 2012.

An idea that has been touted for many years is a second bridge to run along the old Hayling Billy railway track.

Big ideas are needed to solve Hayling’s traffic problem and residents will want an MP with answers.

Homelessness

FOR the first time, Havant has a visible homelessness problem.

The News has reported on the plight of homeless dad Roy Haudiquet, from Leigh Park, who was forced to undergo chemotherapy while living on the streets because a home could not be found for him.

Portsmouth City Council has managed to find him a property in West Leigh, two months after he first contacted The News.

And Cannon Tom Kennar, Rector of St Faith’s Church, in Havant town centre, has spoken of his sadness that at least one homeless person spends the day trying to keep warm in his church each day.

Havant residents will tell you this is something not seen in the borough in recent memory.

Havant is an extremely diverse constituency.

Some parts – such as Emsworth – have houses with price tags near the £1m mark.

But there is a still a housing shortage and a problem with inadequate housing – families squeezed into small flats and houses.

There has been a push for more homes – which Havant Borough Council has taken seriously with a local plan that has been agreed by the government to reach a target of 6,300 by 2026.

But it will be a difficult balancing act.

Havant has an abundance of green space and people are determined to keep it that way. Keeping the strategic gaps should be a priority

Town centre

HAVANT town centre is in urgent need of rejuvenation.

It has suffered from a decline in the number of shops in the high street – as more shops open to the west of the town in retail parks.

Residents will want to know how the new MP will try to reverse that decline and stimulate the local economy.

A big gripe is the lack of diversity of shops.

Two of the largest shops in the town centre and the Meridian Centre are £1 discount stores.

Most of the other businesses are coffee shops, cafes and hairdressers.

This is a trend that has been going on for years, despite talk at one time that the council was aiming to encourage boutique, independent businesses with a feel of Marmion Road in Southsea.

The former HSBC bank and the units either side were flatted years ago and the empty space has been covered with hoardings.

There is no sign of anything being built in its place.

But things are looking up over the other side of Park Road.

Solent Retail Park is thriving – especially at weekends when the car park is packed.

The development of more shops in Solent Road is well under way and Marks & Spencer is said to have taken an option out on one of the larger units.

But the success of the west has been at a cost to the east and this needs to be addressed.

THE CANDIDATES

TIM DAWES - GREEN PARTY

Tim Dawes is the Green Party candidate for Havant. He and his wife Sue have lived in South Street, Havant, for nearly 25 years.

Together they have brought up three children and developed businesses based in the town.

Mr Dawes is retired from paid work, but still active as a local campaigner and activist. He is also a founder of and current director for the Havant Literary Festival.

He has stood for local and national elections on a number of occasions. His current work includes project managing a funding bid to revive the Gazebo Garden in the Pallant and campaigning against fracking.

GRAHAM GILES - LABOUR

Graham Giles was born in Newport, Gwent, and moved to Hampshire aged eight. His father was an officer in the merchant navy.

For the past 30 years he has been engaged in social, economic and political development with his charity Europe to Europe. Before anti-communist revolutions in 1989 he supported prisoners of conscience behind the iron curtain. Since then he initiated reforms in health, education and justice and as an international consultant.

Graham’s projects address juvenile delinquency, disability rights, child poverty and disadvantaged high-achievers. Earlier this year he was invited to meet US President Barack Obama to discuss his charity work.

JOHN PERRY - UKIP

John Perry is an engineering graduate of the University of Southampton. He has lived and worked in Havant since 1979 – on Hayling Island for most of that time.

Mr Perry began his career working as a military equipment engineer. He went on retrain as an accountant with EMI Records, specialising in manufacturing accounting, internal audit and mergers and acquisitions.

In 2014, he was elected one of the first Ukip councillors on Havant Borough Council, representing Hayling East. He is the chairman of the Havant Ukip branch.

Mr Perry has been married for more than 30 years and has two children in their 20s.

ALAN MAK - CONSERVATIVE

Alan Mak was born in Yorkshire, the son of Chinese parents who fled communism. The family opened a high street shop, which Mr Mak credits with inspiring his work ethic.

He won a scholarship to an independent school and went on to study law at the University of Cambridge. Upon leaving he trained as a solicitor at Clifford Chance, in the City of London.

Mr Mak is the former president of the charity Magic Breakfast which feeds 17,000 school children a hot meal each day. He is also a businessman and ambassador for One Young World – a global forum for young leaders. Mr Mak was chosen as the Conservative candidate for Havant in a public vote last year.

STEVE SOLLITT - LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Steve Sollitt is a 45-year-old management accountant, born and bred in Hampshire. He has worked in the NHS since 2002.

Mr Sollitt has been a councillor since 1994 and has served on both Eastleigh Borough and Southampton City councils.

He is currently the cabinet member responsible for youth and social policy on Eastleigh Borough Council.

Since 1997 Mr Sollitt has stood for parliament on three separate occasions and also in last year’s European Elections for the south east region.

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