Improving transport, the construction of new houses and encouraging independent shops are the key issues influencing voters in the Fareham area for this year’s local election.
For Fareham Borough Council, there has been much debate surrounding Welborne, the Stubbington bypass and the frequency and routes of bus services.
Whether it is ensuring the demand of 1,300 people waiting for a home can be met or easing traffic to and from Fareham town centre, residents across the borough will be taking these into consideration when they vote next week.
But they will also be thinking about how council tax has remained frozen for the past six years and that the council still supports local events such as Fareham in Bloom and Play Rangers in the summer.
The current administration has also looked at helping independent business owners in the town centre.
Recently, a website was set up with a list of the independent shops and how people can get in touch with them.
A number of breakfast meetings have also been organised between council members and businesses.
But one of the biggest factors ahead of the election is Welborne – a plan for 6,500 houses in a new town to the north of Fareham.
For many, it is unwarranted and unwanted.
There are many considerations to be made. What will happen to the green space that it removes? How can one area deal with an extra 13,000 people – not to mention their cars and the extra traffic?
Also, there is the ever-growing risk of flooding, and the fear that water will run off the new town and swamp neighbouring villages.
But there are those who believe that Welborne would prove a success for Fareham.
Kevin Hoare, a resident, says: ‘Areas in the borough are all nearing capacity in terms of their infrastructure – from roads, to schools – and I feel for those families having to commute to work from Knowle, Whiteley and places like that.
‘Welborne will provide 6,000 new homes, schools, employment opportunities, shops and open spaces as well as improving existing infrastructure such as roads.’
He adds: ‘I am in favour of homes for people. Local house prices are amongst the most expensive outside of London and Welborne will provide affordable, sustainable, housing for local people.’
But for others the consultation process wasn’t thought out properly and the plans will take up much-need green space. Shaun Cunningham, a community activist, spoke recently at a Funtley Village Society meeting about Welborne.
He says: ‘Welborne is a disaster, a disaster for Fareham, a disaster for the countryside and if that’s not enough, a disaster for our local governance.’
Others share similar views, with residents from neighbouring villages to the Welborne site saying the only way to stop the plans is the upcoming election.
Percy O’Dell, from Funtley Lane, says: ‘The one way of shattering these plans is to vote and, luckily, there’s an election coming up.’
Fellow resident, David Walton, from Wallington, said: ‘We have got to put enough doubt in the inspector’s mind to make him seriously wonder if there’s enough evidence for him to find the plan sound.’
But despite the controversy surrounding Welborne, it is a solution to the 1,300 people in Fareham awaiting houses.
It could take two to four years for people on the waiting list to get homes. And with the plans for businesses to also be built, it could provide jobs in the area.
Kevin Hoare adds: ‘The economic benefits of Welborne are immense; jobs will be created from the construction and maintenance phases as well as from the businesses that will occupy the commercial premises and offices. This employment and growth is essential for the local economy.’
But for Elaine Towey, from the Funtley Village Association, the extra homes will have a bigger impact on services rather than improve the economy.
She says: ‘This 6,000-plus housing development will affect each and every one of us in many ways.
‘There will be at least 12,000 extra cars, adding further congested roads, within Fareham and beyond.
‘And there will be at least 12,000 extra people requiring NHS services including doctors and dentists who may have limited vacancies; then there are the hospitals, too.
‘We voted the current administration in but with an upcoming election, who knows if that will happen again. We will have to wait and see.’
Debate whether bypass will solve traffic woes
REDUCING congestion in and around Fareham could be solved with a £90m scheme.
That is the hope of Fareham Borough Council as it looks to build the Stubbington bypass.
Many residents support the proposal and see it as a worthy investment.
Jack Hive, from Harcourt Road, Fareham, said: ‘Congestion is a massive problem in Fareham and Gosport but I think the council have hit the nail on the head with the bypass.
‘It will help residents and businesses and is finally a step in the right direction.
‘As long as they can deliver what they’ve proposed, I will be voting Tory.’
But for Jo Frew, from Ranvilles Lane, the bypass will not help.
She said: ‘The Stubbington bypass will not relieve the congestion on A32 and Newgate Lane. The £90m will be wasted and could be put to better use.’
Town centre crucial to keep local investment
IMPROVING the town centre has been at the forefront for Fareham Borough Council.
It will be investing £75,000 on improving the high street, including the installation of more benches, better signs and the provision of more cycling storage.
It has also lowered parking charges in some areas.
The Conservative-led council is also working with the businesses and seeing what they want.
One of the ideas was a website that listed the independent shops in the town centre.
Beverley Birks, who runs The Bridal Suite, on West Street, said she was pleased to hear about the investment of the website.
Beverley says: ‘Anything that sends people down to my shop is a good thing.
‘A lot of my customers say that is how they know about my shop – through the website.’
But for residents, more needs to be done to get a better range of shops.
Steph Jones, from Fareham Park Way, says: ‘The town centre is good but there needs to be more variety.
‘I feel Whiteley is more attractive to go to with their shops so I think the council needs to look at the type of retail and see what can be done.
‘We need to make sure people come to Fareham and, if nothing is done, we will become food outlets and charity shops – nothing more.
‘So I will be looking at what candidates care about the centre and voting for them.’
Keeping buses on the roads will have impact
With the cost of subsidising public transport increasing, it comes down to the council to decide what services are cut and which remain.
And after many changes to bus routes in the Fareham area in recent months these changes could impact voting next week.
Ed Morell, 51, from Funtley, says transport is always a big issue as it affects so many people.
He said: ‘The only way for the council to keep routes is to subsidise them.
‘But this costs money which may have to come from other council services or be raised through an increase in council tax.
‘This then upsets people but you can’t have both low tax and lots of buses.
‘For whichever councillors are elected, one of the first issues they need to look at is transport.
‘It affects so many people and is a big chunk out of the budget which needs to be spent wisely.
‘The council have made some good changes but more still needs to be done.’