Election 2015: What do you want in Waterlooville?

The seat in Meon Valley will be an interesting battle
The seat in Meon Valley will be an interesting battle
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Waterlooville reporter Jeff Travis takes a closer look at what matters most to people in the Meon Valley constituency.

The area is one of the most diverse in Hampshire.

It contains traditionally affluent areas like Rowlands Castle and Hambledon and one of the most deprived estates in the south, Wecock Farm.

The seat was formed in 2010 by the Boundary Commission for England and covers East Hampshire, Havant and Winchester districts, with the largest number of voters living in Waterlooville and Horndean.

It is generally considered a safe Tory seat, with a large number of Liberal Democrat voters voting blue five years ago.

But with a wide range of issues affecting this diverse community it still promises to be a fascinating battle.

Greens gaps

The Meon Valley contains some of the most scenic countryside and woodland in Hampshire.

While some of it has been lost to development, there remains large swathes of greenery.

The semi-rural character of the area is important to many voters.

Many will say they have lived in urban areas like Portsmouth and Southampton and have moved north for a quieter life and walks in the country.

A big concern is that remaining pockets of countryside in places like Catherington and Lovedean will get swallowed up by development.

Residents fear this could see villages merging and seamless development from Southsea north to the boundary of the South Downs National Park.

While much of the Meon Valley is afforded greater protection because of the National Park, the areas just south of it in places like Rowlands Castle do not have the same level of protection.

Residents will want an MP who can fight to protect the countryside and prevent development that is not sustainable and ruins the rural charm of villages like Rowlands Castle.

In Denmead, a strip of countryside has been

maintained to stop it merging with Waterlooville and similarly for Rowlands Castle and Havant.

Voters will want an MP who is prepared to continue fighting for these green gaps.

Economy

HEALTH, education and jobs will be three of the big issues for people in the Meon Valley.

Residents will want an MP who is prepared to grow the rural economy, as well as provide jobs for traditionally-deprived areas such as Wecock Farm, which has had an unemployment issue for many years.

Local doctors’ surgeries are bursting at the seams.

Earlier this year George Hollingbery called it a ‘bureaucratic nightmare’ as Clanfield Practice had yet to receive any of the financial benefits it was promised to improve facilities.

After years of waiting, a new surgery is set to be open in Horndean later this year.

Voters will be looking for an MP who can help ease the strain on doctors’ surgeries and make it easier to see a GP quickly.

Some schools in the Meon Valley are full, including at Rowlands Castle and Horndean.

A state-of-the-art new school has opened at Berewood in Waterlooville and another is planned.

Residents will want to see this success repeated at Hazleton Farm, where another primary school is set to be built.

A school with two classes per year is needed, but currently only a school with one class per year is being offered.

Residents will be looking for an MP who can fight for the educational facilities the Meon Valley needs.

Regeneration

WATERLOOVILLE town centre was once the hub of the community, with a range of interesting independent shops.

But it is now a shadow of its former self and is in vital need of regeneration.

While large new stores like M&S have opened in Waterlooville’s retail parks, the London Road precinct continues to struggle.

Masterplans for a total overhaul of the town centre have been produced before, but none have ever come to fruition.

However, the tide may be turning as local businesses have joined forces to help revitalise the shopping centre.

The Waterlooville Community Forum events team is looking into Waterlooville in Bloom and summer and Christmas markets.

People will want an MP who is prepared to work with the local business group to help the rejuvenation continue and, hopefully, accelerate.

This year is a big one for Waterlooville as it celebrates its 200th anniversary and people will want a local leader to be at the heart of the festivities.

In nearby Denmead, Hambledon, Clanfield, and Horndean, local shops and pubs continue to be vital for the villages’ identity.

But they continue to be under threat from larger centres in Havant, Waterlooville and Portsmouth.

Residents will want an MP who can champion and encourage thriving village centres.

Infrastructure

HAZLETON FARM and Berewood are two of the biggest housing developments ever in the Meon Valley.

Hazleton Farm will see around 700 homes built on farmland to the east of Horndean, while work is well under way on building 3,000 homes to the west of Waterlooville.

Hundreds of new homes are also planned at Woodcroft Farm in Lovedean and Down Farm in Clanfield.

One of the big concerns for residents is how these developments will be integrated in the community to avoid becoming semi-isolated estates on the outskirts.

There are also fears about the traffic impact as thousands of more cars go on the roads – many of them narrow, rural roads in villages like Rowlands Castle.

Residents will want to know that whoever leads the Meon Valley for the next five years will fight for the infrastructure required, such as roads and community facilities, to allow new developments to complement existing communities.

There is also a question mark of where these new residents will work.

Employment land is included in the Hazleton Farm development, but there are no guarantees that businesses will move in.

The fear is that places like Horndean could simply become commuter towns with few jobs for local people.

The elected MP will need to demonstrate an appetite to create more jobs locally.

Housing

HOUSING developments are placing an ever-increasing strain on the infrastructure of villages around the Meon Valley.

One village that has particularly felt the pressure is Wickham. Once surrounded by vast swathes of countryside, this looks set to change as developers eye up the fields for houses and councils approve the developments in order to meet their housing targets.

Winchester City Council has said that Wickham must take 250 new homes by 2031 as part of the district’s local plan.

This combined with the looming threat of new 6,000-home town planned for fields nearby, which falls under neighbouring authority Fareham Borough Council, looks set to transform the village for good.

Not only would the new MP need to understand both sides of the development argument, they would also need to represent the people already living in these villages.

Sitting MP George Hollingbery spoke out last year after around 20 residents, particularly in Riverside Mews, had been plagued by sewage and drainage problems.

He urged that no more houses should be built in Wickham until sewage flooding is dealt with and met with Winchester City Council, Wickham Parish Council and Southern Water to work out a plan.

The next MP will need to take over this work with gusto.

The candidates bidding to be the next MP for Meon Valley

George Hollingbery – Conservative

George entered politics fairly late in life when he became involved in a campaign in 1997 to stop a major supermarket being opened in his home town.

Since then he has been deeply involved, first as deputy leader of Winchester City Council and then as a Member of Parliament for the Meon Valley.

He has served on the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, the Welfare Reform Bill and as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Home Secretary Theresa May, dealing with issues such as policing, benefits, planning and other issues. He has supported the roll out of high-speed broadband. He is a keen fisherman.

Gemma McKenna – Labour

Gemma was born in Portsmouth and has lived most of her life in the area.

She spent the last decade working with vulnerable people and advocating for small and medium-sized businesses and social enterprises.

She has a first-class undergraduate degree in international business studies and worked for a lobby organisation in Brussels to advocate on their behalf in the European Institutions.

As a youth worker Gemma worked with children in poverty and young people on the fringes of the criminal justice system. She is a keen runner and ran the 2010 London Marathon to raise money for The Rowans Hospice.

David Alexander – Ukip

David lives in Horndean and has been a member of Ukip for five years.

He is currently chair of Ukip East Hants and a Horndean parish councillor.

He stood for East Hants District Council in the 2011 by-election for the ward of Horndean Downs and will be contesting this ward again in 2015.

David has a degree in mechanical engineering from Brunel University.

He has had a long international career in the automotive industry as a senior engineer. His hobby is rugby and he has been to every Rugby World Cup since 1999.

Diana Korchien – Green Party

Diana has been a member of the Green Party for over five years and has been passionate about the environment since childhood.

Born in Los Angeles, California, she first came to the UK as a 16-year-old.

She has worked for more than 40 years as a journalist and picture editor and is the proud mum of two children.

Her main hobby is spreading the word on green issues and she is also part of a ‘eco-performance’ group E11 Eco that performs environmental poetry.

Diana is a self-confessed ‘foodie’ and loves Mediterranean cuisine.

Christopher Carrigan – Liberal Democrats

Chris Carrigan is an experienced expert in business strategy and transformation. For a large part of his career he was a partner at management consultancy Accenture.

Before taking his current position at Marks & Spencer he worked for three years at Oxfam on international governance and humanitarian strategy. Chris also has a broad range of campaigning and political experience from serving for eight years as a local councillor and roles on the boards of Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform Society.

He points to the housing issues in Meon Valley as an example of how politics is failing to deliver what people want.

To find out which issues are most important to people in the lead-up to the election - both regionally and nationally - visit www.whatmatterstome.co.uk/home