CALLS are being made to create a green belt to protect countryside at risk of development, following the announcement of government cash set aside to build 14 ‘garden villages’ across the country.
Welborne, a proposed 6,000-home town north of Fareham, has been named as one of these ‘garden villages’.
Housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell announced earlier this week that these 14 housing estates will be able to dip into a pot of £6m to bring forward the land for development, part of the government’s £2.3bn housing infrastructure fund, which Fareham Borough Council hopes to be able to use to compulsorily purchase the land so that it can move its plan forward.
However campaigners are calling for action to be taken to stop urban sprawl as they fear this money will enable Welborne to finally get off the ground after years in the pipeline – and that it might pave the way for further similar developments.
Dee Haas, chairwoman of Hampshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: ‘Our stance on Welborne has always been that we are against it.
‘We are against the building of 6,000 houses on farmland. It is north of the M27, which creates a natural barrier from the urban sprawl of the Solent cities. We recognise that there is a need for affordable housing in Hampshire, but this is not going to necessarily provide that.
‘We have been talking to people throughout Hampshire and there is growing support for a green belt to run across the top of the Solent cities.’
CPRE launched a campaign for a green belt last year, following progress of a Solent Combined Authority being set up to get devolved powers from government.
Ms Haas added: ‘If we allow Welborne then we could get a rash of new developments and we could lose our gaps.
‘At the moment we have countryside and we need to prevent our towns and cities sprawling into each other. People need access to the countryside – it is good for their wellbeing. We also need to stop villages losing their identities.’
Mike Carter, from Wickham Society, which has campaigned against Welborne for years, agreed with the need to set up a green belt.
He said: ‘My feeling has always been for Wickham. Everybody here feels the same. We don’t want to become an extension of Welborne and we are very concerned about traffic.
‘We have fought to try and keep green spaces around our village and we will continue to do so.’
Fareham’s council leader Sean Woodward defended the need for Welborne.
He said: ‘There will always be opposition to new development, however we desperately need new homes which will be built somewhere.
‘We have a choice. Add these houses to existing communities putting the roads and schools under intolerable strain or build a self-contained new community with all the required infrastructure such as schools, roads, community facilities, public transport and open space.
‘We can then protect our strategic countryside gaps from building.’