Council scraps public consultation on homes after it's 'hijacked'

Picture: Malcolm Wells

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A consultation on plans for 7,000 new homes has been scrapped - after it was 'hijacked' by campaigners.

Fareham Borough Council took the decision after discovering the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) had lobbied members in south Hampshire to object to the housing plans.

The council had only received 170 responses about the North Fareham 'strategic development area' - effectively a new town between Fareham and Wickham - from when consultation started in late November.

But after the CPRE sent out an email to its members, the online consultation was flooded with more than 300 responses - all strongly objecting to the plans.

The council said it was unable to tell where these people live.

Tory leader Cllr Sean Woodward said: 'We produce consultations on a fairly regular basis and we try to make these as easy as possible. People have not had to give any details about themselves and I guess we were a bit naive in that respect.

'We have tended to take people at face value and trust them, but the actions of this organisation means that now all residents will be asked for more details.

'The consultation was for Fareham residents and businesses.

'This is not what I would expect a reputable organisation to be doing.'

But Cllr Roger Price, leader of the Lib Dem group said: 'The council puts these things out on the web and don't get that many responses, but it ticks the box that they have consulted.

'If an organisation says to its members "look at this" and points them towards the consultation, I see nothing wrong with that.

'Sean has bungled this and the blame lays firmly at his door.'

The relaunched online survey will ask for a name, address and email. A printed copy will also be sent to 3,500 randomly selected households throughout the borough, as well as to a council-nominated panel of residents.

The relaunched survey will run from January 4 to February 15.

Caroline Dibden, of the CPRE said: 'This is going to affect people who live outside the borough boundary, such as Wickham and Knowle, an awful lot more than some who live in some parts of Fareham. We will be asking everyone to take part in the new consultation.'