Council agrees to buy up land in bid to build £1bn town Welborne

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A bitter argument has erupted between Fareham Borough Council and the two main owners of land designated for the new 6,000-home town Welborne.

A bitter argument has erupted between Fareham Borough Council and the two main owners of land designated for the new 6,000-home town Welborne.

This disagreement led to the council agreeing to impose a compulsory purchase order last night – and to bring in a development partner to manage it –resulting in delays of up to 18 months.

Council leader Sean Woodward said the order was necessary to bring about ‘certainty’ to the project.

Christopher Smith, of BST Warehouses – one of the two major landowners – said they had already spent about £6m and he accused Fareham Borough Council of ‘manipulating’ the plan so it could bring in the CPO, which he said would be one of the largest in this country since the Olympic Park in London.

Mr Smith said: ‘The delivery of Welborne is more certain, timely and more cost-effective in the hands of the current landowners.’

A special meeting of the executive of Fareham Borough Council last night, discussing whether to authorise a compulsory purchase order if necessary on Welborne, and to appoint a management company for the project 

Picture: Kimberley Barber

A special meeting of the executive of Fareham Borough Council last night, discussing whether to authorise a compulsory purchase order if necessary on Welborne, and to appoint a management company for the project Picture: Kimberley Barber

However Mr Smith confirmed that a legal dispute was ongoing with the landowners within BST Warehouses – the Benge family – which meant that it would not be able to promote its land for at least a year.

Mark Thistlethwayte, from Buckland Development, the other major landowner, said it had spent around £5m already and intended to carry on working on its own planning application.

He urged the council to reconsider the CPO and to return to working with them.

He said: ‘The CPO threat causes blight on the project. It slows us down and complicates the financing process.’

On the executive committee, Kay Mandry said: ‘All the time we have developers snapping at our heels to build in our strategic gap. The problem with having to wait another year and then maybe that not coming to fruition at the end – it is a bit of a worry.’

The council agreed to bring in the compulsory purchase order, which will cost about £1.8m and be recouped from the development partner, although it can be stopped at any point.

Cllr Woodward said: ‘We will continue to work with the landowners and my sincere hope is that we will not need any of this. I hope it will just focus the minds.’