Council under fire for green space policy

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FAREHAM Borough Council has faced criticism over its policy to protect green spaces between existing developments.

The council has always insisted that the spaces, known as strategic gaps, will be under threat if it is not allowed to continue with plans for a new town of up to 7,500 new homes north of Fareham.

It says the gaps act as buffers between developments and help prevent urban sprawl.

But as a two-week public inquiry on plans for the borough’s future development resumed yesterday, experts questioned the validity of the local authority’s policy.

It was suggested that politics rather than practical need was the key factor in wanting to keep the strategic gaps.

Chartered surveyor Derek Marlow said: ‘We have got a policy here driven by this council using PUSH guidance.

‘The PUSH guidance has not been publicly examined. It’s a politically driven policy because the same political forces failed to get it across at a regional level, so they are attempting to do it here.’

Councillor Sean Woodward is the chairman of PUSH and leader of Fareham Borough Council.

Planning consultant Bryan Jezeph said: ‘What we are worried about is that the strategic gaps as they stand are far too extensive.’

He compared the gaps in Fareham to those in Havant where they serve the same purpose but are much smaller.

Mr Marlow added: ‘I think the council’s offer to undertake a review will fudge it.

‘What we can’t rely upon is a vagueish policy which could change.’

But Ian Burt, Fareham’s principal planning officer said: ‘It’s important to stress that it’s a policy that has received an awful lot of support from the public in the area.

‘We have no green-belt but we do have the strategic gaps.’

‘We have always accepted that we need to review their boundaries, but once reviewed we have seen them as something that has a long term function.

Government inspector Michael Hetherington is expected to hear the final day of evidence today before retiring to publish his decision in coming months.

During last week’s opening session the council admitted that the need for 7,500 homes would be to meet the housing needs of the whole of south Hampshire, not just Fareham borough.