RULING Conservatives have been warned that plans to build a new town of 7,000 homes will cost them dearly at the next round of local elections.
Angry members of the public challenged the leader of Fareham Borough Council, Cllr Sean Woodward, at a pair of community meetings held on Monday night in Funtley, north Fareham.
In August the council approved the planning document which lays out how the borough will develop over the next 20 years, including the controversial proposals for the new town between Fareham and Wickham.
The previous month a government inspector had declared the plan ‘sound’.
The meeting was held in two sessions to accommodate the 200 people who wanted to have the chance to question the council leader. Those who wanted to attend had applied to the council for free tickets.
Nick Chappelle, of Burnham Wood, Fareham, told the packed room at Funtley Social Club he had been a lifelong Tory supporter, and said: ‘I wish councillors who were elected by the people and for the people would listen to the people.’
And he told Cllr Woodward: ‘Your image personally has been greatly damaged by this. Like many people at the next election, I will not be voting Conservative.’
He added afterwards: ‘He’s not only damaging his own reputation but of the Conservative party in Fareham.’
And Michael Hutchings from Lakeside in Funtley said: ‘Why is it we come to this meeting knowing this development is a foregone conclusion? We know the council is going to push it through no matter what.’
Cllr Paul Whittle for Fareham East attended to represent the Lib Dems and said: ‘It’s very wrong that it was suggested three times that the inspector supported the thing, which was quite misleading.
‘It’s not his job to suggest that he supports it. He was there to test whether it was sound.’
Ed Morell, of Funtley Lane in Funtley, said afterwards: ‘He gave quite an effective defence of his position and the council’s position. But there’s a lot of unanswered questions that have been skimmed over.’
And he added that he didn’t have much faith in Cllr Woodward’s promises of more extensive consultation for the next stage.
‘I don’t think it will change anything,’ he said. ‘Fareham Borough Council is set on this course so I don’t believe there will be any change.’
Cllr Woodward said: ‘I fulfilled the pledge I made to come back to Funtley to explain what would now happen. It was never going to be the easiest meeting, but I believe it was my duty.’