PLANS to build a footbridge over a busy railway line took a step forward last night as councillors voted to launch a £150,000 study into the project’s feasibility.
The step toward the so-called Warblington Footbridge – which would extend over Southleigh Road – came as Havant Borough Council’s budget for 2019/20 was approved.
Permission for the build was granted in 2013 and the sum was agreed a year ago, but it was only last night the green light was shone on a ‘formal agreement’ with Network Rail.
Councillor Tim Pike, deputy council leader and cabinet lead for finance and regeneration, said: ‘We hope by committing this money we can get to the next stage of the process – where we can go to Network Rail with a proposition so they can make this actually happen.
‘We believe it’s an important bridge to put in place and because it’s in my ward I’m very aware of safety issues which currently exist, with a large secondary school next door.’
He added: ‘I think we all wish these projects were quicker than they are but I’m very pleased with the progress made tonight.’
As part of the borough’s bid to balance its projected £14.2m expenditure for the coming year, councillors also voted in favour of a 2.99 per cent increase in council tax – only its second in 10 years – raising the bill for a Band D property to £204.48.
This will generate an additional £242,000 funding and while it equates to £5.95 more per year, UKIP councillor for Battins, Malc Carpenter, fears his constituents will ‘suffer greatly’.
‘I represent one of the poorest wards and the whole of the Leigh Park area is very deprived,' he said.
‘I’m so concerned that people now will be pushed over the edge.’
It was also announced the council’s staff of approximately 250 people would get a two per cent pay rise, and an additional £150,000 would be spent on employing more enforcement officers for services across the board – including littering, parking and planning.
Additionally care leavers aged 18 to 25 will soon be exempt from paying council tax, and the council will pay £70,000 to reinstate its play parks maintenance budget.
Cllr Pike said the hike in council tax was to ‘maintain the services residents want and to give staff the pay rise they deserve’.
On the subject of enforcement, he added: ‘I hope residents will see an increase in activity and the speed of response to their concerns.
‘We maintain a zero-tolerance approach to littering and other illegal activities. If anyone undertakes those activities they should expect to be caught and issued a ticket.
‘But clearly what we hope is people won’t do that and we won’t have a need to issue any.’
He confirmed neither new or existing enforcement officers would be set ticket targets.