Health, jobs and transport are major election issues in Gosport

Gosport High Street
Gosport High Street

£4m cuts to be made in city budget

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Transport, traffic problems and the need to improve living standards are just some of the key talking points in Gosport.

Today The News highlights the big issues which matter most to voters and discusses how their newly-elected MP on May 8 will need to address and resolve them in the next parliament.

Obesity

TACKLING rising levels of obesity in the borough will be one of the key priorities in the next parliament.

In Gosport, 72 per cent of people are considered overweight or obese, with a Body Mass Index of more than 25.

The alarming statistics make it the sixth fattest authority in England.

Yet despite the high levels, more fast food chains have arrived in the area, including a drive-through KFC in Fareham Road.

So, much more needs to be done to encourage people to ditch unhealthy lifestyles, get into exercise and avoid having fatty foods on a regular basis.

This could be done through public action days promoting sports and the benefits of having a diet containing plenty of fruit and vegetables.

The next MP could talk to local businesses about how they could get involved in driving home the message.

Schools could also help be called on more to encourage healthier habits - and lobbying the government for extra funding to support youngsters would also be welcome.

Taking extra steps would also help to ease the strain on Gosport Borough Council, which has already said it understands the concerns raised but can only do so much.

It would also go some way in helping to drive down pressure on services at Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, Portsmouth, and GP surgeries for patients with weight-related conditions.

High Street

GOSPORT’s high street has been blighted in the past with its number of empty shops and drab offer.

Things have improved in recent times after a town team was created and given £100,000 to spend on improvements to help boost prospects.

But with changes in shopping habits, and more people than ever buying online, the next MP for Gosport will need to think up incentives to encourage extra footfall.

Businesses are also pushing for changes in the way business rates are calculated by the government to help them thrive and expand and offer more to their customers.

So they will hope to see their MP backing their cause.

Shops have already run special days offering discounts and are running a voucher scheme in a bid to bring in more shoppers to the town as well as Lee-on-the-Solent.

And hopefully the MP can encourage businesses to continue doing more of the same, and lobby the government for extra financial help.

Residents and local businesses would also welcome extra parking incentives to help bring them in.

But at the same time a plan of action needs to come together to resolve issues with traffic getting into the town.

The variety of shops on offer also needs to be improved, and visitors would welcome a wider mix rather than more charity shops and cafes.

Public transport

ONE of the key ways traffic problems in and around Gosport could be improved is by encouraging more people to use public transport.

But poor journeys, regular delays and recent cuts in bus routes have made getting out of the car less desirable.

As part of local transport cuts, plans were announced in October by Hampshire County Council to axe Sunday bus services in a bid to claw back £1.5m in the budget.

There has been some good news in that Gosport Borough Council agreed to step in and pay £4,500 to subsidise the number 11 bus for two years which serves the A32, Forton Road and Haslar.

But whether that can happen long-term is another thing, and more needs to be done to stop cuts, think up alternatives and lobby the government for more funding if road problems are to be addressed.

Another point, which was raised at the News’ Gosport hustings, was the fact the town does not have its own train station.

Residents seemed to think this would be easy to bring in should money was available, and could help to unblock the route getting in and out of Gosport.

So making enquiries about whether such funding could be found and whether plans for a station could be drawn up could be another one for the next MP’s to-do list.

The town has not had its own railway station for 61 years.

Job creation

HELPING to create more jobs would give Gosport’s economy a lift.

It would cut down on the number of people having to commute out of the town, and see businesses like local shops prosper as a result.

Progress is being made transforming the Solent Enterprise Zone based on the former HMS Daedalus airfield into an advanced manufacturing hub.

But it will take time bringing more and more businesses in - and a focus in the meantime should also be on encouraging existing local firms to stay and offer jobs.

And the next MP should also seek to find ways of ensuring local people get the right skills to match them up to work that is available in the area.

Businesses have already been vocal about the need for the government to provide better training for young people.

Portsmouth law firm Coffin Mew surveyed company leaders about the changes they wanted to see in the next parliament, as part of its South Coast Business Manifesto.

Local companies were asked questions on issues around the election - and the need for training came out as the top priority.

But with a rise in jobs comes a demand for more housing - and there will be a need to ensure everyone is accommodated while bearing in mind the impact more housing sites have on a community.

The Stubbington bypass

THE introduction of a Stubbington bypass to ease traffic congestion has been decades in the making.

But nothing has ever materialised aside from plenty of talk and consultation with the public over the issue.

So many residents will be eager to see their new MP come May 8 lobbying the government for the £30m that’s needed to make the project happen - and push for the work to begin as soon as possible. The project would dramatically ease congestion in Stubbington and encourage more businesses to move to the area, meaning more jobs for local people.

It would be a big boost to the Solent Enterprise Zone at the former Daedalus airfield in Lee-on-the-Solent, which has aspirations of becoming a hub for advanced manufacturing in future years.

There’s already lots of support for the bypass scheme - with 75 per cent of 490 people who responded to a consultation led by Hampshire County Council last year saying they were in favour.

One of the stumbling blocks is the fact planning permission has yet to be given – and it will be one of the tasks of the next MP to ensure that’s a smooth process.

But they will also need to ensure the area doesn’t miss out on other improvements to eliminate long-term traffic problems - such as a new Newgate Lane south, changes to Peel Common roundabout and improvements to the A27 Segensworth to Fareham.

The candidates

CAROLINE DINENAGE - CONSERVATIVE

Caroline Dinenage has been Gosport’s MP for five years. She has lived in south Hampshire all her life - prior to being elected she ran a small local manufacturing business for 20 years.

Since being elected, she has helped to deliver a £54m Enterprise Zone on the former Daedalus airfield site. She has campaigned on a range of issues including improvements to the local road infrastructure, bringing in a £90m investment package for upgrades to routes from Gosport to the M27. She is passionate about supporting the armed forces, promoting education and training opportunities and ensuring small businesses are able to flourish. She has also been made a small business ambassador for the government.

MONICA CASSIDY - GREEN PARTY

Monica Cassidy is standing for the Green Party and was born and raised in north-west Kent.

She went to the local technical school and then to college at age 16 to study engineering subjects.

After college and a spell in industry, Monica went on to train as a teacher.

She took her first job in teaching at a further education college in Essex in 1988, before moving to Hampshire in 2006.

She took retirement at 55 and has been sharing a property in Gosport for the last four years. She joined the Green Party after reading more about the environment, social and equality issues, the economy and politics.

JEFFREY ROBERTS - UNKNOWN

Jeffrey Roberts is also standing as a parliamentary candidate for Gosport. He was unavailable for immediate comment to provide details about his background and who he is representing.

CHRISTOPHER WOOD - UKIP

Christopher Wood has lived in the constituency for all of his life. He attended Crofton Anne Dale, Crofton Senior School and Bay House Sixth Form College, before graduating from Cardiff University in June 2011.

For seven years, he worked in the wardrooms of HMS Collingwood and HMS Sultan and then started Initial Officer Training at Britannia Royal Naval College to become a warfare officer in the Submarine Service (Submarines).

However shortly after starting training he decided to return to this area and work to become a local councillor. Christopher now represents a sixth of the constituency on Hampshire County Council, to which he was elected with over 50 per cent of the vote. He is also a Fareham borough councillor.

ALAN DURRANT - LABOUR

Alan Durrant, representing the Labour Party, has lived in Gosport for 40 years and worked for Portsmouth Water for 25 years, finishing as a water regulations supervisor.

He studied industrial relations at Keele University and at present is a semi-retired tutor working for colleges in London, Newhaven and Oxford.

Alan says he wants to work with local councillors and agencies to improve issues such as the ongoing problems with the A32.

ROB HYLANDS - LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Rob Hylands is standing for the Liberal Democrats. He was born in the old Blake’s Maternity Home in Ham Lane and went to school in Gosport from St John’s Infants through to Brune Park Sixth Form. He was involved in the computer games industry for 20 years.

Rob is landlord of The Forester’s Arms in Ann’s Hill Road, Gosport, as well as a local councillor, and an active member of the local pub watch scheme.

He also helps to run two darts leagues - the Men’s Monday league and the Sunday Mixed Charity League.

To find out which issues are most important to people in the lead-up to the election - both regionally and nationally - visit www.whatmatterstome.co.uk/home