It’s currently an area of natural beauty. But from next month the decision to concrete over huge swathes of green fields in Fareham to build more than 7,000 homes will rest in the hands of one person.
From May 17, government inspector Michael Hetherington will sit down at Fareham Borough Council’s civic offices to start the first of six sessions that will look at the borough’s future.
He will consider how major sites such as Coldeast in Sarisbury and Daedalus on the Lee-on-the-Solent/Stubbington border are expected to develop over the next two decades, as well as infrastructure issues.
But one element has come to dominate so far – proposals for a new town of up to 7,500 homes on green fields between Fareham and Wickham.
Known officially as the strategic development area (SDA), it has attracted massive opposition from residents, both in Fareham and to the north in Winchester City’s district.
On the opening day of the inquiry, Mr Hetherington wants to call 23 people to give evidence specifically on the SDA, ranging from various residents’ groups to environmental groups, developers and planning consultants.
David Walton, of Wallington Village Community Association, who will give evidence, said: ‘All the local community groups are totally opposed to this.
‘It’s a massive development – it’s a whole new town and there are huge infrastructure-related issues for which the funding has to be addressed.
‘There’s still a lot of argument about the rationale behind the need for the SDA.
‘Is this to fulfil the borough’s need for affordable housing, which is only going to be 2,000 homes over 20 years. Or is it derived from the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire’s (Push) aspiration to grow south Hampshire?
‘You then have to acknowledge the slightly awkward situation of the chairman of Push also being the leader of Fareham Borough Council.’
Lib Dem councillor Paul Whittle, for Fareham East, has also vocally opposed the SDA.
He said: ‘This is certainly the biggest inquiry of its sort in this area, and the decision around the SDA proposals are of huge potential impact to people who already live in Fareham.
‘I don’t think we have fully investigated the alternative options.’
However, Fareham council maintains that in its own consultations, people support the principle of development on the site.
Cllr Sean Woodward, the leader of Fareham Borough Council, said: ‘The issue is why are we having so few houses, not why are we having any at all? The inspector has already sent a list of questions which the council has responded to, and it’s clear that this is the issue he’s looking at regarding the SDA. Without the core strategy passing the test of public inquiry looking at its soundness, there will be no local plan. It’s about Fareham for the next generation.’
The inspector is expected to deliver his verdict in the autumn. For more information on the inquiry go to fareham.gov.uk.