Leader warns about uncertainty brought by population boom

CROWDED Shoppers in a busy Commercial Road, Portsmouth
CROWDED Shoppers in a busy Commercial Road, Portsmouth
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THE population of the wider Portsmouth area is set to rise by more than 50,000 in the next eight years, according to new estimates.

The Office for National Statistics is predicting the population will increase by several thousand in all the local authority areas of South Hampshire.

But civic leaders warned the increase could put pressure on public services and land, with Portsmouth City Council having little space for new housing.

According to ONS projections, Portsmouth will see a population increase from 209,000 this year to 218,000 in 2021.

Internal migration – that is people moving into and out of Portsmouth within the UK – is set to balance itself out, meaning that much of the increase will be from international migration, according to the statistics.

Across Hampshire as a whole, around a tenth of the people moving in will be from overseas.

The statistics show areas with more available land will see bigger increases, with Fareham’s population rising from 112,000 to 122,000, Chichester from 110,000 to 122,000, East Hampshire from 128,000 to 138,000 and a rise from 118,000 to 124,000 in Winchester district.

Havant’s population will rise from 121,000 to 125,000 and Gosport from 84,000 to 88,000.

When asked whether Portsmouth could take an extra 9,000 people, council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘No.

‘We have got a huge waiting list for council houses. We are investing £5m in building additional school places for primary schools because we are running out of places.’

But he added: ‘The trouble is we don’t know whether these things are going to come through. It’s a real problem because we don’t know.

‘All the forecasters in the past said population was going to fall and they were wrong. It’s a national issue and the government will have to work out how we are going to cope if it happens. If we don’t build on green fields and build in the city, that’s why we have a huge housing shortage across the country.’

The population of Portsmouth in 1951 was 250,000 – which fell to 180,000 at the turn of the millennium, but has risen ever since.

Welborne, the new town north of Fareham is set to accommodate a large proportion of the population increase.

Cllr Keith Evans, executive member for strategic planning at Fareham Borough Council, said: ‘Welborne’s population is expected to be about 12,000 to 15,000 alone. Clearly it is better to take the chance to put infrastructure in and build outside the urban area to reduce pressure on the existing infrastructure and road networks. Fareham can cope with this increase as Welborne is part of our development plan.’

England’s population is set to rise from around 53m to 58m by 2021.

The national population boom will be concentrated in the south of England.