Letters spark row over changes to precinct parking

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A ROW has broken out after a letter was sent out to 8,000 residents from the person who wants to open a new supermarket in Portchester.

The letters were sent by Lidl’s property director Jason Gratton and encourages people to comment on Fareham Borough Council’s development sites and policies plan before its consultation closes at 5pm on Friday.

The eight-page letter focuses on one part, relating to Portchester district centre, of the wider borough consultation.

The letter has upset and angered residents, who fear for the loss of car parking, which the letter says could happen if the council’s new plan is adopted.

Brian Mitchell, 77, from Portchester, said people were furious about potentially losing the car park. He said: ‘Everybody is absolutely up in arms.’

Ward Cllr David Norris said the letter was confusing.

He added: ‘These people are causing a lot of upset about something they know nothing about. I’d encourage people to go online and have a look at the full plan for themselves.’

Mr Gratton stood by the statements in the letter and said he was ‘deeply concerned that any new development would significantly reduce parking.’

Mr Gratton, a Portchester resident, said: ‘I believe the council wish to put development on the car park in the future. Planning is such a complicated subject. We felt it was up to us to make residents aware.’

Mr Gratton criticised the way the council conducts consultations and said it could do more to inform residents, such as sending letters.

Two petitions have been set up online, one to support the retention of the precinct’s car park and one to support Lidl’s redevelopment of the empty Homewood Interiors unit on Castle Trading Estate.

The council defended its consultation and said changes are being proposed to that area’s long-term planning classification to encourage investment to ensure the centre’s success.

Executive member for planning Cllr Keith Evans said: ‘The council’s new local plan covers up to 2026 and it may be that residents will need extra shopping facilities during this time.

‘However, any development proposals within the area will have to incorporate parking.’

The expansion will extend the boundary of the district centre to include shops to the east of Castle Street, Castle Court, Portchester Methodist Church, Portchester Parish Hall, the south car park and the lorry park.

To view the plan go to fareham.gov.uk/consulta tions or call 01329 236100.