New town Welborne delayed 18 months by hold-up in planning applications

Cllr Keith Evans and council leader Sean Woodward from Fareham Borough Council
Cllr Keith Evans and council leader Sean Woodward from Fareham Borough Council
  • Council will seek Compulsory Purchase Order
  • It will spend £2m on the order but get the cash back when the town is built
  • Authority leader says he is frustrated with landowners
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LANDOWNERS will look to thwart a council’s plan to take over land in a row which could see the start of Welborne delayed by at least 18 months.

Fareham Borough Council announced yesterday that it would be seeking a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to buy the land in the north of Fareham where the 6,000-home new town will be built.

An artist's impression of Welborne

An artist's impression of Welborne

As well as the CPO, the council will also appoint a development agency in efforts to keep the plan for the town, which will cost £1bn, on track.

Council leader Sean Woodward said he had ‘run out of patience’ with the landowners after they failed to submit planning applications, despite the town being approved in June after an inquiry.

Cllr Woodward said: ‘What we really need to do is to be getting on with things.’

Currently, the land designated for Welborne has two owners who control 90 per cent – Buckland Capital Partners on behalf of the Southwick Estate and The BST Group on behalf of The Benge Estate. This land been promoted for development by the owners for 10 years.

About eight other owners own the remaining 10 per cent.

Speaking on behalf of Buckland Capital Partners, Mark Thistlethwayte said a joint planning application was due to be submitted by March 31.

‘We have had a good relationship with the council but I have to say I was gobsmacked when we were informed of the council’s plans,’ he said.

‘We had meetings with the council and in early September we have a plan of action to move forward.

‘The council says the reason for the CPO is certainty. We were looking to put in the outline planning application in March which had details of the schools, infrastructure and dates for delivering the houses.’

Mr Thistlethwayte added: ‘We have gone to our own advisors to understand this process and they were as surprised as we were.

‘Despite the fact we have had to stop our work, it is still our intention to submit the planning application.’

The announcement of the CPO was made at last night’s Welborne Standing Conference.

Shaun Cunningham, who has campaigned against Welborne, said the whole development had been thrown into chaos.

‘It was a complete shock,’ he said.

‘The whole development is in a position of chaos and I don’t believe the delay of Welborne will be 18 months.

‘I think it will be a lot longer if the landowners decide to fight the CPO.’

Fareham Liberal Democrat councillor Katrina Trott added: ‘I am flabbergasted at the council’s decision.

‘We Fareham north ward councillors have been asking about the finer details of Welborne and just as we are about to get the answers with the application, the council looks to do this.’

But Cllr Woodward said if planning applications had been submitted, the council would not have suggested the CPO.

He said: ‘If we had planning applications on the table now, then we would be happy – we haven’t.

‘Therefore something is wrong and we need to do something. For whatever reason, landowners have not come forward with applications.

‘We would have reasonably expected a whole package put in place a long time ago to get us to a place where co-ordinated planning applications would now be on the table.’

Cllr Woodward said seeking the order could set the town back by as much as 18 months, but he hoped that once it was in place that they could claw back some of that time.

Executive member for planning and development Keith Evans said: ‘We are looking for certainty and the CPO route is a way to get that certainty.’

The CPO will cost around £2m, which will come from the development profits, hence why the authority is seeking a development partner.

Welborne is one of the biggest housing developments in the country and the plans have split opinion, with many vocal campaigners objecting about the use of green fields, the loss of countryside and the extra strain on existing infrastructure. However the town was approved last year and Cllr Woodward said it would help alleviate Fareham’s current housing waiting list - which stands at 1,350 families - and help the town meet its housing targets.

The council hopes to have the town built by 2036.