Newgate Lane – victory for residents

Plans for up to 190 homes at Peel Common have been refused by a Planning inspector after the lengthy appeal hearing earlier this year.

It’s great news for residents in Newgate Lane, Woodcote Lane and Albert Road who would have seen their semi-rural community more than double in size.

The effects on the community, impact on the countryside, and safety at the junction of the old and new Newgate Lane were the main objections cited by the Inspector.

You can see his judgment here.

His comments substantially echo the points we and local residents made at the hearing (see “Newgate Lane – a Sense of Place” below.

Airport update

Here is the latest newsletter from Solent Airport management – sadly, the popular Spitfires will be elsewhere until the autumn.

They also report that the CAA has investigated noise complaint and found no rule breaches – though it would have been good to have a link to the actual report.

See the newsletter here.

A leafier lane?

A resident in Burnt House Lane points out that it’s one of the few streets in Stubbington with a wide grass verge, yet no roadside trees.

With the Council pledged to plant more trees as part of its strategy to combat the Climate Emergency, that seems a good place to start.

And we’ve commented in the past that the wide, open nature of Burnt House Lane offers subconscious encouragement to drivers to put their foot down on what is a significant commuter shortcut.

Trees would have the effect of diminishing that effect, without altering the pleasant open effect of front gardens which are free of fences and hedges.

We’ll consult other residents in Burnt House Lane to see if they would welcome some tree planting.

Your Crofton candidates

Liberal Democrats will be fighting every seat in Fareham in the Borough and County Council elections on May 6. Your local candidates are:

Fareham Borough Council

Hill HeadStubbington
David Hamilton

Jimmy Roberts

David Hamilton has lived in Fareham since 2015. He has a career in insurance, and his wife runs a small business locally. David and Karen have two children of school age.

Jimmy Roberts is a local businessman well known within the community. Jimmy is actively working to raise local priorities and resist central government edicts that would further weaken the local environment.

Hampshire County Council

Fareham Crofton

Jimmy Roberts is also our Candidate for the Fareham Crofton County Council division, which includes Stubbington, Hill Head, and part of Fareham West. Jimmy works closely with David Hamilton and Councillor Jim Forrest on the Crofton Focus team.

Jimmy, David and Jim … working all year round for Stubbington and Hill Head

Police Commissioner

Richard Murphy is Lib Dem candidate to be Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

See the full list of Lib Dem candidates, contesting every seat in Fareham in the Borough, County and Police Commissioner elections.

Plan for safer crossings

Hampshire County Council is considering possible changes to the junctions and roundabouts in the village to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, and to encourage through traffic to use the Stubbington bypass.

Stubbington councillors and the County Councillor took part in an initial consultation with officers, and there will be a public consultation in the summer.

The work will not start until after the by-pass is open, so probably early in 2022.

It would be confined to making crossings safer at the junctions of Gosport Road/Stubbington Lane, Gosport Road/Burnt House Lane, and Gosport Road/TitchfieldRoad/Mays Lane, and measures to discourage traffic through the village from other areas..

Suggested changes to village car parks which were in an early leaked draft have been shelved. Some were clearly inpractical and councillors emphasised the importance of good parking provision to the viability of the shopping centre.

Newgate Lane – a sense of place

Jim Forrest attended all of the fortnight-long hearing into appeals by Fareham Land LP, over plans to build 190 homes on land at Newgate Lane.

His Statement to the Inspector, opposing the development, was quoted extensively in the summing up by the barrister acting for Fareham Council.

Jim said: I am a Fareham Borough Councillor reperesenting the Stubbington ward, which contains the Peel Common community of Newgate Lane, Woodcote Lane and Albert Road. I am also the Liberal Democrat spokesman on Planning and Development on Fareham Borough Council. Though that is an opposition role, I supported Fareham’s Publication Local Plan when it was considered at the Full Council meeting on October 22, 2020.

Jim Forrest and Jimmy Roberts at the threatened farmland

I believe either or both of these two developments would have serious implications both for my constituents in Stubbington, and for the borough as a whole.

As a Fareham councillor, my greatest concern is to see protection for the Strategic Gap which prevents Fareham’s distinctive communities from merging, and prevents those in turn from merging with the Gosport urban area. I note that the Statement of Common Ground refers to the proposed sites as being “directly adjacent” to the Fareham/Stubbington Strategic Gap. (Paragraph 5.7 in each case). However, the Policies Map attached as Appendix B to Fareham’s Publication Local Plan shows the Strategic Gap as extending beyond Newgate Lane East to the Gosport borough boundary.

As well as the core benefit of physical separation of settlements, recent rulings concerning other parts of that strategic gap have focussed on the concept of “valued landscape”. While I note that the Statement of Common Ground (para graph 5.6 in each case) suggests that Peel Common is not a valued landscape for the purposes of paragraph 170 of the NPPF, it is certainly valued by residents there and in the wider Fareham and Gosporft communities.

Peel Common has recently been given added value. Over many decades Newgate Lane had been degraded from a quiet country road to a major route between Stubbington, Lee and western Gosport and the employment and retail areas of Fareham, choked with traffic at all times of day.

Since the construction of Newgate Lane East, a more welcomimg vista has been opened up for travellers along that route: Tree-lined paddocks, a sensitively restored farmhouse, traditional brick houses, and some cottages going back to Victorian times and beyond. Though the landscape includes the major infrastructure of Southern Water’s treatment plant, the experience of that site for residents and travellers is of the wooded bund around it, which is a haven for many species including deer and buzzards. The development proposed here would more than triple the population in the immediate vicinity of that haven.

The value of the Peel Common landscape, and the views beyond it stretching twoards Titchfield, also includes the sense of place it offers.Travellers between Fareham and Stubbington or Lee leave behind an urban landscape at HMS Collingwood and the Speedfields retail park. They pass through countryside surrounding a largely unspoiled hamlet, before returning to an urban fringe landscape at Solent Airport.

This part of the Strategic Gap, as well as being an area to enjoy in leisure times, gives residents on either side of it a real sense of their distinct communities. A modern estate set down in the heart of it would damage it irreparably.

As a ward councillor I’d be bitterly disappointed to see my constituents in Peel Common lose the peace they have only just regained.

Residents in Newgate Lane, Albert Road and Woodcote Lane endured decades of non-stop queues of traffic on their doorsteps.

The creation of Newgate Lane East brought respite, restoring Peel Common as a cul de sac where residents no longer needed to fear constantly for their children’s safety.

Peel Common is effectively a hamlet once more, with just over 80 households on the voters roll. The addition of 190 households would mean hundreds of cars once more disgorging onto Newgate Lane. And it would triple the pressure on the difficult exit to Newgate Lane east, across a 40mph traffic flow.

It would also have an impact on residents in my ward and in the neighbouring Gosport wards who cycle regularly into Fareham. The Newgate Lane cul de sac now offers them a safe route with minimal vehicle traffic, where before they had to share a narrow road with heavy commercial and commuter traffic. The additional vehicle traffic from 190 extra households can be easily imagined.

I appreciate there has been reconsideration of Housing Supply by HMG since these applications were considered by Fareham’s Planning Committee.

But the projections of housing need we are now working on were drawn up before the Covid pandemic. It will be many months, perhaps years before the results of the economic upheaval can be assessed. Employment and retail patterns, incomes, transport usage are all likely to be altered and may lead to further re-estimates of housing need..

And even without such a re-assessment, I do not believe there is a need which justifies a fundamental alteration of the character of Peel Common..

Oakcroft Lane saved again

Persimmons’ latest plans for 206 homes at Oakcroft Lane in the Strategic Gap were refused by 6-3 at Fareham’s Planning Committee.

A big thankyou to the many residents who joined Jim Forrest and other councillors in expressing our community’s opposition to the plans.

The developers had reduced their original proposal of 260 homes, and made some concessions on house design and landscaping.

The Focus Team on an earlier visit tothe Oakcroft Lane site

But the committee ruled that it was still unacceptable development in the countryside which would damage the Strategic Gap.

You can see Jim Forrests’ presentation to the committee here.

Jim says: “Persimmon will probably appeal, so we still have a fight on our hands to preserve the landscape we value so dearly.”

Proposals for up to 16 houses on and beside the former site of The Grange on the other side of Crofton cemetery were accepted at the same meeting..

While this development is also in the countryside, it should give improved views of St Edmunds Church (Crofton Old Church), improve safety for walkers in Ranvilles Lane, and the ugly leylandii hedge is to be replaced with trees and shrubs more in keeping with the area.

Cockles and mussels, Alive, Alive-O

Living next to the Solent with a beach and foreshore recognised as of Special Scientific Interest is a positive aspect of life in Hill Head and Stubbington. But our Solent has a few problems and is in need of our care and attention, writes Bob Seymour. Allowing the many birds that feed at low tide a little bit more relief from our pet dogs scaring them when off a lead is one way.

It is the level of Nitrates in the Solent’s water though that needs our urgent attention. Fertilisers on Hampshire fields and domestic waste from the houses that fringe its shores have accumulated in the Solent causing a big rise in oxygen depleting algae growth. All life in the Solent suffers, and the water pollution makes it a more hazardous place to swim and sail.

Some actions have been taken, encouraging less reliance on nitrate fertilisers, a temporary stop to any large housing developments. Another might be to take better care of the shellfish that live here.

The Solent shellfish are known as bivalves – Cockles Clams and Oysters. They are nature’s filter feeders, their simple life cleans up after our polluting lifestyle. As a result they also become dangerous to our health if eaten!

Scientific studies recognise these little creatures as ‘keystone species’, performing the task of ‘ecosytem engineers’. Their filter feeding behaviour removes particles, both organic and inorganic from Solent’s water transferring the matter to the seabed to either be locked into the sediment or be food for even smaller organisms in the ecosystem. They are especially adept at removing bacteria such as e-Coli, which we are so good at putting into the water from our sewage treatment process.

Undisturbed, these little saviours cluster in large colonies where the impact of their cleaning process is really important for us. In fact they perform three key tasks for us – filtering the water, trapping carbon and they can help reduce shoreline erosion.

Across the Solent over-harvesting of shellfish has had many negative impacts. There are already several controls managed by the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority – a limit on both the size of shellfish that can be taken, a seasonal halt on taking cockles between February and May, for Oysters between March and November.

Picture from Southern IFCA

In 2018 a total ban on fishing was temporarily introduced as the full impact of over-fishing was identified. The Hill Head fishery, covering the foreshore and halfway across to the Isle of Wight has been declassified as a fishery because of the poor quality of the water.

In 2020 a leak from the Hook sewage treatment outfall resulted in a temporary total ban by Fareham’s food hygiene service on the taking of shellfish. On the positive side there are several initiatives to reintroduce Oysters into the Solent, an attempt to both improve their ability to clean our water and to revive a small fishing industry that has been around for several thousand years.

If we could just leave the shellfish alone in the sea and under the sands at low tide for a much longer period, perhaps a few years, their work would be even more effective for us.

We can play a small part here by encouraging a wider appreciation of the value of a shellfish in the water rather than in a stew. At the very least we can properly enforce existing controls to stop the large scale gathering of them on our shore by illegal gangs as we saw on one occasion last year. Again, you can play a role by letting the authority know if you see any sign of large scale gathering at low tides; report such harmful activity to Fareham’s food hygiene service on 01329 236100.

Let us know what you think of this local environmental issue.

It’s a crime to close a library

It should be a criminal offence to close a library, says Focus Team member Bob Seymour! 

Right now of course we have no open libraries, so this invaluable source of learning and wisdom at the heart of any community has been denied to us all for many months now. 

Have pity then for the residents of Elson and our neighbours in Lee-on-the-Solent. The Tory led review of county library services last year has resulted in both closing their doors.

It reminds me of the actions of Caesar in Alexandria two millennia ago! Of course it was all in aid of making the claim to have not increased our council tax. But the cost is endangering the future of our children’s abilities at a time when there are so many risks to that most precious of our reasons for being. 

The library at Lee was always such a source of wonder to the many children who passed through its doors and of course a haven of peace and recreation to those of us who have already benefited from a library’s formative role in our education.

The range of values of course goes well beyond the availability of knowledge and leisure, reading or entertainment. 
So many times have I been struck by the variety of groups taking advantage of our Stubbington library’s position at the heart of our community. Many of you reading this on your tablet or phone will have been taught how in a class with others overcoming fear of the technology. 

All is not lost in Lee or Elson though, despite the best efforts of the administration. A collection of our citizens have stepped forward to work on new solutions, aiming to preserve the ambitions of a library within a community hub.

To revive the purpose of that glorious building in Lee, they of course need our help. Take a look at the latest position on their website.

Just remember: This narrow-minded approach to service provision, which in the case of libraries should in my opinion be outlawed, could so easily have taken our own library on the green away from us.

As with that ancient library in Alexandria, any temporary decline in its influence must not be taken as an excuse to commit the vandalism inflicted in Hampshire last year.