…Two wheels better?

One consequence of the Coronavirus lockdown has been a big increase in both cycling and cycle sales.

For now, this is mostly for exercise, but as businesses and factories re-open, we can expect an increase in people cycling to work or school, either because they find they prefer it to the car for shortish journeys or because of limits on the capacity of trains and buses .

The Government has announced funding to make more safe cycling routes available, and many councils are already proceeding with plans. We hope Fareham in partnership with Hampshbire County Council will follow suit.

In the meantime, we request cyclists to respect the rights of other road users. Most people cycle safely and considerately, but a thoughtless minority don’t give pedestrians enough space to practice social distancing on pavements or share use pathways,, or fail to give warning of their approach.

No safe cycling option – a rutted track, a pedestrian promenade, or a busy, winding road

This can be a particular problem on the Salterns promenade in Hill Head, where Fareham Council has been unable to complete the gravel cycle track from Seafarers Sailing Club to Monks Hill because of land ownership issues.

Our photo (from archive, before social distancing) shows the rutted track cyclists have to use for the final stretch to avoid straying onto the footway – a sad feature on what is part of a nationally recognised cycle route.

Perhaps when the Stubbington bypass is complete the County Council should consider closing Salterns Road as a through route for vehicles, making it safe for cyclists. At present many drivers use it as a rat-run between Gosport and the A27, but if the bypass does the job it’s supposed to, there should be no need for that any more.

Taking vehicles off that road would also make it much safer for families walking to the beach through Seafield Park to cross Salterns Lane safely.

A treasure worth preserving

Bob Seymour of the Focus Team offers these thoughts on Hill Head life:

Our Hill Head community has much diversity in its combination of modern estate and earlier housing with the occasional architectural gem. It is bordered on two sides by outstanding natural features, the Titchfield Haven and the Solent.

We are really quite fortunate to benefit from these amenities but we must always be aware of the risks modern life presents. The few areas of green space that remain seem constantly under threat of further development.

The Solent has a nationally important range of natural life both on its fringes and beneath the waves. The Hampshire Wildlife Trust is running a four year project to raise awareness of just how precious and fragile this life is and how our 21st century way of living puts this living wonder at risk.

We still have too much polluted water draining into the Solent, especially with Nitrates from both agriculture and our very own community.
Over exploitation of the shellfish from both the shore and from our small fishing fleet also represents a risk to the long term survival of what we have left. Protective measures are both under consideration and in effect, most recently recognition of the importance of the Tern populations. These small seabirds with a nature similar to Swallows rely on the sanctuary of the Haven for breeding and the life in the Solent for food.

And of course the Solent is unrivalled for its sailing opportunities, with our two sailing clubs providing first class facilities and especially opportunities for all our youngsters to experience sailing alongside the world class boats seen at Cowes every year.
Our community is served well by roads, schools and the nearby commerce in the village of Stubbington. Threats are always present though; perhaps inappropriate traffic speed, overuse of minor roads, antisocial littering of fast food containers amongst them.
What can we do to protect our fortunate community? I would love to see:
* The Old Street fields gifted to the Titchfield Haven for perpetual protection;
* A height restriction placed on the Meon/Posbrook lane and more encouragement for traffic to not use this as a commute into and out of Gosport;
* More of our residential streets recognised as safer with encouragement to drivers to limit to 20 mph;
* Much more emphasis on supporting the conservation and protection initiatives in the Solent. – between 1940 and 1945 there was a ban on commercial fishing in the Solent and the sea life greatly prospered!

Gap in the argument

Most discussion af the CAT Meeting at Holy Rood Church on February 10 centred on the concept of a Strategic Growth Area – the circumstances and conditions under which housing might be permitted in the Strategic Gap between Stubbington and Fareham.
Briefly. Fareham is not proposing to allow building in the Strategic Gap to meet its share of regional housing targets set by the Government; but it might be required do do so if neighbouring councils can’t meet their shares.
But residents were given a misleading impression of the nature of the Strategic Gap itself, as proposed in Fareham Today, and the fuller Draft Local Plan Supplement 2020 which is available on the Council Website.
The Council Leader stated that no permissions for housing had been given in the Strategic Gap. But he failed to mention that the Gap described in the draft 2020 Local Plan is already smaller than that under the existing Local Plan, adopted in 2015.
In October 2017, Fareham’s Executive approved a a new draft plan, which moved the boundary of the Strategic Gap westwards, allowing the provision of up to 475 homes between the Borough boundary and the newly-built Newgate Lane South.

Crofton Lib Dems at the proposed Newgate Lane site

The draft should have been put to the Council for endorsement after a 6-week consultation period. But in November 2017 the Government consulted local councils on a new planning framework, altering the rules for provision of new housing.
Fareham’s draft plan was rendered out of date, so instead of adopting it, the December 2017 meeting of the Council adopted a Corporate Strategy including the preparation of a new local plan.
That preparation has been going on ever since, resulting in the 2020 Draft Plan which residents are now being consulted on.
So the proposed reduced Strategic Gap which we are now being asked to approve, is based on a draft plan which was never fully implemented.
Stubbington Councilllor Jim Forrest is having regular briefings from Council officers about the 2020 Draft Plan.
Jim says: “I’m determined to protect the Strategic Gap, which is vital to preserve the village character of Stubbington and Hill Head, and the country town character of Fareham as a whole.
“And I’ll assert that the proposed 475 homes alongside Newgate Lane should still be up for debate rather than treated as a done deal.”

Builders eye up Bypass site

Before work has even started on the Stubbington Bypass, the developers are circling…

Foreman Homes Ltd have asked Fareham Council for an Environmental Impact Assessment screening opinion ahead of a potential application to build 500+ homes on either side of the bypass at Titchfield Road.

(See P/20/0005/EA in this week’s list of planning and other applications.)

This is NOT a planning application, but it’s a request for information that developers often seek to assess their chances of getting permission to build.

Cllr Jim Forrest says: “When residents were campaigning for a by-pass a few years ago, I warned at a CAT meeting ‘Be careful what you wish for’.

I said that while reduction in through treafic would help households in Titchfield Road and Gosport Road in the short term, it carried the risk that builders would seize on the new road as an opportunity for infill development.

“This screening request is extremely worrying for Stubbington.”

Shelter spruce-up

Staff at Fareham Council acted quickly when we asked for this area round the bus shelter at Gosport Road / Harold Road to be strimmed.

Weeds were spilling into the shelter from the verge

The Grounds chief undertook to find out why it was unmanaged. A week later, the work was done, and it’s once more an attractive refuge for the many people who use it.

Oakcroft Lane: 261-home scheme thrown out

Fareham’s Planning Committee has rejected Persimmon’s plans for 261 homes on land at Oakcroft Lane between Crofton Cemetery and Peak Lane.
Planning officers listed 21 detailed grounds for refusal, and Stubbington councillor Jim Forrest said in a submission to the committee: “This is inappropriate development which would lead to coalescence of settlements and degradation of design standards which FBC has striven to uphold.
“Not only would it be detrimental to the character of Stubbington, approval of this scheme ahead of adoption of a new Local Plan could be taken as a precedent for assault on those standards in other parts of the Borough”

Trim to enhance War Memorial

Work has started to trim the hedge around the eastern end of Stubbington War Memorial (the end nearest the Red Lion) to a height of about 3ft.

This will give better views of events such as the Armistice Service and the Christmas Carol Service, while the hedge at the western end will be kept at its present height to retain the atmosphere of the memorial itself as a tranquil place to pause and remember The Fallen.

The decision follows meetings Stubbington Lib Dem Councillor Jim Forrest and UKIP Councillor Carolyn Heneghan held with Fareham Council’s senior Streetscene officers.

The head of the Grounds team then attended a meeting of the Love Stubbington group to assess whether there was broad support for a lowering of the hedge. At that meeting it was supported by traders, church and community representatives and all local councillors.

The Liberal Democrat team had in the meantime sent a survey to all 6,000 homes in Stubbington and Hill Head seeking more detail of residents’ wishes.

So far we’ve received 113 responses (a high proportion when most replies were posted or hand-delivered).

These are the results (not expressed as percentages, as some people ticked more than one of the multiple choice boxes).

Should Stubbington War memorial be:

A place for quiet contemplation   35

A visible symbol of remembrance  68

Should the hedge be:

Kept at about head height  33

Pruned to waist height  52

Replaced with slower growing plants  13

Cleared for a few feet either side of the main entrances 36

Replaced with a chain fence   30

Would you favour crowd-funding to enable replacement:

Yes  57

No   37

Jim Forrest says: “The Grounds team have come up with a thoughtful solution which should give a good balance between the varying wishes of local people.

“The hedge will look stark for some months, which is unavoidable after pruning strong, mature laurel bushes, but the end result will enhance the village. I’m grateful for the time and understanding officers have given to this much-loved local landmark.”


Guarding our green lungs

New owners wanted a 6-ft fence here

Almost half of the Open Space in Fareham is not owned by the Council, Lib Dems have discovered.
But policies are in place which should protect most of it from development – if residents are vigilant.
Jim Forrest asked a series of questions at the Council following the recent controversy over attempts to fence off open space at Springfield Way. (See our earlier story: Fence round open space rejected)
Jim was told that 140 out of 340 sites designated as open space are not Council property, That amounts to 47.9% of the total Open Space in the Borough.
But the Council’s Core Strategy restricts the loss of existing open space to development unless it can be shown that the piece of open space is of poor quality, under-used, or a better quality replacement site is provided which is equivalent in accessibility and size. Later national guidelines offer similar criteria.
We’ll continue to watch for planning applications relating to Open Space and notify residents as soon as they appear.
Then it’s up to residents to put their comments to defend the land’s continued public. use.
The full text of Jim’s questions and the Council’s reply can be seen in Item 12 of these Council minutes

Fence round open space rejected.

Applications to erect  two metre fences round part of the open space between Springfield Way, Dallington Close and Mulberry Avenue have now been rejected by planing officers.

(Details can be found on Fareham Council’s website, ref P/18/0864/LP and P/0866/LP.)

ButLib Dems have found that other green spaces could be under threat.

The green north of Springfield Way has been enjoyed by everyone for decades since the estate was built in the 1970s, but two sections  of the land were recently sold at auction.

Those sections, though listed as public open space in Fareham’s local plan, were never owned by Fareham Council.

Agents for the applicants said they wanted the fence to prevent vandalism, anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping, which would be to the detriment of the area.

Councillor Jim Forrest says: “I don’t recall any of these issues arising in this space in the 25 years I’ve lived in Hill Head. A fence would be of permanent detriment to the area, destroying the view and preventing lawful use.

“This explanation insults residents’ intelligence.”

Jim, who is Lib Dem spokesman on planning and development, adds: “This could have worrying implications for Fareham as a whole. I’ve made inquiries and found there are other sites around Fareham where land currently in use as open space is still in private hands.

“Residents should be entitled to a clear picture of whether land around them is public open space, or just permissive space which can be sold and closed off.

“I’ve put a question to the Council to ask how many such sites there are and what can be done to protect them.”