Oakcroft Lane statement

Submission to the Planning Committee by Jim Forrest

Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee. I do so as ward councillor for Stubbington, following substantial conversations and correspondence with residents in my ward.

But it’s worth noting that objections from residents are not just from Stubbington, but from a much wider area. This application would have enormous impact on the character of Fareham as a whole, and indeed the Gosport peninsula.

I’m deeply concerned that the refusal of the original application was not based on its impact on the Strategic Gap, and I hope members will reconsider that aspect. The strategic gap is under attack at many points: To attend this meeting I’m taking time out from atending the appeal hearing concerning 190 homes proposed in countryside at Newgate Lane, and there are more to come. I appreciate each proposal has to be considered in its own right, but I believe there is a principle underlying all of them which is vital to the future of our borough.

The officers report notes that this site is clearly outside of the defined urban settlement of Stubbington and Hill Head. I would add that a settlement boundary is not just a matter of lines and distances on a map. It shapes how people feel about the areas they live in.

For residents in Fareham, as much as for those in Stubbington, Hill Head and Lee, the wide, open coastal plain protects their sense of distinct communities. In the other hearing I mentioned, much has been made of the importance of so-called “big skies” in enhancing that feeling.

It’s been suggested in Persimmon’s submission that the line of poplar trees along Oakcroft Lane forms a natural boundary to the landscape of Newlands and Manor Farms.

But in fact the tall, high-crowned poplars permit views between them of the open field beyond, and eventualy to the denser tree belt around Marks Tey Road. While the appolicants are proposing plantings beside and between the existing trees, their landscaping scheme shows a mix of shrubs appropriate to suburban gardens, which grow to no great height.

Given that the site proposed for the homes slopes down towards Oakcroft Lane, the predominant feature of the landscape looking from Fareham will become an estate of 206 closely-spaced houses. And it will be a sominant feature perhaps even more at night. The trees on the northern edge of Stubbington mean that this has till now been a relatively dark-skied stretch of countryside, which enhances the distinctness of the communities. The lighting for 206 homes will further detract from the value of the landscape.

I acknowledge that the applicants have appreciably reduced the number of homes proposed. But the density of housing would still be substantially higher than in the area to the south and east of the site. And I have some concerns about the nature of the homes proposed. I note that the designs of some homes have been amended so that all meet the Council’s adopted guidance on space standards. But they remain close to minimum space standards, and some bedrooms remain marginally below the recommended floor area.

Our experience around the borough suggests that a few years down the line, this committee would be dealing with a steady flow of applications for home extensions, further increading the density of building.

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Mr Chairman, I will say as an aside that I have concerns about Traffic from 200 homes attempting to join rush hour traffic in Peak Lane. More often than not that traffic from Stubbington and Lee will be queueing at a signalised junction which HCC have acknowledged will have a bias in favour of traffic on the Stubbington by-pass.

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But my main concern is for the landscape which forms the Strategic Gap.

I did not raise objections to the earlier proposals at The Grange. They seemed to me low-density, sensitively designed schemes which meet the criteria for acceptable development in the countryside.

This scheme does not.

I believe it woud do irredeemable damage to the Strategic Gap, and to the countryside which, I repeat, is a priceless benefit to all of us, not just residents of my ward.