Fareham Borough Council has agreed to delay the consultation on its future development strategy, in light of the challenges caused by the pandemic.
At a virtual meeting of the Full Council last night (Thursday) councillors were advised that the Council will be moving the consultation from spring/summer 2020 to autumn 2020.
In line with Government guidance, the Council has continued to develop its Local Plan, alongside its response to the pandemic. This contrasts with some neighbouring authorities which have paused work on their local plans during the crisis.
The Council’s Local Plan is crucial in ensuring that the Borough achieves a development strategy which is most appropriate to its needs, with the right new homes in the right places. There have already been three public consultations as part of the development of the Plan.
The next step is the creation of a Publication Plan which the Council must submit to the Government for independent review. This must be agreed by Executive and Full Council before a six-week consultation period. However, social distancing restrictions mean the usual ways in which the Council would seek residents’ views, such as large public meetings, cannot currently take place. There will therefore be a short delay to put methods of consultation in place which will avoid putting any participants at risk. This will include making use of virtual technologies as appropriate.
A petition was recently submitted to the Council, which underlined concerns about development on strategic gaps between settlements. The Council twice extended the deadline to allow organisers more time to seek signatures due to lockdown restrictions.
Protecting our green spaces is a key priority, underpinning work on the Local Plan. Alongside this, the need to protect the identity of our key settlements has been a strong influence on planning decisions to date.
Executive Leader of Fareham Borough Council, Cllr Seán Woodward, said:
“By making the announcement now of a Special Executive in late September to consider the Publication Plan, I am putting this revised timetable in the public domain to give residents and communities advanced notice of the timing around this important next stage in the preparation of our new Local Plan.
“This short delay to the plan making process allows us to ensure that we have the methods, including virtual methods of consultation, and necessary controls in place to avoid putting anyone at risk if they wish to take part in the consultation. To be clear however, it is our intention to hold the consultation physically if possible.
“It is perhaps also pertinent to mention that there will be a significant strategic countryside gap maintained between Stubbington and Fareham plus the Meon Gap on which discussions regarding designation as Green Belt continue via the Partnership for South Hampshire Statement of Common Ground.”
As well as hearing of the short delay to the consultation at last night’s meeting, councillors were also advised of a formal request from Portsmouth City Council in relation to future development. Portsmouth City Council has asked Fareham to accommodate 1,000 homes to help address its housing need which it claims it cannot meet within its own boundaries. Gosport Borough Council also has unmet housing need, but the Council is yet to receive such a request from them. Fareham Borough Council will need to take into account the unmet need of its neighbours when preparing its Local Plan; however, it will continue to robustly challenge that unmet need before agreeing to accommodate any of it within our new Local Plan.
The Council will now work towards a public consultation on its Publication Plan in autumn 2020 before submission to the Government.
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