Cllr Sean Woodward is the Leader of Fareham Borough Council.
Spitfires have come to the rescue of Fareham Borough Council. Five of the iconic World War Two fighters fly from Solent Airport in Fareham and fuel sales for pleasure flights are reaping thousands of pounds in revenue for the benefit of Fareham council taxpayers. And wise business investment by the Conservatives is sparing Fareham households massive annual council tax rises.
Out of an annual Borough Council spend of £47 million, less than £7 million comes from council tax. So 85 per cent of what we spend includes our trading activities, among them a portfolio of mainly local commercial property that brings in millions of pounds in rent. For example buildings housing B&Q, Dunelm, Halfords, PC World, etc belong to the Council. Without this income, our council tax, currently almost the lowest in the country, would need to be far higher.
At Solent Airport £30 million has been spent so far on infrastructure and new commercial buildings such as the newly-extended Fareham Innovation Centre, which is already 70 per cent full. Airport operations provide a financial return to the Council, flight movements have increased to 30,000 annually and hundreds of new jobs have been created at what is the Solent Enterprise Zone with many more to come.
I have been Leader of Fareham Borough Council now for 20 years. We have a good record of being a prudent, low taxing Council with excellent services. For the future, we promise more of the same.
Challenges facing the Council include top-down housing figures demanding at least 520 houses per year. I never thought we would see the John Prescott form of meting out housing numbers from a Conservative government. Something I very much hope the new Johnson team will reverse. We have never seen much more than half those numbers built in the Borough and they are well above our objectively assessed need.
Ironically while our housing numbers are high our ability to issues planning consents from new homes has been halted by an EU court judgement on nitrates which has stopped any councils in South Hampshire from issuing planning permissions. This is due to the effects of excessive nitrates on the Solent. Even though some 80 per cent of the issue is run-off from agriculture. Our huge challenge is to develop a mitigation scheme that developers can pay for to reduce the level of nitrates getting into the Solent special protection area. This will require the cooperation of DEFRA (Natural England), the Environment Agency and the water companies. As Fareham is part of the eleven councils forming the Partnership for South Hampshire we are working together to find a solution.
We must deliver a new community called Welborne of 6,000 new homes in North Fareham. As this requires a new motorway junction it is held up by Highways England. We hope to see a planning committee consideration in the autumn. We have around 3,000 families in need of affordable housing and Welborne will go a significant way over the next 25 years to provide new homes for Fareham people.
As a Council, we will be free of single-use plastics by next year. This is something of great concern to our residents and rightly so having seen the damage caused to our oceans by the fallout from these products.
Town centres are suffering in the light of the switch from conventional retail to online. While Fareham has suffered less than most it is still suffering. We have developed a vision for our town centre to revitalise it with the addition of leisure and housing. That means us working with the private owners of the shop units to encourage re-use or perhaps conversion to housing.
We have for many years run one of the country’s largest community gardening competitions – Fareham In Bloom. We are successful in repeatedly winning South and South-East England In Bloom with gold for the best large town/small city. We aim to continue to fill Fareham with flowers and enjoy huge community and business support in this work.
We are providing a £10 million+ refurbishment of Ferneham Hall, our entertainment complex which has served our residents well for over 30 years. This will provide an 800 seat auditorium and community facilities. This comes after the recent completion of a second £9 million leisure centre in the west of our Borough. We are all about providing our people with the highest quality services at the lowest possible cost.
Earlier this year we saw some 1,400 good Conservative Councillors lose their seats through no fault of their own. They were swept away by our government’s failure to deliver an exit from the EU.
We distinguish ourselves from such failure by working locally, delivering InTouch newsletters to all of our residents at least quarterly on local successes and issues and working within our wards helping our constituents. It is by keeping in touch all year round at not just at election time that we hope we can continue to weather national storms. But we never take anything for granted especially the electors. We do of course live in hope that our new Prime Minister will help with bringing about national enthusiasm for the Conservative cause again.