“There is great concern in Fareham about plans for a new town called Welbourne to be built on farmland north of the M27 motorway. The debate is giving rise to many letters in the local paper, The News, from irate residents who don’t want it.
The choice is either building Welbourne or filling in the green gaps in Fareham between the motorway and the Solent. There is no ‘do-nothing’ option – the population keeps rising. In November, the Leader of Fareham Borough Council was quoted as confirming that Welbourne is needed. Cllr Woodward mentioned various issues: the need for new affordable homes; Fareham’s rising population; growth in the local economy attracting new workers who need homes; existing residents trading up to larger homes; and our ageing population. Between 1951 and 2011, Fareham’s numbers have more than doubled from 43,000 to 112,000. If the same growth rate continues into the future, Fareham’s population will double again by about 2061 – to 224,000. Has anyone thought about the consequences of such growth?
In December, The News interviewed the Leader of Portsmouth City Council. Under the headline ‘Leader warns about uncertainty brought by population boom’, Cllr Vernon-Jackson provided population data supplied by the Office for National Statistics. ‘It’s a national issue and the Government will have to work out how we are going to cope if it happens,’ Cllr Vernon-Jackson said. In my view, he’s right about government getting involved. ‘If it happens’? It is happening – quietly, out of sight, every day, everywhere. Portsmouth’s population is expected to rise by 9,000 people by 2021. Almost entirely surrounded by water, the additional people can only be accommodated by constructing higher buildings in the city, thus increasing population density, or by building elsewhere.
A sum of £5m has been allocated for additional school places in Portsmouth to 2021. The article didn’t mention the additional costs for: college places; social services; affordable housing; GP and hospital services; more and larger supermarkets; and relieving road and rail congestion. Have these costs been estimated? Who will pay? Won’t we need higher local taxes and higher utility, food and transport prices? The News article also states that the other six districts in [and adjoining] south east Hampshire: Fareham, Chichester, East Hampshire, Winchester, Havant, and Gosport could have an extra 46,000 people by 2021. That’s an increase of nearly seven percent. But I think we need to look farther into the future to see the true population growth picture – say to 2061 when today’s 17-year-olds will reach 65. The present population of Portsmouth, and the six districts above, is 882,000. If this grew by seven percent per decade, by 2061 the population would reach 1,228,000. The extra 346,000 new people would need about 150,000 homes built on perhaps 6,000 hectares of land. At what cost in taxes, natural resources, and loss of countryside, and so on?
I welcome these Councillors talking about population… In my view, it’s high time national and local government found their voice and became outspoken about this most serious problem. Starting today, they need to work in partnership with the people to do the right thing – plan for growth reduction. Today’s young people have the most to gain by enjoying a less crowded and less damaged planet. A friend of mine sent me this: ‘With increasing concerns about overpopulation, climate change and environmental degradation, a few of the passengers and crew are becoming increasingly concerned, but the winners are on the bridge and this ship will take some turning’. It’s high time all the passengers and crew signalled the bridge to turn the ship!”
Clearly a man who asks the right questions. But not one familiar with the right answers. The existing political system has, whether by accident or by design, caused the problem and cannot admit it, let alone solve it. So there’s no point whatsoever in trying to gain the captain’s ear. The way forward – the only way forward – is to insist that the captain walks the plank. The despotic, Norman-imposed Parlement at Westminster, dancing, as ever, to the tune of City swindlers, must be cast aside and replaced with a Wessex Witan that responds to the will of Wessex folk.