THOUSANDS of people will take to the polls in Fareham to have their say in the local and European elections.
Whether it is how many times a month your waste is collected, if the potholes in your street will be repaired, or if plans to build new houses will go ahead, they are the important issues decided by councillors voted for by the public.
The last local election in 2012 saw a 33.1 per cent turnout, with the Conservative Party regaining its majority on the council.
This year the key issues surrounding Fareham focus on four topics – highways, the use of green space, housing and the economy.
One of the biggest schemes planned for the town and its road network is the potential Stubbington bypass – a highway aimed at improving the connection between Fareham and Gosport.
It is a debate that has been talked about for decades and, as reported by the Daily Echo, highways chiefs have identified a chosen route for the £30m bypass.
The 50mph route would go between Gosport Road and Titchfield Road, with an alternative between Titchfield Road and Newgate Lane.
About £90m has been allocated for Fareham to improve access issues and is one of the top priorities for the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Meanwhile the controversial Welborne Plan proposes 6,500 new homes at the north of the town and the plans have already been through public consultation to test its “soundness” before going to a Government planning inspector.
But the plans are strongly opposed by some sections of the community, who claim the development will take away the area’s countryside.
Suitable sites have to be located first before so many houses are built.
Planners look for land on either greenbelt or brownfield land, which is always fuel for debate among communities.
There are heightened calls for more jobs in Fareham following the announcement that BAE Systems in Portsmouth Dockyard would be shutting down operations.
But up to 3,500 jobs could be created on the former RAF Daedalus site – a high priority for the Solent Enterprise Zone.
Other issues include flooding in areas such as Wallington and Titchfield, cuts to bus services, and the need for more leisure facilities.
Cllr Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, said the bypass is one of the key priorities for the Solent LEP.
He said: “Stubbington is very keen to get a bypass. They are exciting plans in the prospect of opening up the western access to Gosport.
“There is £90m funding for Fareham access issues and that is the top priority of the Solent LEP.
“Around £35m of that will be spent at junction ten of the M27 where the Welborne development will be built.”
Cllr Woodward added: “Welborne is controversial in the north of the town but housing is desperately needed.
“It is very important we are able to provide housing.”
Cllr Paul Whittle, leader of the Liberal Democrat group in Fareham, said the party opposes the Welborne plan but supports the development of housing on brownfield sites across Fareham.
He said: “I support development of additional housing on brownfield sites in and around Fareham and recently more than 200 have been approved. This will be accessible, earlier, affordable and acceptable to many, meeting the immediate and future needs of local residents and their families.”
Richard Ryan, Labour candidate for the Fareham North West ward, said the three burning issues for his party are the economy, housing and the Welborne development, and transport.
He said: “We do agree there should be a bypass in Stubbington. The trouble with the bypass is you get ribbon developments along it, so we were keen to get it moved along to stop them.
“We should be encouraging as much business in Fareham and be more flexible with planning. Lidl wants to build a shop on designated light industry land in Portchester, which creates 40 more jobs.
“We are in favour of Welborne. We don’t think the Liberal Democrats are honest in what they are saying.
“They don’t want Welborne but when one comes in for the rest of Fareham they don’t want that either.
“We have to be realistic.”
Independent councillor Jack Englefield said other issues include cuts to bus services, a lack of allotments, and refuse collections.
He also urged people to go out and vote on May 22.
Cllr Englefield, who represents Titchfield Common, said: “Last time people went in and couldn’t understand why they had two polling cards in their hand – it’s going to be chaos.
“People should realise this is as important as the European elections.”
David Harrison, coordinator of the South East Green Party, said issues surrounding Welborne, the economy, and the Stubbington bypass were burning issues within the group.
He said: “We are not in favour of Welborne – it’s not been thought through and there has been no thought for infrastructure and alternatives.”