Hampshire councils explore proposal for new Southampton and Portsmouth green belt

A partnership of 12 Hampshire local authorities is investigating proposals for the establishment of a new green belt in the south of the county around cities and towns including Southampton and Portsmouth.

Southampton: city currently has no green belt in place
Southampton: city currently has no green belt in place

The Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH) is made up of 12 south Hampshire councils, comprising the unitary authorities of Portsmouth, Southampton and Isle of Wight; Hampshire County Council; and the districts of Eastleigh, East Hampshire, Fareham, Gosport, Havant, Test Valley, New Forest and Winchester.

A meeting of the body’s decision-making joint committee earlier this month heard a presentation from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) which backed the case for the creation of a new green belt.

According to CPRE, the new green belt would surround major urban areas in south Hampshire such as Southampton, Portsmouth, Eastleigh and Fareham. There is currently no green belt in the area.

The committee also received a report from PUSH Planning Officer Group chairman, Claire Upton-Brown, which said that new green belt designation would help prevent the "coalescences" of the "separate" south Hampshire settlement.

The report states: "Given the considerable growth that has been delivered across the PUSH area to date and will continue to be delivered, it is critical that the integrity of the highly valued natural environment and the key elements of settlement pattern are maintained. A key part of the current strategy is to ensure that development can be accommodated while preventing the coalescences of the separate communities across the PUSH area." 

But it adds that new green belt can only be created "in exceptional circumstances". 

The report said that, "if there is a desire to agree to the designation of new green belt there would need to be clear justification how the area would meet the criteria for green belt designation, why the current strategy was not delivering its objectives and an understanding of the extent to which there is consensus across the PUSH authorities about the desirability to do this."

The report added: "An important issue to consider, and which should inform the debate about whether we should focus resources on building a case for designating a green belt in south Hampshire, is the extent to which this would be consistent with our messages about wanting to deliver sustainable growth in south Hampshire and the Isle of Wight."

"Whilst this narrative could be developed it would be interesting whether that would be the message received by central government who may take an alternative view that we are 'anti-growth' in south Hampshire and the Isle of Wight", the report warned.

However, the joint committee voted to task the PUSH Planning Officer Group with producing a full report on the issue "to advise whether there is any justification for considering a green belt across the PUSH area".

PUSH said the aim is to bring a report back to the joint committee at the next meeting on 15 October.

PUSH chairman and leader of Fareham Borough Council, councillor Seán Woodward, said: "I am delighted to receive the support from CPRE for the initiative of creating a green belt in South Hampshire.

"When we were discussing devolution proposals in Hampshire four years ago, I put forward the idea that we should be able to designate green belt as it is only fair that if residents are expected to accept extra housing then we should also be able to offer sufficient supporting infrastructure - green infrastructure as well as roads, schools and community facilities. Planning officers are investigating the feasibility and will report back to PUSH in due course."

CPRE Hampshire chief executive Charlee Bennett, said: "We are absolutely thrilled to have had such a positive response. The adoption of a south Hampshire green belt would maintain the integrity of the cities, prevent urban sprawl and safeguard the beautiful countryside which we consistently hear is so important to communities."

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