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Reducing Planning Protection

Lockdown has reinforced our appreciation for pollution-free outdoor activity. Such places on Hayling need far greater, permanent protection. In our waterways, single use plastics have actually increased, accelerated by COVID waste. Surfers Against Sewage recently reminded everyone (BBC July 14th) that our Sewage Treatment Centres urgently need radical improvements to stop raw sewage being dumped into our fresh & seawater, causing serious illnesses. Locally we still lack sufficiently frequent, well-publicised notices of Hayling’s beach sea water monitoring plus immediate, specific and meaningful warnings after heavy rainfall. Despite promises months ago by Southern Water this is not happening.

Traffic pollution is inhaled even within a vehicle’s interior and, outside, by those youngsters at exhaust level; yet our Councillors told us in 2017 to accept more and slower A3023 traffic following major Hayling developments, so generating more pollution to pedestrians and those cyclists still brave enough to share Hayling’s narrow roads with larger vehicles. How is this in any way environmentally progressive? Hayling’s widely criticised Transport Assessment has certainly not resolved any of these issues. Our Infrastructure Advisory Group were never given real advisory access and their expert was, at the Scrutiny Board, effectively ignored.

Cycle Hayling (Herald July p.38) clearly presents our desperate need for viable cycle routes on the Island. Government’s post-COVID promises mean nothing if they are not put into practical action. HBC’s Conservative Council must surely support its Conservative Government in decreasing vehicular traffic in favour of encouraging everyday cycling. This would be a win:win for our health, well-being and even encourage valuable visitors’ revenue.

The Government’s latest Planning proposals appear beneficial but still threaten our outdoor environment. The PM’s ‘New Deal’ would give more types of commercial premises “total flexibility” to be repurposed without requiring planning permission, so retail shops could become a café, office, or homes. Similarly, builders could demolish vacant or redundant premises to build homes. Reducing planning permission removes proper investigation that protects valuable community assets – whether natural or man-made; conversely building homes on brownfield sites saves destroying greenfield sites – but this is already encouraged although not prioritised within the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework, so why further weaken planning permission?

Boris Johnson complains about slow moving house-building but we’ve long known that builders can ‘sit’ on land, awaiting increases in property profitability; to stop this, Government could have greatly reduced permission timetables. The PM’s criticism of efforts to protect our wildlife eg ‘newt-counting delays’, ignores England’s very real decline in species rich habitat. Yet simultaneously the Government explained that it would continue to build on its “proven-track record of cutting emissions” to deliver “a stronger, cleaner, more sustainable economy after this pandemic”.

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