Eastleigh’s rival Liberal Democrat and Ukip parties have clashed over housing as campaigning for the local elections on 22 May gets underway.
The Lib Dems have seized on a Ukip leaflet distributed in Hedge End which stated that Allington Lane would be a ‘Perfect Solution’ for the location of future housing and launched an online petition to “stop UKIP’s 4000 house chaos”.
On the petition’s webpage MP Mike Thornton is quoted as saying:
“UKIP seem determined to destroy the gaps between our villages.”
In last years by-election Ukip’s candidate Diane James overhauled the conservatives to finish a close second to Mike Thornton.
It is said that Ukip won the election on the day and it was only the Lib Dem’s postal vote that saved them the seat.
This year’s local election also coincides with the Euro MEP elections in which Ukip have been widely predicted to do well and the Lib Dems have abandoned their previous successful tactic of squeezing the Labour vote to directly target Ukip in their election material.
The latest Lib Dem leaflet distributed in Hedge End – where council leader Keith House is defending his seat – drew an angry response from Ukip on social media and sparked a war of words between the two local party leaders.
The Lib Dem leaflet promised ‘the truth’ about Ukip and stated the Eurosceptics wanted to:
- Build 4,000 houses north of Hedge End (Allington Lane)Build 4,000 houses north of Hedge End (Allington Lane)
- Scrap the NHS and PCSOs
- Oppose expansion of local schools
One Ukip insider complained to Eastleigh News that:
“Keith House thinks he knows Ukip policy better than we do”
Ukip activists took to twitter to say the Lib Dems were ‘making stuff up and that the leaflet was ‘blatant lies’ promising to ‘fight fire with fire’.
A leaflet to counter Lib Dem claims was quickly produced:
Keith House told Eastleigh News development on Allington Lane would erode the greenbelt by merging village’s as well as causing traffic problems in an environmentally sensitive area
The whole site, he said would also take over 10 years before it could deliver.
House also said that Ukip county councilors had voted to axe Accredited Community Safety Officers and had opposed the extension of Eastleigh schools by voting for the Conservative budget.
A Ukip candidate had also tweeted during last year’s Hampshire County Council elections that he supported the scrapping of the NHS.
Responding to the Lib Dem leader’s claims, Ukip’s Eastleigh Chair– former Lib Dem Mayor Glynn Davies-Dear – told Eastleigh News that only one rebel Ukip County councilor had voted with the conservatives and:
“One voter does not make a policy”.
Davies-Dear rejected the claim that Ukip supported scrapping the NHS.
“Ukip has the occasional wildcard it comes from being a free spiking free thinking party you don’t all have to follow the party line every time the leader says jump party so occasionally you will get some twit saying something ludicrous but its is not in any way any part of Ukip policy
“Ukip policy is money spent in the NHS should be spent wisely and more efficiently”.
The last statement echoes comments from Nigel Farage reported in the Daily Telegraph that when it come to spending cuts Ukip would look at pensions and the NHS:
“Given the mess we’re in everything needs to be on the table and thought about” he told Benedict Brogan
“There is nothing in Ukip policy about scrapping the NHS – but it makes a good soundbite”
Davies-Dear also said that he thinks the Lib Dems are attacking Ukip over PCSOs because Ukip have been campaigning against the closure of Eastleigh Police Station – savings from which could fund more PCSO’s
He said Keith House has unfairly tweeted that Ukip’s opposition to the plan means they are in favour of police officers ‘sitting in stations drinking tea’ and that they are opposed to PCSOs which, he said is untrue.
It is housing though, which is the most contentious issue with Eastleigh voters: to those who are at the bottom of th supply faced with spiraling rents and prices and to those already established who see their communities threatened by new developments on their doorstep as the council set about meeting their obligations to deliver 10,000 new homes in the borough by 2029.
Delays in delivering the local plan mean the Liberal Democrats have been speaking out in favour of green space development at Stoneham, Boorley and Fair Oak while campaigning against it elsewhere like in Hamble and now Allington.
Glynn Davies-Dear said the ‘perfect solution “ comment had been taken out of context but he did not rule out Allington Lane as a potential site.
Davies-Dear said Allington had been previously chosen as the ‘least worst option’ by Eastleigh residents themselves in a referendum which was run as part of the plans for an MDA the results of which he said, have been ignored by the council.
“They are currently building houses where they have promised consistently, faithfully never to build”
“Around 1998 or 99 Lib Dems put out a referendum to the people of Eastleigh about what was then the MDA (Major Development Area) and the site picked for it would be the majority of the referendum.
“They all said we don’t want these 4000 houses thrust onto our village or our town, make a new conurbation, a new village and the site they were offered by the council is what is now called Allington.”
Both Mike Thornton and Keith House have said there wasn’t a referendum over the Allington Lane MDA.
The last borough-wide public consultation in 2011 saw the public vote narrowly (by 58 votes) in favour of development at Boorley Green in preference to Allington.
Davies-Dear told Eastleigh News that If Ukip were to gain control of the council before the proposed local plan expired in 2029 they would look at Allington as an alternative but would try to build fewer than 4,000 houses and that development would be subject to a planning referendum and there would not be a new access road.
“Our option would be Allington with as few houses as we could get away with and no new road”
“It’s better than putting houses where people have said categorically they don’t want them”.