By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas
THE GRANGE area of Gosport has been identified in a report by the All-Party-Parliamentary Group for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods as having relatively poor physical connections.
The APPG’s Connecting Communities highlights 225 areas in England which have what it terms ‘poor connectivity’.
It ranks Rush Green in Essex as being the most poorly connected and the Grange area is listed at 192 – by no means the worst in the country but only marginally second to Bondfields (Havant) in Hampshire.
The APPG report defines physical connectivity, “as being people’s access to public (buses, trains, trams, etc.), community and private transport (private cars, vans)”.
The rankings were compiled by Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion and the Campaign for Better Transport, with the support of the Local Trust.
They have used publicly available statistics to construct an index of connectivity that brings together various measures including car ownership, travel times to the nearest hospital, GP surgery and schools, and ways of travelling to work.
The report wants to see these communities get, “back on track” with better physical connectivity – digital connectivity will the subject of a separate report – because of the disadvantages of disconnection.
In particular, it states: “People living in areas without good public or private transport connections often struggle to access the jobs, education, healthcare, and essential services they need.”
The bus services – numbers 9 and 9A – to the Grange area were the focus of a recent BBC online report in which a resident complained about the cost of using the bus, especially if you have children.
However, Grange ward Councillor Tony Jessop told The Globe that he had not received any complaints about the bus service other than when it was not running or had been diverted due to roadworks or problems with youths throwing stones at the buses.
He recalled: “In 2014, we managed to save the number 9 route when it was withdrawn. We got a petition and with help of the county council and Councillors Mark Hook and Graham Burgess we brought the bus service back.”
The APPG’s report recommends that the Government supports local authorities by strengthening, “their ability to identify and respond to local transport needs” with, “clear commitments for future bus funding”.
In March, the Government announced a National Bus Strategy for England which will require local authorities to work with bus operators to improve services and may even price-cap fares. The strategy comes with £3 billion of funding over the life of the current parliament.
It will be up to Hampshire County Council to bring forward its plans. But the APPG’s report also emphasises the need for local communities to constructively support bus service reform.
If you have experience – good or bad – of local business services in Gosport and Fareham, and have ideas on how the services could be improved, then The Globe would welcome your comments.