DCF – Kingscroft Farm development proposal

Last night’s Development Consultation (DCF) Forum at the Plaza was a well attended event.

The DCF is a platform for a developer to share their proposal with the council and interested community groups along with the public before moving onto the planning application stage.  This is a useful initiative by Havant Borough Council which enables local residents to get early sight of potential future developments. Residents are invited to question the developer and the developer is encouraged to take note of this feedback before submitting a formal planning application.

The land in question is to the west of the town, alongside the Hermitage Stream which runs down parallel to the railway to the south east of Bedhampton Gates. The developer, Foreman Homes of Park Gate, are seeking to extend their existing development of homes in Abrams Place, Doyle Close and Longcroft Way, streets which remain unadopted by the council.

Introducing the development team, Steve Weaver, the HBC Case Officer commented that the proposed site for development is ‘unusual’ in that it is not included as an allocation in either the adopted Local Plan or the pre-submission Local Plan 2036. The original allocation for commercial development applicable to part of the site in the currently adopted Local Plan has not been carried forward to the emerging pre-submission Local Plan 2036 because of the current Environment Agency flood risk assessment.

The meeting was well attended by residents of the adjoining streets, West Street and further afield. Foreman Homes were represented by their Planning Manager, Kate Little, and Steve Carrington, Planning Director. There were a couple of other silent members of their team present to make up the numbers but by far the most vocal member of the developer’s team was Tim Wall of iTransport. Tim joined iTransport five years ago after almost ten years as team leader for Strategic Transport for Hampshire County Council. We conclude that (a) he knows his onions and (b) that he has sufficient contacts and inside knowledge from HCC to be worth his fee to Foreman.

Foreman’s Planning Manager outlined their proposal, which shows 164 dwellings on a 4.1 hectare site, representing a density of 40 to the hectare – 16 to the acre in ‘old money’. The proposal for access to the site would either be via Abrams Way or Meyrick Road, the former an unadopted street and the latter unsuitable without upgrading. When questioned from the floor regarding the more obvious access route through Marples Way, Mr. Wall responded that access was unavailable due to the existence of a ransom strip between that road and the site.

After the developer’s presentation, the Councillors present were invited to pass comment, with Councillor Lloyd the first into the fray, raising concerns about the availability of parking and appropriate dropped kerbs for access. She asked whether the developer had considered designing houses without garages but with more open off-road space for parking. That was an interesting question though the predictable response was that the developer could make more money by selling garages that buyers will probably never use! Councillor’s Crellan and Keast weighed in on the evident lack of consultation with the Highways Agency and the providers of medical services, both observing that the developer’s action in bringing this to the DCF seemed ‘premature’.

Councillor Satchwell, seen by some of her Tory peers as ‘the opposition’, gave her usual refreshingly clearcut, no bull, response, observing that it was the first time she’d seen a developer bring forward a development proposal for which access was required over an unadopted road. She stressed the need for engagement with the owners of the road and the residents of the streets concerned.

Those residents, it seems, are already disgruntled about having been sold houses by the very same developer for which the associated annual management fees appear to have been hidden until purchase completion. Indeed, one resident asked directly whether Foreman would employ the same trick with this new proposed development.

These questions met with silence from Kate Little and muttering from her Planning Director to the effect that if the level of opposition continued, their development option would become smaller and smaller, adversely impacting their profit and probably resulting in the proposal being dropped.

In the discussion which followed it became clear that despite the fact that Foreman had built the original development through which access would be needed, they had clearly not considered, nor did they know, whether they already had access rights.

We took a well trodden path and pointed out that with anticipated applications by Portsmouth Water for development of their new HQ offices behind the Bosmere Medical Centre and the development of housing on their existing West Street site, current traffic chaos in the area can only get worse. While we have confidence that in any forthcoming planning application, Tim Wall will cover the traffic questions to the level of detail which would tick all of his former employer’s boxes, he would be considering the application in isolation. Just who in Havant Borough Council , we asked, is taking a holistic view of the overall traffic impact of the consolidated set of development proposals. We didn’t really get a clear answer…

Steve Weaver, the case officer for Havant Borough Council, wrapped up the meeting by saying that the presentations and output from the meeting would be ‘available on the website within a few days’. (Whether it gets there before the documentation from the previous DCF , number 49 from October last year remains to be seen;)

While the DCF process is to be commended for giving us an early ‘heads up’ on forthcoming plans for the town, it does concern us that sometimes the development proposals are at odds with both the adopted and Pre-submisssion Local Plans. With development proceeding elsewhere in the borough, on allocations in the new plan which have yet to come before the inspector, it rather calls into question the value of the Local Plan process on which many hours of effort have been expended by both council and public alike.