The very thin end of a very large Portsmouth Water wedge

[Updated, 15/10/2020]

We have a soft spot for trees. We also have a soft spot for green spaces. We also understand that Havant’s tree canopy is, at best, poor by national standards. In a world where the value of trees and the importance of the tree canopy to the overall health of the community is increasingly understood and valued, it’s worth checking out the seemingly innocuous planning applications for tree work.

Portsmouth Water currently have a planning application for proposed works to trees in a the Brockhampton conservation area. On closer reading, this one is undoubtedly a precursor to a series of planning applications for extensive redevelopment of the entire Portsmouth Water site, including the building of new industrial premises and a large tranche of 135 dwellings.

The current planning application details the works to be carried out on a number of trees around the Brockhampton Spring, behind the Portsmouth Water offices in West Street. The plan of works may be unreadable here, but if you click the image, the detailed plan will open and you can zoom in.

If you’ve not quite figured out where this is, it’s the area covered by the yellow rectangle on this image, with the Bosmere Medical Centre, M&S and Next at the bottom.

The detail of the work being proposed looks like straightforward maintenance of existing woodland:

Trees 2, 3 and 4 (all Ash)Crown lift all round to provide 3.0m ground level clearance
Tree 10 (Wingnut) – Crown lift all round to provide 4.0m ground level clearance
Tree 11 (Willow) – Fell Dead trunk
Tree 18 (Lime) – Crown lift on the southern to provide 3.0m ground level clearance
Trees 22 and 23 (Lime) – Crown lift on the southern to provide 3.0m ground level clearance
Tree 24 (Ash x2) – Fell to ground level
Trees 25 and 26 (Willow) – Dead trees – fell
Tree 27 (Ash) – Fell
Grp 1 (Elder and Hawthorn) coppice at ground level”

Now it might seem that Portsmouth Water appear to be taking the health of their trees seriously, but the reality is rather more sinister. When we first looked at this one, we were distracted by the trees and didn’t see the wood, so to speak. Having now been gently reprimanded by a reader, we’ve taken a deeper look and would encourage you to read the fine print in that planning application. To help you, we’ve cut it out and you can see it by clicking this image.

The references to fencing and the need to accommodate heavy machinery to remove a culvert suggest strongly that this is indeed the first real planning application to emerge since we reported on the Development Consultation Forum relating to the proposed new Portsmouth Water HQ site almost exactly a year ago.

Given the position of the site in the Brockhampton Conservation area, we look to Havant Borough Council to take a proactive role here, defining an extended arboricultural plan for the entire site, preserving and extending the natural cover provided by this valuable local asset as a pre-requisite to all future development activity in the conservation area.

There is a much bigger picture that really should be considered. The portfolio of changes proposed by Portsmouth Water is far reaching, including the building of a new HQ building and new industrial premises immediately to the north and west of the Bosmere Medical Centre, and the construction of up to 135 dwellings on the the remainder of the land formerly occupied by the current West Street headquarters buildings.

These development plans, for various demolition, construction and landscaping works, will be drip fed into the planning system by the landowner, each in isolation. Common sense dictates that an overall master-plan should be documented, consulted on and approved to fully assess the cumulative impact of these plans on residents, the Bosmere medical centre, the town centre traffic and the environment.

We will be making this point clear in our response and strongly objecting to this planning application until such time as a master plan for the site is available for public scrutiny. If you want to make your own comment on this application, please take this link and complete the comment form.

Comments must be submitted before Tuesday October 27th.