While many of you have been locked down and treading cautiously, Havant Borough Council has been flying, sometimes above but often below the radar, while we’ve been doing our best to keep you aware of the fun and games.
If you’ve not visited this website for a while, there are a number of posts referenced in this digested read which you may find of interest. Click the highlighted links below to view further detail – there’s a good deal of it!
Town Centre News
We’ve seen not one, but four planning applications in the immediate town centre, all concerning local sites of long term dereliction. The first three cover the derelict space between Streets in East Street and the Pallant. Take this link to read our report on those applications. The fourth application covers the final vacant lot in East Street next to the Havant Club and you can read those details here. The fact that these four applications were from the pen of the same architect and submitted by the same local developer suggested a ‘done deal’ since all four building projects will need to be developed in an orchestrated sequence. It is highly unlikely that any of these planning applications would be turned down and while construction traffic management will be ‘interesting’, we welcome the prospect of finally getting something built.
With the progress also made on 44-54 West Street during the year, if HBC’s Communication Leader had any idea about marketing, he’d have spun these five projects as components of a ‘Regeneration Programme’, demonstrated solid progress and saved the Council some cash. Instead, their own update on progress of the Regeneration Programme in early November proved to be the dampest squib of the year so far.
Slightly further afield
Lack of transparency is an accusation being levelled at Havant Borough Council from an increasing number of sources. Given that HBC are now inextricably ‘joined at the hip‘ with East Hants District Council, this is something that should concern us all since EHDC already ‘has form’ on this. A meeting of the EHDC Standards Committee on December 11th was dedicated to the presentation of an external review of the Council’s governance and we would encourage you to watch our edited highlights.
Since the management teams of the two councils are one and the same, the behaviours prevalent in one are almost certainly pursued in the other. As the external consultant author of the report noted, the change of leadership already implemented needs to be followed by a root and branch change in the embedded culture of the organisation.
One clear example of the Council’s lack of transparency is the proposed sale of the last remaining significant land asset that the Council had.
In their over hasty and under scrutinised sale of the Brockhampton West site, Havant Borough Council have deliberately hidden the detail from the public, the press and their own back bench Council members alike, prompting one notable Councillor to suggest there might be a similarity with the Potash Terrace debacle. You might recall that HBC sold the Potash Terrace site for £3.4M in 2006, to a developer who did nothing for four years before selling it on for £20M. Central Retail Park was eventually built, several years after the Council had sold the land for a song.
This year, HBC has also demonstrated a tendency to ignore or devalue local democratic input. While each of us have the right and the ability to comment on local planning applications, it seems depressingly obvious that the council simply treat this as a ‘box ticking’ activity and duly ignore the comments we make. Take, for example, the case of the Barratts housing development proposal for Sinah Lane on Hayling. You would think that an application with 544 public objections against it might at least warrant some intelligent debate. Take the time to listen to the video links in that post and make your own mind up about the quality of the input made by each of the elected representatives present. While there are a notable minority who consistently demonstrate integrity and principle, there are also the usual threatening barrack-room lawyers who seek only to sway the votes of the weaker sheep in Cllr Wilson’s flock.
It’s worth listening to our edited highlights of meetings to learn more about how your elected representatives work. Sinah Lane is just one example of a national developer holding a gun to the council’s head. Another prime example is Lower Road, Bedhampton, where it is Bargate Homes who have their finger on the trigger.
On a more positive note, the most recent encounter between HBC and a Developer was HBC vs Bargate Homes again, this time over plans to fell a large number of the glorious and venerable trees in the very private jewel which is Southleigh Park. This time, Batman was on the case and thanks to an eloquent deputation by Nik Knight, the Hampshire County Bat Recorder, HBC exercised some common sense. (Sadly, this display of common sense from the planners will likely be short-lived when Bargate Homes’ lawyers return with a loaded appeal.)
Other news in brief…
If you live around Brockhampton or if you’re one of the 20,000 patients of the Bosmere Medical Practice, you should be interested in the designs that Portsmouth Water have on their land between West Street and Solent Road.
The potential impact of the government’s draft ‘Planning Reform’ white paper, now pending the replacement of its offending ‘mutant algorithm’, has seen Conservative councils in the south of England in uproar – including Havant Borough Council.
The Havant Borough Local Plan crept inexorably forward with the final opportunity for public comments closing on December 17th. (Personally, this writer feels that the time is right to pause and declare a moratorium on all new housing development until the viral dust has settled and we can all understand what future housing need, work habits and commuting patterns really are. The one certainty in a post Covid-19 world is that much of the change we’ve seen this year will be permanent.)
The Persimmon Homes proposals for Campdown, to the west of the town, looks likely to come back to life while we’re being distracted by our muted Christmas and New Year celebrations. We’re looking out for a new planning application for the site expected early in the new year, along with a separate application for a new Lidl supermarket to the north of B&Q. The geese are going to have a hard time finding anything left to graze on.
Speaking of which, if you managed to sleep through the Nitrate Neutrality issue, then the shenanigans over Warblington Farm provided another area of concern over the behaviour of the Council and its officers. All done for the geese, of course, (“Oh no it’s not!”) Nothing to do with unblocking housing developments. (“Oh yes it is!”).
On that Pantomime note, we offer you our season’s greetings and wish you the very best for a brighter New Year.
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