Havant’s ‘Last Mile Traffic’ jam?

Ask anyone who lives in the town how frustrating the last mile of their journey to work or their journey home can be and the response probably wouldn’t be much of a surprise. Through traffic on Havant’s town centre road network isn’t exactly speedy at the best of times and when the Langstone roundabout gets gridlocked by Hayling or Solent Road traffic, we’d be the last to guarantee the time taken for a delivery van to get out to the A27.

This week, 400 homes around central Havant received leaflets from Havant Property Investment LLP giving advance notice of a planning application of some significance. The proposal is to construct a ‘Last Mile Delivery hub’ on the old Wyeth site in New Lane, seen at the bottom of this image from the flyer.

Given Havant’s position at the junction of the A27 and the A3(M), with ready access to destinations across Hampshire and West Sussex, Havant Borough Council have already recognised that a ‘Last Mile Delivery’ operation would provide a fine employment opportunity for the town and if it were to be sited in the most appropriate place, we’d be the first to agree.

“The proposals relate to a ‘last-mile’ distribution facility where small parcels arrive for onward delivery to customers in the area….. Delivery drivers would arrive at the site by various means of transport, collect a van and leave to make deliveries. The vans are fully loaded and make one delivery run per day between the hours of 6am and 9pm. The delivery drivers would return with the van once deliveries have been made, and travel home once they have returned to site. The commercial fleet of vans is kept on the premises overnight within the proposed storage facilities. “

A quick glance at the pre-planning sales pitch gives an indication of the scale of the proposed operation – think DHL or FedEx, and you’d probably be on the right track. There would be provision for the storage of around 450 large ‘transit’ sized delivery vans on three levels (’18’ on plan below), with additional van parking to the north and east providing for another 200 vans. Twelve unloading bays on the eastern side will receive a significant number of incoming HGVs from other national distribution centres. At the front of the site, car parking for 200 cars, plus motorcycle and bicycle parking will serve the staff.

While the statement is made that the delivery vans would make ‘a single trip’ each day, a longer term ramping up to multiple trips seems inevitable. As the vans are operator owned and badged they will be GPS tracked and routed and the opportunity to maximise efficiency through multiple trip scheduling will be taken.

We’ll be looking closely at the planning application when it is submitted but we can assume that this will be a seven day operation. Despite the planners’ protestations that “traffic generated by the site will not have any greater impact on local roads and junctions than previous operations on the site”, the increase in vehicle movements over the previous fifty years of site use will be substantial. We discuss this further down this post.

So while we would absolutely welcome such an operation in Havant, we’d seriously question this location.

Let’s look at it another way:

Havant’s Regeneration Strategy, and the recent shenanigans over the sale by HBC of the council owned Brockhampton West site, specifically targeted Brockhampton West as a potential location for ‘Last Mile Delivery’ operations. Situated fair and square at the junction of the A27 and the A3(M), an operator there could guarantee the access time for their delivery vehicles to and from the main road network.

Or perhaps look at it in yet another way:

Dunsbury Park, where Fatface chose to move their distribution operation closer to the main road network and where it’s been pointed out us that DPD have already moved in, would be another more logical site for a ‘Last Mile Delivery’ operation.

The former Wyeth site, which would need to be completely demolished, cleared and rebuilt seems to be a poor third choice.

A little history

Between the 1960s and 1990s, 32 New Lane was a significant manufacturing site for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, well known as the factory producing SMA and WySoy dried baby formula. Incoming bulk milk tankers were the predominant incoming traffic, with HGVs carrying out finished product.

The New Lane industrial estate was a major employment site in the town, with the West Leigh workforce servicing Wyeth and several other major employers, including Wyeth, Kenwood, Colt, Goodmans Loudspeakers and Lewmar. The majority of the manufacturing workforce were drawn from the local West Leigh population, many of whom would have walked or cycled to work and from my own personal recollection of working on the production line at Kenwood in the late 60s and early 70s, the West Leigh work force were a pretty special bunch.

By the turn of the century, everything had changed. Kenwood, bought out by Thorn EMI in the late sixties, had already established a new manufacturing facility in China, followed in quick succession by Goodmans Loudspeakers and Lewmar. Lewmar still retain an office site in Southmoor Road, while Goodmans for a while moved to a new, purpose built office unit alongside the A27 off Solent Road before joining the likes of Bush and Grundig as commodity ‘brands’ in offshore ownership. In 2001, Kenwood was bought by the Italian De’Longhi group, keen to get their hands on the new Chinese Kenwood manufacturing facility. The New Lane site was then reduced to a warehousing and distribution site for the imported Chinese products of De’Longhi with spare capacity leased to a variety of local businesses. Colt moved manufacturing to China and their head office to Petersfield, with their New Lane site demolished to make way for housing and light industrial.

Back at Wyeth, the parent was breaking up, with Nestlé acquiring Wyeth Nutrition and moving production away from New Lane. Pfizer picked up the New Lane site and built the massive cold chain supply and warehouse shed which towers over the town. While you might think that could have been useful given the current focus on vaccine distribution, Pfizer had already moved their facility to Ireland ahead of Brexit and put the site up for sale.

Which brings us to back to the present with the purchase of the site by Kingsbridge Estates Ltd and Bridges Fund Management Ltd. We look forward to reviewing their planning application in detail when it is submitted in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, as the flyer states, the developer is inviting you to view the detail in their pre-planning pack and to make comments directly to them, either via their website or by email to newlanehavant@lukenbeck.com. *

They will be welcoming comments until midnight on Monday, January 25th.