Aura House – Digging into the planning history

In these difficult circumstances, we expect all our Councillors to pull together and put the interests of the town, the HBC Officers and their electorate ahead of their own personal interests, especially when it comes to squeezing residential homes onto clearly unsuitable sites. We’ve been doing a little digging in the digital archives, inspired by an ongoing planning application raised by one of Havant’s Councillors.

Tucked away in what, in the old days, would have been a trackside ‘no mans land’ beside Bedhampton railway gates, squeezed in between an electricity sub-station and the end of a terrace of houses, was a triangular plot of land which twenty years ago housed nothing but the three large billboards visible in the image above.

The agency managing those billboards tried for retrospective planning permission and their appeal against refusal was thrown out by the inspector. The Officer’s report of his site visit gives a little more history on the site.

Roll forward fifteen years and an odd little detached, two story building appeared alongside the end of the terrace.

It looked a bit like a house, but actually appeared to be a commercial property. If we could find the planning application for it, we might be able to say more. While the casual observer driving by the site might have thought ‘that’s an odd little house’ nobody, apart from the council, appeared to take much notice. Until May 2015 that is, when a new plan was submitted for a detached ‘office block’, imaginatively squeezed into the corner towards the electricity sub station beside the railway gates.

Many of us driving by when that was being constructed thought it also rather odd, appearing like a residential block in a most unlikely position. It had all the hallmarks of a being a small block of flats, almost as if the owner already had designs on trying for a ‘change of use’ application.

In short order, more plans were submitted. This one we found particularly entertaining with its first floor flying extension, accessed via a spiral staircase from the car park beneath:

Note this drawing includes the infill between the standalone ‘office’ building and the earlier little detatched building at number 2A. While the flying extension towards the gates was never built, the pitched roof infill between the original building on the left and the ‘office block’ appeared in the planning history in August 2015. This resulted in a note from the Environmental Health consultee stressing that the proposed combined building should not be reassigned for residential use.

The two existing buildings were merged as ‘Aura House’, which sounds a lot better than 2A New Road.

The planning history for Aura House is a little tortuous to follow with the owner trying various options for increasing the ‘office’ floorspace. There are hints of a level of exasperation in the tone of some of the officers and consultee reports at the various stages, but one of documents particularly caught our eye. It is this comment by Environmental Health in 2017, asking that the following condition be imposed on any consent that may be granted:

Condition: “That it be reiterated that this new office extension, together with the existing office accommodation shall not be converted to living accommodation without the prior written approval of the Local Planning Authority.

Reason: This site is not suitable for residential use, due to the the unacceptably poor living environment for the occupants.”

We agree.

So why bring this saga up now?

Well the rather persistent owner of the site has recently submitted an application for – yes, you guessed it – change of use to residential. Now it should be pointed out that the owner of the site, hence the instigator of so much unnecessary load on long suffering Havant Borough Council officers, is none other than one of the Bedhampton Councillors, Cllr. Gary Robinson.

Given the number of businesses reported as operating from his property, it seems that his site is already functioning well as a commercial property. It’s actually quite interesting to note that one of those businesses is ‘Mi Home Living‘, the newly formed property company managing the letting of that other Station View, the one on the former Wessex site in New Lane. (Strangely, we note that particular company is actually registered for ‘Retail of furniture, lighting, and similar (not musical instruments or scores) in specialised store’, not that we’re suggesting that there’s anything remotely Fishy about that).

With regard to the Change of Use application, HCS has gone on record to register support for the Planning Officer’s recommendation that the Development Management Committee refuse the application for a change of use for Aura House to ‘residential’. We believe that it’s the only proper course of action.

Stop Press – Feb 24. At the time of writing, we hear that Cllr. Robinson has, in fact, just withdrawn his application for Change of Use, ahead of the Development Management Committee meeting scheduled for tomorrow (Feb 25) which would almost certainly have confirmed its refusal.

His desire to continue to waste people’s time is duly noted.