Housing Delivery – HBRA keep up the pressure, HBC sings the same old song

Yesterday’s full Council meeting was memorable in the main for Mr. Charles Ashe’s deputation on behalf of the Havant Borough Residents Alliance.

Cllr. Wilson’s proposals for the new Scrutiny Committee chair were worthy of note and there was a particularly interesting 12 minute exchange including questions and discussion on the Aquind Interconnector plans, the Councillors’ laptop rollout proposals and the Cllr. Pike’s observations on the inability of the Council to conduct business from the safety of their own cars.

The meeting was also memorable for the fact that Cllr. Gary Robinson sent his apologies (again), but that’s another story!

Firstly, the floor was given to Mr. Ashe.

Giving a deputation to this council is a frustrating and often dispiriting procedure, with the speaker given a strictly timed slot in which to make the points before being ejected from the proceedings. Deputations are often ‘got out of the way’ early in proceedings and are thus rarely heard at the most appropriate point in the agenda. On a good day, when points made are actually referred to during the later debate, there is no opportunity for participation in that debate.

Mr. Ashe’s deputation eloquently highlighted the Catch-22 which the council faces on social housing. Cllr. Hughes responded in his usual preferred style, tying himself up in a sort of verbal macramé before the Mayor sent Mr. Ashe back out of the classroom, stifling any real debate on the very valid concerns that he raised.

Listen to the whole exchange here. It’s only ten minutes but we think it’s well worth your time.

Mr. Ashe made some clearly thought out points in his HBRA deputation regarding the situation that Havant Borough Council always seem to find itself in, “caught up in a never resolved spiral of trying to achieve unachievable housing deliveries”. He argued that Havant should follow the example set by other Councils by making a positive move to meet their social housing needs by focusing on a dedicated affordable housing programme with an internally manageable delivery schedule.

In response, Cllr. Hughes offered the well worn excuses of ‘the pandemic’ and ‘the Dutch case‘ as the underlying reasons for missing the housing delivery target by a country mile. While Mr. Ashe had already shot those excuses down in his deputation, it was perhaps unsurprising that Cllr. Hughes returned to the same tired script. Perhaps it was simply to advertise that fact that HBC have put up their Warblington Farm nitrate mitigation initiative for one of this year’s CIEEM awards, nominations for which closed this earlier week.

As Cllr. Hughes explained, “The innovative scheme that we’ve implemented here in Havant…. is just that. It’s innovative.” (We do hope that he had some help with the wording of that award nomination from the Cabinet Lead for Communication.)

We agree completely with the HBRA stance. The current track record of delivery of less than 100 affordable housing units per year against a seemingly constant waiting list of around 1600 demonstrates that HBC’s approach to housing delivery is simply broken. As we’ve remarked previously, over the last twelve months, the ongoing pandemic has changed the way we all live, commute and work. Much of that change will be persistent and all previously baselined data relating to housing need, commuting patterns and public transport use will need to be recalibrated. The world has changed.

New appointments

The new Mayor and Deputy Mayor will be Cllr. Rosie Raynes and Cllr. Diana Patrick respectively. We look forward to future Council meetings being run with the high standards of efficiency and control set by Cllr. Prad Bains, the outgoing Mayor. A high bar has been set and we wish him well.

Following the changes to the Constitution agreed in the previous Council Meeting on Jan 27, Cllr. Wilson proposed a new leadership team for the Scrutiny Committee. Watch the nomination and vote here in a last chance to see our youthful outgoing Mayor in action.

Aquind, the new laptop rollout to Councillors and the ‘grounded Parking and Traffic team’

It’s worth listening to the next twelve minute clip. In it, we hear Cllr. Narinder Bains replying to questions on her report as the Cabinet Lead for Neighbourhoods, Safety and Enforcement.

First up, you’ll hear Cllr. Davis asking about the Aquind Interconnector project, specifically the residential impact from the development noise. Aquind isn’t something that affects us here in Havant town but in the western side of the borough and the City of Portsmouth it’s a big deal.

We’ve probably all heard of the electricity supply projects which are now starting to bring clean nuclear power from France into the UK national grid, most recently the IFA2 project which brings a cable ashore at Lee-on-Solent to feed an ‘interconnector’ unit just across the road on the old Daedalus airfield. A rather more barking scheme by the Russian backed Aquind company aims to bring another cable ashore at Eastney, routing it through the streets and green spaces of Portsmouth, Cosham and Waterlooville to an interconnector at Lovedean. Portsmouth City Council and the residents of the City have been up in arms about this for months and it’s good to see that HBC are also keeping the pressure on. As the Leader of Portsmouth City Council has remarked, the route is simply ‘nuts’.

The Mayor then moves on to questions from Cllr. Francis, the first of which related to the proposed rollout of new laptops to Councillors, before Cllr. Hughes raises the topic of Aquind again, this time from his own Purbrook electorate’s viewpoint.

The rather sobering fact in Cllr. Hughes’ comment is that the cable laying machinery will be digging up the roads at a rate of 100 metres per week. That’s slow progress considering the machinery is running at 85db, and as Cllr. Hughes points out, Purbrook Village is a major choke point on the old A3.

It was at this point that Cllr. Hughes appears to go off piste again, referring to the A3023 which, when last we looked, connects Hayling with Havant.

If Aquind have any designs on digging that one up, then we’ll all be in trouble!