Planning Inspector puts HBC on the spot regarding town centre housing numbers

The  Havant Borough Local Plan  Examination, Stage 1 Hearings, were held online from Monday 12th July to  Friday 16th July.  The Stage 2  sessions will be held in September. A link to the ‘Examination in Public’ recording for each day can be found here.  If you just want to see a sample of the proceedings to see how they were carried out, we’ve included some ‘edited highlights’ at the end of this post.

Click the image to view the Submission version of the Local Plan

There were a number of contributions from local residents associations and conservation groups across the Borough including representation on behalf of the Havant Civic Society  and Friends of the Earth.  One of the most interesting sessions was on the proposal for new housing in Havant Town Centre where a total of 750 new homes have been allocated for delivery by 2037.

Mr. Manning probed the history of the previous ‘Regeneration Phase 1 – “Civic Plaza car park” – project which had been shelved during the pandemic. (For details of this project, and to understand the history behind it, please refer to this HCS post from February 2021).

The Planning Inspector, Mr Jonathan Manning, quickly got to the heart of the matter and identified that there was no clear information in the Examination Library which explained where in the town centre these homes would be located. He also clearly recognised that there appeared to be a lack of any ‘master planning’ undertaken to date for this large scale development, requesting a map to detail the land owned by HBC. 

He then pressed hard for detail on what type of homes would be provided and how they would be funded. The answer, he was told, included a level of confidence that Homes England would once more look kindly on them. HBC have also entered a bid for £12M funding from the recently announced ‘Levelling Up Fund‘ on which news the Inspector expressed surprise that HBC did not have the numbers to hand since they would surely have been needed to support such a bid. The relevant detail would, he was assured, be forthcoming after a lunchtime chat with the Regeneration team.

In addition to the external funding bids, HBC plan to use some of  the capital receipt from the sale of the land known as Brockhampton West in Harts Farm Way, Bedhampton  ( part of the Broadmarsh Coastal Park.)

The Bulbeck Road car park site. Now publicly identified as one of the town centre housing sites

Havant BC seemed to feel confident that the  construction of 750 new homes by 2037 could be achieved as they now have ‘a different collection of sites’ and  ownership of most of the land required, with the exception of Market Parade and the police station / magistrates court.

The Inspector pressed the HBC officers on density of housing proposed, particularly since they had rather proudly referred to the 13 story block of flats that was given planning approval in 2016.

The plans for Market Parade in Havant

[Editor’s note: Objections to this application in 2016 had been wide ranging, documented in Havant Civic Society’s own deputation to the Development Management Committee at the time. However, the developer, Hampshire & Regional Properties Limited, lead by Shaun Adams and dissolved in 2019, had the ear of the committee on the day.]   

Mr Manning  stressed that the new Building Regulations have changed requirements considerably on high rise buildings and that high density would now normally be 3 story. He also asked if Market Parade was a realistic prospect in terms of  heritage and the character and appearance of the area, given that Market Parade is part of the  St Faiths’ Conservation Area.   Finally, the Inspector drew attention to  the state of the  Havant Station railway footbridge and asked whether or not construction of its replacement would be seen as an essential pre-requisite to the town centre redevelopment.

Mr. Manning had made good use of his time, visiting the area on foot observing at first hand the challenges involved. If you follow the video below, it’s evident that he asked a number of perceptive questions. Whether he was happy with the responses received remains to be seen. It was certainly disappointing that the Havant Borough Council officers present did not reply to a question from the floor regarding the lack of external stakeholder involvement in Havant Town Centre Regeneration, a topic on which we’ve been vocal since the original Regeneration programme surfaced back in 2018.

HBC also ignored another point from the floor questioning the level of staffing of the Regeneration effort within the Council and highlighting the reliance on external consultancy. This risk is certainly one which HCS agrees with, though to be fair, the HBC officer had tried to head such questions off quite early in his pitch. We learned that HBC and East Hants District C ouncil (EHDC) are “in the process of combining the regeneration teams” from both councils as they “increasingly work towards a single workforce across both authorities”. (Of course, another driver for this ‘merger’ is the need to reduce HBC staffing by one third due to reduced funding availability.)

EHDC “have had a great deal of success on the Whitehill/Bordon new town” bringing it forward “ahead of target”. While the scope of the two regeneration programmes would appear to be quite different, this sharing of resources might bear fruit. We’ll leave it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions and trust that the Inspector will also do so.

Where the inspector was clearly unhappy was with the lack of detail given to him regarding the actual proposed housing for the Town Centre.

After the lunch break, the HBC lead for the session came back with the detail requested, a breakdown of the New Homes proposed for Havant Town Centre by 2037. This, it transpired, was taken from a ‘Visioning document’ produced by Fabrik, a document not previously made available to the Inspector.

The relevant sites and housing numbers from this document, which we’ll detail in a separate post, are as follows:

Available Town Centre Site
Civic Plaza Car Park 260 homes
Bulbeck Road Car Park80 homes
Meridian Centre296 homes
Market Parade (N/E corner)130 homes
Total766 homes

Extracts from the Inspection sessions – Havant Town Centre housing.

If you’re interested in seeing extracts from this Inspection session and hearing the questioning at first hand, we’ve compiled a 17 minute extract. Click the control in the middle of the image below to watch and listen. You’ll find that it confirms what our reporter on the call told us and adds a few more details. It’s worth a few minutes of your time so make yourself a brew, take a seat and have a listen:

Next Steps

The HBC Cabinet is considering a paper on 8th September with regards the next steps of the programme and amongst that, it is recommended that the Regeneration Strategy itself and Delivery Programme be refreshed over the autumn. The paper is also due to be considered by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee on 24th August. 

(HCS are grateful to Ann Buckley, HBRA Co-ordinator, for her notes from the session, which form the core of this post.)