Havant Borough Council – Under scrutiny

This time last week we’d been watching the Overview and Scrutiny Committee review three papers due to be presented to the HBC Cabinet on September 8th. Knowing how important these three papers are, we took a look at the HBC Constitution to remind ourselves of just how the Overview and Scrutiny process should work.

The effectiveness of scrutiny depends on the attention paid by the back bench Councillors on the committee, which in the case of last week’s meeting proved to be lamentably little. Committee Chairman, Cllr. Lloyd, seeing likely rough water ahead brought the three significant items forward to the front of the agenda.

Each of the subjects warranted far greater scrutiny than they were given and while Cllr Lloyd set her usual determined direction, few of those present on her committee rose to the challenge. For the first two agenda items, the sponsoring Cabinet members and the Regeneration Leader had an unexpectedly easy ride. It seems to us that our Councillors would benefit from taking this link and reading the guidance given.

1) ‘Hayling Seafront Strategy – Developing a Regeneration Ambition’
2) ‘Havant Regeneration Programme – update and approval of next steps’
3) ‘Havant Borough Council Climate Change and Environment Strategy 2021 to 2026’
For those interested, click the links in this list to open each of the Cabinet papers that you’re interested in, they’ll open in separate browser tabs, and refer to them while listening to the sessions in the clips below.

There were a few good questions from some of the old hands, notably Cllrs. Branson, Briggs, Francis and Hughes, but it seemed to those watching the proceedings that the points raised were not particularly focussed on the topics and the level of scrutiny barely scratched the surface of the subjects.

To set the scene and give you a flavour of how the meeting might have been, here’s a ten minute edit from some of the questions from the Hayling Seafront Strategy scrutiny session. If you’re wondering why Cllr. Hughes is almost apoplectic with rage at the start of that clip, then take a look at the Hayling Seafront Ambition produced by Fabrik Design, HBC’s favourite visionaries. We don’t always appreciate Cllr. Hughes as much as he thinks we ought to, but on this occasion he clearly seems to share our own concerns.

If that grabbed your attention, then take a listen to some of the sessions. The first one is the scrutiny session for the Hayling Island paper.

Hayling Seafront Strategy – Developing a Regeneration Ambition

The first ‘Clare’ that you hear is Cllr. Satchwell, the Cabinet Lead for ‘Planning, Hayling Seafront Strategy and Coastal Management’. The second ‘Clare’ is Clare Chester, the HBC/EHDC head of Regeneration and Location.

Next it’s the turn of Havant Town Centre.

Havant Regeneration Programme – update and approval of next steps

We’ve been following the Havant Regeneration Programme for some years now, in fact as David Hayward reminded us at the recent Local Plan Examination in Public, since the planning application for the 13 storey tower by the station was approved against the odds back in 2016. For a more recent history of Regeneration, take a look at this post from January 2021 in which we reported on the Cabinet meeting which shelved the last attempt to get the delivery programme off the ground.

You’ll hear Cllr Pike first, Cabinet Lead for ‘Finance, Regeneration and Estates’, followed by Clare Chester.

Following that introduction, the Committee moves on to scrutinise the papers prepared by Cllr. Pike, Miss Chester and the Regeneration team.

Once again, Cllr Hughes manages to come close to some of the fundamental issues, but the response diverts attention to the subject of car parking. Cllr. Branson gets close to talking about ‘deliverability’, but the response wanders off into a discussion of commercial property values and claims that new developments at 44-54 West Street and around Streets in East Street is in some way a success of Regeneration. (All that development, kicked off during the lockdown, actually resulted from private initiatives.)

It was notable that towards the end of the ‘Havant Regeneration Programme ‘ session that the deputy monitoring officer can be heard stepping in to remind the Chairman of the purpose of the Scrutiny Committee – to pose to the Cabinet the difficult questions that really need to be asked. And it’s not as if there weren’t any….

While Havant Civic Society and the Havant Borough Residents’ Alliance had done our homework and provided detailed written scrutiny ahead of the meeting, it was clear that no one else had bothered to look at either the paper in front of them or the publicly available but curiously ‘exempt’ Fabrik consulting document that accompanied it. There are certainly questions to be asked about that document and after his earlier outburst, we’re a little surprised that Cllr. Hughes didn’t raise them.

Havant Climate Change and Environment Strategy

The Scrutiny session for the Havant Climate Change and Environment Strategy, including the paper presented by Cllr. Thain-Smith, Cabinet Lead for Environment and Climate Change, is included below in full.