Havant Regeneration – Accountability and Accounting

Regular readers will know that we’ve been following the progress of the Havant Borough Regeneration Programme since the early days of the ‘Opportunity Havant Regeneration Strategy’ back in 2018. Apart from a couple of false launches and a video, nothing much has been seen and since the first attempt at a Phase 1 Project – ‘The Civic Plaza Car Park Redevelopment Project’ – was officially scrapped at the Council meeting on 11 February 2021, it’s been silent.

(For a review of the history, or to simply watch the highlights from that February Council Meeting, you can take this link.)

Accountability

At last week’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting, back bench Councillors had an opportunity to grill the HBC Head of Regeneration and Economy, Clare Chester, and the HBC Cabinet Lead, Cllr. Tim Pike, on the paper that they will present to the Cabinet for approval next week, on Wednesday 8 September. The opportunity wasn’t grasped and the Regeneration Team got off lightly. There was a slight flicker of life during the scrutiny session for the Hayling paper – “Hayling Seafront Strategy – Developing a Regeneration Ambition’’, when Cllr. Gary Hughes wanted to know “how much had been spent on the Fabrik / Mace consultancy?” (We’ll answer that question for him in due course.)

In comparison with the scrutiny of the Hayling Island paper, the session for the “Havant Regeneration Programme – update and approval of next steps” paper barely scratched the surface. Perhaps the difference between the two sessions was this – accompanying the Hayling Island paper was the glossy draft document from Fabrik Design, one of the Regeneration Team’s favourite external consultancies. It seems that scrutiny works best with pictures. (If you’re interested in Hayling, click the image below and the document will open in a separate browser session. It’s safe to say that our peer organisations on the Island were less than impressed.)

Curiously, when the Regeneration Team prepared the documents for the “Havant Regeneration Programme – update and approval of next steps” paper, for some reason they left out the Fabrik Design document which should have accompanied it. This document was recently given to the Planning Inspector at the recent Examination in Public of the Local Plan 2037. (If you’re not in a rush, it’s worth watching the video extract here for a masterclass in how not to admit that you don’t actually have a masterplan.)

The same document, we believe, has been submitted as part of the Regeneration Team’s bid for £12m pounds to the Government’s ‘Levelling Up Fund’. As a result, we have good reason to suppose that its content does actually represent the current level of thinking on the masterplan for Havant Town Centre. Here’s an extract from the Foreword:

Wow! It sounds so easy doesn’t it? Why wasn’t it done years ago? We’re just so excited about the prospect of an ‘innovative meanwhile space’ in the form of a reimagined Meridian Place. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you outsource the vision of your town to a graphic artist with no knowledge of the town’s heritage and no practical project delivery experience.

Here’s just a wee snippet from the document

Take a look for yourself, click the image below and the document will open in a new browser session. If you do have a bit of Project Delivery experience, you’ll be most amused by the last two pages.

Two weeks ago, as soon as the papers were published for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the HCS Committee and the Havant Borough Residents’ Alliance Co-ordinator spent many hours scrutinising both the Cabinet paper and the Fabrik Design document. We forwarded our documented concerns to the authors of the paper and the Committee Chair 24 hours before the meeting, and waited patiently for a response. We believe that the comments we raised and the questions we asked in this document should be properly addressed at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, 8 September. In fact, they really should have been included in the Overview and Scrutiny Committee sessions to enable the Chairman of that Committee to table some serious questions for the Cabinet to respond to.

You can read our own ‘scrutiny’ document by taking this link. (It might be worth making a cuppa or pouring a glass of something first. There’s a fair bit of detail in there but we think you’ll be interested)

Perhaps we should explain that each of us have tried and failed in repeated attempts to secure meaningful engagement with the HBC Regeneration Programme since it was launched in 2018. You’ll find a history of those attempts at the back of the document. The fact of the matter is, that while the Regen team talk a good story about encouraging Stakeholder Engagement, they seem to do whatever they can to avoid that happening.

Accounting

While Cllr. Hughes never actually got an answer to his question at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, we may actually be able to help. The total contract value spent with Fabrik Design, Mace Group and Hemingway Design since the Regeneration Programme kicked off in 2018 is:

£276,798

We really should have included MunroStudios in the list as producers of the blockbuster video. Maybe next time.

We’ll leave it up to the council tax paying readers to decide whether this represents good value.

To be continued…

You won’t be surprised to hear that there’s rather more to this story, so just think of this as the ‘end of part 1’. Part 2 will follow in a day or two.

Until then, here’s a little question for you:

Which local consulting organisation boasted to its prospective clients in 2019 that it had produced a masterplan and investment approach aimed at revitalising and re-positioning the town centre of Havant?

We’ll give the answer in the next post.