A new planning application has been raised for the former Pfizer site at 32 New Lane:
|APP/21/01244 | Variation of condition No’s 4 (Operational Management Plan), 9 (Livery/Branding), 10 (Traffic Monitoring) and 28 (Employment and Skills Plan) of planning permission APP/21/00200 and the introduction of a new Community Liaison Strategy Condition. | 32 New Lane, Havant, PO9 2NG|
The change that the ‘intended occupier’ wishes to make to Condition 28 is disappointing, since they are now admitting that they will not provide employment for 16 and 17 year olds.
However, the changes they wish to make to conditions 4, 9 and 10 are far from being just ‘disappointing’, they are far reaching and unacceptable. We discuss these in this post and explain why the Council must reject them.
The Short Read
A planning application which only seeks changes to the ‘conditions’ applied to an approved development would normally be of little interest to the public. However, in the case of the 32 New Lane ‘Last Mile Delivery Centre’, linked in the press to Amazon, the new application submitted on behalf of Kingsbridge Estates highlights the critical importance of keeping very tight control over the traffic which ‘the intended occupier’ would generate from the site. The identity of the ‘intended occupier’ will only be made public once they have signed contracts with Kingsbridge Estates. That contract signature, however, will be dependent on the intended occupiers’ acceptance of the conditions which have been applied to the planning approval. Catch-22 applies here!
When the original planning application was approved in September, one of the planning conditions placed a daily limit of 2,415 vehicle movements at the site gates, 2,415 being the number that Vectos, the transport consultant, had always insisted would be the typical daily maximum. Documents filed by Havant Civic Society and the New Lane Residents’ group in their responses to the original planning application seemingly proved that the daily total traffic movements could be as much as twice the 2,415 claimed by the applicant. However, our calculations were disputed by Vectos, and the planning application was approved by the HBC Planning Committee, but with the daily total of 2,415 recorded in Conditions 4 and 10 by reference to the Operational Management Plan. Also clear in Condition 9 was a mandate that the delivery vans be clearly identifiable by way of company branding. Without that, there would be no way of monitoring the impact of the site traffic right across the town’s traffic hotspots.
Regardless of the accuracy of the Vectos numbers, rapid growth at the start of operations is inevitable. We already know that the operation plans to run year round over a seven day week, with a 24 hour, 3 shift operating model. The Operational Management Plan shows a total of just 505 delivery vans operating per day, but the van storage capacity approved is for 866 vans. As a result, we can expect van movements to ramp up quickly by a further 70%. Further growth in traffic numbers will result from public expectation for same day delivery, which will mean vans making multiple round trips per day rather than the single trip model proposed in the original application.
In short, the daily volume of traffic generated by the operation in New Lane will be near double the 2,415 claimed and will continue to rise with increasing demand from the public for same day delivery.
It is not inconceivable that within a year of opening, site traffic at the gates could reach 6,000 movements per day with the site running at full capacity. And we shouldn’t kid ourselves; this proposal is just one of a national network of similar delivery centres that ‘the intended occupier’ will be balancing to achieve maximum capacity at each.
Approving such an operation ‘on the wrong side of the tracks’ at New Lane has always been a bad idea but we, the residents, all have to accept that HBC Planning Services and the HBC Planning Committee disagreed.
The original application stated that 95% of the delivery traffic would be heading out of town to the A3(M) and the A27 and, with Highways England’s agreement, this business could have been handled at Dunsbury Park or at the Solent Distribution Park at Brockhampton West.
Havant Borough Council does not need to lose the business opportunity, they just need to put it in the right place!
A set of conditions were applied to the planning approval which provided a monitoring mechanism giving Havant Borough Council and Hampshire County Council full control over the traffic generated by the site. With this current planning application, Kingsbridge Estates are pushing to have that monitoring mechanism removed in order to give total control over traffic growth to the intended occupier. For the sake of the town and its residents, the application must be rejected and Havant Borough Council must stand firm and retain the controls that they have already carefully put in.
If you agree, and don’t want to read our detailed comments on the application documents, just take this link to skip to the bottom and submit your comments to the Council.
To dig into the detail, read on.
The Long Read
The newly submitted application for 32 New Lane adds substance to the rumour that the operator will be Amazon, with three capitalised words in the Planning Statement making it pretty clear why this new planning application has been submitted.
The Amazon Logistics ‘Delivery Service Partner’ program is the reason why you’ll rarely see your Amazon delivery brought to you by anything other than an unbranded van. If you’re lucky, you might spot an A4 printed and laminated Amazon logo placed on the dashboard. For a potential delivery driver, the opportunity seems almost too good to be true, but if you’ve got access to ten grand, a serviceable van and six points or less on your driving licence, you too can become an Amazon Delivery Service Partner.
The ‘intended occupier’ has been running rings around Havant Borough Council for the past year or more, identified only to a minority of Cabinet members and consequently lacking the level of healthy challenge and scrutiny that the full Council and the appropriate Committees would provide. At the Planning Committee on September 8th, the original application was approved despite the fact that the Committee members present had no knowledge of the identity of the company, other than that it was a ‘global operator’.
The planning agent is Luken Beck, well known to our Bedhampton and Denvilles members through their work with Bargate Homes, who have provided a ‘Community PR’ front on this occasion through an ex-Luken Beck staff member in the guise of Fellows Planning. (It is worth noting that Fellows Planning has also now been brought in to provide a similar PR front for Tetra Tech on Portsmouth Water’s Solent Road HQ planning application. But that’s another story.)
Here’s another extract from the Planning Statement submitted by Fellows Planning. We have asked for sight of the document referenced in the highlighted phrase since it is clearly relevant to this application.
To read the whole Planning Statement, click here, or on the image above, and it will load in a separate browser tab.
The lack of clarity concerning the volume of traffic which will be generated by the site stems from Kingsbridge Estates’ transport consultant, Vectos, whose Transport Assessment and related documents we’ve spent rather too many hours dissecting on these pages over the past year.
To summarise the issue of ‘traffic numbers’: For the original planning application, ‘the intended occupier’ provided a single page table containing a set of example traffic data ‘based on 100 of its equivalent sites across Europe’.
The total shown was 2,415 vehicles a day, 7 days a week, 364 days a year. The trouble is, that figure demonstrably excluded employee vehicles entering and leaving the site. For a three shift warehouse operation with overnight storage space for up to 866 delivery vans, that adds well in excess of 2,000 more vehicle movements to the total bringing the daily total to something nearer 5,000.
Havant Civic Society and the New Lane residents called that out during the original planning application process…
Despite more than 300 objections from the public, the planning application was passed in September, but very sensibly, there were conditions placed on the approval. As a result, Kingsbridge Estates, the owner of the site, will be having a hard time getting ‘the intended occupier’ to sign a contract until some of those planning conditions are effectively removed.
You can read the original planning decision notice here, it’ll open in another browser tab. Just scroll down and read the three conditions we’ve highlighted in yellow.
Let’s start with Condition 9, which states that “All delivery vans operating from the site shall be liveried and branded in a manner to allow for easy identification to ensure that the operation is in line with the operational management plan.”
Nothing wrong with that is there? Well, yes, to the intended occupier there is.
All previously available documentation for APP/21/00200 referred only to an ‘occupier owned fleet’ and it was on that assumption that Condition 9 was quite correctly imposed. However, if we now assume that the ‘intended occupier’ will follow the Delivery Service Partner model, they are highly unlikely to be using branded vehicles. (To be fair, the Amazon Delivery Service Partner programme does offer Delivery Service Partners an option for the use of a branded vehicle, but the catch is that it’s the Delivery Service Partner who will have to pay to rent one. That’s why you see so few of them on the road.)
Since ‘the intended occupier’ knows that they cannot comply with Condition 9, without actually providing what the applicant stated they would; a fully branded fleet, they want this condition removed.
Now let’s look at Condition 10, which states that “Prior to the occupation of the development hereby permitted[,] to install and maintain permanent traffic counters and monitor traffic levels across the 3 site accesses in accordance with the figures agreed at planning, as reflected in Appendix A of the Operational Management Plan. The monitored details shall be fed into Hampshire County Council’s permanent traffic count database and available to view as required by the Local Planning Authority and County Highway Authority.”
That looks pretty clear. The condition is clearly written to ensure that the operation does not exceed the number of vehicle movements agreed in the Operational Management Plan. That’s 2,415, remember?
Since ‘the intended occupier’ already knows that there will be near double that figure of vehicle movements at the gates, they don’t like that condition either.
So let’s now take a look at the Operational Management Plan supplied with this current application, of which this is a relevant extract:
This current application therefore seeks to reduce the monitoring under Condition 10 to just 2 hours a day, (defined as ‘peak period’), over a five day week, on two occasions in any year. That’s a total of just twenty hours’ monitoring in a year, managed by the occupier and supplied in arrears once a year as a single report. The Operational Management Plan goes further, saying that the first traffic report will be issued on the anniversary of the start of operations – a year after the proverbial horse has bolted!
And guess what, rather than worry HBC or HCC with the effort, the occupier will manage the data and write the annual report. Oh, and if you take the Operational Management Plan at face value, they’re only going to do this for the first four years.
From the intended occupier’s point of view, that would be Condition 10 effectively removed.
Kingsbridge, Vectos and Fellows Planning all seem to be playing a little game with this new planning application by pandering to what they assume to be just a bunch of NIMBYs who don’t like this development – the New Lane ‘South of the Site’ residents – the people who started calling out the rat-run traffic risk back in January. As a result, both the Planning Statement and the Operational Management Plan focus on their proposals to remove that risk.
Take a look at this next extract from the Operational Management Plan:
The one useful thing they’ve done in this Operational Management Plan is to map out the streets in the town to which vans might genuinely be allowed to deliver by means of access south towards Fairfield and Beechworth Roads:
In Section 4, Vectos go to some lengths to describe an impractical ‘solution’ to the issue of rat-running using a CCTV camera. The clear and simple instruction that should be enshrined in the Operational Management Plan is the rule that “All individual deliveries for this group of postcodes must be consolidated into single outbound consignments for delivery by a designated local delivery van”. Perhaps adding the adjectives ‘branded’ and ‘electric’ might earn them a little much needed PR.
Such a rule would also put a stop to the inevitable trick of putting a delivery for the shaded area onto every single van, which would, of course, have the effect of legitimising rat-running delivery vans out to the A27 Warblington interchange.
So where does this leave us?
The impact of the approval decision made in September will outlive this current council by many years and today’s council would be extremely wise not to relax the planning conditions which provide it with the only tools for controlling the volume of traffic generated by the site. The applicant appears to claim that the primary issue for which they are proposing a ‘solution’ is that of rat-running south of the site. As we’ve suggested above, there is a simple rule that can and should be be applied to control that. The real problems are far wider across the local road network. The daily vehicle numbers presented in Appendix A of the Operational Management Plan were demonstrably undercooked, as any competent external planning inspection of the documentation for APP/21/00200 (the original application) would confirm.
The New Lane South text in both the Operational Management Plan and the Planning Statement are simply a smoke screen, seemingly set there to ‘justify’ the need to relax Conditions 9 and 10.
It’s clearly already worked on one of the Havant ward councillors:
|“I have been reassured through my discussions that all parties are aware of why the conditions are needed, and that there is a need for verifiable data to demonstrate compliance. I am happy that the revised conditions will continue to ensure that inappropriate traffic movements south down New Lane do not occur, and that if there are questions, then data will be available to the Planning Authority.”|
If you’ve read this far, you’ll see that this particular Councillor’s conclusion is dangerously misinformed.
If HBC allow the conditions correctly set in September to be materially changed, then future Councillors will have absolutely no advantage in any negotiation over future requests by the occupier for permission to increase their traffic volumes, in fact the volume growth will just happen, completely unchecked. And it will happen from day one, since according to the Operational Management Plan, HBC won’t get the first report until the first anniversary of operations starting.
Condition 10, as written by the Council Officers, enables the 24/7 monitoring of traffic movements at the three gates appropriate for this high-intensity, three-shift, non-stop operation. This condition calls for the data to be uploaded to HCC and HBC repositories where the monitoring can be done by the local authorities whenever required. This gives future Councillors the revenue advantage they will gain from the inevitable requests by the occupier to increase permitted traffic volumes and HBC will hold the negotiating advantage.
HBC must understand that the intended occupier as a global operator will be managed and governed at a corporate level well above the Council’s commercial capabilities
We mean no offence by that statement; we just strongly advise that the conditions are kept as originally written, that the decision to reject the application is made by an informed Planning Committee and that the Council’s legal team are fully engaged with the process.
The condition tests in Para 56 of the NPPF (not Para 55 as quoted by Fellows Planning) are as follows:
1) The condition should be necessary
2) The condition should be relevant to planning
3) The condition should be relevant to the development to be permitted
4) The condition should be enforceable
5) The condition should be precise
6) The condition should be reasonable in all other respects
We believe these tests are correctly met by the conditions as originally written and, to our minds, neither Kingsbridge nor the intended occupier would have grounds to appeal.
Havant Borough Council must strongly resist this new Planning Application and leave the existing planning conditions in place, as originally written. By taking that action, they will maintain an essential monitoring mechanism on the development and secure their control over traffic generated by the site by ownership of the 24/7 monitoring data as well as a negotiating advantage for any future site expansion or change.
If you agree with us, then please take this link and register your objection as a comment on this planning application. HBC and the rest of the town will thank you for it.
Before you comment, remember that you cannot object to the development on the site. We’ve lost that argument and the Council have already approved the original application. What you need to object to right now is this cynical attempt by Kingsbridge Estates to remove the planning conditions that keep the critical control over traffic generation in the safe hands of Havant Borough Council.