HBC admits defeat over the Local Plan and declares open season for builders

Given the two important items on the agenda of the Planning Policy Committee on February 22, those of us in the virtual public gallery had settled in for the long haul. We needn’t have bothered, the meeting closed barely an hour later.

Why is this important to everybody?  

If you’re new to this, take a few moments to read this piece on the Gov.UK website. After a couple of pages, you’ll get to the heading which reads ‘Do any plans fail the examination?’  Well that’s the point where Havant’s Local Plan 2037 hit the buffers after the Examination last summer with the Planning Inspectors’ advice to HBC being ‘to go away and try again’. One reason for the failure was HBC’s inability to meet the housing delivery targets set by central government for the south east.  Where stronger local authorities with more effective MPs have pushed back on ‘the Ministry’, despite being a dyed-in-the-wool Conservative constituency, Havant’s lack of leadership has been laid bare.

Without an adopted Local Plan, there is no baseline against which the Council can object to a developer’s proposal, giving the likes of Barratts, Bargate and Bellway carte blanche to dig up any available space they consider to be profitable.

The ‘Housing Delivery Position Statement’ up for consideration at this week’s Planning Policy Committee is an attempt to salvage some control over development during the vacuum left while a new Local Plan is prepared.  Regardless of its quality, the Housing Delivery Position Statement will only be as good as the Planning Committee which will judge incoming development applications and given recent experience, HBC’s current Planning Committee is simply not up to the task.

The Planning Policy Committee Meeting – 22 February 2021

The video below covers the whole 67 minutes of the meeting, starting a couple of minutes in when the admin formalities had been completed.

In the table below the video image, we break the agenda item down into its component parts. To jump to any particular section, just click the link in the left hand column. Or just pour yourself a drink and let it run – it’s only an hour and we’ve given you a running order below the image. Before you start, open the Public Reports pack by clicking here – it’ll open in a new browser tab. (Scroll down through that document to find Page 45 ‘The Housing Delivery Position Statement’, which actually appears on page 53 of that PDF file.)

Just click the arrow in the middle of the image below to start.

Part_1Meeting administration: Apologies from Cllrs. Guest, Weeks and Howard. No members present had declarations of interest.
Part 2Update on the Examination of the Havant Borough Local Plan and background to the withdrawal of the Havant Borough Local Plan from the Inspection. Mr. Hayward presents the easy bit, talking up the HBC sales pitch, embellishing the impact of the Dutch Case and the pandemic while glossing over HBC’s failings in the process and inexplicably ignoring the Inspectors’ finding regarding failure to consult properly and consequential lack of legal compliance.
Part 3Consideration of the Housing Delivery Position Statement. Ms. Ellis is left to present ‘the hard bit’, to explain how the Housing Delivery Position Statement will protect the Borough from uncontrolled development.
Part 4Further comment on the Housing Delivery Position Statement by Cllr. Satchwell, Cabinet lead for Planning Policy, gives thanks to the Officers for making the statement as brief and readable as its importance necessitates. (You can be the judge of this by going to page 53 of the Report Pack)
Part 5Deputation by Land and Partners. Mr. Wittingdon provides his philanthropic support to the Council in their hour of need. Worth listening to in its entirety, if only for his offer to create a ‘protected corridor’ for Bechstein bats between Southleigh Forest and Stansted Forest and one of the most creative examples of a ‘brownfield site’ that we’ve ever heard. (Listen to Cllr. Kennett’s response, below, since he clearly choked at that one too!)
Part 6Deputation by Cllr. Kennett (Emsworth ward). Gives an object lesson to his fellow Councillors in how to recognise that they’ve been elected by the residents to represent the interests of the community.
Part 7Officers response. The usual textbook response from Mr. Hayward.
Part 8Members’ questions to Officers. Amazingly just two, from Cllrs. Turner and Stone, with clarification from Cllr. Satchwell.
Part 9‘Debate’ – and the inevitable vote. The usual lame excuse for a debate. Cllrs. Payter, Turner, Branson and Stone each with predictable comments.

In summary

We can do no better than to quote and agree with Cllr. Kennett’s main observations from his deputation:

“Whilst the inspectors concluded that our plan was not sound, they did give a blueprint of how to correct this. It is regrettable that rather than following this we are still promoting highly controversial sites in order to try and meet our unsustainable targets at the expense of the environment and the wishes of our residents.

“In paragraph 57 of the inspectors interim report, they stated that if the council could not meet its housing needs then it should (1) talk to its neighbours (2) provide a robust case to the secretary of state to reduce the target. Having read the correspondence between ourselves and the secretary of state, I do not feel we’ve done enough to produce the evidence to make the case to reduce the targets. In the second paragraph of page two of our letter we say we cannot meet our housing needs and then go on to merely say we will try and set this, presumably in due course. This is not good enough and we should be doing this now.

“I appreciate we have a number of controversial planning applications with complex environmental issues, as the housing minister points out in his letter, the tilted balance in favour of development will not be at the expense of important protected areas. The absence of a five-year housing land supply is not necessarily a green light for damaging development.

I would ask that the approach in the position papers is reviewed before we have to make more unpalatable decisions on developments.”

In summary, not just where Long Copse Lane is concerned, but also our wider borough:

“we need to be lobbying with our neighbouring and nearby local authorities to make a strong case that the housing targets are unachievable and unrealistic and should be reduced. I believe many of our residents would expect no less of us as their representatives”

Cllr. Kennett to HBC Planning Policy Committee

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) Spending Protocol

The second part of the Planning Policy Committee meeting discusses and debates the proposed Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) Spending Protocol.

Part_1Introduction – By Ms Boulter after a bit of hot potato passing.
Part 2Representation from Emsworth Forum – Mr. Bateman puts the case that the change in CIL guidance is incorrect, citing Woking Council as an example. While this is an argument which we might consider to be outside HCS’ remit, it is important to note that our neighbours in Emsworth have invested a significant amount of time and effort, firstly in setting up the Emsworth Neighbourhood Forum and subsequently in the development of the Emsworth Local Plan. Having done so, and having followed the appropriate guidance, they now feel justifiably aggrieved that the rewards of this effort are now being withdrawn. Other residents’ groups within the borough would be wise to take note.
Part 3Representation by Cllr. Kennett, Emsworth Ward. Another fine example of a Ward Councillor representing not only the interests of his voters, but also of the wider Borough. Of particular interest to us all is the complete and utter lack of consultation on this subject, not just with the residents representatives but also with the back bench Councillors. Continuation of a troubling trend with this current Council.
Part 4Response by the Officers. But not a particularly convincing one.
Part 5Response by Cllr. Robinson. She has a point, but…
Part 6Members Questions. Cllr. Turner, asks Ms Boulter to answer Mr. Batemans’ point. Cllr. Stott drills into the last minute notification and gets a thoroughly unconvincing response. Cllr. Branson asks whether ward councillors will be actively involved in the new process. Cllr. Milne thinks new way ‘is a lot fairer’, making it easy for Cllrs. Payter and Stone to toe an uncontroversial line. Cllr Turner agrees. Cllr. Branson seems now to have let the members comments morph into the usual non-debate, so proceeds to a vote and closes the meeting.

In summary

Once again, we leave the last words to the ward Councillor for Emsworth:

Of great concern is the complete and utter lack of consultation that has occurred prior to this significant change in the CIL allocation coming to the committee.  The chair of the Emsworth Forum was only informed about this last Wednesday by a chance conversation with an officer. And, I want to emphasize this very clearly, this was the day before the deadline to submit a summary of their concerns.  So it does ask some questions as to why this happened so late in the day and the Emsworth Councillors themselves only learned about the proposals because the Emsworth Forum told them.

There was no proactive communication that I was aware of:

As a Council, we set great store on transparency, on trust and on effective communication with our residents and on this occasion I think we failed the residents of Emsworth and also the wider borough.  I believe that there should be meaningful consultation with residents groups and councils before a final decision is taken.”

Cllr. Kennett – Emsworth Ward Councillor
From the editor’s ‘Concise Oxford’, bought at a real bookshop in 1970, at a time when ‘selfie’ would never have been accepted as a noun.

#rethinkhavant #election2022