HBC’s bold new strategy kicks the Regeneration can down the road again

The latest series of Regeneration Papers were considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Havant Borough Council on Tuesday, 1st March, passing ‘scrutiny’ with flying colours and no issues flagged. The papers passed through the Cabinet meeting on Monday 7th March with only a minor amendment and their passage through the next full Council is now assured.

Don’t hold your breath in expectation of any tangible progress though for these three administrative kicks will simply move the can a few miles further down the road. The only Regeneration ‘spades in the ground’ we’re likely to see for the foreseeable future will be in Havant park. As the glossy brochure for the Havant Regeneration & Economy Strategy states, “Our actions will only be taken forward where they are affordable, deliverable and will not impact or put a strain on the council’s revenue budgets”.

Given the approaching Council elections, we’d strongly recommend that you take the time to listen to the recordings contained in this post and to take a good look at the public version of the Cabinet Papers which will open in a separate browser window when you click on this link. You can then judge for yourselves whether your Council is actually ‘Serving You’.

Extraordinary, Overview and Scrutiny Committee – Tuesday, 1st March, 2022 5.00 pm

The meeting split into three parts and we cover it in three sections. In each section, you’ll find a link to the video of the meeting section, a table of links to notable points each section and a few observations of our own.

The first section covers scrutiny of the latest ‘Hayling Seafront Regeneration’ documents, the second section covers the scrutiny of the overarching ‘Havant Regeneration & Economy Strategy – A Refreshed Approach’, and the third section briefly covers the non-exempt part of the ‘Havant Town Centre Priority Projects’. ‘Exempt’ simply means that the only documentation worth commenting on has been excluded from the public and the press.

In an effective and engaged Council, we would expect to see such documents openly published, but with just commercially sensitive names and detail content redacted. HBC’s policy of making whole documents exempt, not just from the public and the press but also at times from back-bench Councillors, speaks volumes about the HBC Cabinet position on transparency.

1) Hayling Seafront Regeneration

“Click me”

The outcome of this section is probably best summarised in those words. If you don’t believe us, then listen to the full hour and 12 minutes of that session which said little else.

Part 1Cllr. Satchwell introduces the item, talking about the extensive programme of consultation from October and November 2021 and the positive feedback received from residents at a meeting. Cllr. Lloyd queries the actual number of respondents and the session goes downhill from there. The take-away quote from this piece comes from Cllr. Satchwell who tells the meeting that all the engagement activity in previous years has ‘got us to the point which is probably the beginning.’
Part 2
Cllr. Hughes opens up his Mastermind specialist subject. If you listen to nothing else, do take the ‘Part 2’ link on the left and enjoy where it takes you.
Part_3Cllr. Hughes stops laughing, packs up his books and makes to leave before the teacher gets the class back under control.

While our friends south of the bridge will probably value the whole session, Havant Town residents may want to save themselves for the next session:

2) Havant Regeneration & Economy Strategy – A Refreshed Approach

This document was presented as a 34 page printer-killing slide pack, which you can open by clicking on this link or on the image above. There is also a text document which accompanies it which you can open by clicking here. Both documents will open in separate browser windows so you can refer to them as you follow the video a little further down this post.

The ‘Regeneration and Economy Strategy’ document is a fairly typical example of third-party consultancy charged ‘by the word’, following the same visual format as the recently announced ‘Corporate Strategy‘. At almost 9,500 words it’s 50% larger than the 2018 version, but then to its credit, it does actually mention Waterlooville and gives at least a nod to Leigh Park.

Have a look through these documents first, before settling down with a drink to listen to the proceedings. If you’re short of time, read through our summary in the table below the video and just dip in and out of the meeting by taking the links in the first column.

IntroductionCllr. Pike introduces the ‘new’ Regeneration documents and vows to speak only briefly to allow maximum time for questions.
Part 1The Committee Chair, Cllr. Lloyd, gets straight to the point of asking what inhibitors or dependencies that were known in 2005 and what actions have been taken to overcome them. We hear that Cllr. Pike had been upset when the leader of the opposition suggested at the last Council Meeting that we’d been working on this for years and years and little had happened.
Part 2
Cllr. Lloyd asks about the headline of ‘Successful people’. How is Council leading with local schools to provide correct skills? Cllr. Pike illustrates his response by highlighting Kingsbridge Estates, the entrepreneurial offshoot of a local dairy farming family which has been closely engaged with the Regeneration team on the New Lane, Pfizer site, development.
Part 3Cllr. Lloyd opens the subject of Waterlooville and asks whether there is a clear plan for this ‘spatial area’. Included here is discussion of the status of Waitrose, who are still paying the rent for their now closed premises.
Part 4 Cllr. Pike explains that more funding is needed before any action can be taken, dropping the comment that HBC will have another crack at a Levelling-Up Fund bid using the borough’s ‘other MP’. He’s working with Mrs. Drummond MP on that proposal but ‘it doesn’t come cheap’.
Part 5
Cllr. Lloyd asks whether there are plans to consult with the 13 non-cabinet members west of the A3(M). Cllr. Pike gives the ‘Catch-22’ answer that ‘when we’ve got the funding we can do the work’.
Part 6
Cllr. Lloyd presses for a rough timescale on the development of a ‘plan for a plan’ for Waterlooville? Cllr. Pike explains that it’ll cost £150,000 to prepare another bid for Levelling-Up funding, admitting for the first time publicly the cost of last year’s failed Levelling-Up fund bid for Havant Town Centre.
Part 7
Cllr. Hughes asks what the attraction is of the retail park in ‘lower Waterlooville’ that can’t be replicated in ‘upper Waterlooville’.
Part 8
Cllr. Hughes presses on with the subject of ’15 minute living’, asking whether we could expect to see a plan for ‘re-purposing’ ‘upper Waterlooville’ for residential use, say with a bus terminus? The Regeneration team reply is to play the Freeport joker.
Part 9
Cllr. Lloyd asks Cllr. Pike if he’s ever tried getting a bus from one of the wider Waterlooville areas to Havant! Cllrs. Milne and Hughes both remark that their ward residents find it easier to get a train from Cosham or Petersfield than from Havant. Cllr. Pike responds that fixing Havant Borough bus transportation is a County Council matter. (In other words, it’s somebody else’s problem.)
Part 10Cllr. Hughes brings Cllr. Pike back to the ’15 minute living’ point. If we hadn’t had the pandemic, the Wellington Way development would have been an absolute disaster. What do the Regeneration team see happening on that site in this refreshed model?
Part 11Cllr. Hughes strays off the agenda on his own admission. Has anybody ever thought of using free parking to get people in? Build it and they will come? This is followed by discussion about the use of cars and the fact that the county council will no longer spend money to that aim.
Part 12The Chair brings the discussion back to the document, homing in on the 600 new homes proposed for Waterlooville town centre, according to an article in ‘The Ratepayer‘. Where and what type are those homes liable to be? Cllr. Pike tries to palm this question off to Cllr. Satchwell.
Part 13
The Chair pushes further on the 600 1 and 2 bedroom apartments, asking again whether there will be consultation before any plans are firmed up? Cllr. Satchwell responds by referring to the previous week’s Planning Policy Committee meeting.
Part 14Cllr. Lloyd asks whether, given the situation with the local plan, what plans are there for the future of the BAe site? Could it be re-purposed for housing? “There’s already a plan in” for a nice healthy McDonalds comes the answer.
Part 15
The Chair asks the, surely rhetorical, question about progress made since 2018. Ms. Chester picks up the baton. It’s all about the partnerships of course. We’ve been building relationships. Making investments in funding bids. The Freeport card is played again.
Part 16
Cllr. Lloyd asks ‘Tell us about some of the short term actions that will bring about swift and real, tangible progress please?’
Part 17
Cllr. Hughes goes way off track and asks about apprenticeships for 16 year olds. Ms. Chester waxes aspirational, Cllr. Lloyd reminisces about her ambitions to join IBM, and Cllr. Pike weighs in with his past experience of being a civil servant in the Department of Education.
Part 18
Cllr. Lloyd asks how ‘Delivery projects will give us a capital receipt will be prioritised?’ Are we going to sell Bulbeck Road car park?
Part 19
Cllr. Lloyd asks about the Three new governance bodies associated with the new strategy.? Can you explain how these bodies fit together? Cllr. Pike hands over to Ms. Chester.
Part 20
Cllr. Lloyd digs deeper: There are many references to the warning that ‘projects will only be where progressed where they are affordable, deliverable and will not impact or put a strain on the council’s revenue budgets’. So how realistic is this strategy?
Part 21Cllr. Hughes – Infrastructure must be the first thing you put out there. What about the infrastructure? We have no control over that. Cllr. Pike kicks the can down road to the County again, but ‘he’s more positive than he’s ever been!’
Part 22Cllr. Milne finally asks the question for which we’re all dying to hear the answer: “Who is this document actually for?” After a short pause, the Officer suggests we should all “Shout about it, loud and proud and show everyone”. We should share it with funding partners, government, businesses, those partners that want to see the ambition and see that “this is something that’s really exciting”.
Part 23
Annex 3 – High level indicative delivery plan. Taken a while to produce, but this is only an indicator of the time to build? It depends on an awful lot, doesn’t it? Cllr. Pike, you’re very confident and optimistic… How confident are you that this is now the approach and we will take this forward. Cllr. Pike’s response is long on waffle and short on confidence.
Part 24Would anyone like to debate?
No more questions?
(No, to both points).
Any recommendations?
Cllr. Hughes comes to the rescue again. He has no problems about endorsing the strategy, “but that’s it. This could then get thrown in the back of a cupboard and never see the light of day again until the next one gets refreshed”. After this impressively prophetic pronouncement, he asks whether they could encourage the the development of specific plans to aid the delivery of the strategy. (Take a bow, Cllr. Hughes. It’s a fine idea, but perhaps just a tad optimistic.)

Bearing in mind that this was the one and only opportunity for the document to have any real challenge, you might agree with our view that we’ll be going round this same loop after ‘the next refresh’ in twelve months time. Without a change of players, history will repeat itself, The only difference will be that another few hundred thousand pounds will have been poured into the consultants’ coffers. Given that Cllr. Pike told us that another £150,000 will need to be spent on another Levelling-Up Fund bid before anything can happen, and given the track record from the previous Levelling-Up Fund bid, HBC would be irresponsible to bet on a successful outcome.

Adding “Sustainable Places, Successful People, Better Business” as a strap line, and adding ‘Economy‘ to the scope, where it always should have been, make for fine consulting words. However, the Leader of the Opposition was right at the recent Council Meeting when he remarked that we’ve yet to see any progress.

Brockhampton West has been sold, but its outline planning application for a warehouse/distribution facility is stuck in the mud, blocked by National Highways until Vectos, (Remember Vectos?) can “explain the impact of the development on the safe and efficient operation of the Strategic Road Network and provide the Local Planning Authority with fully informed advice”. Two of the Borough’s other prime employment areas now have restricted opportunity for employment. Dunsbury Park will now only be available to businesses which might benefit from the Freeport tax advantages, and the prime ‘gateway’ site in New Lane has been laid to waste for the country’s largest gig-economy employer. (We still find it a little odd that National Highways were not originally consulted on the Regeneration Team’s Amazon venture.)

So much for “Sustainable Places, Successful People, Better Business”. The track record so far has not been great.

3) Havant Town Centre Regeneration Priority Projects

This part of the public meeting is brief. While it deals with the ‘Town Centre Regeneration Priority Projects’, the only documents probably worth commenting on have been excluded from the public and the press. All we’re left with are two more pieces of fluffy consulting from Fabrik and a couple of more interesting pieces.

The first Fabrik offering is their ‘Civic Plaza Sketch Book‘ and the ‘Bulbeck Road Sketch Book‘. Feel free to take the links and have a look at them but it will be a few years before we’d expect to see any delivery projects on either site and much will have changed by then. The purpose of these documents, like the ‘Regeneration and Economy Strategy’ document itself, is simply to impress potential partners and support further funding bids. To that end, it’s good to see that Fabrik didn’t make the same disastrous mistake as last year by including their take on a delivery schedule!

The two documents that are worth looking at are the proposals for ‘Havant Park‘ and the ‘Access and Public Realm‘ document. Elements from both of these documents are realistic and liable to see the light of day over the next couple of years giving the Regeneration Team something positive to report on this time next year.

We did ask the Regeneration team to publish a decent readable copy of the Havant Park document but at the time of writing, the low resolution version is the only one we have.

The ‘Access and Public Realm’ document is probably the one of greatest interest to the public since it lists, in priority sequence, Active Travel (AT) and Public Realm (PR) Projects, which might actually happen.

Here’s the video, at least until the point at which the press and the public are excluded:


After the video feed closed and as an outcome from the exempt session, a recommendation was put down by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee requiring the Cabinet to ensure that the Council consider all options for the use of the HBC owned land assets – Bulbeck Road and Civic Plaza East – in other words the Council should consider retaining the sites for affordable, town centre housing rather than simply selling them to the highest bidder.

We’ll bring you the detail in our forthcoming account of what proved to be an interesting Cabinet meeting.

That’s it folks.

Don’t forget that there’s an election coming up in May. If you’ve read this far, you might just have drawn the conclusion that some fresh new thinking on the Council probably wouldn’t go amiss.