This was the first, post-Covid HCS public meeting and given the audience response, we’re considering making this a regular twice-yearly event. The meeting was held in St Faith’s church, depicted in the HCS logo and located at the heart of the historic town centre. This beautiful Havant landmark offers the perfect space for a town centre public community meeting with the benefit of the audio-visual facilities installed by Tom Kennar and his team to support parishioners so well during the lockdown.
The agenda for this first meeting was necessarily ambitious given that the four main topics are inextricably linked. Use the links in this table of contents to jump to a topic of interest:
- Regeneration and Economy
- The Havant Borough Local Plan
- Planning and development control
- Traffic Management
HBC Council Leader, Cllr. Rennie, joined us for the first item before having to leave for a prior engagement with Cllr. Payter. Having directed his deputy, Cllr Bains, and his Cabinet Lead for Planning, Cllr. Satchwell, not to attend the meeting, his Cabinet were represented for the full meeting by Cllrs. Elizabeth Lloyd and Tim Pike.
In the absence of Cllr. Payter, the St. Faith’s ward was represented by Cllr. Phil Munday and Cllr. Pike.
Regeneration and Economy
HCS Introduction and Background
Havant Civic Society have been trying to achieve meaningful engagement with the Regeneration programme for the four years since publication in October 2018 of the original strategy document, ‘Opportunity Havant – A Regeneration Strategy’. Over that time, we have submitted many pages of carefully considered responses to Regeneration documents presented at Cabinet and Council meetings, with no evidence that our input has been appreciated.
Instead of engagement with local residents and small businesses, the council spent a significant amount of the programme budget outsourcing its vision for the borough to external consultants, illustrated by a video that was long on wishful thinking but glaringly short on reality.
In November 2021, the HBRA team had met with the previous Regeneration Leadership to offer input and suggestions for the ‘Regeneration Strategy Refresh’. In our presentation, we highlighted a number of factors which residents believe to be inhibitors to regeneration. These factors, including significant issues with planning and development management, transport planning and traffic management, are still unresolved today. No considered feedback was received and a genuine opportunity for engagement with stakeholder residents was missed.
HBC achievements over the four-year period include the sale of Brockhampton West as an employment site for commercial development offering 200+ jobs, and the purchase of the Meridian Centre and the Bulbeck Road car park. A bid for £12.4m from the 2021 Levelling-Up Fund, was – predictably in our view – a failure.
After four years with Cllr. Pike at the helm, Cllr. Rennie has now split the brief, taking on the Regeneration portfolio himself with Cllr. Pike now just owning the Economy portfolio. HCS hope that the changed regime will address the issues which have inhibited progress to date.
Slide presentation – Cllr. Alex Rennie
Cllr. Rennie‘s presentation to the meeting can be viewed in the following five slides:
Key points made by Cllr. Rennie, with Cllr. Pike
- The council have submitted a bid for £30m to the central government ‘Levelling Up Fund‘ to cover redevelopment of the Meridian Centre, and the Civic Plaza site. The bid has been made jointly with Hampshire County Council with a decision expected before the end of the year.
- A bid for £1.8m has been made to the Brownfield Land Release Fund (BLRF) to cover demolition of the Bulbeck Road car park in preparation for redevelopment as mixed housing and retail space. A decision is expected in the Government’s Autumn financial statement.
- Anti-social behaviour issues with kids throwing things from the Bulbeck Road rooftop are a known problem.
- A bid has been submitted for £1m of the Shared Prosperity Fund.
- Solent Freeport – Dunsbury Park presents an ‘exciting opportunity’ for new employment.
- ‘Link up Leigh Park’ and ‘Youth hub’, with funding from Health Foundation (one of four successful nationally).
Points from Regeneration discussion
- Chair: Solent Freeport employment opportunities are unlikely to be available in the near future and in the meantime, Dunsbury Park is effectively locked for any HBC-generated employment opportunities.
- Chair: With Brockhampton West now similarly locked to employment use by the current Southern Water ‘Water Recycling Plant proposal and the prime 32 New Lane site now sacrificed to an edge-of-town warehouse/distribution use, HBC employment strategy needs a complete revision.
- Chair: BLRF funding, if won, would only cover demolition of Bulbeck Road car park. The risk is that it’s demolished and left vacant, without either plan or funding to redevelop.
- Cllr. Munday raised the subject of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO), acknowledging the difficulties associated with serving them but emphasising the benefits. [N.B. The original 2018 Regeneration Strategy had announced the use of CPO, but nothing had been done in the four years since it was launched].
The Havant Borough Local Plan
HCS Introduction and Background
HCS and other representatives from the Havant Borough Residents Alliance had been invited to meet with the HBC Regeneration team on 28 July when the ‘Building a Better Future’ development programme was launched. A number of questions were submitted ahead of the meeting. A month later, written responses to those questions were received, but were accompanied by an instruction not to publish the responses to a wider audience, an instruction which displayed a curious and disappointing attitude to stakeholder engagement.
Cllr. Lloyd was asked to summarise the reasons why the previous attempt at a new Local Plan had been rejected by the Planning Inspectors and how those issues will be overcome in development of the new Local Plan.
Local Plan discussion – Cllr. Elizabeth Lloyd
Cllr. Lloyd confirmed that the main reasons why the Inspectors found the last Local Plan submission unsound were:
- The transport strategy, particularly with respect to Hayling Island and the Southleigh area
- The projected housing development numbers
- The risk of legal challenge to the Council’s approach to engagement with the residents
- On the subject of transport links, especially Hayling and Southleigh, Hampshire County Council (HCC) are currently working on LTP4, a new Transport Plan for Hampshire. HBC are not yet a party to this but wish to be.
- As far as Waterlooville regeneration goes, local landowners are not interested in redevelopment.
- On the subject of Campdown, in addition to concerns regarding danger to heritage artifacts, there are concerns about disturbance of curlews. The land is not being managed properly.
- When asked about Hayling flood risk, Cllr. Lloyd told the meeting that she’d asked for a graphical overlay of flood areas and possible land allocations.
- Missing consultations.
- Consultation: Cllr. Lloyd encourages residents to make a response to the current consultation and had 10 paper copies available for people not online. Comments from the floor confirmed that there were also copies available in Havant Public Library and at Bedhampton Community Centre.
- Audience question: Is 516 dwellings per year a realistic target?
- Cllr. Lloyd: ‘No’
- Audience question: what happened to the Michael Gove letter?
- No response.
- Cllr. Lloyd: HBC need to prove that it’s unrealistic and explore numbers with neighbouring councils.
- Audience comment: ‘Last plan rejection means it’s dead.’
- Cllr. Pike: ‘Havant [population] is growing by about 400 a year, mostly by living longer’
- Audience comment: ‘Given multiple occupancy, that’s a lot less than 516!’
- Cllr. Munday: ‘Older people are living in large houses, not always from choice, as there aren’t suitable properties for down-sizing.’
- Audience question: ‘Why can’t we bring forward Southleigh to count in our housing targets, or ‘borrow’ from the future Southleigh delivery, like we borrow money and pay back later?’
- Cllr. Munday(?): Reference to the Southleigh link road. [See below]
- Cllr. Munday: Commented that there is a request from central government to be able to support migrants, ‘perhaps to the order of 100 homes’. ‘Housing is needed for our own young people.’
- Cllr. Lloyd reminded everybody of the importance of responding to the ongoing Local Plan consultation which closes on Monday 14 November.
Planning and development control
HCS Introduction and Background
Over the past three years, Havant Civic Society have been raising issues regarding HBC Planning and Development Control, with particular focus on the performance of the Planning Committee. The Chair singled out just two of the more contentious topics, Portsmouth Water’s exploitation of its portfolio of land assets and the highly controversial decisions surrounding the ’32 New Lane’ site.
The public lack of clarity over Portsmouth Water’s land transactions and the company’s use of the planning system to maximise asset value for its shareholders was brought into focus by the ‘new HQ’ application with its substantial impact on access to the Bosmere Medical Practice. Alternative site layout options using other Portsmouth Water land assets were raised at the Development Consultation Forum (DCF) in 2019, but when the plan was validated and published, it was clear that the DCF input had been ignored. The recent DCF for Bellway Homes on Portsmouth Water’s Palk Road site raised important comments and suggestions likely to be ignored.
Cllr. Pike commented that there was no obligation for developers to pay any attention to points raised on a DCF.
While the ‘intended occupier’ at the ’32 New Lane’ site continues to remain anonymous, it is common knowledge that the company’s original preference was to be in Dunsbury Park. A second appropriate site would have been the former council-owned Brockhampton West, the site sold to raise money for Regeneration but now locked by Southern Water’s Water Recycling Proposal.
The ‘intended occupier’ has a demonstrable track record of maintaining public anonymity in local authority planning applications across the UK through use of non-disclosure agreements (NDA). Cllr. Pike commented that while he has had face-to-face meetings with the ‘intended occupier’, he has not signed a non-disclosure agreement. [Ed. note: Chris Fry, CEO of Kingsbridge Estates and Cllr. Pike‘s intermediary with ‘the occupier’ curiously has signed an NDA]
Planning and Development Control – Discussion
- Chair: ‘Given the housing delivery shortfall, would the councillors present care to comment on the recent refusal by the Planning Committee to approve 175 one and two bed flats on the former SEB site at Bartons Road, contrary to Planning Services recommendation.
- All three councillors present, Cllr. Lloyd, Cllr. Pike and Cllr. Munday were in agreement that the Planning Committee’s decision was wrong. Cllr. Lloyd agreed with the HCS view that the developer is likely to appeal with a high likelihood of success, at the council’s expense. Cllr. Pike believes that the developer will simply rework the plan and resubmit, for a third time.
- Comment and discussion of number of bedrooms needed – 1 & 2 or 3 & 4.
- Audience question: ‘Do we know the housing need profile in detail (family sizes, makeup, ages, disabilities, and so on)?’
- Cllr. Pike: ‘Yes.’ Confirming the appropriateness of the proposal for 1 and 2 bed units at the site.
- Cllr. Lloyd: ‘Personally in favour, included ground source heat pump, solar panels. Believe they will appeal’.
- Cllr. Lloyd: ‘unfortunately, developers want to build 3 and 4 bed houses with garages.’
- Cllr. Munday: ‘Historic numbers were accepted unreasonably. We should be threatening compulsory purchase (that’s often enough to get developers moving).
- Cllr. Munday: ‘We’ve been too slow. Not enough ambition. Should be pushing Southleigh and direct road link to A27 to relieve town centre.’
- Audience comment: ‘What’s happening at Campdown?’
- Cllr. Lloyd: Two developers trying to develop. Big issues – environmental bird refuge, and heritage Roman Villa site.
- Question – Philippa Gray: ‘If Planning Inspector says that Campdown can’t be built, why can’t HBC do the same?’
- Cllr. Pike: ‘National Planning Law says that as long as a developer respects the birds and the archaeological assets, the council can’t refuse permission, and would inevitably lose on appeal’.
- Cllr. Lloyd: ‘In 2023, law will require 10% gain in biodiversity on all developments.’
- Beryl Francis: ‘Sea level could rise by 15 inches by 2050, so we should forget building on Hayling until we’ve understood the flood risk.’
HCS Introduction and Background
The Chair used a series of map views to illustrate the constraints that the railway tracks place on traffic movements. In Victorian times, the junction of the railway networks at Havant contributed much to the commerce and the Havant community, however with continual increase in road use, the pinch points at the fixed crossing points drive the increase in rat-run traffic and contribute to concerns over the way the traffic impacts of planning applications are assessed.
The loading on the major roundabouts at Langstone, the Rusty Cutter and Asda are expected to increase over time as the traffic implications of many individual planning applications are realised. Individual planning applications are accompanied by transport assessments made in isolation from other developments and proposals, often using out-of-date traffic models. For example, when the application for a new Lidl store beside the Bedhampton B&Q site was approved, a 7-year-old traffic model was used, dating from before the Asda roundabout was last reconfigured.
Despite that relatively recent reconfiguration, on multiple recent occasions residents have observed Asda delivery vans being used to hold back traffic on the roundabout in order to clear backlog traffic from the Asda, McDonalds and KFC units. Recent approved plans for Lidl and Hulbert Road will exacerbate this problem. With 95% of the traffic to be generated by the ’32 New Lane’ operation heading for the A27 and the A3(M), and the predicted traffic numbers submitted with that application being both incomplete and inaccurate, the unmanaged loading on Havant’s constrained road network will only increase.
Traffic – discussion
- Chair: Traffic is a Hampshire County Council matter, but our invitation to the HCC Lead for Transport was declined. While Havant Borough Council have a role of ‘Traffic Management’, that role has the wrong scope.
- Cllr. Pike: The role of Traffic Management at HBC is now being discontinued.
- Cllr. Pike: On 32 New Lane, this development will bring 800-1000 jobs to Havant. People need online shopping. The council cannot choose an occupier and anyway, there is traffic protection in place.
- Chair: The reality is more like 70-80 full time jobs, mostly transferred in from the closure of existing smaller sites. The bulk of any related employment will be third party, gig-economy or fixed term temporary roles. These are not the kind of jobs that Havant needs. HCC review of the traffic assessments should have requested evidence of the occupier’s actual usage data.
- Audience question: Southleigh and Castle Road went through public consultation on the basis of having direct access to A27.
- Cllr: Pike: Southleigh access road cost is estimated at £45m to £50m. It needs the multiple landowners to put together a package to build it and councils are encouraging them to do it.
- Audience comment: If officers and councillors think the housing target is unreachable, make that case with government.
- Audience question: Why are we spending all that money improving cycling in Leigh Road ‘for one cyclist an hour’?
- Audience – Wilf Forrow: ‘You don’t decide whether to build a bridge over a river by counting the number of people swimming across.’
- Cllr. Pike: The best way to reduce traffic in Havant is to get more people walking and cycling. HCC’s new LCWIP (Local Cycling and Walking Plan) for Havant has just been published this week. It contains a huge list of projects, which we can’t do all at once. Please help the council put them into priority order.
- Audience comment: ‘Tonight has seen a demolition of the National Planning system. A system which is run by and for the developers. We should be arguing for a different planning system.’
- Cllr. Munday: ‘The National Planning framework is driven by ‘The Market’, which is only serving the wealthy half of the market. The other half is still living with their parents, and they are the people we’re ignoring.’
- Cllr. Pike: Heavy goods vehicles – there may be signage but only the Police can manage/fine offenders. Also many exceptions to the signed weight limits.
- Chair: Havant has unique traffic issues which, unless they are comprehensively understood and dealt with or allowed for, the Local Plan and any specific plans for Regeneration are almost irrelevant.
- Chair: ‘There’s a huge operating gap here between HBC and HCC. We need to understand how to bridge it. One proposal is to get the five HCC Councillors around the table to discuss and understand the problems.’
- Action: Chair to follow up with Liz Fairhurst.
- Cllr. Pike: Council had to act because of operator injuries from broken glass.
- Audience comments:
- Bottle banks too high – unreachable for anyone less than 5’6”.
- Now need a car, so people are throwing their glass in the rubbish.
- Even the tip won’t take glass now!
- No consultation, no warning, no notification.
- How is it that other councils can collect glass, but not Havant?
- Cllr. Pike: It will all change within a year or two, as the Government mandates a single system everywhere for all recycling.
Langstone Sea Wall to Wade Lane / Wayfarers Way
Raised by Margaret Tait.
- Audience comments: Many people want it fixed. The Mill Pond is also at risk.
- Cllr. Pike: The Mill Pond is the responsibility of the owner.
- Cllr. Pike: Personally committed to getting it fixed, and has been convening meetings with interested parties. HCC ‘own’ the footpath. The big issues are:
1) no known landowner – it is unregistered land,
2) there’s no life at risk, and
3) there’s no money available.
- Temporary fix will probably cost around £30k to £100k but will need many approvals, Natural England, Conservancy, HCC, and others.
- Can’t be fixed during the winter bird season, but can plan now for action next year.
- It looks reasonably stable, so thinks (hopes?) it will survive the winter.
Railway Station footbridge
- Audience comment: The footbridge is falling down, half has had to be closed, which is a total embarrassment.
- Cllr. Pike: Yes, HCC is on the case.
It was at this point in the proceedings that the Chair’s laptop ran out of battery power and with the clock at 21:15 we had to close the session, despite the fact that there were several other AOB topics to air.
- Chair to audience: Did everyone find the meeting valuable?
- Response: A resounding YES from floor.
- Chair to audience: Should HCS run regular public meetings like this? Perhaps two a year?
- Response: A resounding YES from floor.
The HCS Committee offers sincere thanks to all who took part.
Thanks also to audience member Wilf Forrow for forwarding such a detailed record of the evening’s content, without which this report would be considerably shorter and far less well informed!