Regeneration ‘Take 3’ – Where’s the plan?

It’s good to see the cranes over Havant Town Centre. However, these are not signs of HBC’s long-awaited Regeneration programme firing up, but the results of hard graft and funding by private developers following lengthy process delays in planning. The bigger crane to the left rises above the Prince George Street development site while the one on the right is servicing the East Street and Pallant developments.

Cranes over Havant Town Centre – November 2022

Yesterday, an excited announcement from HBC trumpeted their successful bid to secure £1.65m from the Government’s Brownfield Land Release Fund (BRLF).

HBC announcement, November 21, 2022. Click image to view

While we welcome this small measure of success, this is just the sprat which, providing there’s a credible plan behind it, might just catch the £30m mackerel which is the Council’s latest Levelling-up Fund (LUF) bid.

Cllr. Rennie told attendees at the recent HCS Open Community Forum that the BLRF fund bid was targeted to cover the cost of demolition and clearance at the Bulbeck Road car park site. He also told us that the £30m LUF bid, if successful, would “cover redevelopment of the Meridian Centre and the Civic Plaza site”.

The last time that the Council submitted a Levelling-up Fund bid, the quality of the supporting plan was, at best, questionable. We didn’t think much of the last two pages of that document, neither did the inspector when the Local Plan was put under the microscope at the Examination in Public in June 2021. The lack of delivery credibility demonstrated lost the council a £12.4m funding bid, sank the Local Plan and kicked Regeneration down the road once more.

We really hope that the quality of planning that supported the latest bid for LUF funding has improved.

Yesterday’s announcement states that the Council are now proposing ‘up to 91 residential units built on the [Bulbeck Road] site’, rather more than the 80 homes which the inspector threw out with the Local Plan last year.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, without significant access improvements at the site, the result will inevitably be further disruption to traffic in Park Road South, extending throughout the wider town centre during both construction and occupation.

The HBC press release also states that ‘This project complements a suite of bids recently submitted by Havant Borough Council and Hampshire County Council, including a Levelling Up Fund Bid focused on supporting the regeneration of Havant Town Centre’. It is probably too much to hope that HBC Planning Services and Hampshire County Council Highways have both been fully engaged with the preparation of these funding bids.

With the ’32 New Lane traffic time-bomb’ ticking steadily in the background, have they actually got a workable plan this time around? Or are they just assuming that with funding for Bulbeck Road demolition now secured, they can leave the site as a surface car park and ignore the lesser traffic consequences.