Happy New Year! Havant’s going back to the future in 2023

If you were keeping an eye on the News over the festive period, you might have spotted this photograph of Havant from October 1989. With a freshly demolished area where the Meridian Centre currently sits and a surface car park on the Bulbeck Road site, it presents a useful vision of how the town might look by the end of the year.

Havant Borough Council have had a recent run of success with central government funding bids so we’re optimistic that the first of a series of rather important planning applications will soon break cover.

Bulbeck Road

The successful bid for £1.65 million from the Brownfield Land Release Fund will enable the demolition of the Bulbeck Road multistorey car park, according to Cllr. Rennie’s comments to HCS members at last November’s Open Community Forum.

With the Bulbeck Road car park committed for demolition by the end of this year, we could see temporary surface car parking on that site again while negotiations with developers proceed. Before you start thinking that we’ll be left with ‘another Star’, the award of the funding is subject to a ‘claw-back clause’ should development not commence by 2025 so we can expect to see planning applications on the HBC weekly lists in the very near future.

Superseded ‘plan’ from the LUF 1 bid

Meridian Centre

The outcome of the main funding bid, for £20 million from the second round of the UK Treasury’s ‘Levelling Up’ fund, is now expected by the end of January and is eagerly awaited here at Havant Civic Society. Havant Borough Council staff may also have a vested interest in the result since the appointment of suitable executives to the currently vacant permanent roles in the HBC management structure will likely depend on the outcome.

Other than the fact that this major slab of funding would be ring-fenced for redevelopment of the Meridian Centre, for the moment there’s little more detail that we can share. The LUF 1 document by Fabrik suggested a two phase demolition and redevelopment approach with low schedule credibility and an unacceptable risk profile. We assume that both points will have been addressed in the Round 2 bid submission. One of the significant commercial risks we noted at the time was that the plan didn’t indicate how the core of established occupants, for example WH Smith, Hinds, Wilkinsons and Havant Library, could be relocated during the demolition activity and successfully retained once the new development is complete.

The Levelling Up Fund Round 2 prospectus stated explicitly that “all funding provided from the Fund [should] be spent by 31 March 2025 and by 2025-26 on an exceptional basis”. Since that condition reinforces the need for very aggressive schedule management, HBC will really need to ‘step up through the gears’ to hit the ground running with early planning applications, driven from the top by a refreshed and capable executive team. There’s a lot to do.

In other news

On the subject of another long overdue announcement, the lights are now on 24/7 at Amazon Logistics’ 32 New Lane multi-storey van park. DPD are no doubt delighted, having claimed the prime ‘last mile delivery’ space at Dunsbury Park before the HBC Freeport shutters came down.

Now that the Solent Freeport has been given the go-ahead, we’ve been promised a steady stream of planning applications bringing much-needed high-quality employment and career opportunities to the borough.

Also waiting in the wings are planning applications and controversial initiatives from the two water utilities so, all-in-all, it’s shaping up to be an ‘interesting’ year. We’ll do our best to keep reporting on it, bringing you our considered analysis as soon as we’re able.

Happy New Year!