A subterranean surprise at the Wessex site

Demolition at the Wessex site had been proceeding at a steady rate until the machinery struck thin air, exposing a large chamber about three metres deep on the site of the large workshop building on the New Lane side.

The surprise find has been tentatively identified as the site of a coke oven, a Victorian red brick arch briefly visible in the void before the machinery was put back to work. The brickwork can still be seen in the image below, behind the iron joist structure which has since been removed.

As a salvage worker on site remarked, this was “completely unexpected” before adding “you never know what you’re going to find until you break up the ground”.

To the south of the void, five large cast iron pipes are now exposed, presumably relics from the former town gas works.

A lost opportunity for a bit of industrial archaeology perhaps? For those interested, the developer’s original ‘Heritage Statement’ for the planning application can be found here.

Stop Press!

June 5th, the hole just gets keeps getting bigger.

Home Page – May 2019

May 2019

We’re well into 2019 and it’s already proving to be an interesting year. The main news items are summarised below, while other details can be found by taking the links to ‘Recent Posts’.

Our earlier appeal for an ‘inner circle’ of HCS members to assist the committee drew an encouraging list of volunteers who will soon start to receive some requests for help with projects starting up. These include the development of the Havant Town Tree Trail which is now being taken off the ‘back burner’.

If you’re wondering what the image above is, look here.

The Regeneration Programme – Where the money is going

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March saw the press release from HBC which trumpeted the kick off of the first Phase of the Regeneration Programme. The architect’s computer generated image took a little time to digest until we realised that the five gabled pitches in the foreground occupy the space now taken up by the JobCentrePlus in Elmleigh Road. A couple of other gabled blocks occupy the site of the Police station and the Magistrates’ Court space while a new street opposite Mavis Crescent leads into and through the site of rather more mundane blocks of flats. The existing Leisure Centre can be seen beyond, and the Civic Plaza is hiding behind the trees at the top left.

When presented to the Council in March, the plan looked encouragingly like the output from a formal planning tool. However, our analysis of the dates it contained suggested that it was little more than a sales presentation, the dates on the Gantt chart straying quite some way from the dates in the text.

We look forward to seeing further detail on the plan in due course, and now that Phase 1 appears to be taking off, we especially look forward to an outline of what is expected for Phase 2.

The Regeneration Programme – Where the money should be going

The site at 44-54 West Street, long blighted by years of lack of development and neglect, failed to sell at auction on April 30th. The current owner of the site had chanced their arm with a reserve price of £810,000 and there were no takers.

Now is surely the time to remind Havant Borough Council of Point 9 on Page 14 of their ‘Opportunity Havant’ Regeneration Strategy document:

  • “Where necessary the Council will utilise its Compulsory Purchase Powers to bring forward schemes and will make the required budget available.”

As far as we’re concerned, action on this site is now long overdue and ‘necessary’.

The same can be also be said about 5-7 East Street, the two single story shopfronts between Streets and the Havant Club. This site is also up for sale by auction this month with planning permission granted‘ with a guide price of £250,000.

Domino’s Pizza

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Take this link to view Havant Borough Council’s own Healthy Borough assessment.

Domino’s have already opened their new takeaway* premises at the former HSBC bank site, despite our concerns regarding traffic and parking.

The Development Management Committee at Havant Borough Council did not cover themselves in glory over this, leaving many questions unanswered and giving a clear indication that they pay little more than lip service to the process of public consultation, particular when threatened by developers with the costs of a planning appeal. Frankly, we think the DMC should show some political courage and stand up for the future of the town, rather than rolling over and caving in to pressure from a prominent local developer.

*Their next opportunity may not be long in coming. While the planning application was for A5 Use (Hot food takeaway), it is clear already that Domino’s are already encouraging customers to sit down and eat in. Given the size of the site and analysis of the company’s strengths and weaknesses, we think it highly likely that they will retrospectively apply for a change of use to A3 (Food and drink) licence within a short time.

North Street Arcade

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The closure of the old Domino’s outlet in North Street Arcade coincided with the removal of some of the furniture and equipment from the short-lived and sadly defunct Grastar Restaurant. Could this mean that there will now be some movement on the application for 21 flats on this site? We note that the recently updated marketing plan for the remaining retail units on this site strongly suggests that there’s little future in the site as a retail arcade.

The Wessex Site

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For those to the north of the town centre, there is further good news with demolition finally in progress at the former Victorian town gasworks, a site long abused by the not quite late but definitely un-lamented Wessex Construction Company, and more recently the home of A1-Recovery and Practical Car Rentals.

Development plans for the site were approved almost two years ago, subject to conditions relating to possible contamination and with those issues now resolved, it seems that the developer has decided to move on with the project.

Construction on the Wessex site needs to start within 3 years of the decision notice, September 17 so we hope that the developers will start building work promptly once the demolition is complete.

The Havant Borough Local Plan 2036

The plan has now been submitted to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, together with the comments received and the Local Plan’s Examination will start. This is expected in the Autumn of 2019. Further detail on the expected timescales moving forward is in the Local Development Scheme.

The Local Plan 2036 is now heading for the next step of a statutory planning inquiry. Its progress through the public consultation process has not exactly been a shining example of local, regional and central government coordination, particularly given the late delivery of the Hampshire County Council Transport Assessment on which so much depends.


We’re in Waitrose today!

The HCS Committee members and the Gazebo Garden volunteers will be manning the Gazebo Garden stand in Waitrose from around 10:15 onward today, as part of the Waitrose Community Week.

Do stop by for a quick chat – we’d be delighted to see you!

Spot the difference! The Domino’s challenge.

Here’s a little something for the weekend. Are you ready to take the Domino’s challenge? Well if you are, here’s a little ‘Spot the difference’ test:

Do you remember the planning application for the Domino’s Pizza Takeaway at 39 West Street? Well, to be more correct, both planning applications for 39 West Street? Turned down unanimously last October, then curiously passed when it was resubmitted in January?

Well the application, and subsequent approval, was for a ‘Hot Food Takeaway – Use class A5. Why is this significant? Well A5 covers ‘hot food take-away’ only. To be used as an eat in establishment, which Domino’s at 39 West Street is morphing into, they’d need to have another change of use to A3.

In support of their application, they submitted a plan for… well… a takeaway. Just take a look at the detail on that plan, below, and note the position of the ‘oven’ and the ‘preparation area’.

Then next time you’re walking past, take a look at what they actually built!

We’re delighted to see that the enforcement team are on the case and we’ll keep you posted on their progress.

WDRA AGM – Havant Regeneration

Our thanks to the Warblington and Denvilles Residents’ Association for inviting us to their AGM last Friday. Given the ongoing vacancies for WDRA Chair and Vice Chair, the meeting was chaired by the WDRA Newsletter Editor, Ian Crabtree. Hats off to Ian for a very well run meeting!

The meeting at the Stride Centre in Denvilles was very well attended and had, as guest speakers, Cllr. Tim Pike and Andy Biltcliffe, Regeneration Lead for Havant Borough Council. Tim Pike, recently re-elected as Councillor for St Faiths, continues in his role as Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Lead for Finance and Regeneration. Andy Biltcliffe also continues in his role as ‘Head of Regeneration (South)’.

It’s good to see continuity of accountability in these roles given the importance to us all of the Havant Regeneration Programme.

Andy took the meeting through his latest sales pitch for the Regeneration Programme. When the strategy was originally published, the scope of Phase 1 was defined as “Quick wins, sites entirely in HBC ownership & opportunities for income generation” . The new pitch presented by Andy at Friday’s meeting now includes ‘Havant Town Centre’ and ‘Brockhampton West’ in the scope of Phase 1 in addition to the Civic Plaza site. Phase 2, originally “More complex longer term projects “, now shows ‘Waterlooville Town Centre’ and ‘Leigh Park Town Centre’.

We’re keen to understand what the Phase 1 plan includes relating specifically to what residents perceive as Havant Town Centre since, let’s face it, development on the Civic Plaza site isn’t high on our list.

The original ‘Opportunity Havant’ document contained the following important commitment which was reiterated by Andy Biltcliffe in his introduction on Friday:

“Where necessary the Council will utilise its Compulsory Purchase Powers to bring forward schemes and will make the required budget available. This will give greater certainty over delivery of the Regeneration Programme.”

Opportunity Havant – November 2018

We remain cautiously optimistic that the HBC team will now put serious focus on the use of compulsory purchase to address the long term issue of the derelict sites in West Street and East Street.

However, when questioned on just this point, Andy replied that since the East Street development sites were for sale at a price well in excess of £1M, they were out of scope. He seemed surprised when we pointed out that numbers 5 and 7 are currently up for auction at Nesbitts on May 30th with a guide price of £250,000. We’ll be watching that auction carefully since, as we reported earlier this month, 44-54 West Street recently failed to sell at auction and remains on sale at £810,000.

Andy made the comment that since compulsory purchase requires compensation to the landowner of ‘market price’ plus ten percent, these properties remain out of reach of the Regeneration Programme. Our counter argument is that if, as Tim Pike commented, the prices being asked by these developers are unrealistically high, then the Council should step in and work with independent surveyors to determine what the real market prices should be.

Further questions from the floor highlighted that recent attempts to engage with the HBC Conservation Officer on the sad state of other Georgian buildings in East Street have so far fallen on deaf ears. This despite the fact that the very same Conservation Officer acts for Petersfield, where residents appear to get more attention.

This sadly doesn’t surprise us; interaction with Havant Borough Council via telephone or email is hit or miss at best, with emails rarely acknowledged, regularly ignored or simply badly handled by Capita’s Coventry based call centre. Perhaps rather too much emphasis is being placed on delivering flashy marketing communications setting unrealistic expectations. The ‘Homes England’ announcement is a case in point. The reality of the Phase 1 Civic Plaza development plan now seems considerably more limited in scope. Do not expect to see the JobCentre, the Magistrates’ Court or the Police Station redeveloped; Phase 1 development at that site now looks more like just a few blocks of flats on the Civic Offices car park instead.

The next whizzy graphic extravaganza will be on Thursday 13th June at the Meridian Centre when HBC will reveal an exciting new CGI video presentation from their PR partner.

We’ll be there, sack of salt in hand, just in case…

Denmead Belles WI visit to the Gazebo

Together with Anna Glanville-Hearson, our hard working secretary and Gazebo Garden Coordinator, the local Havant nature-friendly garden specialist, Martin Hampton, recently led an evening guided walk for 14 members of the Denmead Belles WI group.

We went to the Meadow and 3-Pond Copse at Lower Grove Road and then on to the Gazebo Garden where the visitors were all very interested in both the Gazebo and the garden, and especially in the new wildlife-friendly elements that we have recently introduced.

A very big ‘Thank You’ to all our Waitrose shoppers!

A big vote of thanks to Waitrose and Partners for their generosity to the local community!

To all of you HCS members, friends, relatives or just casual shoppers with an interest in our ‘Secret Garden’, you’ve managed to raise a terrific total of £480 on the Community Matters – ‘green token’ – Scheme at Waitrose in Havant.

This gives a welcome boost to the funds available for the maintenance of the Gazebo structure and the planting.

With thanks to you all
from the HCS Committee and the Gazebo Garden maintenance volunteers.

The Gazebo Garden bat box has been commissioned!

The new Gazebo Garden bat box has now been put up by our volunteers and over time we’re hoping it will attract some occupants. Take your little ones into the garden on the way home from school and see if they can find it!

Havant is said to be a popular spot for bats and we’re hoping to organise a ‘bat walk’ one evening with a local expert on the subject.

The box was made for us by the Havant Men’s Shed. If you’re interested in a box for your own house, we’re sure that they’d be delighted to help.

The Gazebo Garden is a glorious riot of April colours

Do please stop by the Gazebo Garden and see the wonderful Spring colours. Then spare a thought for those lovely volunteers and next time you’re in Waitrose, drop your green tokens in the Gazebo Garden slot!