Wearing one of my other hats, I recently attended a meeting of the Bosmere Medical Practice Patient Participation Group (PPG). These occasional meetings have been scheduled over lunchtimes throughout the current pandemic given that the practice doctors and staff have no other time to spare. To be honest, they even struggle to make that time fit given their current workload. Staff morale is at an all time low, the government’s changing rules on vaccination groups and the erratic supplies of vaccine, often delivered at barely 48 hours notice, necessitates significant admin effort and appointment rescheduling. The practice is bending over backwards and working ridiculous hours to help the 20,000 patients on their list so you’d like to think that people would keep off their backs.
Sadly, the fact that a minority of vocal patients regularly bombard them with offensive and abusive phone calls isn’t helped by the fact that Havant Borough Council and Portsmouth Water keep them completely in the dark about their future. The Practice Manager reported to the PPG that staff can now see a new site road forming with heavy machinery working in the woodland to the north of the surgery. This work presumably relates to a previous planning application ‘for tree work’ which we reported last October as ‘the thin end of a wedge’.
The slideshow below contains four images. The first, from Google Earth, shows the site as it is today, with the Bosmere Medical Practice visible at the bottom of the frame in the centre. The second image is from the latest Portsmouth Water planning application which is in pre-planning and expected for consultation imminently. The third image shows the application for a new site entrance on Brockhampton Road for which detailed plans submitted in March 2021 show is designed to be usable by ‘large, four axle tipper trucks’.
The fourth image shows the allocation for housing on the rest of the site. While no plans have been published, the allocation itself suggests where site access might be, from West Street and Brockhampton Road.
The next two slides show the plans for the immediate surroundings of the Bosmere Medical Centre in Solent Road. The current aerial view shows the dedicated access road into the surgery and the pharmacy with staff parking to the right of the buildings and patient parking in front. Those who know the surgery will know that the short cul de sac to the left is often also jammed with waiting cars at peak surgery hours. Surgery hours are dictated by the NHS contract and thus coincide with peak morning and afternoon Solent Road traffic.
The third image summarises the planning application which will shortly be logged for consultation. It appears that Portsmouth Water and their architect have completely ignored the deputations made to the Development Consultation Forum by concerned residents of Manor Court and by HCS on behalf of the Bosmere Medical Practice. When the application is available for consultation, we will be notifying our members and will be working with the practice to notify the 20,000 patients on their list, the majority of whom will be Havant residents and council tax payers.
Watch out for a further post when the new application is published.
A planning application is under review for an unnamed international warehousing and distribution company to set up a ‘last mile delivery’ operation at the former Pfizer site in New Lane. The 24/7, three shift operation will provide the base for more than 800 delivery vans servicing Hampshire, Sussex and Surrey, generating well over 5,000 vehicle movements each day of the week.
This is a long read in five related sections. If anything in this article strikes a chord with you, skip to the bottom, and write to your councillors. There’s a link there to help you find their email addresses.
To skip directly to a section, take one of these links:
The current planning application for the former Pfizer site at 32 New Lane has raised a storm of objections over the inevitable impact that the development would have on town traffic. Each of those objections stands on its own individual merits but a recurring theme throughout is concern for the increased danger to cyclists and pedestrians, from school age to the elderly, from such a significant increase in traffic movements on residential streets. This additional traffic and its inevitable pollution will directly impact the three primary schools within a mile of the site. Sharps Copse Primary to the north, St Albans Primary to the west and Fairfield Infants to the south.
When the Council announced its new constitution in January, it predicted that it would “make the operation of the council more agile, cost effective and able to respond to the needs of the community.” The Constitution itself defines a role of “Cabinet Member with Portfolio Responsibility for Traffic Management”, but the fact that no Councillor is named in that role in this current Cabinet demonstrates the lack of priority given by HBC to the impact of traffic.
This is not the first time that ‘Consultee Traffic Team’ has failed to recognise that Havant has a problem with traffic. In fact, we’ve seen this exact same response on previous occasions, word for word, right down to the email address which still returns mail as invalid. These consultee responses are sloppy, but they’re not the fault of ‘KRC’, who probably works out of East Hants District Council with objectives that cover little more than parking and closing a few roads for Remembrance Day. Without any clear Cabinet oversight of the job, the ‘Traffic Management Team’ – if they actually exist – clearly flounders.
Understanding why Havant town has a traffic problem isn’t rocket science. The problem stems from the growth of the town around the fixed railway infrastructure that once formed the town’s transport hub.
The migration of freight from the rail network to the road network over the past sixty years has resulted in the construction of a brand new strategic road transport hub, out of town to the south west at Broadmarsh. New employment areas have been built alongside the A27 and the A3(M), enabling rapid connection between the employment areas and the trunk roads, with minimal impact on the town traffic.
In the 1872 map, below, the railway network is clear, with Havant Station in the top right hand corner. The second image, from Google Earth, overlays the new trunk road infrastructure.
As the area to the north of the railway becomes increasingly residential and personal car ownership continues to increase, the bottlenecks formed by the five railway crossing points present challenges for journeys outbound to, and inbound from, the A27 and the A3(M). With no high volume traffic route between the A3(M) at Horndean and the A27 at Southleigh, the former New Lane industrial estate is now landlocked by residential development and starved of efficient access to the national road network.
Constraints: Uninterrupted by train movements – Single lane vehicle approach, two lane exit
In brief: This crossing is heavily congested at peak times, weekends and holidays due to downstream congestion at Langstone Roundabout, Elm Road junction and Solent Road junction. There is increasing congestion associated with home delivery and ‘drive thru’ traffic generated by the four main fast food outlets sited on Park Road South.
Bartons Road road bridge
Constraints: Uninterrupted by train movements – Single lane each way
In brief: The bridge of choice for ‘the back road to Chichester’, heavily used at peak times by traffic avoiding the congestion at the A27 Chichester bypass rounadabouts. The nature of the traffic flow over this bridge will change considerably once the Southleigh A27 Link is built since that will provide the quickest uninterrupted route to an A27 junction for a large area of Havant. Furthermore, if ‘traffic generating’ businesses continue to be tolerated or are allowed to grow at the New Lane employment area, then this crossing will become the route of choice for access to the A3(M) via the Comley Hill, Whichers Gate, Horndean rat-run and to the A27 via Southleigh.
New Lane level crossing
Constraints:Closed for all trains on the London line and Brighton line
In brief: Frequent traffic tailbacks across New Lane/Eastern Road junction to the north, and across the Fairfield Road/Waterloo Road junction to the south.
Southleigh Road level crossing
Constraints: Closed for all trains on the Brighton line
In brief: Frequent tailbacks blocking access to residential properties and Warblington School. With the New Lane / Eastern Road / Elmleigh Road rat run closed , this crossing may now be favoured by LGV traffic heading to A27 E/W at Warblington.
Bedhampton level crossing
Constraints: Closed for all trains on the London line and Brighton line
In brief: Extended closure at times due to the short platform when long westbound trains stop at Bedhampton Station. Peak time local hold ups for commuter traffic to and from Southmoor Lane / Harts Farm Lane. These peak time problems will not be helped by the long term development plans for the Portsmouth Water estate bounded by West Street, Brockhampton Road and Solent Road, information about which is murky at best.
And further east?
Travel on eastward towards Bosham on the A259 and what do you see? All the way from Emsworth, through Southbourne and Nutbourne, a ribbon development of new housing crammed in south of the railway to help Chichester District Council meet its own housing targets. Constrained by the level crossings at Southbourne, Nutborne and Bosham, much of that new population will be driving to and from the nearest available A259/A27 junction, at Warblington.
Once the Southleigh A27 link (Option 1B) is open, just how well will the Warblington A27 interchange cope? (Answers, on a postcard please, to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Sixty years ago, New Lane led Havant’s growth with the likes of Kenwood, Goodmans, Colt, Scalextrix and Britax. The quality and reliability of the West Leigh workforce with their famous ‘We’re backing Britain’ campaign encouraged IBM, Plessey, BAe and Siemens to invest in the Borough. As a regenerated employment area providing sustainable jobs within easy reach of the town centre bus and rail hubs, New Lane should have a great future.
Those famous manufacturing brands that were once synonymous with the New Lane estate have mostly moved offshore, with only Kenwood retaining office, shop and warehouse space on the site. Given its increasingly urban context, the site is now far better suited to businesses with sustainable day-time working and commuting patterns, ideally providing the local residential community with the higher skilled employment opportunities promised by Havant’s Regeneration Strategy. Eatons, Kenwood and Dunham Bush are all long established ‘good neighbours’ and with the opening of thecorporate headquarters of Anetic Aid and more recently the new UK site for Sartorius, the potential for the right sort of growth is clear.
Businesses that generate traffic movements in excess of normal daily commuting should be actively discouraged and ‘managed out’ by Havant Borough Council, while office-based employment, technology based manufacturing and the type of high value, secure storage opportunities associated with the Solent Freeport should be encouraged. The Spring Business Park under construction on the former Butterick site, with Qvis CCTV and Security a convenient neighbour, could be readily adapted to support Havant’s Freeport opportunity,
A coherent strategy for the management of Havant’s traffic is the key to unlocking the potential of New Lane while at the same time reducing the peak time traffic which chokes the town’s road network. While the real authority on highways and traffic lies with Hampshire County Council’s Highways Authority, much closer liaison between the Borough and County council is required if we are to keep control of our streets and keep the traffic moving. The role of “Cabinet Member with Portfolio Responsibility for Traffic Management” should be recognised for its importance and should be filled with an appointee with vision.
The decision on this application is critical to the future of Havant. The wrong decision will simply exacerbate the existing traffic problems, will endanger the safety of residents and their children, and will deny the New Lane employment area the opportunity for the type of regeneration that will secure its future growth. The right employment profile will bring the business opportunities that lift educational standards across the Borough, just as the high tech businesses which followed New Lane’s first wave in the 1960s did.
A great many hours have been spent drilling into the documentation which accompanies application APP/21/00200, in order to arrive at an adequate level of understanding. For those elected representatives in decision making roles, the following paragraph from the Planning Code of Conduct is particularly relevant:
“Do come to your decision only after due consideration of all of the information reasonably required upon which to base a decision. If you feel there is insufficient time to digest new information or that there is simply insufficient information before you, request that further information. If necessary, defer or refuse.”
The Transport Statement provided by the applicant is ‘topped and tailed’ with a soft, marketing spin that should not be taken at face value. The language in the ‘Summary and Conclusions’ is loose and the data within the document contains many inconsistencies and selective omissions. It is presented, as might be expected, in a manner supportive of the Applicant’s case so I would urge you to study this in depth.
An exhaustive critique of the document set would be a dry read indeed, so please just consider these two examples from the tables in the main document. This should give enough of a guide to the accuracy of its conclusions.
The first point to note in both of these tables is that the data shown covers a single one hour ‘peak’ in the morning, a one hour peak in the afternoon, and a total daily figure. The application is for ‘3 shift operation’ over a 24 hour day, 7 days a week, therefore the periods selected for these comparisons are not representative of the true impact of the business on the town’s environment.
Table 5.4 is used to demonstrate that, compared “to the previous maximum usage of the site the proposed development would generate less traffic both during peak hours and across the day”. That’s very convenient but also rather misleading since the ‘Previous Maximum’ numbers are theoretical, assuming the traffic that might be generated if the site were used to the maximum extent allowed under the planning permissions currently in place. This theoretical decrease of just 90 daily vehicle movements is referred to in the document as “significantly less vehicle movements”.
Table 5.4 is then used to demonstrate that the proposal would result in a decrease in both morning and afternoon peak hours of the existing site traffic, while only adding “an uplift of movements” to the overall daily total. This increase of 466 vehicle movements is referred to in the document as “slightly more traffic”. The residents of New Lane, who have lived with the operation of ‘the existing site’ for many years, question the veracity of the ‘existing site’ numbers quoted since they bear no resemblance to observed reality.
Not only are the authors of the Transport Statement creative in their use of English, but their basic mathematics is also equally loose. A nit, repeated too many times to be a typo, is their constant quoting of 2,415 vehicle daily movements. According to us, that’s slightly at odds with the source numbers for the proposed use provided in Appendix F, ‘Occupier Traffic Data’. That data source is a simple table that predicts actual movements arriving and departing from the site over a 24 hours period, based on the intended occupier’s existing sites across Europe (listed in appendix H).
We can safely assume that this data source represents just the HGV and LGV movements since there is no evidence in the data for the three shift staff commuting patterns the intended occupant proposes. Staff arriving for, and leaving at a midnight shift changeover will not be using public transport.
We looked at the occupier data and drew up a rather different picture:
The blue data is taken directly from Appendix F and shown for each hour of the day. The grey data includes the additional movements of the van drivers, arriving in their own cars in the morning to pick up a van and leaving at the end of their shift having dropped their van back in the vehicle storage unit. The yellow data assumes that there are 208 staff on site at any one time in the 24 hour day, with three shifts changing over at midnight, 08:00 and 16:00. Since the employee numbers, while clearly available to the applicant, are withheld in the paperwork, we’ve made a reasonable assumption that the 208 parking spaces allocated in the design are used by the warehouse work force. We know from elsewhere in the document that the van drivers will be parking their personal vehicles on the ‘van storage decks’.
In summary, the Transport Statement supplied in support of the application is at best, creatively misleading.
Please read deeply and consider the much wider implications of this application. The right decision will open the opportunities for regeneration that the town needs. The wrong decision will be remembered for a generation.
A few weeks ago, the Leader of the Council addressed a Havant Borough Council Cabinet meeting and expressed enthusiasm for the opportunities that the Solent Freeport would bring to Havant. In the absence of anything published since, I thought I’d take a closer look at what this might mean. (Warning, this is a longish read, particularly if you open the two documents which accompany it. You might want to put the kettle on first).
The Freeport bidding process
In the March Budget, the Solent was ‘shortlisted’ as the site for one of eight Freeports to be set up in the United Kingdom. In this article, I’ll try to explain what a ‘Solent Freeport’ might mean to our area, drawing from the detail content of the two documents shown below.
The three high level objectives set out in the Government’s ‘Bidding Prospectus’ were, at best, woolly:
Establishing national hubs for global trade and investment across the UK
The two source documents for this article, the government’s Bidding Prospectus and the Solent LEP’s response, are both available here: click the images and they will open in separate browser tabs. At less than 50 pages each, they’re fairly digestible to anyone with experience of reading or writing commercial engagement documents. I’ve put a few hours into reading them both and this article summarises my personal thoughts.
The first document, the ‘Bidding Prospectus’, set out the government’s ambition for Freeports, the core Freeport objectives, and how they expected bidders to respond. The document set out the format in which the response should be written, and explained the marking scheme by which ‘competing bids’ would be judged. It provided additional detail on the UK’s Freeports model, including clear geographic guidelines on site design and size, and how ‘Freeport economic levers’ relating to customs, tax, planning, regeneration and innovation would work. The first three of these are discussed briefly at the end of this post.)
The ‘Response’ by Solent LEP covered all points in the required format, while identifying differentiators unique to the Solent – i.e. selling the reasons why the reviewer should choose their ‘proposal’.
In reality, the first document was a ‘Request for Information’ which simply painted a vision of what a Freeport might be, giving some high level technical ideas which might be applicable, but containing a number of questions aimed at soliciting more realistic solution ideas from potential freeport teams; an opportunity to put some meat on the bare bones of what is little more than an idea. The real competitive bid process will be some way down the line once the government have taken on board all the free consulting that the eight freeport bid submissions have provided.
Just where would the Solent Freeport be?
In summary, the UK Government document sets out the overall scale of a Freeport and demonstrates for a ‘multi-port’ model how the maximum outer boundary could fit with the local geography of the port facilities, regeneration sites, existing storage facilities and the motorway infrastructure that services them.
The bidders were required to “set out on a map the area where they propose the Freeport tax measures should apply in compliance with the government’s requirements”. This presumably is in an appendix to the Solent LEP response still deemed ‘commercially sensitive’ since it’s not yet been made public.
An interpretation of a possible ‘Freeport outer boundary’, drawn using the rules set out in the ‘Bidding Prospectus’, is shown below. It might be out by a mile or two in either direction, but would certainly take in the Havant Borough employment areas.
So what is a Solent Freeport?
The Solent Freeport would be an area designated by the government where companies associated with the freeport have distinct tax advantages. Companies that operate within freeports don’t have to pay import taxes (tariffs) on products until they move them outside the circle and into the full UK market. They can avoid paying certain taxes altogether if they bring in goods through the ports and airports to store or manufacture on sites within the circle before they export them again.
In the case of the Solent Freeport, this could allow for collaboration between the port areas on both sides of Southampton Water, those within Portsmouth Harbour and those on the north coast of the Isle of Wight. There are also intriguing opportunities for the smaller ports and harbours scattered around the Solent shore, within the ‘magic circle’. Since the northern part of the IoW and parts of Portsmouth already benefit from UK Assisted Area status, the definition of Freeport status would provide further incentive to businesses to locate and expand in those areas.
The key to making a Freeport work across the 1,500 square kilometres is in the strict control of movement of products between the various sites – factories, warehousing, customs points and port areas – using RFID technology and ANPR cameras. While the underlying technologies are well known, RFID tags to control inventory movements in shops and warehouses and ANPR cameras to manage speeding on motorways, there is a significant body of evidence concerning criminal risks in freeports and factors that give rise to those risks. Like other freeports across the world, the new UK freeports could also be used to store – without tax – high-value goods, including art, precious metals and fine wine. Such tax-free perks have transformed some freeports into self-storage units for many of the world’s wealthiest people with Geneva’s freeport alone estimated to house over a million works of art, including 1,000 Picassos.
So how might all this affect Havant?
In their response to the bid, the Solent LEP mention Havant only twice, in the same context as Gosport as a ‘significant pocket of deprivation’. Southampton, by contrast, is mentioned thirty-one times to Portsmouth’s tally of five and the Isle of Wight’s total of three.
But within this heavy Southampton bias, there are still opportunities for Havant Borough:
Dunsbury Park, alongside the A3(M) between Bedhampton and Waterlooville, could provide secure warehousing and distribution space within easily controlled reach of the Portsmouth International Port via the M275/M27 motorways. The main beneficiary of this would be Portsmouth City Council who own both the port and the Dunsbury Park site.
The proposed development of Brockhampton West, might also provide employment for warehousing or secure storage, though since Havant Borough Council decided to sell that gilded goose recently, the only financial beneficiary would be the new owners.
Langstone Technology Park and the New Lane Employment Area, intelligently redeveloped, could also attract secure storage and high end manufacturing businesses which could benefit from the tax advantages of location within the freeport boundary and the ability to import and export through Southampton and Portsmouth ports, or Southampton airport. Existing businesses on these sites, particularly those already in the import / storage / export business like De’Longhi, will also be carefully considering the advantages of the freeport offer. Kingsbridge Estates’ expanding New Lane property portfolio will benefit from careful tenant selection while other New Lane landowners will be carefully monitoring the potential ‘freeport bonus’ their asset values should attract.
The Freeport ‘Economic Levers’
The ‘Freeport levers’ are the changes that will be made by the UK Government to streamline customs rules, tax rules and planning regulations to aid ‘regeneration’ and ‘innovation’.
The customs and tax levers are not for the faint hearted and I’m grateful to our Treasurer for pointing me to this article by BDO, a global accounting organisation, which provides a few pointers to those changes
The subject that probably comes closest to affecting us is planning, where changes to Local Development Orders and Permitted Development Rights will be made at a national level to remove restrictions and delays for associated development within the new freeport outer boundary.
In their response, the Solent Freeport team welcomes the use of Local Development Orders (LDOs) as they “establish a clear framework for development, giving certainty to applicants, businesses and communities”. However, the process for securing an LDO is often “time intensive and requires skills that many Councils do not possess” and also “require the support of a wide range of stakeholders”. The Solent LEP response suggests that the Government improve the Local Development Order process by imposing strict time limits on their delivery. To achieve this, they suggest the establishment of service level agreements between relevant local government authorities committing to a reasonable decision period for various approvals relevant for a given site. Given the large number of local authorities across the Solent freeport region, they go on to propose “the establishment of a special Virtual Planning Authority that is facilitated by a coordinating institution with the cooperation of relevant local authorities.”
The Solent LEP response also proposes extending the permitted development rights accorded to ports to include assembly and manufacturing though they believe this would still not improve the planning environment enough to act as an incentive to potential investors. While the expansion of permitted development rights would simplify development processes on seaport land, it would still not allow for the greater freedoms or coordination in higher-level planning required to ensure Freeport success.
In what might seem to some a worrying threat to environmental standards, the Solent LEP go further, suggesting that “existing environmental regulations along much of the UK coastline supersede Permitted Development Rights, further limiting their additional value as an incentive”.
If you thought that public scrutiny of planning and development is already inadequate and ineffective, it’s liable to get a lot more interesting in the future.
Don’t hold your breath though. Freeports are not a new idea in the UK. The country had a couple of them as recently as 2012 before the government abandoned them for failing to deliver the expected benefits.