Langstone Technology Park – DCF comments

Yesterday afternoon I went along to the Civic Plaza to observe the Development Consultation Forum discussion regarding proposed development at Langstone Technology Park.

In the early seventies, this was the site which put Havant firmly on the global map as a centre of high technology manufacturing and information services. We’d already seen the international success of Scalectrix and Goodmans, and we’d seen Colts kick off the ‘We’re backing Britain‘ campaign in the late sixties, joined in short order by Kenwood. But then the IBM Plant and IBM Information Services Limited came to town and put the community and its workforce firmly on the worldwide stage.

Those of us who remember the four original buildings on the site, awarded the Financial Times award for Industrial Architecture in 1972, might recall that one of the key attributes of their architecture was the way in which they connected with the context of the site, a large green meadow which stretched right down to the shore from the A27.

Another of the fine attributes of the architecture was the way in which the untidiness of car parking was lost from view behind the site. Of all the development since IBM sold the site, the expansion of visible car parking in front of the site has done more than anything to destroy the impact of the site when viewed from the A27. OK, that’s a personal opinion by this particular writer, but the impressive view of the Arup site from the A27 trunk road made a real statement about Havant.

The current owners have engaged Rapleys, a property and planning consultancy, to breathe new life into the site. Their presentation last night was less than inspired, simply reflecting the unimaginative approach taken by their team. Their proposal, to demolish half of the original Plant building – ‘Building 1000’ – and replace it by a larger car park does nothing to present the site as something special, when viewed as a gateway from A27 flyover. A more challenging architect might demolish the newer, western end of that building and position the car parking there.

Rapley’s comments last night that they needed to introduce more glazing to make the buildings ‘sustainable’ for modern use should also be challenged. Take a look at the original design at the top of this page and you’ll note that the bottom half of the building has extensive glazing. For the top, introduce light wells and courtyards but for heaven’s sake, keep the beautiful external elevations.

The standard of ‘architecture’ in the brief published for the meeting doesn’t really inspire confidence. The ‘concept’ and ‘design’ drawings shown below are those of the Rapleys, but the choice of font is mine. (If ever drawings deserved the use of the MS Comic Sans font, more appropriately reserved for five year olds, this is it)

Our advice to the owner? Firstly find a more challenging architect who understands the value of the heritage assets then take your marketing to the next level and look for more imaginative potential users of the space. Don’t forget that modern ‘cloud computing’ isn’t actually ‘up in the sky’ but requires acre upon acre of data centre floor space. Almost exactly what Arup designed back in the sixties.

Our advice to Havant Borough Council, capitalise on the quality of the original globally renowned site and refuse to allow third rate mediocrity to replace it.

Is there a future for the original IBM Havant site buildings?

Back in January, we reported on a move to list the former IBM Havant Plant buildings at what is now the Langstone Technology Park. If such a move is to bear fruit, it can’t come soon enough. Havant Borough Council’s Development Consultation Forum #48 will consider the future of this site on Tuesday 21st May at 6:00pm and the author of this piece plans to be there..

An early image of the Havant Plant, taken from the north western boundary.

The first Havant IBM manufacturing building in Solent Road has long since disappeared, demolished to make way for Havant’s first ‘out of town’ Tesco store. The building which replaced it was the long, elegant structure shown above, designed by Arup Associates and winner of the prestigious Financial Times Award for Industrial Architecture in 1972.

The IBM Information Services Ltd. building constructed on the same site, linked to the plant building by a glazed corridor and reception area, was an integral part of Arup’s design. Known internally as the Respond building, an IBM acronym that escapes me now, the building resembled a record deck with a concrete rendered lower part concealing a computer centre and a dark glazed upper part containing offices.

Sadly, the visual impact of the two original buildings in the context of the green field in which they stood has been greatly reduced by the development of the large car park at the eastern end. The original architecture contained a small car park for visitors and executives at the steps up to the main entrance in the glass link between the buildings.

The main car park was just to the south of the manufacturing plant and also included a number of temporary buildings which provided the home for two groups of systems and application programmers, one looking after the IBM manufacturing information systems, the other developing the systems which ran IBM’s World Trade business operations. To the south of those temporary buildings, past the original car park, the remainder of the land down to the shore remained undeveloped, save for playing fields and the IBM staff club on Southmoor Lane.

This shot shows the site after the second phase of development, but still before the rest of the Southmoor area had been ‘developed’. The two original buildings are the Respond building at the left of this group of four, with the IBM Plant building in the foreground. The first, sensitive extension of the plant building can also clearly be seen at the right hand, western, end. The two buildings in the background of the group are Arup’s second, later bite of the cherry. This shot shows the small visitors’ car park at the main entrance and the glass walkway between the two original buildings can still be seen.

In 1977, the new IBM UK Headquarters offices opened at North Harbour, with staff relocating from the Havant temporary buildings, the original London headquarters building in Chiswick and the single storey glazed temporary building in Northern Road, Cosham.

The Havant temporary buildings were bulldozed to make way for the second phase of the Langstone site development. The old London HQ site still exists, renamed Chiswick Tower and now home to the British Standards Institute, while the young Norman Foster’s ‘temporary’ glass building at Northern Road, Cosham, was eventually awarded Grade 2 listing and has for some years been occupied by HMRC as ‘Lynx House’.

Going back to the two original buildings at Langstone, it’s worth understanding how important this site was, both to IBM and to Havant. At the time of their construction in the early 1970s, Havant was already home to a number of global manufacturing brands, Kenwood, Colt, Lewmar and Goodmans being four other significant global brands. Minimodels, the manufacturer of Scalextric was moving out of its Leigh Park site but the Havant area was still a hotbed of technical development and manufacturing with a proven quality workforce. The existence of these brands in Havant were influential in IBM’s decision to build such an important manufacturing and development site on the Langstone site.

A little background is probably appropriate…

By the early 1970s, the IBM world was divided into two parts of roughly equal business size, IBM US and IBM World Trade, the main company product line being the IBM 370 series family of mainframe computers. Now dwarfed by the technology in our homes and pockets, these huge machines were the state-of-the-art computers of their day and were used to run the business of many of the Fortune 500 companies.

An IBM 370 series installation, including the Central Processing Unit at the back, tape drives on the left, removable disk drives on the right and printers in the foreground. The Havant Plant building and the Respond building each typically contained around four of these water cooled behemoths at any one time in secure air conditioned machine rooms, running IBM World Trade’s operational and manufacturing business.

The US arm of the IBM corporation produced all of the component parts of these systems for the North American market in a number of plants across the United States, each plant concentrating on a specific component.

For the World Trade division however, the manufacturing plants were spread around the world with the new Havant plant site building the Central Processing Units (CPUs). Other plants, notably in Sweden, Germany, France and Italy, but also in Japan, Mexico and Argentina produced peripheral components all of which were brought into the Havant Plant building for ‘systems integration’ before final shipment of the complete, tested system to the customer site.

In the 1970s, that long flat building was divided into three parts. At one end was the machine room, housing the computers that managed the manufacturing process while at the other end was a clean room where semiconductor chips were developed and manufactured. The bulk of the floor space in between was taken up by the manufacturing space for the ‘big blue boxes’, the CPUs. Hanging from the ceiling above each of the half dozen or so being constructed at any one time was a board with the name of the customer for whom that system was being built.

To those of us who witnessed this manufacturing operation ‘from the inside’, it was an impressive spectacle, a demonstration of the power and reach of the IBM corporation as a once genuinely global business.

So should the site be protected by listing?

The original buildings date from a time when Havant peaked as a globally acknowledged centre of high tech manufacturing industry. It could also be said that the time also marked the point at which IBM’s dominance of the global computer systems market peaked.

By the 1990’s, the IBM Havant plant was reduced to the development and manufacture of computer disk drives. In 1993, with UK manufacturing costs being too high, the IBM Corporation let the Havant plant go to a management buyout and the site became the home of Xyratex.

As soon as they were contractually free to do so, IBM opened a new low cost disk plant in Hungary in direct competition with Xyratex. The ethical principles espoused by Thomas Watson for IBM had been diluted and devalued by the 1990s. The creaking IBM printer business was similarly sold off in a leveraged buyout, forming the Lexmark company. Once again, when contractual constraints were lifted, IBM re-launched its own printer division using low cost manufacturing.

I’ve not seen inside the Havant Plant building since the late ’70s but feel sure that the overall architecture of the space must still be sound. As a large exhibition hall with superb transport links, it might be preserved by a far sighted owner.

But then the progressive vandalism of the last forty years of insensitive planning and development might just have rendered it beyond recovery…

I might also argue that IBM actually started the rot here by selling off its own global property portfolio in order to keep balancing the books. The relentless increase in performance of computer hardware predicted by Moores Law , coupled with the commoditisation of the computer hardware business, necessitated desperate action to keep the stockholders happy.

In the sixties and seventies, the IBM UK property portfolio displayed some of the finest architecture of the day, the Langstone site just one example. Nowadays, there’s only one site in the UK still owned by IBM, and that’s Hursley. The reason? IBM UK never owned it, it’s the property of the US company. Even that other Norman Foster building on the South Bank is now owned by Alan Sugar.

(I should point out that the rambling views in this post are personal observations by the editor and are not necessarily the views of the HCS Committee. Bob C. )

Waitrose shoppers – Support the Gazebo Garden please!

We’re pleased to see that thanks to the sterling efforts of our treasurer, The Gazebo Garden is one of this month’s featured ‘Green Token’ charities. Please remember the efforts of the Gazebo Garden volunteers and place your token in the Gazebo slot!

And while you’re at it, consider shopping little and often rather than weekly as a bulk shop. Make it a daily routine, spend your minimum £10, pick up your free newspaper and drop in a token!

We’re backing Britain – again!

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about the sad loss of the 1960s Colt office building at the north end of New Lane.  The ‘We’re Backing Britain’ campaign from 1968 which spread rapidly down the lane to Kenwood, has been immortalised in a BBC Radio 4 play, first broadcast on Sunday 23rd September.  Available on BBC iPlayer at this link, it’s well worth forty five minutes of your time if you remember those days and the importance of New Lane to the town of Havant in the sixties.

The ‘We’re Backing Britain’ campaign was soon picked up by Kenwood, just down the lane from Colt, and I was delighted to see a terrific turnout at The Spring on Saturday 29th September for the launch of their six month Heritage Lottery funded Kenwood local history project.

Soon after my seventeenth birthday, I punched into the time clock at the Kenwood factory for my first experience of paid employment. Within an hour I was handed a roll of ‘Kenwood – We’re Backing Britain’ stickers, the ‘K’ of Kenwood picked out in the colours of the union flag.  The stickers, intended for the boxes of appliances leaving the production lines, were also proudly displayed on the flasks, lunchboxes, bicycles and cars of the workforce.

#kenwood #havant

Langstone Sea Defences

If you’ve been traveling into Portsmouth recently – or more specifically around Portsea Island – you cannot fail to have noticed the ongoing work on design and development of new sea defences.

While this is well outside our area, the problem of global sea level rise and the rapidly decaying state of sea defences along the British coastline is a significant issue.  Our own coastline is potentially at risk from Bedhampton and Southmoor in the west to Langstone and Warblington in the east,


On behalf of Havant Borough Council, the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership (ESCP) will shortly be undertaking ground and structural investigation works around the Langstone seafront to determine the condition of existing defenses. These works will involve undertaking a series of boreholes, trial pits and concrete core samples to collect samples to determine the ground and existing defense structure conditions.

ESCP have invited Havant Civic Society to join their Langstone Stakeholder Working Group to provide input to the requirements and design phases of this important project.

Along with our partners at the Langstone Residents’ Association and other interested local stakeholder groups, we attended a workshop at the Langstone Hotel on September 5th, the first of a series of such meetings to be scheduled throughout the design and delivery projects.   There will be a public event in November where ESCP will present their shortlisted design options, and a further public event in June 2019 for residents and businesses to comment on the Outline Design.

Two documents from Wednesday’s workshop may be of interest and can be viewed by taking the following links:

Langstone Ground & Structural Investigation Works Poster
ESCP Presentation to LSWG 05/09/2018

We will keep you posted with news on these events as the program of work continues.

Development Consultation Forum on Housing to the north of Bartons Road

Today’s Development Consultation Forum at the Havant Plaza gave us the first sight of an outline proposal for around 90 new homes on land immediately west of The Oaks crematorium. The presentation, by planning consultants engaged by the land owner, White Farming Ltd., aka Southleigh Estate, highlighted the fact that a considerable amount of work has already been done despite the fact that the site concerned does not appear at all on the currently adopted Local Plan.  Residents of the Barton’s Rise estate present at the meeting commented that they had been assured when they bought their homes that there were no plans for development on their eastern boundary ‘because of proximity to the crematorium.’  Their anger and frustration is justifiable.

From a parochial Havant Civic Society viewpoint, it could be argued that the Barton’s Road site is ‘not in our patch’.  However, with rapid expansion of housing development now encircling the town centre, it’s important that we consider the potential impacts on and benefits for the town centre as a natural destination for these new communities.

Firstly, some geographical context to this evening’s Development Consultation Forum. In the picture below, ‘The Oaks’ crematorium is at the top left and the Wyevale Garden Centre is at the bottom of the frame, slightly left of centre. Bartons road runs from the west at the bottom, to the north at the top. Eastleigh Road can be seen running southwards – left to right – from the Spire hospital to its junction with Southleigh Road, centre right.

This same aerial view will be radically different in ten years time, with most of the arable farmland replaced by housing.  Whether or not the schools, GP surgeries and transport infrastructure will be in place to service those houses were questions high on the agenda of the members of public represented at tonight’s Development Consulting Forum.

At the top of the picture, Southleigh House is already earmarked for around 90 homes.  On the large field occupying the right hand side of this image, the site road is already under construction from Barton’s Road leading to another 175 houses planned by Bellway.  Towards the bottom on the left hand side, the Linden Homes ‘Barton’s Rise’ estate can be seen opposite the entrance to the garden centre.  Each of these housing developments are on land allocated in the currently adopted Local Plan and, therefore, come as no surprise. The issue we are highlighting is that the proposal now under discussion relates to land not previously allocated for housing.

The development forum was considering the preliminary stages of an application by the Southleigh Estate to develop the land between the Crematorium access road and the recently developed Linden Homes ‘Barton’s Rise’ estate.  Using the landowner’s consultant’s charts, here is the site in its more normal ‘north up’ orientation with Barton’s Road running from left to right in the middle with the Spire Hospital at the top right. The crematorium is off the top of this picture, but the site access road can be clearly seen.

Now, let’s put the proposed development into this context:

The proposal is for around 85-90 houses, with the usual mix of ‘affordable’, running from a site access road taken straight from a new T- junction from the crematorium access road.

It’s interesting to note that the bottom half of this picture falls within the remit of Havant Borough Council while the top half, left pleasantly green, is the responsibility of East Hants District Council.

The efforts by the landowner’s consultants to assure residents that the land to the north of the new houses, including the community orchard visible at top right of the diagram alongside the crematorium, would remain as a well run and managed ‘open space’ probably fell on deaf ears.  It doesn’t take much of a gambler to lay odds that EHDC would jump at the chance of developing the top half of this site should HBC set the precedent.  After all, that would be another fifty houses off their own targets while Havant schools and GPs would be left shouldering the responsibility for the residents.

Graham Beeston from Warblington and Denvilles Residents’ Association and Frank Ball from Rowlands Castle Parish Council both made presentations expressing similar concerns. Both groups share our frustration that these development proposals seem not to be underpinned by a robust and comprehensive infrastructure plan designed to ensure that the necessary schools, medical, services and transport infrastructure are in place before these new residents pick up their front door keys.

We appreciated Councillor Leah Turner opening the meeting to the floor in a welcome change from normal protocol. However, the resulting discussion was illuminating, highlighting the anger and frustration of the Barton’s Rise residents outlined above.  A resident from the south side of Barton’s road asked whether the Council fully appreciated that the area had no access to shops and services and poor transport links, with the nearest bus stop 800 metres away.  The consultants responded that they’d discussed that issue, but First Bus saw insufficient demand from this site to justify re-routing their buses.  If ever there was a need for an overarching and comprehensive infrastructure plan, this was it.

There was further worrying news from the Barton’s Rise residents who reported that bat boxes on the proposed development site had mysteriously been removed within the last couple of weeks; curious timing given tonight’s Development Consultation Forum.  The landowner’s consultants were quick to say they had no knowledge of such action and were equally quick to confirm that such an act in an area known to host Bechstein’s bats would be a criminal act that would not be in the interest of the landowner.

We will keep a close eye on any plans for this site as and when they are lodged with HBC.

39 West Street – Shouldn’t HBC practice what they preach?

One of today’s responses to the HSBC / Pizza takeaway planning application had me running for the search engines to find the source, and here it is.   Dating from as recently as November 2017, the HBC ‘Healthy Borough Assessment’ is well worth a read.

The whole of Section 3 – Planning and Health – is germane to the debate about fast food in the town centre while the paragraph (3.19) quoted by this clearly well-informed resident sums up the Council’s thinking on fast food in the town centre.

“Havant scores significantly worse than the England average against the excess weight in adults indicator (2012-2014). Figure 1 below also shows parts of Havant to have a high number of fast food outlets compared to other areas. Together, these statistics point to a justification for a policy restricting fast food outlets in Havant Town Centre.”

To provide a balanced view, I’ve completed the quote here with the remainder of the paragraph:

“However it is also true that hot food takeaways (A5) are not the only source of unhealthy food in town centres. A number of shops (A1) can also provide unhealthy take-away food choices as well. Furthermore, such a restriction would do nothing to address the health of the existing take-away choices on offer. Such an approach would benefit from an update to the Use Classes Order in order to specifically identify uses which could provide unhealthy choices.

PublicHealth

It’s encouraging to see that the Council is clearly considering the health and welfare of its residents as they plan for our future.  It’s no wonder then, that the Local Plan 2036 clearly proposes moving fast food out of the town centre in favour of “other uses which promote activity and have not traditionally been part of a town centre offer such as gyms or healthcare…”

With this in mind, the current application for 39 West Street should surely be turned down flat? The detail of opening hours becomes simply an irrelevant diversion.

(In fairness, this is a personal view and not necessarily the view of the Havant Civic Society)

 

The story behind the ‘new’ HCS logo

A few years ago, there was much soul searching among the committee members in our search for a new logo. The public were consulted, external branding expertise was sought and three designs were shortlisted for consideration. For some reason, lost in the mists of time, the one selected at an AGM never made it into production and a fourth option came into being:

Wonky heart

This one, the ‘Wonky Heart’, never made it to the website but did become immortalised on the Society’s Facebook page as follows:

10463754_417322915073614_8176463818158186891_o

A few years later, while putting together a simple newsletter to be printed in black and white, the membership secretary decided to put a simple illustration together for the heading of the newsletter.  The image, originally a photograph of the familiar town centre site of St Faith’s Church, was converted into a ‘pencil drawing’ using an old copy of Paint Shop Pro and the resulting image has stuck for the last few years:

cropped-hcsnews1.jpg

During the recent rebuild of the website, I started playing with the same photograph of St Faith’s, looking for a different treatment and stumbled upon a fascinating piece of online image processing software, with some entertaining results.

St Faith’s according to Maurits Escher certainly had merit:

Escher

The Wassily Kandinsky version was particularly entertaining and incidentally provided the source of the original background colour to the website. (We’ll change that background colour from time to time, just to keep the site looking fresh.)

Kandinsky

However, when the committee discussed the direction the logo was going in, head ruled heart and the suggestion was made that we try and simplify the original ‘pencil sketch’ and produce something more akin to the stylised ‘HMS Victory’ included in the Portsmouth News masthead.

So, after a few attempts with tracing paper and a felt tipped pen, we’ve arrived at this one:2018-06-15-0002b

It’s a simple device which highlights St Faith’s and the War Memorial at the heart of Havant town centre.  More importantly, it now ties the HCS Facebook page and the HCS website together. Love it or hate it, or somewhere in between, comments would be welcomed!

 

 

June 23rd celebrations in Havant

Saturday June 23rd was a day to remember in Havant, not just for us local residents, but also for two young residents of Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA.  Tom (aged 5) and William (aged 3) landed at Heathrow at 7:00 am with their journalist mum ( a Fairfield School pupil from the era of Mrs. Lawrence) and dad (a journalist and author from New Jersey).

FFS_SF

Granddad had made the early trip up to Heathrow to pick them up and by 11:00 am the entire family were down at ‘The Spring’ watching the Wickham Morris and joining in with the terrific celebrations laid on by the Friends of Havant Cemeteries. After a quick lunch these two young lads were introduced – ‘re-introduced’ as far as mum and granddad were concerned – to the Fairfield School Strawberry Fayre.  A enjoyable afternoon was had by all.

It’s hard to think of a better introduction to England.  A warm ‘thank you’ to both the FoHC and Fairfield School for laying on such great local entertainment for the townsfolk of Havant.

Colt – ‘We’re backing Britain’, fifty years on

It’s a sad day for those of us who remember New Lane in the heady days of the late sixties.

In 1968, my first real ‘summer holiday’ employer, Kenwood Manufacturing, was supporting Colt in their famous staff initiative.  Boxes of Kenwood Chefs, Kenwood Mini foodmixers and the first ill-fated Kenwood Dishwashers left the plant with ‘I’m Backing Britain’ stickers lovingly applied.

Fred Price had been the mastermind behind Colt’s ‘I’m Backing Britain’ message, and with Kenwood’s staff quickly joining the movement it wasn’t long before New Lane and its predominantly West Leigh workforce were the focus of national news bulletins.  Lying between Kenwood in the south and Colt in the north were Goodman’s Industries, a once respected name in the British HiFi market.

cropped-d7c_7256.jpg

Fifty years on, none of these companies manufacture in New Lane.  The Goodmans site was razed to the ground some years ago, Kenwoods has long been a warehouse operation for imported Chinese manufacturing while Colt moved their administrative offices up the road to Petersfield and their manufacturing ‘offshore’.

Love it or hate it, the Colt office building at the north end of New Lane was an iconic sixties structure.  Until today, that is.  The photograph below was taken this morning while the New Lane frontage was still there. By this evening, the machinery had moved large chunks of the frontage out, waiting for the concrete crushers that will be running for many weeks to come.

D7C_7252

In its place, another development plan that will continue to have its fair share of public debate.  In years to come, some of us may begin to wonder why we didn’t campaign to get this building listed.

It’s a kind of Tricorn / Marmite thing.

(In fairness, this is a personal view and not necessarily the view of the Havant Civic Society)