Debating the ‘Shaping’ of ‘our Future’

Wednesday evening’s council meeting lived up to expectations. Not a particularly hard challenge since expectations were frankly not high to start with. It was the first time I’d watched a full council meeting via Skype for Business and all I can say is I sincerely hope that the the council’s move to Microsoft Teams Live Events provides a better ‘user experience’ for us council tax payers. Netflix it isn’t.

The main reason for sitting in on it was to watch the debate on the ‘Shaping our Future‘ initiative. This also went as well as might have been expected. With four council members and the Mayor in the chamber, the rest were remote, some attentive, the others probably distracted by their phones as has been observed in these pages before. No change there then. We weren’t even given the opportunity to examine our councillor’s personal background bookshelf arrangements and just had to put up with the single live (?) feed shown in this image.

The document under debate can be seen here. Put in simple terms, Havant Borough Council agreed a few years back to an executive takeover by East Hants District Council, so having followed it by the abdication of the next level of management down, isn’t it obvious that they should now move to a single, shared workforce at all levels of the company. (Ooops sorry, I mean ‘democratic institution’)

This point wasn’t lost on Councillor Beryl Francis who pointed out that the decisions taken so far on this topic had lacked even council scrutiny, let alone public scrutiny. At the end of the ‘debate’, Cllr Francis was the only member who appeared to vote with her conscience, with regard to her constituents and on behalf of those members of the Havant Borough Council work force most affected by this.

No matter, as expected, the motion was carried. With one vote against and one abstention (That was Cllr Patrick, who having taken fifty minutes to master the technology and log into the meeting, did the only honourable thing she could.)

The rest of them followed their herd instinct, rather like their peers at Warblington farm on my early morning walk today. As for promises of cost and efficiency savings, well we’ve heard all that before haven’t we? Cllr Pike, who in his private and public life normally drives the herd rather than follows it, cautioned that with central government interventions on devolution in the pipeline, directions may need to change.

Does any of this matter? Well I think it does. I’ve been in contact with HBC this week on the subject of the dilapidated and dangerous state of some of the East Street buildings. So far, I’ve been really impressed by the interaction and feedback on proposed actions that I’ve been getting from the combined HBC/East Hants management team.

There is one slight cloud though. The email below, spotted in an exchange today, is a little bit of a giveaway. It seems that if you’re engaging with East Hants management staff, unless you can get a councillor to speak for you, you’re probably wasting your time.

Is this really the service that Havant Council tax payers are going to get when our ‘Future’ has been ‘Shaped’?

2020 Covid Home Page


During the current Covid-19 ‘Coronavirus’ outbreak, we’re using the HCS Homepage as a quick reference for the main sources of help. Please scroll down through the page to take a look. Clicking on any of the images will open the relevant site in a new browser tab. To contribute ideas for things we could add to the site while we’re all locked down, please email the webmaster.

For emergency contact detail, please click here.

A surprisingly useful collection of links and information sources. If you ever wonder what that healthy slice of your Council Tax is used, this could be an answer!

Here at HCS we’ve resurrected the ‘Message in a Bottle’ scheme which can be a significant time saver for the emergency services should they need to gain access to your property to assist you in an emergency. Please click the image to find out more.

During the current emergency, Havant Borough Council are publishing updates regarding all HBC services on a single page. For access to this page, giving up-to-date status of all services, please click the image to view.

If you’re concerned about email, social media or telephone scams, this is the site to turn to. The Government funded NCSC understands cyber security and offers practical guidance in response to cyber security incidents in order to reduce the harm they cause to organisations and the wider UK. Please click the image to view.

Community First is a registered Charity aiming to make a difference in our local communities. Linking together many of the local support groups, Community First is a good place to look if you either want to help others or simply need support yourself. Please click the image to view.

The national Neighbourhood Watch Network is currently undergoing a comprehensive review to reassess its direction in the twenty first century. The new national website already contains a significant amount of useful information. Please click the image to view.

Food Waste recycling

Since the start of the year, I’ve been taking part in the City of Portsmouth’s Food Waste recycling trial. Perhaps not officially, you understand, but through the good offices of a close friend who lives in Portsmouth and has spare space in her own caddy.

I was initially sceptical about the claim made by PCC that up to 40% of domestic waste is bio digestible food waste. However, several months into this experiment I confess to being amazed by the sheer volume and weight of organic food waste that I produce. Equally surprising has been that the simple act of separating out food waste from your domestic bin actually highlights the amount of non-recyclable plastic which HBC are still not able to process.

Once collected the food waste is being transported in bulk to a plant near Bournemouth for treatment where it is converted into biogas and used to generate electricity, heat or transport fuels. It also creates a nutrient-rich fertiliser which can be used for agriculture and in land regeneration. So successful has the scheme been that PCC are already studying the feasibility of building their own processing facility.

We think it would be a fine, green initiative for HBC’s partners in East Hants District Council to build such a facility on their patch to which HBC could send our own food waste. That would seem to be a splendid way of Shaping our Future‘!

Hats off to Portsmouth City Council, who also still manage to collect both domestic waste and food waste on a weekly basis. Oh, and before anybody asks the obvious question, their Council Tax rates are lower than ours!

#rethinkhavant

Ray Cobbett

It is with great sadness that I learned of the death of Ray Cobbett after a short illness. We shared the same employer and both moved to Havant at the same time, being near neighbours for many of the last forty years. Ray was a tireless supporter of the community in and around Havant, an active campaigner for the local Liberal Democrat Party and a respected County Councillor.

Ray put forward the idea of forming a Civic Society for Havant and was an active member, bringing extensive knowledge of both planning and the natural environment. We would like to pay tribute to Ray particularly for his campaigning and his contribution to improving and safeguarding our local environment.

Ray was born and educated in Wimbledon, South London and became an engineer in the RAF serving in the Middle and Far East in the fifties. He moved to Hampshire in the early sixties joining the IBM Development Laboratory at Hursley, near Winchester. He later transferred to IBM’s Headquarters in Portsmouth, responsible for procurement and supplies management and made Havant his new home in 1978.

A two-year secondment followed to the London Enterprise Agency (Lenta) as a marketing counsellor for new business start-ups that put Ray in the centre of inner-city renewal. After Lenta joined IBM’s European operations in Paris travelling widely throughout Europe and the US promoting offset arrangement between IBM’s worldwide locations and countries whose supply base was viable.

On returning from Paris, Ray took up a position managing procurement throughout the UK. Always an active citizen, Ray joined the Lib Dems and throughout his thirty-year membership was chairman three times, candidate and eventually a Hampshire County Councillor for Havant and Emsworth in the nineties. The community had always been part and parcel of Ray’s life and while living in Havant and eventually later settling down in Emsworth.

Ray had also served on the governing body and boards of schools, Havant Arts Centre, Havant Housing Association and Emsworth Residents’ Association among other organisations. He had also led various campaigns and in 2002 launched Havant Friends of the Earth.

Since retirement Ray devoted most of his time to environmental issues. He had written extensively for newspapers and magazines as well as attending presentations and organising events.

In a fitting tribute to Ray’s former service as Cabinet member for the Environment on Hampshire County Council, the flag at ‘the Castle’ in Winchester was flown at half-mast last week.

We would like to all join in and send our sincere condolences to Ray’s family at this sad time.

My thanks to Ann Buckley and Havant Friends of the Earth for their contributions to this post.

Bob Comlay,

July 20, 2020

Norwich – Showing Havant the way?

As Ray Cobbett from Havant FOE has already commented in an email to us, this week’s Stirling prize winner has set a standard for social housing which Havant should be taking a serious look at.

With so much potential housing coming through with the 2035 Local Plan, dare we wish for something as good as this for the town? If HBC are serious in trying to attract national interest, then Norwich have surely shown the way.

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