Havant’s ‘Healthy Borough’ or Fortitudo’s ‘Healthy Profit’?

We’ve been looking a little harder at the old Southern Electric site on the corner of Petersfield Road and Bartons Road.

Poole based developer Fortitudo Properties, have their sights set on building another McDonalds and another Costa Coffee on what really ought to be a northern gateway to Havant Town Centre.

It seems that even before they applied for planning permission for the container stack on the site, they had already agreed a new 25 year lease with McDonalds at a rental of £105,000 per year. With Costa, they’d already agreed a 15 year lease at £78,000 a year. At the same time, they’ve offered both companies a 6 month rent free period as an incentive.

It looks like they’ll also be offering the buyers of the flats £500 towards their legal fees and a £1,000 John Lewis or IKEA voucher.

If you’re wondering where this comes from, it’s buried in the ‘Viability Assessment‘ accompanying the planning application, the best bits of which you can read here)

Now given that there are already two McDonalds within healthy walking distance, 38 minutes to Larchwood Road and 26 minutes to West Street according to Google, we hope that HBC will take note of what they themselves have written in their own Healthy Borough Assessment. (We’ve been here before, haven’t we?)

The maths is simple, in just over five years, Fortitudo will have recouped their costs on both fast food outlets and will be turning in a healthy profit to take back to Sandbanks at the cost of the health of Havant Borough residents.

Fortitudo wouldn’t have got away with it in Poole so we don’t expect Havant Borough Council to roll over on this one.

As that regeneration banner on Park Road South says – “Have Pride in Havant”.

If you want to make a comment on this planning application, please click this link and complete the online form. Comments must be received at the council by Friday October 30th.

If you would like to support Havant Civic Society, please click here.

#rethinkhavant

The Bartons Road Southern Electric site is aiming for the architectural wooden spoon

For those of you wondering what was under consideration for the Bartons Road / Petersfield Road former Southern Electric site, all has been revealed in this week’s planning list.

Click on the image to get the idea. That’s another McDonalds and a ‘Drive-thru’ Costa at the top of the site, entrance from Bartons Road, with 191 mostly one bedroom flats in four six story blocks. (Well, we think it’s Bartons Road, even though the plan has it shown as ‘Petersfield Road’!)

Architectural beauties they are not, unless dockside container stacks float your boat. Still, it will help to get those housing numbers up and will enable HBC to trade a few of the Warblington Farm nitrate credits with the developer, although we note that there’s no nitrate assessment included with the application. We also note that these flats squeeze in at just 3m2 bigger than the newly proposed minimum floor area, but even so we still wonder just who are the intended occupants?

We’ve only had a quick look so far but the figure of 2% of occupants ‘working from home’ might seem a little out of date.

A matching two story McDonalds.

And a ‘drive thru’ Costa!

If you want to make a comment on this planning application, please click this link and complete the online form. Comments must be received at the council by October 22nd.

If you would like to support Havant Civic Society, please click here.

#rethinkhavant

September Digest – A ‘perfect storm’ warning?

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the website, you’ll be aware of the staggering amount of change happening around us.  If you haven’t, then please take the time to follow the links in this email to read more detail.  While the primary focus of the Civic Society is on the centre of the town around St Faith’s, we cannot ignore the wider context of the borough and the length of this email simply reflects the fact that there is an awful lot going on.

The current pandemic has changed the way we work, shop, meet, communicate and use public transport and some of that change may well be permanent. Nobody can sensibly predict the impact that this dramatic change in circumstance will have on the profile of Havant’s residential and business communities. Central and local government are not making life any easier either, threatening a ‘perfect storm’ of change, much of it firmly rooted in pre-Covid, now obsolete, thinking.

The house building target of 504 homes per year from the ‘Havant Borough Local Plan to 2037’ was torpedoed in August by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government white paper on ‘Planning for the Future’. The updated ‘housing need’ algorithm jacked up the Havant number by an astonishing 91% to 937 homes per year. CPRE has been leading the charge against this unprecedented escalation of housing targets in the south, and bowing to pressure from the residents’ groups which make up the Havant Borough Residents’ Alliance, Havant Borough Council has finally seen the light, executing a handbrake turn and pushing back against the white paper just hours before the consultation deadline yesterday.

Meanwhile, European legislation on ‘nitrogen neutral’ development triggered a moratorium on new development approvals in the region this year. This EU directive provided protection for the environmental and ecological health of the Solent which is in serious decline due to the levels of agricultural and wastewater sourced nitrate laden pollutants flowing into it.  For a housing plan to be approved, a developer must prove no net increase in the pollution entering the Solent from their site.

Desperate to clear the planning and development log-jam and meet the increasingly unrealistic house building targets, HBC and other Solent area local authorities jumped on the ‘re-wilding’ bandwagon stitched together by Natural England and the Wildlife Trust.  Touted as a ‘win-win’ solution for the charity, the developers and the local authorities alike, the reality is that it is based on a convenient and selective interpretation of science with the main losers being the residents and the wildlife. Warblington Farm will evolve into a wildlife sanctuary over time as HBC calls off areas of the agricultural land to ‘re-wild’ and generate nitrate credits to sell on to the likes of Persimmon Homes. The government’s proposed online ‘nitrate trading’ auction platform will surely only accelerate this process.

In the midst of all this, HBC are charging headlong into an ever closer union with East Hants District Council. The executive and senior management layers of the two authorities merged a while ago, but we are concerned that the recent decision to move to a single combined workforce will have an adverse impact on the morale of the staff and the quality of the services delivered to you. With the council’s call centre sited in Coventry and services managed from Petersfield, the future doesn’t look too bright for us.

The depression at the centre of this perfect storm is deepening while political eyes are off the climate change ball.  Predictable change in the integrity of the coastal margins should be ringing warning bells against increased housing development in some southern parts of the borough anyway. With central and local government budgets stretched, the cost of local coastal defence strategies may not always remain justifiable.

With so much change – and we’ve not even mentioned Brexit – we believe HBC should stop and take stock of the pre-Covid foundations underpinning previously published ‘strategies’ before this all ends in tears.

Please take the time to read and digest the website links in this email.  As HBC adopts their new ‘Digital’ strategy with the emphasis on remote online communication, we will endeavour to keep you up to date through our website, Facebook and Twitter feeds, and the occasional email.

If you didn’t receive this recently as an email, then you’re not on our mailing list! To fix that, simply take this link and join us.

#rethinkhavant

Planning Reform – Councillors are revolting!

Yes, you read that correctly. Following on from our post on the CPRE’s take on the ‘Planning for the Future’ white paper, we’re encouraged to read in the press today that ‘a survey across Tory heartlands has revealed party representatives are baulking at ministers’ plans to sharply increase housing targets in electoral strongholds like Hampshire and Surrey and are rejecting attempts to cut planning committees out of routine decision-making.

Conservative leaders in councils are becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition to the plans which they fear could result in countryside being concreted over for housing and core voters deserting them in disgust.’ To read the full article from today’s Guardian, click on the image.

For Havant, the increase from 504 homes per year based on the 2014 numbers currently used, to 962 homes per year in the ‘new world’ represents a ridiculous 91% increase. Read our summary of the CPRE post and get in touch with your local councillors and Alan Mak to make your views known.

Shoebox living – A warning for Havant?

A Sunday Times article on September 6 highlighted the issue of ‘shoebox living’, illustrated by a plan of six ‘flats’ in Southampton in a conversion from a former gas showroom.

Retail unit converted to tiny flats in Shirley, Southampton.

Developers are exploiting planning laws to convert empty banks, takeaways and barbers into tiny flats, causing fears Britain’s high streets are becoming modern slum housing. Relaxed planning laws and the impact of the coronavirus on the high street have led to a flood of applications to convert shops into homes under so-called permitted development rights (PDRs), which until recently had mainly been used for office conversions.

Since 2013 ‘permitted development rights’ have let developers bypass the requirement to apply for planning permission when turning office blocks into flats. Developers may not transform the outside appearance but have automatic rights to change how the property is used. This was expanded to include shops, bookmakers and launderettes in 2016, before fast-food outlets were added last year. Government data suggests 60,399 homes have already been created in this way and with the ludicrous housing numbers set for Havant, and the empty retail units in the town centre, we could well be next.

The Sunday Times article set a useful reference point by stating that the average car parking space in Britain is about 12 square metres (m2). This caused us to start looking at the sizes of new flats which have already been approved by Havant Borough Council, starting with the flats which are already part sold at 40 North Street on the site of the former Trentham art gallery and workshop.

Taking the ground floor flats as an example, there are currently two compact one bedroom flats, each with a floor area of 30 m2.

40 North Street – One bed flats

It’s not hard to imagine that the two currently unoccupied retail spaces at the front of that building will at some point be turned into another two ‘spacious’ flats under ‘Permitted Development Rights’ (PDR).

40 North Street – ‘Retail’

Across the road from 40 North Street, the old North Street Arcade has also been in our sights. Of the 29 flats currently approved for construction there, the largest at 70m2 contrast with the smallest at 37m2.

Prince George Street – One bedroom flat
Prince George Street – Two bedroom flat

Meanwhile, ‘north of the tracks’ at the Wessex site in New Lane, construction has been motoring ahead during lockdown and the flats being built are close to completion. The smallest of these starts at a relatively spacious 50m2, while the largest units squeeze two double bedrooms and two bathrooms into 78m2.

New lane – One bedroom flat
New Lane – Two bedroom flat

While en-suite shower rooms to the main bedroom in a two bed flat presumably attract higher market prices, it feels that a single family bathroom and more living space in a flat would make for a better living space. But then again, since we suspect that many of these flats will be ‘buy to let’ properties, the two bedroom / two bathroom ones could well morph into shared occupancy properties.

(Perhaps I’ve been watching too many episodes of ‘Homes under the Hammer’ during lockdown!)

North Street Arcade and its nitrate bill

You may have noticed the changes taking place during lock-down at the front of the North Street Arcade site. During the lockdown, the ill-starred Grastar Restaurant unit has been divided into two separate retail units while the former Dominos site has also been refurbished as a retail unit. The new flank walls suggest that the opening into the new flats will remain from North Street as originally planned, but a glance at the revised development plan submitted in May shows three additional retail units inserted into the arcade current entrance.

The net result of this will be that there will be six retail units facing onto North Street, as opposed to the eight retail units currently standing mostly empty around the existing arcade, with 29 flats built behind. It’s not clear what the west facing units on the two floors above the retail units will be used for.

As we explained earlier in the year, planning permission was granted for the original application back in January, conditional upon the imposition of a ‘Grampian Condition’. That committed the developer into the payment of an additional levy for offsetting the nitrogen generated. To see how this works, take a look at the nitrogen budget calculation which was added to the planning application in August. This calculation was generated using the Nitrogen Budget calculator issued by Natural England in June. If you’re able to open MS Office Excel files and are sufficiently curious, you can download the calculator here and play with it yourself. A ‘non-technical’ explanation of the issue and the process can be found in a PDF file accessible to anybody.

Behind the boards at the Wessex site

There’s more concrete pumping going on this morning as the foundations take shape quickly now, burying for good the eyesore which was the Wessex Construction yard.

We still think it rather a sad that more effort wasn’t put into investigation of the industrial archaeology of the old town gas works now long gone, briefly visible in this picture from June.

Latest update on the Colt site

As you may have seen in today’s Portsmouth News, Southampton based Drew Smith Homes have been awarded funding by Homes England to construct 95 homes on the former Colt site in New Lane, half of which will be offered as ‘affordable homes’.

Colt Drew Smith Galliford Try

It’s difficult to make much sense of the illustration included on the press release, but rest assured we’ll bring you the detail of the planning application when the developer submits it.

We originally brought you news of the outline planning application back in May, and we expect the detailed plans to follow much the same approach. To recap, this is the overall Masterplan for the site:

Colt Site – Master plan from outline planning application
The proposed view south from Bartons Road.
AT the bottom of the hill on Bartons Road at the junction with New Lane.
Proposed light commercial works at the north end of New Lane.

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.