Southleigh Park – Bargate Homes ‘Application for tree works’

In previous years, Havant Civic Society confined its interest to matters pertaining to the immediate town centre. As might be evident from some of our recent posts, we now place equal weight to matters affecting the surrounding area and this post represents one such example. It also shows, for a welcome change, a good example of the Development Management Committee ‘thinking on its feet’ when chaired well, something which doesn’t often happen in our experience!

Bargate Homes are not the residents’ favourite developer at the moment so we attended last night’s Development Management Committee meeting with more than a little interest. The fact that the HCS website editor has a keen interest in both trees and bats added further incentive. The main subject of last night’s two and a quarter hour meeting was Bargate Homes application to fell a large number of mature trees, many protected by tree preservation orders, in the grounds of Southleigh Park to clear the way for another seventy houses. This is not an easy case to sort out given the previous permissions granted, and it made for compelling viewing* listening.

Let’s start with a little history of this site which has, at least for the last half century, been hidden away behind secure fencing. Motorists coming into Havant along Emsworth Common Road will be familiar with the sight of the boarded up Southleigh Lodge facing them as they contemplate the dog-leg turn into Bartons Road, but they will probably be unaware of the rest of the estate hidden within the trees.

Southleigh Park features the remains of an early 19th-century gentleman’s estate, the house still standing overlooking the former park. For more detail regarding its history, take this link to the ‘Parks and Gardens’ website**.

In 1968, Southleigh Park was bought and redeveloped as the headquarters site for the Plessey electronics company and after the demise of Plessey, more recently the headquarters of Snell and Wilcox. Plessey built the large glass and concrete office complex behind the house and that block is all that can be seen from the outside, looking through the entrance gateway on Eastleigh Road. We would be delighted if the office block came down to make way for sympathetic and appropriate development to take place on this site, providing that it is within the context of the historic park landscape.

When Snell and Wilcox was bought out by a US company, control of the estate passed to the trustees of their pension fund. In August 2017, the pension fund trustees then engaged Terence O’Rorke Ltd as their agent to submit a planning application for the complete development of the site. (As the residents of Lower Road, Bedhampton will be aware, ToR have a close working relationship with Bargate homes.)

The Southleigh Park site had already been allocated for housing in the Draft Local Plan with, we believe, an original allocation of up to 35 units. The August 2017 planning application for the site presented an outline for 20 units within the historic buildings and a further 70 to be built on the former office block and around the parkland.

In January 2019, this planning application came up before the Development Management Committee. That meeting, on January 24th, was not their finest moment as we had cause to report at the time regarding another matter. When the agenda turned to the Southleigh Park application, despite the fact that the Draft Local Plan had not yet been – and to this day has still not been – adopted, planning permission was granted. The 18 page decision letter can be seen here. Of the many conditions applied to the permission, number 27 is particularly pertinent to last night’s deliberations.

It is worth taking the time now to understand what is meant by a ‘Reserved Matters’ application; this one page explanation will help. Also, take note of the key clause, ‘unless otherwise agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority’. On the face of it, Condition 27 states that no trees can be felled, until such a reserved matters application has been approved.

Now for a few well known facts. Planning policies have loopholes, Local Authorities have weaknesses, and Developers employ expensive lawyers to back up their threats to appeal.

The planning application being reviewed at last night’s meeting was not the planning application for the development – that was passed in January 2019. The new application under review was submitted in August 2020 as an ‘application for tree works’. Had this latest application for tree works been passed last night, then the key clause of Condition 27 on the permission granted to the earlier outline planning application would have been satisfied. (Just think about it for a while…)

The application for tree works itself might look pretty innocuous to the uninitiated, but fortunately, Havant Borough Council’s Arboricultural Manager, Jamie Gargett, was on the case.

Click the link below to hear Jamie’s introduction to the proceedings which set a clear tone for the evening.

The first deputation made to the meeting was by Nik Knight, Hampshire’s Bat Recorder and a leading authority on the subject. (Some HCS members may remember an evening walk down the Billy Track from the Gazebo Garden with Nik last year.)

Nik’s deputation can be heard next and sets the first important environmental context for the debate. Do listen!

The next deputation on the agenda papers was given by Malinda Griffin of Havant Borough Tree Wardens.

A further deputation was made by Thomas Griffin, rounding out the defence case for the trees with a few more pointers to the National Planning Policy Framework and Historic England. Cllrs Lloyd, Patrick and Pike then made further deputations against the application. Councillor Patrick’s deputation is included here given that it expanded on the written deputation originally submitted and makes some powerful points.

As Cllr Patrick says, “This is probably one of the most prestigious sites that the borough has and would have made a wonderful country hotel and conference centre while at the same time providing hundreds of jobs for our local economy”.

The case for such a venue is strong. In the evolving post-Covid, post Brexit world, working and commuting habits will have changed permanently for many residents and businesses. Many decisions made prior to March 2020 will have become invalidated and there should be no valid objection to calling them back in for review.

Let’s face it, the entire Local Plan probably needs a complete rethink.

Bargate Home’s Head of Planning, Paul Thomas, then gave the sole deputation in support of his own application.

All other deputations can be heard by taking the link to the full meeting at the end of this post.

To get a feel for the rather emotionally charged nature of the debate, well handled with due clarity and balance by Cllr Satchwell, it’s well worth listening to the last 25 minutes of the proceedings. It’s not often that you hear participants referred to by their first names in these meetings, but ‘Clare’, ‘Jamie’ and ‘Steve’ all gave highly creditable performances.

(If you’re short of time, just skip to the 21’40” mark for the motion and the voting.)

In summary, this was public scrutiny working for once, a decent debate based on strong arguments, well chaired and consequently taking real notice of the public deputations. The right decision was made, despite Julia Mansi’s sometimes irritating contributions.

To view the entire meeting on the HBC website, please take this link and press ‘Join the event’. Pour yourself a drink first and find a comfortable seat, it’s an enjoyable, feature length episode.

Footnotes:

* In all two and a quarter hours of this meeting broadcast, not a single face was to be seen. Havant Borough Council’s broadcasting of meetings invariably has most participants hiding behind PowerPoint slides which makes for extremely dull viewing. By contrast, watch these proceedings from earlier in the week from their EHDC twin. Plenty to see there! (Surely HBC’s Councillors and Officers have nothing to hide?!)

** With a nod to HIGNFY, we note that Southleigh Park also figures in ‘this week’s guest website’, Redwood World.

To join us and add weight to our voice or simply to be added to our mailing list, please visit the HCS Membership Page.

#rethinkhavant

5-7 East street, the missing piece in the jigsaw

The missing piece in the East Street development jigsaw seems to have been found under the sofa.

APP/20/00936 | Erection of 4 storey residential building comprising of 1 No one bed apartment and 7 No two bed apartments. | 5-7 East Street, Havant, PO9 1AA

To make a comment on this application, please see the link at the bottom of this page.

This recently submitted planning application is actually a re-hash of earlier plans for the site. What’s changed is that the plot is now under the control of the same developer as the other three applications currently out for consultation. The appearance of these four planning applications in the space of as many weeks leaves us cautiously optimistic that we could be on the verge of a positive improvement to the East Street scene. Certainly, these four developments could only really be developed ‘in one hit’ given the restricted access to construction traffic.

5-7 is the left hand building in this set of four. Out of shot to the left is the Havant Club, an existing four storey building and to its left, the former White Hart. Number 9 and the last behind number 11 (Streets) are the subject of our previous post.

It does appear from this current application that this latest version of the proposed frontage of 5-7 has been dumbed down slightly from previous incarnations of the drawing. We will be keeping a close eye on the detail treatment of all of the frontages to East Street developments to ensure that the character of the street scene is enhanced and maintained.

The internal layout comprises seven 2 bedroom flats and 1 single bedroom flat of relatively modest proportions.

No parking is available, just space for 15 cycles with 4 ‘visitor’ cycle racks. The four storeys are laid out as shown here, with the ground floor on the left and third floor on the right.

Seven two-bedroom flats with a single one-bedroom flat at the back on the ground floor. A ‘light well’ drops down through from the roof level to provide natural daylight to the seven otherwise internal second bedrooms. The ground floor two bed flat benefits (?!) from having access from its second bedroom to the tiny courtyard at the bottom of this light well. (Just how they manage to make that bedroom not appear like a prison cell remains to be seen. Doubtless an imaginative estate agent will come up with a suitable marketing message.)

Do you want to make a comment on this planning application?

To submit comments on this planning application, please take this link and enter them online. Remember, just before the box in which you enter your comments, there is an option to select whether you ‘Object’, ‘Support’ or are ‘Neutral’ to the application. Please make sure you check the option which reflects your view.

You have until Friday 27 November to submit your comments.

#rethinkhavant

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

That Planning Reform debate…

There were some excellent contributions from a wide variety of backbenchers – notably mostly from the same side as our own Alan Mak MP. Having read with interest the submission that he put his name to, we were looking forward to his contribution to the debate, a summary of which can be found in today’s Grauniad.

If you have 5 hours and 40 minutes to spare, you can watch it here on iPlayer for the next 29 days. If you want to skip the last 5 hours, you might just be in good company.

The Speaker kicked things off with a warning that since so many back bench MPs wanted to speak in depth about their constituency’s concerns, each would be limited to four minutes. Now there are a lot of important points about Havant’s housing concerns that could be voiced in four minutes by a dedicated MP so we settled down to watch.

Bob Seely, from our neighbouring Isle of Wight constituency, started the debate in eloquent style, with our man waiting eagerly for his chance (top left).

It was rather unfortunate that Bob Seely’s proposal was interrupted unnecessarily at times by other MPs clearly seeking selfies for their constituency blogs before heading for an early exit.

Then just thirty minutes into the debate, we note that our man had moved down beside Phillip Hollobone (Con. Kettering) and is seen here adjusting his tie before his own stage entrance.

Exactly 32 minutes into the debate, Philip Hollobone politely gives way and our man gets to his feet to use all of 12 seconds to tell the house that his ‘constituency of Havant has areas of high urbanisation and areas of environmental sensitivity’.

Here’s the clip. We catch Phillip Hollobone half way through his considered contribution, including the 12 seconds in the middle where our MP makes what might have been his sole mark on the debate*.

A few short minutes later and poor old Bob Seely looks remarkably short of support from this part of Hampshire.

* For the avoidance of doubt, We’d be grateful if somebody could watch the whole five hours and forty minutes of the debate at the link at the top of this post and let us know the time at which Alan Mak returns to make his full four minute contribution. We’ll then update this post for all to see.

Update: We’ve checked Hansard and those were indeed the only words spoken by him.

#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 30th.

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

#rethinkhavant

September Digest – A ‘perfect storm’ warning?

[Originally written as an email update to members]

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.