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

Online public meetings

Over the past few months, many of us have become accustomed to holding meetings online using the various technologies available and it seems a common view that these meetings have been surprisingly productive.

If nothing else, this morning’s HCS Committee Zoom meeting served to reinforce our lack of diversity! (Expect to hear more of this in due course.)

One particular benefit noted is that these online meetings encourage active participation from a wider cross section of the community than might have been served by traditional on-site meetings. As such, we welcome last week’s HBC Cabinet meeting discussion on the use of online technology for forthcoming public meetings. So much so that we’ve written to HBC offering to help them with their testing of the technology with a public audience. Their stated plan to have ‘Cabinet and other public meetings’ opened online to the public by the mid-October is fairly aggressive, but is to be welcomed.

Warblington Farm – HBC flying under the radar

The Covid-19 situation seems to have given Havant Borough Council more excuse than usual to fly under the radar, with meetings held away from the public gaze and a distinct lack of scrutiny.

On the back of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s initiative’ on nitrate mitigation, it was obvious that Havant Borough Council were intent on looking for opportunities to play the same game. In common with many of the Solent district and borough councils, for example Eastleigh and Fareham, Havant Borough Council actually own much of the farmland on their patch, leasing it back to tenant farmers. Warblington Castle Farm has been the home of S.H.Young & Son Ltd, the dairy, for as long as many of us can remember, the old yellow electric milk float once a regular nocturnal sight on the town streets.

The heavily redacted documentation from the Council Meeting held on June 3rd didn’t do much to reinforce trust between HBC and local residents’ groups. The multiple references to ‘Warblington Farm’ which could be found by scanning its superficially blacked out pages proved suspicions that HBC were about to do a Little Duxley Farm job on our very own Warblington Castle Dairies.

On September 9, during Prime Minister’s Questions, our incumbent MP asked his PM to  “join me in thanking the farmers in Havant for the contribution they make to our country and our prosperity.” We assume he was referring to the contribution that Henry Young has been persuaded to make, giving up his livelihood so that Havant Borough Council can reap the benefits of the nitrate credit harvest.

The trouble is, we’re not convinced that the maths stacks up. The cashflow analysis of the Warblington Farm Nutrient Mitigation Scheme has not yet been made public.

We’re not holding our breath.

HBC – ‘Shaping our Future’ initiative

“Havant Borough Council (HBC) needs to make financial savings of £12.1M over five years while realigning its resources to the current priorities as set out in the Council’s strategies. The direct costs and loss of income resulting from coronavirus, the resulting economic downturn and Brexit have added significant uncertainty to the challenge. The degree of uncertainty means the nature and impact of these are difficult to quantify but it is prudent to plan for these to be financially significant.”

The paragraph above is taken from a report entitled ‘Shaping our Future – Transformation programme‘ which was presented at a Havant Borough Council Cabinet meeting last week. The report, which was approved for subsequent presentation to the full Council before presentation to East Hants District Council, sets out the objectives and vision for what is effectively a merger of the two administrations. The document notes their vision to “leverage their positive partnership with EHDC for the benefit of both councils.”

In a departure from previous Cabinet documents, which have had passages redacted in rather transparent black ink, this one contains passages encoded in a form of ‘Consultant speak’ popular in the 1990s. In it we learn that HBC aspires to become “outcome focussed and provider agnostic” with an “agile and financially sustainable operating model that delivers their transformation vision by October 2022“. Their “performance management regime that evidences a demand led and early intervention approach to the delivery of services” should achieve that and enable them to adopt an “agile, flexible and resilient ‘can do’ culture.” You’ll be pleased to note that they plan to “embrace a digital first approach” to their services, confident in the knowledge that they will be “brilliant at the basics; flexible, agile and resilient.

For those unable to decode the language of the report, the authors helpfully provide a couple of simple charts, reproduced below:

(For future audiences, a well known and well loved strategy for staying awake and appearing attentive during such presentations can be found here.)

Havant’s Repair Café -‘Dr. Bike’ Sessions in September

Havant’s Repair Café team members are hosting ‘Dr Bike’ sessions in Havant Park during September.

These sessions provide a golden opportunity to get your bike out of the shed, dust it off, and re-awaken your enjoyment of a healthy form of exercise and transport. Safety is the key here and these sessions, supported by Havant Borough Council and Cycling UK will provide the servicing you need, free of charge.

Take this link to find out more and book your bike in for a free service.

Dominos – 39 West Street planning application re-submitted

Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised by last week’s re-submission of the 39 West Street ‘Dominos Pizza’ takeaway planning application by Geo. & R. Carrell Properties Ltd. The cynical timing of this application follows an approach often used with contentious applications, sneaking them in during the holiday period when the public are normally distracted.

Once again, this application has been recorded by HBC as  ‘suitable for delegated decision’ by a planning department who are themselves already distracted by a notable lack of management.  Fortunately, the St Faith’s Ward Councillors have responded quickly to our request for support and the application has been ‘red-carded’ to ensure that it will be debated in public by the Development Management Committee in the new year.

39WestStreet

Little, if anything, has changed with the re-application, other than the submission of a 39 page ‘Technical Traffic Note’ which in our view presents little of substance.  Stripping away the largely irrelevant content including three pages in Welsh, we find a ‘detailed’ survey of West Street car parking during a three and a half hour period on a single Friday evening in November.  This primarily relates to the spaces occupied by 6 vehicles in the yellow box in the image above. We are already monitoring use of the car parking over a more representative timescale.

Apart from the obvious issues of parking, both for delivery drivers at the rear of the site and for customer collections, we have a serious concern about the impact on traffic in Park Road South.  The delivery drivers will be turning into and out of the site using the entrance between Rothman’s Accountants and Ian’s hairdresser, marked by the double yellow arrow in the image.  Those of us who use Park Road South regularly will be aware of the impact of traffic turning into and out of Burger King and Bulbeck Road and if this application is approved, then the Dominos delivery traffic will significantly add to that traffic chaos.

The six ward Councillors on the Development Management Committee on October 18th  rejected the original application unanimously and given that there is no material change to this re-application we should expect the same result.

However: Do not assume that because you may have objected to the previous application, you need do nothing.  Previous comments will not be considered and new objections must be raised.  If you agree with us that this re-submitted application should be refused, please take the time to submit an objection by taking this linkComments must be received by Wednesday 2nd January.

If you’re at a loss for words, feel free to take a look at our own response by taking this link.

To view a summary of all previous articles on this website relating to the applications submitted by Carrells for 39 West Street, please take this link.

‘Opportunity Havant’ – A case of ships and rodents perhaps?

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at this recent press release from HBC…

“Sandy Hopkins, who is currently Chief Executive at East Hampshire District Council and Havant Borough Council, is taking on a new challenge at Southampton City Council as its Chief Executive.”

“James Hassett, Executive Director of Operations and Place Shaping at East Hampshire and Havant Borough councils, is also taking up a new role in Somerset – so he can be closer to his family.  While working at East Hants and Havant he has led the development of Havant’s new regeneration strategy.”

He said: “Working for East Hants and Havant has been a great experience and has given me the skills and knowledge to take the next step up in my career.  I am really excited that I’ll be back with my family and shortening my commute to work.”

HBCOrg

Should we be worried?

Is it possible that we now have a Regeneration Strategy with neither leaders nor stakeholders?  Watch this space!

 

Havant Borough Environment Group Questionnaire

D7C_7816This questionnaire is the joint venture of numerous cross-Borough volunteer, conservation and residents groups.  The intention is to highlight resident’s priorities for their surroundings.

Few people can be unaffected by ever increasing alarms about the state of our environment; polluted air and water, Climate Change impacts, threats from extreme weather events, lack of green space and recreation space for a rising population and the rapid rise in endangered species make frequent headlines.

Here in Havant Borough, we need to focus on the particular local environment issues that need attention in the new Local Plan 2036

All of your views will be collected and a report will be compiled then sent over to Havant Borough Council.

Please take the time to complete this survey which can be found by clicking on this link.  The survey will open in a new browser window.

Website changes

With an increasing level of enthusiasm for the Society following the public meeting of April 26th, we’ve been looking at sharpening up our communications.

First in line is the website, the old version of which had served well for a few years but has recently been showing its age.  For this refresh, we’ve stuck with the basic free WordPress.com service but have redesigned the site from the top down. (Maybe that should read ‘from the bottom up’ since we’ve imported all the content from the previous site in order that nothing has been lost.)

Here are a few things to look out for:

Page format 

Most pages now include a ‘sidebar’, which appears either on the right hand side of the page, or down below the main page content if you’re looking on a device with a small screen, your phone or a tablet.   Within the sidebar, you’ll find secondary menus, links to recent updates, a free text search box and a drop down box which enables you to select items from the archives.

Page footer

If you scroll down to the foot of each page, you’ll find, along with our ‘Mission Statement’, two further options for searching the site. The ‘Cloud menu’ and the selection of ‘Tags’ give you two alternative ways of searching the site. Try them out and see whether you find them useful.

Links

Text links which are clickable are marked in a different colour italic font, underlined to highlight the link.  Click on any of these and the referenced content should open in another browser tab, or in the case of the example in the first sentence of this post,  your email program should be opened with the correct address  and subject pre-set.

Menu

The main menu runs along the top of the site pages, with downward arrows indicating where second level menu items exist.  On secondary level pages, a sub-menu appears at the top of the sidebar where present.

Take the main menu options at the top of the page to find topics of interest, from news on local planning matters to information about arts and leisure activities around the town. Resources available also include copies of HCS newsletters and links to local services and peer organisations.

Earlier site content

Content from the earlier version of the website can be found by using the free text ‘Search’ box or by taking the ‘Archived posts’ drop down menu.

While the structure of the site is still under review, we think it represents a step forward from the previous web presence. We know it’s not perfect though so would welcome your ideas on how it could be improved.  Whatever your feelings, feel free to let us know either way.