Ultrafast Broadband for Havant – An Opportunity

Havant Civic Society keeps a watchful, and we hope constructive, eye on Havant Borough Council’s Regeneration Strategy. We note that the strategy is framed almost entirely in terms of building projects, both commercial and residential, with little mention of the necessary underpinning infrastructure. In our modern, digital world, fast and reliable broadband is an essential part of that infrastructure and should be regarded as a utility, no less vital than roads, electricity and water. It is therefore a little worrying that the word “broadband” appears only twice in the 334 pages of HBC’s new Local Plan, currently being scrutinised by the Inspectors.

Havant Borough Local Plan

Recent developments in the telecoms world have presented HBC with an opportunity to accelerate the arrival of fast, modern broadband in our area and we are keen to ensure the Council grasps it. You too, dear reader, have a part to play.

So, what is going on?

A recent announcement by Ofcom – Ramping up the rollout of full-fibre broadband – Ofcom – has made it commercially more attractive for telecoms companies to accelerate their ultrafast broadband plans in urban areas, rather than relying on Government intervention. Ultrafast is defined by Ofcom to mean broadband with a speed of between 300Mbps – 1Gbps, though may also be used for broadband packages with speeds faster than 80Mbps. It is also often referred to as Full Fibre. This is provided through Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology. (By comparison, those fortunate enough to live in parts of the borough served by Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) will be enjoying Superfast broadband, defined as speeds of 30Mbps or higher. In practice, it is often slower.)

Local CityFibre Rollout Programme

The Ofcom announcement has prompted an eager response from network providers. CityFibre, a company that is currently installing its own FTTP network in Portsmouth, has announced plans to rollout full fibre to another 216 towns and villages across the UK between 2022 and 2025. Havant (east of the A3(M)) and Emsworth are included – see map here: Nationwide Full Fibre Rollout Programme – CityFibre. There will be a number of factors that influence CityFibre’s decisions on which areas to install first and, left to their own devices, Havant and Emsworth could quite possibly be 215th and 216th on their list. One of these factors will be the level of interest in having ultrafast broadband installed shown by residents and businesses in the targeted areas.

This rollout programme presents HBC with an opportunity to advance its regeneration agenda by proactively encouraging CityFibre to place us in the early part of their schedule. The large residential development coming at Southleigh, for example, would be an attractive business opportunity for the company and the Council will – one hopes – have an estimate of the number of businesses it expects regeneration to bring to the Borough. In turn, the presence of ultrafast broadband here will encourage businesses, especially small and home-based ones, to locate in Havant. Through enhancing homeworking capability, it will also reduce out-commuting, which is a key objective of the Regeneration Strategy. HCS therefore encourages HBC to grasp this opportunity while it exists – the CityFibre rollout programme is currently being planned and it will not be too long before it is finalised.

BT too is planning a rapid expansion of its Openreach full fibre network: Britain’s BT to build fibre ‘like fury’ after regulator’s greenlight | Reuters.  Although there is no detail available of its intended geographical coverage, there is clearly an opportunity here too for HBC to seek to encourage BT to prioritise Havant in its scheduling.

I mentioned that there is a role for you in this. First, whether you have a personal desire to improve your home broadband or not, please go to the CityFibre website and register an interest in their full fibre product: CityFibre – Residential. This is entirely without obligation but will help encourage the company to see Havant as a commercial priority. Please encourage all your friends, neighbours and work colleagues to do the same.

Also, do contact your local Councillor, to ensure he or she is aware of this issue and to encourage them to put pressure on the Council to be proactive. With a bit of effort and some good fortune, it is entirely possible we could see ultrafast broadband in our area within 18 months.

Vernon Stradling – HCS Treasurer

Havant Borough Council urges government to reconsider proposed planning reforms

[Press release from HBC – 30-9-2020]

Updated 1-10-2020 to include link to HBC formal response
Updated 5-10-2020 to include Alan Mak MP’s formal response.

“Havant Borough Council is urging central government to urgently reconsider its proposed planning system reforms which would see the number of homes in the borough nearly doubling.

The council has sent a formal response as part of the consultation and is robustly arguing against the proposed changes and highlighting the detrimental impact they would have on the borough.

The method currently used by government to calculate the minimum number of homes to be planned for is the Standard Housing Method. Each local authority has its own target, and Havant Borough Council’s current target is 504 new homes per annum. The proposed changes to the planning system would see this increase to 963 homes per annum – an increase of 91%.

Havant Borough Council considers itself a pro-development local authority with a history of swift action of developing Local Plans to meet informed and proven development need. Nonetheless, as a small, constrained and heavily urbanised local authority, site availability to meet housing need is extremely limited.

The council is currently in the final stages of developing a 15 year Local Plan which would see development at levels based on the current Standard Housing Method. The council is committed to building high level, quality, sustainable homes and this is achievable under the current Standard Housing Method with even a modest buffer.

The council recognises that development is needed because it ensures towns and communities stay relevant to the world around them and thrive in new opportunities that arise – but that the proposed new scale is too much for the borough.

Councillor Gary Hughes (Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Lead for Planning)  said: “We have a moral obligation to meet the need for housing in our communities and make sure that our young people have the same opportunities that we have enjoyed. That is why I fully support our Local Plan’s provision of more than 500 new homes in the borough per year up to 2037.

“Nonetheless, with the amount of land that we have available, it is a struggle to get to this level and will require substantial intervention from the council to come close. To then propose almost doubling the figure is simply impossible and cannot be achieved.

“We are calling on the government to amend the proposed reforms to make sure that they are fair and realistic.”

Cllr Hughes’ robust response to government highlights that it would be impossible for the borough to meet the proposed new targets due to the constraints of the borough and the finite land available. Concern is also raised over the proposed targets forcing the council to allow any form of development, as under proposed changes it will also not have the capability to share housing targets with other authorities.

Furthermore, Councillor Hughes argues that The National Planning Policy Framework (which defines development for the nation) insists that all development meets three objectives – that they support local economic, social and environmental requirements. Councillor Hughes highlights that the proposed changes to the planning system contradicts existing policies which are known to support enhancing the natural, built and historic elements of our local environment.”

For further background to this, please see our main post on the topic.

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.

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.

Portsmouth Water – site proposals

The first move by Portsmouth Water to redevelop their Havant premises has now broken cover with the publication by developers WYG of a briefing note concerning the first stage of an overall development programme.

The image below shows West Street at the top, including the entrance to the existing headquarters building, Brockhampton Road to the left and Solent Road running along the bottom. The Bosmere Medical Centre is clearly visible centred along the bottom of the image.

Portsmouth Water site aerial view [Source, Google Earth]

The report in today’s Portsmouth News highlights the broader picture, including as yet unpublished proposals for 135 new houses accessed from West Street. These would cover the land at the top of this image.

The first stage outlined this week proposes the development of a new headquarters office building to the south of the existing West Street site and immediately to the north of the Bosmere Medical Centre in Solent Road. Also included are three commercial units, with access to the new employment sites sharing the Solent Road entrance currently dedicated to the Bosmere Medical Centre.

Given the volume of traffic already using Solent Road at peak times, adding Portsmouth Water’s office traffic to the mix will surely make things worse. Peak traffic times also align with peak surgery access times and with the volume of patient traffic, both private car and taxi and with regular deliveries to Boots, the on-site chemist, wider use of the existing surgery access road need questioning.

The proposal will be the subject of a Development Consultation Forum on October 22nd at 6:00pm. Since this is likely to be of wider interest to our members, many of whom will be patients registered with the Bosmere Practice, you may wish to come along to that meeting.

We’re in Waitrose today!

The HCS Committee members and the Gazebo Garden volunteers will be manning the Gazebo Garden stand in Waitrose from around 10:15 onward today, as part of the Waitrose Community Week.

Do stop by for a quick chat – we’d be delighted to see you!

The Gazebo Garden is a glorious riot of April colours

Do please stop by the Gazebo Garden and see the wonderful Spring colours. Then spare a thought for those lovely volunteers and next time you’re in Waitrose, drop your green tokens in the Gazebo Garden slot!

Petition regarding the Langstone Railway cottages.

imageMany of us were saddened by last month’s destruction by fire of the railway cottages on the east side of the Langstone Road approach to Hayling Island.  The Grade 2 listed cottages were originally built as labourers’ cottages and later lived in by the crossing-keeper for the Hayling branch line.

A private petition has recently been set up with the intention of urging Havant Borough Council “to do all in its power to ensure this building is restored to its original appearance, thereby recreating the iconic visual feature along Langstone Road, which has existed since the 18th Century.”

With the causes of the fires still under investigation, HCS does not believe that some of the public speculation expressed in comments on this petition is helpful.  However, we are firmly committed to the intention of this petition and support this initiative to seek appropriate restoration of this landmark building.

If you would like to sign the petition, please take this link to Change.org.