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. )

Denmead Belles WI visit to the Gazebo

Together with Anna Glanville-Hearson, our hard working secretary and Gazebo Garden Coordinator, the local Havant nature-friendly garden specialist, Martin Hampton, recently led an evening guided walk for 14 members of the Denmead Belles WI group.

We went to the Meadow and 3-Pond Copse at Lower Grove Road and then on to the Gazebo Garden where the visitors were all very interested in both the Gazebo and the garden, and especially in the new wildlife-friendly elements that we have recently introduced.

A very big ‘Thank You’ to all our Waitrose shoppers!

A big vote of thanks to Waitrose and Partners for their generosity to the local community!

To all of you HCS members, friends, relatives or just casual shoppers with an interest in our ‘Secret Garden’, you’ve managed to raise a terrific total of £480 on the Community Matters – ‘green token’ – Scheme at Waitrose in Havant.

This gives a welcome boost to the funds available for the maintenance of the Gazebo structure and the planting.

With thanks to you all
from the HCS Committee and the Gazebo Garden maintenance volunteers.

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.

Langstone Railway cottages

Like many of our friends and colleagues, we were saddened to see the destruction by fire of the Langstone Railway station master’s cottage last weekend.  The much loved building with its faded yellow wooden siding has been a landmark near the Hayling Billy track since the late 18th century.

We hope that the structure, listed for its historical importance but sadly neglected in recent years, will be restored by the current owners.

The fire is now the matter of a police investigation and further details can be seen in this Portsmouth News article from Tuesday.

Planning for Biodiversity – FoE meeting

The meeting was organised by Havant Friends of the Earth and held at the United Reformed Church meeting place on Tuesday November 27th at 7:00pm.  HFoEmeeting

Sue Holt introduced Dr. David Rumble of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust who presented on the subject of Planning for Diversity.  The following notes provide a summary of the presentation, including a large number of active links through which the documents referenced by David can be viewed.  Just click the highlighted links to open the references in a separate tab in your browser.

1 – The national picture

David spoke of the decline in biodiversity since the 1970s, illustrated by charts showing the rapid loss of species throughout the seventies as a consequence of the implementation of intensive farming techniques. More recently, as the decline due to agriculture has flattened out, the impact of planning and development policy on habitat loss is more noticeable.

Four documents were referenced, please follow the links to access the detail:

  • National Planning Policy Framework – Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The NPPF contains comprehensive guidance intended to ensure maintenence and development of biodiversity.
  • A Green Future – Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. DEFRA’s recently published approach to managing the environment.
  • Biodiversity Net Gain – Good practice principles for development from the construction industry and for developers, intended to ensure that projects leave biodiversity in a better state than before work begins.
  • A Peoples Manifesto for Wildlife – Chris Packham’s recently published campaign document.

2 – The local picture

The Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH) has resulted in plans for 104,350 new homes and 1 million square feet of new employment across the Solent area.

David outlined how direction and targets set by central government has left local authority planners ‘between a rock and a hard place’.  The current State of Hampshire Biodiversity document is now 12 years old and the importance of enforcement of the NPPF, DEFRA and Biodiversity Net Gain guidance in planning decisions was stressed.

Local biodiversity topics were covered, including the newly published Solent Waders and Brent Geese Strategy.

Bird Aware Solent is an initiative to raise awareness of the birds that spend the winter on the Solent, so that people can enjoy the coast and its wildlife without disturbing the birds.

There are a number of local coastal defence issues arising from predicted climate change sea level rise.  Havant Civic Society is already involved with the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership exercise on the Langstone shore, but David also stressed the issue of loss of habitat to the west at Southmoor where privately owned sea defenses are in danger of imminent collapse.

On the positive side, the Havant thicket reservoir project could create significant biodiversity net gain.

More information can be found on the HBIC – Hampshire Biodiversity information Centre website. David presented a summary of the Ecological Network Map for Hampshire detail from which can be seen by taking the link.

3 – What can be done.

In addition to aligning with county based initiatives,  Havant Borough Council should revisit and revise the ‘Havant Biodiversity Action Plan’.  The latest version of this document, viewable here at the Havant FOE site, dates from 2011 and is out of date.

The Wildlife Trusts and friends have convinced Westminster Government of the need for a new law – an Environment Act – to improve protection for the country’s wildlife.MPs will be voting on this soon, so we need them to support a strong Environment Act.  You can find out more and take individual action here.

HIWWT have written a Discussion Paper entitled ‘Wilder’, opening discussion on creating a wilder Hampshire and Isle of Wight.

Havant Borough Environment Group Questionnaire

Ray Cobbett presented the work-in-progress findings of the Havant Borough Environment Group questionnaire.  More than 670 responses have been received to date and if you’ve not already had your say, please take the link to complete it.

Havant Friends of the Earth can be found here.

You can follow David Rumble’s blog at this link.

Langstone Stakeholder Working Group meeting Tuesday 13th November 2018

Anna Glanville-Hearson attended from Havant Civic Society, along with David Stratton and the HBC Team, Cllr Tim Pike and attendees from all sections of the Langstone Community including the owner of the Mill House and the Royal Oak.

The contractors present for Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership were AECOM and Flood Control International.

The meeting started with a review of the aims of the project – mainly to accommodate a possible additional 68cm over the current highest (5.4m) tides.

Since the last meeting the HBC Coastal Team has done a habitat survey and a heritage survey.  They have been working with Historic England and found no archaeological remains that would interfere with the programme.

Top line choices were:

  • Do nothing;
  • Do the minimum (reactive repairs as necessary);
  • Maintain (proactive repair without improving)

and

  • Improve (make footpaths wider, install higher sea walls, demountable barriers, flip-up barriers, walls with glass panels above).

Surveys highlighted that ‘the life of the current defences was less than we thought’ and confirmed the need to improve the defences.

They have looked at a long list of options for each section of the programme following national guidance tailored to the local area. The team showed how the long list reduced down to a shortlist of options for each section of the 4 sections of the programme.

They finally arrived at three improvement options for each of the four frontages of the project:

  1. Mill Lane and Harbourside
  2. Langstone Sailing Club and Spit
  3. Langstone village and coastal path between the Ship and the Royal Oak
  4. The Mill, the Mill Pond and footpath around the Mill Pond (in private ownership but path is maintained by HCC)

The Coastal Team is proposing to get funding from the Government Coastal Defences fund but this will not cover everything.  They also intend to apply for funding from the Community Infrastructure Levy and also the ‘Local Levy’

In an email to Mark Stratton and the team we have suggested a couple of other sources of funding as we think it’s as much a community and leisure access programme as it is a coastal defences programme. Our representative at the meeting has been down there twice lately as part of a large Walking for Health group; thousands of people use the footpaths and the pubs and it is expected to be really busy on Boxing Day!

There are two public exhibitions of the proposals coming up, see our earlier post for details of dates, times and locations.

Langstone Coastal Defence Study – Public drop in events

Havant Civic Society are members of the Langstone Stakeholder Working Group of the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership (ESCP).

ESCP have sent out an invitation to the upcoming public drop in events for the Langstone Coastal Defence Study in November. This will be an opportunity for them to share with the community the coastal defence options shortlisted for the Langstone frontage and a chance for the community to ask any questions that they might have on the study.

The drop in information events will be taking place on:

  • Tuesday 20th November from 4 – 8 pm at the Langstone Sailing Club.
  • Thursday 22nd November from 6 – 9 pm at The Ship Inn, Langstone.

If you’re interested, do go along!

 

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.