As Ray Cobbett from Havant FOE has already commented in an email to us, this week’s Stirling prize winner has set a standard for social housing which Havant should be taking a serious look at.
With so much potential housing coming through with the 2035 Local Plan, dare we wish for something as good as this for the town? If HBC are serious in trying to attract national interest, then Norwich have surely shown the way.
The HCS AGM and Public Meeting will be held at the Havant URC Meeting Room on Elm Lane on Wednesday November 6th. We’ll be there from 7:00pm and the meeting will start at 7:30pm sharp. We’ll try and keep the AGM matters as brief as possible to allow more time to talk to you about the many items of current interest around the town. A detailed agenda will be posted here before the meeting.
Everyone is welcome and new members will be welcomed. To give us an idea of numbers, please could you take the time to enter your name and email address below, we’d be grateful. Simply press the green ‘Submit’ button when you’ve finished.
Following the disastrous fire last December, a planning application has recently been submitted for their rebuilding.
The site is more formally known as 59 & 61 Langstone Road. The term “Railway Cottages” is something of a misnomer, as the cottages were late 18th century and thus predated the Hayling Billy line by 70+ years. It was just happenstance that they eventually lay close to the line and were, at some point, lived in by railway staff.
The application proposes rebuilding as a single 3 bedroom house. It was apparently the applicant’s original intention, prior to the fire, to seek to convert the cottages into one dwelling.
There are some concerns locally about the height of the new building, the redesign of the porch on the south elevation and the loss of some of the chimney pots. There are also worries that the outside privy, which was badly damaged in the fire might be lost.
We would suggest that, in addition to looking at the various plans, photos and other documents, you take time to read the Design, Access & Heritage Report and consequently have provided a separate link for that, in addition to one for the application as a whole.
A recent planning application for this site, proposes converting the ground floor into a one bedroom flat and a two bedroom flat.
We have objected to this, as we consider that this should remain a commercial unit in some form or other. North Street at ground floor level is still, predominantly, a mix of retail, food and other service industry businesses and we could see no justification for moving away from that.
We understand that Councillor Tim Pike has a similar view and will seek to have the application referred to the planning committee, should the planning department decide to approve it.
Back in May Councillor Tim Pike approached HCS to consider taking on the voluntary management of some additional green spaces in the town centre. The Market Parade planting area (and two planting areas in front of the station) and the Boys Brigade Gardens had become neglected after a previous voluntary arrangement had come to an end. There had even been a formal complaint about the Market Parade flowerbed which is one of the first sights that visitors see when they get off the train. If HCS didn’t take action the beds would be assigned to Norse for minimal maintenance – they could have been subjected to a dispiriting begonia attack, or nothing at all for many months.
We got straight on to our small sister organisation, Grove Conservation Group, who do such a good job of managing the fauna and flora habitats on the Hayling Billy Line at the junction of Grove Road and Lower Grove Road. Walkers on the Hayling Billy will have noticed the little meadow there that has attracted so many insects and butterfly species this summer. After discussions on the best way forward a small group of 5 volunteers planted up the Market Parade flowerbeds with a temporary planting of colourful annuals for the summer season. It looks better already. We have asked Norse to undertake watering, and we plan to develop the planting with a perennial planting programme in November. That will include plants that are attractive to both visitors and pollinators.
The Boys Brigade Gardens on the corner
of West St and Park Rd South is a lovely oasis full of, and surrounded by,
mature trees including some fruit trees. The gardens attract birds and insects
because the stream runs through them. We haven’t started working on the Boys
Brigade Gardens yet but suggested changes include some unmown areas for insect
habitat, bird nesting boxes, and managing a balance between food flora that
encourages birds and insects (that could include small areas of nettles for
butterflies, and thistles for pollinators) and the shrubs and trees that make
the gardens a cool town-centre haven.
To achieve all this we need extra hands
on volunteers who can spare a couple of hours now and then to work with the
existing volunteer group in upgrading these two sites. Sign up at the forthcoming public meeting.
A Green Spaces map.
Havant is full of small areas that have been noticed by local residents and are being improved for the benefit of humans and wildlife – we are soon going to establish a map that identifies areas that are already being sympathetically managed and others that need attention. Let us know if you are already taking care of some small area and we will add you to the map.
44-54 West St.
One of the town centre sites that has been an eyesore for a long time is the area of West St precinct opposite the Nat West bank that is covered with hoardings (nos 44-54). These hoardings have now been in place for over 12 years! Having failed to sell at auction the site has now sunk back down the Borough Council’s list of priorities. HCS thinks that, because of continuing neglect by the owners, the area should be converted from an eyesore into a small community garden with a footpath through to the bus station (an alternative to the gloomy brick corridor that is Trafalgar Walk). Would local residents be in favour of this idea? We would need public support to get HBC to make it happen, and some volunteers to help do the work, but it could be so much nicer than what’s there now! Havant town residents deserve a nicer environment – it’s long overdue.
Havant Tree Trail.
Finally a quick word about the proposed Havant Tree Trail. We were impressed with the glossy Emsworth Tree Trail Book produced by the Havant Borough Tree Wardens and would eventually like to replicate their efforts in the town. This goal is moving slowly forward with meetings between Bob Comlay, current HCS Chair, the Havant Borough Tree Wardens local Tree Wardens and representatives of the Friends of Havant Cemeteries.
The first step is to conduct a survey of the trees within the wider town area. And HBTW are close to completing the first survey of the fine collectionm of trees in the New Lane / Eastern Road cemeteries. The Havant Tree Warden, Rob Foord, is now leading the survey effort in Havant Park, with the active involvement of HCS members. Our plan is to have a Tree Trail designed and developed for Havant Park, both as a printed leaflet and as an interactive digital version. This is very much a work in progress at an early stage, but at some point you can expect to see some of the more significant trees in the park labelled with QR codes to scan on your mobile device.
At some stage there’ll be a survey of town centre trees and we’ll want people to alert us to favourite or unusual trees that they know of. Sign up for the survey at the forthcoming public meeting. The Tree Trail project has its own link on the HCS website so you can keep up to date with progress.
We have heard that phrase enough over the past few years, but no I am not going to discuss the rights or wrongs of Brexit.
I have written before about the importance of Place Management and how a sense of place is a vital requirement to establish good community cohesion. A town centre is central to a community with regards to belonging, being a locality where you may be able to shop or eat, visit a library or a museum and arts centre, get your banking done or sort your teeth out. Maybe you require some other business service, then afterwards you decide to take in the fresh air in a town park or sit in peace in a beautiful church. Plus if there is public transport travel hubs conveniently located offering bus and train services, so much the better.
Well guess what, Havant Town Centre has all these amenities and more. Surely then, our town centre should be lauded as a good example of this sense of place for which we should have much pride, and a town centre that can have a successful future, can be further developed and thrive in the years ahead, especially as thousands more planned houses in the years ahead will create lots more residents to use and visit our historic market town.
Why is it then, that we don’t always feel pride in our town centre? I think it’s the feeling that it is not always sufficiently loved and cared for to the level we would expect. Weeds growing between precinct buildings and the pavement, graffiti not removed, bollards not replaced for months and then when replaced, using non-matching ones secured with weak, inferior materials that are not the original block paving. It may seem like they’re all minor issues, but when put together, creates this feeling that nobody cares.
What can we do about it? Well if enough people report when the public realm is not being repaired or remedied, the Council or Norse, their operational organisation, will do their best, but will also often cite lack of staff and finances to carry out the work up to the original standard and in a suitable period of time, let alone to a superior standard.The majority of the people in the town of Havant want to be in a place that gives them that feeling of wanting to live in a thriving town that you are happy to call your home. However, organisations are needed to monitor and lobby the Council to encourage and challenge them to carry out the all important TLC that the town centre deserves.
After all, we have already shown that it has got a lot going for it with its wealth of amenities that offers a lot more than many town centres, it should be strategically managed, promoted and developed to create a flourishing commercial and cultural centre.
Havant Civic Society is currently the only Havant Town organisation that does monitor and lobby on your behalf. If lots more local people joined our organisation, through strength in numbers, we should make a difference in challenging the Council to make our town centre the pleasant and successful place we all want it to be.
For example, we have asked the Council to suggest to the owners of 44-54 West Street*, that they give something back to our community after approximately 12 years of looking at a partly derelict building site fronted by a temporary, torn and fading vinyl display hoardings. We have suggested that until the owners develop the site, and as an act of goodwill, they could clear the site and let the Council create a temporary Community Garden that links the precinct to the bus station, giving us something positive to use and enjoy for all the community.
* Stop Press!! (Sept 16th) We are led to believe that this site has recently changed hands and that “the new owner is keen to move the re-development of the site forward“.
We’ll be watching this development closely…
Where we see opportunities to improve the central hub of our living environment, the town centre, we should all strive to make it our place, our town centre and somewhere for which we can feel pride.
So in the current times in which we live, perhaps taking back control does just mean feeling involved and having some influence on what is happening around you in your environment and community.
By getting involved in the work of Havant Civic Society, it gives you the opportunity to have your say on what you would like your town and community to be like now and in the future. So are you going to take back control? If you’re reading this and have not yet joined us, please consider doing so. It’s easy, it’s worthwhile and it’s probably cheaper than that expensive cup of coffee!
At dusk on the evening of August 20th local bat expert and the Hampshire County Bat Recorder, Nik Knight, visited the Gazebo Garden to lead a small group on a bat detection session. Nik had previously visited the garden to advise us on the best location for our bat box, which we hope will be used by passing bats as a safe resting place.
Spaces on the walk were limited so the invitation only went out to the ‘inner circle’ of HCS members, those who responded to our earlier request for volunteers to provide a bit of essential extra help to the committee when needed. (There will be more on this subject in a separate post.)
Nik gave a short talk
on our local bat population which highlighted the fact that Havant Borough is a
hotspot for bats – including some rare species – so we need to care for them
and provide bat boxes wherever possible.
Nik then distributed the personal bat detectors that he had brought with
him so we could all detect that many bats were active in addition to the ones
we could see flitting about. In the Gazebo Garden we identified common
pipistrelle and soprano pipistrelle (who knew!) and then we moved on to the Hayling
Billy footpath where among the tall trees we detected a lot more common
pipistrelle activity. It was a great snapshot of what was going on in the bat
community that night, and other species have been identified on other visits. One of the group was so inspired that he’s
bought his own bat detector!
Nik is keen to raise awareness of our very valuable local bat population. He runs the Hampshire Bat Group http://www.hampshirebatgroup.org.uk/ which has a membership page, a full range of information about how we can all get involved and help our diverse bat species, and links to the informative Bat Droppings newsletters.
“Warblington Secondary School, Southleigh Road, Havant, Hampshire – Awarded Listed Building Status
List Entry Number: 1459138
Following your application to add the above building to the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, we have now considered all the representations made and completed our assessment of the building. I am delighted to inform you that having considered our recommendation, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has decided to add Warblington Secondary School to the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. The building is now listed at Grade II.”
We’re well into 2019 and it’s already proving to be an interesting
year. The main news items are summarised below, while other details can
be found by taking the links to ‘Recent Posts’.
Our earlier appeal for an ‘inner circle’ of HCS members to assist the
committee drew an encouraging list of volunteers who will soon start
to receive some requests for help with projects starting up. These
include the development of the Havant Town Tree Trail which is now being
taken off the ‘back burner’.
If you’re wondering what the image above is, look here.
The Regeneration Programme – Where the money is going
March saw the press release from HBC which trumpeted the kick off of
the first Phase of the Regeneration Programme. The architect’s computer
generated image took a little time to digest until we realised that the
five gabled pitches in the foreground occupy the space now taken up by
the JobCentrePlus in Elmleigh Road. A couple of other gabled blocks
occupy the site of the Police station and the Magistrates’ Court space
while a new street opposite Mavis Crescent leads into and through the
site of rather more mundane blocks of flats. The existing Leisure
Centre can be seen beyond, and the Civic Plaza is hiding behind the
trees at the top left.
When presented to the Council in March, the plan looked encouragingly like the output from a formal planning tool. However, our analysis
of the dates it contained suggested that it was little more than a
sales presentation, the dates on the Gantt chart straying quite some way
from the dates in the text.
We look forward to seeing further detail on the plan in due course,
and now that Phase 1 appears to be taking off, we especially look
forward to an outline of what is expected for Phase 2.
The Regeneration Programme – Where the money shouldbe going
The site at 44-54 West Street, long blighted by years of lack of
development and neglect, failed to sell at auction on April 30th. The
current owner of the site had chanced their arm with a reserve price of
£810,000 and there were no takers.
Domino’s have already opened their new takeaway* premises at the
former HSBC bank site, despite our concerns regarding traffic and
The Development Management Committee at Havant Borough Council did not cover themselves in glory over this,
leaving many questions unanswered and giving a clear indication that
they pay little more than lip service to the process of public
consultation, particular when threatened by developers with the costs of
a planning appeal. Frankly, we think the DMC should show some
political courage and stand up for the future of the town, rather than
rolling over and caving in to pressure from a prominent local developer.
*Their next opportunity may not be long in coming. While the planning
application was for A5 Use (Hot food takeaway), it is clear already
that Domino’s are already encouraging customers to sit down and eat in.
Given the size of the site and analysis of the company’s strengths and weaknesses,
we think it highly likely that they will retrospectively apply for a
change of use to A3 (Food and drink) licence within a short time.
North Street Arcade
The closure of the old Domino’s outlet in North Street Arcade
coincided with the removal of some of the furniture and equipment from
the short-lived and sadly defunct Grastar Restaurant. Could this mean
that there will now be some movement on the application for 21 flats on
this site? We note that the recently updated marketing plan for the remaining retail units on this site strongly suggests that there’s little future in the site as a retail arcade.
The Wessex Site
For those to the north of the town centre, there is further good news
with demolition finally in progress at the former Victorian town
gasworks, a site long abused by the not quite late but definitely un-lamented Wessex Construction Company, and more recently the home of A1-Recovery and Practical Car Rentals.
Development plans for the site
were approved almost two years ago, subject to conditions relating to
possible contamination and with those issues now resolved, it seems that
the developer has decided to move on with the project.
Construction on the Wessex site needs to start within 3 years of the
decision notice, September 17 so we hope that the developers will start
building work promptly once the demolition is complete.
The Havant Borough Local Plan 2036
The plan has now been submitted to the Secretary of State for
Housing, Communities and Local Government, together with the comments
received and the Local Plan’s Examination will start. This is expected
in the Autumn of 2019. Further detail on the expected timescales moving
forward is in the Local Development Scheme.
The Local Plan 2036 is now heading for the next step of a statutory
planning inquiry. Its progress through the public consultation process
has not exactly been a shining example of local, regional and central
government coordination, particularly given the late delivery of the
Hampshire County Council Transport Assessment on which so much depends.