Campdown – A development proposal that's wrong on so many levels…

The Campdown development application for the site east of College Road, west of the A3(M) and bordering Crookhorn, brings into focus many of the challenges that must be faced if the Havant Regeneration Programme is to succeed. Conservation of heritage sites, buildings and infrastructure provides a sense of identity and continuity in a fast changing world. Understanding how places change, and recognising the significance of their history, is the key to successful and sustainable regeneration.

Campdown is a green-field site of both ecological and archaeological significance, allocated in the currently adopted plan for ‘recreation or leisure’.  The pre-submission Local Plan 2036 changes this allocation to ‘mixed use, up to 560 homes, shops and sports facilities’, removing the protection currently afforded.  This change in allocation reflects the sad reality that planning policy is increasingly driven by the need to achieve questionable targets for ‘five year housing supply’ imposed by central government.

As a development plan relating to a land allocation that has not yet been passed by the Planning Inspector, this speculative planning application is like several others within the borough, including the Forty Acres site recently approved, and Havant Borough Council are duty bound to decide such applications within a statutory period. 

In our view, the Campdown development site should never have been included in the 2036 Local Plan and we have some confidence that the change of allocation for Campdown will eventually be overturned when the pre-submission Local Plan is reviewed by the Inspector later this year.

Given the summary of ‘Opportunities and Constraints’ relating to the Campdown site included in the pre-submission local plan, Havant Borough Council shouldn’t be surprised at the strength of objections received.

The application submitted by Persimmon Homes, is for a total of 780 homes, representing a 40% increase in the proposed allocation for a green-field site of archaeological significance. A buried Roman villa in the northern part of the site is already designated as a scheduled monument while to the south; a Neolithic long barrow and a mediaeval cemetery are known to exist.  The site is also an important grazing site for the Brent Geese and Curlew of the Chichester and Langstone Harbours Special Protection Area (SPA), an internationally important wetland. 

While our primary objection is that this application is contrary to the current adopted development plan we support the many important objections already raised by more august bodies, notably:

Havant Police, commenting as a mandatory consultee, note with resignation that:  “This development is opposite the Crookhorn Estate, an area with relatively high levels of acquisitive crime and anti-social behaviour. It is a challenging area to police.” We can’t help feeling that the extension of that estate by 780 homes, bounded by a motorway, a fenced golf course and a fenced college premises would be increasing that level of challenge to an unacceptable extent for an already overstretched force.

We are concerned that HBC will view the promise of 780 homes as ‘too good an opportunity to miss’, particularly if the greenfield status might be used to help to alleviate the issue of nitrate neutrality that would otherwise block any decision to develop on a brownfield site.

With the planning consultation period ending on Friday Feb 14th, we are registering our objections and urging Havant Borough Council to reject, or at the very least defer, this application.

If you agree with us and wish to register your objection to this application, please take this link and fill in the form.

Simples!

#rethinkhavant

Campdown – From the perspective of the waders and Brent Geese

We’ve received the following report from Jim Graham – winter wader and Brent Goose recorder at Campdown since 2012:

“The UK may be about to be separated from Europe politically but bird interest groups from both sides of the English Channel are united in their fight to save fields vitally important to over-wintering waders and geese; see objection letters from the RSPB, International Wader Study Group, Global Flyway Network and many others on Havant Council’s planning page.  Every year thousands of shorebirds fly down the East-Atlantic Flyway from northern Europe to spend the winter in food-rich harbours and estuaries along the south coast of England.

Havant Borough Council, along with many other local authorities in the south, have been told by the Government to build thousands of new homes, in Havant’s case more than 11,000, by the year 2036. Havant is a relatively small borough just 21.4 square miles in area but it includes internationally protected shorelines around Hayling Island, Chichester Harbour and Langstone Harbour.

This Government pressure has forced HBC to consider allowing development on land that has up till now been deemed sacrosanct .  What has got ornithologists in fighting mood is the proposal by developer Persimmon to build 780 new dwellings on green fields south of South Downs College between College Road, Crookhorn and the A3M motorway.

View looking south east from above South Downs College. The A3(M) motorway can be seen leading south towards Langstone Harbour in the distance. There are also plans to build 97 houses on the college car park shown in the foreground.  [Google Earth image.]

Most of the land proposed for development is an important site for wintering wildfowl and waders, specifically Dark-bellied Brent Geese (Branta bernicla bernicla) and Curlew (Numenius arquata).

The site includes fields identified within the Solent Waders & Brent Goose Strategy as Primary and Secondary sites of importance to feeding Brent Geese & Curlew, i.e. study fields H02A, H125, H106 and H113. The wet grassland at these sites currently supports populations of approximately 150 Curlew and up to 300 Brent Geese. Historically these numbers were much higher. It is wholly conceivable that, in colder winters, numbers of these birds would increase again as birds are forced to move here from more northerly parts of Europe. Whilst these areas of the application land are not directly within the harbour complex, they are a vital part of the wider eco-system and provide valuable, undisturbed feeding sites close to the harbour, especially (though not exclusively) during the high tide period. With rising sea levels it may not be possible to defend low lying nature reserves such as Farlington Marshes in which case inland support areas like Campdown will become even more important than they currently are.

The Chichester and Langstone Harbours Special Protection Area (SPA) is an internationally important wetland, both Dark-bellied Brent Goose and Curlew are specifically listed as qualifying features of that SPA. There must be, there is, a duty to protect those features.

Designated sites such as SPA and SSSIs cannot maintain wildlife populations on their own there have to be buffer strips, alternative feeding and roosting sites. Sites that allow for the vagaries of climate such as storm surges, flooding and disturbance factors. Mitigation sites must be equally appropriate and resilient. One field is not the same as another. The land at Campdown is used by these birds because it provides the right feeding conditions, available food with minimal disturbance. The proposed mitigation site at Broadmarsh Coastal Park, a former land-fill site, does indeed have grassland but of a completely different type to the wet grassland at Campdown. If it was suitable the birds would already use it but there aren’t any records of them doing so. Furthermore, a heavily used recreational area, is not an area that is likely to be attractive to wildfowl and waders.

Broadmarsh Coastal Park is owned by Havant Borough Council and the proposal is to fence off 1.3 hectares to give the waders and geese a sense of security. Due to the uncertainty of success around the creation of replacement habitat, experts in the field of shorebird conservation apply a ratio of 2:1 as being a necessary requirement, therefore this small area is inadequate in size and quality for the loss of 31 hectares at Campdown.  

The suggested idea of creating scrapes on top of a land-fill site (which has presumably been capped with clay) seems bizarre and would be unlikely to be used for feeding by geese or curlew and would therefore not actually provide any mitigation for the loss of grassland feeding for those two species.

We are used to seeing flocks of 200 and more Brent geese feeding on our playing fields at high tide, they seem quite tolerant of us so long as we keep our dogs on their leads however the same can’t be said of our over-wintering curlew.  Curlews are a shy, unassuming family of birds. Their mottled-brown plumage makes for effective camouflage against their marshland and mudflat feeding grounds, meaning they can go about their business unnoticed, prying out invertebrates such as ragworms with their purpose-built curved bills. But if, like the curlews, you take time to dig beneath the surface, you’ll discover that they are beautiful and remarkable birds.

Our curlew, the Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata), is a member of the bird family Numeniini, which is a tribe of large waders that include curlews and godwits. Unfortunately, national bird monitoring schemes show breeding populations are declining sharply across much of their range. In 2008, curlews were deemed of global conservation concern and became listed as ‘Near Threatened’ on the IUCN ‘Red List’ of Threatened Species. 

Steep declines have been particularly evident in the UK. Between 1995 and 2012, the breeding populations declined by 55 per cent in Scotland and 30 per cent in England. Elsewhere in the UK, the population has declined by 81 per cent in Wales (between 1993 and 2006) and by 82 per cent in Northern Ireland (between 1985-87 and 2013).

In summary, wildlife conservationists of all disciplines whole-heartedly object to this planning application. We believe it will be highly detrimental to qualifying features of the SPA. It creates further fragmentation of hugely important wildlife habitats. SPAs are among THE most important wildlife habitats we have. They and their all-important qualifying features need as much support and protection as possible and this must include adjacent linked or associated sites and buffer strips. Protect Campdown and refuse this application. The closing date for comments has been extended to 13 February 2020.

See below for Persimmon’s Masterplan Layout. Most of the boundary trees and hedges would remain but the Layout shows all the rest within the site would be cleared for development; hedgerows that have defined these field boundaries for 200 years.”

View the full planning application here

Regeneration Launch – Take 2

With a minimum of fuss and only a modicum of fanfare, the Havant Regeneration Programme was re-launched in the Beacon Centre at Havant Borough Council’s newly acquired Meridian Centre today. Perhaps mindful of the ill-fated first launch attempt on June 13th last year, little or no advance publicity was given to the public this time around.

The Council’s negotiations to buy the Meridian Centre from the administrators was something of an open secret last year, nevertheless it was deemed that showing the video in public before the deal was secured might confuse some of the residents and businesses of the properties concerned and perhaps sabotage the deal.

Councillor Tim Pike, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Lead of Planning, Regeneration and Communities, opened the meeting with the following presentation.

The ‘launch speech’ by Councillor Tim Pike.

You may be aware that some of the HCS Committee had already seen the video in confidence last year during a meeting with the Regeneration team and as a result had been keen to get it shown at our AGM on November 6th last year. Sadly – or perhaps fortunately – the General Election was announced the very same day and the purdah rule provided the perfect excuse for HBC to pull the video and any discussion of the Regeneration Programme from our agenda. A month later, with the deal for the Meridian Centre finally completed, the way was clear to finally put the video into the public domain and the launch event was scheduled for February 4th.

To view the video, take this link to the new ‘Have with Havant’ website, scroll down a little and press the play button. Use the control in the bottom right hand corner of the window to expand the video to full screen.

Warning # 1 – This is an ‘aspirational’ video produced by a typical marketing agency. Once you’ve watched it through and recovered your balance, try it again, this time hitting pause from time to time and clicking through frame by frame using the left and right cursor arrows on your keyboard.

Warning # 2 – Unless you actually enjoy call centre ‘hold music’, you might find it improves with the sound off!

Where next?

Yesterday, members of the HCS Committee together with representatives from the residential community met with the newly refreshed Regeneration Team at the Plaza. Our intention, after taking in another preview of the video, was to start the ball rolling on building an External Community Stakeholder working group to engage with the Regeneration Programme. We were delighted to find that Clare Chester, the new Head of Regeneration and Economy, was clearly receptive to this initiative and we look forward to working together with Clare and her team to set this up.

If you’ve been following our previous posts, you’ll recognise that we’ve been concerned since ‘Day 1’ in October 2018 that the local community must be engaged throughout the full lifecycle of such a wide ranging programme of work. To be clear, by ‘local community’, we include not just the residents but also the local providers of healthcare, education, small business, emergency and safety services.

Together, we have the skills, the experience and the ‘skin in the game’ to help the HBC team get Phase 1 of the Havant Town Centre component of this vision moving.

We’ll keep you posted.

#rethinkhavant #havewithhavant

Support your local libraries!

In this increasingly screen based world, there’s little more satisfying than switching all the technology off and settling down in a comfy chair to turn the pages of a real book. As Cicero once wrote, “A room without books is like a body without a soul”.

Continuing that theme, a town without a library doesn’t really bear thinking about. Changes are afoot in the Hampshire Library service. Take a look at the map:

Earmarked for potential closure are ten of the Tier 2 and 3 libraries, of which Emsworth is the most local at risk. However, we’d suggest that only the ‘Tier 1’ libraries on that map are safe from eventual closure and would encourage people to get back into the habit of using them.

Given the growth in population expected over the next 15 years, we would strongly support the view that Havant and Waterlooville should both be ‘Tier 1’ libraries and should both be protected as assets for our growing communities.

Hampshire County Council is asking people who live, work and study in Hampshire to have their say on proposed changes to libraries. Drop-in and have an informal chat with the County Council staff leading the consultation on Tuesday 4th February between 2:00pm and 5:00pm. If you can’t be there in person, read the details on their website by clicking here.

If you want to jump straight to the heart of the matter, please take this link to respond to the consultation questionnaire.

#rethinkhavant

Prince George Street – North Street Arcade

If you cast your mind back to June 2018, you may recall our post about the planning application for the near derelict North Street Arcade. The ill-fated Grastar Restaurant came and went, but activity on that corner of the town has quietly continued in the background. Dominos moved on and the familiar Havant tumbleweed, fast food wrappers and other seedy litter moved in.

Redevelopment at the rear of North Street Arcade, see planning documents here.

Rolling forward from the original submission date twenty months ago, with various ammendments and a section 106 agreement in place, we now understand that as of last week, permission has finally been granted to the developer albeit with a Grampian condition attached.

For the detailed list of documents applying to this application, please follow the link under the image above. If you just want to take a look at the proposed new elevations, download a PDF file here. For more on Grampian conditions, check out our recent post on Nutrient Neutrality.

With a bit of luck and a fair wind, we may see progress on this site at last.

Update on the 'Nutrient Neutrality' issue

Last night’s Operations and Space Shaping Board gave us an insight into the latest impacts on Havant Borough Council’s planning stalemate caused by the the Nutrient Neutrality issue.

Councillor Pike provided a brief context to the board, referring to the letter sent by HBC to the Secretaries of State on January 14th. The first paragraph of that letter gives a fairly concise explanation of the issue.

“…recent case law, most notably The Dutch Case is making it impossible to grant planning permission for all but a handful of planning applications for new housing in Havant Borough and parts of East Hampshire district. This issue extends to our Partnership for South Hampshire colleagues and a number of other areas of the country. Left unchecked will render it impossible for these parts of the country to meaningfully contribute to Government’s target of providing 300,000 new homes a year.”

The full letter can be found on page 29 of the information pack here.

The delays are currently impacting 1000-1200 housing units and risking around £200M of external investment budget to the Borough. Of particular concern is the potential impact on the development plans for Wellington Way in Waterlooville.

Wellington Way, Waterlooville, viewed from the SE. Take this link to view the planning application.

While that’s a long way from ‘our patch’, we should be mindful of the fact that if the issue continues, the regeneration plans for Havant Town Centre will also be impacted.

The sources of nitrogen based nutrients entering our harbours and the wider Solent split into roughly three areas. Agricultural impact, roughly 40%, background atmospheric and geological, 40%, and urban run-off/sewage, 20%. We can beat up our rather long suffering Waste Water utilities over the latter or we can apply pressure on the farming community over the former. There’s little that can be done over the background levels so let’s point the finger at the Southern Water and the local farmers.

Southern Water have come under a fair amount of pressure already and despite being an obvious target, their hands are to some extent tied by their regulator who won’t let them raise charges to their customers to part fund the infrastructure projects necessary.

Farmer Pike” explained how the local farms within the Borough are playing by the rules and only spreading muck on the fields during the periods allowed by recent government regulations. There was a (perhaps tongue in cheek) finger pointed out the South Downs farmers in East Hants’ patch since the muck they spread also finds its way into our harbours and estuaries. The difficulty is that it takes up to thirty years to filter through over that distance – this is not an easy issue to crack.

The scale of the problem and the knock on effect on local and regional building trades and services is significant as our softly spoken Planning Policy Manager, David Hayward, explained. Right now, applications for 242 homes are ‘solely backlogged’ by the the Nutrient Neutrality issue, plus another 780 if the Campdown development goes ahead, with a further 409 ‘significantly backlogged’. We are not alone; across the Solent area, those figures rise to 2314 ‘solely backlogged’ with 3974 ‘significantly backlogged.

The specific issue holding up planning and development is that until the Nitrogen Neutrality issue is resolved at a national level, planning applications can only be accepted if the developer chooses to agree to a Grampian condition being attached to the decision. In this case, that condition will refer to an unquantifiable cost of mitigation, a condition few sane developers would consider sign up to. From an interesting aside from Farmer Pike after we’d been expelled when the meeting went into exempt session, was that they have actually found one such developer, the North Street Arcade application was signed off last Friday with a Grampian Clause. If you want to see how this manifests itself, check out Condition 10 in the decision notice.

DCF – Kingscroft Farm development proposal

Last night’s Development Consultation (DCF) Forum at the Plaza was a well attended event.

The DCF is a platform for a developer to share their proposal with the council and interested community groups along with the public before moving onto the planning application stage.  This is a useful initiative by Havant Borough Council which enables local residents to get early sight of potential future developments. Residents are invited to question the developer and the developer is encouraged to take note of this feedback before submitting a formal planning application.

The land in question is to the west of the town, alongside the Hermitage Stream which runs down parallel to the railway to the south east of Bedhampton Gates. The developer, Foreman Homes of Park Gate, are seeking to extend their existing development of homes in Abrams Place, Doyle Close and Longcroft Way, streets which remain unadopted by the council.

Introducing the development team, Steve Weaver, the HBC Case Officer commented that the proposed site for development is ‘unusual’ in that it is not included as an allocation in either the adopted Local Plan or the pre-submission Local Plan 2036. The original allocation for commercial development applicable to part of the site in the currently adopted Local Plan has not been carried forward to the emerging pre-submission Local Plan 2036 because of the current Environment Agency flood risk assessment.

The meeting was well attended by residents of the adjoining streets, West Street and further afield. Foreman Homes were represented by their Planning Manager, Kate Little, and Steve Carrington, Planning Director. There were a couple of other silent members of their team present to make up the numbers but by far the most vocal member of the developer’s team was Tim Wall of iTransport. Tim joined iTransport five years ago after almost ten years as team leader for Strategic Transport for Hampshire County Council. We conclude that (a) he knows his onions and (b) that he has sufficient contacts and inside knowledge from HCC to be worth his fee to Foreman.

Foreman’s Planning Manager outlined their proposal, which shows 164 dwellings on a 4.1 hectare site, representing a density of 40 to the hectare – 16 to the acre in ‘old money’. The proposal for access to the site would either be via Abrams Way or Meyrick Road, the former an unadopted street and the latter unsuitable without upgrading. When questioned from the floor regarding the more obvious access route through Marples Way, Mr. Wall responded that access was unavailable due to the existence of a ransom strip between that road and the site.

After the developer’s presentation, the Councillors present were invited to pass comment, with Councillor Lloyd the first into the fray, raising concerns about the availability of parking and appropriate dropped kerbs for access. She asked whether the developer had considered designing houses without garages but with more open off-road space for parking. That was an interesting question though the predictable response was that the developer could make more money by selling garages that buyers will probably never use! Councillor’s Crellan and Keast weighed in on the evident lack of consultation with the Highways Agency and the providers of medical services, both observing that the developer’s action in bringing this to the DCF seemed ‘premature’.

Councillor Satchwell, seen by some of her Tory peers as ‘the opposition’, gave her usual refreshingly clearcut, no bull, response, observing that it was the first time she’d seen a developer bring forward a development proposal for which access was required over an unadopted road. She stressed the need for engagement with the owners of the road and the residents of the streets concerned.

Those residents, it seems, are already disgruntled about having been sold houses by the very same developer for which the associated annual management fees appear to have been hidden until purchase completion. Indeed, one resident asked directly whether Foreman would employ the same trick with this new proposed development.

These questions met with silence from Kate Little and muttering from her Planning Director to the effect that if the level of opposition continued, their development option would become smaller and smaller, adversely impacting their profit and probably resulting in the proposal being dropped.

In the discussion which followed it became clear that despite the fact that Foreman had built the original development through which access would be needed, they had clearly not considered, nor did they know, whether they already had access rights.

We took a well trodden path and pointed out that with anticipated applications by Portsmouth Water for development of their new HQ offices behind the Bosmere Medical Centre and the development of housing on their existing West Street site, current traffic chaos in the area can only get worse. While we have confidence that in any forthcoming planning application, Tim Wall will cover the traffic questions to the level of detail which would tick all of his former employer’s boxes, he would be considering the application in isolation. Just who in Havant Borough Council , we asked, is taking a holistic view of the overall traffic impact of the consolidated set of development proposals. We didn’t really get a clear answer…

Steve Weaver, the case officer for Havant Borough Council, wrapped up the meeting by saying that the presentations and output from the meeting would be ‘available on the website within a few days’. (Whether it gets there before the documentation from the previous DCF , number 49 from October last year remains to be seen;)

While the DCF process is to be commended for giving us an early ‘heads up’ on forthcoming plans for the town, it does concern us that sometimes the development proposals are at odds with both the adopted and Pre-submisssion Local Plans. With development proceeding elsewhere in the borough, on allocations in the new plan which have yet to come before the inspector, it rather calls into question the value of the Local Plan process on which many hours of effort have been expended by both council and public alike.

#rethinkhavant

Havant from the air, 1928

Having recently discovered Britain from Above as a resource, we’d encourage you to take the link and take a look.

To whet your appetite, here’s a photograph of Havant, taken from the air in 1928, which shows the town as it was a little over ninety years ago.

© Historic England – Britain from Above

The main road running from south to north through the photograph is, of course, South Street, running into North Street which carries on north over a long gone level crossing into what is now Leigh Road. At the right hand top corner, New Lane is simply that, a narrow lane heading past the New Lane cemetery which was then on the outskirts of the town.

Click on the image and it will open slightly larger in a new tab.

2019 AGM and Public Meeting – Nov 6th

The HCS AGM and Public Meeting will be held at the Havant URC Meeting Room on Elm Lane, see map below, 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 on the website before the meeting and the highlights can be seen immediately below this map.

We already have a full agenda, kicking off with an update from the Havant Borough Council Regeneration leadership, Councillor Tim Pike and Andrew Biltcliffe. In addition to showing the long awaited Havant Regeneration programme video, a futuristic vision for the town, Tim and Andrew will give us a progress update on the regeneration plan. Applications closed last Friday for the appointment of the development partner for the first phase, the Civic Plaza car park housing site, so we expect also to be able to share some detail on that.  Tim has indicated that he’d welcome discussion so we’ll be making the session as interactive as possible.

We will also bring you an update on various activities which HCS has been undertaking under the general heading of ‘Havant’s Green Spaces’. These activities bring HCS together with other local environmental groups including the Havant Borough Tree Wardens who be on hand to give us a brief update on their activity.

Lastly, we’ll be including a round-up of planning and development activity affecting the town centre, including an update on Portsmouth Water’s plans for their site, the first of which has now been aired.

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.