Portsmouth Water – Lack of ‘Master Plan’ transparency

If you’re a resident of West Street, of Brockhampton Road or if you’re simply one of the 20,000 patients of the Bosmere Medical Practice, you should take a keen interest in the designs that Portsmouth Water have on the land they own between West Street and Solent Road.

© Historic England – Britain from Above

It is no surprise that the Hong Kong registered owners of ‘Portsmouth Water’ wish to capitalise on the value of the land that they own on the Havant site for the benefit of their shareholders. The emerging Local Plan shows a housing allocation (H17) for 135 housing units on the site of current office buildings in West Street and a Development Consultation Forum (DCF) held in November 2019 showed a proposal for a new Headquarters building and industrial units to the south west of the site.

That DCF raised serious concerns about the traffic impact on both the operation of the medical centre and on existing Solent Road traffic which is already often gridlocked at precisely the times of day that the NHS contract states the surgery must have its hours.

No planning application has yet been raised for either of these developments and no further Development Consultation Forum has been scheduled. Instead, planning applications are being drip fed in a piecemeal fashion without regard to the overall overall context in which they should be assessed. The granting of one application in isolation will clearly alter the context in which the subsequent applications will be assessed, potentially disadvantaging local communities.

In October, Portsmouth Water raised an Application for ‘Tree Works’ at the southern boundary of the existing office site, a thinly disguised project to clear trees in preparation for future development. Local objections were ignored and the application was passed through a delegated decision.

Portsmouth Water have now raised a further application for the creation of a new site road access from Brockhampton Road, ‘to improve access to the yard, following demolition of existing buildings within the Conservation Area’.

The proposed design of this new site access road appears suitable for HGV use, but whether this is simply for Portsmouth Water or to service the proposed new industrial units is unclear.

Either way, the local residents, together with the staff and patients of the Bosmere Medical Centre, deserve a clear answer.

In order to finance this development and maximise value for their shareholders, Portsmouth Water will clearly have a master plan showing how each of these ‘future projects’ integrate within an overall programme of work. We would expect the next application to be raised to be the development of the industrial units first shown at the 2019 DCF. This project will then contribute funding to the next site project, the development of the new HQ buildings. Once the HQ building is complete and occupied, the application for the demolition of the current West Street offices and the construction of the houses will appear. Havant Borough Council must already have sight of this plan given that their primary focus will be on ‘ticking off’ another 135 housing units.

However, each time that we ask for sight of this masterplan, all we receive is a stony silence. It isn’t a particularly tough question to answer, HBC already know the answer, they’re just hoping that by chipping away at these projects piecemeal, we’ll end up just accepting the additional impact of the increased traffic from the complete set of projects.

Of course, HBC may already have done the modelling of the traffic flows and found that there’s no issue here. But if that’s the case, then why don’t they come clean and answer the question?!

There will obviously be additional traffic in West Street and Brockhampton Road from 135 new homes, but that’s to be expected. What we’re pretty certain they won’t have modelled is the impact of the traffic servicing three industrial units and the new Portsmouth Water headquarters building, all routed through the existing dedicated entrance of the busiest medical centre in the town!

The Brockhampton and West Street residents and the 20,000 patients of the Bosmere Medical Centre, all of whom pay the Council Tax that funds the planning service, deserve some transparency here.

#rethinkhavant

Consultation on changes to the pre-submission local plan is available for comment until December 17

The following video provides a useful (?) introduction to what is required of you here:

Click the image to open the document.

Since the consultation on the Pre-Submission Plan at the beginning of 2019, Havant Borough Council have made a number of changes to the Plan which are now subject to public consultation. The consultation will mean that a consolidated plan can then be submitted for the independent inspector to consider.

This consultation is focused on the changes, particularly those more significant ones which are marked up with an arrow and reference number within the consultation version of the plan.

To read the details on the council’s website, including the links to the documentation and guidance on how to submit responses, please take this link.

New and revised applications linking East Street to The Pallant

Updated 29/10/2020 – Clarification of ‘supported living‘ application.

Just like buses, planning applications sometimes come in threes. One last week and two this week are worth considering together since between them they cover the missing link between the derelict frontages in East Street and the derelict frontage in the Pallant.

The common factors here are the local architect Peter Galloway Partnership, a practice which has clearly been busy over the last few weeks and months and the developer, which is ‘P & N Developments and Investments‘, operating under different company names from their Penner Road address.

Since there are rather a lot of drawings to look at, we’ve pulled out some of the details in this post.

While outside taking these rather badly stitched pictures in the rain this morning, I got talking with a local property owner whose vision had once been to convert this gap into “something attractive like ‘The Lanes at Brighton'”. Now that’s not really so very far fetched as an aspiration.

Sadly, in these sad days of ludicrous government housing targets and rather myopic local authorities, a few more ‘not quite’ shoe-box homes is what you’re inevitably going to see here.

Two more of the long running eyesore gaps in our town centre frontages, on the left, in East street, and on the right, in the Pallant, are the subject of three planning applications lodged in the past week.

On the slide below, East Street is on the left and the Pallant is on the right. The three numbered red rectangles show the rough site of each application which we’ll look at in turn, from right to left starting in the Pallant.

Application 1

The first application, APP/20/00913 is for “Demolition of existing buildings in a conservation area and erection of 2 No. 3 bed houses, 1 No. 1 bed apartment and 1 No. 2 bed maisonette.”

This includes demolition of the old Prince George Gallery, the single story picture framing studio and the former Streets kitchenware shop to its left. In their place, providing an entrance to the rest of the site, is this proposed frontage.

It looks tidy enough and the layout shown here shows two end-terrace houses joined by a ground floor flat and a 2 bed maisonette over three floors. In these drawings, The Pallant is on the right hand side, with the properties behind the frontage accessed via the arch beneath the ‘Guest bedroom’ on the first floor. Click the image to view larger.

Since it’s likely that vehicle access to all three of these developments will be via The Pallant, traffic in that road will increase very slightly. We say slightly, because there are only 4 parking spaces available for the twenty housing units proposed. Most residents are assumed to be using bicycles, buses or Shanks’ pony.

Construction traffic will prove to be a temporary issue, though it’s possible that much of the heavy delivery loads could be craned over from the Bear Hotel car park.

To view the main drawing as a PDF file, please take this link.

Take this link to view the full details of this application on the HBC Planning access site.

To comment on this application, take this link. You have until Friday November 13 to submit your comments.

Application 2

APP/20/00935 –  Erection of 6 No. 3 bed dwellings, with 4 No. car parking spaces at 11 East Street.

The second application is for a row of 6 town houses, with three bedrooms each and sharing just four car parking spaces. These houses will be accessed via the arch at The Pallant from the previous application.

It’s not clear why Peter Galloway has shown these frontages with six synchronised dancers on the doorsteps, but hey, we’ll call it ‘architectural licence’.

These frontages face west, with the backs of the properties overlooking the wall into the Bear Hotel car park. To all intents and purposes, unless you go through the archway in The Pallant, which I suspect will be gated, you’ll never actually see these townhouses.

Click the image to view the floorplans a little larger. Suffice to say, at 90m2 for a three bed, three story town house, they are perhaps a little cosy.

To view the larger drawing, including the other elevations, please take this link.

Take this link to view the details of this application on the HBC Planning access site.

To comment on this application, take this link. You have until Friday November 20 to submit your comments.

Application 3

APP/20/00933 – Demolition of existing retail unit (no. 9 East Street) and construction of 10 no. supported living units, use Class C2, 9 East Street

The last application, fronting East Street, is for number 9 East Street – the frontage adjoining Streets, in the middle of this drawing.

Use class C2 is for a ‘Residential Institution’ and looking at the Developer‘s company records, we assume that the operator is likely to be Dolphin Homes, registered as providing support for residents with ‘learning difficulties, challenging behaviour, physical disabilities and complex health needs, autism and Asperger’s syndrome’ who already run other properties in the area.

While the need for this type of ‘care in the community’ is not disputed, individual residents will have their own views on whether or not this is the best use for what should be a prime town centre property or whether, indeed, it’s the most appropriate location for the intended residents themselves. Within Havant Borough, Havant town already provides a fair share of such facilities and perhaps now other towns within the borough ought to be stepping up to the plate.

Supported Living flats, 9 East Street

The ten flats are spread across four floors, with associated support offices, visitor accommodation and shared social areas. Click on the floor plans to zoom in to the detail.

Take this link to view the details of this application on the HBC Planning access site.

To comment on this application, take this link. You have until Friday November 20 to submit your comments.

As a last word to the applicant, since Nitrate Calculations are now the ‘flavour of the month‘, a little more attention to detail might be good. We’d also question the maths. Surely, given the fact that half of these are single bedroom flats, the average population of all twenty of these housing units can’t really be 2.4? Oh, and your use of ‘Comic Sans’ as a font hasn’t gone unnoticed. Perhaps this is just your way of suggesting that this nitrate mitigation approach is, after all, a bit of a joke?!

(Yes, I know the next image is a repeat, but it’s only here because the default image that Facebook picks up is the last one in the post. Sigh…..)

Havant’s ‘Healthy Borough’ or Fortitudo’s ‘Healthy Profit’?

We’ve been looking a little harder at the old Southern Electric site on the corner of Petersfield Road and Bartons Road.

Poole based developer Fortitudo Properties, have their sights set on building another McDonalds and another Costa Coffee on what really ought to be a northern gateway to Havant Town Centre.

It seems that even before they applied for planning permission for the container stack on the site, they had already agreed a new 25 year lease with McDonalds at a rental of £105,000 per year. With Costa, they’d already agreed a 15 year lease at £78,000 a year. At the same time, they’ve offered both companies a 6 month rent free period as an incentive.

It looks like they’ll also be offering the buyers of the flats £500 towards their legal fees and a £1,000 John Lewis or IKEA voucher.

If you’re wondering where this comes from, it’s buried in the ‘Viability Assessment‘ accompanying the planning application, the best bits of which you can read here)

Now given that there are already two McDonalds within healthy walking distance, 38 minutes to Larchwood Road and 26 minutes to West Street according to Google, we hope that HBC will take note of what they themselves have written in their own Healthy Borough Assessment. (We’ve been here before, haven’t we?)

The maths is simple, in just over five years, Fortitudo will have recouped their costs on both fast food outlets and will be turning in a healthy profit to take back to Sandbanks at the cost of the health of Havant Borough residents.

Fortitudo wouldn’t have got away with it in Poole so we don’t expect Havant Borough Council to roll over on this one.

As that regeneration banner on Park Road South says – “Have Pride in Havant”.

If you want to make a comment on this planning application, please click this link and complete the online form. Comments must be received at the council by Friday October 30th.

If you would like to support Havant Civic Society, please click here.

#rethinkhavant

Southern Water – ‘Performance Status Red- significantly below target’

On Friday October 2nd, the Environment Agency published their long awaited ‘Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA) results 2019 for water and sewerage companies’ document and the results don’t make for happy reading for Solent area residents.

Click on the chart if you want to zoom in on the detail of why Southern Water have just been revealed as the poorest performing water company in the country.

The full Environmental Performance Assessment for 2019 is available here.

September Digest – A ‘perfect storm’ warning?

[Originally written as an email update to members]

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

HBC Warblington Press Release – Greenwash at its worst!

An excellent letter from from Ann Buckley, co-ordinator of the Havant Borough Residents Alliance, to the Portsmouth News in response to the recent HBC press release .

“I write in response your recent article “Trailblazing move to help housebuilding’.

My first reaction to this was, if Havant Borough Council had listened a decade ago and acted upon a motion put to the council on housebuilding and pollution in the harbours it would have been trailblazing, but they did not take action. The borough would not have ended up in the situation when most of the building industry locally has been on hold for more than a year because of nitrate pollution in Langstone and Chichester harbours.

Havant Borough Residents Alliance (HBRA) brings together residents’ associations and conservation groups from across the borough and has carefully scrutinised the progress of the Local Plan to 2037 over the past four years.

The council’s press release for the launch of the Warblington Farm Mitigation Site which is part of the Local Plan, seems to HBRA to be misleading and inaccurate. The press release states that the council has purchased the farm. This is not correct. The council has owned the farm for decades and has simply changed or regeared the farmer’s lease.

In your article, a quote from the environment minister Rebecca Pow gives the impression that Havant is about to get a nature reserve a ‘green open space for them to enjoy’. In reality the current scheme is for a third of the council-owned farmland to be taken out of agricultural production and then looked after by the farmer without public access. HBRA was told by the council there would not be a nature reserve for at least a decade.

The council’s cartoon that accompanied the press release shows a cow with a suitcase. This seems to indicate the dairy herd will go and as you say in your News article ‘reduce cow waste’. This is not the case, the herd and the much-valued Warblington Castle Farm Dairy, which delivers milk in reusable glass bottles locally, will continue. The council also gives the impression that the land is intensively farmed but that is not true either and the farm already has a rich coastal ecology with hedgerows,wild flowers and wetland habitat for birds and other creatures.

HBRA is also concerned the well-respected Chichester Harbour Conservancy and the Langstone Harbour Board have not been included in discussions about the Warblington coastal mitigation site.

The whole process leading up to Havant Borough Council’s decision on the Warblington site was lacking in transparency with residents excluded from meetings and some reports. Even towards the end of the process residents were told there would be a planning application for ‘change of use’ from a farm to a nature reserve, where details could be scrutinised, but that also was not true and has now been dropped!

It seems likely there will be no nature reserve for now but plenty of housebuilding in the Havant borough is again possible. Perhaps those new developments should include signposts for the displaced wildlife to their new off-site habitat at Warblington Farm.

Greenwash at its worst!

Ann Buckley
Co-ordinator HBRA

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.

Nutrient neutrality and the HBC Warblington Farm ‘initiative’.

While we welcome a positive news story for Havant, we should put today’s press release from Havant Borough Council into a broader context and in doing so perhaps remove some of the political spin. (To read the original press release from DEFRA et al, from which most of the text of the HBC press release has clearly been taken, look here.)

The issue of nutrient neutrality has been around since pre-Covid times, first discussed here after a Havant Borough Council meeting which we attended in January and highlighted by discussions surrounding the Campdown development planning application.

Since we all went into lockdown in March, Havant Borough Council have been scurrying around behind the scenes (and mostly under the covers) trying to find a way around the safeguards of the EU Habitats Directive while fobbing us off with an endearingly patronising video to explain the issue:

If that didn’t make everything crystal clear and explain why Havant Borough Council are taking over the lease on Warblington Farm, let’s have another go. It really isn’t quite as simple as they’d have you believe.

The serious issue at hand is the state of health of the Solent, a large estuarine system internationally recognised for its marine habitats. With increasing flows of nutrients into the Solent, the balance of the organisms inhabiting the Solent is upset, with increased algal growth depleting dissolved oxygen and killing the marine life on which the wild bird population depends.

Several rivers flow directly into the Solent, notably the Medina, Yar and Newtown rivers on the Island side and the Lymington, Beaulieu and Meon on the mainland. Other rivers and streams flow indirectly into the Solent through the four harbours, including the Test and the Itchen. Between them these water courses drain a large land area around the Solent, carrying significant volumes of nutrients, including nitrates from farmland, treated waste water from housing and industrial development, and surface water runoff, some of which, for example from roads, carries additional pollutants.

In August, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) issued a ten page briefing document which gives a reasonably clear explanation of the issue and the need for mitigation. Take the link to open the document in a new tab in your browser and do take the time to study it.

The purchase by HIWWT of Little Duxmore Farm on the Isle of Wight as a project to take it out of ‘intensive’ agricultural use and return it to the wild, seems on the face of it to be a neat idea. By removing the farm’s use of nitrate fertilizer from the equation and selling ‘nitrate credits’ on to Fareham Borough Council’s developers, it’s a ‘win win’ situation for all.

Or is it? Certainly it is for HIWWT who, swallowing their principles, stand to gain sales of £2M worth of ‘nitrate credits’ from their £1M investment in the farm. Certainly for the housing developers who get to move ahead with their development projects and certainly for Fareham Borough Council who now have the ability to meet more of their central government imposed housing numbers.

So how does this relate to Havant? Havant Borough Council’s action in taking over the lease of Warblington Farm from Henry Young provides them with the same magic money tree. The nitrate credits theoretically released by rewilding Warblington farm will enable HBC to sell them on to the likes of Persimmon Homes who are desperately keen to get on with the Campdown development.

The big loser in this game, sadly, is the very wildlife around the Solent that the EU Habitats Directive and the ‘Dutch Case’ set out to protect. Why? Because the nitrates being released into the ground from agricultural land take years or decades to finally leach through into the watercourses. While the objective of ‘re-wilding’ farmland is admirable, the benefits certainly won’t be seen in our lifetime. What will be seen in our lifetime, however, is the impact of the additional housing development which will now move relentlessly ahead, unchecked. The problem for the Solent and its wildlife will get worse, not better, for the foreseeable future.

The Solent is a uniquely valuable waterway, not just for its wildlife but to the communities that live around its shores. To safeguard that value, in an ideal world, we need to move beyond nitrate neutrality and actively plan to decrease the nutrient load, appreciating that the Solent area is probably already overdeveloped and overpopulated.

Postscript – September 14th 2020.

We’ve put together a page with references to various external sources which may help with your understanding of the Nitrate Neutrality issue. To check this out, go to havantcivicsociety.uk/nitrates, or just click the link.

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.