A Housing Delivery Action Plan that’s short on actions

This may sound like a dry subject but read on, it’s actually rather important and will drive the way your town and its surrounding area evolves. (As always, click the underlined links to find out more. Internal links and videos will open on this same page, external links and documents will normally open in a separate browser tab.)

New (sustainable?) house construction currently in progress on the former Colt site in Havant

With the same sledgehammer wisdom demonstrated last year by the now infamous ‘mutant algorithm’, central government uses another mechanism called the Housing Delivery Test (HDT) to hold local authorities accountable for the delivery of sufficient quantity of new homes within their area.

The HDT is embedded within planning policy via the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). If delivery of completed housing has fallen below 95% of the Local Authority’s housing requirement over the previous three years, the test requires that the authority produces an action plan which assesses the causes of the shortfall and identifies actions to increase delivery in future years. This Housing Delivery Action Plan (HDAP) must then be updated every year until the council achieves the 95 per cent target.

In common with many other local authorities Havant has now fallen into this trap and so on Wednesday 13 January, Cllr. Hughes, Deputy Leader of HBC and Cabinet Lead for Planning, introduced his draft Housing Delivery Action Plan to an Extraordinary Cabinet meeting.

To view the 16 page document in another browser tab, take this link. To listen to Cllr. Hughes introduce the subject at the Cabinet meeting, play the following brief video.

Cllr. Pike had clearly done his homework by reading the draft action plan and had submitted a deputation to the Cabinet in response. In summary, he finds that the actions in the plan need to be clearer and tougher if the Council are to restore their housing delivery completion targets with the minimum of delay.

Listen to Cllr. Pike’s deputation by playing the following clip.

Cllr. Pike’s first point was not lost on us, rounding on the Cabinet for not making the draft plan available for proper scrutiny before presenting it for approval. In other words, another disquieting example of the lack of transparency evidenced elsewhere.

Having made the ‘lack of scrutiny’ point, Cllr. Pike went on to make three useful further points.

  1. The council needs to accelerate the plans for their own sites [at the Civic Plaza] which were identified in the Regeneration Strategy. These sites would contribute significantly to the target and should be clearly identified in the Housing Delivery Action Plan. He points out that the inclusion of these sites is particularly important given that there are other sites included in the five year supply numbers that are unlikely to come to fruition in the forseeable future – for example Long Copse Lane.
  2. The Cabinet needs to ‘beef up’ section 4.8 of the report and work much more closely with developers to clear the log jams in the system. These often involve the ‘statutory consultees’ on topics such as Trees, Infrastructure, Birds, Water and Roads.
  3. Cllr. Pike recommended that ‘heads be knocked together’ to get work started on the major delivery site at Southleigh. This site alone will contribute significantly to the five year housing supply.

(Although it is not an early release site in the Local Plan to 2037, this large green field site to the north of the A27 in Denvilles will eventually include up to 2,100 new homes. Large development sites such as this would generally deliver 50 or 60 homes completions each year.)

In summing up, Cllr. Pike reminded the Cabinet that housing delivery should be the highest priority for both the Borough Council and its residents and the action plan must reflect that with clearly stated actions, target dates and metrics in place to measure achievement.

Following Cllr. Pike’s deputation, Cllr. Wilson’s request for comments from the members was interrupted by Cllr. Hughes’ plea to be allowed to address the point about ‘lack of scrutiny’. Less than two minutes later, it almost seems as if the responsibility for slow housing development has been diverted to the hapless Regeneration Programme (admittedly an easy target).

Cllr. Wilson then opened up the meeting for general questions from the Cabinet members, starting with Cllr. Thain-Smith who surely had her tongue firmly in her cheek for questioning whether ‘we want to be an action led council’?

Listen to it next:

The Cabinet then moved on to debate the action plan and it soon becomes apparent that with the exception of Cllr. Bains, Cllr. Pike’s deputation has fallen on deaf ears.

Cllr. Bains started the debate off with undue modesty and not a hint of sarcasm by observing that the words ‘Housing Delivery Action Plan’ suggested to her that the document should actually include an action plan that needs deliverable outcomes. In doing so, she echoed not just the comments made in Cllr. Pike’s deputation but also the majority view from those of us listening to the meeting. Cllr. Bains went on to reinforce the point that one of the obvious barriers to building is delivery of associated infrastructure change, citing the ‘15 minute neighbourhood‘ concept and highlighting the fact that many of the sites under consideration lack the infrastructure that would make people want to live there.

Cllr. Bains reinforced the point first made by Cllr. Pike that with 1632 families on the housing waiting list, it is imperative that the council take stronger and more effective action by strengthening this document. Putting it bluntly, the Housing Delivery Action Plan doesn’t go far enough, the same message that we heard earlier.

Sadly, at this point the debate fizzles out and first the Deputy Leader and then the Leader of the Council seem to have lost the plot. Cllr. Wilson at one point appears to infer that since the ‘evolving’ plan will run to 2037 by which time everything will have changed, then there’s little point in spending too much time on it until next year. Cllr. Rennie’s contribution to the debate suggested that he’s been listening to far too many Downing Street coronovirus briefings. If only they’d stuck to a constructive and effective criticism of the document before them.

Listen to the debate by playing the next video clip.

With no further contributions and the content of the document unchanged, Cllr. Wilson moved for a vote on the motion proposed by his deputy, ‘Alpha, Bravo’ Charlie. In the absence of any other response to his request for a seconder, he stepped up to the task himself and the vote followed its predictable course. Another wasted opportunity.

So what do we think?

We are disappointed that there was no response whatsoever to the valid questions raised on the overwhelming need for ‘affordable housing’. For the 1,632 families currently on the Havant Borough Council waiting list, this remains a fundamental and serious issue.

We would like to see more officer time allocated to ‘implementation’ once a planning application has been granted, with funding for that role allocated to cover officer time. With more active oversight of approved applications, the issues we’ve seen in the past with lack of delivery on town centre sites such as the Wessex site in New Lane and the various sites in East Street and West Street, might be averted. We are painfully aware of such sites which, despite planning consent, have in the past been left derelict, with buildings part demolished and the sites standing empty for a decade, blighting our town centre.

As far as the numbers go, the target for housing completions has increased considerably over the last few years from 313 in 2011 to 504 for 2020-2021. You may recall from the widespread rebellion against increased targets last year, that the housing demand algorithm would have bumped that figure up to 962 for 2021-2022. In other words, the goalposts are constantly shifting.

While the housing delivery target keeps moving, the external influences on delivery in the past year have simply been impossible to contain. In the first place, the Nitrate Neutrality issue put a significant block on the building out of all but pure greenfield sites. The Warblington Farm nitrate mitigation scheme should now lift some of that block, but the ongoing impact on house building from both Covid-19 and Brexit will remain significant for months if not years.

None of these factors were within the control of the Council, and collectively they provide ample grounds for pushing back on central government dictates. Scanning the internet today for Housing Delivery Action Plans from other local authorities, we see that ‘Lobbying Central Government’ is a common theme among their proposed actions.

You would surely think that a Conservative majority Council in a parliamentary constituency with a safe Conservative seat ought to be able to successfully lobby a Conservative majority government in the face of such overwhelming impacts.

#rethinkhavant

HCS would like to thank members of the Havant Borough Residents Alliance (HBRA) for their contributions to this post.

Our membership and mailing list are showing healthy growth! If you’d like to join our voice, or simply be added to our mailing list, please take this link.

Southleigh Park – Bargate Homes ‘Application for tree works’

In previous years, Havant Civic Society confined its interest to matters pertaining to the immediate town centre. As might be evident from some of our recent posts, we now place equal weight to matters affecting the surrounding area and this post represents one such example. It also shows, for a welcome change, a good example of the Development Management Committee ‘thinking on its feet’ when chaired well, something which doesn’t often happen in our experience!

Bargate Homes are not the residents’ favourite developer at the moment so we attended last night’s Development Management Committee meeting with more than a little interest. The fact that the HCS website editor has a keen interest in both trees and bats added further incentive. The main subject of last night’s two and a quarter hour meeting was Bargate Homes application to fell a large number of mature trees, many protected by tree preservation orders, in the grounds of Southleigh Park to clear the way for another seventy houses. This is not an easy case to sort out given the previous permissions granted, and it made for compelling viewing* listening.

Let’s start with a little history of this site which has, at least for the last half century, been hidden away behind secure fencing. Motorists coming into Havant along Emsworth Common Road will be familiar with the sight of the boarded up Southleigh Lodge facing them as they contemplate the dog-leg turn into Bartons Road, but they will probably be unaware of the rest of the estate hidden within the trees.

Southleigh Park features the remains of an early 19th-century gentleman’s estate, the house still standing overlooking the former park. For more detail regarding its history, take this link to the ‘Parks and Gardens’ website**.

In 1968, Southleigh Park was bought and redeveloped as the headquarters site for the Plessey electronics company and after the demise of Plessey, more recently the headquarters of Snell and Wilcox. Plessey built the large glass and concrete office complex behind the house and that block is all that can be seen from the outside, looking through the entrance gateway on Eastleigh Road. We would be delighted if the office block came down to make way for sympathetic and appropriate development to take place on this site, providing that it is within the context of the historic park landscape.

When Snell and Wilcox was bought out by a US company, control of the estate passed to the trustees of their pension fund. In August 2017, the pension fund trustees then engaged Terence O’Rorke Ltd as their agent to submit a planning application for the complete development of the site. (As the residents of Lower Road, Bedhampton will be aware, ToR have a close working relationship with Bargate homes.)

The Southleigh Park site had already been allocated for housing in the Draft Local Plan with, we believe, an original allocation of up to 35 units. The August 2017 planning application for the site presented an outline for 20 units within the historic buildings and a further 70 to be built on the former office block and around the parkland.

In January 2019, this planning application came up before the Development Management Committee. That meeting, on January 24th, was not their finest moment as we had cause to report at the time regarding another matter. When the agenda turned to the Southleigh Park application, despite the fact that the Draft Local Plan had not yet been – and to this day has still not been – adopted, planning permission was granted. The 18 page decision letter can be seen here. Of the many conditions applied to the permission, number 27 is particularly pertinent to last night’s deliberations.

It is worth taking the time now to understand what is meant by a ‘Reserved Matters’ application; this one page explanation will help. Also, take note of the key clause, ‘unless otherwise agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority’. On the face of it, Condition 27 states that no trees can be felled, until such a reserved matters application has been approved.

Now for a few well known facts. Planning policies have loopholes, Local Authorities have weaknesses, and Developers employ expensive lawyers to back up their threats to appeal.

The planning application being reviewed at last night’s meeting was not the planning application for the development – that was passed in January 2019. The new application under review was submitted in August 2020 as an ‘application for tree works’. Had this latest application for tree works been passed last night, then the key clause of Condition 27 on the permission granted to the earlier outline planning application would have been satisfied. (Just think about it for a while…)

The application for tree works itself might look pretty innocuous to the uninitiated, but fortunately, Havant Borough Council’s Arboricultural Manager, Jamie Gargett, was on the case.

Click the link below to hear Jamie’s introduction to the proceedings which set a clear tone for the evening.

The first deputation made to the meeting was by Nik Knight, Hampshire’s Bat Recorder and a leading authority on the subject. (Some HCS members may remember an evening walk down the Billy Track from the Gazebo Garden with Nik last year.)

Nik’s deputation can be heard next and sets the first important environmental context for the debate. Do listen!

The next deputation on the agenda papers was given by Malinda Griffin of Havant Borough Tree Wardens.

A further deputation was made by Thomas Griffin, rounding out the defence case for the trees with a few more pointers to the National Planning Policy Framework and Historic England. Cllrs Lloyd, Patrick and Pike then made further deputations against the application. Councillor Patrick’s deputation is included here given that it expanded on the written deputation originally submitted and makes some powerful points.

As Cllr Patrick says, “This is probably one of the most prestigious sites that the borough has and would have made a wonderful country hotel and conference centre while at the same time providing hundreds of jobs for our local economy”.

The case for such a venue is strong. In the evolving post-Covid, post Brexit world, working and commuting habits will have changed permanently for many residents and businesses. Many decisions made prior to March 2020 will have become invalidated and there should be no valid objection to calling them back in for review.

Let’s face it, the entire Local Plan probably needs a complete rethink.

Bargate Home’s Head of Planning, Paul Thomas, then gave the sole deputation in support of his own application.

All other deputations can be heard by taking the link to the full meeting at the end of this post.

To get a feel for the rather emotionally charged nature of the debate, well handled with due clarity and balance by Cllr Satchwell, it’s well worth listening to the last 25 minutes of the proceedings. It’s not often that you hear participants referred to by their first names in these meetings, but ‘Clare’, ‘Jamie’ and ‘Steve’ all gave highly creditable performances.

(If you’re short of time, just skip to the 21’40” mark for the motion and the voting.)

In summary, this was public scrutiny working for once, a decent debate based on strong arguments, well chaired and consequently taking real notice of the public deputations. The right decision was made, despite Julia Mansi’s sometimes irritating contributions.

To view the entire meeting on the HBC website, please take this link and press ‘Join the event’. Pour yourself a drink first and find a comfortable seat, it’s an enjoyable, feature length episode.

Footnotes:

* In all two and a quarter hours of this meeting broadcast, not a single face was to be seen. Havant Borough Council’s broadcasting of meetings invariably has most participants hiding behind PowerPoint slides which makes for extremely dull viewing. By contrast, watch these proceedings from earlier in the week from their EHDC twin. Plenty to see there! (Surely HBC’s Councillors and Officers have nothing to hide?!)

** With a nod to HIGNFY, we note that Southleigh Park also figures in ‘this week’s guest website’, Redwood World.

To join us and add weight to our voice or simply to be added to our mailing list, please visit the HCS Membership Page.

#rethinkhavant

Brockhampton West – The blackouts come down

Tonight’s ‘Governance, Audit and Finance Board’ meeting should have been of particular interest, given that Item 5 on the agenda related to the ‘Calling in’ of the Cabinet Decision to sell the Brockhampton West site. You can read our report of that meeting and the decision in question by clicking the link.

Overview and Scrutiny Committees have the power to call in and scrutinise Cabinet decisions before they are implemented. The purpose of call-in is to enable the Overview and Scrutiny Committees to consider whether the Cabinet should be asked to review its decision. Call-in therefore provides an opportunity to ensure that the Council adheres to the principles of good decision-making.

The Brockhampton West decision was sufficiently controversial, particularly given accusations of a lack of transparency, that the Cabinet Decision was ‘Called in’ by the required number of six council members. Their reasons are given below:

“Following the decision made by Cabinet on November 18th, the following Councillors are concerned that the disposal of a significant asset such as Brockhampton West without full scrutiny is not reasonable and shows lack of transparency. The Councillors feel that not enough research has been done into how this site could be of more benefit to the Council in generating future income streams, and are concerned at the selling off of Council assets. They require to know the reason for the sale and what the capital gain will be used for. They require to be informed of what possible purposes the land could otherwise be used for if planning consent was achieved. Until these matters are further investigated in Scrutiny the Councillors are Calling In this matter for full scrutiny.

Cllr. Patrick
Cllr. Keast
Cllr. Gwen Robinson
Cllr. Patel
Cllr. Pike
Cllr. Smith”

In these strange times, when the public gallery is closed and participants join the meetings unseen from the comfort and distractions of their own kitchens, the meetings are recorded and put on the Council website. At least, that’s what the Chairman reads from a standard instruction at the start of each meeting. To be honest, if such recordings exist, they’re well hidden – we’ve yet to find one.

Never mind, in the interests of transparency, we try to bring the meeting to life by recording it for you here, starting with a twenty second ‘spoiler alert’.

OK, so what was once never transparent has now become completely opaque and we have little material to bring you. If you want to sit through the entire 15 minutes of the public session, take this link. (Warning, if you can listen to the whole thing without remembering childhood days watching Thunderbirds on the telly, you’re a better man than me, m’lady)

For those less patient, here’s Councillor Briggs and his echo kicking things off and letting us know who’s present in the ‘virtual’ room.

After the introductions, Cllr Briggs despatches the original points of the agenda in order ‘to allow full focus and time to be devoted to Item 5’, the subject of the Call-in, the sale of Brockhampton West. Towards the end of this next clip, Cllr ‘Parker’ teases us with the list of those due to contribute deputations to the debate.

Having given us a taster for what’s to come over the next few hours (well, at least two hours to our certain knowledge) Cllr Briggs explains his* reasons for pulling down the blackouts on the sale of Bedhampton [sic] West. “The public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information”, a curiously worded piece of standard legal jargon which proves useful in cases regarding freedom of information.

Note that Cllr Branson leaps eagerly onto the minutes to second that motion while Cllr Patel appears to be doing other homework.

So there we have it. Not really surprising, but nevertheless disappointing to us, as Council tax payers, to have been denied witness to at least some of those deputations.

With the HBC executive management team all present in the meeting, maintaining transparency may not have been high on the agenda since we understand that in their East Hants role, they may ‘have form’ on this.

What price local democracy eh?

The full unedited 15 minutes is included here, for diehard ‘Thunderbird’ fans only.

To join us and add weight to our voice or simply to be added to our mailing list, please visit the HCS Membership Page.

#rethinkhavant

*Footnote – presumably scripted by the Council solicitor

Lower Road Bedhampton – Bargate Homes raising the stakes

We see that Luken Beck, acting on behalf of Bargate Homes, have come back with a revised application for the land south of Lower Road, Bedhampton. This application, you may recall, was refused back in March this year. Having lodged an appeal to the planning inspector, Luken Beck have regrouped and reissued the proposal, accompanied by a supporting letter which displays much of the arrogance which so often gives their industry a bad name.

We quote from the letter in italics here:

“Further to the recent refusal of planning permission in respect of the above site and having regard to the principal reason for refusal regarding the impact upon the setting of the recently extended Bedhampton Conservation Area, Bargate Homes have revised their proposals to introduce much greater separation to Manor Farm Buildings which ensures that no harm arises to the significance of designated heritage assets. This is considered in detail in the accompanying Heritage Statement prepared by John Trehy of ToR.

The refusal of planning permission is currently the subject of a planning appeal to be determined by way of a Public Inquiry in February 2021 and this application is submitted on a without prejudice basis in the hope that need for the Inquiry can be avoided. As you will be aware such dialogue is encouraged and we hope you will conclude that the revised proposals are acceptable.

As previously, we are of the view that the proposals are entirely acceptable in the context of the site, its allocation within the emerging Local Plan and in the absence of a 5-Year Housing Land Supply within the Borough.

This resubmission, together with its thinly veiled threat, is backed up by a Heritage Statement from Terence O’Rourke, an ‘award winning planning, design and environmental agency’. It’s worth a read, if only to see just how much creative verbage such an agency can generate when charging by the word rather than by the hour.

The conclusions set out in this document contains the following wonderful paragraph, written in the kind of language that the Council will no doubt view as shaping their future.

“It is important to define ‘harm’ to demonstrate that the proposals do not lead to
any harmful impacts on the heritage resource. Harm is change for the worse, the
effect of inappropriate interventions on the heritage interest of a place that
reduces their values and recognised significance to society. Change, for example
visual change, is not in itself an impact on the significance of a heritage asset. An
impact will only occur if the change affects the contribution made by its setting to
its overall significance. Change to setting is only of concern in heritage terms if it
gives rise to harm to the significance of the asset, i.e. that the significance is in
part derived from the asset’s current setting. It should not be automatically
assumed that visual change constitutes an adverse impact or that more visual
change will be a greater impact.”

Change, for example visual change, is not in itself an impact on the significance of a heritage asset. An impact will only occur if the change affects the contribution made by its setting to its overall significance.

The ‘N’ word

The application is supported by this nitrogen calculation. Since this would be new development on former farmland, it’s a done deal, a theoretical net decrease in nitrate load. The fact that it will take decades to flush out the historic deposition of farming nitrates on this site is conveniently ignored by central government’s overly simplistic spreadsheet.

In the meantime, the new houses which will inevitably be built under this convenient excuse will be contributing yet more to the unacceptable storm discharges by Southern Water into Langstone Harbour every time it rains.

As we’ve said before, Havant Borough Council’s convenient solution to the nitrate neutrality issue will result in significantly more pollution into the Solent harbours before an eventual improvement in a few decades time. Simply re-wilding the fields south of Lower Road would be infinitely preferable.

To view the revised application, please take this link:

To comment on the application, please take this direct link before the deadline of Friday 11 December.

#rethinkhavant

‘Development Management’ through the looking glass.

Updated – 31-10-2020 – To add reference to the letter from Barratt

Last night’s Development Management Committee meeting was a good opportunity for our members and friends to embrace HBC’s new digital first mode of operation and watch the workings of local government. If you didn’t manage to watch it, don’t worry, you can catch it up here.

On the agenda was a contentious application to build 195 houses on land off Sinah Lane, Hayling Island.

As you can see, local opinion has been divided with just one responding ‘for’ and five hundred and forty four responding ‘against’.

Let’s first listen to the Chairman’s opening remarks by clicking the video extract, below. Pay particular attention to the bit at the end when she says:

“If at any point a member loses their connection, I shall adjourn the meeting for a short period to allow them to reconnect. As a reminder, if a member is not present for the whole duration of the item, they are precluded from voting

If you choose not to watch anything else, just skip to the bottom and spare the time for the last clip.

A little later on, it seems increasingly obvious that some of the members were having difficulty keeping up with the proceedings. (You might want to draw your own conclusions about whether they were all ‘present for the whole duration’.)

Have a listen to this next video extract. We say listen, because the council still haven’t fully embraced their new digital first approach to public engagement and started to use their cameras.

After that rather chaotic interlude, we come to the real stars of the show, the deputees who clearly show the way by fully embracing the new digital first engagement approach.

There then follows ‘the debate’. Now we’ve commented on the council’s interpretation of the word ‘debate’ before, so rather than repeat ourselves, you might as well watch listen to it yourselves here:

Given the divided public opinion, you might forgive yourselves for having guessed that the result might go against the public’s opinion, but you still might like to question whether the Chairman’s opening remarks had been followed to the letter?

Addendum

The elephant in the room here of course is the letter from Barratt with its documentation of their side of the story. The fear of central government that haunts this current crop of Councillors shouldn’t really be a surprise to those who put them there.

A tale of three councillors

If you watch nothing else, watch this next clip and listen to the commendable intervention by Cllr Lloyd as the Chairman is pressing for the vote. The Chairman’s initial response speaks volumes too.

If you want to listen to the whole debate, unedited, you could wait until the council publish it on their website. Alternatively, you could ‘binge watch’ it here:

Episode 1
Episode 2

#rethinkhavant #digitalfirst

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

That Planning Reform debate…

There were some excellent contributions from a wide variety of backbenchers – notably mostly from the same side as our own Alan Mak MP. Having read with interest the submission that he put his name to, we were looking forward to his contribution to the debate, a summary of which can be found in today’s Grauniad.

If you have 5 hours and 40 minutes to spare, you can watch it here on iPlayer for the next 29 days. If you want to skip the last 5 hours, you might just be in good company.

The Speaker kicked things off with a warning that since so many back bench MPs wanted to speak in depth about their constituency’s concerns, each would be limited to four minutes. Now there are a lot of important points about Havant’s housing concerns that could be voiced in four minutes by a dedicated MP so we settled down to watch.

Bob Seely, from our neighbouring Isle of Wight constituency, started the debate in eloquent style, with our man waiting eagerly for his chance (top left).

It was rather unfortunate that Bob Seely’s proposal was interrupted unnecessarily at times by other MPs clearly seeking selfies for their constituency blogs before heading for an early exit.

Then just thirty minutes into the debate, we note that our man had moved down beside Phillip Hollobone (Con. Kettering) and is seen here adjusting his tie before his own stage entrance.

Exactly 32 minutes into the debate, Philip Hollobone politely gives way and our man gets to his feet to use all of 12 seconds to tell the house that his ‘constituency of Havant has areas of high urbanisation and areas of environmental sensitivity’.

Here’s the clip. We catch Phillip Hollobone half way through his considered contribution, including the 12 seconds in the middle where our MP makes what might have been his sole mark on the debate*.

A few short minutes later and poor old Bob Seely looks remarkably short of support from this part of Hampshire.

* For the avoidance of doubt, We’d be grateful if somebody could watch the whole five hours and forty minutes of the debate at the link at the top of this post and let us know the time at which Alan Mak returns to make his full four minute contribution. We’ll then update this post for all to see.

Update: We’ve checked Hansard and those were indeed the only words spoken by him.

#rethinkhavant

The Bartons Road Southern Electric site is aiming for the architectural wooden spoon

For those of you wondering what was under consideration for the Bartons Road / Petersfield Road former Southern Electric site, all has been revealed in this week’s planning list.

Click on the image to get the idea. That’s another McDonalds and a ‘Drive-thru’ Costa at the top of the site, entrance from Bartons Road, with 191 mostly one bedroom flats in four six story blocks. (Well, we think it’s Bartons Road, even though the plan has it shown as ‘Petersfield Road’!)

Architectural beauties they are not, unless dockside container stacks float your boat. Still, it will help to get those housing numbers up and will enable HBC to trade a few of the Warblington Farm nitrate credits with the developer, although we note that there’s no nitrate assessment included with the application. We also note that these flats squeeze in at just 3m2 bigger than the newly proposed minimum floor area, but even so we still wonder just who are the intended occupants?

We’ve only had a quick look so far but the figure of 2% of occupants ‘working from home’ might seem a little out of date.

A matching two story McDonalds.

And a ‘drive thru’ Costa!

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 October 30th.

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

#rethinkhavant

Havant Borough Council urges government to reconsider proposed planning reforms

[Press release from HBC – 30-9-2020]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planning Reform – Councillors are revolting!

Yes, you read that correctly. Following on from our post on the CPRE’s take on the ‘Planning for the Future’ white paper, we’re encouraged to read in the press today that ‘a survey across Tory heartlands has revealed party representatives are baulking at ministers’ plans to sharply increase housing targets in electoral strongholds like Hampshire and Surrey and are rejecting attempts to cut planning committees out of routine decision-making.

Conservative leaders in councils are becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition to the plans which they fear could result in countryside being concreted over for housing and core voters deserting them in disgust.’ To read the full article from today’s Guardian, click on the image.

For Havant, the increase from 504 homes per year based on the 2014 numbers currently used, to 962 homes per year in the ‘new world’ represents a ridiculous 91% increase. Read our summary of the CPRE post and get in touch with your local councillors and Alan Mak to make your views known.