Taking Responsibility for Traffic Management

Updated 18/4/2021 07:00

Background to this article

A planning application is under review for an unnamed international warehousing and distribution company to set up a ‘last mile delivery’ operation at the former Pfizer site in New Lane. The 24/7, three shift operation will provide the base for more than 800 delivery vans servicing Hampshire, Sussex and Surrey, generating well over 5,000 vehicle movements each day of the week.

This is a long read in five related sections. If anything in this article strikes a chord with you, skip to the bottom, and write to your councillors. There’s a link there to help you find their email addresses.

To skip directly to a section, take one of these links:

  1. HBC’s lack of focus on traffic
  2. Traffic – What’s the problem?
  3. The railway bottlenecksFrom Bedhampton to Bosham
  4. The future of New Lane
  5. Postscript for HBC Councillors

HBC’s lack of focus on traffic

The current planning application for the former Pfizer site at 32 New Lane has raised a storm of objections over the inevitable impact that the development would have on town traffic. Each of those objections stands on its own individual merits but a recurring theme throughout is concern for the increased danger to cyclists and pedestrians, from school age to the elderly, from such a significant increase in traffic movements on residential streets. This additional traffic and its inevitable pollution will directly impact the three primary schools within a mile of the site. Sharps Copse Primary to the north, St Albans Primary to the west and Fairfield Infants to the south.

When the Council announced its new constitution in January, it predicted that it would “make the operation of the council more agile, cost effective and able to respond to the needs of the community.” The Constitution itself defines a role of “Cabinet Member with Portfolio Responsibility for Traffic Management”, but the fact that no Councillor is named in that role in this current Cabinet demonstrates the lack of priority given by HBC to the impact of traffic.

This is not the first time that ‘Consultee Traffic Team’ has failed to recognise that Havant has a problem with traffic. In fact, we’ve seen this exact same response on previous occasions, word for word, right down to the email address which still returns mail as invalid. These consultee responses are sloppy, but they’re not the fault of ‘KRC’, who probably works out of East Hants District Council with objectives that cover little more than parking and closing a few roads for Remembrance Day. Without any clear Cabinet oversight of the job, the ‘Traffic Management Team’ – if they actually exist – clearly flounders.

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So what’s the problem?

Understanding why Havant town has a traffic problem isn’t rocket science. The problem stems from the growth of the town around the fixed railway infrastructure that once formed the town’s transport hub.

The migration of freight from the rail network to the road network over the past sixty years has resulted in the construction of a brand new strategic road transport hub, out of town to the south west at Broadmarsh. New employment areas have been built alongside the A27 and the A3(M), enabling rapid connection between the employment areas and the trunk roads, with minimal impact on the town traffic.

In the 1872 map, below, the railway network is clear, with Havant Station in the top right hand corner. The second image, from Google Earth, overlays the new trunk road infrastructure.

As the area to the north of the railway becomes increasingly residential and personal car ownership continues to increase, the bottlenecks formed by the five railway crossing points present challenges for journeys outbound to, and inbound from, the A27 and the A3(M). With no high volume traffic route between the A3(M) at Horndean and the A27 at Southleigh, the former New Lane industrial estate is now landlocked by residential development and starved of efficient access to the national road network.

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The ‘railway crossing’ bottlenecks

Park Road North road bridgeConstraints: Uninterrupted by train movements – Single lane vehicle approach, two lane exit

In brief: This crossing is heavily congested at peak times, weekends and holidays due to downstream congestion at Langstone Roundabout, Elm Road junction and Solent Road junction. There is increasing congestion associated with home delivery and ‘drive thru’ traffic generated by the four main fast food outlets sited on Park Road South.
Bartons Road road bridge Constraints: Uninterrupted by train movements – Single lane each way

In brief: The bridge of choice for ‘the back road to Chichester’, heavily used at peak times by traffic avoiding the congestion at the A27 Chichester bypass rounadabouts. The nature of the traffic flow over this bridge will change considerably once the Southleigh A27 Link is built since that will provide the quickest uninterrupted route to an A27 junction for a large area of Havant. Furthermore, if ‘traffic generating’ businesses continue to be tolerated or are allowed to grow at the New Lane employment area, then this crossing will become the route of choice for access to the A3(M) via the Comley Hill, Whichers Gate, Horndean rat-run and to the A27 via Southleigh.
New Lane level crossingConstraints: Closed for all trains on the London line and Brighton line

In brief: Frequent traffic tailbacks across New Lane/Eastern Road junction to the north, and across the Fairfield Road/Waterloo Road junction to the south.
Southleigh Road level crossingConstraints: Closed for all trains on the Brighton line

In brief: Frequent tailbacks blocking access to residential properties and Warblington School.
With the New Lane / Eastern Road / Elmleigh Road rat run closed , this crossing may now be favoured by LGV traffic heading to A27 E/W at Warblington.
Bedhampton level crossingConstraints: Closed for all trains on the London line and Brighton line

In brief: Extended closure at times due to the short platform when long westbound trains stop at Bedhampton Station. Peak time local hold ups for commuter traffic to and from Southmoor Lane / Harts Farm Lane. These peak time problems will not be helped by the long term development plans for the Portsmouth Water estate bounded by West Street, Brockhampton Road and Solent Road, information about which is murky at best.

And further east?

Travel on eastward towards Bosham on the A259 and what do you see? All the way from Emsworth, through Southbourne and Nutbourne, a ribbon development of new housing crammed in south of the railway to help Chichester District Council meet its own housing targets. Constrained by the level crossings at Southbourne, Nutborne and Bosham, much of that new population will be driving to and from the nearest available A259/A27 junction, at Warblington.

Once the Southleigh A27 link (Option 1B) is open, just how well will the Warblington A27 interchange cope? (Answers, on a postcard please, to trafficteam@havant.gov.uk.)

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New Lane – Looking to the future

Sixty years ago, New Lane led Havant’s growth with the likes of Kenwood, Goodmans, Colt, Scalextrix and Britax. The quality and reliability of the West Leigh workforce with their famous ‘We’re backing Britain’ campaign encouraged IBM, Plessey, BAe and Siemens to invest in the Borough. As a regenerated employment area providing sustainable jobs within easy reach of the town centre bus and rail hubs, New Lane should have a great future.

Those famous manufacturing brands that were once synonymous with the New Lane estate have mostly moved offshore, with only Kenwood retaining office, shop and warehouse space on the site. Given its increasingly urban context, the site is now far better suited to businesses with sustainable day-time working and commuting patterns, ideally providing the local residential community with the higher skilled employment opportunities promised by Havant’s Regeneration Strategy. Eatons, Kenwood and Dunham Bush are all long established ‘good neighbours’ and with the opening of the corporate headquarters of Anetic Aid and more recently the new UK site for Sartorius, the potential for the right sort of growth is clear.

Businesses that generate traffic movements in excess of normal daily commuting should be actively discouraged and ‘managed out’ by Havant Borough Council, while office-based employment, technology based manufacturing and the type of high value, secure storage opportunities associated with the Solent Freeport should be encouraged. The Spring Business Park under construction on the former Butterick site, with Qvis CCTV and Security a convenient neighbour, could be readily adapted to support Havant’s Freeport opportunity,

A coherent strategy for the management of Havant’s traffic is the key to unlocking the potential of New Lane while at the same time reducing the peak time traffic which chokes the town’s road network. While the real authority on highways and traffic lies with Hampshire County Council’s Highways Authority, much closer liaison between the Borough and County council is required if we are to keep control of our streets and keep the traffic moving. The role of “Cabinet Member with Portfolio Responsibility for Traffic Management” should be recognised for its importance and should be filled with an appointee with vision.

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Postscript for HBC Council Members

The decision on this application is critical to the future of Havant. The wrong decision will simply exacerbate the existing traffic problems, will endanger the safety of residents and their children, and will deny the New Lane employment area the opportunity for the type of regeneration that will secure its future growth. The right employment profile will bring the business opportunities that lift educational standards across the Borough, just as the high tech businesses which followed New Lane’s first wave in the 1960s did.

A great many hours have been spent drilling into the documentation which accompanies application APP/21/00200, in order to arrive at an adequate level of understanding. For those elected representatives in decision making roles, the following paragraph from the Planning Code of Conduct is particularly relevant:

Do come to your decision only after due consideration of all of the information reasonably required upon which to base a decision. If you feel there is insufficient time to digest new information or that there is simply insufficient information before you, request that further information. If necessary, defer or refuse.”

The Transport Statement provided by the applicant is ‘topped and tailed’ with a soft, marketing spin that should not be taken at face value. The language in the ‘Summary and Conclusions’ is loose and the data within the document contains many inconsistencies and selective omissions. It is presented, as might be expected, in a manner supportive of the Applicant’s case so I would urge you to study this in depth.

An exhaustive critique of the document set would be a dry read indeed, so please just consider these two examples from the tables in the main document. This should give enough of a guide to the accuracy of its conclusions.

The first point to note in both of these tables is that the data shown covers a single one hour ‘peak’ in the morning, a one hour peak in the afternoon, and a total daily figure. The application is for ‘3 shift operation’ over a 24 hour day, 7 days a week, therefore the periods selected for these comparisons are not representative of the true impact of the business on the town’s environment.

Table 5.4 is used to demonstrate that, compared “to the previous maximum usage of the site the proposed development would generate less traffic both during peak hours and across the day”. That’s very convenient but also rather misleading since the ‘Previous Maximum’ numbers are theoretical, assuming the traffic that might be generated if the site were used to the maximum extent allowed under the planning permissions currently in place. This theoretical decrease of just 90 daily vehicle movements is referred to in the document as “significantly less vehicle movements”.

Table 5.4 is then used to demonstrate that the proposal would result in a decrease in both morning and afternoon peak hours of the existing site traffic, while only adding “an uplift of movements” to the overall daily total. This increase of 466 vehicle movements is referred to in the document as “slightly more traffic”. The residents of New Lane, who have lived with the operation of ‘the existing site’ for many years, question the veracity of the ‘existing site’ numbers quoted since they bear no resemblance to observed reality.

Not only are the authors of the Transport Statement creative in their use of English, but their basic mathematics is also equally loose. A nit, repeated too many times to be a typo, is their constant quoting of 2,415 vehicle daily movements. According to us, that’s slightly at odds with the source numbers for the proposed use provided in Appendix F, ‘Occupier Traffic Data’. That data source is a simple table that predicts actual movements arriving and departing from the site over a 24 hours period, based on the intended occupier’s existing sites across Europe (listed in appendix H).

We can safely assume that this data source represents just the HGV and LGV movements since there is no evidence in the data for the three shift staff commuting patterns the intended occupant proposes. Staff arriving for, and leaving at a midnight shift changeover will not be using public transport.

We looked at the occupier data and drew up a rather different picture:

The blue data is taken directly from Appendix F and shown for each hour of the day. The grey data includes the additional movements of the van drivers, arriving in their own cars in the morning to pick up a van and leaving at the end of their shift having dropped their van back in the vehicle storage unit. The yellow data assumes that there are 208 staff on site at any one time in the 24 hour day, with three shifts changing over at midnight, 08:00 and 16:00. Since the employee numbers, while clearly available to the applicant, are withheld in the paperwork, we’ve made a reasonable assumption that the 208 parking spaces allocated in the design are used by the warehouse work force. We know from elsewhere in the document that the van drivers will be parking their personal vehicles on the ‘van storage decks’.

In summary, the Transport Statement supplied in support of the application is at best, creatively misleading.

To view an earlier post containing a further selection of misleading ‘facts’, please take this link.

Please read deeply and consider the much wider implications of this application. The right decision will open the opportunities for regeneration that the town needs. The wrong decision will be remembered for a generation.

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Take the links from this page to find their email addresses.

If anything here strikes a chord, write to your local Councillors.


32 New Lane – The full story on traffic and jobs?

Updated – 03-4-2021:
Read the main story here
Read our media comment here
Read our ‘Fact check’ post here

Consultation on this plan officially closes on Tuesday but comments can still be made online after that date. If you feel strongly about this, please do make your views known. Full details are given in the ‘Main story’ post, see the link above.

So far, neither the applicant – Havant Property Investment LLP, better known as Kingsbridge Estates with Bridges Fund Management – nor their Agent – Luken Beck – has come clean about the name of the ‘intended occupant’ they’re proposing to install at the former Pfizer Cold Chain Warehouse site.

Nor have they come clean about the real impact of traffic generated by the site, submitting a Transport Assessment (aka Transport Statement) which is riddled with inconsistencies and misses significant detail which would clearly be inconvenient to them.

We were recently encouraged to find that Hampshire County Council Highways share some of our misgivings but we’re not yet convinced that HCCH fully understand the nature of Havant’s rat run traffic issues.

Nor has the applicant come clean about the number of proposed employees, having deliberately left section 18 of the Application Form blank. Of course it’s quite possible that they just don’t know how to fill the numbers in given the type of business proposed.

Maybe a change to the form would help here:

We took a deeper look at the likely number and quality of the employment opportunities that a site of that nature and scale would generate. Only after doing this could we predict the real impact of the traffic with any degree of accuracy.

There will be jobs, for sure. Not all current employees of the unnamed company will be consolidated on this site. But let’s just think for a moment about the quality of those jobs. Half of them will likely be self-employed drivers on target-driven pay, with deductions for rental of the vans they’re using, while most of the remainder will be low paid, low skilled warehouse opportunities working in three shifts, round the clock, seven days a week. If you’ve forgotten that Scottish Daily Record undercover report on Amazon’s Last Mile hub in Lanarkshire, it’s worth reading again. Click the link.

Having taken a look at the quality of those jobs, let’s first look at the scale of the traffic. Previously, we were considering ‘just’ the HGV and LGV movements from the site, totalling near 2,500 vehicle movements per day. As if that wasn’t bad enough given the dreadful state of Havant’s traffic in normal times, you can now multiply that figure by 220% to get the real figures once you add in the impact of staff and driver commuting.

Operations in the warehouse will be running 24 hours a day, on a three shift basis, with a midnight shift changeover which would potentially generate another 400+ traffic movements through the local residential streets between 11:30pm and 01:00am.

Let’s have a look at the traffic movements in and out of the site:

With almost 800 vehicle movements at the site in the peak morning hour, it’s no wonder that they’re seeking planning permission for a new, third exit onto New Lane.

We’ll be able to confirm those figures once the Applicant completes the missing details and we can be certain that when they’ve figured out the best way to spin the ’employment’ data, the number will be sold as the headline grabber. At the end of the day, however, the real headline grabbing number is this one:

Vehicle movements

each day.

All of them using the well known rat-runs.

The real losers?

While the whole town loses out here because of the traffic impact, it’s the young and the unemployed who actually stand to lose the most. This is hardly ‘levelling up’ the local economy to use a fashionably meaningless term.

When the full Havant Borough Council Council signed off the Regeneration Strategy on November 7th, 2018, they committed to the following actions on ‘Skill levels’ and ‘Earnings’:

To work in partnership with business to boost employment within higher value roles – managerial, technical and professional occupations to increase local spending power.

To work in partnership with business to drive up the skill profile of the resident workforce to take advantage of higher value roles created within the Borough.

To increase wage levels of Havant residents by driving up the resident skills profile and creating higher value job opportunities in key sectors

We expect Havant Borough Council to make the right decisions for the future of the town and its kids. Please don’t let them down. Above all, don’t throw away a site that is perfect for the kind of employment that would satisfy those actions.

This application should be welcomed, but only if appropriately sited south of the A27 or alongside the A3(M), sites which would also be in the best commercial interests of the unnamed ‘intended occupant’.

You can turn this into a win-win, don’t ruin the real opportunity you have with New Lane.


End of the line for the last town Gasholder

Do you remember the days when you could watch the local gasholders sink down as the nation cooked their Sunday lunchtime roast dinners? Well those memories have long become history.

In another small step in what we would like to think would be the intelligent regeneration of the New Lane employment area, a planning application has been submitted on behalf of SGN (formerly Scotia Gas Networks) “to determine whether prior approval is required for the method of demolition of one gasholder and associated structures”.

The old town gasholder sits just to the north of the Spring Business Park, currently under construction on the site of the former Buttericks factory which is still visible on this current Google Earth image.

It’s a small, but useful piece of real estate and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if Kingsbridge Estates were looking to add this to their New Lane portfolio. If they are, then we really hope that they have an eye to the future and would be looking to capitalise on the potential benefits to Havant from the Solent Freeport initiative.

Other New Lane business owners will be taking a keen interest in the opportunities presented by a Solent freeport, including the now Danish owned Eaton Hydraulics and the Yantai Moon Group, the Chinese conglomerate who now hold a controlling shareholding in Dunham Bush. With much of the DeLonghi Group‘s production coming from China and destined for export to Europe and beyond, their Italian owners will also be paying close attention to the opportunities presented by the freeport initiative for the DeLonghi, Kenwood and Braun brands.

Meanwhile, the New Lane heavyweights, Kattenhorn and Marsh Plant, will no doubt be looking at the potential ‘freeport bonus’ increase in the value of their land assets. Both own sites in the ‘land-locked’ New Lane estate, with business uses well past their sell-by-dates .

We’re living in interesting times and it would be extremely short sighted to waste a large potential freeport opportunity on a purely UK internal warehousing and distribution business like the one proposed for 32 New Lane.


Solent Freeport – What’s in it for Havant?

A few weeks ago, the Leader of the Council addressed a Havant Borough Council Cabinet meeting and expressed enthusiasm for the opportunities that the Solent Freeport would bring to Havant. In the absence of anything published since, I thought I’d take a closer look at what this might mean. (Warning, this is a longish read, particularly if you open the two documents which accompany it. You might want to put the kettle on first).

The Freeport bidding process

In the March Budget, the Solent was ‘shortlisted’ as the site for one of eight Freeports to be set up in the United Kingdom. In this article, I’ll try to explain what a ‘Solent Freeport’ might mean to our area, drawing from the detail content of the two documents shown below.

The three high level objectives set out in the Government’s ‘Bidding Prospectus’ were, at best, woolly:

  1. Establishing national hubs for global trade and investment across the UK
  2. Regeneration and levelling up
  3. Creating hotbeds of innovation

In their Response, the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership answered the ‘exam questions’ set in the Bidding Prospectus and concentrated on the opportunities.

The two source documents for this article, the government’s Bidding Prospectus and the Solent LEP’s response, are both available here: click the images and they will open in separate browser tabs. At less than 50 pages each, they’re fairly digestible to anyone with experience of reading or writing commercial engagement documents. I’ve put a few hours into reading them both and this article summarises my personal thoughts.

The UK Government’s Freeports ‘Bidding Prospectus’
The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership’s Response

The first document, the ‘Bidding Prospectus’, set out the government’s ambition for Freeports, the core Freeport objectives, and how they expected bidders to respond. The document set out the format in which the response should be written, and explained the marking scheme by which ‘competing bids’ would be judged. It provided additional detail on the UK’s Freeports model, including clear geographic guidelines on site design and size, and how ‘Freeport economic levers’ relating to customs, tax, planning, regeneration and innovation would work. The first three of these are discussed briefly at the end of this post.)

The ‘Response’ by Solent LEP covered all points in the required format, while identifying differentiators unique to the Solent – i.e. selling the reasons why the reviewer should choose their ‘proposal’.

In reality, the first document was a ‘Request for Information’ which simply painted a vision of what a Freeport might be, giving some high level technical ideas which might be applicable, but containing a number of questions aimed at soliciting more realistic solution ideas from potential freeport teams; an opportunity to put some meat on the bare bones of what is little more than an idea. The real competitive bid process will be some way down the line once the government have taken on board all the free consulting that the eight freeport bid submissions have provided.

Just where would the Solent Freeport be?

In summary, the UK Government document sets out the overall scale of a Freeport and demonstrates for a ‘multi-port’ model how the maximum outer boundary could fit with the local geography of the port facilities, regeneration sites, existing storage facilities and the motorway infrastructure that services them.

The bidders were required to “set out on a map the area where they propose the Freeport tax measures should apply in compliance with the government’s requirements”. This presumably is in an appendix to the Solent LEP response still deemed ‘commercially sensitive’ since it’s not yet been made public.

An interpretation of a possible ‘Freeport outer boundary’, drawn using the rules set out in the ‘Bidding Prospectus’, is shown below. It might be out by a mile or two in either direction, but would certainly take in the Havant Borough employment areas.

So what is a Solent Freeport?

The Solent Freeport would be an area designated by the government where companies associated with the freeport have distinct tax advantages. Companies that operate within freeports don’t have to pay import taxes (tariffs) on products until they move them outside the circle and into the full UK market. They can avoid paying certain taxes altogether if they bring in goods through the ports and airports to store or manufacture on sites within the circle before they export them again.

In the case of the Solent Freeport, this could allow for collaboration between the port areas on both sides of Southampton Water, those within Portsmouth Harbour and those on the north coast of the Isle of Wight. There are also intriguing opportunities for the smaller ports and harbours scattered around the Solent shore, within the ‘magic circle’. Since the northern part of the IoW and parts of Portsmouth already benefit from UK Assisted Area status, the definition of Freeport status would provide further incentive to businesses to locate and expand in those areas.

The key to making a Freeport work across the 1,500 square kilometres is in the strict control of movement of products between the various sites – factories, warehousing, customs points and port areas – using RFID technology and ANPR cameras. While the underlying technologies are well known, RFID tags to control inventory movements in shops and warehouses and ANPR cameras to manage speeding on motorways, there is a significant body of evidence concerning criminal risks in freeports and factors that give rise to those risks. Like other freeports across the world, the new UK freeports could also be used to store – without tax – high-value goods, including art, precious metals and fine wine. Such tax-free perks have transformed some freeports into self-storage units for many of the world’s wealthiest people with Geneva’s freeport alone estimated to house over a million works of art, including 1,000 Picassos.

So how might all this affect Havant?

In their response to the bid, the Solent LEP mention Havant only twice, in the same context as Gosport as a ‘significant pocket of deprivation’. Southampton, by contrast, is mentioned thirty-one times to Portsmouth’s tally of five and the Isle of Wight’s total of three.

But within this heavy Southampton bias, there are still opportunities for Havant Borough:

Dunsbury Park, alongside the A3(M) between Bedhampton and Waterlooville, could provide secure warehousing and distribution space within easily controlled reach of the Portsmouth International Port via the M275/M27 motorways. The main beneficiary of this would be Portsmouth City Council who own both the port and the Dunsbury Park site.

The proposed development of Brockhampton West, might also provide employment for warehousing or secure storage, though since Havant Borough Council decided to sell that gilded goose recently, the only financial beneficiary would be the new owners.

Langstone Technology Park and the New Lane Employment Area, intelligently redeveloped, could also attract secure storage and high end manufacturing businesses which could benefit from the tax advantages of location within the freeport boundary and the ability to import and export through Southampton and Portsmouth ports, or Southampton airport. Existing businesses on these sites, particularly those already in the import / storage / export business like De’Longhi, will also be carefully considering the advantages of the freeport offer. Kingsbridge Estates’ expanding New Lane property portfolio will benefit from careful tenant selection while other New Lane landowners will be carefully monitoring the potential ‘freeport bonus’ their asset values should attract.

The Freeport ‘Economic Levers’

The ‘Freeport levers’ are the changes that will be made by the UK Government to streamline customs rules, tax rules and planning regulations to aid ‘regeneration’ and ‘innovation’.

The customs and tax levers are not for the faint hearted and I’m grateful to our Treasurer for pointing me to this article by BDO, a global accounting organisation, which provides a few pointers to those changes

The subject that probably comes closest to affecting us is planning, where changes to Local Development Orders and Permitted Development Rights will be made at a national level to remove restrictions and delays for associated development within the new freeport outer boundary.

In their response, the Solent Freeport team welcomes the use of Local Development Orders (LDOs) as they “establish a clear framework for development, giving certainty to applicants, businesses and communities”. However, the process for securing an LDO is often “time intensive and requires skills that many Councils do not possess” and also “require the support of a wide range of stakeholders”. The Solent LEP response suggests that the Government improve the Local Development Order process by imposing strict time limits on their delivery. To achieve this, they suggest the establishment of service level agreements between relevant local government authorities committing to a reasonable decision period for various approvals relevant for a given site. Given the large number of local authorities across the Solent freeport region, they go on to propose “the establishment of a special Virtual Planning Authority that is facilitated by a coordinating institution with the cooperation of relevant local authorities.”

The Solent LEP response also proposes extending the permitted development rights accorded to ports to include assembly and manufacturing though they believe this would still not improve the planning environment enough to act as an incentive to potential investors. While the expansion of permitted development rights would simplify development processes on seaport land, it would still not allow for the greater freedoms or coordination in higher-level planning required to ensure Freeport success.

In what might seem to some a worrying threat to environmental standards, the Solent LEP go further, suggesting that “existing environmental regulations along much of the UK coastline supersede Permitted Development Rights, further limiting their additional value as an incentive”.

If you thought that public scrutiny of planning and development is already inadequate and ineffective, it’s liable to get a lot more interesting in the future.

Don’t hold your breath though. Freeports are not a new idea in the UK. The country had a couple of them as recently as 2012 before the government abandoned them for failing to deliver the expected benefits.

Bob Comlay

The Pfizer site plan – 2,500 extra HGV/LGV and 3,000 extra car movements every day – the 24/7 cost to our residential streets.

Updated – 02-4-2021:
Read our media comment here
Read our ‘Fact check’ post here
Read our update on traffic numbers and jobs

When we first reported on this one, we only had part of the story. To be honest, even now, we have less than three quarters of the story given that the planning application was submitted, probably deliberately, lacking significant information. It makes it hard for the Case Officer in Planning Services and just as hard for us to make sense of it and report on it. Such applications should never really get validated and loaded to the planning portal in that state. However, developers know only too well that we have to spend hours digging through pages of turgid nonsense before we can actually identify the critical stuff that is missing.

The application to build what it calls a ‘last mile’ storage and distribution hub on the former Pfizer site in New Lane is such a proposal. It’s one that, if passed, would generate around 2,500 new daily goods vehicle movements past residential properties and schools. In order to support those deliveries, we estimate that there will be another 3,000 commuting vehicle movements generated by three shifts of sweatshop warehouse staff and a car park full of almost 900 van drivers. These 5,500 vehicle movements will continue outside normal peak hours given the three shift 24/7 operation that’s proposed.

Almost all of the goods vehicle movements and most of the commuting traffic will be heading out to the A27 and A3(M), transporting staff and delivering packages to addresses in Hampshire, Sussex and Surrey while adding an unsustainable volume to the town’s traffic problems, two thirds of it at peak times.

The unnamed occupier plans to ‘consolidate their operations’ at the site, relocating operations, we are led to assume, from other, smaller locations within the three counties. The application states there will be 150 jobs lost at New Lane but remains completely blank as to whether new jobs are being created. In reality, the applicant is leaving the vital information off, just so they can come out with a banner headline like “DHLazon will bring 1,500 jobs to Havant” right at the last minute in an attempt to hold the Council over a barrel.

We remain optimistic that the Planning Committee will take a rather broader view of the pros and cons and not give up on what New Lane ought to be.

The proposal is to demolish the existing Pfizer cold store warehouse in New Lane and replace it by a large warehouse and storage unit with an equally large three floor multi-storey ‘car park’ for up to 866 Light Goods Vehicles – long wheelbase ‘Transit’ type vans.

Inbound deliveries will arrive by 32 daily HGV movements, mostly overnight, for sorting in the warehouse before loading onto vans for doorstep delivery across the three counties at the start of the day. The first vans will leave the site around 6am with the last returning around 11pm and all in all, there will be almost two and a half thousand van movements a day, seven days a week. That is a lot of traffic coming in to and out of the site.

From the the information within the documents which accompany the application, we can deduce a few things about the scale of the operation and so to help brighten up the graphics, we’ve made up a little logo for them:

Where this all starts to get a bit barking is in the choice of the New Lane employment area as a site. Most sensible last mile storage and distribution operators like DPD work from ‘edge-of-town’ sites where they can access the main arterial road network directly.

The New Lane employment site, which sixty years ago was an edge-of-town industrial estate, is now effectively landlocked by extensive residential development. To reach the major arterial roads, any traffic from New Lane must pass through the most congested traffic pinch points in the area:

  • Park Road North
  • New Lane Level crossing
  • Bartons Road/Emsworth Common Road junction
  • Bartons Road/Petersfield Road junction
  • New Road/Bedhampton Hill/The Rusty Cutter roundabout

You can see a few of the problems illustrated in the graphic below. Not only surrounded by houses but also surrounded by those traffic hot-spots and a lot of local schools. To get out to the A27, west or east, the site traffic will simply contribute to the existing traffic hotspots that lie naturally on its route. The same applies to vans trying to head towards the A3(M) via Purbrook Way and Hulbert Road or via the B2149 to Horndean.

That’s 2,500 vehicle movements a day, all generated from within the town, all trying to get out to, and back from, the major road network that’s out there on the edge of town..

DPD will be rubbing their hands with glee. The only time they need to negotiate these hotspots will be when they actually have a doorstep delivery in Havant, that’s just 5% of their journeys. Their competitor, should they unwisely choose the New Lane site, will be stuck in Havant’s traffic for 95% of theirs! (The percentage figures come from their own application, this isn’t rocket science!)

The issue for us all is that to meet their delivery promises and to attempt to buck the traffic, the applicant proposes to route their delivery vans through the most constrained residential streets south of the site, using the New Lane level crossing if they’re heading for the A27 east, New Road if they’re heading for the A27 west, or Park Road North if they’re just feeling lucky. In any event, they’ve indicated that they’ll be ignoring the advisory HGV routing on Crossland Drive as “dictated by local demand and current traffic conditions”.

It would be absolute madness for the Council to approve this application on this particular site and we appeal to them to take a very long hard look at this. The HBC Local Plan and the HBC Regeneration Strategy both very deliberately state an intention for ‘last mile delivery’ operations to be located at the current edge-of-town sites, Dunsbury Farm, where DPD have already set up a similar operation, or the recently sold Brockhampton West for which an appropriate outline planning application currently exists – APP/21/00189.

What should you do next?

Please take the time to read some of the documents that are available. Either on the Council website or on ours.

Where to go next?

New! If you’ve never viewed the detail of a planning application before, or have never submitted a comment against an application, you might like to read our simple illustrated guide which shows you how.

You can go straight to the HBC Planning Application documents for the Pfizer site application by clicking this link.

If you don’t have the time to wade through the application and its documents, you can read a summary of the detail in just seven pages, including an analysis of how it might affect you, by taking this link.

To go straight to the the official online form for making your comments, click this link.

Responses must be in by April 6th.

Sadly, it would appear that Havant Borough Council’s “Traffic Management Team” didn’t bother to read any of the paperwork before submitting their nine word response, circled in red, below.

Is it any wonder why the traffic in the town in normal times is so bad?!


Havant’s ‘Last Mile Traffic’ jam?

Ask anyone who lives in the town how frustrating the last mile of their journey to work or their journey home can be and the response probably wouldn’t be much of a surprise. Through traffic on Havant’s town centre road network isn’t exactly speedy at the best of times and when the Langstone roundabout gets gridlocked by Hayling or Solent Road traffic, we’d be the last to guarantee the time taken for a delivery van to get out to the A27.

This week, 400 homes around central Havant received leaflets from Havant Property Investment LLP giving advance notice of a planning application of some significance. The proposal is to construct a ‘Last Mile Delivery hub’ on the old Wyeth site in New Lane, seen at the bottom of this image from the flyer.

Given Havant’s position at the junction of the A27 and the A3(M), with ready access to destinations across Hampshire and West Sussex, Havant Borough Council have already recognised that a ‘Last Mile Delivery’ operation would provide a fine employment opportunity for the town and if it were to be sited in the most appropriate place, we’d be the first to agree.

“The proposals relate to a ‘last-mile’ distribution facility where small parcels arrive for onward delivery to customers in the area….. Delivery drivers would arrive at the site by various means of transport, collect a van and leave to make deliveries. The vans are fully loaded and make one delivery run per day between the hours of 6am and 9pm. The delivery drivers would return with the van once deliveries have been made, and travel home once they have returned to site. The commercial fleet of vans is kept on the premises overnight within the proposed storage facilities. “

A quick glance at the pre-planning sales pitch gives an indication of the scale of the proposed operation – think DHL or FedEx, and you’d probably be on the right track. There would be provision for the storage of around 450 large ‘transit’ sized delivery vans on three levels (’18’ on plan below), with additional van parking to the north and east providing for another 200 vans. Twelve unloading bays on the eastern side will receive a significant number of incoming HGVs from other national distribution centres. At the front of the site, car parking for 200 cars, plus motorcycle and bicycle parking will serve the staff.

While the statement is made that the delivery vans would make ‘a single trip’ each day, a longer term ramping up to multiple trips seems inevitable. As the vans are operator owned and badged they will be GPS tracked and routed and the opportunity to maximise efficiency through multiple trip scheduling will be taken.

We’ll be looking closely at the planning application when it is submitted but we can assume that this will be a seven day operation. Despite the planners’ protestations that “traffic generated by the site will not have any greater impact on local roads and junctions than previous operations on the site”, the increase in vehicle movements over the previous fifty years of site use will be substantial. We discuss this further down this post.

So while we would absolutely welcome such an operation in Havant, we’d seriously question this location.

Let’s look at it another way:

Havant’s Regeneration Strategy, and the recent shenanigans over the sale by HBC of the council owned Brockhampton West site, specifically targeted Brockhampton West as a potential location for ‘Last Mile Delivery’ operations. Situated fair and square at the junction of the A27 and the A3(M), an operator there could guarantee the access time for their delivery vehicles to and from the main road network.

Or perhaps look at it in yet another way:

Dunsbury Park, where Fatface chose to move their distribution operation closer to the main road network and where it’s been pointed out us that DPD have already moved in, would be another more logical site for a ‘Last Mile Delivery’ operation.

The former Wyeth site, which would need to be completely demolished, cleared and rebuilt seems to be a poor third choice.

A little history

Between the 1960s and 1990s, 32 New Lane was a significant manufacturing site for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, well known as the factory producing SMA and WySoy dried baby formula. Incoming bulk milk tankers were the predominant incoming traffic, with HGVs carrying out finished product.

The New Lane industrial estate was a major employment site in the town, with the West Leigh workforce servicing Wyeth and several other major employers, including Wyeth, Kenwood, Colt, Goodmans Loudspeakers and Lewmar. The majority of the manufacturing workforce were drawn from the local West Leigh population, many of whom would have walked or cycled to work and from my own personal recollection of working on the production line at Kenwood in the late 60s and early 70s, the West Leigh work force were a pretty special bunch.

By the turn of the century, everything had changed. Kenwood, bought out by Thorn EMI in the late sixties, had already established a new manufacturing facility in China, followed in quick succession by Goodmans Loudspeakers and Lewmar. Lewmar still retain an office site in Southmoor Road, while Goodmans for a while moved to a new, purpose built office unit alongside the A27 off Solent Road before joining the likes of Bush and Grundig as commodity ‘brands’ in offshore ownership. In 2001, Kenwood was bought by the Italian De’Longhi group, keen to get their hands on the new Chinese Kenwood manufacturing facility. The New Lane site was then reduced to a warehousing and distribution site for the imported Chinese products of De’Longhi with spare capacity leased to a variety of local businesses. Colt moved manufacturing to China and their head office to Petersfield, with their New Lane site demolished to make way for housing and light industrial.

Back at Wyeth, the parent was breaking up, with Nestlé acquiring Wyeth Nutrition and moving production away from New Lane. Pfizer picked up the New Lane site and built the massive cold chain supply and warehouse shed which towers over the town. While you might think that could have been useful given the current focus on vaccine distribution, Pfizer had already moved their facility to Ireland ahead of Brexit and put the site up for sale.

Which brings us to back to the present with the purchase of the site by Kingsbridge Estates Ltd and Bridges Fund Management Ltd. We look forward to reviewing their planning application in detail when it is submitted in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, as the flyer states, the developer is inviting you to view the detail in their pre-planning pack and to make comments directly to them, either via their website or by email to newlanehavant@lukenbeck.com. *

They will be welcoming comments until midnight on Monday, January 25th.

Looking back – with 2020 vision

While many of you have been locked down and treading cautiously, Havant Borough Council has been flying, sometimes above but often below the radar, while we’ve been doing our best to keep you aware of the fun and games.

If you’ve not visited this website for a while, there are a number of posts referenced in this digested read which you may find of interest. Click the highlighted links below to view further detail – there’s a good deal of it!

Town Centre News

New and revised applications linking East Street to The Pallant

We’ve seen not one, but four planning applications in the immediate town centre, all concerning local sites of long term dereliction. The first three cover the derelict space between Streets in East Street and the Pallant. Take this link to read our report on those applications. The fourth application covers the final vacant lot in East Street next to the Havant Club and you can read those details here. The fact that these four applications were from the pen of the same architect and submitted by the same local developer suggested a ‘done deal’ since all four building projects will need to be developed in an orchestrated sequence. It is highly unlikely that any of these planning applications would be turned down and while construction traffic management will be ‘interesting’, we welcome the prospect of finally getting something built.

With the progress also made on 44-54 West Street during the year, if HBC’s Communication Leader had any idea about marketing, he’d have spun these five projects as components of a ‘Regeneration Programme’, demonstrated solid progress and saved the Council some cash. Instead, their own update on progress of the Regeneration Programme in early November proved to be the dampest squib of the year so far.

Slightly further afield

Try our Christmas Puzzle – Spot the Difference!

Lack of transparency is an accusation being levelled at Havant Borough Council from an increasing number of sources. Given that HBC are now inextricably ‘joined at the hip‘ with East Hants District Council, this is something that should concern us all since EHDC already ‘has form’ on this. A meeting of the EHDC Standards Committee on December 11th was dedicated to the presentation of an external review of the Council’s governance and we would encourage you to watch our edited highlights.

Since the management teams of the two councils are one and the same, the behaviours prevalent in one are almost certainly pursued in the other. As the external consultant author of the report noted, the change of leadership already implemented needs to be followed by a root and branch change in the embedded culture of the organisation.

One clear example of the Council’s lack of transparency is the proposed sale of the last remaining significant land asset that the Council had.

Selling off the family silver again – Potash Terrace, a slight reprise?

In their over hasty and under scrutinised sale of the Brockhampton West site, Havant Borough Council have deliberately hidden the detail from the public, the press and their own back bench Council members alike, prompting one notable Councillor to suggest there might be a similarity with the Potash Terrace debacle. You might recall that HBC sold the Potash Terrace site for £3.4M in 2006, to a developer who did nothing for four years before selling it on for £20M. Central Retail Park was eventually built, several years after the Council had sold the land for a song.

This year, HBC has also demonstrated a tendency to ignore or devalue local democratic input.  While each of us have the right and the ability to comment on local planning applications, it seems depressingly obvious that the council simply treat this as a ‘box ticking’ activity and duly ignore the comments we make. Take, for example, the case of the Barratts housing development proposal for Sinah Lane on Hayling. You would think that an application with 544 public objections against it might at least warrant some intelligent debate. Take the time to listen to the video links in that post and make your own mind up about the quality of the input made by each of the elected representatives present. While there are a notable minority who consistently demonstrate integrity and principle, there are also the usual threatening barrack-room lawyers who seek only to sway the votes of the weaker sheep in Cllr Wilson’s flock.

It’s worth listening to our edited highlights of meetings to learn more about how your elected representatives work. Sinah Lane is just one example of a national developer holding a gun to the council’s head. Another prime example is Lower Road, Bedhampton, where it is Bargate Homes who have their finger on the trigger.

Southleigh Park

On a more positive note, the most recent encounter between HBC and a Developer was HBC vs Bargate Homes again, this time over plans to fell a large number of the glorious and venerable trees in the very private jewel which is Southleigh Park. This time, Batman was on the case and thanks to an eloquent deputation by Nik Knight, the Hampshire County Bat Recorder, HBC exercised some common sense. (Sadly, this display of common sense from the planners will likely be short-lived when Bargate Homes’ lawyers return with a loaded appeal.)

Other news in brief…

If you live around Brockhampton or if you’re one of the 20,000 patients of the Bosmere Medical Practice, you should be interested in the designs that Portsmouth Water have on their land between West Street and Solent Road.

The potential impact of the government’s draft ‘Planning Reform’ white paper, now pending the replacement of its offending ‘mutant algorithm’, has seen Conservative councils in the south of England in uproar – including Havant Borough Council.

The Havant Borough Local Plan crept inexorably forward with the final opportunity for public comments closing on December 17th. (Personally, this writer feels that the time is right to pause and declare a moratorium on all new housing development until the viral dust has settled and we can all understand what future housing need, work habits and commuting patterns really are. The one certainty in a post Covid-19 world is that much of the change we’ve seen this year will be permanent.)

“They’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same” – New housing on the former Colt Site

The Persimmon Homes proposals for Campdown, to the west of the town, looks likely to come back to life while we’re being distracted by our muted Christmas and New Year celebrations. We’re looking out for a new planning application for the site expected early in the new year, along with a separate application for a new Lidl supermarket to the north of B&Q. The geese are going to have a hard time finding anything left to graze on.

Speaking of which, if you managed to sleep through the Nitrate Neutrality issue, then the shenanigans over Warblington Farm provided another area of concern over the behaviour of the Council and its officers. All done for the geese, of course, (“Oh no it’s not!”) Nothing to do with unblocking housing developments. (“Oh yes it is!”).

On that Pantomime note, we offer you our season’s greetings and wish you the very best for a brighter New Year.


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A subterranean surprise at the Wessex site

Demolition at the Wessex site had been proceeding at a steady rate until the machinery struck thin air, exposing a large chamber about three metres deep on the site of the large workshop building on the New Lane side.

The surprise find has been tentatively identified as the site of a coke oven, a Victorian red brick arch briefly visible in the void before the machinery was put back to work. The brickwork can still be seen in the image below, behind the iron joist structure which has since been removed.

As a salvage worker on site remarked, this was “completely unexpected” before adding “you never know what you’re going to find until you break up the ground”.

To the south of the void, five large cast iron pipes are now exposed, presumably relics from the former town gas works.

A lost opportunity for a bit of industrial archaeology perhaps? For those interested, the developer’s original ‘Heritage Statement’ for the planning application can be found here.

Stop Press!

June 5th, the hole just gets keeps getting bigger.

Colt – ‘We’re backing Britain’, fifty years on

It’s a sad day for those of us who remember New Lane in the heady days of the late sixties.

In 1968, my first real ‘summer holiday’ employer, Kenwood Manufacturing, was supporting Colt in their famous staff initiative.  Boxes of Kenwood Chefs, Kenwood Mini foodmixers and the first ill-fated Kenwood Dishwashers left the plant with ‘I’m Backing Britain’ stickers lovingly applied.

Fred Price had been the mastermind behind Colt’s ‘I’m Backing Britain’ message, and with Kenwood’s staff quickly joining the movement it wasn’t long before New Lane and its predominantly West Leigh workforce were the focus of national news bulletins.  Lying between Kenwood in the south and Colt in the north were Goodman’s Industries, a once respected name in the British HiFi market.


Fifty years on, none of these companies manufacture in New Lane.  The Goodmans site was razed to the ground some years ago, Kenwoods has long been a warehouse operation for imported Chinese manufacturing while Colt moved their administrative offices up the road to Petersfield and their manufacturing ‘offshore’.

Love it or hate it, the Colt office building at the north end of New Lane was an iconic sixties structure.  Until today, that is.  The photograph below was taken this morning while the New Lane frontage was still there. By this evening, the machinery had moved large chunks of the frontage out, waiting for the concrete crushers that will be running for many weeks to come.


In its place, another development plan that will continue to have its fair share of public debate.  In years to come, some of us may begin to wonder why we didn’t campaign to get this building listed.

It’s a kind of Tricorn / Marmite thing.

(In fairness, this is a personal view and not necessarily the view of the Havant Civic Society)