Havant Borough Council wins creative writing award

Yesterday’s press release from Havant Borough Council raised more than a few eyebrows among our members and peer groups. HBC have issued a press release on the subject of ‘the Warblington Farm initiative’ before and the residents’ reaction this time is broadly similar.

The HBC submission in the ‘Planning for the natural environment’ category of the ‘Planning Awards’ does deserve credit for the creatively worded executive summary’, reproduced below:

“This project has shown original thinking, swift action and true multi-disciplinary partnership working to not only deliver a solution to planning needs, but a genuine addition to the Solent’s ecological landscape and a new asset for residents. It enables development, and will educate the public about their local, world-class coastline.

In addition, particular attention has been paid to effectively communicating a complex, emotive subject. Considerable effort was applied to ensure that messages could be easily relayed to the public in numerous ways. Developers were provided with a gamut of materials to help them understand and engage effectively with the solution.”

Having watched that again, we hope that you share the view that this complex, emotive subject was effectively communicated, that you now have a clear understanding of your new asset and that you feel fully educated about your local, world-class coastline.

Perhaps next year HBC would consider setting a rather higher bar and going for something a little more taxing, for example:

#rethinkhavant

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.

#rethinkhavant

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.


#rethinkhavant

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

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

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

The full Environmental Performance Assessment for 2019 is available here.

Nutrient neutrality and the HBC Warblington Farm ‘initiative’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postscript – September 14th 2020.

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

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.

Southern Water – ‘I’ll get back to you on that’

For those who followed our report of Southern Water’s appearance before an HBC Scrutiny Panel on November 13th, we thought you might be interested in Southern Water’s responses, received today, to the questions they were unable to answer on the day.