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.

WDRA AGM – Havant Regeneration

Our thanks to the Warblington and Denvilles Residents’ Association for inviting us to their AGM last Friday. Given the ongoing vacancies for WDRA Chair and Vice Chair, the meeting was chaired by the WDRA Newsletter Editor, Ian Crabtree. Hats off to Ian for a very well run meeting!

The meeting at the Stride Centre in Denvilles was very well attended and had, as guest speakers, Cllr. Tim Pike and Andy Biltcliffe, Regeneration Lead for Havant Borough Council. Tim Pike, recently re-elected as Councillor for St Faiths, continues in his role as Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Lead for Finance and Regeneration. Andy Biltcliffe also continues in his role as ‘Head of Regeneration (South)’.

It’s good to see continuity of accountability in these roles given the importance to us all of the Havant Regeneration Programme.

Andy took the meeting through his latest sales pitch for the Regeneration Programme. When the strategy was originally published, the scope of Phase 1 was defined as “Quick wins, sites entirely in HBC ownership & opportunities for income generation” . The new pitch presented by Andy at Friday’s meeting now includes ‘Havant Town Centre’ and ‘Brockhampton West’ in the scope of Phase 1 in addition to the Civic Plaza site. Phase 2, originally “More complex longer term projects “, now shows ‘Waterlooville Town Centre’ and ‘Leigh Park Town Centre’.

We’re keen to understand what the Phase 1 plan includes relating specifically to what residents perceive as Havant Town Centre since, let’s face it, development on the Civic Plaza site isn’t high on our list.

The original ‘Opportunity Havant’ document contained the following important commitment which was reiterated by Andy Biltcliffe in his introduction on Friday:

“Where necessary the Council will utilise its Compulsory Purchase Powers to bring forward schemes and will make the required budget available. This will give greater certainty over delivery of the Regeneration Programme.”

Opportunity Havant – November 2018

We remain cautiously optimistic that the HBC team will now put serious focus on the use of compulsory purchase to address the long term issue of the derelict sites in West Street and East Street.

However, when questioned on just this point, Andy replied that since the East Street development sites were for sale at a price well in excess of £1M, they were out of scope. He seemed surprised when we pointed out that numbers 5 and 7 are currently up for auction at Nesbitts on May 30th with a guide price of £250,000. We’ll be watching that auction carefully since, as we reported earlier this month, 44-54 West Street recently failed to sell at auction and remains on sale at £810,000.

Andy made the comment that since compulsory purchase requires compensation to the landowner of ‘market price’ plus ten percent, these properties remain out of reach of the Regeneration Programme. Our counter argument is that if, as Tim Pike commented, the prices being asked by these developers are unrealistically high, then the Council should step in and work with independent surveyors to determine what the real market prices should be.

Further questions from the floor highlighted that recent attempts to engage with the HBC Conservation Officer on the sad state of other Georgian buildings in East Street have so far fallen on deaf ears. This despite the fact that the very same Conservation Officer acts for Petersfield, where residents appear to get more attention.

This sadly doesn’t surprise us; interaction with Havant Borough Council via telephone or email is hit or miss at best, with emails rarely acknowledged, regularly ignored or simply badly handled by Capita’s Coventry based call centre. Perhaps rather too much emphasis is being placed on delivering flashy marketing communications setting unrealistic expectations. The ‘Homes England’ announcement is a case in point. The reality of the Phase 1 Civic Plaza development plan now seems considerably more limited in scope. Do not expect to see the JobCentre, the Magistrates’ Court or the Police Station redeveloped; Phase 1 development at that site now looks more like just a few blocks of flats on the Civic Offices car park instead.

The next whizzy graphic extravaganza will be on Thursday 13th June at the Meridian Centre when HBC will reveal an exciting new CGI video presentation from their PR partner.

We’ll be there, sack of salt in hand, just in case…

Lining up more Dominos?

We always love a good Gantt chart and the one published this week for the Civic Plaza Car Park Redevelopment Project gives us plenty of food for thought. Safely viewed on an A4 page or from the back of the room when projected at the Cabinet meeting, it’s reassuringly unreadable and slopes down in the right sort of direction.

By any stretch of the imagination, the Civic Plaza Car Park Redevelopment Project is a ‘complex project’, particularly if the external programme dependencies and overall programme governance approach are factored in.

So we though it was worth a closer look, starting with the green bits – the work done to date:

Task 3 has already been ‘re-planned’ to the right and we note that the ‘Homes England’ Funding Agreement, which on plan completed on January 19th, wasn’t publicised until two months later. (Perhaps HBC decided to sit on it for a couple of months.)

The much trumpeted ‘Homes England‘ grant of £3.5 million is actually being used to pay the bill for WBD (Womble, Bond, Dickinson), ‘Homes England’s regular partner in such matters, and while the actual projected costs of the project are not publicly visible, it’s probably safe to say that the £3.5 million represents a very small part of that.


Now we’re sure that WBD will have offered sound advice to the Cabinet Meeting at task 9 but we would be fascinated to know what the contingency plans for Brexit are. For the past few decades, public service procurement has been required to follow the well worn European Journal route indicated in tasks 15, 16 and 17, however, in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit that won’t work and an, as yet undefined, alternative must be used. ( Finger’s crossed, eh?)

Assuming that the EU Journal process can be followed, April is going to be a busy month, reviewing and scoring the questionnaires from prospective development partners. During May, June and July, HBC and WBD will be in discussions with the shortlisted candidates, reviewing initial schemes and developing the detail behind the formal ITT (Invitation to Tender). August holidays will be put on hold for some while the ITT is published to suppliers, responded to and returned to HBC, with selection of the preferred bidder taking place in September. October promises to be another busy month with the negotiation and acceptance of a Developer Agreement (DA) that binds the Development Partner to progress the development of the site in line with the Council’s aspirations around design quality, numbers and tenure and Homes England’s requirements within the agreed timeframe”. With that in place and HBC formal approval of the DA, appointment of the Development Partner will follow.

All by the end of October!

There then follows seven months of Design and Planning activity, four months to prepare the planning application for approval this time next year. I don’t doubt that we’ll all be invited to comment in the usual time honoured manner, but by this time the train will either be moving at express speed or will be well and truly off the rails. The overlapping of Detailed Design work with the Planning Approval process suggests that there will be little time for taking on board public comment.

Now most Gantt charts at this ‘sales’ level have a ‘here a miracle occurs’ moment and this one is no exception as we move into the ‘Construction’ phase. The dates on the left – the task start and end dates – now start to diverge from the right hand side of the chart, which suggests that this is a Powerpoint exercise rather than the output of a planning tool.

After four months of Contractor Procurement and preliminary work activity, a 22 month construction phase of the project kicks off. While the factory build of the prefab apartments takes place at an, as yet unspecified site, six months will be spent building new multi-storey car parking to compensate for that being lost through the development. Between October 2020 and March 2021, (Or should that be between March 2021 and July 2021?) it looks as if the Police Station, Magistrate’s Court and the Job Centre will be demolished, making way for the delivery of the prefabs.

Task 37, ‘MMC (Modern Method of Construction) Tool-up‘ is shown as running between ‘May 2020 and June 2020’, i.e. ending before the completion of contractor procurement. However, the graphic shows that activity running a more realistic four months later, through September and October 2020.

By September 2021, with most of the site assembly complete and only the completion of the ‘non MMC’ elements remaining, six months of Marketing and Letting activity begins. Or so it says in the task column. The Gantt chart itself shows this running nine months later, starting in June 2022, all rather confusing.

Project Completion either takes place between Jan and March 2022 or between June and August 2022, depending on which side of the chart you read. To the casual observer, the project completes by March 2023; to a more critical eye, it completes in August 2023.

So there you have it. Whatever could go wrong?

Civic Plaza ‘Car Park Redevelopment’ project

‘Car Park redevelopment’ may be something of a misnomer and it’s worth reading the document that was presented at the Havant Borough Council Cabinet meeting on March 20th.

In this document, you will find further explanation of the project proposal and the timescales. The timescales appear to be driven by conditions on the component of funding from Homes England. While that £3.5 million is being touted as ‘significant’, it is a drop in the ocean in the context of the full project costs. Take the link to this document and you will find an explanation of the ownership of the various sites shown in the chart below.

The fact that HBC own or can easily acquire these sites is the reason why they’re intent on this being Phase 1 of their Regeneration Programme.

The Regeneration Programme shows its true colours

And you’ll be delighted to see that the most well loved of town centre landmarks, the public footbridge linking the Civic Plaza to the historic town centre, is safely preserved in today’s publicity image from Homes England.

We already knew that Havant Borough Council were planning to invest their effort, our money and a modicum of grant funding from Homes England on new housing on the Civic Plaza site. Today they gave us a glimpse into how that might look in reality.

The image above might almost have been taken from the top of the last great white elephant, remember the thirteen storey tower block at the north east corner of Market Parade? If it’s hard to get your bearings, the five gabled unit in the foreground is built on the site of the Job Centre Plus in Elmleigh Road. To the left of that block, the magistrate’s court and the police station have given way to further blocks, masking – at least at ground level – the rather more utilitarian blocks built behind them on the existing Civic Centre car park.

It’s almost reassuring to see that Havant’s welcoming landmark, the decrepit railway footbridge is (just about) still standing proudly at the bottom right hand corner of the picture.

We look forward to the submission of the planning application safe in the knowledge that the planning process will most likely take its usual course, going through the motions, following ‘the process’, encouraging public comment then taking its own counsel.

Regeneration Strategy Approved! No surprise there then

The ‘Opportunity Havant‘ Regeneration Strategy Document first surfaced in public at the Cabinet Meeting on October 24th.  Just two weeks later, it was presented to the full Council this evening and after being proposed by Cllr Pike, questioned by three deputations from the public, seconded by Cllr Wilson and ‘debated’ by the full council, was approved unanimously.

Havant’s much vaunted Regeneration Programme has hit the road running!  Or so you might be led to think…

This is the town where bundles of tumbleweed and old McDonald’s boxes have rolled slowly past the faded hoardings at 44-54 West Street for more than a decade. The town where nothing happens. Don’t build your hopes up, despite all the trumpeting about ‘a new interventionist approach’ and ‘using compulsory purchase powers to bring forward schemes, making the required budget available’, it looks like the tumbleweed will be here to stay for at least another five years.

What we saw this evening was certainly not a debate in any accepted sense of the word.

debate
From the editor’s ‘Concise Oxford’, bought at a real bookshop in 1970, at a time when ‘selfie’ would never have been accepted as a noun.

Not once were any of the points raised from the lectern by HCS and the other representatives of the public speaking,  questioned or debated.

1) The Regeneration Programme documentation must be freely available to the press and the public. We see no justification for the exemption of entire documents; redaction of detail where necessary should suffice.

2) The Governance approach is lacking. We expect to see local communities of residents represented at the External Stakeholder level along with the professional communities who provide for our health, education and safety.

3) Phase 1 – i.e the next five years – must deliver tangible benefit in each of the regeneration areas in order to achieve buy in from the community. As published and approved, the only change delivered in that time frame will be on the Civic Plaza site.

Cllr Buckley could have triggered some real debate when he remarked that the most important word in the document was ‘interventionist‘ (it hadn’t been lost on us either).  In his opinion, the new approach would provide a means of empowering the council to do great things, providing the issues of Governance could be understood and grasped.

A deafening silence ensued.

One of our own ward councillors broke her meeting silence only once, raising the important question of whether or not the Mayor’s ceremonial chain of office could be worn if his driver wasn’t present.  Our other ward councillor agreed to investigate and respond.

Bless ’em.

#rethinkhavant

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If the content you find here is of interest to you and if you share our desire to make an active and positive contribution to the regeneration of Havant, please consider joining us. The outlay is small but the potential impact our combined voice can have is significant.  Please take this link to view the various membership options available, including a simple online form. 

‘That’ Regeneration Strategy document

OpHavantLast week proved to be an interesting one and this week promises to be no less so.

On October 24th,  Havant Borough Council’s Cabinet approved the publication of Opportunity Havant’ – A Regeneration Strategy for Havant Borough, 2018 – 2036′.  For much of last week, local residents groups were meeting in huddles, active with blue pens and brimming with ‘constructive criticism’ of the work.

If you’ve not already done so, it’s worth reading the document.  If you click on the link  above it will open in a new browser window so you can review it  alongside these notes.

Here’s our ‘boiled down’ précis of the content, section by section. “Text in quotation marks and coloured thus” is taken directly from the document, occasionally underlined by us for emphasis. “Text in quotation marks in this colour” has been paraphrased by us, the rest is our editorial comment.

INTRODUCTION

“This strategy sets out the economic case and opportunities for regeneration in Havant Borough. It highlights the key areas where direct targeted intervention will have the greatest impact and states what the Council will do over the next eighteen years to deliver regeneration – including governance, funding and resourcing.

The Delivery Plan then sets out the actions (including approvals, funding and project planning) that will be required to facilitate the delivery of phase 1 from 2018 to 2024.”

The document structure is confusing, so in the absence of heading numbers we’re grouping the rest of the document as indented below:

THE CASE FOR REGENERATION

Economic Development

“Havant Borough sits in a prosperous part of the South East of England with an affluent population/catchment and a high demand for housing. [but due to a variety of factors there has been]… a prolonged lack of investment in renewal in the Borough.”

“To break this cycle councils are beginning to realise that they will need to take a more interventionist approach. By directly driving and investing in regeneration projects councils have been able to halt or reverse decline and create conditions more attractive for private sector investment. The new political leadership at Havant Borough Council has signalled a clear ambition to drive forward the regeneration of the borough and have recognised that this will need to be adequately resourced.

Havant Borough Council has recognised and progressed the need for an active interventionist approach to regeneration.”

Housing Challenges

“To meet the housing challenges, the economic base of the borough is a key focus to sustain the wealth to take the area into the future.”

In other words, we’ve got to drive inward investment, push local wages up and stimulate the premium housing market while at the same time providing  affordable homes for 1,800 people on the housing list.

Economic Challenges

“Havant workers are lower paid, have lower skills and a lower value of role than the average for the South East.  More people commute out of the borough to work than commute into the borough to work.”

The Opportunities

“Havant Borough has a wealth of strategically and regionally important natural and economic assets that make it a prime location for investment”

A statement of the obvious which simply begs the question ‘why have we not exploited it yet?’

Key Issues & Objectives

An interesting section which, to our mind, is full of questionable ‘issues’, for example on the ‘reduction of Town Centre Retail vs Portsmouth’.  Given the overall success of Solent Road and the recent cautious growth of innovative small businesses in the ‘old’ town centre, we think the authors are not in touch with current trends on Havant’s retail frontage.

THE STRATEGY

“There are five key regeneration areas in the borough:

1) Havant Town Centre (including the Civic Campus)

2) Havant Strategic Employment Sites (Brockhampton West, Langstone Technology Park & Dunsbury Park)

3) Hayling Island Seafront (West Beach, Beachlands, Eastoke, Southwood Road, Ferry Point & improved access)

4) Leigh Park Centre

5) Waterlooville Town Centre

There is a need to improve access to the focal areas on Hayling Island. This will drive visitor numbers and increase viability of attractions.”

Regeneration Programme

“A schedule of projects has been developed in the five key development areas. This list makes up the Regeneration Programme. This programme is a separate, dynamic document setting out the details of individual projects including some which are commercially sensitive. The delivery of the projects on the Regeneration Programme will be progressed in a way that is focussed on the objectives of this strategy…”

Prioritisation

PHASE 1 (2018 – 2024) Quick wins, sites entirely in HBC ownership & opportunities for income generation

PHASE 2 (2024 – 2030) More complex longer term projects

PHASE 3 (2030 – 2036) Aspirational projects that are more challenging, or where market conditions are less favourable”

The Vision

Pages 12 and 13 of the document contain the visionary statements which have had many of the local groups most exercised.  There are six of them, one for each of the five key regeneration areas listed above.  Wait…. six?  Yes, the sixth relates to the ‘Civic Plaza Area’, conveniently listed earlier with ‘Havant Town Centre’.  The reason for this appears simple, in the first five years of the Regeneration Programme, the only site where action might be visible will be somewhere on the car park of the Civic Plaza, where we might expect to see 100 new houses.

We won’t see any change in our parts of the borough before 2025.

By all means read the text in those blue boxes, but do please have the salt nearby…

Approach

Picking out a few key word and phrases:

“Interventionist “
“flexible policies that adapt to our rapidly changing society”
“Integrate regeneration into the Corporate Strategy for whole council focus”
“Borrow to Invest”
“Pump priming”
“Where necessary the Council will utilise its Compulsory Purchase Powers to bring forward schemes and will make the required budget available. This will give greater certainty over delivery of the Regeneration Programme.”

We do like that last one (it’s on Page 14).

Funding

And here it is again (repeated verbatim on Page 15) as if to reinforce the fact that they’re obviously serious about it.

“Where necessary the Council will utilise its Compulsory Purchase Powers to bring forward schemes and will make the required budget available . This will give greater certainty over delivery of the Regeneration Programme.”

Delivery

“We’ve already engaged the architects of Berewood to produce some impressive CGI visualisations of what this might look like.”

Resources

“Havant Borough Council is not a commercial developer and as such does not have the breadth of skills and depth of resource required to carry forward such an ambitious regeneration programme.”

In other words, we’re going to have a ‘resourcing challenge’.

Governance & Management

A dull heading perhaps but activities critical to the delivery of such a complex programme of work.  Summarised in a few bullets and a ‘Governance Structure’  chart.

You might wonder why the ‘External Stakeholders’ box is so large and so vacant.  If you do, read our response to the document.Regeneration Programme Governance - 1

Appendix A – Economic Evidence Base

A few tables giving the evidence behind the suggestion in the document that “Havant workers are lower paid, have lower skills and a lower value of role than the average for the South East.”

That’s it, in a nutshell.  Our response will follow shortly.

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If the content you find here is of interest to you and if you share our desire to make an active and positive contribution to the regeneration of Havant, please consider joining us. The outlay is small but the potential impact our combined voice can have is significant.  Please take this link to view the various membership options available, including a simple online form.