Havant Civic Society keeps a watchful, and we hope constructive, eye on Havant Borough Council’s Regeneration Strategy. We note that the strategy is framed almost entirely in terms of building projects, both commercial and residential, with little mention of the necessary underpinning infrastructure. In our modern, digital world, fast and reliable broadband is an essential part of that infrastructure and should be regarded as a utility, no less vital than roads, electricity and water. It is therefore a little worrying that the word “broadband” appears only twice in the 334 pages of HBC’s new Local Plan, currently being scrutinised by the Inspectors.
Recent developments in the telecoms world have presented HBC with an opportunity to accelerate the arrival of fast, modern broadband in our area and we are keen to ensure the Council grasps it. You too, dear reader, have a part to play.
So, what is going on?
A recent announcement by Ofcom – Ramping up the rollout of full-fibre broadband – Ofcom – has made it commercially more attractive for telecoms companies to accelerate their ultrafast broadband plans in urban areas, rather than relying on Government intervention. Ultrafast is defined by Ofcom to mean broadband with a speed of between 300Mbps – 1Gbps, though may also be used for broadband packages with speeds faster than 80Mbps. It is also often referred to as Full Fibre. This is provided through Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology. (By comparison, those fortunate enough to live in parts of the borough served by Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) will be enjoying Superfast broadband, defined as speeds of 30Mbps or higher. In practice, it is often slower.)
The Ofcom announcement has prompted an eager response from network providers. CityFibre, a company that is currently installing its own FTTP network in Portsmouth, has announced plans to rollout full fibre to another 216 towns and villages across the UK between 2022 and 2025. Havant (east of the A3(M)) and Emsworth are included – see map here: Nationwide Full Fibre Rollout Programme – CityFibre. There will be a number of factors that influence CityFibre’s decisions on which areas to install first and, left to their own devices, Havant and Emsworth could quite possibly be 215th and 216th on their list. One of these factors will be the level of interest in having ultrafast broadband installed shown by residents and businesses in the targeted areas.
This rollout programme presents HBC with an opportunity to advance its regeneration agenda by proactively encouraging CityFibre to place us in the early part of their schedule. The large residential development coming at Southleigh, for example, would be an attractive business opportunity for the company and the Council will – one hopes – have an estimate of the number of businesses it expects regeneration to bring to the Borough. In turn, the presence of ultrafast broadband here will encourage businesses, especially small and home-based ones, to locate in Havant. Through enhancing homeworking capability, it will also reduce out-commuting, which is a key objective of the Regeneration Strategy. HCS therefore encourages HBC to grasp this opportunity while it exists – the CityFibre rollout programme is currently being planned and it will not be too long before it is finalised.
I mentioned that there is a role for you in this. First, whether you have a personal desire to improve your home broadband or not, please go to the CityFibre website and register an interest in their full fibre product: CityFibre – Residential. This is entirely without obligation but will help encourage the company to see Havant as a commercial priority. Please encourage all your friends, neighbours and work colleagues to do the same.
Also, do contact your local Councillor, to ensure he or she is aware of this issue and to encourage them to put pressure on the Council to be proactive. With a bit of effort and some good fortune, it is entirely possible we could see ultrafast broadband in our area within 18 months.
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:
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.
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.
Constraints: 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 crossing
Constraints: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 crossing
Constraints: 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 crossing
Constraints: 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 email@example.com.)
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 thecorporate 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.
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.
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.
If you go and look at the Havant Regeneration Programme marketing website at the moment, this is what you’ll see. A rather unprofessional window into the state of governance over the programme and certainly not the impression that HBC should be presenting to the external investors that they desperately need to attract.
But maybe there’s a bonfire behind that whiff of smoke.
On Wednesday afternoon, Feb 10th, The Cabinet of Havant Borough Council will be voting to approve the closing down of the Civic Plaza Development Project, the only part of the Regeneration Programme that actually existed as anything more than a whimsical visionary statement. The two potential development partners who’ve been waiting on tenterhooks to see whether they’ve been awarded the contract will be told that the project has been cancelled.
Regeneration Civic Plaza is dead, long live RegenerationCivic Plaza Plus. More on this later…
Havant Borough Council issued a press release today heralding the approval of the new Constitution by this week’s Council meeting. (The links in the press release rather confusingly point the reader to the old, superseded document, but we’re sure the Council Lead for Communication will be on the case.)
Wednesday afternoon’s Council meeting was chaired by the Mayor at a cracking pace and run as a completely virtual meeting for the first time. It was, however, at times a rather fractious and paranoid affair.
Appointment of the Monitoring Officer
The first item of interest was the formal appointment of Mr. Toohey as the Council’s ‘Monitoring Officer’. He’s been around as the Head of Legal Services since he was hired by East Hants District Council to help clean up the mess they’d dug themselves into. As a result, he knows a thing or two about the likely skeletons in HBC’s executive cupboard.
The role of Monitoring Officer has the specific duty to ensure that the council, its officers and its elected members maintain the highest standard of conduct in all they do, by:
Reporting on matters he or she believes are, or are likely to be, illegal or amount to maladministration;
Taking responsibility for matters relating to the conduct of councillors and officers; and
Taking responsibility for the operation of the council’s constitution.
Mr. Toohey was rather quaintly ‘sent out of the room’ while a brief debate was held along the usual partisan lines, with the Bondfields kid clearly star-struck and the elder stateswoman of Warren Park urging caution for a couple of months until we knew the candidate a bit better.
Approval of the new Constitution
The main event on the Agenda was the proposal introduced by Cllr Bowerman that the Council adopt the New Constitution. Before beginning the debate, the Mayor referred to a deputation from Mr Munday on behalf of the Emsworth and Havant Labour Party which clearly proved too much of a red rag to the prospective County Councillor for Emsworth and St Faiths. Following the Mayor’s invitation to introduce the debate on the New Constitution, Cllr Bowerman clearly forgot herself and launched instead into a party political pre-electoral tirade over the use of the ‘M-word’*.
Eventually, the Mayor restored order and invited Cllr. Francis to propose a simple amendment to the motion, an amendment born out of her recent experience of being deliberately excluded from Cabinet meetings on topics where lack of scrutiny has already suggested an issue.
That was fairly clear. ‘Standing Order 57’ clearly refers to the New Constitution, since its counterpart in the current constitution is numbered as ‘Standing Order 56‘. You can take those links and compare the wording if you wish.
Debate on the amendment followed, including a rather curious point of order from Cllr Hughes who seems to have misheard Cllr. Francis referring to ‘Standing Order 57’.
The debate proceeded along the usual party lines, but with Cllrs. Carpenter, Francis, Guest, Hart, Lloyd, Robinson and Scott voting for the amendment, and Cllrs. Davis, Howard, Raines, Shimbart and Prad Bains abstaining. All in all, an indication that all is not well and that a recommendation that the Standards Committee should carefully review Standing Order 57 would be appropriate.
The substantive debate proceeded as expected, with only one observation of note to report, this one from Cllr. Pike. The ‘Bevan Brittan’ document that he refers to can be found here.
It seems to be getting tougher as a back bench councillor, to try and keep tabs on what the Cabinet is up to.
Use of the ‘M-word’
The relationship between Havant Borough Council and East Hants District Council is ‘clearly’ intended to cover nothing more than the efficient shared services we already know and love. There is, we are told, no undercover agenda to merge the two councils and anybody who utters the m-word is clearly deluded.
It’s hard to see why anybody would view the sharing of a single executive overseen by a single Monitoring Officer as anything other than a simple ‘shared services’ agreement.
As the saying goes, “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it must, indeed, be a duck”.
Yesterday evening, Clare Chester, the Regeneration Lead for Havant Borough Council and East Hants District Council, presented an update on progress of the Regeneration Programme to the Operations and Place Shaping Board of Havant Borough Council.
We’ve been here before, of course, so we were keen to see just how much progress has been made since Clare came aboard. Back in March 2019 when the Cabinet approved the delivery plan for the Plaza car park development, we did rather question the level of detail in the plan. That was published twenty months ago and based on the content, we should by now have seen significant progress on the Plaza car park site.
Here’s Clare’s presentation. A word of warning, it’s a fine example of the communication style associated with the ‘Shaping our Future’ initiative and the link at the foot of that post might be useful while you’re listening. (Skip on to the 24 minute mark if you just want to see the presentation of the ‘new’ ‘Delivery Plan’, but don’t build your hopes up too high)
Fortunately, the technology held up for Clare’s presentation, and for much of the next half hour of questions from the board it was pretty reliable until gremlins started to creep in on Councillor Lloyd’s BT line. If you can’t spare the time to listen to the whole 36 minutes, dip in and out of the schedule using the guide printed below the video.
How much delay has there been to these projects? At what point will we be able to see whether this is a viable programme?
How big is your team Clare? (It’s tough counting as far as three and a half…)
And then we talk about “green roofs and Singapore”…
After a short while, the meeting resumes, picking up where it left off but with Cllr Howard voted into the chair to stand in for Cllr. Lloyd, who was still missing in action so to speak.
Meeting resumes, a new temporary chairman is voted in.
Clare continues to answers the questions
Councillor Lloyd reappears and proposes the motion “We would meet again in a quarter, in February, and at that meeting we would be shown the Development Plan and the Key Performance Indicators on each major project”
Motion passed – Unanimous
So there we have it, a lost opportunity to actually press for answers for some of the more searching questions. The Regeneration Programme can has just been kicked another three months down the road.
As far as Key Performance Indicators go, some of the basics wouldn’t go amiss:
Roles and responsibilities
Programme and Project Milestones
Key external dependencies
Key project dependencies
Costs – Planned vs Actual
Schedule dates – Planned vs Actual
Resource usage – Planned vs Actual
We could go on but we doubt that anybody is listening.
While the Regeneration Programme appears to be contemplating its navel, the bulldozers appear to be preparing to ‘regenerate’ parts of East Street and The Pallant. The left hand and the right hand seem to have little connection.
The following video provides a useful (?) introduction to what is required of you here:
Since the consultation on the Pre-Submission Plan at the beginning of 2019, Havant Borough Council have made a number of changes to the Plan which are now subject to public consultation. The consultation will mean that a consolidated plan can then be submitted for the independent inspector to consider.
This consultation is focused on the changes, particularly those more significant ones which are marked up with an arrow and reference number within the consultation version of the plan.
To read the details on the council’s website, including the links to the documentation and guidance on how to submit responses, please take this link.
With a minimum of fuss and only a modicum of fanfare, the Havant Regeneration Programme was re-launched in the Beacon Centre at Havant Borough Council’s newly acquired Meridian Centre today. Perhaps mindful of the ill-fated first launch attempt on June 13th last year, little or no advance publicity was given to the public this time around.
The Council’s negotiations to buy the Meridian Centre from the administrators was something of an open secret last year, nevertheless it was deemed that showing the video in public before the deal was secured might confuse some of the residents and businesses of the properties concerned and perhaps sabotage the deal.
Councillor Tim Pike, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Lead of Planning, Regeneration and Communities, opened the meeting with the following presentation.
You may be aware that some of the HCS Committee had already seen the video in confidence last year during a meeting with the Regeneration team and as a result had been keen to get it shown at our AGM on November 6th last year. Sadly – or perhaps fortunately – the General Election was announced the very same day and the purdah rule provided the perfect excuse for HBC to pull the video and any discussion of the Regeneration Programme from our agenda. A month later, with the deal for the Meridian Centre finally completed, the way was clear to finally put the video into the public domain and the launch event was scheduled for February 4th.
Warning # 1 – This is an ‘aspirational’ video produced by a typical marketing agency. Once you’ve watched it through and recovered your balance, try it again, this time hitting pause from time to time and clicking through frame by frame using the left and right cursor arrows on your keyboard.
Warning # 2 – Unless you actually enjoy call centre ‘hold music’, you might find it improves with the sound off!
Yesterday, members of the HCS Committee together with representatives from the residential community met with the newly refreshed Regeneration Team at the Plaza. Our intention, after taking in another preview of the video, was to start the ball rolling on building an External Community Stakeholder working group to engage with the Regeneration Programme. We were delighted to find that Clare Chester, the new Head of Regeneration and Economy, was clearly receptive to this initiative and we look forward to working together with Clare and her team to set this up.
If you’ve been following our previous posts, you’ll recognise that we’ve been concerned since ‘Day 1’ in October 2018 that the local community must be engaged throughout the full lifecycle of such a wide ranging programme of work. To be clear, by ‘local community’, we include not just the residents but also the local providers of healthcare, education, small business, emergency and safety services.
Together, we have the skills, the experience and the ‘skin in the game’ to help the HBC team get Phase 1 of the Havant Town Centre component of this vision moving.
Do you remember this image from a year ago? Well until now, it’s been the only still image made public from the video made over a year ago to sell Havant as an opportunity for outside investors.
The video launch was originally planned for a public meeting at the Meridian Centre back in the summer but the residents who went along were disappointed to find that it was inexplicably dropped at the last minute.
We’re pleased to be able to announce that the first public showing of the video will finally be at at our AGM and Public Meeting!
Cllr. Tim Pike and HBC Head of Regeneration, Andy Biltcliffe, will be coming along to our AGM next Wednesday, November 6th, and will be showing the full video to the meeting, giving us an update on the Regeneration Programme and inviting discussion.
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 Strategy.
Andy took the meeting through his latest sales pitch for the Regeneration Programme. In November 2018 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.”
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…