Lower Road Bedhampton – ‘Same again please’

Back towards the end of November, we commented on the new application for fifty homes at Lower Road, Bedhampton, which Luken Beck had submitted on behalf of Bargate Homes. Their previous application had been convincingly refused in March 2020, and while Bargate had already taken it to appeal, somebody thought it would be a bright idea to ‘try it on’ by resubmitting it with trivial modifications. As we observed at the time, the supporting letter that accompanied the application didn’t exactly disguise their motives.

Fortunately, we’re pleased to report that at yesterday afternoon’s Development Management Committee, after debating the extent – or lack of – of any material change from the previous application, the Members came to exactly the same conclusion as they had in March 2020.

In addition to deputations from Local and County Councillors, there were three deputations from members of the public. Pat Brookes had submitted a written deputation on behalf of ‘Havant Friends of the Earth’ and ‘Havant Climate Alliance’. Philipa Gray had also submitted a written deputation as a Bedhampton resident while Ron Tate, from the the Bedhampton Heritage Alliance, had submitted a third.

Given the ‘Five minute rule’ on deputations, the three public deputees agreed that Mr. Tate should use the full five minutes to present his deputation, a strategy that worked well, as you can hear below. It fell to David Jobbins of Luken Beck to present the sole deputation in support of the application.

Mr Tate’s deputation, followed by Mr Jobbin’s, can be heard by playing the following video.

While Mr Jobbins noted that permission for the first application had been refused in March 2020, he observed that was only in respect of the possible impact upon the setting of the Old Bedhampton Conservation Area. For some reason which seemed inexplicable to all, simply moving it a few feet to the south east in the new version was deemed not to make much of a difference to this setting.

At the end of the day, the verdict was the same as it had been for the previous application submitted by Bargate Homes. The ‘revised’ application was refused by six votes with one uncharacteristic abstention – Cllr Keast.

While sanity has once more prevailed in the case of Lower Road, we are concerned with the apparent lack of adequate transport analysis. Faced with a 400 page Transport Statement by the developer’s team, based on largely theoretical traffic modelling, Hampshire County Council’s Transport Planner dismisses residents’ concerns in barely half a page.

As for the Havant Borough Council ‘Traffic Team’, their only contribution to the application was this: “The Traffic Team would raise the concern that there does not appear to be clearly defined the additional 20% parking allocation for visitor parking, as per HBC supplementary parking document July 2016. KRC”

Once again, the Havant Borough Council ‘Traffic Team’, demonstrates their complete lack of understanding of Havant’s traffic woes. We can only assume that ‘KRC’ works in the Petersfield office and has never travelled south of Butser.

[Note: Jan 15, we now understand that the HBC Traffic Team “only deal with parking and traffic Regulation Orders” and she is based at Petersfield.]

#rethinkhavant

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.

*Now where have we seen Luken Beck before….. Was it here, or was it here?

Looking back to 1870

A little lockdown diversion for you. We’ve had a few inquiries to the website from people asking what’s going on with the ‘Railway Cottages’ at Langstone, now that the remnants from the fire appear to have been demolished.

For the latest details, check out the planning history here. The local planning authority – Havant Borough Council – issued a Listed Building Enforcement Notice to the owner, who appealed to the Planning Inspector. The appeal decision makes interesting reading.

In the meantime, we’ve been looking at the detail of the 1870 Ordnance Survey map which shows Langstone Station as it was back then.

If you want to take a look at the rest of Havant as an extract from the same map, click the image below and it will open in a new browser tab through which you may zoom in to the detail.

Note – This map is shared for non-commercial use only, based on a privately funded download from the National Library of Scotland.

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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.

#rethinkhavant

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Portsmouth Water – Lack of ‘Master Plan’ transparency

If you’re a resident of West Street, of Brockhampton Road or if you’re simply one of the 20,000 patients of the Bosmere Medical Practice, you should take a keen interest in the designs that Portsmouth Water have on the land they own between West Street and Solent Road.

© Historic England – Britain from Above

It is no surprise that the Hong Kong registered owners of ‘Portsmouth Water’ wish to capitalise on the value of the land that they own on the Havant site for the benefit of their shareholders. The emerging Local Plan shows a housing allocation (H17) for 135 housing units on the site of current office buildings in West Street and a Development Consultation Forum (DCF) held in November 2019 showed a proposal for a new Headquarters building and industrial units to the south west of the site.

That DCF raised serious concerns about the traffic impact on both the operation of the medical centre and on existing Solent Road traffic which is already often gridlocked at precisely the times of day that the NHS contract states the surgery must have its hours.

No planning application has yet been raised for either of these developments and no further Development Consultation Forum has been scheduled. Instead, planning applications are being drip fed in a piecemeal fashion without regard to the overall overall context in which they should be assessed. The granting of one application in isolation will clearly alter the context in which the subsequent applications will be assessed, potentially disadvantaging local communities.

In October, Portsmouth Water raised an Application for ‘Tree Works’ at the southern boundary of the existing office site, a thinly disguised project to clear trees in preparation for future development. Local objections were ignored and the application was passed through a delegated decision.

Portsmouth Water have now raised a further application for the creation of a new site road access from Brockhampton Road, ‘to improve access to the yard, following demolition of existing buildings within the Conservation Area’.

The proposed design of this new site access road appears suitable for HGV use, but whether this is simply for Portsmouth Water or to service the proposed new industrial units is unclear.

Either way, the local residents, together with the staff and patients of the Bosmere Medical Centre, deserve a clear answer.

In order to finance this development and maximise value for their shareholders, Portsmouth Water will clearly have a master plan showing how each of these ‘future projects’ integrate within an overall programme of work. We would expect the next application to be raised to be the development of the industrial units first shown at the 2019 DCF. This project will then contribute funding to the next site project, the development of the new HQ buildings. Once the HQ building is complete and occupied, the application for the demolition of the current West Street offices and the construction of the houses will appear. Havant Borough Council must already have sight of this plan given that their primary focus will be on ‘ticking off’ another 135 housing units.

However, each time that we ask for sight of this masterplan, all we receive is a stony silence. It isn’t a particularly tough question to answer, HBC already know the answer, they’re just hoping that by chipping away at these projects piecemeal, we’ll end up just accepting the additional impact of the increased traffic from the complete set of projects.

Of course, HBC may already have done the modelling of the traffic flows and found that there’s no issue here. But if that’s the case, then why don’t they come clean and answer the question?!

There will obviously be additional traffic in West Street and Brockhampton Road from 135 new homes, but that’s to be expected. What we’re pretty certain they won’t have modelled is the impact of the traffic servicing three industrial units and the new Portsmouth Water headquarters building, all routed through the existing dedicated entrance of the busiest medical centre in the town!

The Brockhampton and West Street residents and the 20,000 patients of the Bosmere Medical Centre, all of whom pay the Council Tax that funds the planning service, deserve some transparency here.

#rethinkhavant

Southleigh Park – Bargate Homes ‘Application for tree works’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

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

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#rethinkhavant

Two councils, one shared executive and one common lack of transparency?

When we summed up the events of September, we wrote about the perfect storm that we find ourselves in. If you don’t remember, it might be worth going back and refreshing your memory. Towards the end of that piece we noted that HBC were charging headlong into an ever closer union with East Hants District Council

The executive and senior management levels of Havant Borough Council have already been replaced by the same individuals in Petersfield who run East Hants which, given the far greater strategic significance of the southern part of the combined borough, might appear to some as the tail wagging the dog. To all intents and purposes, Havant is being run by East Hants.

With this in mind, last night we attended a meeting of East Hants District Council Standards Committee. The sole agenda item for this meeting was the presentation and discussion of a report into the governance of East Hants District Council. (The full text of the report can be read by taking the link.)

Background to this report

In December 2019 a member of the Council expressed concerns about decision taking and the actions of officers, making a number of serious allegations. The specific allegations included ‘improper conduct’ and a case of ‘corporate corruption [by the Council] not personal… but the Council putting money in its bank account by taking decisions improperly and lacking in full transparency’. The email also contained allegations of having been ‘misled by officers’.

These allegations, together with pre-existing concerns that the Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive had about conduct and behaviours within the Council, triggered a wider review of governance. An independent consultancy, David Bowles Associates, was appointed in February 2020 to carry out that review. The report being reviewed at this meeting is the output from his review.

Cllr Malcolm Johnson, Chairman of the Standards Committee first introduced those present and conducted the usual formalities with the the members of his committee.

Two points to note, firstly, the EHDC officers present also hold the equivalent roles on Havant Borough Council. Secondly, this EHDC broadcast shows all councillors full screen, rather than hiding behind PowerPoint slides or tiny thumbnails as they do for HBC meetings. (When you can see ‘the whites of their eyes’, the presentation is far more engaging – Havant take note.)

Cllr Johnson then introduced David Bowles who gave a presentation of his report. This clip shows selected edits from Mr Bowles’ presentation. Well worth watching this given that there are many who question the level of transparency and quality of scrutiny that we’ve observed here with Havant Borough Council.

For the full presentation, refer to the full recording at the foot of this post.

The meeting then turned to members of the Standards Committee to ask questions of the report’s author and for him to offer his responses. Worth watching if you’re interested since there are significant details included in the discussion.

The full meeting recording is available below.

Unedited meeting recording

Brockhampton West – The blackouts come down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What price local democracy eh?

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

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

#rethinkhavant

*Footnote – presumably scripted by the Council solicitor

Retail in Havant – ‘A letter from Portsmouth’

With the imminent closure of their last remaining Debenhams, along with Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Topshop and Miss Selfridge, Portsmouth’s Commercial Road retail offer has all but sunk without trace.

The following post has been written by a friend of HCS who lives in Southsea, a regular visitor to Havant. Worth reading and considering just how much potential Havant town centre actually has!

Use it or lose it

“Many businesses, both big and small, rely on their trading during the lead up to Christmas to carry them through the rest of the year.  This year November has been lost due to Lockdown 2 which came in just as the shops were starting to bring out their Christmas stock and the pubs and cafes were filling their kitchens with seasonal goodies ready for the festive trade.

Perhaps you have already gone online and have ordered or bought-in Christmas, but I’m sure you still need some extra bits and bobs to get, so, please, if you can, go local.

Havant has a variety of local stores, and don’t forget The Spring, which is a little beyond the precinct and has cards and gifts (as well as a lovely café), plus there are lots of other cafes and hostelries around the town.

And, don’t forget the fine selection of charity shops which are great for cards and quirky gifts, and the florists and hairdressers, and . . . . yes, also the Havant branches of larger companies too, which you are very fortunate to have.  (Portsmouth’s sole remaining M&S is a ‘food only’ store on the airport site, not in its main shopping centre – hardly accessible if you don’t have a car!)

The independent businesses are a vital part of Havant.  Spending locally invests in the community and their example encourages others to come in.

I mustn’t gossip but I’ve heard that independent businesses have been denied premises in the Havant town centre because the landlords insist on holding out for a ‘big name store’. Don’t these people read the news?  In the last couple of years many so-called “names” have disappeared and many are to follow.  If I were a landlord I would want some rent money rather than an empty shop.  So, surely a local independent business is ‘win-win’? 

A good market town, and Havant is one, is one that has a variety of local businesses supported by the community.  Lots of new housing is being proposed and built in and around Havant, it would be great if these new residents can do much of their shopping locally too.     

So today, now that the Lockdown is over, if you can, seek out and support the local businesses, most will have also spent a lot of money to make their premises Covid safe, make it money well spent.  Your local high street needs you!

And another thing . . . Portsmouth City Council has supported a project to use the ground floor of the empty Southsea Debenhams store as a monthly indoor market which has been incredibly popular (sadly the November events didn’t happen because of Lockdown rules).  There is empty space in the Meridian Centre, which is now owned by Havant Borough Council, which could be used creatively, instead it’s left empty.  It is a prime asset.  Why can’t it be used for ‘something’?  It’s a little further out but North Street Arcade would be a great space for an open air market or even as a performance space, bringing more business to the shops in that area.   Just a thought.  

Happy, and safe, local shopping! ”    

And just a reminder of a few of the national retailers, mostly within walking distance of Havant town centre:

The Fairfield School horse chestnut trees are to be felled

Sad news in the current planning list, the two large horse chestnut trees outside Fairfield School are to be felled as part of extensive tree works taking place within the school grounds. The details of the plan can be found at this link.

The trees affected are shown on this plan, with the key to proposed works below:

T1. Horse Chestnut. Fell over mature tree.
T2. Horse Chestnut. Fell over mature declining tree.
T3. Beech. Crown lift to 3m over footpath, 5m over road
T4. Sycamore. Crown lift over shed, 2m clearance
T5. Sycamore. Crown lift off building, 2m clearance.
T6. Sycamore. Crown lift to 5m over car parking area
T7. Sorbus aria x 2. Crown lift to 2m
T8. Dead Tree. Fell
T9. Sycamore. Prune branches away from neighbours building, 2m clearance
T10. Sycamore. Prune branches away from neighbours building, 2m clearance
T11. Willow. Coppice to 1m failed multi stemmed tree.
T12. Willow. Coppice to 1m
T13. Willow. Coppice to 1m failed tree
T14. Willow. Coppice to 1m storm damaged tree.