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Havant Borough Council urges government to reconsider proposed planning reforms

[Press release from HBC – 30-9-2020]

“Havant Borough Council is urging central government to urgently reconsider its proposed planning system reforms which would see the number of homes in the borough nearly doubling.

The council has sent a formal response as part of the consultation and is robustly arguing against the proposed changes and highlighting the detrimental impact they would have on the borough.

The method currently used by government to calculate the minimum number of homes to be planned for is the Standard Housing Method. Each local authority has its own target, and Havant Borough Council’s current target is 504 new homes per annum. The proposed changes to the planning system would see this increase to 963 homes per annum – an increase of 91%.

Havant Borough Council considers itself a pro-development local authority with a history of swift action of developing Local Plans to meet informed and proven development need. Nonetheless, as a small, constrained and heavily urbanised local authority, site availability to meet housing need is extremely limited.

The council is currently in the final stages of developing a 15 year Local Plan which would see development at levels based on the current Standard Housing Method. The council is committed to building high level, quality, sustainable homes and this is achievable under the current Standard Housing Method with even a modest buffer.

The council recognises that development is needed because it ensures towns and communities stay relevant to the world around them and thrive in new opportunities that arise – but that the proposed new scale is too much for the borough.

Councillor Gary Hughes (Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Lead for Planning)  said: “We have a moral obligation to meet the need for housing in our communities and make sure that our young people have the same opportunities that we have enjoyed. That is why I fully support our Local Plan’s provision of more than 500 new homes in the borough per year up to 2037.

“Nonetheless, with the amount of land that we have available, it is a struggle to get to this level and will require substantial intervention from the council to come close. To then propose almost doubling the figure is simply impossible and cannot be achieved.

“We are calling on the government to amend the proposed reforms to make sure that they are fair and realistic.”

Cllr Hughes’ robust response to government highlights that it would be impossible for the borough to meet the proposed new targets due to the constraints of the borough and the finite land available. Concern is also raised over the proposed targets forcing the council to allow any form of development, as under proposed changes it will also not have the capability to share housing targets with other authorities.

Furthermore, Councillor Hughes argues that The National Planning Policy Framework (which defines development for the nation) insists that all development meets three objectives – that they support local economic, social and environmental requirements. Councillor Hughes highlights that the proposed changes to the planning system contradicts existing policies which are known to support enhancing the natural, built and historic elements of our local environment.”

For further background to this, please see our main post on the topic.

Planning Reform – Councillors are revolting!

Yes, you read that correctly. Following on from our post on the CPRE’s take on the ‘Planning for the Future’ white paper, we’re encouraged to read in the press today that ‘a survey across Tory heartlands has revealed party representatives are baulking at ministers’ plans to sharply increase housing targets in electoral strongholds like Hampshire and Surrey and are rejecting attempts to cut planning committees out of routine decision-making.

Conservative leaders in councils are becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition to the plans which they fear could result in countryside being concreted over for housing and core voters deserting them in disgust.’ To read the full article from today’s Guardian, click on the image.

For Havant, the increase from 504 homes per year based on the 2014 numbers currently used, to 962 homes per year in the ‘new world’ represents a ridiculous 91% increase. Read our summary of the CPRE post and get in touch with your local councillors and Alan Mak to make your views known.

Debating the ‘Shaping’ of ‘our Future’

Wednesday evening’s council meeting lived up to expectations. Not a particularly hard challenge since expectations were frankly not high to start with. It was the first time I’d watched a full council meeting via Skype for Business and all I can say is I sincerely hope that the the council’s move to Microsoft Teams Live Events provides a better ‘user experience’ for us council tax payers. Netflix it isn’t.

The main reason for sitting in on it was to watch the debate on the ‘Shaping our Future‘ initiative. This also went as well as might have been expected. With four council members and the Mayor in the chamber, the rest were remote, some attentive, the others probably distracted by their phones as has been observed in these pages before. No change there then. We weren’t even given the opportunity to examine our councillor’s personal background bookshelf arrangements and just had to put up with the single live (?) feed shown in this image.

The document under debate can be seen here. Put in simple terms, Havant Borough Council agreed a few years back to an executive takeover by East Hants District Council, so having followed it by the abdication of the next level of management down, isn’t it obvious that they should now move to a single, shared workforce at all levels of the company. (Ooops sorry, I mean ‘democratic institution’)

This point wasn’t lost on Councillor Beryl Francis who pointed out that the decisions taken so far on this topic had lacked even council scrutiny, let alone public scrutiny. At the end of the ‘debate’, Cllr Francis was the only member who appeared to vote with her conscience, with regard to her constituents and on behalf of those members of the Havant Borough Council work force most affected by this.

No matter, as expected, the motion was carried. With one vote against and one abstention (That was Cllr Patrick, who having taken fifty minutes to master the technology and log into the meeting, did the only honourable thing she could.)

The rest of them followed their herd instinct, rather like their peers at Warblington farm on my early morning walk today. As for promises of cost and efficiency savings, well we’ve heard all that before haven’t we? Cllr Pike, who in his private and public life normally drives the herd rather than follows it, cautioned that with central government interventions on devolution in the pipeline, directions may need to change.

Does any of this matter? Well I think it does. I’ve been in contact with HBC this week on the subject of the dilapidated and dangerous state of some of the East Street buildings. So far, I’ve been really impressed by the interaction and feedback on proposed actions that I’ve been getting from the combined HBC/East Hants management team.

There is one slight cloud though. The email below, spotted in an exchange today, is a little bit of a giveaway. It seems that if you’re engaging with East Hants management staff, unless you can get a councillor to speak for you, you’re probably wasting your time.

Is this really the service that Havant Council tax payers are going to get when our ‘Future’ has been ‘Shaped’?

CPRE ‘Call to Action’ on planning reform

(Post updated, 23/9/2020)

CPRE, ‘The countryside charity’, has produced a couple of important presentations that are well worth your time to read and understand. The material was shown at a seminar given by Caroline Dibden, Vice-president CPRE, to members of the Havant Borough Residents Alliance yesterday at the Gazebo Garden. While we weren’t present at this meeting, Caroline has passed on the material and reviewed this post.

The government’s recently published White Paper on Planning for the Future (PftF), available online in both glossy or detailed formats, has been published as a consultation exercise and it is vital that we all read, understand and respond to this. The timelines are tight with the first level of response, to the housing need numbers, having a deadline of October 1st.

CPRE have responded with two presentations from which the slides below are taken. There are links to the two presentations in PDF form in the following text and we’d urge you to digest the detail and consider the guidance provided while you shape your own responses. The impact of the proposed planning reforms on Havant and the rest of South Hampshire would be high. The first presentation covers the CPRE response in its own White Paper. The second presentation contains more detailed analysis, with hints and tips on how to respond. To view the presentations, click on the links and they will open as PDF files in separate browser tabs.

The two ‘killer slides’ from the CPRE White Paper are shown below. The first demonstrates the effect of the change in the ‘Standard Method‘ used to calculate housing need across the South Hampshire area. For Havant, this suggests an increase from 504 homes per year based on the 2014 numbers currently used, to 962 homes per year in the ‘new world’, a 91% increase.

Click on the image to view in a separate tab

The second slide demonstrates the extent to which the new ‘housing need’ exceeds the actual demographic need for homes in each borough which in the case of Havant is a whopping 105%! This might be great news for HBC coffers and the likes of Persimmon Homes, but it’s clearly bad news for the quality of life of residents and wildlife alike.

With HBC trumpeting the dubiously coloured herring which is the Warblington Farm nitrate mitigation initiative as the magic answer to their ‘development log jam’, we should all have cause for concern.

The following chart from the second CPRE presentation shows an analysis by Lichfields of the national impact of these changes. This chart demonstrates that despite the government’s stated intention to ‘level up’, the bulk of new house building remains in the south east. As a long-established planning consultancy, Lichfields own blog entry on the subject is also a useful reference.

Once you’ve digested the reading, select an appropriate beverage and settle down to make your views known to the government.

To respond regarding the new housing numbers, respond to the Changes to the Current Planning System by the deadline of 1st October by taking this link and scrolling down page to ‘Ways to respond‘. You will see the options to Respond online, by email or by letter.

To respond regarding democracy, respond to the Planning White Paper by the deadline of 29th October  by taking this link and scrolling down page to ‘Ways to respond‘. You will see the options to Respond online, by email or by letter.

Please also write to your MP about this matter.

Last but not least, please consider signing this petition set up by CPRE.

This is an important use of your time!

Other useful reading:

The Wrong Answers to the Wrong Questions
A really useful article by planning academics challenging the assumptions behind the White Paper

An explanation of the reasons why the reforms won’t address housing need and affordability

RIBA blog
The architecture profession’s reaction to the reforms

A crowdfunded legal challenge to the GDPO and Use Class changes

Planning Law Blog
A blog by ‘Simonicity’ – includes analysis of the legal challenge

Drowning in Development: The Planning White Paper and the full-scale
attack on local democracy.

A discussion paper from the Bosham Association

CPRE seminar held at the Gazebo Garden

Caroline Dibden, CPRE Vice-president and our local contact for the CPRE South Hampshire District Group, met with members of the Havant Borough Residents Alliance yesterday at the Gazebo Garden and ran a ‘socially distanced’ seminar.

CPRE seminar to HBRA contacts at the Gazebo Garden, 21/9/2020. (Photo by Ann Buckley, HBRA)

From left to right, Anne Skenerton, Chair ‘Hayling Island Residents’ Association’, Pat Moore, ‘Havant Climate Alliance & Friends of the Earth’, Charles Ashe, Planning Officer ‘Emsworth Residents’ Association’, Caroline Dibden CPRE, Dave Parham from ‘Save our Island’. 

HCS were not present at the seminar due to lack of space in these Covid times, however we did receive the material on circulation afterwards.

We are indebted to Caroline for the copies of her slides and you can take this link to read our own understanding of the issues.

Detail from the East Street ‘hard hat’ area

Following on from our recent set of tired but lovely photographs, here’s an altogether more disturbing set of images from East Street. Each one shows clear points of danger to pedestrians in what must surely be one of the worst kept Conservation Areas in Hampshire.

In order, dangerously loose and broken tiling to the faces of the former White Hart, dangerously loose lead flashing at 19 East Street, loose and missing roof tiles above Filarinskis, serious render and window sash deterioration at Streets and loose tiles over broken guttering at 23-25 East Street.

All of these danger points overhang the pavement in East Street, and all of them represent a clear danger to pedestrians passing underneath.

We’re asking Havant Borough Council to step up to the mark and take appropriate enforcement actions.

Repair Cafe ‘Dr. Bike’ sessions now fully booked.

For the past few weeks we’ve been helping out the Havant Repair Cafe team by hosting the booking form on the HCS website.

With over 60 bikes booked in for the sessions organised in Havant Park during September, the initiative appears to have been a roaring success with all available slots now fully booked.

Thank you for your interest!

HBC Warblington Press Release – Greenwash at its worst!

An excellent letter from from Ann Buckley, co-ordinator of the Havant Borough Residents Alliance, to the Portsmouth News in response to the recent HBC press release .

“I write in response your recent article “Trailblazing move to help housebuilding’.

My first reaction to this was, if Havant Borough Council had listened a decade ago and acted upon a motion put to the council on housebuilding and pollution in the harbours it would have been trailblazing, but they did not take action. The borough would not have ended up in the situation when most of the building industry locally has been on hold for more than a year because of nitrate pollution in Langstone and Chichester harbours.

Havant Borough Residents Alliance (HBRA) brings together residents’ associations and conservation groups from across the borough and has carefully scrutinised the progress of the Local Plan to 2037 over the past four years.

The council’s press release for the launch of the Warblington Farm Mitigation Site which is part of the Local Plan, seems to HBRA to be misleading and inaccurate. The press release states that the council has purchased the farm. This is not correct. The council has owned the farm for decades and has simply changed or regeared the farmer’s lease.

In your article, a quote from the environment minister Rebecca Pow gives the impression that Havant is about to get a nature reserve a ‘green open space for them to enjoy’. In reality the current scheme is for a third of the council-owned farmland to be taken out of agricultural production and then looked after by the farmer without public access. HBRA was told by the council there would not be a nature reserve for at least a decade.

The council’s cartoon that accompanied the press release shows a cow with a suitcase. This seems to indicate the dairy herd will go and as you say in your News article ‘reduce cow waste’. This is not the case, the herd and the much-valued Warblington Castle Farm Dairy, which delivers milk in reusable glass bottles locally, will continue. The council also gives the impression that the land is intensively farmed but that is not true either and the farm already has a rich coastal ecology with hedgerows,wild flowers and wetland habitat for birds and other creatures.

HBRA is also concerned the well-respected Chichester Harbour Conservancy and the Langstone Harbour Board have not been included in discussions about the Warblington coastal mitigation site.

The whole process leading up to Havant Borough Council’s decision on the Warblington site was lacking in transparency with residents excluded from meetings and some reports. Even towards the end of the process residents were told there would be a planning application for ‘change of use’ from a farm to a nature reserve, where details could be scrutinised, but that also was not true and has now been dropped!

It seems likely there will be no nature reserve for now but plenty of housebuilding in the Havant borough is again possible. Perhaps those new developments should include signposts for the displaced wildlife to their new off-site habitat at Warblington Farm.

Greenwash at its worst!

Ann Buckley
Co-ordinator HBRA

Online public meetings

Over the past few months, many of us have become accustomed to holding meetings online using the various technologies available and it seems a common view that these meetings have been surprisingly productive.

If nothing else, this morning’s HCS Committee Zoom meeting served to reinforce our lack of diversity! (Expect to hear more of this in due course.)

One particular benefit noted is that these online meetings encourage active participation from a wider cross section of the community than might have been served by traditional on-site meetings. As such, we welcome last week’s HBC Cabinet meeting discussion on the use of online technology for forthcoming public meetings. So much so that we’ve written to HBC offering to help them with their testing of the technology with a public audience. Their stated plan to have ‘Cabinet and other public meetings’ opened online to the public by the mid-October is fairly aggressive, but is to be welcomed.