Future housing plan will not help local people

HousesIn Havant FoE’s formal response to Havant Council’s consultation on the future of housing site allocations, we advised that most of the 6,300 new homes planned for delivery by 2026 are likely to be too expensive for local people. We also accused the council of tearing up agreements safeguarding green gaps and over emphasizing economic consideration above social and environmental factors.

Obviously we need more affordable houses, but with most new homes currently are priced up at between £300K and £500K, very few local first time buyers are likely to be among the prospective buyers in areas such as Havant having the lowest average earning in Hampshire. Today’s waiting list is set to get longer while our precious green fields are being sold off to developers. Havant Council have set aside a Town and Country Planning Act 1992 S106 agreement not to build between the Emsworth and Havant gap. Unlike other local councils there is no land provision for renewable energy.

In conclusion Havant FoE have said the plan is unsustainable as it “Appears to emphasise economic considerations at the expense of the natural environment and diminishes public trust in prior agreements. it also has little to say about climate change”

Warsaw wake-up call

Typhoon DevistationOn the face of it the just concluded climate talks in Warsaw organised by the UN achieved very little. These talks always promise more than they deliver and this one, the 19th in the series, was no exception. All the usual stuff was there. Small nations most threatened by climate change bargaining for compensation from the big economies, the rehearsed walk-out by the NGO’s and the cliff-hanging finale over one or two words in the final communiqué. This time it was all about the difference between ‘commitment’ and ‘contribution’.

Needless to say contribution won out. For the real anoraks there were some signs of progress when viewed as a pathway to the all-important Paris climate summit in 2015. It appears there is to be a new institution to help countries damaged by loss or damage caused by climate change to help them recover. It’s more about advice than real money. There was consternation at the start of the conference when Japan announced a scaling back of their carbon reduction targets, Australia sent a low level delegation and Canada was far from enthusiastic.

More positively, nations will now prepare detailed work programmes designed to deliver a new global agreement to succeed Kyoto in 2020. Setting new emissions reduction targets is only one part of the story. The other part is how we respond to the 150 years of pollution still working its way through the planetary systems. As the IPC report published earlier this year showed the climate is becoming increasingly unstable mostly because of what human beings have already pumped into the atmosphere. One extreme weather event like Typhoon Haiyan doesn’t prove anything but when it’s one among an increasing number it’s time to get real.

Gambling with Our Future

PollutionHow many people, I wonder, would ignore their doctor’s advice that they were 95% certain to have a heart attack? Now ask how many will ignore a 95% scientifically validated prediction that our planet could be facing a disaster by the end of 2020?

The answer, I imagine, is that fewer people would be less troubled by the second question than by the first.

And yet the symptoms of life threatening climate change are all too obvious as illustrated by the IPCC report just published. So there may be a short pause in the rate of warming but the trends are plain enough and the causes are obvious. Pumping vast amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere have, according to one commentator, put our climate on steroids. Scarcely had the ink dried on the report when the droids, many of them funded by big gas and oil, poured scorn on it with the usual mix of a few cherry-picked facts, innuendoes and conspiracy theories. While more people still believe we have a problem than those who don’t, the cynics have succeeded in slowing up the process of taking effective international action.

A book called The Burning Question sets out clearly why politicians and energy companies want to burn more carbon that the atmosphere can absorb. Of course it’s all about money and market value of their companies. Keeping the fossil fuels in the ground will hit balance sheets as they have been constructed to assume that all known reserves will be burned. The result, by the way, of doing that would be to raise average global temperature by 6 degrees centigrade.

The scientists reckon that at the present rate of consumption we will have reached the safe limit by about 2043. EU climate action commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, asks whether it’s a safer bet to gamble on a 95% certainty or 5% of doubt.

Havant’s Star ceases to twinkle

Star Pub - HavantThe decision by Havant Council, against advice from its own conservation officer to permit the demolition of the former Star pub outside Havant Station was bad enough. Turning it into a temporary car park makes it even worse. The Victorian pub has seen better days during 167 years of history. Sadly, the past few years has seen the pub gradually go into decline and became the town’s main trouble spot until closure two years ago. It’s not clear who has acquired the building but an application for demolition and change of use was made by a Southsea entrepreneur as reported in the Portsmouth News.

It appears the developer has been in discussion with Havant council over a future development that includes shops, apartments and restaurants. Apart from the car park nothing is likely to happen anytime soon. Of course renewal and regeneration are central to the future vitality of any town. Havant has been in decline for some years now driven by a series of poor development decisions starting in the sixties up until the present day.

Everybody agrees that pubs are hubs and the Star is the first to be demolished in Havant for some years. CAMRA reckons that every week dozens of pubs are either being demolished, converted into flats or convenience stores. Under the 2011 Localism Act a community can list a building or land as an assets of community value (ACV). Should it have come up for sale communities have a six month window to purchase the site. Could the Star have been saved? The council’s surveyor says it’s still basically a sound and usable building offering the potential for conversion into small shops, flats etc. Alas, now we’ll never know, anymore than we know what will replace the Star.