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Friends of the Earth Speech to Havant Borough Council on Residential Development regarding greenfield areas

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“Unless you reject the Housing Statement in front of you and reset the terms of reference to help your officers come up with more genuinely sustainable solutions, much of what makes Havant Borough a special place will be lost forever”

Havant Friends of the Earth leader, Sue Holt, Addressing Havant Borough Council’s Cabinet meeting to agree new housing targets.

 

“Havant Borough is predominantly urban and opportunities for new development are limited,,,,,,,,the borough is heavily constrained, with a number of international, national and local nature designations, flood zones and historical/landscape features. The availability of developable and deliverable sites is limited and the council therefore needs to look at opportunities to develop Greenfield sites as well as those in the urban area.

“Even if all these areas are considered for residential development, the housing needs of the borough will not be met.”

These words will be found in the Sustainability Appraisal (Page 12, S3.5 & 3.6) which is part of the evidence base attached to the Housing Statement and sum up what we think which is that Havant Council by proposing to add another 5000 units to the 6300 already committed is exceeding Its own carefully defined constraints and is therefore proposing a draft package that is inherently unsustainable and undeliverable.

I want to turn to another document, also part of the evidence base and that is Habitat Regulation Assessment Screening Statement. Here we find in the Executive Summary reference to the difficulties and uncertainties surrounding SPA/Ramsar sites as well as robustly assessing many of the sites mentioned in the Housing Statement extending to air quality and water resources so that A) no firm conclusions can be drawn B) that predicted effects are not fully understood and C) that further research will be necessary.

Despite all these reservations we discover in the conclusion to this report that the Housing Statement is not likely to lead to significant effects on any of the nearby European sites within the scope of the study. Surely this is a classic case of hope over past experience. Whenever the environment and economic components compete, the economic element usually wins.

Mitigation is proposed as the universal fix for any conflict that may arise while it’s not clear anywhere what the nature of the mitigation would be and whether it would be fit for purpose. ‘Mitigation’ is often code for ‘it will be alright on the night’ even though many studies show the opposite is true

Much of the haste behind the Housing Statement stems from a successful appeal by a developer in Purbrook earlier this year and centres on, arguably, the most controversial part of the 50-page NPPF namely, the requirement for LPAs to show a 5-year housing land supply in their Adopted Plan. The decision, made in favour of the developer, has been offered as a reason for replacing Havant’s current Local Plan, approved only 2 years ago with one looking at the next 20 years, beyond even the horizon recommended in the NPPF which is fifteen years.

As for speculative applications, our research shows that some Hampshire local authorities have been very successful in defending their green gaps against speculative developers EVEN WITHOUT A 5 YEAR SUPPLY, (we have copies of the appeal decision notices for officers to review). Perhaps the council should consider engaging better legal counsel to defend the interests of communities.

We have argued elsewhere that in finding solutions to the housing crisis the council needs to be much more innovative. Instead of handing over green fields in response to perceived threats, it should pursue more brown land options and make much more efficient use of already developed space-building up instead of out, conversions etc.

There have been opportunities now lost for example in central Havant. Town End House in East Street, a near perfect potential residential site sold off to an IT company. On the north side of Havant station a multi deck car park is going up on a site that had potential for high rise flats and some of the land used for retail sheds could have gone to housing.

The closing of Havant police station is another opportunity and as Havant loses jobs, perhaps land reserved for employment could be re-allocated to housing thus saving precious green space. Unless you reject the Housing Statement in front of you and reset the terms of reference to help your officers come up with more genuinely sustainable solutions, much of what makes Havant Borough a special place will be lost forever

 

Thank you members

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