Many residents across the Borough including Hayling have been left angry and frustrated after failed efforts to provide their Comments online for the Council’s Pre-Submission Local Plan 2036. Many describe themselves as feeling disenfranchised because of the complicated process worsened by the Council’s explicit preference for only using its online Form. A Council Officer wrote that they have gone beyond what is legally required of them by legislation. Does this mean that current legislation is not helping local people when it comes to Consultations that affect so many?
Residents came for the practical help offered at HIRA’s February Public Meeting, and up until March 18th, both HIRA and Save Our Island each had countless people requesting help in accessing the Consultation’s PDF and Word Forms. Residents spent hours helping their neighbours. These were people accustomed to using the Internet. Similarly the Council’s December 2017 Hayling Travel Questionnaire, was also conducted online: had only 1717 responses (and judged a success!) out of Hayling’s over 16,000 adults and was met with countless complaints by residents either because they couldn’t complete it on their mobile devices or the limited response options failed to provide a realistic response range. We were told it could only be completed online and it was ‘only a snapshot’, but it still appeared on the Local Plan’s Infrastructure Evidence Base.
Despite these highly unsatisfactory online experiences, the online theme remains centre stage for our Council’s public Communication strategy. At a February 2019 Council Meeting, Havant Borough Council decided “Serving You” would be reduced from three to two annual publications. Consequently Council hard copy public information will be further reduced.
The Council’s own proposed Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) 2019 states “The website will be the primary means of providing information. Documents are also available for public inspection on request at the Public Service Plaza during office hours” (Sec. 2.5) only; also “...in the last few years, the use of social media to promote information on the Local Plan has substantially increased, and further such changes are likely to emerge in the future.” (Sec. 2.6). In contrast the SCI cites “The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) stresses the importance of early and meaningful engagement and collaboration with neighbourhoods, local organisations and businesses in the plan-making process. Along with the Localism Act, local planning and neighbourhood planning Regulations provide the opportunity to take such initiatives further, and to empower local communities in development planning.” (section 3.4).
For those adults who choose not to use “social media” and who either prefer or need local, ready access to paper documents, this is indeed a brave new world! Surely our Council could supply, at the very least, paper copies of documents and consultations to all the Borough Libraries for the full range of “local communities”?
The sheer volume of the recent Consultation has challenged even those used
to reading lengthy online documents and having the personal computers capable of multi-screen use. Astonishingly Havant’s Pre-Submission Local Plan February 2019 web page provided another 4 Consultations running simultaneously with the full Local Plan’s 342 pages and its over 47 Evidence Base Documents – not to mention any additional pertinent documents – all of which were due within the 6 week timetable. Paper copies were routinely available only at the Plaza and unhelpfully restricted to Office hours.
So what next? Havant Borough Local Plan 2036 Next Steps are, in summary: Havant Borough Council Planning Officers are required by planning law to submit the representations/comments received and a Summary Report of the main issues raised through the Pre-Submission consultation, together with a copy of the Local Plan, Policies Map and Evidence Base documents to the Inspector. This is scheduled to take place during the third Quarter (July- September) of 2019. The Planning Officers' Summary of Main Issues will help to inform the format and the subject of Hearings that will be held by the Inspector from the end of 2019/beginning of 2020.
It is profoundly depressing for anyone concerned about our increasingly beleaguered wildlife to read that some British developers have been found to be netting trees and shrubs to prevent birds from nesting. This evades laws that protect our birds from hedge cutting during nesting season. Hayling residents also report that local fields, of interest to developers, have either not had crops planted that feed migrant birds or such crops have been destroyed so that the ‘one or 2 years’ survey’ required to establish habitat cannot be counted. Surely this demonstrates shocking disrespect for conservation requirements and habitat protection. Apparently nothing can be done to prevent such actions. What is the point of such toothless regulations and laws if the principles behind them are flouted? For those believing that hungry migrating birds will find another site, there is apparently little evidence and of course our region’s suitable land will be developed or flooded.
Havant Borough Council News at time of writing in brief:
20-03-19 Cabinet Meeting: approval to move forward with Regeneration Phase 1 including Civic Plaza Car Park Redevelopment, Hayling’s Southwood Rd./Nab Car Park Sale/Lease, West Beach (“its erosion moving faster than the planning”). Approval for Onstreet Parking permits to gradually increase from £30 to £50.
20-03-19 Operations and Place Shaping Board: Environmental Health relies on the public to inform it of empty properties (about 100 p.a.) as these can cause social problems and currently insufficient funds to enforce enforcement sales.
Affordable Housing: £30,000 Government Grant 1996 for assisting adaptation of a property for disabled or elderly use and HBC can now top this up. Adults are means-tested but children below 18 are not. An Occupational Therapist appointed (18 month contract) for such face:face interviews.
Contact HIRA firstname.lastname@example.org or drop boxes: Hayling Community Centre, West Town; Morris Dibben, Mengham; The Terracotta Pot and Gift Shop, Eastoke; Library, Elm Grove. www.haylingresidentsassociation.co.uk