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Community Involvement?

HIRA March 1st 2022 Article

HBC’s Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) June 2019 aims to comply with legal requirements for “constructive engagement” with the “general public”, “Resident/community/civic societies & associations”. HIRA’s February Public Meeting’s speakers, Leader of the Council Cllr. Alex Rennie and Cabinet Lead for Planning Cllr. Clare Satchwell, responded to residents’ questions about regeneration and planning issues, but many answers left us with more questions or, worse, a sense of a ‘fait accompli’. Residents complain that their letters/emails to our Councillors are either ignored or repeated concerns dismissed with, to quote one Councillor at the meeting, “plans/ideas ...around for years...probably never come to anything”. Well-founded, serious worries about Hayling’s coastal erosion and its ongoing impact on Hayling’s West Beach and long-term threat to Eastoke’s housing, are dismissed as ‘future’ problems; surely the point of constructive engagement with the Council’s tax-paying customers is to find a way to respond positively to their legitimate concerns. The UK Climate Projections 2018 are 1.03-1.4 metre sea level rises by 2120 which global warming may accelerate. Residents expect the Council’s long-term strategy to protect their well-being and property.

Responding to residents’ views favouring Beachlands’ leisure focus, instead of Seafront Regeneration’s housing plans, we were told: “If you want Funlands, use it.” Would the owner be able to keep it despite Government’s indiscriminate housing allocation across Havant Borough that cannot, we were told, be disputed by the local tax-paying community? Where then “constructive public engagement”? HBC needs to listen to residents and be prepared to continually represent their views to Government Ministers. Government’s funding for defending Hayling’s beach erosion is, we’re told, short, not long, term. Regarding Hayling community’s right to have more than local lamp-post notices for developments, Cllr. Rennie agreed only to consider publishing HBC’s Planning notices in Hayling’s own, widely-read monthly ‘free’ Herald, instead of using Hampshire Independent which is neither known nor circulated on Hayling.

Such cavalier treatment of taxpayers/voters, is particularly galling knowing that the Treasury is writing off £4.3billion in payments to fraudulent companies who took advantage of what is widely confirmed as poor Government counter-fraud measures. Given the long-term under-funding and reduced staffing of law enforcement, the NHS, such as our own local Hospital and dental services, our local authorities have been increasingly charged with finding ways to increase their revenue by house-building. Residents are left wondering whether, even before COVID, their taxation was value for money. Dismissing billions of fraud as a COVID loss ignores Government’s own mis-management in the first place. Similar to the protective clothing scandal, where the Minister in charge had clearly failed to ensure simple stock-taking procedures of vital emergency items stored against a pandemic, this comes down to questions of competence in leadership and stewardship of public money.

Cllr. Tim Pike’s ‘Sustainable Places, Successful People, Better Business’ (Regeneration and Economy Strategy 2022-35) makes brief reference to consultation & engagement with the residents underpinning its existence. Residents putting questions at HBC Planning Committees have experienced lines of questioning “never seen nor done before in other Local Authorities”, had their concerns dismissed with out of date facts, and sitting Councillors claiming they had “too much paperwork to know everything” about the development in question (e.g. Feb. 03/22 Planning Committee consideration of ‘Amazon’ Distribution Centre, New Lane). Havant residents who understand their local community and voluntarily research planning issues’ facts, must be more than a tick-box engagement. Currently their efforts meet with little meaningful “engagement” at every level of government.


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