HIRA JULY ARTICLE 2022
Cllr. Alex Rennie, Havant Borough Council’s Leader, recently stated that he sees no obstacle to continued major housing developments borough-wide since HBC’s favoured ‘Carbon Neutrality’ policy – by which developers can buy land for green ‘wilding’ in other locations e.g. the Isle of Wight – is now deemed acceptable practice. The Rt. Hon. Michael Gove claims that the Government’s revised National Planning Policy (NPPF) framework, due July 2022, will “drive up improved environmental outcomes” as part of the new Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which simultaneously devolves powers to make development easier. Is this ‘green-washing’, namely conveying an impression of environmentally sound practice whilst in fact causing an increase in environmental harm? How is this relevant to us locally?
Government claims that giving “local communities control over what is built, where...and what it looks like” and “enable the right infrastructure to come forward where it is needed”, will improve the planning process. Judging by local communities’ criticisms of Havant’s Local Plan to 2037, criticisms justified by the 2021 Inspectors’ findings, local communities are not in such control. The large developments will continue. Government has dictated what housing, where. Our local highways authorities make clear that, despite facing possibly 2,000 new dwellings by 2037 including cumulative windfalls namely in-fills, on Hayling alone, there is no scope for significantly increasing or widening highways let alone safely including cycling lanes.
New housing is important, but to be ‘sustainable’ there must be infrastructure that enables all road traffic to flow both economically and safely. Even now users of A27 and Hayling’s equally restricted road network, experience unacceptable congestion at critical periods, causing stop starts or movement at a ‘crawl’ which burns excessive fuel and pollutes. Yet recently Havant and Fareham Councils’ rejections of new homes developments, because of their harm to the environment e.g. wildlife corridors, farmland, local heritage, protected species, highways safety, were themselves overturned because of the Government’s NPPF “tilted balance” in favour of claimed “housing need”. Clearly, Government is not abiding by its own commitment to “local communities” and is out of touch with reality on the ground.
Government’s declared target of ‘net-zero’ carbon emission by 2050 does not appear in this new Bill nor its test. Apparently Building Regulations will have changed in June, requiring homes to achieve overall reduction in carbon emissions by 31%, but it’s in 2050 when ‘Future Homes Standard’ comes into effect when homes must emit 75-80% less carbon than under current regulations. Will Sinah Fields’ 195 homes future owners realize what is expected of them – do the rest of us? Developers benefit from extraordinary profits whilst making life environmentally far less friendly for those of us they leave behind. The IOW or any other ‘green wilding’ cannot possibly offset the tremendous environmental detriment resulting, at the very least, from Havant’s 11,000 new homes’ wastewater usage, surface road run-off from owners’ and service providers’ vehicles. Even the Government hasn’t succeeded in stopping Southern Water’s environmentally damaging wastewater pollution.
Only about 20% of proposed new building is ‘affordable’ housing, is this ring-fenced for Islanders? New coastal homes inevitably attract new population and money for rates, whilst reducing local food and farming at a time when Ukraine’s war and UK’s wider trade problems hammer home the need to protect local arable fields and farming.
The Government must radically reduce Havant’s house-building programme to genuine environmental sustainability. To do otherwise is simply green-washing.