A HISTORIC town is set to change forever after councillors voted through a £15m 13-storey apartment block last night.
Councillors agreed it was a ‘once in a generation’ decision for Havant as they debated whether to approve the plans for Market Parade.
After almost two hours of discussions in the council chamber, developer Hampshire and Regional Property Group was given the green light to build 130 flats with six large commercial units on the ground floor – the first phase of a potential £40m revamp of Market Parade and the area next to the railway station.
But there was bitter opposition to the plan from many residents, with more than 80 written objections to the council in the last week.
Havant resident Ann Buckley told the planning committee: ‘Just imagine getting off a train. Instead of a beacon, we would have this Stalinist 13-storey block.
‘Your decision is so important, please refuse this.’
Historic England has said the building would be ‘completely out of character’ to the St Faith’s Conservation Area and planning officers at the council agree it will change the character of Havant.
Resident David Pattenden said it would cast a shadow over Havant Park.
‘It proposes an overpowering edifice,’ he said.
But Louise Cutts, a town planner speaking for the developer, said there would be a ‘domino effect’ to regenerate Havant.
‘Sometimes you have got to take a leap of faith,’ she told councillors.
The development will be private rented accommodation with 58 parking spaces and appeal to young professionals.
Developer Shaun Adams said Havant was the ‘undervalued jewel in the Hampshire crown’ and he was not planning to build a ‘sink estate’.
Councillor Rory Heard, who sits on the planning committee, said the project could be a ‘potential white elephant’.
But he said: ‘It could be the kick-start for the regeneration of a really quite different Havant but a vibrant town.’
The committee was told it was the only redevelopment scheme put forward for Market Parade in more than a decade.
Cllr Heard said it was ‘a risk’, but added: ‘It’s an opportunity I don’t think we should pass up.
‘Otherwise we will be talking about the decline of the town for the next two decades.’
Cllr Clare Satchwell said she had had ‘sleepless nights’ mulling over the decision.
She said: ‘This is the first step in the regeneration of our area and creating something we can be proud of in future.’
Six councillors voted for the plans, with one against – Cllr Terry Hart said he had ‘serious reservations’, especially regarding the lack of parking, and said he did not want the council to ‘repeat mistakes of the past’ with developments.
The plan was in outline form, so residents and councillors will have a chance to influence the design of the building when fresh detailed plans come forward.