Havant Borough Council’s planning committee voted in favour of lifting planning conditions that were to control how traffic is monitored and the branding of delivery vehicles.
The original rules imposed in September ensured that traffic data would be fed into a publicly accessible database and that delivery vans would be branded to avoid ‘rat-runs’ in residential areas - the subsequent application sought to amend those conditions.
Representing the occupiers, Jeremy Sharland, development director of Kingsbridge Estates said: ‘Regrettably whilst the intention of the applied conditions were understood and accepted in the original scheme, the precise nature of the conditions was not known prior to the planning committee agenda being published.
‘The current section 73 application seeks only to amend the mechanism for measuring compliance with planning restrictions and to make the conditions more precise and enforceable, this is to the advantage of the council and the intended occupier.’
Natalie Fellows, planning consultant added: ‘Continuous traffic data will be provided for the first months in a quarterly report, after this time if the operator is operating within the parameters of the operational management plan then the frequency and duration of reporting will be reduced.
‘The New Lane industrial site is recognised as an important employment area and the proposals safeguard the site for this purpose. We’ll offer a broad range of job opportunities that result if planning permission is granted.’
Bob Comlay from Havant Civic Society opposed the application and shared concerns over the potential occupier in his deputation.
‘The recommendation to the planning committee for this application raises serious concerns which I believe challenge the level of due diligence performed by officers at both Havant Borough Council and Hampshire County Council,’ he said.
‘The difference between a local company like Havant’s own Road Runner Dispatch and the corporate giant which is Amazon is completely relevant and the officers' acceptance of the continued assertions of occupier anonymity and commercial confidentiality has allowed the suppression of relevant facts, inhibiting analysis and weakening due diligence.
‘Having had five sites refused by planning in the past three years, Amazon’s preferred policy is to hedge their bets and maintain anonymity until they have planning approvals agreed. The refusals, they prefer to keep quiet about.’
After the deputations the chair allowed members to ask questions to the speakers for the purpose of clarification - these questions quickly turned into back and forth debates which caused newly employed council officer Simon Rowberry to express deep concern.
‘I’m surprised and a little bit concerned about this whole question and answer process because this is becoming a debate between members and public speakers,’ he said.
‘It’s not part of the process in my view, the public speakers are there to put forward a justification for their particular stance within a time period, members are there to seek points of clarity.
‘We’re almost cross-examining some of the speakers. I haven’t seen this before in many many authorities that I’ve worked with. I’ve never actually seen this.
‘I just suggest that there’s something perhaps that we might want to discuss offline just in terms of the way this operates in general because I do have to say I am very concerned.’
After the debate stage, councillors voted strongly in favour of revoking the planning conditions, securing the site's future operation.
When asked to confirm their occupation of the site, a spokesperson from Amazon said: 'I’m afraid we don’t comment on rumour and speculation.'