A MODERN, digitally-connected space with older, unattractive buildings replaced and which is a vibrant residential zone – this is the future of Havant town centre, according to the borough council.
Havant Borough Council’s regeneration plan over the next 18 years aims to see a transformation in a new strategy named Opportunity Havant.
Residents said plans are promising, but some are worried about historic parts of the town centre such as East Street, housing development at East Pallant Car Park and the lack of focus on equipping youngsters for higher education.
Opportunity Havant will be carried out in three phases – see below for more details.
Ann Buckley, from the Havant Borough Residents’ Alliance, said: ‘We welcome this fresh focus from the council with a promise of direct investment.
‘However, some of the projects seem to be driven by generating revenue rather than social good, but as the list of projects is confidential it’s difficult to get more details.
‘A big concern is the threat of housing on the East Pallant Car Park.
‘It’s used by many and it’s short-sighted to talk about regenerating the town but to allow an important facility to go – this would reduce footfall in the area.
‘The strategy focuses on employment and says the borough has a less-skilled workforce than the rest of Hampshire. It’s pointless talking about increasing skills while education funding is being cut back.
‘In the analysis there’s no mention Havant has the lowest university application rate in the country. The focus is missing on how to equip more young people for higher education.’
The council said that while it is not responsible for education in the borough, it takes a keen interest in youngsters being prepared for the workplace.
A spokeswoman said: ‘We work closely with Havant & South Downs College to ensure our strategies are aligned and we work together to connect businesses with potential recruits, including increasing apprenticeships.
‘Our new strategy will seek to bring forward employment sites attracting businesses that will create jobs for our young people.’
Phase one will be implemented by the year 2024.
Bob Comlay, from the Havant Civic Society, said: ‘The vision statement notes the importance of the ‘historic core of the town centre’ but our objections to the removal of East Street from the town centre in the Draft Local Plan remain ignored.
‘We believe East Street’s recent promising self-regeneration will be at risk if the Local Plan continues to downgrade its importance in the eyes of the council.
‘Retaining accessible parking in the East Pallant area is a critical factor for businesses and less-able residents.’
The council said East Street has not formed part of the shopping area of the town for years. In the last decade applications for redevelopment have been granted by the council but almost none completed.
The council said the continued growth in internet shopping means less properties are required for retailers – it seeks to concentrate these within West Street, North Street, the Meridian Centre and at the retail parks.
A spokeswoman added: ‘The previous policies and those proposed by the Havant Civic Society, including East Street, have not delivered the much-needed redevelopment, and our new policies will seek viable housing projects and other uses in a very sustainable brownfield location.’
Lorraine Smith, 40, owns Mrs Bentley's convenience store in East Street. She said: 'From my perspective as long as East Street is made safe, be it residential or shops, I think anything will be an improvement.
‘At the moment it's very unattractive to look at.’
Christopher Hitching has owned the CJ Meats butcher at 3A West Street for 21 years. He said homes in the town centre wouldn't be a bad idea but there must be adequate parking and added: ‘Residential development could get rid of anti-social behaviour and bring people with money.’
WHAT DOES OPPORTUNITY HAVANT SAY?
The strategy speaks of Havant town centre as if goals have been achieved as: ‘A clean, safe environment with a vibrant residential zone at the heart of the town, where people from all walks of life enjoy restaurants and cafes looking over an attractive town square and quality green spaces.’
It continues: ‘Bus links for the area are provided by a modern bus station in a new, major redevelopment that has built upwards, alongside the redeveloped Meridian Centre that provides quality homes and a small number of shops for its residents.
‘Havant is renowned for its high quality-built environment that has created a vernacular which supports the historic core of the town centre alongside a modern digitally connected space.
‘Older, unattractive buildings have been replaced with high-quality flexible contemporary development that will provide a sustainable legacy for the future of the town.’
Councillor Tim Pike, deputy leader and cabinet lead for finance and regeneration, said: ‘At the moment Havant is attracting visitors from a wide area with the successful retail areas and good transport links.
‘We seek to build on this success by the council leading the regeneration of poorer-performing areas of the town to create new housing, businesses and facilities for residents and visitors.
‘Our initial plans focus on areas owned by the council, but we welcome proposals from other landowners who want to work with us to achieve faster progress.’
View the plans here.