REASSURANCES have been given to councillors and residents who feared their dreams of having leisure facilities in Waterlooville town centre might be over.
People gathered at a development consultation forum last night to learn about developer Hargreaves’ plans for the remainder of the former BAE site at Elettra Avenue.
At the meeting, hosted by Havant Borough Council, representatives from the company said providing they can market the site, there is a commitment to providing about 39,000 sq ft of leisure for the growing number of people in the town.
The developer held the meeting to gain feedback before submitting an outline planning application for the principal uses of the site to the council, which it said is vital for drawing in business.
Jason Lowes, the developer’s planning consultant from Rapleys, said at the meeting: ‘We can’t yet tell people what exactly will be at the site, because we don’t know.
‘The struggle we’re having is getting people interested because at the moment, the feedback we’re getting is potential occupiers want us to have planning permission in place first.
‘But any comments about the development are helpful, like the ones we’ve received tonight about transport, traffic and the impact of the project on the town centre.
‘Our next step is to submit an outline planning application, go back to the market and see what occupiers we can attract off the back of that permission.’
Residents called on the developer to consult with the families living in the new Berewood and Wellington Park developments nearby, about what leisure facilities they require.
The site is already home to a McDonald’s drive-thru restaurant and a Lidl food store, which is still being built. During the meeting, a spokesman for Havant Borough Council said the percentage of empty business units in the town centre stands at 16.4 per cent.
As the plans for the former BAE site include space for a restaurant and also retail, many raised fears this would kill off Waterlooville’s emptying high street altogether.
But according to Mr Lowes, it would house different retail not found on the nearby high street.
David Crichton, former chairman of the Waterlooville Community Forum, said: ‘Hargreaves revealed it’s committed to trying to provide 39,000 sq ft of leisure facilities at the site.
‘I’m more reassured now than I was when I first saw the rough drawings that the company is still clearly considering leisure – which is a relief, as many thought they weren’t.
‘I’m happy with the outcome of the meeting because at this stage, I don’t think we can expect any more.’