On Wednesday 18 January, representatives of several local residents’ associations and communities met with Havant Borough Council’s interim Chief Executive, Kim Sawyer and Council Leader, Alex Rennie, to hand over messages in bottles for distribution to the senior officers, the borough councillors, the Hampshire County councillors and local MP, Alan Mak.
In a good natured meeting, it was encouraging to see the Borough’s leadership team taking note of the message that was being passed, a message that has probably had little or no focus in the minds of most of Havant borough’s residents, officers or elected representatives. Considering the significant impact that the Southern Water proposal would have on the borough, the water companies are giving minimal publicity to their own ongoing public consultations. Indeed, the phrasing of those consultations already assumes acceptance of the proposed solution.
Ann Buckley, consultant to the Havant Borough Residents’ Alliance, introduced the group to the council leaders and encouraged the executive and councillors to look at more detailed articles on our concerns on the Havant Matters website. Members of the group emphasised the need for Havant Borough Council to respond to Defra and promote more sustainable solutions, such as storing winter rainfall.
Following the handing over of three baskets of message-bearing bottles, Councillor Rennie thanked the group for their concern and reconfirmed the messages he made in the Council response to the previous consultation on this proposal.
In conversation after the presentation, Kim Sawyer said she was keen to bring Southern Water into a wider community for discussion of the issues, while members of the group reinforced the hope that the leadership would prioritise the use of its influence ‘upwards’, towards Defra and the Secretary of State with whom the decision will ultimately lie.
There is a strong local precedent. The recent attempt by AQUIND Interconnector to justify the use of a Development Control Order for a ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project’ was turned down by central government after similar public outcry. In the case of AQUIND, members of Havant Borough Council had joined forces with their peers in Portsmouth City Council to appeal to the Secretary of State.
The AQUIND campaign was also strongly supported by the two influential and engaged members of parliament affected, Steven Morgan MP (Labour, Portsmouth South) and Penny Mordaunt MP, (Conservative, Portsmouth North). The campaign group hope that the HBC leadership team will use their influence to engage with Havant Borough’s two local MPs to similar effect.