To receive any deputations notified under Standing Order 12.
The Committee received five deputations relating to the item on the agenda about future proposals relating to Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve:
Caroline as a local resident, spoke against the proposals and highlighted the petition which had been submitted to save the Haven Centre (Haven House), and that the Centre had recently been listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV), and the Hill Head Residents Association (HHRA) were in the process of registering as a charity to take over the Centre. HHRA had also been in communication with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT). She highlighted that the proposals had ignored the public’s views and showed a lack of understanding for those who regularly visited the Centre, the residents who were dependent on it and the proposals were open to Judicial Review. Caroline stated that Alver Valley Country Park was not geographically close or offered the same experience as an alternative for residents to visit, and Haven House was a warm, safe and tranquil place.
Tracey as a local resident, and volunteer at the Nature Reserve, spoke against the proposals. She spoke about how many of the volunteers were local residents, elderly and living on their own, who value the Centre for social contact. She highlighted that the proposals were ill conceived, and would not be able to be delivered, such as the proposed hut, uncertainty of seasonal catering provision and future income from donations. Tracey stated that the findings of the recent Hampshire County Council (HCC) visitor survey indicated that some existing members would not renew their membership, visitor numbers would fall, and it was unrealistic to assume visitor numbers would remain high. She also highlighted that HCC would only achieve an annual saving of £60,000, which does not provide a best value solution. She emphasised that the volunteers were extremely concerned about the proposals, but if the sale of the properties did go ahead then it was essential that the proceeds did go to the Nature Reserve. Tracey concluded by requesting that the proposals should be rejected and the Service undertake a more robust options appraisal, complete a full cost benefits analysis on all the options and develop a more robust financial proposal.
Lynne Murray spoke as a local resident opposed to the proposals and referenced the four options which were part of the original business case. She highlighted that transferring Haven House to a third party was dismissed originally and now this has become an option in the decision report. Lynne stated that the HIWWT had confirmed in writing their interest, and she highlighted that Councillors should be asking for more information on the proposals. She spoke about the projected savings as a result of the proposals, and spoke about this being dependent on donations received, and it was likely that some membership income would stop, this would mean that any projected SP23 savings for HCC would be reduced. HCC’s net cash contribution figure was also queried as this had increased from the original business case to £76,000. Lynne concluded by emphasising the opposition of local residents, the proposals should be rejected, and that Haven House should be kept open for an extra six months whilst more communication takes place with HIWWT. She also highlighted that more information on income generating opportunities should be sought.
Councillor Pal Hayre (HCC Councillor for Fareham Crofton division)
Councillor Hayre, as the local HCC Councillor for the Fareham Crofton area, spoke against the proposals and emphasised that she spoke on behalf of many families and residents of the area. She highlighted that the area needed places like the café which brought people together, was a valued facility, and benefitted people’s mental health. Councillor Hayre understood the budget concerns for HCC but stressed that this shouldn’t be on the agenda for closure. As the local HCC Councillor, Councillor Hayre was unhappy not to be consulted on the proposals and had received hundreds of letters of concern about the proposals. She also queried why Haven Cottage had stayed empty for so long, and why Haven House had been neglected. In concluding, Councillor Hayre emphasised that an extension should be agreed to keep Haven House and its facilities open for another six months to explore alternative options.
Councillor Louise Parker-Jones (HCC Councillor for Bishopstoke and Fair Oak division)
Councillor Parker-Jones spoke against the proposals and highlighted the importance of the Nature Reserve and how much the café was valued by local residents, and the impact, particularly on the elderly, if the café closed. Councillor Parker-Jones also highlighted that the potential cost savings were low compared to other areas that HCC were looking at. She concluded by welcoming the potential opportunities with the HIWWT and HHRA but highlighted that the Executive Member decisions shouldn’t be taken without HCC exploring further what these opportunities would mean.