History of Southsea Town Council

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Submission to the DETR

The Local Government and Rating Act 1997

Southsea electors in unified appeal to the Secretary of State for Urban Parish Status

FULL TEXT OF THE SOUTHSEA BID APPLICATION TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE MAY 1998

1. THE PROPOSAL

The Southsea Environs Association is privileged to present this petition on behalf of all the electors of Southsea. The presentation is in accordance with legislation and procedure described within the Local Government and Rating Act 1997. The documentation and supporting information constitute a valid petition.

1. The proposal seeks the authorisation of Portsmouth Unitary Council and the Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to confer Urban Parish Status upon that area of the attached map described as Southsea, Hampshire.

2. The Southsea Environs Association wishes the Urban Parish to be administered by SOUTHSEA TOWN COUNCIL.

3. It is suggested that the number of Town Councillors be 16, serving for the standard electoral term.

4. Electorate served - 16,870 persons (In accordance with the 1998 Electoral List.)

5. Boundaries are set out in the attached Ordnance Survey map - (Enclosure A)

6. A petition signed by 2169 persons, all registered electors within the proposed area served. In total, this exceeds the stated requirement of the Act (Enclosure C).

LETTERS OF ENDORSEMENT

Letters of endorsement, giving fully qualified support in pursuance of the above proposal, have been received from the following:-

Councillor Michael Hancock CBE MP - The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South.
Councillor Richard Cole - Leader of the Opposition, Portsmouth Unitary Council.
Councillor Ian Gibson OBE - Leader of the Conservative Group, Portsmouth Unitary Council.
The Chairman - Portsmouth South Conservative Association.
The Chairman - Central Southsea Neighbourhood Forum.
The Chairman - West Southsea Neighbourhood Forum.
Cmdr. W H J Gibbs - Chairman, West Southsea Neighbourhood Forum 1994 - 1997.
The Chairman - Central Southsea Retailers Association.

Letters are duly attached. (See Enclosure B)
 
2. BRIEF HISTORY OF THE AREA.

Southsea Castle is an ancient monument and is situated on the southernmost tip of Portsea Island. It dominates the deep-sea channel and eastern seaboard approach to Portsmouth Harbour and its battlements have been preserved in almost pristine condition. From a lookout post close to, or within this formidable bastion, it was reported that King Henry VIII observed a maritime action against the French fleet. This skirmish in 1545 resulted in the strange floundering and almost unaccountable loss of England’s premier warship, the Mary Rose.

At this time, much of what is now West Southsea consisted of marshland and tidal inlets with intermittent areas of poor grazing land. It was not until the early 19th Century that Southsea warranted, or received, the attention of development.

In 1830 sufficient building activity appeared along what is still named Kings Terrace and Bellevue Terrace for Southsea to be viewed as a new town. What was soon to be regarded as a residential extension and middle class outpost of the Dockyard Garrison also attracted the nobility and gentry of Portsea Island. They flocked to the stylish 'Terraces' in acceptable numbers. Even at this time, it was reported that the appearance and superior 'build' quality of these dwellings differed greatly from their Portsmouth equivalent.

But it was in the period 1831 - 1860 that Southsea developed as an attractive garden suburb. This was largely due to the efforts of Thomas Ellis Owen, a builder, architect, but principally a property speculator who mixed many distinctive property styles of Regency or Italianate origin into a quite futuristic planning pattern. The origins of the 'winding roads' date from this period, all lined with an abundance of flora; half camouflaging the elegant residences that would lie beyond.

By the time Owen had built St Judes Church in 1851, Southsea was rapidly developing into a holiday venue. The expansion of hotel building, new ornamental gardens, a promenade, the construction of Clarence Pier (1861) and South Parade Pier (1879) confirmed its status as a Victorian seaside resort.

It is worth noting that in 1878 many eminent residents of Southsea, led by William Stevenson, formed the Southsea Improvement Association with an avowed aim of securing an improvement to the highways. Non-compliance with the request carried a real threat of secession from Portsmouth altogether.

Unlike many other coastal resorts, Southsea has always been divided from the sea by a vast swathe of land, formerly retained by a resident army garrison for strategic defence purposes. This land, known as Southsea Common, was transferred by the Government into the custody of Portsmouth Corporation in 1923. Totalling some 76 hectares, Southsea Common is the most exceptional area of recreational grassland in Portsea Island. Clarence Esplanade, some 2 miles in length, is one of the finest promenades on the south coast. Overall, Southsea enjoys some of the most unsurpassed scenic views of the Solent.

The land within the proposed Parish Council boundary represents approximately 40% of all conservation area land on Portsea Island. Seven different conservation areas encompass an area of 136 hectares and, according to the City Local Plan, also constitutes much of the designated Tourist Priority Area. It is this wealth of scenic beauty and historic building stock, which we wish to preserve.

SEA believes that the residential ambience and charm of Southsea is under threat and has largely been betrayed by a new Unitary Authority, which does not share similar values.

3. WEST SOUTHSEA NEIGHBOURHOOD FORUM and SEA

Twenty-four Neighbourhood Forums were established within Portsmouth between April 1993 and March 1995. The earliest known meeting of the West Southsea Neighbourhood Forum took place on 11th April 1994.

The Forums were initially viewed as a necessary ingredient to help promote the City Council’s move toward Unitary Status. They are funded and administered by the City Council and are controlled by a rigid Code of Practice which stresses their purely 'consultative' role and the importance of preserving political neutrality, whilst denying the Fora any delegated powers or budgets. Thus there is no lack of advice in drawing up acceptable 'constitutions' and even more complicated rules and guidelines should any Forum representative wish to attend any meeting of the City Council to make a deputation.

It was claimed that Neighbourhood Forums would :- 'represent a very important development in local democracy' ; 'relate to people in their community' ; 'draw on local ideas and knowledge' ; 'increase involvement and improve accountability' ; 'respond to local demands' ; 'strengthen local democracy' and 'ensure that each section of the community can make their views known'.

The West Southsea electorate made their views known in May 1995 when planning approval was granted for a large public house, quickly followed by an adjacent 900 person night -club, within the defined Southsea Shopping Centre. It was a relatively unannounced and surreptitious move and it inflamed and angered the local population. The West Southsea Forum, aided by a new influx of residential skill, fought the night-club development at every procedural stage. There is extreme dissatisfaction with the imposition of a scheme whose profound environmental impact was ignored and whose street-level 'dead frontage' has now replaced retail development.

Over a period of two years, all discussion at Forum meetings was dominated by planning and licensing matters. West Southsea bore the brunt of most of the controversial planning proposals. The phenomenal rise in unwanted A3 applications (hot food and drink) threatened to overwhelm a committee whose time was consumed in monthly appearances before planning and licensing committees and full day actions in the Magistrates Licensing Court.

It was soon realised that the Forum constitution did not allow the committee any executive powers other than the right to set the agenda for forthcoming quarterly public meetings. On the 3rd February 1996 the constitution was amended to provide for sub-committee representation, particularly in planning and licensing. Even so, this did not necessarily aid or comfort the members when addressing the various City Council Committees. During this process they were often mocked and called upon to state 'who they were', and questioned as to whether they were 'committee members of West Southsea Neighbourhood Forum' or were asked why they had 'assumed the right to speak on behalf of the people of West Southsea'.

In February 1997 the Chairman of the West Southsea Neighbourhood Forum finally sought the help of David Martin, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South. He kindly arranged for selected members of the Forum Committee to seek an audience with the Secretary of State for the Environment. The Minister was fully aware of the situation in Southsea. He recognised the special identity of Southsea within the Portsmouth conurbation and the distinct sense of community spirit. He understood and sympathised with the plight of the Southsea representatives and recommended that they be advised to apply for Parish Council status in accordance with legislation designed for the purpose.

In June 1997 Portsmouth City Council pressed ahead with proposals to inflict a series of selective parking measures upon Southsea. The planned measures were widely condemned and deemed to be wholly unreasonable and ill considered. The West Southsea Neighbourhood Forum was not given advanced warning of the controversial proposals and was thus not afforded the courtesy of consultation.

This coincided with what was regarded as a rather hostile planning application to impose a 'Superpub' within the Palmerston Road defined Shopping Centre of Southsea. Objectors present at the planning hearing were saddened to learn that the Chairman of the West Southsea Neighbourhood Forum, along with four others, were afforded a total time span of just 46 seconds to present their deputations.

The Forum Committee finally decided that the abuse of democracy had gone too far. At the public meeting dated the 30th June 1997 the West Southsea Neighbourhood Forum Committee tendered their resignations en bloc. With regret, they openly stated their intention to re-group and to work to achieve Parish Status for the citizens of Southsea.

The West Southsea Neighbourhood Forum has always strived to express the views of the local community and, in return, has enjoyed their fullest support. Public meetings held in St Judes Church have been regularly attended by up to 350 persons.

4. SEA

The Southsea Environs Association was set up primarily as a vehicle for accelerating and preparing the necessary documentation to petition for Parish Council status. It soon became apparent that the exit of so many key personnel had caused a temporary vacuum in the activity and performance of the West Southsea Neighbourhood Forum. The members of SEA were obliged to bridge the gap, especially as the former planning pressures concerning the pubs, clubs, restaurant and take-away culture did not diminish. SEA was prepared to oppose a liquor licence appeal that had been referred to the County Court. In December 1997, SEA and the new committee members of the West Southsea Neighbourhood Forum submitted joint deputations in opposing four controversial proposals at a hearing before the full City Council. The voting was split along party lines. One single approval resulted in an additional three A3 uses, to complement and increase a revised new total of eight A3 uses in a row in Osborne Road, a main Southsea shopping thoroughfare.

The members of SEA consider that there has been a misuse of planning powers, which has damaged the environment. Southsea is rich in conservation areas. Southsea Shopping Centre is completely surrounded by conservation area Nr 2 'Owens Southsea'. The introduction of so many A3 uses has harmed the amenity of all local residents. It has created a situation whereby it is reported that upwards of 15,000, noisy revellers descend upon Southsea, principally at weekends and loiter until the late hours.

Continual references to Southsea being an 'entertainment area' have earned derision and have been the subject of much debate. No such reference occurs within the City Plan. Southsea has always been a highly residential area, a conservation area, a tourist and retirement area and a suburban shopping centre.

It is interesting to note that no similar fate has befallen, or been directed, at the Commercial Road Precinct - Portsmouth’s main shopping centre. It has remained relatively devoid of A3 development. In this case there is little residential and no conservation area component. There has been no move to introduce the concept of a '24 Hour City' into the Commercial Road Shopping Centre.

Because there has been common sense of purpose and a singular goal, the members of SEA have been able to channel their resources to better effect. The wide adoption of telephone, fax, and electronic mail communication has guaranteed comprehensive daily consultation. SEA has collected the required signatories for the Parish Petition by discussion and door to door visits. There is overwhelming support for the parish concept as witnessed by the willingness of electors to register their approval.

5. THE MEMBERS OF SEA

The following are members of the Southsea Environs Association. In alphabetical order :-

M. E. ADAIR
D. BAILEY
S. M. COLLINS
B. DOHERTY
V. H. EGGLETON
W. H. J. GIBBS
A. GOUGH
S. HEALEY
S. H. HUMPHRIES
P. A. HUXTABLE
J. SAGE
K. SAUNDERS
L. SYMES
B. WHITE
    E. ASSER
J. BOOTH
M. BOOTH
A. DEAN
STEVEN HAGREEN
SYBIL HAGREEN
L. HUNT
N. HUXTABLE
C. M. LAY
J. B. OWLES
D. SAUNDERS
P. SMITH
P. SYMES
M. WHITE


6. WEST SOUTHSEA NEIGHBOURHOOD MEETING, 30th JUNE 1997

A copy of the recorded minutes of the West Southsea Neighbourhood Public Meeting of the 30th June 1997 is attached. (Enclosure D).

We invite the Minister to examine the minutes, which give a graphical snapshot of the frustration felt by so many Southsea residents.

It is worth noting that the Southsea Environs Association has fully complied with the terms set out in the minutes. The necessary documentation has been faithfully produced in accordance with the Department’s guidelines to fulfil the aspirations of Southsea electors. SEA has accomplished what they set out to do, and in doing so, have earned the respect of ordinary people and the business community.

For ease of reference, pertinent passages have been highlighted.

THE AIMS OF SOUTHSEA TOWN COUNCIL

1. To give electors in Southsea a voice. There is a clear and enthusiastic community support for the most local representative democracy. A Town Council would help develop active citizens.

2. Southsea is a separate place with a fine heritage and a special, clear identity within Portsea Island. A Town Council would improve the features of the resort and would enable the further development of tourism. A Town Council would put Southsea first and seek to reverse the decline in visitors choosing Southsea for a week’s holiday or short break.

3. A Town Council is the tier of Local Government closest to the electorate served. It would be poised to contribute to the revitalisation of local government. The Southsea Environs Association is rightly proud that some 2169 people freely chose to sign our petition to Portsmouth City Council and to DETR. These people are keen to support a new Town Council for Southsea.

4. Southsea Town Council would be well placed to work in partnership, and to give best value on such matters as service delivery and democratic renewal. A Town Council would work well in partnership with other bodies, such as the Southern Tourist Board, or with the Hampshire Constabulary.

5. A primary and fundamental goal of arresting the decline in current standards of residential amenity and to improve and maintain an acceptable level of amenity for all electors within the parish boundary.

6. To create a conservation area committee to overview the protection and improvement of conservation areas. To seek independent qualified advice regarding the management of the many conservation areas and to request, where necessary, additions to the Article 4 Direction portfolio.

7. To combat environmental pollution. Official records indicate that a Blue Flag (the accepted standard of bathing water cleanliness ) has never been granted to Southsea’s famous beach. It is a historical, current and ongoing situation, which would not be tolerated in other UK seaside venues. The Parish Council will pursue and investigate, monitor and take all necessary measures to help attain Blue Flag status for the resort of Southsea and will be vigilant in maintaining the standard thereafter.

8. Parking: To negotiate with Portsmouth City Council to take over one or more parking areas, to be managed by the Town Council. Alternatively, to purchase a site for car parking. To negotiate with Portsmouth City Council to introduce a Town Council Parking Warden scheme effective within the parish boundary. To implement any measure that may provide a more effective remedy for the current level of unauthorised parking. To look closely at any measure which may alleviate the misery of residential car parking frustration in many on-street areas.

9. To use new Parish powers (The Local Government and Rating Act 1997) in partnership to achieve safer communities and crime prevention initiatives for both Southsea residents and visitors. The Town Council will be seeking closer co-operation to heighten Police participation in combating drunkenness, violence, criminal damage, burglary, vandalism, anti-social activity and other common misdemeanours.

10. Portsea Island has one of the highest population densities in Western Europe. The Town Council will be obliged to address the question of overcrowding and will enter into discussions to limit the imposition of any more 'institutional' homes and other houses of multiple occupation (HMO’s), in residential areas.

11. To maintain the viability of Southsea Shopping Centre. A three- year long resident-led campaign has eventually resulted in an enforced ban on further A3 uses in Osborne Road and Palmerston Road. The A3 situation will be closely monitored and, in addition, the Parish will be supplying a significantly long list of planning anomalies to be rectified. The Town Council will be actively seeking ways to reverse the detrimental and downside effect of former policy and will be fully consulted (as a Town Council) on all planning matters affecting Southsea.

12. To promote and provide more bicycle parking areas, subject to demand. To achieve a more sustainable community. To develop more Parish Council powers on community transport, taking into account the electorate’s views.

13. Southsea Common. This has a special identity and optimum landscape value. The Town Council would be keen to extend stewardship, to preserve the open space amenity for all citizens. The abuse of this facility has become apparent in recent years and the Parish may wish to undertake measures that may restore and enhance the environmental balance.

14. Good environmental health for Southsea. The random deposit of waste in open view of the street, particularly in Tourist Priority Areas, is a matter that has never been accorded the due attention that it deserves. The Parish may seek to highlight this problem and to enact the appropriate measures.

15. Policies that negate tourism are counter-productive. It is difficult for any reasonable person to understand (i) why the seashore pollution problem has been allowed to fester for so many years, and (ii) why large prestigious hotels have been permitted to convert into highly questionable flats or hostels. In practice, the section of the current City Plan concerning tourism is incomprehensible. Southsea Town Council will seek to reverse the depressing tone of former policy and will promote a better tourism outlook for Southsea.

16. To report upon the poor standard and the deterioration of highway stock in Southsea. Maintenance and repair budgets will be examined to see if they are realistic or adequate for the purpose. Southsea Town Council may hope to initiate many of the Governments environmental policies but in response to the electorate's wishes, will lobby to prioritise the establishment of a better road programme in the first instance.

17. To be fully consulted on all matters concerning the production and content of Local City plans. The Parish Council area will be entered as a separate entity and all the special needs of the area will be met. Above all, the Council will wish to adopt a sensible approach and will request, and ensure, that all documents be written in Plain English. Southsea Town Council will never over-complicate simple tasks or seek to confuse the electorate with documentation which is needlessly difficult to understand.

18. To elect Town Councillors for Southsea, to be highly accountable to the electorate served, and to respond to the opportunities for community leadership on democratic lines.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION

All documentation in connection with this bid has been prepared by the Southsea Environs Association whose contact address and other particulars are as follows :-

ADDRESS: 10 AUCKLAND ROAD WEST, SOUTHSEA, PO5 3NY.
TELEPHONE: 01705 822682/870452/822636.
FAX: 01705 298677/732005.

The Association wishes to express sincere thanks to all those who have worked so tirelessly in support of this project and for the kind help and close assistance of all who have endorsed the bid.

In particular, we wish to extend our gratitude to Mrs. Suzanne M Hudson M.Sc., MA (EJ)., The Director of the Hampshire Association of Parish and Town Councils, St. Thomas Centre, 20 Southgate Street, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 9EF for all the valuable advice and technical information.

S M COLLINS (5th April 1998)

Conclusion :-

SEA forwarded the documentation to the Secretary of State on the 6th May 1998

Portsmouth was given a statutory time limit of 3 months, to respond.

Portsmouth commissioned an independent MORI poll to gauge public opinion :-

The MORI poll results confirmed that residents favoured and supported the bid proposal.

Only 17% of residents disagreed with the SEA proposal to create a Southsea Authority.

Portsmouth admitted that public opinion clearly supported the establishment of a Southsea Authority, but for reasons best known to themselves, continued to oppose the petition in a hostile manner.

At great public expense, Portsmouth laboured to compile what many observers viewed to be a rather unconvincing 110 + page report - despatching it to the DETR on 4th August 1998.

But the reply was rapid. On the 16th September 1998, the DETR delivered the government's verdict. SEA's bid received initial approval. The legislative process had begun. The Parish of Southsea was born.

For too long, Southsea residents had endured a sense of beleaguered oppression. They had suffered a monthly cycle of torment ; all their letters and complaints were ignored. Amenity values had collapsed. A new Unitary Authority had been selectively ill-treating the residents of one small community and making life very uncomfortable. Southsea finally proved that it had the will, and the skill, to respond.

The future is now much brighter. Raise your glasses to the members of SEA.