County Council agrees long-term investment plans for Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve

Hampshire County Council has confirmed it will proceed with plans previously approved at a Decision Day on 8 December to sell Haven House to raise funds to invest in Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve, a site of international importance for wildlife, designed to tackle a projected £1.8 million funding shortfall over the next three years

Aug 1 2023

The recommendations to decline the bids submitted by two separate organisations following a six-month moratorium on the sale of the building were agreed by Councillor Russell Oppenheimer, the County Council’s Cabinet Member for Countryside and Regulatory Services, at his Decision Day on Monday 31 July. 

 Councillor Oppenheimer said: “In December last year, the County Council paused the sale of Haven House for six months after it was designated an Asset of Community Value. This also meant that much needed investment for the National Nature Reserve was put on hold. In June, we received separate submissions from Titchfield Haven Community Hub and Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust setting out alternative proposals to our own. Ahead of these bids, County Council officers and I have been in regular contact with representatives of these groups to provide support and any information requested about Haven House and the Nature Reserve.  

“The understanding was that the two organisations were working together on a joint bid, however two separate and unrelated proposals came forward. After careful consideration and detailed assessment, regrettably, neither bid submitted was able to meet the criteria we set out from the outset. Nor did the proposals provide a costed plan for how each organisation could deliver investment in the National Nature Reserve.  

“Whilst I appreciate there is strong local support for a community facility at Haven House, the upkeep of the Nature Reserve must be the top priority when the County Council faces significant financial challenges. 

“Furthermore, there are nationally imposed statutory obligations we must meet regarding the management of the Reserve. As a result, I find I have no option but to agree the recommendations to reject the bids which will mean a sale of Haven House on the open market to raise vital funds that will be ringfenced as investment for the Reserve and its wildlife.  

“I am keen to continue positive discussions with the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to consider ways that both organisations can work together on the County Council’s land management strategy for the lower Meon Valley area, including Titchfield. We have also offered meetings to Titchfield Haven Community Hub and the Trust to provide detailed feedback on their proposals.” 

The Titchfield Haven Community Hub Limited bid assumes a transfer of Haven House at no cost to provide community facilities alongside holiday accommodation. The business plan relies on ambitious income targets to meet revenue costs with no commitment or guarantee of a contribution to the running of the National Nature Reserve.  

The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust proposal outlines a high-level vision, rather than a fully costed business proposal, that sets out a wider plan for the management of the National Nature Reserve, and the wider Meon Valley area. This would require the County Council to transfer at no cost, significant land assets to the Trust. The vision does not provide any financial details as to how the National Nature Reserve would be managed, nor their intentions for investment in the Reserve.  

Read the Decision Day report and outcome here.