Beware the ‘garden village’: it’s not green and it’s not a village

Protect our green fields

Protect our green fields

In a sign that much of the South East of England is starting to revolt against the Government’s plans to concrete over our green fields, the Sunday Times has published an important article attacking “meaningless” garden villages and urban sprawl.  This echoes the recent survey of Hampshire residents that put protecting our towns and villages as a key election issue.  Just to be clear, We Heart Hart does not support the Rudlin proposal outlined in the article below of taking bites out of our green belt.  We believe that Hart District’s housing need can be met from brownfield development.

It remains to be seen if our Parliamentary and District Council candidates will take heed.  If you want to join 1,600 other people who want to oppose Hart District Council’s plans for a new town in Hart, please sign and share our petition.

 

Go to Petition

 

The article can be found here and is reproduced below.

Beware the ‘garden village’: it’s not green and it’s not a village

by Charles Clover, Sunday Times

OUR nearby town has just leapt towards us. It vaulted the trunk road, previously a barrier to development, with a huge park-and-ride for 1,000 cars. The lights of that were turned on this month, just after a proposal for a new “garden village” of 4,000 homes emerged from the imagination of local speculators. Were this approved, it would push far north into green countryside and towards Constable country.

Our nearby town is Colchester but it might be anywhere in the southeast. The quandary is the same: how to provide enough land to build about 1,000 homes a year for the next 15 years to address the desperate need to house the young and to tackle rising house prices.

The town is under pressure to find the right number of homes to put in its local plan or it will lose control and be forced to approve every speculative proposal, as has happened in another local town, Braintree, when an inspector found its numbers too low. So a rather chilling thing has happened. Colchester issued a “call for sites”. This flushed out not only every farmer with a few acres he wouldn’t mind selling — the little red patches on the map of offered land in every village are a tale of rampant opportunism. The call has also galvanised some large landowners to band together and propose “garden villages” in green countryside.

Some are considered wildly speculative. But the largest of these proposals, up to 15,000 homes on the A12/A120 corridor known as West Tey, is being taken seriously. The landowners in question could then fly off to the Channel Islands with £1m an acre, leaving the rest of us to fund the roads, hospitals, railways and schools these homes will need.

This “landowner-led” process is a consequence of the government’s simplification of the planning system. It has taken out the layer of bureaucracy known as regional planning and pushed responsibility down to the boroughs. In a few years the effect of this may reduce the upward pressure on house prices. But it has left local authorities struggling to find sufficient land. Our own has done a good job, until now, of building on brownfield sites. Now the numbers are too great. It must consider green fields because it has no more brown ones. There are plenty of brownfield sites to the south, along the Thames, but there is no mechanism for pushing the development there because under the new system each borough must provide for its own population.

Sensibly, our borough has decided not to make every chancer’s day. It favours the idea of a few new settlements, still euphemistically described as “garden villages”. The thing is that 15,000 homes is not a village. It is a town. Without inspired planning, it is Los Angeles-style sprawl. Any resemblance to century-old garden cities, such as Letchworth, is purely coincidental. Developments such as West Tey are speculative and there is, as yet, no certain way of tapping into the windfall profits, known as “uplift”, to upgrade stretched infrastructure: our hospital has been under emergency measures, the roads are clogged and you may have to stand on the train to London.

The problem with the process here is that it has brought forward land along a main road that is already outdated, in green countryside that is not close enough to the local town for walking or cycling and on grade 2 agricultural land that is meant to be protected. Contrast what is going on in Ebbsfleet, Kent, where the same number of homes are planned: the government is pouring £200m into infrastructure and the settlement sits on the underused Channel Tunnel rail line. The windfall profits will be diverted into an urban development corporation — like the ones used to develop postwar new towns such as Harlow. This option does at least mean the public get the kind of town they need.

Thoughtful locals are pressing Colchester to think again about a town extension instead of meaningless “garden villages”. That debate is opening up across the country. The advocates of expanding existing towns cite the arguments made by David Rudlin, an urban planner who won last year’s £250,000 Wolfson economics prize: that postwar new towns lacked sufficient scale to be successful and stagnated economically when large employers closed. Rudlin favours instead taking “confident and well-planned” bites out of the green belt and developing them like new towns.

It is not too late for those arguments to prevail here — indeed, one of the options being considered in Colchester is an extension of 5,000 homes near the university. But it will take a jolt from local MPs after the election to get sensible options fully considered. That is nothing to the jolt there will be in the form of opposition, across the country, if wildly speculative developments like those I’ve seen find their way into local plans.

How to make a better Local Plan for Hart District

Protect our green fields

Protect our green fields

We know that progress on the Local Plan for Hart District is slow and that it is not going in the direction many would like to see.  We thought it was time to outline an alternative approach, and see if Hart Council and the candidates for election will change their minds. Below we set out a five point plan for change:

  • Create a medium growth scenario
  • Create a formal brownfield option and invite a competition to design the art of the possible
  • Do the work and consult upon the additional elements of a proper Local Plan
  • Consider the Environment and Landscape
  • Fix the management and governance problems

1.  Create a Medium Growth Scenario

We need to work on creating a reasonable, alternative “medium growth” scenario to go alongside the current “high growth” scenario. We have posted earlier about why we believe the SHMA is flawed (as shown here and here) and is forcing us to build too much –  7,534 houses in Hart plus 3,100 extra from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.  Hart District Council should work with Rushmoor and Surrey Heath work to create a joint new, “policy on” lower housing requirement for the whole Housing Market Area that:

  • Takes account of the environmental damage that large scale over-development would cause to our valuable countryside and the green belt in Surrey Heath
  • Uses more realistic jobs growth assumptions of say around 650-750 jobs per annum over the cycle which is above what was achieved over the last economic cycle as opposed to the existing assumption in the SHMA of 1,130 jobs per annum
  • Uses more realistic inward migration and household size assumptions.

The more realistic assumptions above could reduce the overall housing “need” for the combination of Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath by around 8,000 dwellings from 23,600 to 15,790. We believe this would relieve the pressure on all three districts, and in particular, reduce the pressure on Hart to take the unmet needs of Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Boroughs.

2. Create a formal brownfield option and invite a competition to design the art of the possible

We have already demonstrated that Hart has no effective brownfield strategy.  Hart Council should create a new, formal “reasonable suitable alternative” option of meeting the housing need solely through brownfield development. This should involve the following:

  • Creating a complete database of all of the potential brownfield sites in the district, including those not yet in the SHLAA and those not yet formally promoted to the council, including sites such as Bramshill House, Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), Sun Park, Ancells Farm, Bartley Wood, Fleet High St and all of the run down town centres (e.g. Fleet, Yateley, Blackwater and Hook).
  • Inviting leading architects to compete to produce some visionary outline schemes of what a “brownfield solution” might look like for the district, taking into account changing demographics, changing shopping habits driven by the internet and achievable housing densities.
  • Organising a conference with the architects, land owners, developers and local community representatives with the objective of identifying the art of the possible for brownfield development amongst the competing solutions from the architects.

This could be done in conjunction with the neighbouring authorities of Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.

3. Do the work and consult upon the additional elements of a proper Local Plan

Hart District Council needs to work on the other elements that should make up a local plan such as education, retail, transport, employment, meeting the needs of the ageing population and other infrastructure.  Hart should conduct suitable, high level strategic analysis to build an evidence base to answer the following questions:

  • Education. How many school places will we need and where in both the current “high growth” and proposed “medium growth” alternative requirement scenarios? How might these be delivered and what are the costs of the alternatives?
  • Retail. What is the range, type and location of shops required across the district, taking into account changing shopping habits, the growth of the internet, changing demographics and the alternative growth scenarios?  How will we regenerate our high streets?
  • Transport. What investment will be required in the major road and rail infrastructure under both growth scenarios? Considering alternative sites for each of the development options (including the new “brownfield option”), what investment will be required in minor roads, making broad assumptions on the location of alternative sites?
  • Employment. This review should be conducted across the Hart, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.  What types and quantities of employment land will be required under the alternative growth scenarios, taking into account changing work structures and habits; what is the current forecast surplus/deficit in 2032? Would any extra employment land need to be found?  How much current employment land could be released for housing?
  • Other infrastructure. It is likely that a new town, particularly in Winchfield, would require even further infrastructure spending due to its current lack facilities such as mains sewage and mains gas. What is the cost of providing additional infrastructure for a new town such as sewage, gas, roads, electricity, rail etc?
  • Ageing Population.  What type of housing is required to meet the needs of the 6,850 extra people aged over 75 and the extra 3,620 people who will be suffering from dementia or have some sort of mobility problem and where should it be located?

For each option and scenario Hart should outline the total cost of infrastructure spending required and the likely contribution from developers so that a proper financial model can be created.

4.  Consider the Environment and Landscape

Fourth, Hart should conduct the other studies that are required to update the evidence base such as the landscape character assessment and an assessment of the potential damage caused to our wildlife by over-development.

 

Once this work has been completed, Hart District Council should carry out a new Regulation 18 consultation on the above that includes both a medium and high growth scenario and the properly evaluated options for meeting the housing need including the new proposed “brownfield” option. It would be preferable if the current “Option 4 – New town at Winchfield” (or indeed a new settlement anywhere in Hart) was dropped as an option. It will be important for the council to step up its engagement efforts during this period to ensure that a much larger proportion of the public responds to the consultation.

After the results of the consultation is known, firm up a preferred growth scenario and delivery option(s) to work up into a more detailed Local Plan and conduct an exercise to ensure democratic endorsement of the preferred option. This could take the form of a district wide referendum or a series of Parish Polls, followed by a Regulation 19 consultation before submission to the inspector.

 

5.  Fix the management and governance problems

Finally, Hart need to work on the setting up the Local Plan project properly and address the governance deficiencies. There is clearly no properly defined scope or deliverables as the recent questions to the Planning Inspector demonstrate.  Moreover, the timeline keeps slipping as we were originally supposed to have been consulted on a draft plan in March 2015, and it is clear that Hart is nowhere near that milestone even though it has dropped that consultation from its plan.  This indicates the Local Plan project is not properly resourced. The Council needs to appoint a suitably qualified, experienced project manager, follow a properly recognised project management methodology such as Prince 2 and invest in the proper resources required to carry out the project on time to proper quality standards.

Given the prior failure of the earlier Local Plan at inspection and the current hopeless path the new Plan is taking, it is also clear that the governance of the Local Plan is deficient, with power effectively concentrated into the hands of only two people. The Council needs to explore ways of separating powers so that there is better transparency and accountability on both the “officer” and “member” sides. We suggest that the project should report to the joint chief executive who is not also in charge of planning; that roles of council leader and portfolio head for planning are carried out by two separate people and the council members elect a more proactive and capable chairman. This should lead to a wider range of opinions to be heard and appropriate checks and balances to be implemented.

It remains to be seen if our Parliamentary candidates or our Hart District Council candidates will endorse this plan.

If you would like to join the campaign to change Hart’s mind, please sign and share our petition.

 

Go to Petition

 

 

North East Hampshire Candidates declare their positions on Winchfield New Town

The issue of a new town in Winchfield is a local issue and will not be decided by MP’s in Parliament.  However, many people want to know where their local parliamentary candidates for NE Hampshire stand on the issue.  MP’s do have the ability to influence Government policy on the National Planning Policy Framework, and on the incentives given to develop brownfield land.  Winchfield Action Group have posted on Facebook their report of the recent hustings in Odiham.  This has given an interesting view of all of the candidates standing for election in the North East Hampshire constituency at the 2015 General Election #GE2015:

Conservatives (Ranil Jayawardena): Against. Brownfield development is the way forward.

Monster Raving Loony Party (Mad Max Bobetsky): Totally against building in Winchfield. It’s beautiful.

Labour (Amran Hussain): Support locally led development. Majority are against the new town in Winchfield.  Endorses our suggested new approach to the Local Plan.

Greens (Andrew Johnston): Against a new town. Brownfield redevelopment should be a priority.

Libdems (Graham Cockarill): There are not enough brownfield sites in Hook and Winchfield. A new town is long term the way to go, although not necessarily in Winchfield.  Note that as a councillor, Mr. Cockarill was head of planning at the time of the vote for the new town on November 27 2014 and voted in favour of it.

If you would like to know more about each candidate’s position, their contact details can be found on our contacts page.

Our understanding of the positions of the district council candidates can be found here.

As I understand it, all of the major parties have recently expressed strong support for brownfield development; but that does not necessarily translate into local policy that is adopted by local councillors.

Prof Dieter Helm – policymakers should pause for thought before concreting greenbelt

An important paper on the future of the green belt has recently been published by Professor Dieter Helm.  The paper is quite long, but the conclusion is applicable to Hart Council as it continues to push for a new settlement in Winchfield that will concrete over the green lung at the heart of Hart as part of the Local Plan.

Before policy makers surrender to the direct interests of the developers, they should pause for thought. There is a viable third alternative that at least deserves proper analysis, and it is potentially rich in benefits. Instead of yet more urban sprawl, imagine a Green belt with lots of natural capital, a much more environmentally benign agriculture, much greater public access, woodlands located next to people so it could fulfil not only the original purpose of limiting the sprawl but also provide the lungs of the cities, the fresh air for children to play in, and the recreational benefits which are crucial to health and well being. That is worth exploring before the irreversible destruction of this major asset located exactly where it is needed – next to people. There is after all no shortage of land to build houses on if that is what is required. It does not have to be at the expense of a key asset that the previous generation left to us, and which we have a responsibility to pass onto the next generation.

It seems obvious that Hart would derive significant benefits from avoiding urban sprawl by maintaining and enhancing our natural green spaces, through keeping places for children to play and for all of us to walk and cycle so we can improve our health and well-being.

Time for Hart to think again.  If you would like to add to the pressure on Hart to change its approach, please sign and share our petition.

 

Go to Petition

 

 

We Heart Hart petition breaks the 1,500 barrier

The We Heart Hart petition is now really taking off, breaking through the 1,500 barrier today. This is approaching three times the number of valid responses to the Hart Council consultation that took place in Autumn 2014 and nearly 7 times the number of people (220) of said they favoured a new settlement.

It seems that the people of Hart are waking up to the reality that the Council’s plans will:

  • Turn the northern part of Hart will turn into a single urban sprawl when there is an alternative of building higher density in urban areas to help rejuvenate our high streets
  • Ignore many brownfield sites untouched all over the district where we could build housing
  • Destroy our environment and the very nature of Hart’s unique appeal – the reason we all love living here.

 

If you would like to join our campaign, please sign and share our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

Surely it is now time for Hart Council to think again and listen to the people.

Hart District Council and Government Inspector ride roughshod over local democracy

We Love Hart Campaign Logo

We Love Hart Campaign Logo

Recent meetings between Hart District Council and Keith Holland, the Planning Inspector, demonstrate the council and Government are trying to ride roughshod over local democracy and the environment.  It should be noted that our petition asking the council to change course has reached more than 1,300 signatories, more than 6 times the number of people who expressed a preference for a new town in Hart’s consultation.

Nevertheless, from the papers of the meetings in October 2014 and March 2015 between the council and the government inspector, it is clear that between them, they are seeking ways to bypass local democracy. Downloads of the working papers for the meetings can be found at the bottom of this post.

First, it is clear that Hart Council is seeking to make a new settlement a “political preference” and then load the assessment of options so that those options that didn’t include a new settlement would perform less well than options that did.  Given that many councillors have stated that they are only reluctantly going along with the idea of a new town as the “least worst option”, it is quite staggering that the council should seek to proceed in such a biased manner.

New settlement as political preference

New settlement as political preference

Sadly, it appears as though the inspector agrees with Hart’s approach, however he did indicate that the council should first establish all of the needs of the district in terms of housing and social and economic development.  Hart does not appear to have done any work at all on establishing the infrastructure needs of the district.

Vision should include more than housing

Vision should include more than housing

 

Second, it is clear that both the council and the inspector want to ride roughshod over local democracy by making the Local Plan override any Neighbourhood Plans prepared in advance of it. This again bypasses the democratic process in each parish and flies in the face of the Government’s supposed “localism” policy where David Cameron said in 2012:

“Our reforms will make it easier for communities to say ‘we are not going to have [a] big plonking housing estate landing next to the village, but we would like 10, 20, 30 extra houses and we would like them built in this way, to be built for local people’.”

Local Plan supersedes Neighbourhood plans

Local Plan supersedes Neighbourhood plans

 

Third, the risk of having to take 3,100 extra houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor, leaving Hart having to take on by far the largest number of houses across all three districts has been confirmed.  The Planning Inspector said that Hart “must test an option whereby it takes all of the estimated shortfall in Rushmoor and Surrey Heath”.

 HartSurrey HeathRushmoor
Original Assessed Need7,5349,8227,057
Shortfall from SH and Rn/a1,7001,400
New Need10,6348,1225,657

 

Fourth, both Hart District Council and the planning inspector are trying to sneak through the Local Plan with minimal consultation.  At the first meeting the planning inspector advised that consultation should be kept to a minimum and since then the council has quietly dropped the Regulation 18 consultation it said it would carry out in March 2015.  This clearly shows that both the Local Council and the Inspector want to rush through the Local Plan without properly consulting with the people.  It is worth noting that the size of the 3,100 dwelling unmet need from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor was not known at the time of the first consultation. This pushed up Hart’s requirement from 7,534 to 10,634.  This surely represents a major change that on its own would justify a further consultation.

Keep consultation to a minimum

Keep consultation to a minimum

Surely it would be better for Hart to knock out Option 4 – new settlement now on the grounds of environmental damage to avoid the need to take on the additional requirement from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor?

Finally, Hart has to demonstrate where it is going to put all of the houses, but doesn’t have to show it will protect our environment by providing suitable green spaces.

Attitude to SANG capacity

Finding SANG capacity not as important as finding sites for houses

This is surely a ridiculous position to take and puts our environment at unnecessary risk, where they adopt a new settlement in the Local Plan but don’t have to show exactly how they will mitigate the environmental impact.

Downloads of the papers referred to in this post can be found below.

Note of Hart DC meeting with PINS 30 Mar 2015
Briefing note for Hart DC meeting with PINS 30 Mar 2015
Note of Hart DC and PINS Meeting 20 Oct 14

Meeting 30/3/15 Briefing note for 30/3/15 meeting Minutes from 20/10/14

We Heart Hart Presentation to Crondall Parish Council

We Heart Hart were delighted to be invited to speak at tonight’s parish council meeting at Crondall.

 

The presentation went well with lots of interest in the Hart Local Plan and how we might persuade Hart Council to think again, particularly to focus on brownfield development and fight off the demand for us to build 3,100 extra houses for Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils.  Lots of interest in our leaflet too.

 

A copy of the presentation and leaflet are available for download below.

 

We Heart Hart Presentation to Crondall Parish Council

 

We Heart Hart Campaign Flyer

 

Presentation

We Heart Hart petition is now twice as big as Hart District Council consultation

The We Heart Hart petition is now really taking off, now exceeding 1,200, adding more than 280 since Friday night. This is more than twice the number of valid responses (550) to the Hart District Council consultation that took place in Autumn 2014 and more than 5 times the number of people (220) of said they favoured a new settlement.

It seems that the people of Hart are waking up to the reality that the Council’s plans will:

  • Turn the northern part of Hart District will turn into a single urban sprawl when there is an alternative of building higher density in urban areas to help rejuvenate our high streets
  • Ignore many brownfield sites untouched all over the district where we could build housing
  • Destroy our environment and the very nature of Hart’s unique appeal – the reason we all love living here.

 

If you would like to join our campaign, please sign and share our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

Surely it is now time for Hart Council to think again and listen to the people.

We Love Hart Campaign Logo

Signatories to We Heart Hart Petition go over 1,000

We Heart Hart is delighted to announce that the number of signatories to the petition has now broken through the 1,000 barrier.  Many thanks to all of our supporters.  If you haven’t signed it yet, the please sign and share with your friends.

 

Go to Petition

 

The signatories have been boosted this weekend with a coordinated leafleting campaign across the district.  Many thanks to al those who have been wearing out their shoe leather across the district.  Anecdotal feedback from our leafleters and those who were handing out leaflets in the street is that the overwhelming majority of people are opposed to a new town and would like Hart Council to focus on brownfield development instead.

Please ask your local council candidates to oppose a new town.

Where does your Hart District Council candidate stand on a new town?

We Love Hart Ballot Box

The Hart Council elections will take place on May 7 2015 and all of the candidates can be found here. We Heart Hart urges you to find out where your candidate stands on the issue of a new settlement in the district and ask them to oppose it. If they come an canvas you, then please raise the issue of the local plan with them.

Key issues are:

  • We are being asked to build too many houses, our housing allocation relies on us created nearly double the number of jobs than was created during the boom times of 1998-2008 and
  • Hart’s planning assumption of only 30 dwellings per hectare (dph) is too low, and even they have admitted they could go to 808-160dph.  If they increased density on brownfield, we would not need a new town
  • Hart already have a funding gap of £78m for infrastructure.  Building a new town is likely to mean this gap will get much worse because building on green fields requires much more infrastructure than brownfield development

We have compiled a list of all of the candidates standing, and where we know it, their position on a new town.  How many will endorse our new approach to the local plan?

 

Hart District Council Candidates May 2015

WardNamePartyPosition on New Settlement
Blackwater & HawleySteve Francis??
Mike GascoigneUKIP?
Vivienne GascoigneConservative?
Bob HarwardLiberal DemocratVoted in favour
Les LawrieLabour & Co-operative?
Crookham EastChris AxamCommunity Campaign HartVoted in favour
Helen ButlerConservative?
Dawn MoorsUKIP?
Ruth Ann WilliamsLabour?
Crookham West & EwshotDominic ArthurLabour?
Tony ClarkeCommunity Campaign HartVoted in favour
David Franklin OwensUKIP?
Christopher James SimmonsConservative?
Fleet CentralMatthew Cyril BennettGreen?
John BennisonCommunity Campaign HartVoted in favour
Alex GrayConservativeAgainst new town, favours brownfield development over building on green fields
Satdeep Kaur GrewalLabour?
Howling Laud HopeMonster Raving Loony?
Fleet EastPeter William DevonshireUKIP?
John Grant GawthorpeLabour?
Stephen George ParkerConservativeVoted in favour
Neil Christopher WaltonLiberal Democrat? But all Lib Dems voted in favour
Fleet WestStephen Robert CantleCommunity Campaign Hart? But, all CCH voted in favour
Paul Stephen Walter EinchcombLiberal Democrat? But all Lib Dems voted in favour
James Edwin HurstLabour?
Sara KinnellConservativeVoted against, but changed ward
Gordon SmithUKIP?
Hartley WintneyAltay AliUKIP?
Anne CramptonConservativeVoted against
Tony OverLiberal DemocratStated against, but all Lib Dems voted in favour
Andrew James RenshawConservativeAgainst
Alan WoolfordLiberal DemocratStated against, but all Lib Dems voted in favour
HookBrian Douglas BurchfieldConservativeVoted in favour
Ruth Stella HamiltonUKIP?
Verd NabbsLabour?
Jeffrey Robert SmithLiberal Democrat? But all Lib Dems voted in favour
OdihamRosalyn Jane GordonLiberal Democrat? But all Lib Dems voted in favour
Stephen Alexander GorysConservativeVoted in favour
Kevin OliverUKIP?
Yateley EastJohn Peter Simon BurtonConservative?
Dave NeighbourLiberal DemocratVoted in favour
Sue PerkinsUKIP?
Joyce StillLabour?
Yateley WestAndrew Shawn DickensConservative?
Claire ElhaggagiLiberal Democrat? But all Lib Dems voted in favour
John William HoweUKIP?
Alistair William SutherlandLabour?

 

If you are a candidate and want to update your position, please get in touch, and we will update the table.

The declared positions of the North East Hampshire parliamentary candidates can be found here.

We Heart Hart and Winchfield Action Group are delivering leaflets all across the district and engaging with people in the street.  The overwhelming number of people we have spoken to are against a new town in Hart when they understand the facts.  This is in line with the findings of the Get Hampshire survey of Hampshire residents.  It is time our councillors and candidates started listening to the people.  Copies of the leaflet can be found here.

If you would like to join our campaign, please sign and share our petition:

 

Go to Petition