Hart Council is still saying that “many” people support a new town at Winchfield, but the evidence for this is paper thin. However, many more people have supported our petition, calling for a brownfield strategy and even Hart’s own consultation showing many others support some form of urban development.
At Hart Council meeting in July it was stated by the council leader that:
“For many people in Hart the Winchfield new settlement option is far preferable to continual growth of existing settlements”
Their evidence for this is the outcome of the consultation that took place between August and October 2014. The outcome emphasised by the council is Table 1 which shows that by ranking first preferences only, Option 4 (Focused Growth – New Settlement) was the preferred option by only 202 people. However, the obvious point is far more people voted for a solution other than a new town.
However, Hart Council also published a second table produced by giving a score to each rank ,with 1st rank choices getting 5 points, down to fifth rank choices getting 1 point.
As can be seen, this gives the top score to Option 1 (Settlement Focus), second place to Option 4 and a strong showing for Option 3 (Focussed Growth – Strategic Urban Extension).
Since then, of course, the We Heart Hart petition has generated over 2,100 signatures and calls for the vast bulk of our housing requirement to be built on brownfield sites. However, it is worthwhile considering what Options 1-3 actually meant:
- Option 1 was described as concentrating new housing development within the existing boundaries of the main settlements and larger villages within Hart. Opportunities would be sought for planned regeneration and change within the settlements, including the potential re-allocation of some employment and other land for residential redevelopment, where the land was no longer required or appropriate for the original purpose.
- Option 2 would involve allocating new housing development adjacent to each settlement within tiers 1-4 of Hart’s settlement hierarchy. A starting point could be to try and enable growth in proportion to each settlement’s overall size, and could take into account factors such as the existing dwelling stock within those communities, their level of infrastructure capacity and their accessibility by different modes of transport.
- Option 3 would involve a small number (perhaps one to four) locations being targeted for concentrated growth and development in the form of a major expansion of one or more existing settlements within Hart.
Careful analysis of these options shows that that what they really mean is development within existing urban areas or very close to them. Taking the raw first preference choices would show that 295 people out of the 550 valid responses, a clear majority, would prefer development within urban areas or close to existing settlements and not a new settlement.
Yet, despite their own evidence from Table 2, the evidence from the We Heart Hart petition and the revised analysis of Table 1, Hart Council has set its course towards a new settlement at Winchfield, despite massive infrastructure issues and big environmental issues associated with the Thames Valley Heath Special Protection Area, several SSSI’s and SINCs. Moreover, a new town leaves Hart open to becoming a sink for 3,100 houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.
This seems to us to be the flimsiest of evidence on which to build a housing strategy and runs the risk of falling apart under inspection.