Hart District Council’s Planning Department are persisting with plans for a new town in Winchfield, despite receiving a petition from 2,130 people asking that it does not include a new town in its new Local Plan. In its latest edition of Hart News, it has included a number of articles about the Local Plan which contain many controversial statements as outlined below.
In its first article, Hart Council say the “Council is reluctant to see ever more growth in existing towns and villages so the preference is to explore a new settlement at Winchfield”. This is in direct contradiction to the 5th objective of the petition which says:
To demand the council and government do not plan for any new settlement in Hart that will act as a sink for the unmet housing need in neighbouring areas.
Moreover, they say that brownfield capacity is only 1,800 units when we have already demonstrated that since last October, their original estimate of only 750 units is now in the range of 2,438-3,688, demonstrating that the remaining allocation of 3,500 is within reach with a bit of extra effort.
Hart Council also conveniently gloss over the fact that there is already a £78m infrastructure funding gap that can only get worse if they go for a new town, because the £300m infrastructure costs will far outweigh any developer contributions (c. £40m).
In their second and third articles, they emphasise that they turned down the proposed development at Hop Garden Road, Hook to stop unwanted sprawl and to protect the environment, local residents and protected species. The very same arguments could be advanced to protect Winchfield, which unlike Hop Garden Road is inside the zone of influence of the Thames Valley Heath SPA and contains 3 SSSI’s and many SINCs.
Hart Council laud Neighbourhood Plans as a chance for residents to play a much stronger role in shaping the areas in which they live and work whilst at the same time rather ominously suggesting that Neighbourhood Plans must conform to Hart Council’s assessment of their housing needs. It remains to be seen how Winchfield’s Neighbourhood Plan, which WeHeartHart understands will propose significant development, will be treated by Hart Council when it is submitted.
Hart is going to give its formal response to the petition at the Cabinet meeting on 1 October. After seeing today’s articles, that debate is going to be interesting…..