Concrete Community Campaign Hart (CCH) member and chairman of Hart District Council is to meet with our Local MP Ranil Jayawardena to challenge any misunderstandings there might be about the brownfield capacity of Hart District.
CCH are clearly alarmed at Ranil’s intervention on planning matters, especially as Ranil said he was against large-scale, top-down developments generally and he believed (as We Heart Hart believe), that our remaining housing allocation can be met from brownfield sites alone.
CCH have said they are opposed to redeveloping the derelict sites on Fleet Road in Fleet, Hampshire, and instead prefer to build a new town in Winchfield.
The chairman’s statement on this matter is included in the draft minutes of last week’s meeting and reproduced below:
Secondly, I have become aware of the disquiet felt by many members from all political groups about the Planning pronouncements from our MP Ranil Jayawardena. In particular, the assertion that Hart has enough Brownfield sites to build all its housing needs without the need to disturb any significant Greenfield sites outside current settlement boundaries. This is in direct contradiction to the advice we as a council have been given by officers, consultants and members on the Local Plan Steering Group.
In my role as Chairman I have had the pleasure of talking to Ranil on this issue whilst undertaking other civic duties. I therefore took the opportunity to invite him to a private meeting with this Council to explore why such disparate views have come about. His current position is that he would welcome such a meeting. My invitation was made to ensure no misunderstandings remain unchallenged between us as having a fully engaged, briefed and passionate advocate for Hart in Westminster is important for this Council.
I will be working with the Council Leader and Rail’s [sic] office to agree a date that will fit in with his Parliamentary responsibilities. It is therefore likely that the timing of such a meeting will not be a midweek evening so I apologise to working members in advance.
We do hope that Ranil maintains his position and points out to Hart Council members some of our work on brownfield capacity and Ranil also further explains his policy of pushing local councils to be more active.
Separately, the Council Leader expressed some sympathy with the view we should build on brownfield sites alone and even conceded it might be theoretically possible, but fell short of making a commitment to do so. Our questions and the Leader’s answers below:
Question: Do you agree with our local MP who says: “I believe unused and redundant commercial buildings should be brought forward for regeneration before any more greenfield sites are allocated anywhere in NE Hampshire. That includes Grove Farm, Hop Garden, Winchfield, the Urnfield…I’m against these developments – indeed, this sort of large-scale top-down volume-led development generally – as I do not believe they are necessary to deliver the housing we need in our area. Looking at Hart District specifically for a moment, as the largest part of the constituency, I believe that the local housing demand can be met on brownfield sites”?
Response: Putting to one side the matter that this is a quotation out of context, Mr. Jayawardena makes three points in this opinion statement. Firstly he says that brownfield should be used before greenfield; as a statement of principle I wholly agree, and always have. However, we are obliged to maintain a five year land supply. As fast as we approve fresh applications, previous consents are being built out; this is a moving target. Unless we can deliver brownfield site planning consents at the rate of that of our ongoing annual housing requirement we cannot deal with this sequentially. Given that we do not have deliverable and developable brownfield sites sufficient for our own Objectively Assessed Housing Needs (OAHN), we are obliged to allocate some sites other than brownfield to achieve the numbers required. Second, he is opposed to a number of specific sites, as am I. We are however compelled to allocate sites which we would prefer not in order to fulfil our OAHN. He states that he believes the OAHN can be met from brownfield sites; this is probably theoretically true, if we compel the use of unavailable sites including those in current active employment use. That is not available to us.
Question: What criteria would you use and how long would a brownfield site need to be vacant, with no sign of redevelopment before the council would consider using Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) to ensure that we can build modern apartments for young professionals who can’t otherwise buy a home in our area?
Response: CPO is not a cheap option. We would be obliged to pay market price for such land, plus the costs of acquisition, and this for a site where the owner has not perceived an opportunity to develop at a profit. It is simply unrealistic that Hart DC could undertake CPO on the scale necessary, and in the timeframes necessary, to persuade an Inspector that such a plan would be deliverable. The Council could not afford to do it. Further, to produce tracts of apartments for young professionals would result in fundamentally unbalanced communities. We need communities which provide for all our residents, including families and older people. Young professional ghettoes are not good planning. In the event that a site would become appropriate for CPO, the site would be considered on its individual merits. You should be aware, however, that the seizure of the assets of others even paying full value is not something this council has seen as desirable, which is why it was not considered as an appropriate means of site assembly should a new settlement proceed.
Question: How many sites would meet those criteria and how many dwellings might they yield?
Response: A site would be considered on its merits at the time.