A number of new developments are emerging on the Hart Local Plan, that show that the overall process is confused and murky.
First, we understand that a new Housing Options paper is being produced that will go to a special meeting of Hart Council Cabinet on 18 November. This paper will then be offered for consultation, although the consultation period is not clear. Usually, six weeks are allowed for consultation, but there is some suggestion that this period will be reduced.
Second, it has emerged that the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) is being revisited to take account of changes in the population and household forecasts. We hope that this work will also take the opportunity to take a fresh look at the outlandish jobs forecasts in the current version of the SHMA. We believe that this work should result in an overall reduction in the housing allocation for Hart and the rest of the housing market area that includes Surrey Heath and Rushmoor. This would be good news and should remove the threat of Surrey Heath and Rushmoor asking Hart to build 3,000 houses for them. It is understood that this work will be completed early in the New Year.
Third, Hart District Council is embarking upon a process to identify additional brownfield sites across the district by consulting with town and parish councils. It is unclear how long this process will take, but it is fairly clear it will not be complete by the time the Housing Options paper is due to be completed. The council has still not committed to creating a proper register of brownfield sites across the district.
Finally, Rushmoor are still working on the results of the consultation they ran over the summer and are planning to publish a revised Local Plan for consultation early in the New Year, presumably taking account of the revised SHMA.
Pulling all of this together, it appears we are going to be consulted again on Housing Options which is to be welcomed, but the number of houses we need to accommodate will not take account of the latest thinking in the revised SHMA, nor Rushmoor’s revised plan nor will it take account of the total brownfield capacity in the district. It also seems odd that the council is seeking to force through a new consultation on a compressed timescale in the run up to Christmas, which is a time most residents will be focused on other things. All in all, a very murky process.