Hart misses another deadline

This is where the miracle occurs

This is where the miracle occurs

In the immediate aftermath of the consultation debacle, Hart Council said that the consultation was “anticipated to be run again from late January“.  Of course, the last working day of January has now passed and there is no sign of the revised consultation and their website has been updated to say the consultation will run “from early Feb into mid March 2016”.

This now makes it a racing certainty that the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) will be released during the proposed new consultation period.  We believe that the new SHMA will reduce the housing need for the whole Housing Market Area, thus heading off the risk that we will have to build extra 3,000 houses for Rushmoor and Surrey Heath as well as reducing Hart’s own allocation.  This would of course render the whole consultation irrelevant as it would have been run on the wrong evidence base.

As we have written before, it would be better to wait until the new SHMA is released and run the consultation using the revised housing need numbers.  Due to the purdah rules, the results of the revised consultation could even be released at about the same time as if the consultation were started next week.

Hart District Council (HDC) Local Plan Consultation Time Lines

Local Plan Consultation Time Lines

It is time Hart Council too a leaf out of Rushmoor’s book and waited for the new SHMA before carrying on with the consultation.

 

 

Hart Council refuses to answer questions about the Local Plan

Dad's Army Hart District Council (HDC) refuse to answer questions and don't like it up 'em

Dad’s Army Hart Council don’t like it up ’em

In a quite astonishing development Hart Council refused to answer most of the questions I put to them last night. Most worrying was they refused to answer the questions about how well we are meeting the housing needs expressed in the SHMA.

I was told it was inappropriate use of council resources to further my own research into how well we are meeting the needs of the young with 1 and 2-bed dwellings and was told I should submit an FOI request to find out how many specialist units for the elderly we had built or permitted since 2011 (see SHMA figures 9.8 and 10.15 below). This is despite the SHMA itself (para 9.28) calling for the councils to use the data in the SHMA to monitor their own performance and ensure that future delivery is not unbalanced.

We think this obfuscation is outrageous and we are most concerned that the council refused to answer the questions about how well they are meeting the needs of Hart residents.  So we think it is time for some people power. I ask everyone to help me find out by downloading the suggested text below and emailing it to their councillor and copying in leader, Stephen Parker and chairman, Alan Oliver. You can find your own councillors here, and the email addresses of Stephen Parker and Alan Oliver are stephen.parker@hart.gov.uk and alan.oliver@hart.gov.uk respectively.

How well are we meeting the SHMA requirements?

In, addition, they said they would not publish the new project plan for the Local Plan, nor would they say how they arrived at the conclusion that brownfield capacity for the district was 1,800 units as they said at cabinet in September and in Hart News.

They refused to say who would take responsibility for the consultation debacle, saying it might interfere with the review being carried out by Overview and Scrutiny Committee (O&S).  I have to thank Stuart Bailey, chairman of O&S, who said that he did not intend his review to act as a block to the public asking questions, but this did not alter the view of chairman Alan Oliver that they were not going to answer.

We also learned that apparently the discrepancies between the site capacities shown in the New Homes Booklet and the official evidence base of the SHLAA, don’t matter. They were also very cagey on laying out the risks that the consultation may have to be run a third time when the new SHMA is released next month.

We did find out that the costs of re-running the consultation will be £13,000, although we didn’t find out how much the failed one cost us. We also learned that East Hampshire Council planners will effectively be running the Local Plan on Hart’s behalf now.

Leader Stephen Parker refused to resign when called upon to do so, after presiding over this unholy mess.

We will publish the full text of the questions and answers once they are available on Hart’s website.

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 9.8

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 9.8

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 10.15

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 10.15

 

 

We Heart Hart responds to Overview and Scrutiny Committee investigation

Hart District Council (HDC) Overview and Scrutiny Committee to examine consultation errors

Overview and Scrutiny Committee to examine consultation errors.  

In response to Hart Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s request for contributions from local groups to their investigation into the Local Plan Consultation debacle, We Heart Hart have sent in their thoughts on the matter.

The full response is available form the download below:

We Heart Hart contribution to consultation investigation

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Questions to Hart Council 28 January 2016

Hart District Council Offices, We Heart Hart. We Love Hart

Hart District Council Offices in Fleet, Hampshire.

After the Local Plan consultation debacle, we have put a series of questions to Hart Council that will be answered at their meeting on 28 January 2016.  Please do come along if you can.

The full questions can be found on the download below, and cover whether Hart Council has a project plan we can believe in; the progress (or otherwise) made in testing the Winchfield new town proposals; what happened to the 1,800 dwellings that Hart said in September could be built on brownfield sites; discrepancies between the consultation documents and the official SHLAA; how well we are meeting the needs of the young and elderly; the risks of re-running the consultation now, given the housing target (SHMA) is about to change and of course, seeking clarity on who instigated and authorised the fateful changes to the consultation materials part way through.

Questions for Council 28 Jan 16

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Hart Council still has no idea

Hart District Council (HDC) still has no idea

Hart Council still has no idea.

Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.  And sometimes people who are normally quite sensible and rational as individuals can become delusional and irrational as part of a group, in a phenomenon known as “Groupthink”.

Please bear this in mind as you read about Hart’s plans to embark on a new consultation about the Local Plan.

The Local Elections are to be held on 5 May 2016.  Prior to that, there’s a six week period of ‘purdah’ where the council can make no significant announcements nor take any significant decisions.  This year, purdah starts on 24 March.

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee is examining what went wrong with the abandoned consultation, but won’t report until the end of February at the earliest.

I have been told by someone who spoke to Stephen Parker as Cabinet last night, that the revised Housing Need from the new SHMA is due in late February, with perhaps some highlights being released earlier. Of course, our expectation is that Hart’s (and Rushmoor’s and Surrey Heath’s) housing requirement will be significantly reduced.

However, the Council now plan to start the consultation again, either on 29 January, or a week later and run it for six weeks, taking us to either 11 March or 18 March.  Not only that, they plan to ask those who submitted responses if they want to carry forward their responses to this new consultation, even though the evidence base is going to change mid-way through the consultation. Surely this would be highly irregular.

We think it will take at least two weeks for the results of the consultation to be properly analysed, meaning that they will not be available until after purdah has started, and so will not be able to be released until 6 May at the earliest.

Surely, it would be better for the council to wait until the new housing target is released and they have learned the lessons from the last shambolic consultation before starting the new one.  Interestingly, they could do that, and still be able to publish the results at exactly the same time as if they started the consultation next week, as the graphic below demonstrates.

Hart District Council (HDC) Local Plan Consultation Time Lines

Local Plan Consultation Time Lines

Q. What do you call a blind deer?  A. No idea

Q. What do you call a blind deer with no legs? A. Still no idea.

We suggest that readers who are concerned about this, write to their councillors and see if you can get them to see sense.

Consultation process to be examined by Overview & Scrutiny Committee

Hart District Council (HDC) Overview and Scrutiny Committee to examine consultation errors

Overview and Scrutiny Committee to examine consultation errors

Hart Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee is going to examine the decision making process surrounding the recently withdrawn Housing Options Consultation.  The terms of reference are:

  1. How decisions were made to approve and authorise the Refined Housing Options Consultation going ‘live’ in November 2015
  2. How decisions were made to alter consultation documents part way through the consultation process
  3. On what basis and rationale were decisions taken to withdraw the consultation
  4. Identify actions that the Council should take and recommend improvements to the process in regards to future consultation exercises.

The Committee hope to produce a report during February 2016. They have invited representations from local groups, so We Heart Hart will put in a submission.

Consultation ends in farce

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the omnishambles Consultation.

Consultation ends in farce

Fleet News and Mail has carried the story of the Hart Local Plan consultation omnishambles in its 20 January 2016 edition.  The full article can be found on this large image here. Now also online.

They cover our call for significant change in the Local Plan project, including replacing the Local Plan Steering Group who have presided over this sorry mess. We cannot continue to have a situation where with each year that goes by, the project slips by another year. They also cover our call for a proper brownfield solution to be included as one of the options.

Dermot Smith of Hook Action Against Over Development also criticises the council for wasting our time and money. Although he wrongly accuses We Heart Hart of having a vested interest in undermining the process.

To be clear, we want the process to be solid, we want a good Local Plan and quickly.  We first highlighted the project management and governance issues last April and called for change.  However, Hart Council ignored us, and all Hart residents are now paying the price.

Hart Consultation ends in farce Fleet News and Mail 20 Jan 2016

Hart Consultation ends in farce.

Update 2 includes clip – We Heart Hart interviewed on Eagle Radio

We Heart Hart interviewed on Eagle Radio

We Heart Hart interviewed on Eagle Radio.

We Heart Hart has been interviewed today by Eagle Radio about Hart Council’s (HDC) astonishing decision to abandon the Local Plan consultation.  The clip will be broadcast on news bulletins on the hour between 6 am and 10am tomorrow, Wednesday 20 January 2016. You can tune-in on 96.4FM, DAB or online.

If and when we get a copy of the clip, we will post it below:

 

This has now been broadcast on Eagle news and they are running a story on their website, here.  The clip can be found below:

 

 

 

We Heart Hart response to the decision to abandon the consultation

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the omnishambles Consultation.

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices.

After a period of reflection, we have now had time to compose a response to Hart’s astonishing decision to abandon the Local Plan consultation and set out what we think should happen to bring the Local Plan back on track. This has been sent to all councillors.

Readers may wish to copy a link to this page and send it to their ward councillor and add their own ideas on what should be done.  A list of councillor contact details can be found here.

What should we think about Hart Council’s decision to call off the Local Plan consultation with only a day to go before it was due to close?  Well, to misquote Churchill, this consultation has been a farce in a fiasco inside an omnishambles.  Never has so little been achieved by so many with so much of our money.

This is but the latest entry in a catalogue of mismanagement and misjudgement.

Back in April 2015, Peter Village QC described Hart’s position as “hopeless” and precious little has changed since then.  This abandoned consultation has not even covered the areas that he said should have been covered, namely, employment, retail, transport and infrastructure.

Now, let’s look at the timeline:

  • In October, 2013, when the earlier version of the plan was rejected by the Planning Inspector, the council said:

“that while the council operates under the interim strategy, it is working on an updated Local Plan…. We expect to put this out for consultation early next year, and would look to submit it to an inspector next autumn [2014],”

  • In April 2014, the plan was to have a resubmission plan ready for consultation in October 2015.
  • In February 2015, the plan was to have a resubmission plan ready for Autumn 2015.
  • As late as April last year, the council was insisting that they were still on track to deliver a Resubmission Plan by Autumn 2015, despite our warnings that the project was slipping.
  • We are now in a position, according to the latest schedule, where the Resubmission plan is due in Autumn 2016, but this has to be in serious doubt given the failure of this consultation and the fact that the evidence base won’t be revised until Spring 2016 and Hart have to hold a Regulation 18 consultation on the draft Local Plan, and heaven knows why it is planned for the Summer, when many people will be on holiday.

It is difficult to come to a conclusion other than the project management is woeful.

We need also to look at the governance of the project.  Power on the Local Plan Steering Group (LPSG) is concentrated in the hands of urban councillors who have presided over this mess.

Role Member
Cabinet Member for Planning (Chairman) Stephen Parker (Con Fleet East)
The Leader of Council Stephen Parker (Con Fleet East)
Cabinet Member for Housing Stephen Gorys (Con – Odiham)
Chairman of Planning Committee Simon Ambler (CCH – Crookham West and Ewshot)
Political Group Leaders David Neighbour (Lib Dem – Yateley East)

James Radley (CCH – Crookham East)

Stephen Parker (Con – Fleet East)

 

Not only that, the quality of the deliverables to date is poor.  By way of example, in January last year Hart commissioned a piece of work to test the new settlement and urban extension options.  The published results of this work have not met the objectives set at the outset.

I have had many people send me Facebook messages, tweets and emails saying what a farce the process has been a shambles and a waste of time and money.  One correspondent has even been moved to write a poem, saying they thought our leader has led us up the garden path and couldn’t even run a bath. In short the council is a laughing stock. Many people have also come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the reason the consultation has been called off is that the people were giving the ‘wrong answer’. There is no confidence in the council, the credibility of the whole Local Plan process is subterranean, with some complaining of “consultation fatigue”.

If the consultation is re-run at the end of January, it is extremely likely that parts of the new evidence base will be released during the consultation, thus meaning that the consultation will be run on the wrong evidence base, invalidating the results.

The Local Plan process is so far behind schedule that we are running the risk of Central Government stepping in and doing the Local Plan for us.  Moreover, the Government is currently consulting on plans to remove the New Homes Bonus from councils that do not have a Local Plan, so this further failure may result in a hit to services or increases in council tax. So, it is clear we need a good Local Plan and quickly.

But before we can move forwards it is imperative that we fix the management and governance failings that have led us to this unhappy place. It is simply untenable for the current incumbents to carry on as if nothing has happened.

The changes we need are:

  • Resignation of the entire LPSG from their positions to be replaced by a new group of senior councillors from a balance of rural and urban wards.
  • I’m sorry to say it, but the cabinet member for planning and leader’s position is untenable after presiding over such a comedy of errors.
  • Whoever authorised the change to the questions mid-way through the consultation within the “officer” side must at least be severely reprimanded.
  • Hart need to appoint an experienced project manager to run the Local Plan project who should immediately review it and put together a realistic scope, objectives, deliverables, resource requirements, costs and timelines, publish it, and offer it for scrutiny by a recognised project assurance organisation
  • Only when the revised evidence base (SHMA and Employment Land Review) has been published, should Hart run a new Regulation 18 consultation covering employment, retail, transport, infrastructure as well as housing distribution as per the advice from Peter Village QC. The consultation should be put together and run by a competent third party organisation.
  • A standalone brownfield approach, covering all current brownfield sites in the SHLAA, the Stonegate Report and any new zones of opportunity identified in the call for sites should be added to the consultation as per the request of the 2,130 signatories of the WHH petition. It is simply not credible to set a “deliverable” criterion for brownfield sites when almost all of the green field sites subject to consultation were “not currently developable”.  The council can’t have it one way for brownfield and another for greenfield sites. Many brownfield sites in the SHLAA/New Homes Booklet were “rejected” for apparently arbitrary reasons, they certainly did not appear to have more onerous constraints on them compared to those selected for consultation in Q6.
  • The differences between the site capacities shown in the New Homes Booklet compared to those in the official evidence base in the SHLAA (see point 4 in this letter to councillors, dated 20 November 2015 and Appendix) need to be rectified.
  • The process of the consultation needs to be simplified and improved, with the weighting system being resolved and published before the consultation starts.
  • The risks of a new town and urban extensions should be properly laid out (including creating capacity to take 3,000 houses from Rushmoor and Surrey Heath and the infrastructure costs).
  • All of the SHLAA sites should be offered for consultation in Q6, and the ranking approach changed to something more objective and able to be analysed across parishes such as “strongly oppose, oppose, support, strongly support”. It should be possible to pass comment without ranking sites that you don’t agree should be developed. It was particularly odd to see that the NHB rejected sites that had appeared in Neighbourhood plans.
  • You might do well to review my suggested 5-point plan that I tried to put to council in the Summer, but my question was censored.
  • The different infrastructure contribution regimes for different styles of development should be properly explained: a certain cabinet member was spreading misleading information about this during the recent consultation. My understanding is that only office conversions attract no S106/CIL whereas brownfield redevelopment is subject to the same contribution regime as green field development. It should also be explained that new homes in vacant office blocks attract council tax (and new homes bonus), which HDC retains, rather than business rates much of which is surrendered to the Government.
  • There also needs to be more robust processes for verifying the identity of all those participating in the consultation, and proper rules set on who can and cannot comment: theoretically the consultation just abandoned could have been answered by babes in arms in Aberdeen which is clearly ridiculous.

Only root and branch change of process and personnel will restore confidence and give enough credibility to create a sporting chance of getting a good Local Plan on time.

Press release is available for download below, together with a carousel of pictures of our shot demo outside Hart Offices.

Response to Hart’s decision to abandon the consultation

 

 

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the consultation shambles

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices about the consultation shambles.

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the omnishambles Consultation

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices about the omnishambles Consultation

Protest at Hart's Offices about the Consultation farce

Protest at Hart’s Offices about the Consultation farce

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the consultation fiasco

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices about the consultation fiasco

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the Consultation farce

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices about the omnishambles Consultation.

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the Consultation shambles

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices about the omnishambles Consultation

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Hart Council fails to achieve its own testing objectives

The dog ate Hart's homework

The dog ate Hart’s homework

Back in January 2015, Hart commissioned a piece of work to test the Local Plan New Settlement and Strategic Urban Extension options. The testing was to include a range of items including as assessment of  deliverability, a land use budget and identification and costing of major infrastructure items. However, it appears as though this work has not been completed properly, or if it has, it has not been published.

The detail of the scope and objectives is given below.  Broadly the work was to include:

The “deliverability” of a new settlement and/or urban extension (ie suitability, availability and achievability) including the identification of any barriers to development and potential means to resolve them;

The identification and indicative costing of the major infrastructure items needed
to support development in that location.

Part 1 was to include an assessment of flood risk and the production of a “broad land use budget including an estimate of the capacity of the location. This includes a review of infrastructure provision, such as SPA mitigation, open space and education”.

Part 2 was to produce “recommendations on which infrastructure items might be best delivered
through planning obligations either on site or S106 and could potentially be funded through Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)” and it was said that part 2 would focus “on the infrastructure requirements of sites to identify likely infrastructure impacts, subsequent costs and potential funding sources”.

Many of the sites in the SHLAA have yet to be assessed by officers to give their estimate of the capacity of the new town sites including sites SHL182, 184, 186, 187 and 188.

No schedule of infrastructure costs has been published covering roads, bridges and tunnels.  The only thing we have had is the estimate of the costs of schools at £80-100m and the pitfully low estimate of a new motorway junction as £30m (when the J11 M4 improvements cost £65m).  We have had no indication of the sources and amounts of funding required from the various agencies and nothing about developer contributions.

Perhaps the dog ate their homework