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 email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org respectively.
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.