It has emerged that Hart Council have no effective way of monitoring how many dwellings of different types that have been built or permitted as part of the Local Plan. They have admitted that essentially they are flying blind and do not know how many 1 & 2-bed properties have been built or permitted and similarly do not know how many specialist units for the elderly are in the pipeline. This is despite the fact that the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) is very clear on how many homes of different types have to be built as part of the overall 7,534 requirement.
We asked questions at Council about this on 28 January and received short shrift, with the chairman refusing to allow the question about 1 & 2-bed homes to be put, and the question about accommodation for the elderly was not answered. We followed up with FOI requests on both questions and have been told that the the information was available on Hart’s Planning portal. It transpires that what they mean by this is that they expect members of the public to wade through hundreds of planning applications and hundreds of building control records to manually collate and report on the data, and even then, not all of the data required to answer the questions is available.
At first, we thought this was just obfuscation on the part of the council, but subsequent discussions with officers has revealed that Hart Officers would have to do exactly the same work to get at the answers.
What is particularly astonishing is that none of the councillors appear to have any interest at all in this and appear to be content to allow the council to fly blind. We don’t think this approach will stand up to scrutiny by an inspector, because the SHMA is very clear on the different types of housing that needs to be built.
To re-cap, according to the current Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), Hart needs to build 7,534 dwellings in the plan period running from 2011-2032.
The SHMA is also very clear on the sizes and types of housing that needs to be built, including the number of affordable homes for the young and specialist housing for the elderly.
First, the quantity of houses that needs to be built by the number of bedrooms is covered in Figure 9.8, reproduced above. Working through the arithmetic reveals that we need to build around 3,800 1 & 2-bed dwellings, using Hart’s target of 40% affordable. Hart has built or permitted around 4,600 dwellings since 2011 and has no idea what the split is by number of bedrooms, and so has no idea how many more smaller, starter properties need to be built out of the remaining 2,934 to be permitted.
Second, the number of specialist units for the elderly is covered in Figure 10.15. Between 2012 and 2030, Hart needs to provide 1,390 specialist units for the elderly and infirm. Extending this back to 2011, and out to 2032 at the 80 dwellings per annum rate identified in the report would give 1,650 units. To this must be added the further 940 registered care places in the graphic above. This gives a total of 2,590 additional units for the ageing population. Hart has built or permitted around 4,600 dwellings since 2011 and has no idea how many specialist units for the elderly are in that 4,600. Consequently, Hart has no idea how many more of these specialist units need to be built out of the remaining 2,934 to be permitted.
Surely we cannot continue to go on with basic management tools missing from the Local Plan process and seemingly none of the councillors being at all concerned.
We live in hope that soon the council will be able to provide data on what has been built since 2011, but there doesn’t appear to be an easy way to get at the data for what has been permitted for the future.
If you would like to ask Hart to get a grip on the situation, and create a brownfield solution to meet the housing needs of the young and elderly in Hart, we urge you to respond to the Hart District Council consultation about the Local Plan and ask them to think again. We have created a dedicated consultation page, updated our two guides to responding to the consultation and they are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided. It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside.
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