Hart Local Plan delayed again

Hart District Local Plan delayed again

Hart’s Local Plan has been delayed again. Councillors who were due to go to a Local Plan Steering Group meeting on 30 August have been told that the meeting has been deferred. The reason given is that they cannot decide the ‘spatial strategy’ until the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) has been agreed.

Apparently, Rushmoor are still holding out for Hart to build 1,600 Rushmoor’s allocation. This could be changed by the new SHMA, but the SHMA remains incomplete because they are changing the methodology is being changed and a new piece of work has been commissioned from the consultants, Wessex Economics. Readers may remember we were first promised the new SHMA in February, then May, and subsequently, Rushmoor have indicated the SHMA would be ready in July 2016. But now we don’t have a date for completion.

This is the latest in a long line of delays:

In October, 2013, when the earlier version of the plan was rejected by the planning inspector, the council said:

“Cllr Parker 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],” he added.”

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.

In April 2016, the plan was delayed yet again, with the timetable clearly stating that a draft version of the Local Plan would be published in September 2016. No revised date has yet been given for the draft to be published. The timetable they were working to was:

Full Draft Local Plan – September 2016 (Summer 2016, a couple of months slippage) [now slipped again]

Submission Plan – March 2017 (Autumn 2016, at least 3 months slippage)

Submit to Secretary of State – TBA (Winter 2016, unknown slippage)

Examination – TBA (Spring 2017, unknown slippage)

Adoption – TBA (Summer 2017, unknown slippage)

Of course, there is now a significant risk of the Government stepping in and doing the Local Plan for us.

In the light of the loss of the Moulsham Lane appeal, Hart are working hard on a revised set of policies. These will be discussed by councillors at a special meeting on 27 September, but in the meantime, developers will have a field day. because without a Local Plan and without up to date policies, Hart Council is essentially defenceless.

Don’t hold your breath.


Hart Council loses Moulsham Lane, Yateley Appeal Decision

Proposed development at Moulsham Lane Yateley Hart District Hampshire GU46 7RA

It has been announced that Hart Council have lost the developer’s appeal about the proposed development at Moulsham Lane in Yateley.

The significant part of the decision is that the inspector has decided that Hart’s five year land supply is not sufficient grounds to turn down the application.  This is contrary to the decision made by the inspector in last year’s Owens Farm, Hook appeal.

The other worrying aspect of the appeal is that the inspector has ruled that the council’s RUR2 policy which seeks to limit development in the countryside has been ruled to be out of date and partially inconsistent with the NPPF so will not offer significant protection until the new Local Plan is in place. This puts at risk place like Winchfield, Hares Lane in Hartley Wintney, Hook and Pale Lane Farm.

This decision shows the damage that can be done by the council not having a Local Plan in place. They have missed all of their self imposed deadlines as documented here. A new draft Local Plan is due to be published next month, but as we have not yet even seen the new SHMA, which was originally promised for February, then May, this timeline needs to be called into question.

We can only hope that they do get a plan published and that it focuses on the plentiful brownfield sites that will more than meet our requirement for decades to come.

Hart still not building enough smaller properties to meet local needs

Hart District Completions compared to target by number of bedrooms

Back in May we wrote about how housebuilders were not building enough smaller properties to meet local needs. We have now received the latest data for completions in 2015-16. The chart above shows that although there has been some improvement we are still not building enough 1 and 3-bed properties and are significantly over-building 4+bed properties.

The analysis to support these conclusions is shown below.

First, 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.

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 9.8

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 9.8

Working through the arithmetic, and using Hart’s target of 40% affordable homes, we need to build in total the following number and proportion of properties by number of bedrooms:

Hart District Housing need by number of bedrooms

We can compare these proportions to the dwellings that have been built since 2010-11:

Hart District Completions by number of bedrooms 2010-2016

This shows that we have built around 80% of 1-bed properties that we should have done and around three quarters of the targeted proportion of 3-bed properties. We have built nearly twice as many 4+bed properties compared to the target.

Overall we think this means that Hart needs to get smarter about how it monitors planning permissions so that we get as close as possible to meeting the needs of local people set out in the SHMA, as opposed to simply building houses that will maximise developer profits. However, it does seem clear that more redevelopment of vacant offices on brownfield sites would create more opportunities for more smaller properties to help young people get on the housing ladder.


Rail capacity is significant barrier to Winchfield new town and Hart development

Rail capacity is significant barrier to Winchfield new town and Hart development

A concerned resident has written to South West Trains asking a series of questions about the capacity of the mainline railway that travels through Hart District and the alternative strategies for increasing capacity. The answers are a significant cause for concern and call into question not only the viability of the proposed Winchfield new town, but also further large scale development across Hart District.

In summary the mainline up to London already is 20% over-crowded at peak times and is forecast to have a 60% capacity shortfall by 2043.  There are no plans to have more trains stopping at Winchfield (and by implication no plans for more trains at Hook or Fleet). There are no plans to extend the station at Winchfield (and by implication Hook too) properly to accommodate 12-car trains. There are no plans to increase car-parking capacity at Winchfield. The mooted solution of double-decker trains is a non-starter because of the infrastructure requirements and increased dwell times. Network Rail would not be responsible for the costs of widening the three tunnels under the railway in Winchfield, nobody has estimated the cost, but it is known to be considerable.

All this leaves the proposal for a new town in Winchfield in tatters, but it also calls into question the viability of so many more houses across Hart as there simply is not the rail capacity to accommodate the increased population.

The answers to the questions were produced under the supervision of a senior executive in South West Trains and in consultation with Network Rail’s Wessex Route Strategy team and are reproduced below:

Q1: Is my assertion that the planning authorities should be considering the capacity of the whole Southampton to Waterloo line rather than the capacity of individual stations is correct?

A1: Network Rail would always look at the capacity of the whole line, particularly in relation to additional services. This is because the impact of increasing capacity through additional services does not just affect an individual station. Additional stops for existing services will have an impact on journey times owing to the time taken to accelerate/ decelerate and dwell time at the platform all adding in time. Those existing services may also be close to capacity and adding extra stops would impact upon the ability for passengers further down the line to get on to the train. Network Rail would encourage a joined up approach between local authorities to ensure that capacity is looked at across the whole line.

Q2: If I am correct, is the line under, at or over capacity? If it is over capacity by how much and when you plan to bring it down to safe levels?

A2: The Wessex Route Study, published in August 2015 (http://www.networkrail.co.uk/long-term-planning-process/wessex-route-study/), states that there is currently 20% overcrowding on Main Line services and that growth to 2043 will see an additional 40% capacity being required. Therefore in the period to 2043 we expect to be required to accommodate 60% extra capacity. The Wessex Route Study sets out the strategy for meeting this growth and mitigating overcrowding. Unfortunately there is no quick fix for what is needed and therefore there are a number of incremental steps that will be taken, including a flyover at Woking, track reconfiguration works between Clapham Junction and London Waterloo, and a major infrastructure such as Crossrail 2. The summary Chapter 6 sets out what is required and Chapter 5 has a bit more of the detail.

Q3: Do you have plans to increase the frequency of trains stopping at Winchfield to soak up additional passengers? It has been suggested that some of the fast trains from Southampton might stop there. If this is not the case are there impediments to so doing?

A3: There are presently no plans to increase the frequency of stopping trains at Winchfield as there is insufficient route capacity and no physical capacity on trains which would take the additional calls. Furthermore to have the faster services calling at Winchfield would be detrimental to journey time from longer distance locations to London such as Salisbury, Winchester and Southampton.

Q4. Are any plans to extend the station at Winchfield? If this did occur would this be the responsibility of SW Trains, Network Rail or the Local Council? Have you any indicative costs for such an activity?

A4: Network Rail currently have no plans to lengthen the platforms at Winchfield. Automatic Selective Door Opening (ASDO) is employed at some stations where the platforms are not long enough to accommodate all carriages of a train; Winchfield is an example. ASDO allows for only some of the doors to open at stations with short platforms negating the need for expensive platform extensions. This is only employed where it is deemed safe to do so. Where platform pedestrian capacity is a problem then ASDO may not be the correct solution because it wouldn’t allow passengers to spread along the platform to spread a crowd waiting for a train.

Q5. Are there any plans to increase the car parking capacity at Winchfield? Again, if this were to occur where would the costs lie and how much would they be?

A5: There are no plans in the present franchise to increase car park capacity at Winchfield.

Q6: Are double-decker trains a serious option to overcome the overcrowding on this line? If they are not please can you tell me if there are any single major obstacles that will preclude their adoption on this line?

A6: Double Decker Trains were investigated as part of the Wessex Route Study. The study looked at Waterloo to Basingstoke as the scope area. This was decided upon as there are relatively few limited clearance structures on this stretch of line and therefore if it wasn’t feasible here, then it wouldn’t work on other parts of the network such as between Basingstoke on Southampton where there are a number of tunnels. In short, the Route Study concluded that the combination of needing to operate bespoke rolling stock (as no rolling stock operated elsewhere in the world would work on our infrastructure), the cost of modifying the infrastructure to accommodate the trains (track lowering, bridge rebuilding, platform adjustments and lineside infrastructure moves and adjustments), the impact on dwell times and the fact that double deck services would only be necessary in the peak mean that the business case was not strong enough to warrant such investment.

Q7: There is an embankment running east of Winchfield Station pierced by three road tunnels. Should road widening be deemed necessary for any or all of these tunnels, what would your reaction be? Who would pay for such works? What would be the indicative costs please?

A7: Network Rail would need to assess the impact of widening the tunnels on the embankment and if it was deemed safe. The Network Rail Asset Protection team would need to be satisfied that Network Rail’s assets were not damaged or compromised in anyway. We do not have foresight of costs for such a scheme and this would not be a cost that Network Rail would expect to be accountable for.

Hart Council fights for survival in Hampshire local government reorganisation

Hart District Council fights for survival in Hampshire local government reorganisation

Hart District Council is fighting for its very survival in the Hampshire Local Government reorganisation. Hart has sent a desperate letter and copy of a leaflet to the Hart District Town and Parish Councils setting out the case for its proposals for a ‘Heart of Hampshire’ Combined Authority. This is in stark contrast to the competing Unitary Authority proposal from Hampshire County Council. Both proposals have been put forward in the Hampshire County Council consultation which closes on 20 September 2016.

Hart’s proposal would lead to the introduction of an additional tier of local Government and a directly elected mayor along with a claimed extra £30m per year to be split amongst the participating authorities including Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Hart District Council, New Forest District Council, Rushmoor Borough Council, Test Valley Borough Council and Winchester City Council. Hampshire County Council and the M3 Enterprise LEP would also be involved. In return the COmbined Authority would gain extra powers although it isn’t clear just what these extra powers would be.

Hampshire County are proposing a Unitary Authority approach which would mean the abolition of district councils like Hart and Hampshire County Council and their replacement by new Unitary Councils who would provide all services. These proposals would lead to savings of up to £40m in senior management and councillor costs, optimising services and reduced property costs.

More detail on the pros and cons can be found here and here.

Hart’s letter to the town and parish councils and a copy of the leaflet to be sent to all households can be found on the downloads below.

Hart leaflet to residents
Hart letter to parishes

Hart have set our their own devolution web page here and Hampshire County Council have set up a local government reorganisation web page here.


Hampshire launches consultation on local government reorganisation

Hampshire County Council Consultation Option G Five unitary Councils

Hampshire County Council (HCC) has launched a consultation on reorganising local Government in the county. This has arisen out central Government’s desire to reduce local Government budgets and devolve more powers to local areas. This has resulted in a bunfight between Hampshire County Council and the District Councils that we reported on here.

This consultation asks us to make a broad choice between supporting the “Combined Authority” option most favoured by the District Councils and the “Unitary Authority” option favoured by Hampshire County Council. Each broad choice has a number of sub-options. The Combined Authority approach would include establishing an extra tier of Local Government and led by one or more directly elected mayors. The Unitary Authority approach would involve the dissolution of the existing Hampshire County and District Councils, being replaced by one or more new Councils responsible for all services. It appears as though this latter approach will save more money, but unless the unitary authorities cover smaller areas, potentially at the risk of remoteness and reduced accountability.

The documents are quite large and complex.  The impact on local planning and potential housing allocations is not covered in any detail in any of the documents as far as we can see. Consequently, We Heart Hart doesn’t have very strong views on the “Combined Authority” or the “Unitary Authority” approaches. However, we have an instinctive dislike of complexity and more tiers of Government and therefore would slightly favour a unitary authority approach, but using “Option G” in the Deloitte Report commissioned by HCC, shown in the image above.

This subject was covered at the recent Hart District Council meeting, with leader, Stephen Parker, making clear that there was still conflict on this issues between the County and the Districts:

Yesterday Hampshire County Council launched a consultation, based on a desktop report commissioned from Deloitte covering the financial effects of unitary status, covering both unitarisation and devolution, as well as a metro mayor. Sadly the Deloitte report only covered unitary councils, and paid little attention to other issues such as service quality and democratic accountability. The failure of Hampshire County Council to pause the consultation to take advantage of a report commissioned by the other Hampshire councils from Price Waterhouse Coopers to consider the issues not addressed in the Deloitte report will compromise the outputs from the consultation. This has caused some problems in the relationship with the districts, and I with colleagues from the Heart of Hampshire group of district councils will be meeting tomorrow with the Leader and Deputy Leader of HCC to seek to normalise the relationship, whilst recognising the issues around the deficient consultation.

The consultation is open until 20 September 2016.

The dedicated web page for the consultation can be found here.

The executive summary of the proposals can be found here.

The more detailed consultation information pack can be found here.

The consultation response form can be found here.

We would urge everyone to engage with this issue and respond to the consultation.

Hart now has 6.3 years land supply

Hart District Council Logo

Hart Council has published a new land supply calculation that shows we have 6.3 years land supply.  The document can be found here.

This is good news as it shows that Hart can still retain a degree of control over granting planning permission to voracious developers up to the point it finally gets a Local Plan in place.

However, there are a number of interesting points coming out of the new calculation:

  1. In the most recent year 2015-16, 705 new dwellings were completed, nearly double the annual requirement expressed in the current SHMA
  2. Hart are using 382 dwelling per annum, for a total of 8,022 houses over the planning period compared to the 7,534 agreed figure for the SHMA.  They say this is to respond to some criticism made in the Hop Garden Road appeal, but we are concerned about it, especially as the new SHMA should reduce the overall requirement.
  3. A total of 4,473 houses have been built or permitted since 2011.


Odiham Parish Council submits its Neighbourhood Plan to Hart Council

Odiham High Street, Hart District Hampshire

Odiham High Street, Hampshire

It has been reported in Fleet News and Mail that Odiham Parish Council have approved their draft Neighbourhood Plan and submitted it Hart Council for checking before being sent to an examiner.

Nine possible sites for housing have been included in the plan. Around 60 homes, or 30 homes plus a care home, could be built adjacent to Crownflelds in Odiham.

Other sites earmarked for development are at 4 Western Lane, Odiham (20 homes). Hook Road, North Warnborough (15), Albion Yard and Roughs Cottage, North Warnborough (both 12), Longwood, Odiham (10), Crumplins Yard, Odiham (eight), and land at The Swan Inn, North Warnborough (4). Land at Dunleys Hill in North Warnborough has also been earmarked for homes, subject to agreeing an acceptable minimum to allow for the remainder to be designated as a public open space or Local Green Space.

This amounts to a total of around 141 dwellings, plus Dunleys Hill, which compares to 120 plus 30 at Dunleys Hill for sites identified in an earlier draft of the Neighbourhood plan set out in the recent consultation, plus an additional 264 dwellings on sites put forward for ranking by Hart Council in the New Homes Booklet.

Council Leader misleads the public on brownfield register

Brownfield site: vacant offices at Ancells Farm Business Park, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire.

Fleet News and Mail have picked up on our story about Hart Council botching the new brownfield register. They have obtained a quote from Hart Council leader, Stephen Parker (our emphasis):

“One of the pilot requirements is for sites to be ‘deliverable’. The Special Protection Area (SPA) for birds is currently a real barrier to development in Hart.

“The council is working hard with our partners, including Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership, to deliver a big area of SPA mitigation land which, once in place, will allow additional sites to come forward.”

However, the manual for the pilot scheme says that to be regarded as suitable for housing our proposed criteria are that sites must be:

Available. This means that sites should be either deliverable or developable. Sites that are deliverable should be available and offer a suitable location for development now and be achievable with a realistic prospect that housing will be delivered on the site within five years and in particular that development of the site is viable. To be considered developable, sites are likely to come forward later on (e.g. between six and ten years). They should be in a suitable location for housing development and there should be a reasonable prospect the site will be available and that it could be viably developed at the point envisaged.

The terms deliverable and  developable have specific meanings in the NPPF. It appears as though there is a requirement on the council to include sites that meet the less onerous ‘developable’ criteria, which they have failed to do. The manual also says that sites that are entered on the register should be free of constraints that cannot be mitigated. We Heart Hart recognises that the provision of SANG land is a significant constraint, but the council is in the process of purchasing over 30 Ha of land, capable of supporting 1,600 new dwellings. We might add that most of the sites on the pilot register have already been delivered so are not within the spirit of the brownfield register project.

There is also provision for councils to include sites in the register that it doesn’t think are suitable to ensure transparency in the decisions taken by the authority.

We think there’s around 2,500 extra units that can be built on brownfield sites that do not appear in the register. It is time that Hart Council started doing as much as it can to support the brownfield strategy and not as little as it thinks it can get away with.