At last week’s council meeting Hart Council approved the draft Local Plan including a proposal to build Hartley Winchook new town from as early as 2024.
We are pleased that Hart has taken the next step in getting a Local Plan in place. However, we are angry and disappointed that the draft Local Plan includes proposals for an entirely unnecessary New Town in Winchfield and Murrell Green. We will of course, support the process to get the Local Plan adopted, but we will fight hard to get the New Town proposals removed from the Plan both in the forthcoming consultation and, if necessary, when the Plan is put before the Inspector.
It was confirmed by councillor Cockarill at the council meeting that the Local Plan can proceed without the Hartley Winchook proposals. So, the new town is entirely unnecessary.
We did prepare a statement for the council meeting that was partially read out by Councillor Burchfield.
This is reproduced in full below.
We are at an important point in the history of Hart District. We need to get a Local Plan in place urgently. We need to gain control over speculative planning applications. We need to regain control over developers who are running roughshod over the wishes of local people.
However, you shouldn’t just approve any old Local Plan. The Government has done us a favour by changing the methodology to calculate housing need. The result is a position that We Heart Hart has been advocating for three years, namely a sensible housing target.
The base requirement is 209 dwellings per annum. I can see the logic of planning to lift the ‘affordability cap’ resulting in 310dpa. I can even see a logic in adding a few more houses to cater for a realistic amount of unmet need in Surrey Heath. So, my favoured target would be 335dpa or 5,360 over the new plan period. But we would live with the proposed 388 target. I don’t believe anybody in the district would seriously challenge this outcome.
However, for very dubious reasons, you have decided to plan for even more houses by promising to plan for an unnecessary new town. I and many others cannot live with this outcome, for a number of reasons.
First, the proposed new town is not necessary. It will deliver houses we don’t need from as early as 2024, adding perhaps 100-200 houses per year, resulting in 800-1,600 extra houses.
Second, this additional rate of building will end up being carried forward and compounded in future plans because of the way that the ONS household projections are calculated. Adding gratuitous extra houses now will add extra building pressure on our green fields for decades to come.
Third, the proposed new town will end up starving our urban centres in Fleet, Hook and Yateley of much needed investment in regeneration. The residents of Hart have not been consulted on any regeneration plans. But a sensible regeneration policy could gather widespread support and deliver necessary affordable housing and infrastructure investment where it is most needed.
Fourth, the proposed ‘area of search’ is inappropriate, as we know it includes areas that essentially failed testing in the recent sustainability appraisal, and some land that is definitely not for sale.
Finally, the proposed draft Local Plan is very light on its plans for infrastructure. There are no objectives set for infrastructure, just a set of vague and woolly policies. There is no acknowledgement of the £72m infrastructure funding gap; there are no specific tangible projects and no costings. I fear this is contrary to current NPPF guidance and may render the plan unsound at inspection.
So, I would urge you to modify this draft Local Plan to remove the unnecessary new town proposals. You should also provide greater focus on the plans and objectives for infrastructure: road improvements, healthcare facilities, cultural amenities and allowing appropriate room for expansion of our secondary schools should extra capacity be shown to be required. I believe these modifications would achieve near unanimous support across the district.