The new draft Local Plan fails to address the infrastructure funding gap facing Hart. At the very least, this fails the residents of Hart, but sadly, may render the plan unsound at inspection. We therefore believe significant extra work needs to be done before this version of the Local Plan is put to consultation later this month.
Why is infrastructure so important to the Local Plan?
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is clear that infrastructure must be planned alongside new housing. Failure to adequately plan for infrastructure requirements and costs could lead to the Local Plan being found unsound at inspection. See references to paras 17 and 177 of the NPPF below.
Recently, the leader of Community Campaign Completely Concrete Hart, James Radley went on the record in Fleet News and Mail saying he would deliver an ‘infrastructure led’ Local Plan.
We tried to ask questions at Hart Council about the £72m infrastructure funding gap, but our questions were not allowed to be even asked, let alone answered.
Now the draft Local Plan has emerged, and it is clear why they were so reluctant to answer questions.
What are the infrastructure proposals in the Local Plan?
That is very good question, to which there is only an inadequate answer. As far as we can tell, there are five fairly insipid ‘policies’ about infrastructure, and that is it:
- Policy I1: Infrastructure – weak policy simply requiring developers to deliver adequate infrastructure as part of their developments
- Policy I2: Green Infrastructure – feeble policy to supposedly protect green infrastructure
- Policy I3: Transport – inadequate policy simply to provide ‘maximum flexibility in the choice of travel modes’, nothing specific to improve road network
- Policy I4: Open space, sport and recreation – policy to support development that improves sporting facilities, but no tangible plans for anything new
- Policy I5: Community Facilities – a very vague policy to improve childcare facilities, healthcare, police stations, youth provision, libraries, community halls, local shops, meeting places, cultural buildings, public houses, places of worship, and public toilets. But crucially, no specific projects or proposals.
However, it gets worse. In the details of the infrastructure proposals, several road and junction improvement schemes have been dropped. Examples include the junction near Fleet railway station; the junction between the A30 and Thackams Lane at Phoenix Green and the junction between the A287 and Redfields Lane.
Moreover, the amount of land set aside for school expansion has been reduced. Here is the before and after map for Robert Mays.
This simply isn’t good enough.
What infrastructure proposals should we expect?
We would expect as a minimum:
- Acknowledgement of the existing £72m infrastructure funding gap
- Quantification of the items missing from the Hampshire County Council assessment such as healthcare, extra-care housing for the elderly and green infrastructure
- A set of prioritised, costed projects that are required to alleviate the worst of our infrastructure problems. This should include road improvements, particularly near Fleet station and the bridge over the railway near the end of Elvetham Heath Road. It should also include significant improvements to the cultural facilities, particularly in Fleet.
- Proposals for raising the necessary funds for delivering the required projects
- Some external validation that the infrastructure plans in the draft Local Plan are ‘sound’ and will pass inspection
Perhaps if the councillors spent less time planning for a new town we don’t need, they would then be able to focus on the real needs of the district.