If you were wondering how Hart Council has spent the money it has received to progress the Shapley Heath Garden Village (SHGV) project, most of it has gone down the drain. A quick look at their transparency report shows that most of the money has gone on PR and consultants. The transparency report can be found here.
You may recall that the council won a £150K grant from Government to pursue Shapley Heath. A total of £37,561.30 of this has been spent externally to date. Of this, £27,161.30, or over 70% has gone to Chelgate Limited. This is a PR company who describe themselves as:
Chelgate is an independent, international strategic PR agency, headquartered in London, with branches in Brussels and Bucharest, and a network of associates around the globe.
Chelgate combines great strength in traditional PR, public affairs, crisis management and media relations with an exceptional understanding of social media, digital PR and international PR.
The firm has also built an outstanding reputation for its work in acute issues and crisis management, often dealing with exceptionally sensitive and challenging issues.
We’ve yet to notice the “exceptional” social media output. Perhaps they have focused on crisis management?
The second highest payment went to Mike Allgrove Planning. Mike is an ex-local Government town planner, who describes himself on his LinkedIn page:
I have recently left employment in local government, after 29 years, and set up my own consultancy – Mike Allgrove Planning Ltd. I am available for contract roles dealing local and strategic planning policy, interim management or major site implementation. I am currently engaged as a consultant for the Partnership for South Hampshire. I will be managing the collation of the evidence base to facilitate a new Joint Strategy under a statement of common ground that has been agreed by the constituent local authorities.
I have also recently completed short term commissions for a consortium of North Hampshire authorities and the Chichester Harbour Conservancy.
Taylor & Garner is the company owned and run by Lord Taylor of Goss Moor. Lord Taylor has been giving presentations to councillors and to the Stakeholder and Landowner forums.
In short, nothing tangible has been produced with this money. No schematic designs, no viability studies, no infrastructure reports and no sustainability assessment. It’s all just PR fluff.
Shapley Heath Staff diverted to Covid Response
It is difficult to see why they needed to spend thousands on PR for Shapley Heath when next to no work was being carried out on the project. The grant money has also been used to hire staff to work on the project. However, it was confirmed at O&S on 16 February that the staff hired to work on Shapley Heath were diverted to the Covid response.
Perhaps they took their eye off the ball and didn’t properly control costs. The Shapley Heath grant money is going down the drain.