Hart Council has entered into a new agreement with the proposed developers of Shapley Heath Garden Village. They have signed a collaboration agreement with L&Q Estates (Gallaghers) and Lightwood Land. The full document can be found as Appendix 1 to one of the papers considered by Shapley Heath Opportunity Board, here.
The Council has effectively handed control of the project to the developers. Hart has committed to maintaining the agreement until the Shapley Heath prospectus and master plan are “adopted” by the Council. The project has already slipped from the timeline in the agreement. In addition, the developers are already reneging on the commitments they made only last month. Not only that, public consultation on their plans is going to be kept to the bare minimum.
Hart back in Bed with Developers: Shapley Heath Garden Village Agreement
The scope of the agreement is quite large. It covers the funding of a whole range of baseline studies and strategic reports over 14 areas. These are shown below:
The cost of these baseline studies will undoubtedly far exceed the £25K that Hart Council has set aside for external consultants next year. So, progress will be reliant on funding from the developers. Hart Council have effectively handed control of the project to the developers.
The agreement will remain in place until the prospectus and master plan have been finalised and adopted by the Council.
There is a 21-day break clause for the Council. However, it looks like the Council are committing to adopt the Garden Village when they review the Local Plan. You may recall that the Inspector threw out the new town from the Local Plan. This was because of “fundamental concerns with regard to the soundness of Policy SS3″. In addition he said that:
a significant level of further supporting work would be required for Policy SS3 to be found sound in its current form, which would need to include appropriate and proportionate area/site assessments, infrastructure considerations, viability testing, evidence in support of deliverability and further SA work, which would need to be done in an impartial manner with sufficient evidence to support its findings and comparisons with alternative options.
None of this comparison work is being carried out, so they are destined to fail again.
Shapley Heath Project Slipping
In February, the agreement with the developers envisaged that Phase 1 would be complete in December 2021. Phase 2 would be complete in February 2023.
But now in March, the completion of Phase 1 has slipped to February 2022. Phase 2 has slipped four months to June 2023.
It looks like more of our money is going to be wasted for even longer than before.
Developers Reneging on Commitments
As can be seen in the image above, the developers are committed to funding 14 different areas of study. Hart is spending 90% of its budget on internal resources and overheads. So, the developers are expected to spend most of the money. Among these studies were a topographical survey and a water cycle/management report. According to the update presented at the Opportunity Board, the developers are trying to wriggle out of the topographical study altogether and are reviewing the scope of the water cycle report.
Hart Back in Bed with Developers: Limited Public Consultation
As part of the project, a survey of residents will take place in May, after the elections. However, the draft minutes of the Opportunity Board say that this survey will be “the main opportunity for residents across Hart to have their say on the project”. So, very little opportunity for further input. This comes on top of local community groups being side-lined in the Stakeholder Forum.
Putting all this together, it looks like there’s only going to be this high-level survey of residents. The Council will beaver away with the developers to produce a prospectus and masterplan. This will be adopted without any further significant involvement from the public.