Graham Cockarill Pants On Fire

Graham Cockarill Pants On Fire

Graham Cockarill Pants On Fire

The latest electoral material from Lib Dem Graham Cockarill reveals that at the very best he has his pants on fire. This comes hot on the heels of the previous fake news. It is quite astonishing that he claims that he is “the man with a plan to save our green fields”.

Graham Cockarill Pants On Fire.

NE Hants Lib Dems: Pants On Fire

This is the same man who is sponsoring the entirely unnecessary new Shapley Heath Garden Village. The developers expect this to deliver up to 10,000 houses. So, that’s 10,000 unnecessary houses on our green fields. Entirely the opposite of his claim to save them.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses

This new town was thrown out of the Local Plan because it was unnecessary. In fact the Local Plan itself said it was unnecessary. The Inspector agreed and even the bid for Government money said so.

Shapley Heath Garden Village not required

Shapley Heath Garden Village not required

Despite four years of effort, no evidence could be produced to demonstrate viability or deliverability.

Shapley Heath not viable or deliverable

Shapley Heath not viable or deliverable

NE Hants Lib Dems play down brownfield capacity

Perhaps the most egregious claim in the leaflet is he says “only an idiot or a liar would pretend all our housing needs could be met by brownfield land”. We have long campaigned for brownfield development in place of needlessly concreting over our green fields. We remind Mr Cockarill that back in 2015, Hart Council claimed there was capacity for only 450 homes on brownfield land. Since then around 1,500 have been granted permission at Hartland Park plus over 500 at Sun Park and many more on smaller sites across the district. As a result, we have over 2,500 dwellings on brownfield sites. Or more than 5 times the claimed capacity. And we haven’t even started on revitalising our urban areas yet.

We will leave it up to readers to decide who is the idiot and who is lying.

Shapley Heath Controversy Erupts at Hustings

Shapley Heath controversy: where each NE Hampshire candidate stands

Shapley Heath controversy: where each NE Hampshire candidate stands

The Shapley Heath controversy erupted at the recent North East Hampshire hustings. The Basingstoke Gazette covered the story here. In summary, Conservative candidate Ranil Jayawardena opposes the Shapley Heath proposal. He believes that our future housing needs can be met by redeveloping brownfield land and revitalising our urban centres. Liberal Democrat candidate, Graham Cockarill supports the proposal. Indeed in his role as Cabinet member for Place on Hart Council he is the sponsor of the programme. Labour’s Barry Jones admitted he knew little about the proposals but would reluctantly support the plan.

Three candidates were not invited to the hustings. The local Green party confirmed on Twitter that their candidate Culann Walsh opposes the scheme. Independent candidate Tony Durrant opposes the plan. Monster Raving Loony, Screaming Laud Hope has not yet responded to our question. We have summarised the positions of the candidates in the graphic above.

Shapley Heath Controversy – Details of the hustings

Apparently, candidate Cockarill challenged the notion of Shapley Heath being up to 10,000 houses. We were told that Mr Jayawardena brandished the vision document clearly showing the 10,000 ambition in the Vision Document.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses.

Shapley Heath Controversy: Vision Document 10,000 houses

We understand from others at the hustings that candidate Cockarill stated brownfield development was desirable. However, he thought landowners in Fleet aren’t interesting in selling. We know from the work carried out by the Rural Hart Association that the owners of the Hart Shopping Centre are interested in redevelopment. Indeed, they supported the Future High Streets bid (see final letter in the appendices) to regenerate Fleet. Moreover, some of the other prime regeneration sites are owned by either Hart District Council or Hampshire County Council. For instance, much of the Civic Quarter, including the Harlington Centre, plus Victoria Road car park and Church Road car park are in public ownership.

Creative thinking in three dimensions could preserve parking space; deliver better leisure and cultural facilities; housing that people can afford and infrastructure spending. It does seem odd that our local councils prefer to concrete over our green fields, rather than provide better facilities for their residents.

Of course, planning is a local rather than a national matter. However, our MP can ‘set the tone’ for the area; lobby Government to cut off further funding to Shapley Heath; call on Government to provide regeneration investment and vote more generally for brownfield first policies. Many people will of course be more concerned about national matters. Please bear Shapley Heath in mind when casting your vote on December 12th.

Ranil demands bold Hart Regeneration Plans

Ranil Jayawardena MP demands bold Hart regeneration plans

Ranil demands bold Hart regeneration plans

Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena has written a column in Fleet News and Mail demanding that the local Council develop bold Hart regeneration plans.

Hos article sets out the excellent regeneration work happening in neighbouring Aldershot and Basingstoke. He might well have added Farnham and Wokingham that have attracted millions in development funding.

By contrast, the CCH/Lib Dem led Hart District Council are proposing to spend £650K of public money on the  Shapley Heath Garden Village proposal. They refuse to entertain any discussions about regeneration of Fleet, Hook and Blackwater and Yateley.

Ranil’s full artcle can be downloaded using the button below.

Ranil demands bold Hart regeneration plans

Hart fails to win share of Future High Streets Fund

Harlington Centre, Fleet Hampshire, could be a target for Future High Street Fund?

Harlington Centre – could have been target for Future High Streets Fund

The Government has announced the winners of the Future High Street fund. 50 areas have won support to develop plans to show how they can regenerate their high streets. Sadly, Hart is not among the winners. The objective of the fund is to “renew and reshape town centres and high streets in a way that improves experience, drives growth and ensures future sustainability.”

The Hart Local Plan acknowledged that the “challenge for Fleet specifically, will be to secure investment so that it can compete with the comparable towns in neighbouring districts”. (para 66)

Hart Council Cabinet resolved to consider making a bid back in February. It is unclear whether a bid was eventually made, but Hart didn’t win, even if they tried.

The winners can be found here.

Future High Streets Details

The scheme was launched back in December 2018. The deadline for expressions of interest as 22 March 2019.

It’s a real shame that Fleet did not win, because the key investment themes expected were:

  • Investment in physical infrastructure
  • Acquisition and assembly of land including to support new housing, workspaces and public realm
  • Improvements to transport access, traffic flow and circulation in the area
  • Supporting change of use including (where appropriate) housing delivery and densification
  • Supporting adaptation of the high street in response to changing technology

Most would agree that Fleet needs infrastructure investment and improvements in transport. Perhaps if the officers and councillors spent more effort on this bid, rather then focusing on the unsound new settlement, they might have been more successful.

History of Fleet regeneration

Over a period of years, Fleet Town Council has pursued a doomed proposal to replace the Harlington Centre by concerting over Gurkha Square car-park with taxpayers money. This has been rightly rejected by the people of Fleet.

Last Autumn, The Rural Hart Association put forward draft proposals for regenerating the Hart Shopping Centre as the first step to a broader regeneration of Fleet. This could have been achieved with private funding. So far, sadly, this has not been taken up by Hart Council.

Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena has called for regeneration of our urban centres. He has raised a petition, but so far, it isn’t clear what progress has been made.

 

 

 

 

Fleet regeneration is feasible without taxpayer funding

Fleet Regeneration: Hart Shopping Centre Design Study

Fleet Regeneration: Hart Shopping Centre Design Study

We are delighted to announce the release of a study into Fleet regeneration undertaken on behalf the Rural Hart Association. This study shows that it is feasible and desirable to redevelop Hart Shopping Centre as a stepping stone to wider Fleet regeneration.

Benefits of Fleet Regeneration

The benefits of the proposed scheme are as follows:

  • 371 flats of 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms, with 20-40% affordable, ideal for first time buyers. It is possible that some of the units would be attractive to the private rented sector.
  • Potential for some of the unit to be sheltered housing for our growing elderly population.
  • Extra customers for local Fleet businesses including retail, restaurants, bars, photographers, hairdressers, mobile phone shops etc, bringing an extra ~£3m per year of spending to the town centre.
  • Provision of a cinema for film lovers.
  • Provision of a community space for local cultural events.
  • Modern retail units for a supermarket and to attract High Street retailers, benefiting existing Fleet residents. Although there is an option to increase the number of homes and have less retail space if necessary.
  • Underground car-parking.
  • The scheme will no doubt make contributions to fund infrastructure in Fleet.
  • Supports Fleet Town Council’s objectives to bring cultural and entertainment facilities to Fleet Town Centre as outlined in the Fleet Neighbourhood Plan.
  • Help Hart Council address the challenge of bringing investment to Fleet, as outlined in the Hart Local Plan.
  • The scheme would be profitable in its own right and would not require any contribution from Fleet or Hart taxpayers.

The proposals respect the sight lines of the existing Hart Shopping Centre, so it shouldn’t be intrusive.

The savings for Fleet taxpayers would run into £10’s of millions as they would no longer be on the hook for the controversial Gurkha Square development. The savings for Hart taxpayers would include the £1.5m for planning the unnecessary new town, and of course they would retain the Gurkha Square parking revenue.

Background to Fleet Regeneration Proposals

The genesis of this idea came at the January Council meeting, where the Graham Cockarill, portfolio head of Planning said they were pressing ahead with the unnecessary new town, because the regeneration of Fleet was an “impossible pipedream”. These proposals should give Hart Council food for thought. We would strongly recommend that Hart takes these proposals seriously and get behind a plan to regenerate Fleet. Together we can make a vibrant town and help Hart remain one of the best places to live in the country.

Next steps for Fleet Regeneration

These proposals will be formally submitted to Hart Council and Fleet Town Council early this week. We are also seeking for these proposals to be discussed as part of the upcoming Local Plan examination.

We think these proposals could be viewed as the first project of a larger programme to regenerate Fleet. The next site on our own target list would be the whole Civic area including Hart’s Offices, the library and the Harlington. There should be no need to disturb either Gurkha Square car park, or Bakers. The Fleet neighbourhood plan also targets this area for improvement. It is time for Hampshire, Hart and Fleet councils to get round the table with sensible planners like Lambert Smith Hampton to come up sensible plans for the future.

This is a much better idea than to concrete over our green fields with an unnecessary new town.

Rural Hart Association email to supporters about Fleet Regeneration

Dear Supporters

The Rural Hart Association (RHA) has made very good progress over the summer and we are now fully prepared to play our part in opposing a New Town at the Examination in Public (EIP) which starts on 20 November.

You will remember that the RHA decided to concentrate its resources on the single issue of Fleet regeneration. We set out to demonstrate that it was feasible for Fleet Town Centre to be regenerated with a mixed-use development (residential, retail and leisure) which would provide housing as well as reviving the commercial viability of Fleet as Hart District’s largest town.

The issue of Fleet Regeneration is of vital importance because Hart District Council’s justification for a New Town rests on their assertion that it can’t be done. In a bit more detail the argument runs like this:

  • The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires that  Brownfield sites are used to their maximum potential before building on greenfield land
  • The NPPF also requires that councils regenerate their Town Centres. NPPF para 86 says “Planning policies and decisions should support the role that town centres play at the heart of local communities, by taking a positive approach to their growth, management and adaptation”
  • HDC admits that Hart District is failing commercially (because there is a growing net outflow of retail and leisure spend from the district)  and the Local Plan states (para 66) that “the challenge for Fleet will be to secure investment so that it can compete with the comparison towns in neighbouring districts”
  • But HDC has made no attempt to secure the investment needed to regenerate Fleet. When challenged on this at the January council meeting HDC stated that regeneration of Fleet was an “impossible pipedream”.

In May we appointed Lambert Smith Hampton to undertake a Design Study to investigate the feasibility of a mixed-use regeneration of Fleet’s Hart Shopping Centre. This study is now complete and the main conclusions of the Study are:

  • Hart Shopping Centre can be regenerated to provide the same retail and parking space, as well as 950sqm of community space, a multi-screen cinema and 371 flats (of 1,2 and 3 bedrooms). The whole area would become modern and desirable, and the flats would provide a tremendous boost to the viability of the shopping centre.
  • The flats would be ideal for first time buyers and elderly people because they are close to the shops and the station – the Design Study has allowed for the full 40% affordability provision.
  • The return on investment for potential developers looks good.

In summary, we have demonstrated that Hart’s claim that Fleet cannot be regenerated is utterly wrong. Hart Council is dominated by CCH councillors whose agenda is to stop Fleet being regenerated at all costs. As a result the draft  Local Plan condemns Fleet in particular (and the whole Hart in general) to long-term economic decline.

We hope that on the basis of this Study, the Inspector will insist that the New Town is removed from the Local Plan and that a large-scale regeneration of Fleet is undertaken instead. Hart should be guiding the district towards a bright future in which Fleet becomes a modern, vibrant and highly successful town surrounded by beautiful countryside and rural villages.

LSH will submit the Design Study to Hart District Council, and will ask the Council to cooperate in its implementation. We will also submit the Design Study to Fleet District Council, whose Neighbourhood Plan supports mixed-use developments in the Town Centre. LSH will also submit the Design Study to the Inspector in preparation for the Inspector’s review of the Spatial Distribution of Housing (Matter 4) and Town Centre and Retail (Matter 10).

You can find the full study in David Turver’s excellent WeHeartHart website at www.wehearthart.co.uk. The We Heart Hart blog also provides a full commentary of the progress of the Local Plan and its well worth reading.

Thank you all for your generous contributions to the Design Study and to funding LSH to attend the Examination in November/December. I think that we have built a very strong case, and I believe that we have a good chance of preserving all of our green fields for many decades to come.

Tristram Cary
Chairman Rural Hart Association

Fleet Regeneration – Yes we can!

Candidate for Fleet Regeneration: Brownfield site at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hampshire. Hart Council protecting from redevelopment.

We must deliver Fleet Regeneration

A guest post from Tristram Cary, chairman of the Rural Hart Association, setting out why we must and how we can deliver Fleet Regeneration.

Fleet Regeneration Report

40% of the population of Hart live in Fleet, and yet, in the Local Plan, Fleet is only taking only 21% of the housing development. This massive imbalance puts a huge strain on Hart’s countryside. It is extraordinary that Hart is preventing the regeneration of Fleet when you consider that:

Fleet housing density versus towns of similar size

Fleet housing density versus towns of similar size

  1. Fleet is the most sparsely populated town of its size in Britain (see above)
  2. Hart admits in para 236 of the Local Plan that, without regeneration, “it is unrealistic for Fleet to try to compete” for comparison shopping with neighbouring towns such as Camberley (which is the same size as Fleet)
  3. The new National Planning Policy Framework (para 86) requires districts to “take a positive approach to the development of Town Centres” and to “recognise that residential development often plays an important role in ensuring the vitality of Town Centres”

Hart’s extraordinary lack of ambition for Fleet is explained by Councillor Cockarill’s statement at the 4 January Council Meeting that any serious Fleet regeneration was “a pipedream”. Hart claims that Fleet is full, and that it would not be possible to raise any serious money for its regeneration.

The Rural Hart Association (RHA) commissioned a study from Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH), a leading Town Centre regeneration specialist, to analyse the potential for Fleet regeneration. This study was submitted to Hart in response to the Reg 19 Consultation, and the full document is available on the link above. The key findings of the study are that:

  1. Fleet has ample opportunities for re-generation if only Hart would consider mixed-use (residential and retail) developments
  2. It is hopeless for Fleet to resist the residential conversion of redundant office blocks – there is no realistic prospect of these ever being revived for business use.

It’s worth reading the following summaries provided by directors of LSH.

“As has been widely reported the growth of online retail sales is having a major impact on the retail landscape – online sales are currently circa 16% of all UK sales and growing annually. There is a fundamental structural change in our shopping habits which in turn is having a major impact on retailers and town centres. The retail centres that are thriving tend to be those regional locations offering a high quality experiential mix of retail and leisure or the smaller centres that are able to provide easily accessed, convenience retail facilities in an aesthetically pleasing environment.

Interestingly, we have started to witness retail assets (shopping centres and retail parks) particularly in the South East being acquired or redeveloped for their residential potential.  In some instances, we are seeing retail being proposed above shopping centres and in other instances the complete redevelopment for residential – examples include Forbury Park in Reading which has consent for 765 homes and Whitley’s Shopping Centre in Bayswater which is to be redeveloped for a mixed retail and residential scheme. This trend is likely to continue especially in areas where residential values are high and the retail assets are stagnating.

The Hart Shopping Centre could offer such potential in the future – retaining strong convenience retail facilities at ground floor level with retailers such as Waitrose but with residential accommodation on the upper parts.

What is clear, is that on a national basis we have too many shops and alternative uses, in particular residential, is a desirable way of regenerating our town centres”.

Sean Prigmore, Retail Director, Lambert Smith Hampton

And,

“I have been actively involved in the Fleet office market for more than 30 years.

The office market in Fleet has been in decline for a number of years as larger corporates have vacated to consolidate occupation in larger centers and locations benefitting from more amenity – such as Farnborough Business Park. Key Business centres such as Reading and Basingstoke have prospered whilst the smaller satellite office location such as Fleet are finding it harder to prove their relevance as office locations. M3 HQ, 70,000 sq ft on ABP, has been vacant for many years and is unlikely to be occupied as offices again. There is the potential to enable redevelopment of larger unwanted office stock for residential and to focus B1 provision in locations better served by public transport and amenity and in buildings which will allow business space for the SME sector where what demand there is lies.”

Paul Dowson , Director, Lambert Smith Hampton

Fleet Regeneration Sites

Fleet Regeneration Sites

The Lambert Smith Hampton report identifies eight sites in Fleet Town centre which between them could provide 990 homes in mixed-use developments, and LSH is confident that these sites would attract developer investment. [Personally, I would add the entire civic quarter – ed]. It is shocking that Hart has turned its back on mixed use developments in Fleet without even investigating their potential. We hope that Hart Council will restructure its Local Plan to take account of the LSH report before submitting it for Inspection.

[Note that this is exactly in line with Ranil’s call for regeneration of our urban centres – ed]

Hart Local Plan: Missed opportunity to regenerate urban centres

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation won't regenerate Old Police Station in Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation: Missed opportunity to regenerate urban centres

This is the fourth part of our submission to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation. This article explains how we are missing the opportunity to regenerate our urban centres and why Policies Policies ED4, 5 and 6 (and SS3) need to be removed for the time being until we come up with a proper regeneration strategy. The process for making a submission is as follows:

  1. Go to the Hart Local Plan Consultation page of the Council website
  2. From the Hart website, download and complete Response Form Part A (Personal Details). A copy can be downloaded here.
  3. Also download and complete the Response Form Part B (Your Representations), a separate Part B is required for each representation you wish to make. A copy can be downloaded here.
  4. Make sure you include words of this form in each representation. Policy [X] is not sound because it is not [positively prepared, justified, effective or consistent with national policy] (delete as appropriate).
  5. Once you have filled in Part A and Part B, please email them to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk or post them to Planning Policy Team, Hart District Council, Harlington Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 4AE.
Submissions have to be made before 4pm on 26 March 2018. If you are keen to get your submission completed, you can use the summary guide we have pulled together, or for the more adventurous, you can use our full submission. Please edit the text into your own words.
WHH Local Plan Reg 19 Guide
WHH Local Plan Reg 19 Entry

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 Consultation: MIssed regeneration opportunity

Fleet is the lowest density town of its size in the country. The chart below shows that there is significant scope for increasing development density in Fleet.
Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation: Fleet housing density versus towns of similar size

Fleet housing density versus towns of similar size

The retail offer in Fleet is poor, the cultural facilities (e.g. Harlington Centre) are outdated and there is no proper cinema. We might as well employ botanists to identify the new species of tumbleweed appearing in the Hart Shopping Centre.

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation: Fleet Health score versus benchmarks

Fleet Health score versus benchmarks

However, Fleet has the highest average earnings per person of comparative towns by quite a large margin (e.g.: 9% more than Camberley). High earnings should give Fleet a significant advantage over the comparison towns.

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation: Fleet earnings versus competitors

Fleet earnings versus competitors

The Local Plan fails to take advantage of the opportunity to modernise Hart’s urban centres and protect Hart’s countryside.

We believe that the Local Plan should be centred on the proposition that Fleet and other urban centres will be re-generated. With Hart District Council’s full and active support, a plan based on urban regeneration would achieve the following benefits:

  1. An ambitious Hart Urban Re-generation Project (HURP) would attract private investment and thus be affordable
  2. Private investment would allow for Hart’s infrastructure to be upgraded in line with the urban re-generation
  3. Good urban design principles would achieve a higher population density in the urban centres while at the same time providing an improved ‘sense of place’ and making the urban centres more desirable places to live.

A similar approach could be adopted in Yateley to provide a proper retail-led centre and improvements could be made to Blackwater. The requirement for additional retail facilities in Hook, identified in the Reg 18 Local Plan could also be met.

Hart did have a plan to conduct a brownfield study (We Heart Hart helped to write the terms of reference) to evaluate the ‘art of the possible’ in our urban centres. This project has not delivered.

In addition, Yateley lacks a defined centre, Blackwater is indistinct and Hook lacks good quality restaurants and shopping facilities.

The council should be setting out a bold plan to improve the retail, cultural and recreational amenities in the district. We should also develop plans for a theatre and cinema in Fleet as part of an attractive mixed-use redevelopment. There will be significant cash available from developers to fund such an ambitious plan.

Instead of creating a proper masterplan,  Fleet Town Council are pursuing an ill-thought out plan for a new theatre that will leave the existing Harlington Centre to rot. This is not regeneration in any meaningful sense of the word.

Our local MP, Ranil Jaywardena, has launched a campaign to regenerate our urban centres. He said:

Looking to some of our local, district and town centres, however, it is clear to see that Fleet, Yateley and Hook are all in real need of revitalisation and regeneration. I’ve been spending time speaking to your local Councillors about this and taking a look at the work that needs to be done.

I am more convinced than ever that all three places have great potential – be that simply as shopping destinations or, with the right infrastructure improvements, as great places for our young people to get their foot on the housing ladder.

The trouble is that there is no ‘masterplan’ for any of these places. I will be raising this with Hart District Council personally – but I need your help. If you want smart new shops, some new flats for local young people to buy above them and better car parking, then act now.

The BBC has recently interviewed a number of people in Fleet about what it is like to live there. Everybody loves it, but they think there’s been too much housing and not enough infrastructure. The draft Local Plan won’t fix either of those issues, because they’re insisting on building too many houses and aren’t addressing infrastructure.

However, policies ED4, 5 and 6 effectively cast the existing centres in aspic and preclude significant redevelopment. I do not have the resources available to me to completely re-write these policies.

Remedy:  Policies ED4, 5 and 6 should be removed for the time being and a proper community team put together to work with our local councillors and MP to come up with a master plan to regenerate our town centres. Policy SS3 (together with the consequent changes to SS1 already outlined) should also be removed, so that time and energy can be freed up to address the fundamental problem of our urban centres.

Hart Local Plan: Remove brownfield restrictions

Brownfield site at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hampshire. Hart Local Plan protecting from redevelopment.

Hart Local Plan restricting redevelopment of sites like this

This is the third part of our submission to the Regulation 19 Hart Local Plan consultation. This article explains how Hart’s policies are restricting brownfield redevelopment and why they must remove policy ED2, change their SANG policy and remove their Article 4 direction on Permitted Development Rights.  The process for making a submission is as follows:

  1. Go to the Hart Local Plan Consultation page of the Council website
  2. From the Hart website, download and complete Response Form Part A (Personal Details). A copy can be downloaded here.
  3. Also download and complete the Response Form Part B (Your Representations), a separate Part B is required for each representation you wish to make. A copy can be downloaded here
  4. Make sure you include words of this form in each representation. Policy [X] is not sound because it is not [positively prepared, justified, effective or consistent with national policy] (delete as appropriate).
  5. Once you have filled in Part A and Part B, please email them to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk or post them to Planning Policy Team, Hart District Council, Harlington Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 4AE. 
Submissions have to be made before 4pm on 26 March 2018. If you are keen to get your submission completed, you can use the summary guide we have pulled together, or for the more adventurous, you can use our full submission. Please edit the text into your own words.
WHH Local Plan Reg 19 Guide
WHH Local Plan Reg 19 Entry

How the Hart Local Plan restricts brownfield development

Policy ED2 relates to safeguarding employment land and Para 297 refers to SANG owned by the council.

Policy ED2 protects essentially every major employment site in the district from redevelopment.

The reason this is a bad policy is that the prior version of the Local Plan itself, as well as the Employment Land Review (ELR), acknowledges that there is an over-supply of low grade office space (para 125). The ELR states that investment in this stock is unviable (para 6.17):

Commercial agents note that the costs of refurbishing such stock to a good standard attractive to the market typically costs between £50-£60 per sq ft; and that the current over-supply of office accommodation limits investment in refurbishing such stock as low rent levels made such investment unviable.

Owners of these sites have three choices. First they can keep the wasting asset and collect no rent, which is not an attractive commercial proposition. Second, they can convert the offices into flats. By and large, they need no planning permission for this. However, these types of development carry no obligation for S106 or CIL payments to councils. Nor do they deliver a good ‘sense of place’. Finally, they could apply for planning permission to properly redevelop these sites into attractive homes, with a particular focus on affordable homes for the young. These types of development will be high-density, but with a good sense of place, and will attract some funding for infrastructure.

The consequences of this policy will be to discourage redevelopment of sites and either lead to more sites being simply converted or worse, sitting idle as eyesores.

We believe this is contrary to Government policy.

Remedy: Consequently policy ED2 should be removed.

Moreover, the Inspector should be aware that the council has implemented a new policy regarding SANG that effectively further obstructs brownfield development. This is already blocking schemes that would provide homes that ordinary people can afford (as distinct from Affordable Homes that ordinary people can’t afford). The schemes affected are a conversion on Ancells Farm and proposals to redevelop the old police station in Fleet town centre. It has been suggested that this SANG policy may be unlawful.

In addition, Hart has commenced work to implement an Article 4 direction to block permitted development on brownfield sites.

In effect they have set some nice sounding objectives about protecting our historic assets and building green infrastructure, but their policies act against their objectives and actively create a worse place to live by leaving decrepit buildings to rot and scar the landscape.

We think the Inspector should also take a view on these policies since they are closely related to the Local Plan, even though they are not contained within it.

Remedy: We believe that the SANG policy and the Article 4 direction should be removed

Affordable homes blocked by Hart’s restrictive brownfield policies

Affordable homes blocked at Zenith House, 3 Rye Close, Fleet, Hampshire by Hart's restrictive brownfield policies

Affordable homes blocked by Hart’s brownfield policies

The delivery of 36 affordable homes is being blocked by Hart’s restrictive brownfield policies. Magna Group is seeking to convert Zenith House on Rye Close on Ancell’s Farm in Fleet into 36 relatively affordable properties, designed to retail at £175,000 to £300,000. But they are being blocked by Hart’s restrictive SANG policy.

The council has given its prior approval to the development. However, Hart is effectively blocking the development by refusing to allocate any of its SANG.

redevelopment of Old Police Station,Crookham Road, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire being blocked by restrictive brownfield policies

Proposals to redevelop Fleet Police station being blocked by restrictive brownfield policies

We understand the same developer owns the old Fleet Police station on Crookham Road in Fleet and plans to replace it with 14 new dwellings. However, we understand the council planning officers have been instructed to refuse planning permission for even compliant proposals.

This has the effect of:

  • Restricting the supply of housing that would be affordable for many young people trying to get on the housing ladder
  • Adding extra pressure to build on green field land
  • Stopping the market dealing with the problem of the over-supply of dilapidated office blocks in the district

This policy is also blocking Ranil’s ideas for regenerating Fleet. His petition can be found here.

It transpires that Hart’s SANG policy may well be illegal. We understand that legal representations have been made that cast doubt on Hart’s SANG policy:

First the policy is clearly intended to frustrate the delivery of housing rather than to facilitate development.  The policy confers on the head of the regulatory services absolute discretion to allocate SANG but makes clear that SANG will not be allocated to any development unless the Council considers it to be acceptable.

That means that if Planning Permission is granted on appeal the Council will nevertheless use its powers in relation to SANG to thwart that development.

The policy may result in the Council preventing people from exercising the rights they have been granted by Parliament through the permitted development process. In effect the Council is removing a property right from them in breach of the terms of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Furthermore the Council is in breach of its duty to make proper provision to facilitate the delivery of housing.

It certainly looks like the council is setting itself up for more expensive legal battles.

 

 

 

 

 

Hart District Council seeks to block development of brownfield sites

Hart District Council seeks to block development of brownfield sites

Hart District Council seeks to block development of brownfield sites

Hart District Council is seeking to block development of brownfield sites. It has put forward proposals to be discussed at the Planning meeting later today to implement an Article 4 direction to

Withdraw permitted development rights related to the change of use of offices, light-industrial units, and storage or distribution units to residential use within the Strategic Employment Sites and the Locally Important Employment Sites

This covers substantially all the brownfield sites in the district. We do have some sympathy for the view that simple conversion of office sites to residential is not good for the district. We much prefer complete redevelopment of these sites, so the provide higher quality housing and a better sense of place.

But the council’s approach is heavy-handed and sends a signal that they do not welcome brownfield development. Moreover, this approach will discourage the regeneration that our urban centres badly need.

The proposals call for:

  • Draft Article 4 Direction and supporting documents;
  • Give notice as soon as possible after a Direction has been made by local advertisement, site notice, owners and occupiers (unless reasons to justify not doing so);
  • Send a copy of the direction and the notice to the Secretary of State;
  • Notify the county planning authority;
  • Following the above, take into account any representations received; and
  • Confirm the Direction by giving notice as above and sending a copy of the confirmed direction to the Secretary of State.

They have to give 12 months notice of the implementation of the direction.  They identify as risks that:

  • Developers may make claims for compensation from a local authority
  • The proposals could result in a rush of applications before the rights are withdrawn, it is not
    possible to mitigate against this risk.

A more positive approach would be to put a policy in the draft Local Plan that unequivocally encourages  redevelopment of brownfield sites and give examples of the kinds of scheme the council would encourage.

Hart Brownfield sites in Employment Land Review

The other puzzling thing is that Hart’s own Employment Land Review identifies much of the employment land in the district as:

Lower grade stock for which there is limited demand and a large supply. As a result of limited demand. The poorer quality stock is remaining vacant for prolonged periods.

They say that:

The current over-supply of lower grade office accommodation is limiting investment in the refurbishment of such stock as low rent levels make such investment unviable.

To summarise, Hart is seeking to block the redevelopment of low grade office blocks, and there’s no hope of refurbishing these into high quality office accommodation. So it seems that we are going to be stuck with many of the eyesores in the photo carousel below. They really have gone through the looking glass.