Hart Launches Fleet Civic Quarter Regeneration Consultation

Fleet Civic Quarter Regeneration Consultation

Fleet Civic Quarter Regeneration Consultation

Hart Council has launched a Fleet Civic Quarter Regeneration Consultation. The survey runs from Monday 23 May to Monday 4 July. They have created a specific page on their website giving more details. It can be found here.

There is a leaflet giving more details about what they are trying to achieve that can be found here. The Council is encouraging residents to read the leaflet before answering the questionnaire that can be found here.

We set out below some more details of the consultation followed by our view.

Fleet Civic Quarter Regeneration Consultation Details

The questionnaire asks respondents say how important 8 aspects of regeneration are:

  • A dynamic, active town square all year round
  • A better connected town centre
  • Enhancing the cultural scene in Hart
  • Encouraging increased footfall to support the high street
  • An Inclusive space for all generations
  • Creating places to meet, socialise and celebrate
  • Prioritising sustainable, healthy design
  • Upgraded, modernised community facilities

Residents are then asked to choose their top-3 uses to which the Civic Quarter space can be put. The fourth question is a bit fiddly. It asks respondents to rank the relative importance of 10 “critical success factors”. The final two questions are freeform and ask people to set out their hopes and concerns about regeneration of the area.

Our View

It is good to see some progress finally happening on this project which was given the go ahead nearly 3 years ago in August 2019.  However, the focus is very strongly on the Council owned assets including Hart’s offices, The Harlington and Gurkha Square.

Fleet Civic Quarter Regeneration Map

Fleet Civic Quarter Regeneration Map

We think the Council should think bigger and consider the whole of the area outlined in the map above, together with the Hart Shopping Centre and the area surrounding Church Road car park for a more comprehensive revitalisation on the whole town.  However, we have to start somewhere, so we think this project should be encouraged.

Given the recent controversy surrounding the proposed Gurkha Square redevelopment and other matters, we think they should set some principles for the redevelopment to allay people’s concerns. Examples would include:

  • Promise to not develop Gurkha Square itself – focus on keeping the square for the market, public performances and outdoor restaurant seating
  • Promise to retain the Views and enhance it as a public open space
  • Ensure that a healthcare centre (GP Surgery or Drop-In centre) is included as part of the development
  • Consider providing a gym and even potentially a primary school and/or nursery
  • Constrain any development to a maximum of 5 storeys
  • Utilise the work of groups like Create Streets, to ensure that the built environment is of human scale, the proportions are sensible, adequate green space is provided and the buildings are beautiful.
  • [Update from a user comment] Introduce free parking to encourage more visitors to the town centre and support businesses [/Update]

We encourage readers to have their say and complete the questionnaire using the links above.

Impact of Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill on Hart

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - RIP Shapley Heath

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – RIP Shapley Heath

Earlier this week, the Government launched the long awaited Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. The full Bill, all 338 pages of it, can be found here. A summary of the proposed measures can be found here. The interviews carried out by Michael Gove and the Bill itself had a number of potential impacts on Hart.

  • National Housing Target
  • Five-Year Land Supply
  • Neighbourhood Plans
  • Duty to Cooperate
  • Enhanced Environment Protection
  • Mandatory Infrastructure Contributions
  • Regeneration

On first examination, these look to be positive proposals for Hart, particularly in that they appear to weaken the case for Shapley Heath. The proposals also strengthen powers to drive regeneration of town centres, which should be good news for Fleet and its businesses.

Let’s go through the detail.

National Housing Target

Michael Gove gave a number of interviews about the new Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. On BBC Radio 4, he was repeatedly asked about whether the Government was sticking to the national housing target of 300,000 new dwellings per year. He refused to give a clear answer each time he was asked, saying he didn’t want to be “tied to a Procrustean bed”. Yes, we had to look that up too. Essentially, it means an arbitrary target. He also said that that while “arithmetic is important”, he was not “bound by one criterion alone”.

On the face of it, the Government is backing away from this target, which means that Hart’s housing target should fall from the current 286dpa.  However, the Telegraph reported that a Downing Street spokesman stressed the target remained – while saying it was important to build the right sort of houses.

So, this is not something we can bank on yet. However, the current Local Plan calls for 423dpa. We are currently building far more than that. It seems unlikely to us that the current target of 286dpa will rise, so the upcoming Local Plan review ought to relieve pressure into the future. This will make the claims that Shapley Heath is required even more difficult to sustain.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Five-Year Land Supply

Related to the housing target, the new Bill proposes to scrap the requirement for Councils to maintain a five year land supply.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - Five-Year Land Supply Requirement scrapped

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Five-Year Land Supply Requirement scrapped

However, this is conditional upon the Local Plan being up to date. By this they mean adopted in the past five years. To benefit from this proposal Hart will have to have an updated Local Plan in place by April 2025. Our current Local Plan is front-loaded, with completions falling below target beyond around 2026/27. This proposal should help with that problem.

At the very least, this Bill should scupper CCH’s “suicidal” plans to build Shapley Heath at a rate of 500dpa.

Neighbourhood Plans

The summary of the proposals says that neighbourhood plans will be strengthened to have equal weight with other planning documents.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - Neighbourhood Plans given equal weight

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Neighbourhood Plans given equal weight

On the face of it, this is a positive development because is inconceivable that Winchfield Parish Council would include Shapley Heath in their Neighbourhood Plan. However, this must be tempered by statement in the full Bill that seems to prohibit Neighbourhood Plans reducing the amount of housing a Local Authority can deliver.

Neighbourhood Plans Cannot Cut Housing for the Authority

Neighbourhood Plans Cannot Cut Housing for the Authority

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Duty to Cooperate

The current duty to cooperate requirement will be repealed and replaced with a more flexible alignment test.

Duty to Cooperate Repealed

Duty to Cooperate Repealed

This is a positive development, because the current Local Plan includes an allowance to build housing for Surrey Heath. This allowance was already under question because the housing target for both Surrey Heath and Rushmoor has been reduced. Rushmoor is building far more than it is now required to do and could easily take any unmet need from Surrey Heath. However, the requirement to build houses for neighbouring authorities appears to fall away. This is good news in that it reduces Hart’s housing target.

Enhanced Environment Protection

The Bill also seeks to enhance environmental protections.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - Enhanced Environmental Protection

Enhanced Environmental Protection

We know that parts of the Shapley Heath contain significant areas that are at risk of flooding. On the face of it, these proposals will make it harder to build in such an area. Moreover, the area contains SSSIs, SINCs and other protected areas. Enhanced environmental protections ought to help fend off proposals for Shapley Heath.

Mandatory Infrastructure Contributions

The Bill proposes changes to infrastructure funding. A new mandatory infrastructure levy is proposed to replace S106 contributions and Community Infrastructure Levy.

New Mandatory Infrastructure Charge

New Mandatory Infrastructure Charge

On the face of it, this seems to close the loophole where developers converting office blocks under permitted development rights were able to avoid infrastructure contributions. This should help the council adopt a better attitude to brownfield development.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Regeneration

New compulsory purchase powers are proposed in the Bill. These should help Councils rejuvenate town centres and regenerate brownfield land.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - Strong Support for Urban Regeneration

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Strong Support for Urban Regeneration

Taken together, these proposals should finally end the ridiculous proposals for a new town at Shapley Heath. There will no longer be any excuses for Hart not to come up with bold new plans to regenerate Fleet, Blackwater and Yateley. These urban centres should be the focus of the updated Local Plan so we can make Hart an even greater place to live.

CCH They Don’t Like It Up Em

CCH They Dont Like It Up Em

CCH They Don’t Like It Up Em

Local political party, Completely Concrete Community Campaign Hart (CCH) have been sent into disarray after our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena took them to task over their lack of a regeneration strategy.

Origins of the CCH They Don’t Like it Up Em Saga

Back in the summer, CCH published a post on their Facebook page saying they had written to our MP to ask about Hart’s housing numbers. They promised to “post any response we receive in due course”.

CCH They Don't Like it Up Em - Post about letter to Ranil

CCH They Don’t Like it Up Em – Post about letter to Ranil

Months passed and CCH went very quiet. A number of people asked politely what had happened to the response. Eventually it came to light that Ranil had answered their letter but CCH was reneging on their promise to publish it. Apparently, Ranil had not answered their question in the way they wanted. Apparently, CCH can renege on promises if things don’t go their way.

Follow Up from Concerned Resident

We understand that a concerned resident contacted Ranil with what they thought were similar questions. Recently the, resident received a reply (shown in full below) that took CCH to task. Ranil felt CCH were “passing the buck” and not getting on with the job they were elected to do.  He also lamented their focus on buying up office buildings outside of the district. He was clearly disappointed that CCH are focused on the ill-fated Shapley Heath green field project to deliver more houses than are actually needed. He pointed out that CCH and the Lib Dems are not showing any leadership around regeneration of our urban centres.

The post related to this response from Ranil can be found here.

Response from CCH – They Don’t Like it Up Em

This has prompted a childish response from CCH, accusing We Heart Hart of being “Facebook collaborators”, whatever that means. We had no involvement in the letter to or response from Ranil.

CCH They Don't Like it Up Em - Accusations of Facebook Collaborator

CCH They Don’t Like it Up Em – Accusations of Facebook Collaborator

They gave a long diatribe about the Brownfield Register, which mostly contains sites that have planning permission, some of which have already been built. Indeed there’s 3,600-3,800 homes identified compared to the meagre 400 we were told were possible in 2015. It is clear the council systematically underestimates the brownfield capacity of the district.

The Civic Quarter is conspicuously missing from the Brownfield register. This site is in public ownership and Hart have been trying to pull together a plan for its regeneration for at least two years. Like with the Shapley Heath project, they have delivered nothing. If the Council can’t even be bothered to put its own land on the brownfield register, what hope is there to persuade developers that they are serious about regeneration?

They also stated that the Hart Shopping Centre was not available for regeneration. This is clearly nonsense. We helped publicise a potential scheme back in 2018. This could have delivered hundreds of new homes and cultural facilities, without a penny of public money. The reason the project has not moved forward is that nobody from Hart Council would meet with representatives of the owners. Again, if the Council won’t take the initiative when an opportunity is presented to them on a plate, then they won’t get anywhere.

It seems CCH want to blame everyone else and not take the initiative to get things done. They are an empty vessel that makes a lot of noise, but lacks any real substance.

CCH They Don’t Like it Up Em – Letter from Ranil

I do not believe that CCH’s ongoing public ‘to and fro’ is in the public interest. Rather, many residents have said that they believe it is an attempt by CCH to ‘pass the buck’ from getting on with the job that they have – for now – been elected to do. The interests of my constituents are not best served through seeking to distort the truth, nor making potentially slanderous comments in public meetings.

My views remain the same. I support my constituents when they tell me that they want to see the development and regeneration of brownfield land first. Planning decisions remain for local councils and it is for Hart District Council (HDC) – which is ruled by CCH and their Lib Dem collaborators – to actually take forward the work needed to assess and procure brownfield land.

CCH have contacted me to ask what brownfield land is available. This is a complete abdication of responsibility. My response to them is very clear – I have my own views, I have delivered regeneration elsewhere; I know that councils have all the powers they need to get on with the job, but this is about leadership. They control the council so, if they are serious about brownfield regeneration, it is important for them to be bold in identifying what brownfield land they would like to acquire for development, whether or not it is on the open market currently. That is why I continue to call for HDC to carry out this work, rather than asking me to do their job for them without the resources of a council behind me.

In seeking to be as helpful as possible, it is not always understood that councils are able to buy land and buildings that are not for sale, through Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs). This can and, in my opinion should, be a key part of a robust focus on brownfield regeneration in our area, to improve the look and feel of Fleet’s, Yateley’s and Hook’s retail centres. This way forward relies on the council demonstrating flexibility and ambition – they must be ready to buy today to regenerate tomorrow.

Extraordinarily, whilst local people want the council to invest in our local area – to deliver brownfield regeneration – I am given to understand the CCH/LibDem rulers of HDC are buying buildings in Basingstoke and in the south of Hampshire instead. Why, I do not know, and this is a great shame because this money could have been used locally to begin to turn our retail centres around.

Again, this is about leadership. Only a robust approach will protect the environment surrounding our communities and – whilst it is not for me, nor HM Government, to carry out these studies – many constituents have asked that I continue to urge HDC to do this work and to get them to get on with brownfield regeneration, rather than pursuing their current plans to concrete over a huge number of green fields to build inflated housing numbers.

For the avoidance of doubt, I refer to HDC building an inflated number of houses – despite what I can only conclude is an attempt at political posturing from CCH – because it is they who decided to include 423 new dwellings per year in their local plan. This is far more than was needed, evidence by HM Government’s indicative new homes target for Hart of just 286 per year – 137 new homes a year fewer than those in charge of HDC have decided to build.

I will always champion the best interests of North East Hampshire and I am pleased that the Prime Minister agrees with the approach I have long set out – most recently in in my Constituency Conservation Charter at: ranil.uk/charter – as he recently confirmed that there should not be major developments on green fields. Instead he wants the focus to be on brownfield sites. On 6th October he said:

“You can… see how much room there is to build the homes that young families need in this country… not on green fields, not just jammed in the South East, but beautiful homes on brownfield sites in places where homes make sense.”

I would urge any local resident who has not yet signed my Constituency Conservation Charter to do so urgently, in order that I will have a stronger evidence base to use in making the case for this to HDC.

And that is the truth: whatever I or the Prime Minister think, whatever we would like to see, we create the national policy; we do not decide planning applications nor do we set the Local Plan. The clue is in the name of the latter. Local democracy means that it is for our local council to now get on with it, to provide leadership and to deliver what local people and I are calling for. CCH and the Lib Dems no longer have any excuse.

I hope this provides a helpful update on my position.

Hart Sees the Light on Brownfield Development

Hart Sees the Light on Brownfield Development

Hart Sees the Light on Brownfield Development

Hot on the heels of the Prime Minister’s announcement last week, Hart Council seems to be taking brownfield options more seriously. A paper is going to be considered by Overview and Scrutiny next week about the Local Plan review. There are some interesting ideas in there:

  • Shapley Heath.
  • Regeneration and Brownfield Capacity.
  • Financial Implications.

Shapley Heath Project “Concluded”

The paper makes clear that the standalone Shapley Heath project has “concluded”. This does not mean they will stop consideration of a new settlement altogether, because they will consider it again in the Local Plan Review. But for now, work has ceased.

They have also committed to publish the survey results and baseline studies. The studies are:

  • Transport.
  • Landscape.
  • Agricultural land classification.
  • Heritage.
  • Flooding, Drainage, and Water Management.
  • Utilities.
  • Air Quality.
  • Noise.
  • Contamination.
  • Ecology and Biodiversity.
  • Woodland, trees, and Hedgerows.

However, the timeline is somewhat ambiguous. Section 4.11 says (our emphasis):

It is intended that these surveys and technical baseline assessments continue to completion and that they are all published promptly as and when they become available. This exercise should be complete early in the new year.

However, later in the document, section 5.2 says:

The project itself is concluded but existing baseline studies and surveys will proceed to completion and will be published early in the new year.

So, there is some ambiguity about the publication date. We know that a number of the studies were complete as early as March this year, and of course the survey was completed in July. The studies and survey were due to be considered by the Opportunity Board in the cancelled September meeting. We can see no reason why those documents should not be published immediately.

Hart Sees the Light: Regeneration and Brownfield Capacity Study

The section on the capacity study begins with:

The new housing and communities secretary has recently said that “urban regeneration” and building homes on “neglected brownfield sites” will be a priority for the government. This is a clear sign that the focus on future growth will be directed at seeking to prioritise the opportunity to deliver growth wherever reasonably possible within the settlement areas.

This is a clear echo of what this campaign has been suggesting for years. Finally, the Government is using similar language and Hart is following suit. Only time will tell if this is a genuine “Hart Sees the Light” moment or whether they are paying lip service to the prevailing political winds.

The scope of the study is very wide ranging:

The proposal, therefore, is that the Council should commission a far ranging and robust study that assesses the opportunity and capacity for the district’s settlements to deliver regeneration, brownfield renewal, and general development intensification.

Examples of capacity sources are:

  • Subdivision of existing housing.
  • Flats over shops.
  • Empty homes.
  • Previously developed vacant and derelict land and buildings (non-housing).
  • Intensification of development within existing areas.
  • Redevelopment of existing housing.
  • Redevelopment of car parks.
  • Conversion of commercial buildings.
  • Review of all existing land use allocations in plans.
  • Vacant land not previously developed.

The study is going to be carried out with “policy off”, meaning that they not apply existing policy designations to the initial assessment.

It seems the work will not commence until the new Planning Bill has been passed. It is expected they will start in FY22/23.

Financial Implications.

The paper says that there are no financial implications of the paper. This is odd, given that the budget for Shapley Heath was £279K this year (before grants), and as of the end of September, they had only spent £81K. We might have hoped for a saving to be made.

The business case for the Local Plan is not included in the potential “Level 2 savings” in another paper put to the same meeting.  This is odd, because it was clearly billed as such by Councillor Radley at Cabinet last month.

Shapley Heath Paused

Garden Community Project Paused

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boris Puts Another Nail in Shapley Heath Coffin

Boris puts another nail in Shapley Heath Coffin

Boris puts another nail in Shapley Heath Coffin

Boris Johnson put another nail in the Shapley Heath coffin in his Conservative Party conference speech yesterday.  The key passage in the full speech reported on the the Conservative Party website was:

You can also see how much room there is to build the homes that young families need in this country.

Not on green fields.

Not just jammed in the south east.

But beautiful homes on brownfield sites in places where homes make sense.

Press Coverage

The same message has been reported in the Telegraph (subscription maybe required):

Boris Promises no homes on green fields

Boris Promises no homes on green fields

Boris Johnson on Wednesday said houses should not be built on “green fields” as ministers abandoned proposals for a vast overhaul of planning rules.

In a clear signal to Tory heartlands that he had heard their concerns, Mr Johnson used his Conservative Party conference speech to acknowledge fears that the countryside would be “desecrated by ugly new homes”.

The Prime Minister’s comments reveal a change in strategy after a Tory voter backlash over planning reforms saw the party lose the safe seat of Chesham and Amersham in a June by-election.

The Telegraph understands that the most controversial aspects of biggest overhaul of the planning system in 70 years have effectively been ditched, with ministers looking for changes that will be less radical but more palatable to Tory MPs.

The new focus will be on boosting construction on brownfield sites, which have been previously developed and are less controversial locations for housebuilding.

There are even discussions about abandoning the 300,000 per year overall target.

There are even discussions within the Cabinet about whether the Tories should alter their manifesto target to build 300,000 homes a year.

This would make sense as the target is far higher than that required by demographic change. The 300K target is too high, even after taking account of the “affordability uplift”. As we discussed here.

On the face of it, this is good news. However, we have to be cautious as there is often a wide gap between rhetoric and reality.

Muffled screams of anguish could be heard through the thick concrete walls of the CCH bunker last night.

Revised Bramshill Proposals Released

New Bramshill Proposals January 2020

Revised Bramshill Proposals Released

City and Country have released revised proposals for the Bramshill site they acquired in 2015. This is the former site of the Police College. They applied for planning permission some time ago. They eventually went to appeal. The appeal judgement was complex, but resulted in them not going ahead with the development.

Now, they have separated their proposals into two parts:

  1. Refurbishment of the Grade I listed Bramshill House, to convert it into a single dwelling. Planning permission has already been granted for this. This is already on the market alongside 92 acres of gardens and various outbuildings.
  2. Redevelopment of the rest of the site, to include 230 family homes and a care village consisting of assisted living dwellings and a residential care home. This will include getting rid of the old accommodation blocks associated with the Police College.

The developers are suggesting that these new proposals are more sympathetic to the setting of Bramshill House. They also claim these new proposals will result in fewer traffic movements, within the limits set by Hampshire County Council. They are proposing some road improvements:

  • Improvements to the geometry and visibility at the site access junction of Reading Drive South and Plough Lane.
  • A safety scheme at the off-site junction of Bramshill Road/Bracknell Lane, converting the double priority junction into a single priority T-junction resulting in significant safety benefits.
  •  Improvements to the geometry and visibility at the off-site junction of Reading Drive South and Bramshill Road.

They held an exhibition on Thursday 16th January. The materials presented there are available on the City and Country website.

The main brochure can be downloaded below.

We think that it is important that the main Bramshill House is preserved for posterity and some development of the rest of the site is inevitable. However, we think 230 houses plus care home is still probably too much development for this site. We remain to be convinced that the proposed road improvements will be enough to mitigate the increased traffic. Let’s see how this develops.

Revised Bramshill Proposals

 

 

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 also 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.

[Update]: Screaming Laud Hope was interviewed by For Fleet’s Sake and came out against Shapley Heath, so the graphic has been updated. [/Update]

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.