We Heart Hart submits objection to Hop Garden Road development in Hook

We Heart Hart has submitted an objection to the Hop Garden Road (Owens Farm) development in Hook.

The full details of the submission can be found here:

Submission to oppose development of Hop Garden Road

The summary of the submission is presented below:

The purpose of this submission by the We Hart Campaign is to oppose the specific unnecessary development proposed at Hop Garden Road in Hook and demonstrate to other developers who may wish to put forward speculative proposals for the over-development of the district that they will face formidable opposition to their plans.  Hart District is facing a scale of development that is against the wishes of its residents and in contradiction to stated Government policy to place planning decisions in the hands of local people.

Let me remind you of the Prime Minister’s words in 2012, taken from this Telegraph article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/hands-off-our-land/9002655/Hands-Off-Our-Land-Housing-estates-will-not-be-plonked-next-to-villages-pledges-David-Cameron.html

He said: “I care deeply about our countryside and environment. Our vision is one where we give communities much more say, much more control. The fear people have in villages is the great big housing estate being plonked down from above.

“Our reforms will make it easier for communities to say ‘we are not going to have big plonking housing estate landing next to the village, but we would like 10, 20, 30 extra houses and we would like them built in this way, to be built for local people’.”

Mr Cameron, who was being interviewed in his Oxfordshire constituency, denied that the reforms would lead to large swathes of the countryside being built on.

He told BBC1’s Countryfile programme: “Here we are in west Oxfordshire one of the most beautiful parts of our country, set in some of England’s finest countryside. I would no more put that at risk than I would put at risk my own family.

“I care deeply about our countryside and environment. Our vision is one where we give communities much more say, much more control.”

We Hart object to this proposed development and any future speculative proposals on the grounds summarised below:

  • The SHMA and OAN are not objective and represent a “need” that is far too high.
  • Understated brownfield capacity means green field development is not necessary
  • This proposed development will not contribute towards meeting the needs of the changing demographics of the district
  • The proposed development will make the current infrastructure funding gap worse
  • Lack of consideration of the environment

You can help by going along to the appeal, to be held between Tuesday 12th May and Thursday 14th May, 10am to 5pm.  The first day starts at 10am and probably through to 5pm at Hart Council’s Civic Offices, Harlington Way, GU51 4AE, Fleet.  More details here.

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How to make a better Local Plan for Hart District

Protect our green fields

Protect our green fields

We know that progress on the Local Plan for Hart District is slow and that it is not going in the direction many would like to see.  We thought it was time to outline an alternative approach, and see if Hart Council and the candidates for election will change their minds. Below we set out a five point plan for change:

  • Create a medium growth scenario
  • Create a formal brownfield option and invite a competition to design the art of the possible
  • Do the work and consult upon the additional elements of a proper Local Plan
  • Consider the Environment and Landscape
  • Fix the management and governance problems

1.  Create a Medium Growth Scenario

We need to work on creating a reasonable, alternative “medium growth” scenario to go alongside the current “high growth” scenario. We have posted earlier about why we believe the SHMA is flawed (as shown here and here) and is forcing us to build too much –  7,534 houses in Hart plus 3,100 extra from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.  Hart District Council should work with Rushmoor and Surrey Heath work to create a joint new, “policy on” lower housing requirement for the whole Housing Market Area that:

  • Takes account of the environmental damage that large scale over-development would cause to our valuable countryside and the green belt in Surrey Heath
  • Uses more realistic jobs growth assumptions of say around 650-750 jobs per annum over the cycle which is above what was achieved over the last economic cycle as opposed to the existing assumption in the SHMA of 1,130 jobs per annum
  • Uses more realistic inward migration and household size assumptions.

The more realistic assumptions above could reduce the overall housing “need” for the combination of Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath by around 8,000 dwellings from 23,600 to 15,790. We believe this would relieve the pressure on all three districts, and in particular, reduce the pressure on Hart to take the unmet needs of Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Boroughs.

2. Create a formal brownfield option and invite a competition to design the art of the possible

We have already demonstrated that Hart has no effective brownfield strategy.  Hart Council should create a new, formal “reasonable suitable alternative” option of meeting the housing need solely through brownfield development. This should involve the following:

  • Creating a complete database of all of the potential brownfield sites in the district, including those not yet in the SHLAA and those not yet formally promoted to the council, including sites such as Bramshill House, Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), Sun Park, Ancells Farm, Bartley Wood, Fleet High St and all of the run down town centres (e.g. Fleet, Yateley, Blackwater and Hook).
  • Inviting leading architects to compete to produce some visionary outline schemes of what a “brownfield solution” might look like for the district, taking into account changing demographics, changing shopping habits driven by the internet and achievable housing densities.
  • Organising a conference with the architects, land owners, developers and local community representatives with the objective of identifying the art of the possible for brownfield development amongst the competing solutions from the architects.

This could be done in conjunction with the neighbouring authorities of Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.

3. Do the work and consult upon the additional elements of a proper Local Plan

Hart District Council needs to work on the other elements that should make up a local plan such as education, retail, transport, employment, meeting the needs of the ageing population and other infrastructure.  Hart should conduct suitable, high level strategic analysis to build an evidence base to answer the following questions:

  • Education. How many school places will we need and where in both the current “high growth” and proposed “medium growth” alternative requirement scenarios? How might these be delivered and what are the costs of the alternatives?
  • Retail. What is the range, type and location of shops required across the district, taking into account changing shopping habits, the growth of the internet, changing demographics and the alternative growth scenarios?  How will we regenerate our high streets?
  • Transport. What investment will be required in the major road and rail infrastructure under both growth scenarios? Considering alternative sites for each of the development options (including the new “brownfield option”), what investment will be required in minor roads, making broad assumptions on the location of alternative sites?
  • Employment. This review should be conducted across the Hart, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.  What types and quantities of employment land will be required under the alternative growth scenarios, taking into account changing work structures and habits; what is the current forecast surplus/deficit in 2032? Would any extra employment land need to be found?  How much current employment land could be released for housing?
  • Other infrastructure. It is likely that a new town, particularly in Winchfield, would require even further infrastructure spending due to its current lack facilities such as mains sewage and mains gas. What is the cost of providing additional infrastructure for a new town such as sewage, gas, roads, electricity, rail etc?
  • Ageing Population.  What type of housing is required to meet the needs of the 6,850 extra people aged over 75 and the extra 3,620 people who will be suffering from dementia or have some sort of mobility problem and where should it be located?

For each option and scenario Hart should outline the total cost of infrastructure spending required and the likely contribution from developers so that a proper financial model can be created.

4.  Consider the Environment and Landscape

Fourth, Hart should conduct the other studies that are required to update the evidence base such as the landscape character assessment and an assessment of the potential damage caused to our wildlife by over-development.

 

Once this work has been completed, Hart District Council should carry out a new Regulation 18 consultation on the above that includes both a medium and high growth scenario and the properly evaluated options for meeting the housing need including the new proposed “brownfield” option. It would be preferable if the current “Option 4 – New town at Winchfield” (or indeed a new settlement anywhere in Hart) was dropped as an option. It will be important for the council to step up its engagement efforts during this period to ensure that a much larger proportion of the public responds to the consultation.

After the results of the consultation is known, firm up a preferred growth scenario and delivery option(s) to work up into a more detailed Local Plan and conduct an exercise to ensure democratic endorsement of the preferred option. This could take the form of a district wide referendum or a series of Parish Polls, followed by a Regulation 19 consultation before submission to the inspector.

 

5.  Fix the management and governance problems

Finally, Hart need to work on the setting up the Local Plan project properly and address the governance deficiencies. There is clearly no properly defined scope or deliverables as the recent questions to the Planning Inspector demonstrate.  Moreover, the timeline keeps slipping as we were originally supposed to have been consulted on a draft plan in March 2015, and it is clear that Hart is nowhere near that milestone even though it has dropped that consultation from its plan.  This indicates the Local Plan project is not properly resourced. The Council needs to appoint a suitably qualified, experienced project manager, follow a properly recognised project management methodology such as Prince 2 and invest in the proper resources required to carry out the project on time to proper quality standards.

Given the prior failure of the earlier Local Plan at inspection and the current hopeless path the new Plan is taking, it is also clear that the governance of the Local Plan is deficient, with power effectively concentrated into the hands of only two people. The Council needs to explore ways of separating powers so that there is better transparency and accountability on both the “officer” and “member” sides. We suggest that the project should report to the joint chief executive who is not also in charge of planning; that roles of council leader and portfolio head for planning are carried out by two separate people and the council members elect a more proactive and capable chairman. This should lead to a wider range of opinions to be heard and appropriate checks and balances to be implemented.

It remains to be seen if our Parliamentary candidates or our Hart District Council candidates will endorse this plan.

If you would like to join the campaign to change Hart’s mind, please sign and share our petition.

 

Go to Petition

 

 

We Heart Hart Presentation to Crondall Parish Council

We Heart Hart were delighted to be invited to speak at tonight’s parish council meeting at Crondall.

 

The presentation went well with lots of interest in the Hart Local Plan and how we might persuade Hart Council to think again, particularly to focus on brownfield development and fight off the demand for us to build 3,100 extra houses for Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils.  Lots of interest in our leaflet too.

 

A copy of the presentation and leaflet are available for download below.

 

We Heart Hart Presentation to Crondall Parish Council

 

We Heart Hart Campaign Flyer

 

Presentation

Hart District Council not serious about catering for the ageing population

We Heart Hart - Older People

Hart District Council fails to consider the needs of the ageing population

In a piece of further news from the last Hart District Council meeting on 26 March, the Council demonstrated that it has not properly considered how they were going to cater for the needs of the ageing population in the Local Plan, as we posted earlier. The detailed questions and answers can be found here.

If you would like to ask Hart Council think again, please sign and share our petition:

Go to Petition

In our question we estimated that the council would have to ensure there were around 2,200 further specialist dwellings built for the elderly in the plan period.  Our calculations were dismissed as “speculative” and that the council would rely on more detailed analysis in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA).

Hart District Council fail to properly consider the needs of the ageing population

Hart District dismissed We Heart Hart’s calculations.

However, having now gone back to look at the final version of the SHMA in more detail, it is clear that the SHMA requires even more specialist units than we originally thought.

 

Hart District Requirements for the Ageing Population

Hart District Requirements for the Ageing Population

We found that between 2012 and 2030, Hart needs to provide 1,390 specialist units for the elderly and infirm.  Extending this back to 2011, and out to 2032 at the 80 dwellings per annum rate identified in the report would give 1,630 units.  To this must be added the further 940 registered care places in the graphic above.  This gives a total of 2,590 additional units for the ageing population, which is around 300 more than we estimated.

In addition, the SHMA says:

“There is the potential opportunity therefore to reduce under-occupation and free up family sized dwellings for overcrowded households; although to achieve this it would very likely be necessary to provide attractive options in areas where households currently live and where they have social and community ties”

This clearly states that we should build this specialist accommodation where people currently have ties and can be close to amenities, which is in line with the land buying policies of specialist companies like McCarthy & Stone and Churchill. This seems to us to rule out building specialist accommodation for the elderly in a new town at Winchfield.

Building a new town at Winchfield will effectively crowd out most of the other development in the district.  As there are around a further 4,000 units left to grant planning permission to, then building up to 2,400 houses in Winchfield will mean there isn’t sufficient remaining capacity to meet the need of 2,590 units for the ageing population. This runs the risk of the plan being found unsound and could even lead to the inspector adding this on to our overall requirement.

Of course, if the council were to focus on higher density development on brownfield closer to the centre of existing settlements then our duty to the elderly could be met more easily.

 

Questions for Hart District Council from We Heart Hart

There’s another Hart District Council meeting next week on 26 March at 7pm.  We Heart Hart has tabled some questions about the planned housing density, planning for an ageing population and infrastructure costs.

Deadline for submission of your own questions is tomorrow at noon.

Please feel free to use the download below as inspiration for your own questions.

Questions for Hart District Council Meeting Mar 26 2015

Answers to our previous questions have now been published on here and here on Hart District Council’s website.

Answers to the questions we put have now been published in draft minutes on the Hart Council website.

Hart set to fail on duty to cater for ageing population

We Heart Hart - Older People

Hart District Council’s preferred housing strategy is running the risk of failing to meet the needs of the ageing population and so might be found unsound at inspection.

If you would like to ask the council to think again, please sign our petition.

At the Hart District Council cabinet meeting on Thursday 5 March, an interesting question was raise by councillor Adrian Collett.  He asked if the council had enough powers to ensure that the Local Plan met the needs of the local people.

I did make a comment that not only does it have the power to do so, it also has a duty to meet the needs of many groups in society.  Para 50 of the NPPF states:

“local planning authorities should…plan for a mix of housing based on current and future demographic trends, market trends and the needs of different groups in the community (such as, but not limited to, families with children, older people, people with disabilities, service families and people wishing to build their own homes)”

Over the course of the plan period up to 2032, there will be an extra 10,000 people over 60, including more than 6,850 over 75, expected to be living in the district and an extra 3,620 people who will be suffering from dementia or have some sort of mobility problem.

Let’s work through some numbers.

First, how many more specialist dwellings might we need to house the extra older people we will have in the district?  Well, let’s say on average there’s 1.5 older people per dwelling because so many live on their own.  That would be 6,850/1.5 = 4,566 units.  Not all of them will want to leave their existing homes and some may go and live with family.  So, let’s say we need half that number of new dwellings.  That’s in round numbers 2,280 units.  This assumes that all of the extra people with a mobility problem are also aged over 75.

Now let’s look at supply.  Of the 7,500 houses we need to build up to 2032, around 3,500 have already been given planning permission, which leaves a balance of around 4,000.  Of the 3,500 some are specialist units for the elderly – I know of a Churchill and McCarthy and Stone development in Fleet which will total around 100 units.  This leaves around 2,180 units to find for the elderly.

If we were to build a new town and deliver around 2,000 units (this is much lower than the Barratts vision document) in the plan period, then this would leave around 2,000 units still left to grant planning permission for elsewhere.

As can be seen, if we build the new town, we will not meet the needs of the ageing population unless all of the remaining units are specialist units for the elderly and there is no sign of the council taking this seriously.

This runs the risk of the Hart Local Plan being found unsound. Surely it is time for Hart District Council to think again.

Rushmoor could take all of Hart’s allocation and more

Example High Density Brownfield Development - Arundel Square, London

Example High Density Brownfield Development – Arundel Square, London

 

If we used our brownfield land better we could meet our existing housing needs and more without concreting over our green fields.  A study by trainee architect, Gareth Price shows that Rushmoor Borough Council is not making the most of its brownfield sites, and if it showed more vision, it could meet its own housing needs and those of Hart District using brownfield sites only.

If you would like to add to the pressure to Hart to change tack and take brownfield more seriously, then please sign our petition.

Typically, suburban developers and councils use a metric of around 30 dwelling per hectare (dph) as a rule of thumb for how many houses can be fit on to  any particular space. However, a study of London has shown that in central areas, densities of between 160-405 dph can be achieved and deliver viable, vibrant social communities with amenity space incorporated into the design.

This study has been used by Gareth Price, a final year architecture student, to propose an alternative set of schemes for Rushmoor (see download below).  His work shows that it is entirely possible for Rushmoor to not only build their own housing need, but could also take all of Hart’s requirement and more.

Of course, these concepts could equally be applied to Hart.  Bravehart has already found loads of brownfield sites that don’t even appear on the land database of Hart council. These include derelict buildings in the heart of Fleet and Hook.

Derelict Offices in Fleet

Derelict Offices in Fleet

Not only that, we know that Fleet town centre is dying with many vacant shops in the shopping centre and on the High Street. Surely the best way to rejuvenate our town centres is to build vibrant communities at their heart, rather than concreting over the countryside on their outskirts.  Using the same metrics, it is probable, that all of Hart’s housing need could be met by using brownfield sites.

Empty Shop in Hart Shopping Centre, Fleet

Empty Shop in Hart Shopping Centre, Fleet

Another advantage of the types of schemes that Gareth proposes is that on average, the dwellings are likely to be smaller and so more affordable for our young people.  We could also build mixed use developments with some schemes dedicated to specialist homes for older people.

Surely it is time we ask our councillors in Rushmoor Borough Council, Surrey Heath Borough Council and Hart District to break from the past, think out of the box, get more creative and take brownfield much more seriously instead of proposing endless urban sprawl across our countryside.

A Sustainable Approach to Housing on Brownfield

How do we regenerate our high streets?

Bravehart has been on tour again, looking at Fleet High Street.  He couldn’t believe how many empty shops there were and how many vacant and derelict offices.

The nature of shopping is changing as more and more of us shop on-line and from our mobile phones.  The nature of our high streets needs to change to become centres for social activity and nightlife.  Surely it would be better to re-generate a lot of these brownfield sites and replace them with affordable apartments to bring more young and old people to the town centre without the need for more traffic, rather than building a new town that will concrete over our green fields.

The We Heart Hart campaign says we need a new vision for Hart District and some joined up thinking.

Changing Demographics means a New Town is a Bad Idea

A new town in Hart, whether located in Winchfield or anywhere else, will not meet the needs of the growing ageing population.  We run the risk of building the wrong type of housing in the wrong place to cater for the excess housing needs of Rushmoor and Surrey Heath without meeting the needs of Hart, and concreting over our green fields in the process.

Please sign the petition.

The demographics of the district are changing.  According to council documents, by 2031, there will be an additional 10,000 people over 60 (including more than 6,850 over 75) expected to be living in the district and an extra 3,620 people who will be suffering from dementia or have some sort of mobility problem.

The housing needs of the elderly and infirm are very different to those of the general population and the council plans will do nothing to meet those needs.   Studies have shown that specialist retirement housing has significant benefits:

  • A higher quality of life for its residents. The report notes that 92% of residents are very happy and contented and most would recommend their accommodation to others.
  • Improved health for residents and reduced impact on the NHS. As specialist accommodation is designed for impaired mobility, residents can manage better and spend fewer nights in hospital.
  • Good for the environment. 51% of residents said that their energy bills were noticeably lower than they had been in their previous homes.  What is more, the elderly tend to own fewer cars and tend to travel less once living in retirement housing.
  • Retirement housing boosts local neighbourhoods. Older people regularly use shops and local facilities during weekdays, when they are often underutilised, and at weekends. 80% use the shops almost daily or often; over 40% used the library or post office almost daily or often.
  • Retirement housing has a positive impact on local housing markets. On moving, most residents free up a substantial family home, with two thirds moving from homes with three or more bedrooms, freeing up housing stock for families.

However, the SHMA says that Hart should continue to build housing in line with the current housing stock profile.  The impact of this is that we will concrete over our green fields with traditional housing estates and not meet the needs of our growing elderly population and leave the shopping areas in the centre of our towns to wither away whilst increasing congestion all over the district.

The We Love Hart campaign says this is the wrong approach and we should focus on building specialist accommodation for the elderly in higher density brownfield sites near to town centres, perhaps alongside high quality affordable flats for the younger generation.