Community Campaign Hart takes aim at the Heart of Hart

Hart District Council takes aim at the Heart of Hart

Community Campaign Hart takes aim at the Heart of Hart

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) have published a new newsletter on their website that calls for a new settlement to destroy the Heart of Hart in Winchfield.

In their article they make criticism of We Heart Hart and the good residents of Winchfield, and come to the conclusion that the only viable option for delivering the housing we need is a new settlement of 3,000-5,000 houses in Winchfield.  In their article they make a number of assertions that we believe are false, and will now seek to correct them, point by point.  But first, it is important that we start with the areas where we agree with CCH.

Points of Agreement

CCH say:

Until Hart have an LDP which meets the approval of a Government-appointed inspector, developers are in effect able to build on almost any greenfield site they choose

We broadly agree with this, although as in the case of Hop Garden Road in Hook, sometimes common sense can prevail especially now that Hart has more than 5 years of land supply.  However, if CCH are so concerned about the lack of a Local Plan, they should work more closely with We Heart Hart and others to ensure that Hart Council takes proper steps to improve the management of the Local Plan project that has slipped its timescale by two years within two years.  They would do better to use their time at council meetings to ask questions about the local plan rather than seek to stifle difficult questions.

Points of Difference

1. CCH say:

There just isn’t enough brownfield land available to accommodate that number of new homes, unless we are going to build high-rise tenement blocks along the length of Fleet Road.

This is simply not true on a number of levels.  First, the council hasn’t even created a proper register of brownfield sites so it hasn’t properly assessed capacity.  Second, our own work has shown there’s capacity for between 2,438 and 3,688 units, compared to the remaining unsatisfied “need” of 2,900 given at the last cabinet.

Derelict Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

Derelict Offices on Fleet Road in Fleet, Hampshire

Third, parts of Fleet Road are a disgrace to the district and should be redeveloped, not with tenements, but with mid-rise (say 3-4 storey) high quality apartments to help young people get on the housing ladder.  Finally, there is brownfield capacity all over the district including Ancell’s Farm, Bartley Wood, Pyestock, Bramshill and Guillemont Park.  They really should get out more and see all of the vacant offices around the district.

2. CCH say:

With a mainline railway station far closer to it than to any other new development in Fleet; with the option to integrate new roads onto the A30 and through to the M3; together with sufficient scale to fund three new primary schools and a new secondary school, Winchfield strikes many as being the best compromise

This is economic incompetence of the highest order.  The council’s own assessment of infrastructure needs points to costs of over £300m for a new town including the schools, but not including improvements to healthcare.  The ballpark estimate for developer contributions made by a senior Hart Councillor is around £40m.  There’s already a £78m infrastructure funding deficit in the district and £1.9bn across Hampshire.  Not only would a new town at Winchfield destroy green fields, it would destroy ancient hedgerows and put at risk SSSI’s and SINCs, but it would no doubt further increase congestion in Fleet and Church Crookham.

3, CCH say:

Consequently they have resorted to social media and other marketing techniques to promote the ‘wehearthart’ message.

However, their messaging is incomplete. They point to the council wishing to build a new town at Winchfield and seek to demonize anyone who may have reached the conclusion, however reluctantly, that a new town at Winchfield is the least worst solution out of an abhorrent set of options. They do not explain what the alternatives are, as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) mandates that this level of housing must go somewhere within Hart’s borders

We do not see what is wrong with communicating with the public using social media on the serious issue of the Local Plan, particularly when the council gets its own facts wrong.  However, We Heart Hart has explained what the alternatives are at some length, and the CCH Chairman of the council sought to have questions that we raised to indicate a different path censored at council meetings.  The alternatives are:

a) Reduce the alleged housing need by challenging the SHMA, particularly taking into account the latest DCLG population forecasts that indicate a lower population in 2031 than assumed in the SHMA and the reducing ridiculous jobs forecasts.  CCH would do well to engage with this debate instead of seeking to censor it.

b) Explore the options for reducing the assessed housing need by exploring so called “policy on” options to protect the environment and ecology.  Note that Winchfield is beautiful countryside in its own right, but is also within the 5km zone of influence of the Thames Valley Heath SPA.

c) Properly get to grips with brownfield options by establishing a brownfield register, actively encouraging landlords to redevelop their derelict sites and exploring the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders on sites that have sat vacant for years with no apparent signs of progress (e.g. Hartland Park aka Pyestock).

Hartland Park (Pyestock) near Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire, warehouse development not started

Brownfield site: Hartland Park (Pyestock) near Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire, warehouse development not started

CCH need to wake up, smell the coffee, listen to Ranil Jaywardena and use their talents to establish a different vision to protect the countryside they profess to love rather than coming out with incomplete, inaccurate nonsense.  Be careful who you vote for in next year’s local elections.

This story now covered in the local press, see here.

Leaflet campaign doubles size of We Heart Hart petition

A big thank you to all the volunteers who have helped with the We Heart Hart leafleting campaign.  Just before we started leafleting we had 923 signatories.  Today, the number is 1,846; meaning the petition has doubled in size in just three weeks.  This is more than three times the number of people who responded to Hart District Council’s consultation and more than 8 times the number of people who expressed a preference for a new town.

Support for our cause has increased after we published the legal opinion from Peter Village QC that said that Hart was in a “hopeless position” with the Local Plan.  Surely it is time for Hart to think again and adopt our 5-point plan to bring the Local Plan back on track which is summarised below:

  • Create a medium growth scenario with a lower housing requirement than the current high growth scenario to give an option to reduce the environmental impact of development.
  • Create a formal brownfield option and invite a competition to design the best way of using our brownfield land.
  • Do the work and consult upon the additional elements of a proper Local Plan such as employment, education, transport, retail and other infrastructure.
  • Consider the Environment and Landscape by carrying out proper habitat studies and landscape character assessments.
  • Fix the management and governance problems within Hart Council that have resulted in the past failure and current hopeless position.

If you would like to support our position, then please sign and share our petition.

 

Go to Petition

Top QC says Hart Council’s position on the Local Plan is “hopeless”

Scales of Justice weigh against Hart District Council

Scales of Justice weigh against Hart District Council

 

Top planning QC, Peter Village has produced a devastating legal opinion on Hart District Council’s Local Plan process and pronounced that they are in a “hopeless position“.  Hart Council have received this opinion, but have refused a meeting to discuss ways of improving the plan.  In fact, at last night’s council meeting, council leader Stephen Parker dismissed the report as “just one opinion among many”.

It is imperative that Hart gets a high quality local plan in place quickly and fends off the demands from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils to build an extra 3,100 houses in Hart.  The council’s attitude displays a staggering level of arrogance and complacency that can only lead to more delays and extra costs to get the plan right.  We urge all voters to press their council candidates to push to get the Local Plan process back on track by adopting our 5-point plan and dropping all ideas of a new town in Hart District.

The essence of the opinion is:

  • The Regulation 18 public consultation in the autumn of 2014 addressed housing options and did not consider other vital issues such as employment, retail, transport and infrastructure.
  • Hart District Council said in April 2014 that they would conduct a second Reg 18 consultation in March 2015, which they have since dropped and now intend to proceed directly to a Regulation 19 consultation on the Draft Plan for Final Inspection.  This plan is likely to fail because either the Local Plan will not contain all the elements it should, or they will not have consulted on all of the things they should consult upon.
  • Hart have not consulted upon the demands from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor that Hart build 3,100 houses for them.
  • Hart have not considered a medium growth “policy on” scenario of not meeting the full housing need on environmental grounds.
  • Hart have not properly considered the brownfield capacity of the district, highlighting that the capacity could be up to 3,500 dwellings, far more than the 750 dwellings Hart is still insisting upon.

Reader may recall that set out a 5-point plan to address these issues and this is summarised below:

  • Create a medium growth scenario with a lower housing requirement than the current high growth scenario to give an option to reduce the environmental impact of development.
  • Create a formal brownfield option and invite a competition to design the best way of using our brownfield land.
  • Do the work and consult upon the additional elements of a proper Local Plan such as employment, education, transport, retail and other infrastructure.
  • Consider the Environment and Landscape by carrying out proper habitat studies and landscape character assessments.
  • Fix the management and governance problems within Hart Council that have resulted in the past failure and current hopeless position.

If you want to press for change, please sign our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

The full Legal Opinion and our latest Press Release can be found below:

Peter Village QC Legal Opinion
We Heart Hart Press Release 1 May 2015

This has been covered in the Basingstoke Gazette.

 

QC Opinion

Press Release

 

Beware the ‘garden village’: it’s not green and it’s not a village

Protect our green fields

Protect our green fields

In a sign that much of the South East of England is starting to revolt against the Government’s plans to concrete over our green fields, the Sunday Times has published an important article attacking “meaningless” garden villages and urban sprawl.  This echoes the recent survey of Hampshire residents that put protecting our towns and villages as a key election issue.  Just to be clear, We Heart Hart does not support the Rudlin proposal outlined in the article below of taking bites out of our green belt.  We believe that Hart District’s housing need can be met from brownfield development.

It remains to be seen if our Parliamentary and District Council candidates will take heed.  If you want to join 1,600 other people who want to oppose Hart District Council’s plans for a new town in Hart, please sign and share our petition.

 

Go to Petition

 

The article can be found here and is reproduced below.

Beware the ‘garden village’: it’s not green and it’s not a village

by Charles Clover, Sunday Times

OUR nearby town has just leapt towards us. It vaulted the trunk road, previously a barrier to development, with a huge park-and-ride for 1,000 cars. The lights of that were turned on this month, just after a proposal for a new “garden village” of 4,000 homes emerged from the imagination of local speculators. Were this approved, it would push far north into green countryside and towards Constable country.

Our nearby town is Colchester but it might be anywhere in the southeast. The quandary is the same: how to provide enough land to build about 1,000 homes a year for the next 15 years to address the desperate need to house the young and to tackle rising house prices.

The town is under pressure to find the right number of homes to put in its local plan or it will lose control and be forced to approve every speculative proposal, as has happened in another local town, Braintree, when an inspector found its numbers too low. So a rather chilling thing has happened. Colchester issued a “call for sites”. This flushed out not only every farmer with a few acres he wouldn’t mind selling — the little red patches on the map of offered land in every village are a tale of rampant opportunism. The call has also galvanised some large landowners to band together and propose “garden villages” in green countryside.

Some are considered wildly speculative. But the largest of these proposals, up to 15,000 homes on the A12/A120 corridor known as West Tey, is being taken seriously. The landowners in question could then fly off to the Channel Islands with £1m an acre, leaving the rest of us to fund the roads, hospitals, railways and schools these homes will need.

This “landowner-led” process is a consequence of the government’s simplification of the planning system. It has taken out the layer of bureaucracy known as regional planning and pushed responsibility down to the boroughs. In a few years the effect of this may reduce the upward pressure on house prices. But it has left local authorities struggling to find sufficient land. Our own has done a good job, until now, of building on brownfield sites. Now the numbers are too great. It must consider green fields because it has no more brown ones. There are plenty of brownfield sites to the south, along the Thames, but there is no mechanism for pushing the development there because under the new system each borough must provide for its own population.

Sensibly, our borough has decided not to make every chancer’s day. It favours the idea of a few new settlements, still euphemistically described as “garden villages”. The thing is that 15,000 homes is not a village. It is a town. Without inspired planning, it is Los Angeles-style sprawl. Any resemblance to century-old garden cities, such as Letchworth, is purely coincidental. Developments such as West Tey are speculative and there is, as yet, no certain way of tapping into the windfall profits, known as “uplift”, to upgrade stretched infrastructure: our hospital has been under emergency measures, the roads are clogged and you may have to stand on the train to London.

The problem with the process here is that it has brought forward land along a main road that is already outdated, in green countryside that is not close enough to the local town for walking or cycling and on grade 2 agricultural land that is meant to be protected. Contrast what is going on in Ebbsfleet, Kent, where the same number of homes are planned: the government is pouring £200m into infrastructure and the settlement sits on the underused Channel Tunnel rail line. The windfall profits will be diverted into an urban development corporation — like the ones used to develop postwar new towns such as Harlow. This option does at least mean the public get the kind of town they need.

Thoughtful locals are pressing Colchester to think again about a town extension instead of meaningless “garden villages”. That debate is opening up across the country. The advocates of expanding existing towns cite the arguments made by David Rudlin, an urban planner who won last year’s £250,000 Wolfson economics prize: that postwar new towns lacked sufficient scale to be successful and stagnated economically when large employers closed. Rudlin favours instead taking “confident and well-planned” bites out of the green belt and developing them like new towns.

It is not too late for those arguments to prevail here — indeed, one of the options being considered in Colchester is an extension of 5,000 homes near the university. But it will take a jolt from local MPs after the election to get sensible options fully considered. That is nothing to the jolt there will be in the form of opposition, across the country, if wildly speculative developments like those I’ve seen find their way into local plans.

North East Hampshire Candidates declare their positions on Winchfield New Town

The issue of a new town in Winchfield is a local issue and will not be decided by MP’s in Parliament.  However, many people want to know where their local parliamentary candidates for NE Hampshire stand on the issue.  MP’s do have the ability to influence Government policy on the National Planning Policy Framework, and on the incentives given to develop brownfield land.  Winchfield Action Group have posted on Facebook their report of the recent hustings in Odiham.  This has given an interesting view of all of the candidates standing for election in the North East Hampshire constituency at the 2015 General Election #GE2015:

Conservatives (Ranil Jayawardena): Against. Brownfield development is the way forward.

Monster Raving Loony Party (Mad Max Bobetsky): Totally against building in Winchfield. It’s beautiful.

Labour (Amran Hussain): Support locally led development. Majority are against the new town in Winchfield.  Endorses our suggested new approach to the Local Plan.

Greens (Andrew Johnston): Against a new town. Brownfield redevelopment should be a priority.

Libdems (Graham Cockarill): There are not enough brownfield sites in Hook and Winchfield. A new town is long term the way to go, although not necessarily in Winchfield.  Note that as a councillor, Mr. Cockarill was head of planning at the time of the vote for the new town on November 27 2014 and voted in favour of it.

If you would like to know more about each candidate’s position, their contact details can be found on our contacts page.

Our understanding of the positions of the district council candidates can be found here.

As I understand it, all of the major parties have recently expressed strong support for brownfield development; but that does not necessarily translate into local policy that is adopted by local councillors.

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

We Heart Hart petition is now twice as big as Hart District Council consultation

The We Heart Hart petition is now really taking off, now exceeding 1,200, adding more than 280 since Friday night. This is more than twice the number of valid responses (550) to the Hart District Council consultation that took place in Autumn 2014 and more than 5 times the number of people (220) of said they favoured a new settlement.

It seems that the people of Hart are waking up to the reality that the Council’s plans will:

  • Turn the northern part of Hart District will turn into a single urban sprawl when there is an alternative of building higher density in urban areas to help rejuvenate our high streets
  • Ignore many brownfield sites untouched all over the district where we could build housing
  • Destroy our environment and the very nature of Hart’s unique appeal – the reason we all love living here.

 

If you would like to join our campaign, please sign and share our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

Surely it is now time for Hart Council to think again and listen to the people.

Where does your Hart District Council candidate stand on a new town?

We Love Hart Ballot Box

The Hart Council elections will take place on May 7 2015 and all of the candidates can be found here. We Heart Hart urges you to find out where your candidate stands on the issue of a new settlement in the district and ask them to oppose it. If they come an canvas you, then please raise the issue of the local plan with them.

Key issues are:

  • We are being asked to build too many houses, our housing allocation relies on us created nearly double the number of jobs than was created during the boom times of 1998-2008 and
  • Hart’s planning assumption of only 30 dwellings per hectare (dph) is too low, and even they have admitted they could go to 808-160dph.  If they increased density on brownfield, we would not need a new town
  • Hart already have a funding gap of £78m for infrastructure.  Building a new town is likely to mean this gap will get much worse because building on green fields requires much more infrastructure than brownfield development

We have compiled a list of all of the candidates standing, and where we know it, their position on a new town.  How many will endorse our new approach to the local plan?

 

Hart District Council Candidates May 2015

WardNamePartyPosition on New Settlement
Blackwater & HawleySteve Francis??
Mike GascoigneUKIP?
Vivienne GascoigneConservative?
Bob HarwardLiberal DemocratVoted in favour
Les LawrieLabour & Co-operative?
Crookham EastChris AxamCommunity Campaign HartVoted in favour
Helen ButlerConservative?
Dawn MoorsUKIP?
Ruth Ann WilliamsLabour?
Crookham West & EwshotDominic ArthurLabour?
Tony ClarkeCommunity Campaign HartVoted in favour
David Franklin OwensUKIP?
Christopher James SimmonsConservative?
Fleet CentralMatthew Cyril BennettGreen?
John BennisonCommunity Campaign HartVoted in favour
Alex GrayConservativeAgainst new town, favours brownfield development over building on green fields
Satdeep Kaur GrewalLabour?
Howling Laud HopeMonster Raving Loony?
Fleet EastPeter William DevonshireUKIP?
John Grant GawthorpeLabour?
Stephen George ParkerConservativeVoted in favour
Neil Christopher WaltonLiberal Democrat? But all Lib Dems voted in favour
Fleet WestStephen Robert CantleCommunity Campaign Hart? But, all CCH voted in favour
Paul Stephen Walter EinchcombLiberal Democrat? But all Lib Dems voted in favour
James Edwin HurstLabour?
Sara KinnellConservativeVoted against, but changed ward
Gordon SmithUKIP?
Hartley WintneyAltay AliUKIP?
Anne CramptonConservativeVoted against
Tony OverLiberal DemocratStated against, but all Lib Dems voted in favour
Andrew James RenshawConservativeAgainst
Alan WoolfordLiberal DemocratStated against, but all Lib Dems voted in favour
HookBrian Douglas BurchfieldConservativeVoted in favour
Ruth Stella HamiltonUKIP?
Verd NabbsLabour?
Jeffrey Robert SmithLiberal Democrat? But all Lib Dems voted in favour
OdihamRosalyn Jane GordonLiberal Democrat? But all Lib Dems voted in favour
Stephen Alexander GorysConservativeVoted in favour
Kevin OliverUKIP?
Yateley EastJohn Peter Simon BurtonConservative?
Dave NeighbourLiberal DemocratVoted in favour
Sue PerkinsUKIP?
Joyce StillLabour?
Yateley WestAndrew Shawn DickensConservative?
Claire ElhaggagiLiberal Democrat? But all Lib Dems voted in favour
John William HoweUKIP?
Alistair William SutherlandLabour?

 

If you are a candidate and want to update your position, please get in touch, and we will update the table.

The declared positions of the North East Hampshire parliamentary candidates can be found here.

We Heart Hart and Winchfield Action Group are delivering leaflets all across the district and engaging with people in the street.  The overwhelming number of people we have spoken to are against a new town in Hart when they understand the facts.  This is in line with the findings of the Get Hampshire survey of Hampshire residents.  It is time our councillors and candidates started listening to the people.  Copies of the leaflet can be found here.

If you would like to join our campaign, please sign and share our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

 

Hampshire residents say protecting our towns and villages is a key election issue

Election demands from Hampshire residents

Election demands from Hampshire residents according to Get Hampshire

A survey of Hampshire residents by Get Hampshire has shown the protection of our green and pleasant land and historic towns and villages is a key election issue.  This issue ranked third behind controlling immigration and  helping our small businesses.

Looking at the questions and answers in more detail, a staggering 77.7% of people thought either that our green and pleasant land was of paramount importance or there were other legitimate sites available for development that councils should look at rather than using green space.

Get Hampshire Housing Crisis Questions and Answers

Get Hampshire Housing Crisis Questions and Answers

This shows an overwhelming majority in favour of protecting our historic towns and villages and protecting our green fields from over-development.

How to tackle the housing crisis from Get Hampshire

How to tackle the housing crisis from Get Hampshire

Only 12.3% of people wanted us to build thousands of houses in new towns and garden cities, whilst 36.4% of people wanted tax breaks to encourage building on brownfield sites.

Surely it is time for Hart District Council to think again about a new town at Winchfield, reject Option 4 and focus instead on creative use of the many brownfield sites in the district.  Time also for Ranil Jayawardena and Gerald Howarth to take a message back to Conservative Central Office (and Parliament if they are elected) about changing the National Planning Policy Framework to reduce the pressure on local councils.

Focusing on brownfield and regeneration of our town centres will make better use of that land and build more critical mass to support the local retailers so would help with meeting two of the top 3 election issues.

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

 

Go to Petition

As an addendum, protection of greenbelt by building on brownfield sites is a key issue for Surrey residents too.

Surrey Election Demands from Get Surrey

Surrey Election Demands from Get Surrey

What is your manifesto for North East Hampshire?

We Love Hart Ballot Box

The website of the Fleet News and Mail is running an on-line questionnaire to find out what is important to the people of North East Hampshire (and Hart District) at the forthcoming general and local elections.  The questionnaire is open until tomorrow, Sunday 15 March 2015.

There are a number of questions in there about planning (including the Local Plan)  and housing.

Please make your voice heard and ask our politicians to think again an focus on building fewer houses and building them on brownfield sites by signing our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

We Heart Hart will be increasing its coverage as we run up to the election.