Hartley Wintney residents turn out to oppose Winchfield new town

Hartley Wintney residents turn out to oppose WInchfield new town

Hartley Wintney residents turn out to oppose Winchfield new town

About 150 concerned Hartley Wintney residents came out to hear about Hart Council’s Local Plan consultation this morning at Victoria Hall.  It was very pleasing to see such a large number of people opposing the plans for a new town at Winchfield.

We Heart Hart is very grateful to Hartley Wintney Parish Council for organising the event, and for letting us speak. We had many messages of support and encouragement, before. during and after the meeting.  We only ask that these messages of support are converted into actual votes in the consultation.

We reiterated our main points that:

Hart is being asked to build too many houses. Hart councillors should be thorough in their analysis of the revised Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), and be robust in challenging the housing numbers and in asking Rushmoor and Surrey Heath to meet their own needs.

Second, there is a brownfield solution to our housing needs, even if we accept the current housing numbers.  We showed how a combination of the brownfield SHLAA sites and the disused offices identified by Stonegate, can be used to meet our remaining housing need in full.

Third, there is a lot of misinformation being spread about the supposed infrastructure benefits of a new town.  We currently have a £78m infrastructure funding deficit which a new town will do nothing to address, and of course, Hart Council have not been able to explain how they will fund the £300m costs of a new town.

Finally, a new town won’t meet the needs of the elderly and won’t deliver starter homes for the young.

Councillor Steve Forster did turn up to speak as well, but was politely asked to sit down again after alienating most of the people in the room.  Some interesting insight and support for We Heart Hart ideas was also given by COunty Councillor David Simpson and district councillor Andrew Renshaw.  Tristram Cary of Winchfield Action Group also spoke, setting out four key reasons to oppose the new town, in line with our thinking.

If you would like to join these Hartley Wintney residents in objecting to the new town idea, we urge you to respond to the Hart District Council consultation about the Local Plan and ask them to think again. We have created a dedicated consultation page and two guides to responding to the consultation that are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided. It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

 

 

Fleet Town Council seeks to mislead the public

Fleet Town Council Leaflet

Fleet Town Council Leaflet

Fleet Town Council have distributed a leaflet that, in our view, seeks to mislead the public.  The leaflet suggests that a new settlement in Hart would be a “long term sustainable solution to the housing and infrastructure needs” of the district as an “official recommendation”.

We think this is misleading and wrong on many levels:

  • Concreting over the equivalent of 25 football pitches a year is not in any way sustainable, and this approach would lead to another new town being required every 10-15 years and destroy the green spaces that make Hart such a great place to live.
  • The type of housing in a new town estate is exactly the wrong type of housing to meet the needs of our growing elderly population and the needs of our young people struggling to get on the housing ladder
  • A new town will require over £300m of infrastructure funding, with only £50m of developer contributions, and of course will do nothing to address the £78m infrastructure funding deficit across the district.

Surely, it would be much better to follow Ranil’s advice and redevelop our ageing and vacant office blocks in a brownfield solution that will meet the needs of Hart residents as opposed to those wishing to move here from London and deliver infrastructure funding for our existing communities.  Of course, Fleet Town Council offer no evidence at all to support their assertions.

We are of course flattered that they have chosen to make their leaflet in the style of the leaflet we distributed at the end of last year.

Housing Options consultation leaflet

If you would like to make your voice heard and object to the new town idea, we urge you to respond to the Hart District Council consultation about the Local Plan and ask them to think again. We have created a dedicated consultation page and two guides to responding to the consultation that are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided. It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

Winchfield new town plan proposes 772 new houses on former landfill site

SHL 167 former landfill site Beggars Corner, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

SHL 167 former landfill site Beggars Corner, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

One of the sites proposed for the Winchfield new town is a former landfill site.  There are 772 new houses proposed for site SHL 167, also known as Beggars Corner.  However, a solar farm was recently turned down at this site and the environmental report shows that much of the site was once landfill, with unknown contents.

SHL167 SHLAA Map - Beggars Corner, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

SHL167 SHLAA Map – Beggars Corner, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

SHL 167 Landfill details Beggars Corner

SHL 167 Landfill details Beggars Corner, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

Interestingly, Hart Council’s decision to refuse the solar farm application (ref: 15/01614/FUL) had nothing to do with the landfill issues, but was because the proposed site was:

“within the zone of theoretical visibility and the Odiham Conservation Area. The proposed development would seriously detract from the amenity and consequent recreational value of the nearby public right of ways”.

We find it difficult to believe that a former landfill site is a suitable location for the 772 new houses proposed in the same location.  And it is also hard to see how a planning application won’t face the same difficulties as the solar farm application, further undermining the questionable viability of the proposed Hartley Winchook new town.

If you would like to make your voice heard, we urge you to respond to the Hart District Council consultation about the Local Plan and ask them to think again. We have created a dedicated consultation page and two guides to responding to the consultation that are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided. It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

Winchfield Action Group covered in Fleet News and Mail

New town is Hartley Winchook say Winchfield Action Group

New town is Hartley Winchook say Winchfield Action Group

We are pleased to note that Winchfield Action Group were covered in Fleet News and Mail yesterday.  A large image of the article can be found here.

The article notes the big risk of effectively coalescing Hartley Wintney, Winchfield and Hook into a giant conurbation that we have termed Hartley Winchook, leading to a massive increase in congestion and strain on public services as well destruction of habitat and our environment.

It is worth noting again that the proposed new town will be roughly three times the size of Elvetham Heath, more than twice the size of Hartley Wintney and about twice the size of Hook.  We don’t need a new town when there is a brownfield solution.

Hart Council’s new consultation still likely to leave it in a hopeless position

Scales of Justice weigh against Hart District Council

Scales of Justice weigh against Hart District Council

It seems likely that Hart Council is about to launch a new consultation on housing options for the district as part of the Local Plan.  We are following this closely, and will publish some additional materials to help residents make up their mind once the full consultation has been made public.

But having reviewed the materials already on Hart’s website (cabinet meeting materials for 18 November 2015), it seems clear that the council have taken no notice of the legal opinion they received from top QC Peter Village, that described their position as “hopeless”.

That opinion said:

…there is no evidence that to date there has been any consideration by the Council of the “reasonable alternative[s]” of providing less than the OAN, on environmental grounds…

There has been no regulation 18 consultation at all on issues such as employment, retail, transport, infrastructure (or, indeed, anything other than housing distribution). It is inconceivable that a coherent and sound local plan could emerge without addressing most (at least) of these issues. Thus, the Council presently appears to be in a hopeless position if it maintains its current course. Either it will proceed with a plan that does not address fundamental matters (thereby exposing itself on the “soundness” issue), or it will incorporate matters which have indisputably not been the topic of any regulation 18 consultation.

We have been through the consultation materials in some detail, and we can find no reference to the council considering providing fewer houses on environmental grounds, and no sign of consulting us residents on employment, retail, transport or infrastructure.

Coupled with the issues we raised to the council on Friday, it is looking like this consultation is going to be an expensive waste of time and taxpayers’ money because we are still not being offered a proper consultation on all the issues that matter. Please do get involved with this consultation and respond to it using our guide on our dedicated page about this consultation here.

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.

Hart Council rejects opinion of 2,130 people who signed the We Heart Hart petition

Hart in Heart of Hart, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

Hart in the Heart of Hart, Winchfield, Hampshire

We went to the Cabinet meeting last night armed with a draft of Hart Council’s response to the petition and unfortunately, the council rejected the three main elements of petition to reduce the overall housing allocation for Hart and our demand that the remaining housing allocation is met from brownfield sites alone.  The council also refused to stop planning to build a new town that would act as a sink for 3,100 houses from Rushmoor and Surrey Heath.

It is outrageous that Hart Council should dismiss the opinion of 2,130 people.  Hart’s own consultation only received 750 replies and only 202 of those expressed a preference for a new town. Given the earlier failure of the Local Plan at inspection, it is simply astonishing that Hart should be basing their planning policy on a “guesstimate” of brownfield capacity. It is unbelievable that they refuse to set up a proper register of brownfield sites and can’t be bothered to track which brownfield sites have been granted planning permission.

We have produced a press release about this that can be downloaded from the link below:

 

We Heart Hart Press Release 2 October 2015

 

Hart becomes Housing Sink for Surrey Heath and Rushmor

Hart becomes sink for 3,100 houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor

On a more positive note, the council did say they would consider the vision we put forwards and will include a new vision in the forthcoming consultation.  The council did also say they would try to accommodate the needs of the elderly, but implied they could only do so if they built a new town at Winchfield. It is clear the council has no means of measuring its performance against the SHMA requirement to build 2,500 specialist units for the elderly.

The debate at council raised a number of interesting points, but Cabinet did not resolve to alter anything in the draft response they had put forward and clearly had not fully considered our suggested response to the petition.  In effect, the council are ignoring the views of 2,130 people on several of the key issues raised by the petition.  We will have to mobilise our supporters to put forward their views in the forthcoming consultation.

The detail of the discussion covered a number of topics:

Challenging the SHMA.  The council did concede that they would need to re-visit the SHMA in due course and update the employment forecasts.  We did point out that the jobs forecasts assume a growth rate nearly double that we achieved in the period 1998-2012, and that Cambridge employment forecasts for the South East used in a challenge to the Vale of White Horse Local Plan are similar to historic average growth rates we beleive should be used in the SHMA.

The council refused to undertake a study to quantify the value of Hart’s environment and ecology.  This is a blow as it could enable the council to use environmental constraints as an argument for not building the full housing allocation.

Brownfield sites.  Despite putting evidence in front of council that there is brownfield capacity for at least 2,438 dwellings and possibly over 3,600 units, Hart is still sticking by its current “guesstimate” of only 1,800 units on brownfield sites.  It is quite astonishing that Hart is basing its planning policy on a “guesstimate”. Last week Hart Council did admit that there was a residual requirement of only 2,900 houses.  It is clear to us, that meeting the the remaining need from brownfield only is well within reach.

Some councillors were concerned about our proposed densities in urban areas until we pointed out that they have already approved and are delivering developments at even higher densities.  Other concerns raised were about using up too much employment land until we pointed out that there’s over 500,000 sq m of vacant employment land across the housing market area, and we are in no danger of running out any time soon.

Overall I am afraid I got the impression that they listened, but they had already made their mind up that a new town was the answer to the Local Plan no matter what contrary evidence was put to them.

We must gird our loins for a long campaign to fight against these proposals.

 

 

We Heart Hart to present to Odiham Parish Council

Odiham High Street, Hart District Hampshire

Odiham High Street, Hampshire

We Heart Hart has been asked to present to Odiham Parish Council about the Rushmoor and Hart Local Plans on Monday 7 September at 7:30pm at The Bury, Odiham. RG29 1NB. The presentation we will give is available for download below:

We Heart Hart presentation to Odiham Parish Council

link

Petition Response: Develop a vision to protect Hart’s rural nature

Hart in Heart of Hart, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

Hart in the Heart of Hart, Winchfield

As we posted earlier, we have submitted the We  Hart petition with 2,130 responses to Hart District Council and the council have set out the process by which they will consider the petition.

We have drafted some suggestions as to how the council should respond  and sent them to Council leader, Stephen Parker.  We have a chance to put these ideas to Cabinet on 1 October at 7pm.  Please tell us if you are coming along to give us your support and please e-mail your councillors to ask them to support these proposals and incorporate them into the forthcoming consultation about the Local Plan.

The full set of suggestions can be found here.

This suggestion relates to developing a vision to protect Hart’s rural nature.

We ask that that the Council develops a vision and strategy for Hart that retains its role as a rural, green hinterland for NE Hampshire that respects the separate character and identity of Hart’s settlements and landscapes and preserves the green spaces as amenity space for the urban settlements.

You may recognise the words above as taken from the withdrawn 2013 Core Strategy.  This was, and remains a good vision.  We ask that as a minimum, the forthcoming Regulation 18 consultation sets out at least one potential “vision” for the district, and that one of the “vision” options includes words to this effect.

Petition response: Reduce the housing allocation

Discontinuity between ABI and BRES jobs data for Housing Market Area

Discontinuity between ABI and BRES jobs data for Housing Market Area

As we posted earlier, we have submitted the We  Hart petition with 2,130 responses to Hart District Council and the council have set out the process by which they will consider the petition.

We have drafted some suggestions as to how the council should respond  and sent them to Council leader, Stephen Parker.  We have a chance to put these ideas to Cabinet on 1 October at 7pm.  Please tell us if you are coming along to give us your support and please e-mail your councillors to ask them to support these proposals and incorporate them into the forthcoming consultation about the Local Plan.

The full set of suggestions can be found here.

The first suggestions relate to challenging the overall housing numbers Hart have to build.

First, challenge the SHMA to reduce the overall housing allocation for the whole HMA.  There is a strong risk that Hart will be asked to build the highest number of houses in the Housing Market Area if we don’t challenge the numbers.

 Hart DistrictSurrey Heath BoroughRushmoor BoroughTotal Housing Market Area
Original SHMA7,5347,0579,82224,413
Proposed Transfers3,022(1,400)(1,622)0
New Total10,5565,6578,20024,413

If this is successful, then it will have a two-fold effect of reducing Hart’s own need and also reduce the risk of overflow from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.  We believe the key arguments are around inward migration assumptions; average household size and in particular jobs growth assumptions which are at a rate nearly double what was achieved over the economic cycle from 1998-2012 and will result in unprecedented levels of participation in the labour market (rising from around 70% to around 86%) for those of employment age.

Data Point2011 (Census)2011 (BRES)2031 (PROJ 2)2031 (PROJ 5)
SHMA Population (a) 272,394 272,394 307,578 322,278
People in employment (b) 122,300 125,000 162,233 170,223
Overall % in employment (b/a)44.9%45.9%52.7%52.8%
People over 70 (c) 28,559 28,559 51,164 51,164
People 5-19 (d) 67,375 67,375 73,206 73,206
People of working age (a-c-d)=e 176,460 176,460 183,208 197,908
% working age in employment (b/e)69.3%70.8%88.6%86.0%

We gave more detail on these arguments at both the Hop Garden Road appeal and in my response to the Rushmoor Local Plan.  More detail can be found here. However, we do recognise it is difficult for the council to challenge its own document and await Rushmoor’s response to my strong challenge, but we do understand that the SHMA may be re-visited and it would be helpful if the council would commit to challenging the assumptions set out above as part of that process.

Second, in conversation with a number of professionals in the planning sector, we have been told a number of times, that it is uncommon for councils to explore fully their “policy on” options with regard to environmental and other constraints.  One of the main attractions of Hart as a district is its rural environment with associated SPA, SSSI’s, SINCs, green space and wildlife.  May we suggest that a proper environmental study is carried out to set out the value of Hart’s environment and ecology to build an argument for not meeting the full requirement of the SHMA?  We know that WAG is working on some proposals in this area with some of the rural parishes and would be keen to discuss the matter with you and offer to share the costs of preparation.