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

 

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

 

 

Prof Dieter Helm – policymakers should pause for thought before concreting greenbelt

An important paper on the future of the green belt has recently been published by Professor Dieter Helm.  The paper is quite long, but the conclusion is applicable to Hart Council as it continues to push for a new settlement in Winchfield that will concrete over the green lung at the heart of Hart as part of the Local Plan.

Before policy makers surrender to the direct interests of the developers, they should pause for thought. There is a viable third alternative that at least deserves proper analysis, and it is potentially rich in benefits. Instead of yet more urban sprawl, imagine a Green belt with lots of natural capital, a much more environmentally benign agriculture, much greater public access, woodlands located next to people so it could fulfil not only the original purpose of limiting the sprawl but also provide the lungs of the cities, the fresh air for children to play in, and the recreational benefits which are crucial to health and well being. That is worth exploring before the irreversible destruction of this major asset located exactly where it is needed – next to people. There is after all no shortage of land to build houses on if that is what is required. It does not have to be at the expense of a key asset that the previous generation left to us, and which we have a responsibility to pass onto the next generation.

It seems obvious that Hart would derive significant benefits from avoiding urban sprawl by maintaining and enhancing our natural green spaces, through keeping places for children to play and for all of us to walk and cycle so we can improve our health and well-being.

Time for Hart to think again.  If you would like to add to the pressure on Hart to change its approach, please sign and share our petition.

 

Go to Petition

 

 

We Heart Hart petition breaks the 1,500 barrier

The We Heart Hart petition is now really taking off, breaking through the 1,500 barrier today. This is approaching three times the number of valid responses to the Hart Council consultation that took place in Autumn 2014 and nearly 7 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 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.

Hart District Council and Government Inspector ride roughshod over local democracy

We Love Hart Campaign Logo

We Love Hart Campaign Logo

Recent meetings between Hart District Council and Keith Holland, the Planning Inspector, demonstrate the council and Government are trying to ride roughshod over local democracy and the environment.  It should be noted that our petition asking the council to change course has reached more than 1,300 signatories, more than 6 times the number of people who expressed a preference for a new town in Hart’s consultation.

Nevertheless, from the papers of the meetings in October 2014 and March 2015 between the council and the government inspector, it is clear that between them, they are seeking ways to bypass local democracy. Downloads of the working papers for the meetings can be found at the bottom of this post.

First, it is clear that Hart Council is seeking to make a new settlement a “political preference” and then load the assessment of options so that those options that didn’t include a new settlement would perform less well than options that did.  Given that many councillors have stated that they are only reluctantly going along with the idea of a new town as the “least worst option”, it is quite staggering that the council should seek to proceed in such a biased manner.

New settlement as political preference

New settlement as political preference

Sadly, it appears as though the inspector agrees with Hart’s approach, however he did indicate that the council should first establish all of the needs of the district in terms of housing and social and economic development.  Hart does not appear to have done any work at all on establishing the infrastructure needs of the district.

Vision should include more than housing

Vision should include more than housing

 

Second, it is clear that both the council and the inspector want to ride roughshod over local democracy by making the Local Plan override any Neighbourhood Plans prepared in advance of it. This again bypasses the democratic process in each parish and flies in the face of the Government’s supposed “localism” policy where David Cameron said in 2012:

“Our reforms will make it easier for communities to say ‘we are not going to have [a] 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’.”

Local Plan supersedes Neighbourhood plans

Local Plan supersedes Neighbourhood plans

 

Third, the risk of having to take 3,100 extra houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor, leaving Hart having to take on by far the largest number of houses across all three districts has been confirmed.  The Planning Inspector said that Hart “must test an option whereby it takes all of the estimated shortfall in Rushmoor and Surrey Heath”.

 HartSurrey HeathRushmoor
Original Assessed Need7,5349,8227,057
Shortfall from SH and Rn/a1,7001,400
New Need10,6348,1225,657

 

Fourth, both Hart District Council and the planning inspector are trying to sneak through the Local Plan with minimal consultation.  At the first meeting the planning inspector advised that consultation should be kept to a minimum and since then the council has quietly dropped the Regulation 18 consultation it said it would carry out in March 2015.  This clearly shows that both the Local Council and the Inspector want to rush through the Local Plan without properly consulting with the people.  It is worth noting that the size of the 3,100 dwelling unmet need from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor was not known at the time of the first consultation. This pushed up Hart’s requirement from 7,534 to 10,634.  This surely represents a major change that on its own would justify a further consultation.

Keep consultation to a minimum

Keep consultation to a minimum

Surely it would be better for Hart to knock out Option 4 – new settlement now on the grounds of environmental damage to avoid the need to take on the additional requirement from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor?

Finally, Hart has to demonstrate where it is going to put all of the houses, but doesn’t have to show it will protect our environment by providing suitable green spaces.

Attitude to SANG capacity

Finding SANG capacity not as important as finding sites for houses

This is surely a ridiculous position to take and puts our environment at unnecessary risk, where they adopt a new settlement in the Local Plan but don’t have to show exactly how they will mitigate the environmental impact.

Downloads of the papers referred to in this post can be found below.

Note of Hart DC meeting with PINS 30 Mar 2015
Briefing note for Hart DC meeting with PINS 30 Mar 2015
Note of Hart DC and PINS Meeting 20 Oct 14

Meeting 30/3/15 Briefing note for 30/3/15 meeting Minutes from 20/10/14

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.

We Heart Hart Questions for Hart Council

There is a Hart District Council meeting on 26 February at the Hart Council Offices in Fleet at 7pm.  There is an opportunity for members of the public to ask questions about any subject including the emerging Local Plan.  Great questions would be:

  1. If Hart keeps the new town in its plan, what is the risk it will have to build the new town and strategic urban extensions in Fleet and Church Crookham to accommodate the extra 3,100 houses that Surrey Heath Borough Council and Rushmoor Borough Council are trying to force on to Hart?
  2. What will be the additional traffic and congestion impact of the proposed new town on surrounding settlements of Church Crookham, Crookham Village, Fleet, Hook, Hartley Wintney and Odiham?
  3. What are the criteria, marking scheme and weighting factors Hart are using to evaluate the alternative housing development options?
  4. What is Hart’s vision for the future of the district?
  5. How will Hart evaluate the risk of coalescence of the existing settlements that will effectively happen if a new town is built?
  6. What is Hart DC’s strategy for identifying and analysing and maximising the development of brownfield sites to avoid concreting over our valuable green spaces?
  7. What will be the environmental impact of a new sewage works discharging into the River Hart?
  8. What will be the environmental impact of 5,000 new houses in the SPA zone of influence?
  9. What will be the environmental impact of 5,000 new houses on the SSSI’s at Odiham Common and Basingstoke Canal?
  10. What will be the environmental impact of concreting over the green gaps between the SSSI’s and SINCs in Winchfield?

We Heart Hart has asked a number of these questions already as shown in the download and is aware of others asking questions too.

Please take some time to ask your own questions of the council.  You can use the download below that already has the e-mail addresses in it you need.  Questions need to be submitted by noon on Friday 20 February.

We Love Hart Questions for Hart Council

And if you have not done so, please sign the petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/we-hart

£188m Infrastructure Funding Gap Leaves Hart New Town Plan in Tatters

Hart District Infrastructure Funding Gap

There is a potential infrastructure funding gap of up to £188m arising from the plan for a new town in Hart District. Much has been made of the infrastructure benefits that could be brought to the district by building a new town, however, it is not widely known that there is already a £78m funding gap for infrastructure.  This does not include the infrastructure costs of a new town, nor the expected funding from a developer.  We might expect Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding – or S106 – to yield £40m from the developer, but the infrastructure costs of a new town could be up to £150m (not including costs of improving healthcare services), meaning that if Hart were to proceed with this plan, we would have a funding gap of £188m.  Note that new analysis from Hart District Council indicates that costs could increase to over £300m.

This surely leaves the idea of a new town in tatters.  Indeed it calls into question the whole idea of building an extra 7,500 homes in Hart, wherever they are built because there simply isn’t enough money to fund road improvements, new schools, new healthcare facilities or improvements to railway stations.  One has to ask why the council are pushing through this idea when the costs are outrageous, the funding isn’t available and the results will be devastating for the local area?

If you would like the Government and Hart to think again, please sign the  We Heart Hart (aka We ♥ Hart and We Love Hart) petition.

Of course the £150m cost of infrastructure for the new town is my estimate, but  it is clear whatever the actual number there is a considerable gap to be closed between the cost of the infrastructure required for the Local Plan and the funding available.

The detail of the calculations to back up these numbers is shown below.

First, here is the table from the Hart Infrastructure Delivery Schedule:

Hart Existing Infrastructure Funding Gap

This shows that there is an existing gap of £78m.  Some say that even this is an under-estimate.  Crucially it does not include any infrastructure for the proposed new town: no new schools, no road improvements in that area and no improvements to the railways.  And it does not attribute a cost to healthcare improvements like doctors surgeries or expansion of hospitals.

We might expect around £40m from developing 4,000 new houses that have not yet received planning permission in the local plan.  This is based on only 2,400 houses being eligible for a CIL charge as 40% of what is built has to be “affordable” and does not attract a CIL charge.  If each house is 95 sq m, and the charge per sq m is £175, then this results in CIL funding of £40m.  If they use S106 instead of CIL, the yield can be expected to be broadly similar.

Note that CIL money has to be used for specific projects outlined in the Regulation 123 list.  None of the projects on this list relate to building a new town.  So all of that money raised will have to towards funding the existing gap.  This leaves a gap of £38m before even considering the costs of infrastructure for the new town in Winchfield or anywhere else.

A back of the envelope calculation suggests that the proposed Hart new town will need around £150m of spending on infrastructure.

Hart / Winchfield New Town Infrastructure Costs

Hart / Winchfield New Town Infrastructure Costs

Of course, the road widening costs above will mean the destruction of miles of ancient hedgerow which is highly undesirable.  Many of the other works would be very detrimental to the environment and the rural feel of Hart.

The sources for these number are as follows:

  • Roundabouts.  Cost of A30 improvements at Blackbushe is around £4m.  Roundabouts at either end of the B3016 will cross a dual carriageway and will likely require some element of approach road improvement, so reasonable to assume the cost of each change will be about the same.  I have scaled down this number for the additional roundabouts needed as they are simpler.
  • Bridge improvements estimated.  Both bridges over the river Hart (at the Queens Head pub and on Pale Lane) will need to be completely replaced and widened to cope with two way traffic and probably some road adjustments too.  The work on the railway bridges will be considerable to widen them to cater for two way traffic underneath, and potentially to strengthen them for double decker trains.  Plus the Barratts new town plan for Winchfield shows a new footbridge over the motorway that hasn’t been individually costed.
  • Road costs estimated from this  2006 report from Imperial College London give a cost of £2.13m/km  of new single carriageway road.  Road lengths above taken from Google Maps.
  • Schools.  Hart Council quoted £32m as the cost of a secondary school.  Scaled this down to £10m for cost of new primary school.  Note that the secondary school is within a couple of hundred metres of the M3 and one of the primary schools is located between the M3 and the railway, hardly a suitable environment for children to grow up in.
  • Electricity Pylons.  No-one is going to want to live underneath high voltage electricity pylons, and two lots of high voltage pylons cross the planned area for the new town.  Presumably they were put there originally because they weren’t near where people live.  It costs £1.6m/km to lay new pylon runs and £20m/km to bury cables.  For the purposes of this I have assumed that it costs a similar amount per km to move existing pylons.  If they have to bury them, then that will cost £50m on its own.

Please download a poster: http://wehearthart.co.uk/home/get-involved/

Sign the petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/we-hart

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/IHeartHart/

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/WeHeartHart

3,100 Reasons to Oppose a New Town in Hart

Hart becomes Housing Sink for Surrey Heath and Rushmor

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

A new town in Hart District, whether in Winchfield or anywhere else, will open up Hart to be a sink for 3,100 overflow houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils. Yet Hart District Council’s strategy for the Local Plan has set us on the path for a new town which makes this inevitable and will destroy our green fields and wildlife habitats and clog up all of our infrastructure.

If you disagree with this strategy please sign the We Love Hart (We ♥ Hart) petition.

The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), calls for Hart to build a total of around 7,500 houses in the district up to 2031.  Our neighbouring districts, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor also have demanding targets and are saying that they cannot build all of their own allocation in their districts.  So, they want to pass over an extra 3,100 or so houses (1,700 from Rushmoor and 1,400 from Surrey Heath) to Hart that will push our target up to around 10,600 houses.  See answers to questions here, page 17.

In their housing options paper the council says that we would need to deliver 1,800-2,400 houses on a new settlement (Option 4). However, the Barratts New Town proposal document says that such a new settlement would have capacity for 5,000 houses, more than twice the size of Elvetham Heath,  and could start building as early as 2017.  This leaves a convenient surplus  of around 3,000 dwellings in the new settlement that could be used to fill the shortfall  from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.

The We Heart Hart campaign believes this is a grave strategic error on the part of Hart Council because they are following a policy that means there is a real risk we will have to build even more houses in Hart and concrete over our green fields.

The impact of this could be enormous:

  • Massive increase in congestion throughout all of the district.
  • Increased stress on already creaking infrastructure
  • Overcrowding of trains already running over capacity
  • Massive environmental harm to the SSSI’s, SINCs and the Thames Valley Heath SPA
  • Coalescence of Fleet, Church Crookham, Crookham Village, Dogmersfield, Winchfield, Hartley Wintney, North Warnborough and Odiham into a giant conurbation.

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.