Council to remove Winchfield new town from Local Plan

Hart Council to Remove Winchfield New Town from Local Plan

Hart Council to Remove Winchfield New Town from Local Plan

Hart Council have called an emergency Cabinet Meeting for 14 March 2019 to remove Winchfield new town from the Local Plan.

The meeting has one main agenda item which is to consider the report of the Inspector into the Local Plan examination. The main recommendation is as follows:

Hart Cabinet remove Winchfield New Town from Local Plan

Hart Cabinet remove Winchfield New Town (Policy SS3) from Local Plan

The main paper for discussion can be found here.

Interestingly, the Council implicitly admit that the prior work into the new town was not carried out impartially. This is a quote from section 4.4.1 of the paper before Cabinet:

The Inspector is of the view that a significant level of further supporting work would be required for Policy SS3 to be found sound in its current form, which would need to include appropriate and proportionate area/site assessments, infrastructure considerations, viability testing, evidence in support of deliverability and further Sustainable Appraisal (SA) work, which would need to be done in an impartial manner with sufficient evidence to support its findings and comparisons with alternative options. Any further SA work would also need to include additional standalone consultation. This would all lead to a significant delay in the examination, whilst it was paused, to allow such work to be undertaken. Further hearing sessions would be needed. In the interim, there is a risk that Inspectors considering major planning appeals such as Pale Lane and Owen’s Farm might attach much less weight to the Plan notwithstanding the Inspector’s letter, because of the uncertainty the additional work would give rise to.

This is quite a stunning admission and backs up our demand for heads to roll over the way the previous assessment was carried out. It is simply unacceptable for the Sustainability Appraisal (SA) to have been biased by officers or councillors.

Meanwhile, there’s ructions in a bunker in deepest Church Crookham.

CCH can’t quite bring themselves to admit that the Inspector has asked for the new town to be removed from the Local Plan:

Hart’s Local Plan
​​
Following the Local Plan enquiry in the autumn of last year, the planning inspector has written to Hart to suggest that he will find our plan sound and acknowledges that we have sufficient housing supply – such that we no longer need to fear planning by appeal.

This is fantastic news for the people of Hart who have faced years of unconstrained planning blight because the previous administration failed to knuckle down and face up to the arduous task of getting a sound plan drafted, supported by sufficient evidence and compliant with national planning policies. Hart has not had a new Local Plan since 1996, which accounts for why we have struggled to defend many planning appeals in recent years.

It is disingenuous therefore for some politically motivated commentators to be painting this as if it is some kind of failing. It is a major strategic and meaningful win for the people of Hart. The inspector, despite some of the misinformation doing the rounds, has also identified that a new settlement is an appropriate option for Hart to consider pursuing. A new settlement would in future years deliver housing with the necessary infrastructure which has been so sadly lacking from most of the new bolt on urban extensions of recent years. No new secondary school and no increased capacity on our local roads being prime examples.

At long last Hart are on the cusp of adopting a sound local plan which will protect our environment and quality of life for years to come – don’t let any one try to detract from this critically important achievement.

http://www.cchart.org.uk/ (scroll down below the free parking u-turn)

Ding Dong! Hart Local Plan new town is dead

Ding Dong the New Town is Dead - New town policy SS3 to be removed from the Hart Local Plan

Ding Dong the Hart Local Plan New Town is Dead

[Update: Inspector’s Letter now published here. Analysis to follow at the weekend – now here]

Hart Council has received a letter from the Planning Inspector giving a provisional assessment of the Hart Local Plan. He has made two recommendations to make the plan sound.

  1. Remove Policy SS3, so we won’t be having a new town in Winchfield within the plan period, because the extra houses are not needed.
  2. We must take around 750 of Surrey Heath’s unmet need, which can be met with the current development plans.

The news was given at tonight’s council meeting by Graham Cockarill. This is obviously very good news for those of us who have been campaigning for this result for years. However, it is clear form Councillor Cockarill’s statement that there are still factions within the council that want to try and sneak the new town back in at a later point. Indeed the body language of the councillors is more of disappointment than jubilation that they are close to getting a sound Local Plan.

The full letter from the Inspector will be published here on Hart’s website tomorrow morning. We will provide updates once we have considered the detail.

A video of the councillor’s statement about the Hart Local Plan is shown below, together with our transcript of what he said (with our emphasis).

Impact of removing the new town policy SS3 from the Hart Local Plan

It remains to be seen what the fallout might be form this news. First, the positives.

The Inspector’s view ought to scupper the Pale Lane/Elvetham Chase Appeal. It should also ensure the appeal for the land West of Hook around Owens Farm doesn’t succeed either.

Now on to the negative aspects. One has to think that this whole process would have gone much quicker and cost much less money if the Council had abandoned the unsound idea of the new town much earlier. I am sure that We Heart Hart will not be the only people holding our councillors and officers to account for this waste of our time and money.

Graham Cockarill Announcement about Hart Local Plan 28 February 2019

I have received a message a couple of days ago from the Inspector Jonathan Manning giving us provisional feedback on a couple of issues associated with the Local Plan. I must stress that this is not his final report, but it gives us a clear indication that subject to the council agreeing a couple of important modifications, we are close to having in place a sound Local Plan.

It is a very important milestone because we have never reached this stage before.

The Inspector has accepted our assessment of what is our Objectively Assessed Housing Need of around 388 dwellings per annum. And recognised our positive approach to meeting that need. It is for this reason that the Inspector recommends that we agree to meet Surrey Heath’s unmet need because he considers that it can be done within our projected targets without changing our plan or having to find other sites.

The Inspector’s other key recommendation is that we do not at this time pursue policy SS3. In his view, the new settlement approach is not sufficiently developed to be included in the plan, particularly as the numbers of new homes it may deliver are not necessary to meet the housing numbers within this plan [period].

The important point here is that the Inspector does not rule out a new settlement option in the future. He recognises our clear aspiration to deliver a settlement to meet our long-term housing needs. He accepts that it would be acceptable for the Plan to retain the Council’s aspirations to plan for long term needs beyond the plan period which could refer to the delivery of a new settlement through potentially either an early or immediate review of the Plan or a subsequent Development Plan Document (DPD).

He says that this would not change any timescales.

I intend later tonight, indeed before the end of this meeting, to circulate the Inspector’s letter and it will be published on our web page in the morning. I also intend to work with the respective group leaders and through the Local Plan Steering Group to agree the next steps. But it would seem to me that our best interests lie in getting a sound Local Plan swiftly in place in the form recommended by the Inspector.

This is great news for both the Council and its residents, because having a Local Plan in place gives us a sound basis to make future planning decisions and removes the threat of planning by appeal.

Question: Can you make sure all councillors get a summary of the Bramshill result once it has been studied?

Answer: Yes. An email has been sent by the joint-CEO a couple of weeks ago. I will ask for a more concise version to be circulated.

Question: Could you confirm the number of houses from Surrey Heath that will be accepted.

Answer: [Uncertain], but around 750 over the plan period.

 

Hart Planning Update

 

Keep Calm and Wait for news about the Hart Local Plan

Hart planning update early 2019

Belated Happy New Year and welcome to our Hart planning update. We haven’t published much recently, because there hasn’t been much to say. However, a few people have been in touch to ask how things are going. So, welcome to the New Year and to our update on the major planning issues affecting Hart.

Hart Planning Update: Local Plan

[Update 28 Feb 2019: Plan will be sound if Policy SS3 is removed and Hart takes ~750 of Surrey Heath’s unmet need]

First up is the Hart Local Plan. The examination took place in November and December last year. We Heart Hart participated in the discussion about Infrastructure on 5 December. We understand that the Inspector is due to deliver his opinion in early to mid-February. Until then, we can only speculate on the outcome.

The Inspector can decide one of three outcomes:

  • the submitted Plan is found sound
  • Local Plan is not sound but could be made sound by making modifications
  • the Local Plan is not sound and could not be made sound

The second outcome is the one we hope for. It is to be hoped Policy SS3 related to the Winchfield new town is removed as the main modification.

We understand that during the examination the Inspector asked for changes to the policies related to Local Gaps and SANG. However, he remained inscrutable on the other key issues which we believe are the:

  • Housing numbers
  • New settlement
  • Sustainability Appraisal (SA)

Given the reports we have received about some of the key discussions, we believe Hart is vulnerable on the new settlement and the sustainability appraisal. Hart attempted to present evidence about the new settlement that had been submitted after the deadline. This evidence was rejected. Strong arguments were presented on both sides of the argument. However, we believe a key exchange was when the Inspector got Hart (and we believe the developers) to agree that he could not approve the new settlement unless he found that it was deliverable.

We also understand the SA came in for sustained criticism.

We have to await the Inspector’s judgement. If major changes are required, then there may well be political implications at the council.

Hart Planning Update: Elvetham Chase/Pale Lane Appeal

The Elvetham Chase (aka Pale Lane) appeal took place earlier this month. We understand one of the council’s arguments was that the extra 700 houses were not required were not needed to meet the housing targets in the Local Plan. This is somewhat ironic as the Winchfield New Town is also not required to meet the targets. The proposed site for the new town is only a couple of hundred metres from the Pale Lane site. Yet the council is supporting the new town and opposing Pale Lane.

Of course, we hope the Pale Lane appeal fails.

We understand that the appeal hearing was adjourned, pending the results of the Local Plan examination. Apparently, both Wates and Hart Council will then be given a short period to  respond to the Pale Lane Planning Inspector.  The inspector will then make his recommendation to the Secretary of State who will decide whether to uphold or dismiss the appeal.

Quite a lot will rest on how much weight is given to the Local Plan by the Pale Lane inspector. We understand uncontentious elements will carry significant weight. Contested elements will carry no weight. So, we have to hope that the Local Plan inspector accepts the housing targets presented in the Local Plan (or lower). If he does, we can see no reason why Pale Lane should go ahead. However, if the Inspector accepts Hart’s own argument in the Local Plan that they need to plan for more houses than required, the appeal may succeed.

Hart Planning Update: Bramshill Appeal

We haven’t heard much about this, but believe some appeal hearings have been held. We have no further information on the timing of any decision.

Hart Planning Update: West of Hook Appeal

We understand the appeal will start on 19 March 2019 and will sit for up to 8 days.  More details can be found here.

Again, we hope this appeal fails. However, quite a lot depends upon the results of the Local Plan examination and the weight placed upon it at that time.

 

We will keep you up to date as more information emerges.

 

Hart slips down quality of life survey

Hart slips to 13th in Halifax quality of life survey

Hart slips to 13th in Halifax quality of life survey 2019

In the latest Halifax ‘Best Place to Live’ survey, Hart has dropped from top spot to 13th.  Orkney is now officially the best place to live in the UK, with Richmond, in North Yorkshire second.

Hart still rates highest for the proportion of residents in good health at 97.4%, compared to a national average of 94.6%.

Rushmoor has leapt 108 places in the overall league table from 125th place to 17th. This appears to be largely driven by Rushmoor polling highest in the personal wellbeing category.  Rushmoor residents come out top for Happiness, Life Satisfaction and believing what they do in life is worthwhile.

Surrey Heath has also risen 80 places in the league table to 24th overall.

Perhaps Hart Council should take an in depth look at the figures to work out why Hart has fallen so far in the league tables.  We would urge them to look at:

  • Urban Environment, that covers population density and traffic flows. Building more houses than we need will not help us on these measures.
  • Personal Wellbeing. Over-development is bound to decrease life satisfaction and happiness, whilst increasing anxiety.

Hart Council should reconsider its policy to build an unnecessary new town that will do irreparable damage to our precious green fields. On the plus side, Hart residents might consider moving to Rushmoor to be happier and more satisfied.

The full press release from Halifax can be found on the download below.

Hart slips down quality of life survey

Angela Delaney’s undeclared links to Barratts under investigation

Councillor Angela Delaney fails to declare Barratts interests at meeting

Angela Delaney undeclared links to Barratts under investigation

Councillor Angela Delaney has apparently undeclared links to Barratts that have been reported to Hart Council’s monitoring officer by We Heart Hart.

[Update: Council’s response and my reply]

The complaint produces evidence to show the Community Campaign Hart councillor has significant undeclared links to Barratt Developments. Councillor Delaney declared her partner’s significant shareholding in Barratt Developments. However, her 50% ownership of the company she jointly owns with her husband was not disclosed. Nor was it disclosed that her company lists Barratts as a client.

The complaint shows that Councillor Delaney attended the recent Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting. That meeting covered the role of the developers (which include Barratts) in the new town governance arrangements. Of course, the developers will benefit greatly if the proposal to build 5,000 houses is approved. Her links to Barratts were not declared at the meeting. It is alleged that this breaches the Hart Council Code of Conduct. The failure properly to declare her interests may also be an offence under the Localism Act.

Councillor Delaney is one of the founders of Stop Elvetham Chase. We have supported her campaign, but have always been puzzled by the contrast in Councillor Delaney’s positions. She has been strongly opposed to Elvetham Chase (aka Pale Lane) and been a passionate advocate of the Winchfield new town. Elvetham Chase is promoted by Wates. Wates is apparently not a client of her company. However, Winchfield New Town, that is adjacent to Elvetham Chase is promoted by Barratts, Gallagher Estates and Lightwood. Barratts is listed as a client of her company, St Swithins Construction.

Elvetham chase adjacent to Winchfield New Town

Elvetham chase adjacent to Winchfield New Town

The evidence in the formal complaint is reproduced below.

Angela Delaney Declaration of Interests

Councillor Delaney declared her interests in May 2018. These included her employment with St Swithins Construction.

Angela Delaney employed by St Swithins Construction

Angela Delaney employed by St Swithins Construction

Councillor Delaney also declared her partner’s significant shareholding in Barratt Developments

Angela Delaney partner owns shares in Barratt Homes

Angela Delaney’s partner owns shares in Barratt Homes

However, she failed to declare her 50% shareholding in St Swithins Construction, that lists its place of business in the District. We believe this is a technical breach of the declaration rules.

St Swithins Construction Ownership

Councillor Delaney is listed as a director of St Swithins Construction at Companies House.

Angela Delaney Director of St Swithins Construction

Angela Delaney Director of St Swithins Construction

She is also listed as holder of 50% of the shares in the company according to the most recent Annual Return, dated 2016.

Angela Delaney owns half of St Swithins Construction

Angela Delaney owns half of St Swithins Construction

St Swithins Construction Client List

However, the website of St Swithins Construction lists Barratts as a client. This indicates a far closer relationship with Barratts than has been declared.

St Swithins Construction client list includes Barratts

St Swithins Construction client list includes Barratts

This is not disclosed in her declaration of interests.

Angela Delaney participates in meeting that includes how Hart will govern relationship with new town developers

The Overview and Scrutiny meeting that took place on 16 October 2018 covered the new town governance and resourcing arrangements. The minutes of the meeting show that councillor Delaney participated in the meeting.

Angela Delaney attends Overview and Scrutiny Committee Meeting

Angela Delaney attends Hart Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee Meeting Minutes 16 October 2018

However, she didn’t declare her interests in Barratts at the meeting. Indeed, no declarations of interest were made at all.

No Interests declared at Hart Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee Meeting Minutes 16 October 2018

No Interests declared at Hart Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee Meeting Minutes 16 October 2018

The meeting covered the new town governance arrangements and Hart Council’s relationship with the developers, which of course include Barratts. The meeting also covered how the council would spend nearly £1.5m preparing for the new town. The council is also seeking support from the developers in the form of cash or people. Of course, the developers will greatly benefit if granted permission to build 5,000 houses.

Hart Council to squander £1.5m on new town planning

Hart to spend nearly £1.5m on new town planning

 

Role of developers Barratt Homes on the agenda

Role of developers including Barratt Homes on the agenda

 

Role of developers Barratt Homes on the agenda

Developers including Barratts proposed as project team members

 

Role of developers Barratt Homes on the agenda

Developers’ role including Barratts on the agenda

Consequences of failure properly to declare interests

Hart Council’s code of conduct states that councillors must disclose their interests at any meeting of the council and not participate in discussion.

Councillors must declare interests in meetings and not participate in discussion

Hart Code of Conduct. Councillors must declare interests in meetings and not participate in discussion

We believe that Councillor Delaney’s failure properly to declare her interests, together with her participation in the O&S meeting represents a breach of this code.

It may also be an offence under the Localism Act to fail properly to declare interests.

Angela Delaney's Failure properly to declare interests may be an offence

Failure properly to declare interests may be an offence

We await the results of the investigation. We will of course allow Councillor Delaney the right of reply should she choose to get in touch.

 

Hart gets into bed with Winchfield new town developers

Hart District Council gets into bed with developers

Hart gets into bed with Winchfield new town developers

Hart Council seems to be developing an unhealthily close relationship with the developers seeking to build the proposed Winchfield new town. The evidence for this is as follows:

  • The council has confirmed it is seeking input from the developers in its bid for Government “Garden Communities” funding.
  • Hart is proposing to accept financial support or seconded personnel from developers to come up with its new town plan

Sadly, Hart Council isn’t even capable of adding up the budget properly. Heaven knows how it will manage to retain control and ownership of the project.

Developer support for Garden Communities funding bid

This revelation is contained in a written answer to a supplementary question asked at Council on 25 October. The question and answer are shown below (our emphasis):

Supplementary Q1: Is the Bid solely from HDC or is it a joint bid with one or both New Settlement developers or associates or any other private sector partner?

Answer: You asked who the Hart Garden Communities bid would be submitted from? It is my understanding that the bid will be submitted by Hart District Council but we will be liaising with the respective site promoters to ensure that they have an opportunity to help us inform the bid.

Developer resources seconded to Winchfield new town development plan

This was stated in the proposed Resourcing and Governance paper presented to Overview and Scrutiny and more recently to Cabinet:

Developers to provide resources for WInchfield new town planning

Developers to provide resources for Winchfield new town planning

Developers to fund technical studies for Winchfield new town

Developers to fund technical studies for Winchfield new town

There was also a supplementary question asked about this at council (our emphasis):

Supplementary Q3: The Joint CEO statement at the O&S meeting also said that HDC would expect and accept contributions from the New Settlement developers either in financial terms and/or staff augmentation for key roles in the project, so how will HDC in this instance continue to lead the NS project and also provide transparency to the public on the involvement of the developers?

Answer: In light of the Council agreeing to accept assistance from the site promoters you ask how they will continue to lead the new settlement project and also provide transparency to the public on the involvement of the developers?  Our position is as set out in both the report to Overview Committee and now paragraph 6.4 of the report to Cabinet.  The Council will look actively for external resources to support this project.  Sources for this will include Government, Enterprise M3 LEP and the site promoters.  It is expected that some of the technical evidence will be funded by site promoters within a scope agreed by the Council.  This will reduce the financial costs currently identified for the technical studies, but at this time the impact of this on the overall budget is difficult to predict. Any funding received from site promoters will then be audited through the normal budget management process by Cabinet with quarterly scrutiny by Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Eagle eyed readers will note that the answer given doesn’t actually address the question posed. The question was about how the Council will retain control and lead the project if it is reliant on both people and financial resources from the developers. The answer given doesn’t address that point, and para 6.4 reproduced in the image above doesn’t help either. We recall the maxim “he who pays the piper calls the tune”. It is clear the developers will be calling the shots.

Hart Council gets its Winchfield new town sums wrong

It is particularly worrying that the council can’t even add up the budget properly, so heaven knows how they will manage to keep control and ownership of a project of this size and complexity.

Supplementary Q2: Do the figures contained in Appendix 4 actually add up?

  • The total expenditure for 2019/20 is identified as £820,000, but the figures in the table only add up to £780,000.
  • The total expenditure for 2020/21 is identified as £612,000, but the figures in the table only add up to £575,000.
Hart Council to squander £1.5m on new town planning

Hart to spend £1.5m on new town planning

Can you explain these two discrepancies and what assurance can you provide that the HDC project team has the skill-set to manage what will be a major project with £multi-million budgets?

Answer: Thank you for highlighting the need to adjust the Cabinet report.  A corrected report has been circulated to all members and it is published here.

 

 

Fleet regeneration is feasible without taxpayer funding

Fleet Regeneration: Hart Shopping Centre Design Study

Fleet Regeneration: Hart Shopping Centre Design Study

We are delighted to announce the release of a study into Fleet regeneration undertaken on behalf the Rural Hart Association. This study shows that it is feasible and desirable to redevelop Hart Shopping Centre as a stepping stone to wider Fleet regeneration.

Benefits of Fleet Regeneration

The benefits of the proposed scheme are as follows:

  • 371 flats of 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms, with 20-40% affordable, ideal for first time buyers. It is possible that some of the units would be attractive to the private rented sector.
  • Potential for some of the unit to be sheltered housing for our growing elderly population.
  • Extra customers for local Fleet businesses including retail, restaurants, bars, photographers, hairdressers, mobile phone shops etc, bringing an extra ~£3m per year of spending to the town centre.
  • Provision of a cinema for film lovers.
  • Provision of a community space for local cultural events.
  • Modern retail units for a supermarket and to attract High Street retailers, benefiting existing Fleet residents. Although there is an option to increase the number of homes and have less retail space if necessary.
  • Underground car-parking.
  • The scheme will no doubt make contributions to fund infrastructure in Fleet.
  • Supports Fleet Town Council’s objectives to bring cultural and entertainment facilities to Fleet Town Centre as outlined in the Fleet Neighbourhood Plan.
  • Help Hart Council address the challenge of bringing investment to Fleet, as outlined in the Hart Local Plan.
  • The scheme would be profitable in its own right and would not require any contribution from Fleet or Hart taxpayers.

The proposals respect the sight lines of the existing Hart Shopping Centre, so it shouldn’t be intrusive.

The savings for Fleet taxpayers would run into £10’s of millions as they would no longer be on the hook for the controversial Gurkha Square development. The savings for Hart taxpayers would include the £1.5m for planning the unnecessary new town, and of course they would retain the Gurkha Square parking revenue.

Background to Fleet Regeneration Proposals

The genesis of this idea came at the January Council meeting, where the Graham Cockarill, portfolio head of Planning said they were pressing ahead with the unnecessary new town, because the regeneration of Fleet was an “impossible pipedream”. These proposals should give Hart Council food for thought. We would strongly recommend that Hart takes these proposals seriously and get behind a plan to regenerate Fleet. Together we can make a vibrant town and help Hart remain one of the best places to live in the country.

Next steps for Fleet Regeneration

These proposals will be formally submitted to Hart Council and Fleet Town Council early this week. We are also seeking for these proposals to be discussed as part of the upcoming Local Plan examination.

We think these proposals could be viewed as the first project of a larger programme to regenerate Fleet. The next site on our own target list would be the whole Civic area including Hart’s Offices, the library and the Harlington. There should be no need to disturb either Gurkha Square car park, or Bakers. The Fleet neighbourhood plan also targets this area for improvement. It is time for Hampshire, Hart and Fleet councils to get round the table with sensible planners like Lambert Smith Hampton to come up sensible plans for the future.

This is a much better idea than to concrete over our green fields with an unnecessary new town.

Rural Hart Association email to supporters about Fleet Regeneration

Dear Supporters

The Rural Hart Association (RHA) has made very good progress over the summer and we are now fully prepared to play our part in opposing a New Town at the Examination in Public (EIP) which starts on 20 November.

You will remember that the RHA decided to concentrate its resources on the single issue of Fleet regeneration. We set out to demonstrate that it was feasible for Fleet Town Centre to be regenerated with a mixed-use development (residential, retail and leisure) which would provide housing as well as reviving the commercial viability of Fleet as Hart District’s largest town.

The issue of Fleet Regeneration is of vital importance because Hart District Council’s justification for a New Town rests on their assertion that it can’t be done. In a bit more detail the argument runs like this:

  • The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires that  Brownfield sites are used to their maximum potential before building on greenfield land
  • The NPPF also requires that councils regenerate their Town Centres. NPPF para 86 says “Planning policies and decisions should support the role that town centres play at the heart of local communities, by taking a positive approach to their growth, management and adaptation”
  • HDC admits that Hart District is failing commercially (because there is a growing net outflow of retail and leisure spend from the district)  and the Local Plan states (para 66) that “the challenge for Fleet will be to secure investment so that it can compete with the comparison towns in neighbouring districts”
  • But HDC has made no attempt to secure the investment needed to regenerate Fleet. When challenged on this at the January council meeting HDC stated that regeneration of Fleet was an “impossible pipedream”.

In May we appointed Lambert Smith Hampton to undertake a Design Study to investigate the feasibility of a mixed-use regeneration of Fleet’s Hart Shopping Centre. This study is now complete and the main conclusions of the Study are:

  • Hart Shopping Centre can be regenerated to provide the same retail and parking space, as well as 950sqm of community space, a multi-screen cinema and 371 flats (of 1,2 and 3 bedrooms). The whole area would become modern and desirable, and the flats would provide a tremendous boost to the viability of the shopping centre.
  • The flats would be ideal for first time buyers and elderly people because they are close to the shops and the station – the Design Study has allowed for the full 40% affordability provision.
  • The return on investment for potential developers looks good.

In summary, we have demonstrated that Hart’s claim that Fleet cannot be regenerated is utterly wrong. Hart Council is dominated by CCH councillors whose agenda is to stop Fleet being regenerated at all costs. As a result the draft  Local Plan condemns Fleet in particular (and the whole Hart in general) to long-term economic decline.

We hope that on the basis of this Study, the Inspector will insist that the New Town is removed from the Local Plan and that a large-scale regeneration of Fleet is undertaken instead. Hart should be guiding the district towards a bright future in which Fleet becomes a modern, vibrant and highly successful town surrounded by beautiful countryside and rural villages.

LSH will submit the Design Study to Hart District Council, and will ask the Council to cooperate in its implementation. We will also submit the Design Study to Fleet District Council, whose Neighbourhood Plan supports mixed-use developments in the Town Centre. LSH will also submit the Design Study to the Inspector in preparation for the Inspector’s review of the Spatial Distribution of Housing (Matter 4) and Town Centre and Retail (Matter 10).

You can find the full study in David Turver’s excellent WeHeartHart website at www.wehearthart.co.uk. The We Heart Hart blog also provides a full commentary of the progress of the Local Plan and its well worth reading.

Thank you all for your generous contributions to the Design Study and to funding LSH to attend the Examination in November/December. I think that we have built a very strong case, and I believe that we have a good chance of preserving all of our green fields for many decades to come.

Tristram Cary
Chairman Rural Hart Association

Hart CEO breaches Government guidance on housing need

Hart CEO muddies the waters on housing need

Hart CEO persists with inflated housing requirement despite breaching Government guidance

In an email to councillors, the joint-CEO of Hart Council has made a desperate attempt to justify the Council’s inflated housing requirement in the Local Plan. This justification breaks Government guidance on when to build more than indicated by the standard method.

This comes after the release of ONS figures showing reduced household growth in Hart. By our calculations, we already have sufficient housing supply to 20141 and beyond without an unnecessary 5,000 house new town at Winchfield/Murrell Green.

In summary, he uses bluster, imaginary new ONS releases, unstarted Government consultations and dodgy logic to try to justify why the housing requirement will go up, when in fact the ONS figures show it is going down.

We are in the ridiculous position of the council arguing that we should keep an inflated housing requirement and build far more than we need to.

Inflated housing requirement breaches Government guidance

This is against Government guidance on when to plan for more housing than the standard method.

When to build more than the standard method

When to build more than the standard method

  1. There is no funding in place to promote growth. No part of Hart is identified by the M3 LEP as a growth area that will attract investment
  2. There are no strategic infrastructure improvements planned. In fact Hart has a massive infrastructure funding deficit. Extra houses will make this worse.
  3. Rushmoor is already planning for far more houses than it needs. The new ONS projections mean Surrey Heath can meet its own needs in full.

So, Hart meets none of the criteria to justify building more than the standard method says.

However, the council is breaking with this guidance and planning to build even more houses in the new town. They are proposing to spend £1.5m of public money to press on with it anyway.

Below we reproduce the email in full, together with our comments in red.

Hart CEO email to councillors

Dear Councillors, last night we received questions about the implications for the local plan and the assessment of Hart’s housing needs following the sharp fall in household projections as reflected in recently published Office of National Statistic (ONS) projections on 20th September 2018.  The household projection data is a key input into the new standard method of assessing housing need, and the new figures have prompted dramatic drops in many councils’ housing need figures when factored into the standard method.

Graham Cockarill pointed out that this was of concern to the Government and that the Government had delayed the use of the new methodology for calculating housing need because the revised projections undermined the Government’s objective to boost significantly the supply of new homes through building 300,000 new homes per annum.

The Government has issued guidance on how to calculate housing need in this period. This says that although the new standard method is not mandatory, any deviation will be closely scrutinised

Planning guidance use of standard method to calculate housing need

Planning guidance use of standard method to calculate housing need

But it has emerged today that the ONS plans to publish a different version of its figures on 3 December.

Yes, but this new version apparently just puts more detail on the figures released on 20 September 2018, by breaking out the household projections by housing type. There is no suggestion that the overall figures will change.

ONS Household type projections December 2018

ONS Household type projections December 2018

The ONS is also planning to publish a set of variant based household projections in which household formation rates for younger adults (those aged 25 to 44 years) are higher.

They may well be, but we can find no evidence of this in the ONS’ schedule of upcoming releases up to 31 December 2019. If this is going to arrive, then it is beyond the timing of the Local Plan examination and thus cannot be considered.

The ONS’s willingness to publish “variant” projections reflects its acknowledgement of concerns about the new approach taken to drawing up the 2016-based figures. Unlike the 2014-based projections, which drew on data from as far back as the 1971 census, the 2016-based figures were compiled with statistics that only go back to 2001. Critics have said that the new projections thus ‘bake in’ the adverse consequences for household formation of housing under-delivery  in this century.

“Experts” have been predicting that the average household size would continue to fall in line with the experience of earlier decades. However,  the 2011 census showed that this trend had come to an end.  Actual behaviour stubbornly refused to comply with expert opinion. The ONS’ own analysis of its new numbers still shows a reduction in average household size out to 2039. However, the rate of reduction in the newer 2016-based figures is slower than the 2014-based projections. We believe that part of this is down to social change – people are getting married later than in the 1960’s and 1970’s. THe increase in house prices may have played a part, but we already know from Ian Mulheirn’s analysis that building more won’t reduce prices. Prices are mostly driven by ultra-low interest rates.

ONS impact of 2016-based projections on household size

ONS impact of 2016-based projections on household size

In its methodology document, the ONS acknowledges those complaints. It says some respondents to its consultation on the new method thought that using data from only the 2001 and 2011 censuses would be “insufficient”. It says that: “There was a view that only using the 2001 and 2011 censuses would result in a downward trend in household formation for the younger age groups, which in turn would downplay the need for housing for younger people”.

OK. So what. It seems the ONS disagrees with this view, or it wouldn’t have continued with the method it has adopted.

The government has already said that it will consult on adjustments to the way housing need is calculated so it is consistent with delivering 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s and that it will do this “as soon as possible”.

The Government may well have said that, but the consultation has not been launched. In effect, the Government has set a ‘top-down’ target of 300,000 houses per annum. Now the detailed bottom-up work has shown this to be far more than we need, it is trying to find a way of fudging the numbers to arrive back at the number it first thought of. It is inconceivable that such a consultation can be launched, completed and the results analysed before the Hart Local Plan is examined. This might be a risk to the housing target we eventually adopt. However, surely the way to mitigate this risk is to demonstrate flexibility of supply, rather than increase the target. We have already shown that Hart has sufficient supply out to 2041 and beyond, without the unnecessary new town.

In effect therefore, the Government is not running with the current 2016 household projections for use with the standard methodology and as Cllr Cockarill highlighted, the Government’s objective is to boost the supply of new homes and wants to put in a methodology that does exactly that.

This is, at best, a disingenuous statement. The current Government guidance says the national household projections should be used. It isn’t clear which version should be used, but surely it makes most sense to use the most up to date figures.

Planning guidance setting the baseline using national household growth projections

Planning guidance setting the baseline using national household growth projections

The worked examples in the Government guidance are a bit ambiguous. We believe that using the new Government standard method is either:

Hart Household change 2018-2028

Hart Household change 2018-2028

a) 212 * (1+0.4) = 297 dwellings per annum using the capped 40% affordability uplift, or worst case

b) 212 *(1+0.5) = 318 dwellings per annum

Hart Housing Numbers

This compares to the 388dpa used in the Local Plan.

I think we can safely read into this that it means that the overall number of homes to be built is likely to go up rather than down.

There is no justification for this statement. There is already at least 70dpa headroom (or over 1,120 houses in the plan period) between the Government standard method and the Hart Local Plan. And even this elevated housing target does not require the proposed new town to be built. In any event, the best mitigtion for this is to demonstrate flexibility in supply

That was exactly why we included a buffer in our housing needs and until we see what they new “variant”  projections look like it is not wise to make any assumptions about not having to meet our neighbour potential unmet housing need.

The new household projections mean that Surrey Heath can meet its own need. Rushmoor is already planning for far more houses than it needs to build.

We now have the ridiculous situation of the council arguing to keep an inflated housing requirement and build more houses than we need so it can somehow justify keeping the unnecessary new town in the Local Plan.

 

Hart to squander nearly £1.5m on new town planning

Hart set to spend nearly £1.5m on new town planning

Hart District Council set to squander nearly £1.5m on new town planning

Hart District Council has revealed that it is set to squander nearly £1.5m on planning for a new town. The figures are revealed in a paper that is going before Overview and Scrutiny Committee next week.

The figures are buried in Appendix 4 of the document.

Hart District Council to squander £1.5m on new town planning

Hart to squander nearly £1.5m on new town planning

The real level of spend will be higher, because the proposal does not include a cost allocation of existing staff on the payroll. The annual budget of Hart is in the region of £10m. So, this level of spend represents a very significant proportion of our taxes.

We feel it is entirely unreasonable to be committing such a high level of spending to planning for the new town, because the Local Plan has yet to be approved by the Inspector.

There is significant opposition to the new town, and even Hart admits the new town is not necessary to meet even their own inflated housing targets.

Why a new settlement debunked predetermination

SInce then the ONS have released new figures for household growth that are even lower. These new figures mean we have enough housing supply already to meet our needs out to 2041 and beyond without the new town.

In addition, we will soon reveal documents that show regeneration of Fleet is a viable and attractive alternative, that won’t need any council taxpayer funds.

 

 

Hart Council auditions for La La Land

Hart Council auditions for La La Land

Hart Council auditions for La La Land

Hart Council has made a quite extraordinary response to a question about the housing projections used in the Local Plan. This was made in answer to a question put to the Council Meeting held on 29 September 2018.

The council has contradicted its own chosen method for calculating housing need that was used in the submission version of the Local Plan. It has also contradicted its own Topic Paper on housing numbers published as recently as August 2018. It is suggesting we will be examined on the old ‘SHMA method’, rather than the new standard method for calculating housing need set out by the Government. Yet, Hart Council used the standard method to prepare the Local Plan and in its recent Topic Paper on housing numbers. It beggars belief that Hart Council doesn’t have a consistent position on such a key issue.

However, regardless of the method used to calculate housing need, the Winchfield New Town is not required.

Here is the question, the council’s answer and our response.

Question to Hart Council

For the first time, on 20 September, the Office for National Statistics produced household projections for England, a report previously compiled by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. These latest projections supersede the 2014-based household projections. The projected percentage change in the number of households for Hart, from 2016 to 2041 is 12.4%, a change of 4615 households. What impact will this projection have on the Local Plan at the Examination in November?

Hart Council Answer

Apologies for the style of English, but this is verbatim from the minutes.

The simple answer is it will have no effect at all for two separate reasons: Firstly, under the new NPPF transitional arrangements (para 214) we are primarily being examined under the old NPPF 2012 rules which in effect means that we are being examined under the 2016 Hart/Rushmoor/Surrey Heath SHMA (Strategic Housing Market Area Assessment) and not the Government’s new standard methodology. Taking the SHMA into account the new 2016 population figures, when considering employment uplifts (as recognised in the recent Rushmoor Local Plan examination) our objectively assessed housing need of 388 dwellings/annum is not materially changed.

Secondly, whilst we will be arguing that the Government’s new standard methodology is a material consideration, as everyone knows the Government has decided not at this time that it is not [we don’t know if this is an intentional double negative either -ed] to be used for Local Plan purposes. That is because the Government has realised that it does not significantly boost the supply of new homes as sought by para 59 of the new NPPF.

In the housing white paper the government was clear that reforms set out (which included the introduction of a standard method for assessing housing need) should lead to more homes being built. As the Government itself now realises, the revised 2016 projections are likely to result in the minimum need numbers generated by the method being subject to a significant reduction. That was not the Government’s intention.

In order to ensure that the outputs associated with the method are consistent with this, the Government is now considering adjusting the method so that it’s use is consistent in aggregate with the proposals in Planning for the right homes in the right places consultation and continues to be consistent with ensuring that 300,000 homes are built per year by the mid-2020s.

That means that any housing numbers generated by the use of the standard methodology must go up and given the implications of the reliance on the 2016 population projections the numbers must go up significantly. That’s is exactly why the Council has been prudent in building in a 30% buffer in its housing needs targets to give itself some insurance against these unforeseen changes.

Our response to Hart Council

First, it is wrong to say “we are primarily being examined under the old NPPF 2012 rules”.  This is borne out by the Inspector’s own assessment of the key issues.

Hart Local Plan Examination Matter 3 - Housing Need and Requirement

Hart Local Plan Examination Matter 3 – Housing Need and Requirement

This clearly states that one of the key issues is to decide the basis on which the Local Plan will be examined. That question has not yet been decided by the Inspector. Moreover, the Inspector is going to challenge the uplift the Council has made to the standard method.

Indeed, Hart decided to use the standard method to create the Local Plan in the first place. Notably, the council has also doubled down on this stance in its recent Topic Paper on Housing Numbers.

Hart Council Housing Numbers Topic Paper - Choosing the standard method

Hart Council Housing Numbers Topic Paper – Choosing the standard method

Hart Council has explicitly ruled out using the old SHMA method of calculating housing need after taking advice from experts IPe Intelligent Plans and Examinations. It is quite astonishing that the Council should effectively contradict itself on such an important matter.

It is worth making two additional points:

  1. The SHMA itself can be subject to challenge, not least because it makes a number of spurious assumptions to justify increasing the ‘need’ above the raw population increase.
  2.  The SHMA numbers are very similar (382 dwellings per annum) to the figures in the Local Plan. These numbers would fall slightly if the starting point was updated to take account of the new ONS household projections. The Winchfield new town would still not be required even if the Inspector decide to use the SHMA figures.