Fleet Regeneration – Yes we can!

Candidate for Fleet Regeneration: Brownfield site at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hampshire. Hart Council protecting from redevelopment.

We must deliver Fleet Regeneration

A guest post from Tristram Cary, chairman of the Rural Hart Association, setting out why we must and how we can deliver Fleet Regeneration.

Fleet Regeneration Report

40% of the population of Hart live in Fleet, and yet, in the Local Plan, Fleet is only taking only 21% of the housing development. This massive imbalance puts a huge strain on Hart’s countryside. It is extraordinary that Hart is preventing the regeneration of Fleet when you consider that:

Fleet housing density versus towns of similar size

Fleet housing density versus towns of similar size

  1. Fleet is the most sparsely populated town of its size in Britain (see above)
  2. Hart admits in para 236 of the Local Plan that, without regeneration, “it is unrealistic for Fleet to try to compete” for comparison shopping with neighbouring towns such as Camberley (which is the same size as Fleet)
  3. The new National Planning Policy Framework (para 86) requires districts to “take a positive approach to the development of Town Centres” and to “recognise that residential development often plays an important role in ensuring the vitality of Town Centres”

Hart’s extraordinary lack of ambition for Fleet is explained by Councillor Cockarill’s statement at the 4 January Council Meeting that any serious Fleet regeneration was “a pipedream”. Hart claims that Fleet is full, and that it would not be possible to raise any serious money for its regeneration.

The Rural Hart Association (RHA) commissioned a study from Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH), a leading Town Centre regeneration specialist, to analyse the potential for Fleet regeneration. This study was submitted to Hart in response to the Reg 19 Consultation, and the full document is available on the link above. The key findings of the study are that:

  1. Fleet has ample opportunities for re-generation if only Hart would consider mixed-use (residential and retail) developments
  2. It is hopeless for Fleet to resist the residential conversion of redundant office blocks – there is no realistic prospect of these ever being revived for business use.

It’s worth reading the following summaries provided by directors of LSH.

“As has been widely reported the growth of online retail sales is having a major impact on the retail landscape – online sales are currently circa 16% of all UK sales and growing annually. There is a fundamental structural change in our shopping habits which in turn is having a major impact on retailers and town centres. The retail centres that are thriving tend to be those regional locations offering a high quality experiential mix of retail and leisure or the smaller centres that are able to provide easily accessed, convenience retail facilities in an aesthetically pleasing environment.

Interestingly, we have started to witness retail assets (shopping centres and retail parks) particularly in the South East being acquired or redeveloped for their residential potential.  In some instances, we are seeing retail being proposed above shopping centres and in other instances the complete redevelopment for residential – examples include Forbury Park in Reading which has consent for 765 homes and Whitley’s Shopping Centre in Bayswater which is to be redeveloped for a mixed retail and residential scheme. This trend is likely to continue especially in areas where residential values are high and the retail assets are stagnating.

The Hart Shopping Centre could offer such potential in the future – retaining strong convenience retail facilities at ground floor level with retailers such as Waitrose but with residential accommodation on the upper parts.

What is clear, is that on a national basis we have too many shops and alternative uses, in particular residential, is a desirable way of regenerating our town centres”.

Sean Prigmore, Retail Director, Lambert Smith Hampton

And,

“I have been actively involved in the Fleet office market for more than 30 years.

The office market in Fleet has been in decline for a number of years as larger corporates have vacated to consolidate occupation in larger centers and locations benefitting from more amenity – such as Farnborough Business Park. Key Business centres such as Reading and Basingstoke have prospered whilst the smaller satellite office location such as Fleet are finding it harder to prove their relevance as office locations. M3 HQ, 70,000 sq ft on ABP, has been vacant for many years and is unlikely to be occupied as offices again. There is the potential to enable redevelopment of larger unwanted office stock for residential and to focus B1 provision in locations better served by public transport and amenity and in buildings which will allow business space for the SME sector where what demand there is lies.”

Paul Dowson , Director, Lambert Smith Hampton

Fleet Regeneration Sites

Fleet Regeneration Sites

The Lambert Smith Hampton report identifies eight sites in Fleet Town centre which between them could provide 990 homes in mixed-use developments, and LSH is confident that these sites would attract developer investment. [Personally, I would add the entire civic quarter – ed]. It is shocking that Hart has turned its back on mixed use developments in Fleet without even investigating their potential. We hope that Hart Council will restructure its Local Plan to take account of the LSH report before submitting it for Inspection.

[Note that this is exactly in line with Ranil’s call for regeneration of our urban centres – ed]

Stop Elvetham Chase go Completely Concrete

Stop Elvetham Chase go full completely concrete Hart

Hypocritical Stop Elvetham Chase go Completely Concrete

The Stop Elvetham Chase group have decided to put up a candidate in the Local Elections standing for Community Campaign Completely Concrete Hart.

This smacks to us of hypocrisy as they are rightly vehemently opposed to the Elvetham Chase (Pale Lane) development. However, they now strongly support a new town in Winchfield, part of which is very close to the area where they oppose development. This is shown in the graphic above.

Their candidate, Angela Delaney is fighting the Fleet West ward. Richard Woods, who defected from the Tories in late 2016, currently holds this seat. It appears that Richard is standing down because he isn’t mentioned as a candidate on CCH’s website.

Stop Elvetham Chase’s statement has been placed on their Facebook page. Interestingly, comments have been disabled, so it is clear they are only interested in one-way communication. Not a good start for a budding politician. It is reproduced below with our comments in red.

This group was set up to fight the Elvetham Chase development. Hart council’s strong endorsement of the local plan on the 4th January and subsequent refusal of Wates’ proposal has, for now, protected Pale Lane. We thank all the members of this group for supporting the campaign and objecting so strongly to the development. Stop Elvetham Chase did start with laudable intentions.

However this is only a stay of execution. We know Wates have every intention of appealing the decision. The local plan, in its current state, with the new settlement option, gives Hart Council a strong chance of successfully refusing the appeal.  This is because approval of Pale Lane would jeopardise the new settlement – which would ultimately deliver more affordable housing for Hart. The presence or otherwise of the new town in the draft Local Plan will have no bearing on the Pale Lane Appeal. This is because even the council have said the new town is unnecessary, without Pale Lane. The Conservatives will tell you that we don’t need the higher housing targets – they support a local plan with the new settlement removed. We believe this is naive in the extreme, given the housing crisis this country is facing. It’s not just the Conservatives that say this. It was in the Council’s own communication to members (see below) and stated at the January 4th meeting by Councillor Cockarill. The housing numbers in the Local Plan will deliver ~1,500 more houses than the Government mandated figure. The Government figure already includes an affordability uplift.

Pale Lane aside, we believe it is absolutely right to plan for a new settlement that will deliver the infrastructure that Hart desperately needs. CCH were asked at council before Christmas to show their workings on the infrastructure funding gap. They didn’t even allow the question to be asked, let alone answer it. The reason is that they know, the new settlement will increase the funding gap and starve Fleet and Church Crookham of much needed investmentWithout a new settlement we will soon return to a ‘planning by appeal’ situation which has been so disastrous for Hart (ref: Grove Farm and Watery Lane). A sound Local Plan, without a new town and without Pale Lane, will stop this situation. With no long term plan for secondary school places (to meet demand from the 2000 houses at Hartland and Grove Farm), surgery waiting times lengthening and our roads more congested than ever we think this is unacceptable for Hart.  Hampshire County Council have not said we need a new school. The Local Plan contains no proposals for a new school, doesn’t address healthcare and does nothing for roads. A new town will only make things worse. A local plan with the new settlement option removed will also pave the way for Wates to successfully appeal Pale Lane. No it won’t. The Local Plan will be sound without the new town. Indeed, it may even be unsound with the new town.

So, after much consideration we have decided to support Community Campaign Hart (CCH), who we can trust to safeguard the local plan (which is already progressing well and is due for submission to a Govt inspector this month) and by extension, Pale Lane. CCH are committed to taking the politics out of local matters, focusing on putting residents’ needs first. Cough…only if you live in Church Crookham, and even then, the extra traffic from a new town will impact both Fleet and Church Crookham.

We are absolutely delighted to announce that Angela Delaney, one of our group and one of the original four who spearheaded the Stop Elvetham Chase Development campaign, is standing as CCH candidate for Fleet West. Angela has worked tirelessly over the last year to fight Pale Lane and protect Fleet West from the impact this development would have caused. But apparently she doesn’t care at all about the impact that a new town at Winchfield would cause. She’s passionate about supporting a local plan with a new settlement to protect our schools, health service and roads. In fact the Local Plan doesn’t promote a new school, doesn’t address healthcare and won’t fix the roads. In fact it will make matters worse for Fleet, because it will starve it of infrastructure, increase commuter traffic and probably reduce retail traffic. We hope her track record speaks for itself. Cough…not quite in the way she wants us to believe, but let’s wish that she is more successful than CCH have been with Edenbrook, Grove Farm and Watery Lane.

We hope you’ll support Angela but ultimately everyone must make their own decision at the ballot box. Well done for standing for election, which is more than Councillor Woods did when he defected. If you don’t support our position then we thank you for your support so far and understand if you wish to leave our group at this point. I will stay if you don’t mind, just to see what you are up to. You have lost a lot of support from Winchfield residents who also oppose Pale Lane. If you support Angela, we can guarantee that she will work with the same energy she fought Pale Lane, to represent local residents’ interests. Cough.

Why a new settlement debunked predetermination

Hart Housing Numbers

 

Hart Local Plan: Restore strategic gaps

Hart Regulation 18 Strategic gaps

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation removes the Regulation 18 Strategic Gaps

This is the sixth and final part of our submission to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation. This article explains how Hart have removed the strategic gaps around Harley Wintney and Hook that were present in the last consultation. We believe they should restore them and policy NBe2 should be amended.  The process for making a submission is as follows:

  1. Go to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 Consultation page of the Council website
  2. From the Hart website, download and complete Response Form Part A (Personal Details). A copy can be downloaded here.
  3. Also download and complete the Response Form Part B (Your Representations), a separate Part B is required for each representation you wish to make. A copy can be downloaded here.
  4. Make sure you include words of this form in each representation. Policy [X] is not sound because it is not [positively prepared, justified, effective or consistent with national policy] (delete as appropriate).
  5. Once you have filled in Part A and Part B, please email them to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk or post them to Planning Policy Team, Hart District Council, Harlington Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 4AE.
Submissions have to be made before 4pm on 26 March 2018. If you are keen to get your submission completed, you can use the summary guide we have pulled together, or for the more adventurous, you can use our full submission. Please edit the text into your own words.

Restore the strategic gaps to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 Consultation

The Local Plan identifies strategic gaps between settlements.

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19: Hartley Winchook leads to no strategic gaps around Hartley Wintney nor to the east of Hook

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 Consultation Strategic Gaps

However, no gaps are proposed to the east of Hook, to the north west of Fleet or anywhere around Hartley Wintney. This is contrary to the Regulation 18 consultation (see top), where strategic gaps were included to the east of Hook and the SW of Hartley Wintney. These should be restored and new ones added to give effective gaps between Winchfield and the west of Fleet/Elvetham Heath to avoid coalescence into a Hartley Winchook urban sprawl.

Remedy: This policy needs to be amended to include:

  1. A gap to the west of Hook from the east bank of the River Whitewater to at least the power line between Hook and Hartley Wintney
  2. A gap to the south and west of Hartley Wintney/Phoenix Green. This should be at both sides of the A30, from the existing end of development to the Murrell Green light-industrial estate and from St Mary’s Park to the motorway
  3. A gap from Elvetham Heath/A323 to the River Hart and from Edenbrook/Hitches Lane to the River Hart
  4. A gap from the east of Taplins Farm Lane/The Hurst to the River Hart.

 

Hart Local Plan: Amend Policy SS1 to a sensible housing target

 

This is the second part of our submission to the Regulation 19 Hart Local Plan consultation. This article explains why we are planning to build too many houses and why Policy SS1 needs to be amended to a more sensible target. The process for making a submission is as follows:

  1. Go to the Hart Local Plan Consultation page of the Council website
  2. From the Hart website, download and complete Response Form Part A (Personal Details). A copy can be downloaded here.
  3. Also download and complete the Response Form Part B (Your Representations), a separate Part B is required for each representation you wish to make. A copy can be downloaded here
  4. Make sure you include words of this form in each representation. Policy [X] is not sound because it is not [positively prepared, justified, effective or consistent with national policy] (delete as appropriate).
  5. Once you have filled in Part A and Part B, please email them to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk or post them to Planning Policy Team, Hart District Council, Harlington Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 4AE. 
Submissions have to be made before 4pm on 26 March 2018. If you are keen to get your submission completed, you can use the summary guide we have pulled together, or for the more adventurous, you can use our full submission. Please edit the text into your own words.
WHH Local Plan Reg 19 Guide
WHH Local Plan Reg 19 Entry
Policy SS1 deals with the spatial strategy. We disagree with the quantum of new housing proposed in the draft Local Plan.

First, the numbers proposed are far too high and they are unsustainable. Second, the long term effect of planning for too many houses is that the initial effects are compounded, leading to permanent unsustainability.

Proposed numbers in the Hart Local Plan are far too high and unsustainable

They propose 6,208 now homes over the plan period at a rate of 388dpa. This is both unnecessary and undesirable on a number of grounds:

The 2016 SHMA called for 8,022 new dwellings over the period 2011-2032. This was already too many.  For reasons explained in more detail here:

  • The starting point was inappropriate, using 2012 DCLG forecasts instead of the 2014-based figures.
  • The affordable housing uplift was inappropriate because it was proposing to help those already renting but not able to buy. By definition, these people are already housed and therefore do not need an additional house to be built. Any arguments about building more houses increasing supply and thus reducing prices are spurious because any reasonable expectation of building will have only a negligible impact on prices. This is explained by Ian Mulheirn of Oxford Economics here.
  • The jobs growth adjustment was inappropriate, anticipating higher rates of jobs growth than seen in periods of much higher economic growth. The SHMA then acknowledged that most of the extra people brought in by these extra houses will work outside the district. This is borne out by the M3 LEP Strategic Plan, which does not identify any part of Hart as either a ‘Growth Town’ or a ‘Step-Up Town’, so will be starved of investment. Moreover, the Employment Land Review (ELR) describes Hart’s office space as:

There appears to be an over-supply of lower grade stock with concentrations of dated, larger footprint, stock to the north of the town centre, specifically at Ancells Business Park, which is currently experiencing relatively high levels of vacancy.

Hook office space similarly experiences high vacancy rates and there is strong interest in office to residential conversion.

Commercial agents note that the costs of refurbishing such stock to a good standard attractive to the market typically costs between £50-£60 per sq ft; and that the current over-supply of office accommodation limits investment in refurbishing such stock as low rent levels made such investment unviable.

Clearly, this uplift was not an expression of the ‘need’ for the district. More importantly, building extra, unnecessary houses will then cause more people to move into the district. Because the employment space is sub-standard and not in a strategic location, these people will commute elsewhere each day to work. This is the very antithesis of sustainable development.

I think these arguments make clear that the target of 8,022 houses over the old plan period of 2011-2032 was unsound and unsustainable. This is further borne out by the analysis of Alan Wenban-Smith.

The current draft Local Plan calls for 6,208 houses to be built over the period 2016-2032. Hart built 1,830 houses over the period 2011-2016. This makes the total target over the comparable period 8,038 houses. This is more than the prior target in the SHMA despite the new Government method for calculating housing need showing a much slower rate of building being required. This is also unsustainable for the same reasons as above.

Hart housing completions for the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 Consultation

Basically, the council have found a way of arbitrarily adding back unnecessary houses without even the fig leaf of the flawed justifications used in the prior SHMA.

Their current proposal is for 6,208 houses or 388 dpa over the period 2016-2032. This is made up of the Government target of 292dpa. This figure itself is made up of the raw DCLG household projections plus an agreed ‘affordability uplift’ because Hart’s house prices are very high. They then remove the 40% cap on the affordability uplift and add and further 25% uplift to the result.

Hart Housing Numbers

Their justifications for the 25% uplift are:

  • Contingency against increase. I would suggest that adding to the housing target is an inappropriate way of dealing with this issue. It would be more appropriate demonstrate there is flexibility in housing supply to meet potential additional demand, rather than add extra demand without knowing it is there.
  • Affordable housing delivery. This has already been accounted for in the 292dpa Government figure. In any event, as discussed above, building more won’t make a significant difference to house prices, and so won’t make houses any more affordable for people already living here, so it’s a spurious argument.
  • Previously developed land. We have no idea what this means.
  • Buffer against non-delivery. Again this is a spurious argument. The way to deal with this issue is to demonstrate flexibility in supply, not add additional demand.

Taken together their reasons are spurious and do not stand up to any sort of scrutiny.

Faster building doesn’t make prices more affordable

As an aside, the actual rate of building in the period April 2011 to March 2016 is 1,830/5 = 366 dpa. This is well above both the raw demographic change in the Government household forecasts (208dpa) and the 292dpa rate to take account of the affordability uplift. We are constantly being told that we should be building ~250,000 houses per year across the country, and the 292dpa is Hart’s share of that. So, it would appear that Hart’s rate of house-building is also well above the pro-rata rate of house-building in the rest of England and Wales as we are constantly being told that the country isn’t building enough houses. According to the theory, this rate of over-building ought to result in at least a relative reduction in prices compared to the rest of the country.

However, examination of Land Registry data from April 2011 to March 2017 returns an interesting result.

Region

Average House Price April 2011 Average House Price March 2017

% Increase

England

        175,490

 231,826

32.1%

England and Wales           172,921

        226,860

31.2%

Hart

         275,859

         397,632

44.1%

Despite having a very high rate of building, compared to the rest of the country, house prices in Hart have risen much more quickly. This effectively nails the lie that building more will effectively make houses more affordable.

Compounding effect results in permanent unsustainability

The new Government methodology to calculate housing need uses the latest demographic projections. They then add an adjustment for suppressed households and affordable housing. The affordable housing adjustment is based on local house prices compared to local earnings. Overall, they come up with a national target that is in-line with the anticipated future needs. It follows that if councils deviate significantly from these proposals, that overall demand and supply will be out of balance.

We argue that not only is Hart’s proposed housing number unsustainable in its own right, but that this unsustainability will be projected into the future ad infinitum. This is clearly an absurd result that needs to be challenged. This is illustrated below, using figures from the previous Reg 18 consultation, but the concept remains sound.

When the prior Hart Local Plan was calling for 10,185 houses to be built, we carried out some modelling  to work out how the unsustainable rate of growth would be affected by reapplying the Government methodology at five year intervals from 2016.

Essentially, the Government figures work by projecting forwards the trends of the previous five years, to arrive at a household projection estimate. An affordability uplift is then applied to this result to generate the building rate required for the subsequent period. In areas with high house prices, like Hart, because building more will have negligibler impact on prices, the affordability uplift would be essentially compounded at each five year review point.

This could end up leading to massive increases in unnecessary housing requirements towards the end of the plan period. This will apply regardless of the starting point. However, if the starting build rate is artificially inflated, then this too will continue to be compounded into the future. We will be faced with still more housing, more people migrating into Hart and then working elsewhere. This is again the very definition of unsustainability.

An example of how this worked with the prior Local Plan housing target of 10,185 is shown in the chart below.

Hart housing requirement using Local Plan figures

Hart housing requirement using Reg 18 Local Plan figures

Essentially, it resulted in a rate of house-building that was more than double that set at the outset by the Government household projections. The effect will be less severe with the housing numbers proposed in the new Local Plan, but will nevertheless lead to significant, unsustainable over-building.

Therefore we believe that the starting point for the Local Plan should be no more than the Government’s target of 292dpa or 4,672 dwellings in total. Because it isn’t yet clear whether Surrey Heath can meet its requirement, we would be prudent and add a few hundred to this to give a round number total target of 5,100 houses.

Remedy to the Hart Local Plan: We would therefore suggest that policy SS1 be adjusted accordingly:

New Homes

Subject to the availability of deliverable avoidance and mitigation measures in respect of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area, provision is made for the delivery of at least 6,208 5,100 new homes (388 319 new homes per annum) between 2016 and 2032.

The Harlington Horror Show – public sector value destruction

The Harlington Fleet Horror Show of a Deal to replace it with a new building on Gurkha Square

The Harlington Horror Show in Fleet, Hampshire

We have done more digging into the plans to replace the Harlington in Fleet by building a new facility on Gurkha Square. We have uncovered the Harlington Horror Show. We believe these plans represent a massive destruction of value for taxpayers.

  • Hart taxpayers lose around £140K per year, and lose at least £1.2m of value in Gurkha Square. They might get some of the Views in return, but have to fork out maybe up to £500K to replace the lost parking spaces.
  • Fleet taxpayers gain Gurkha Square and a brand new £9.9m £11m building, that will cost them at least £26.6m £34.3m over a 45 58 year repayment period and they lose part of The Views. They might also gain parking revenue from the remaining car park. ***Stop Press: Costs now escalated to £11m***
  • Everybody gains another decaying building in the form of the old Harlington blighting the town centre for years into the future, with no plan and no money to do anything about it
  • There are no plans for the much needed wider regeneration of Fleet, and there are no plans to raise any private money to back the scheme.

It is difficult to see how these arrangements pass any sensible application of Government Value for Money principles. This is truly the Harlington Horror Show.

If you want to do something about this, please respond to the petition that can be found here.

Please also object to the planning application here (or search for application 18/00147/OUT on https://publicaccess.hart.gov.uk/ )

Here is detail of the facts as we understand them, that have led us to the conclusions:

The Harlington Centre Consultation

In 2017, Fleet Town Council (FTC) consulted on 3 options for the Harlington Fleet. The options were Repair, Refurbish, or Replace. The Replace option mean building a new facility on Gurkha Square car park. Of the 1,481 people who responded to the survey, 86% or 1,274 were Fleet residents. Of those Fleet residents, 53% or 675 people chose the ‘Replace’ option. FTC has taken this as a mandate to spend approximately £10 million to be raised from Fleet Council Tax payers.

The main issue with the consultation is that at the time, FTC did not even have a lease to operate within the existing Harlington and nor does it own the Gurkha Square car park. So, it held a consultation about two options that were not within its gift to deliver. It might as well have had a consultation about how many fairies we would like at the bottom of the garden.

Current position of the Harlington, Fleet

Currently the Harlington generates an operating loss of around £180,000 per year and this is expected to continue with the new facility.

Operating loss of Harlington Centre Fleet £180,000 per year. Harlington Horror Show

It was resolved earlier this year that the Joint Chief Executive in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Services be authorised to enter into an interim short term ‘two year rolling’ lease for the Harlington with FTC. We don’t know the details of that lease.

HDC FTC short term rolling lease for Harlington Centre. Harlington Horror Show

Current position of Gurkha Square

It is understood that HDC own the freehold for Gurkha Square. Currently it generates between £108,000 and £130,000 of parking revenue. As an average, let’s assume £120,000 per annum.

Parking revenue for Gurkha Square. Harlington Horror Show

Back at the March 2017 Cabinet meeting the car park was worth between £750K and £1.3m.

March 2017 cabinet value of Gurkha Square £750K-£1.3m. Harlington Horror Show

More recently, at Overview and Scrutiny Committee the value was set at £575K. The reason for this mysterious loss of value hasn’t been explained.

New Gurkha Square value £575K. Harlington Horror Show

We think the valuation is on the low side. A continuing stream of parking income, which is likely to be rise in line with inflation each year, might be valued at a multiple of 16 or above. This would value the car park at nearly £2m.

An alternative approach might be to value it as development land with planning permission. The SHMA suggested development land in Hart is worth £4m per hectare. The site is approximately 0.3Ha. This would value the site at £1.2m. This might be considered conservative as it is a prime site in one of the most affluent towns in the UK.

We believe that Hart wants to replace the lost parking revenue. We understand that it has been proposed that there be a ‘land swap’ where HDC give Gurkha Square to FTC and in return, FTC give HDC part of The Views. Hart would then use that land to build new parking spaces. The Views are one of the last remaining green spaces in Fleet town centre. As green space, the land has essentially zero economic value, and probably comes with maintenance costs attached.

The Harlington Proposal

As we understand it, FTC is proposing to build the new facility on Ghurka Square car park at a cost of £9.9m. ***Stop Press: Costs now escalated to £11m***. There are no plans for what happens to the existing Harlington centre, and apparently no money either. It has to be presumed that Hart taxpayers will shoulder the costs of maintenance and security, meanwhile Hart residents gain another decaying building in Fleet.

Harlington Horror Show: costs escalate to £11m

Harlington costs escalate to £11m

It is envisaged they will take loan to cover the cost from the Public Works Loan Board. Under this arrangement, monthly payments would remain fixed, but the term of the loan might vary depending upon changes in interest rates or cost escalations. The current plan is that the repayment period would be 45 years. 58 years based on the new £11m cost. Would the building even last that long?

Harlington costs and repayment £9.9m and 45 years. Harlington Horror Show

FTC has committed not to increase the precept levied to fund this project above £412,000 per annum.

Harlington precept £412000 per year. Harlington Horror Show

It is not clear what will happen if costs or interest rates rise so that the monthly payments don’t cover the interest. A quick sensitivity analysis shows that if the interest rate increases to 4.3% or above, and/or costs escalate to £13.6m or above, then the precept will not be sufficient to repay the interest, let alone repay any of the principal. We know that interest rates are rising, and construction costs only go up between project idea and completion.

Harlington Gurkha Square Sensitivity Analysis. Harlington Horror Show

Taken together, FTC is commiting to spend the continuing operating loss of £180,000 per annum plus the loan repayments of at least £412,000 per annum for the next 45 58 years. This totals at least £26.6m £34.4m over the term, assuming no further cost overruns and no interest rate increases.

The Harlington Horror Show Deal

Putting this all together, we believe this proposal is a lose-lose deal for Hart and Fleet residents. Let’s take a look at the position of Hart and Fleet taxpayers.

Hart Taxpayers

On the revenue side, they lose approximately £120K in parking income each year from Gurkha Square. They also lose the costs of maintaining and securing the decaying Harlington building. This might amount to a total of around £140K per year.

On the capital side of the account they lose Gurkha Square at a value of at least £1.2m. However, they gain part of The Views, at an unknown value. Essentially, this has no economic value as greenspace, and will probably come with maintenance costs attached.

The revenue costs could be mitigated by building more parking spaces on The Views. It is unlikely that the costs, once additional roadworks and machines are included will give much change from £500K. The resulting spaces will then be in an inconvenient position and unlikely to generate much income.

Fleet Taxpayers

On the revenue side Fleet taxpayers commit to paying at least £412K per annum for at least 45 58 years, plus £180K per year subsidy, for a total cost of at least £26.6m £34.3m. They might also gain parking revenue from the remaining car park.

On the capital side, they gain Gurkha Square at a value of £1.2m. However, they lose part of The Views at unknown value. Of course they gain a brand new building at a value of £9.9m £11m.

Taken together, this is the Harlington Horror Show.

 

 

Affordable homes blocked by Hart’s restrictive brownfield policies

Affordable homes blocked at Zenith House, 3 Rye Close, Fleet, Hampshire by Hart's restrictive brownfield policies

Affordable homes blocked by Hart’s brownfield policies

The delivery of 36 affordable homes is being blocked by Hart’s restrictive brownfield policies. Magna Group is seeking to convert Zenith House on Rye Close on Ancell’s Farm in Fleet into 36 relatively affordable properties, designed to retail at £175,000 to £300,000. But they are being blocked by Hart’s restrictive SANG policy.

The council has given its prior approval to the development. However, Hart is effectively blocking the development by refusing to allocate any of its SANG.

redevelopment of Old Police Station,Crookham Road, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire being blocked by restrictive brownfield policies

Proposals to redevelop Fleet Police station being blocked by restrictive brownfield policies

We understand the same developer owns the old Fleet Police station on Crookham Road in Fleet and plans to replace it with 14 new dwellings. However, we understand the council planning officers have been instructed to refuse planning permission for even compliant proposals.

This has the effect of:

  • Restricting the supply of housing that would be affordable for many young people trying to get on the housing ladder
  • Adding extra pressure to build on green field land
  • Stopping the market dealing with the problem of the over-supply of dilapidated office blocks in the district

This policy is also blocking Ranil’s ideas for regenerating Fleet. His petition can be found here.

It transpires that Hart’s SANG policy may well be illegal. We understand that legal representations have been made that cast doubt on Hart’s SANG policy:

First the policy is clearly intended to frustrate the delivery of housing rather than to facilitate development.  The policy confers on the head of the regulatory services absolute discretion to allocate SANG but makes clear that SANG will not be allocated to any development unless the Council considers it to be acceptable.

That means that if Planning Permission is granted on appeal the Council will nevertheless use its powers in relation to SANG to thwart that development.

The policy may result in the Council preventing people from exercising the rights they have been granted by Parliament through the permitted development process. In effect the Council is removing a property right from them in breach of the terms of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Furthermore the Council is in breach of its duty to make proper provision to facilitate the delivery of housing.

It certainly looks like the council is setting itself up for more expensive legal battles.

 

 

 

 

 

Hart District Council seeks to block development of brownfield sites

Hart District Council seeks to block development of brownfield sites

Hart District Council seeks to block development of brownfield sites

Hart District Council is seeking to block development of brownfield sites. It has put forward proposals to be discussed at the Planning meeting later today to implement an Article 4 direction to

Withdraw permitted development rights related to the change of use of offices, light-industrial units, and storage or distribution units to residential use within the Strategic Employment Sites and the Locally Important Employment Sites

This covers substantially all the brownfield sites in the district. We do have some sympathy for the view that simple conversion of office sites to residential is not good for the district. We much prefer complete redevelopment of these sites, so the provide higher quality housing and a better sense of place.

But the council’s approach is heavy-handed and sends a signal that they do not welcome brownfield development. Moreover, this approach will discourage the regeneration that our urban centres badly need.

The proposals call for:

  • Draft Article 4 Direction and supporting documents;
  • Give notice as soon as possible after a Direction has been made by local advertisement, site notice, owners and occupiers (unless reasons to justify not doing so);
  • Send a copy of the direction and the notice to the Secretary of State;
  • Notify the county planning authority;
  • Following the above, take into account any representations received; and
  • Confirm the Direction by giving notice as above and sending a copy of the confirmed direction to the Secretary of State.

They have to give 12 months notice of the implementation of the direction.  They identify as risks that:

  • Developers may make claims for compensation from a local authority
  • The proposals could result in a rush of applications before the rights are withdrawn, it is not
    possible to mitigate against this risk.

A more positive approach would be to put a policy in the draft Local Plan that unequivocally encourages  redevelopment of brownfield sites and give examples of the kinds of scheme the council would encourage.

Hart Brownfield sites in Employment Land Review

The other puzzling thing is that Hart’s own Employment Land Review identifies much of the employment land in the district as:

Lower grade stock for which there is limited demand and a large supply. As a result of limited demand. The poorer quality stock is remaining vacant for prolonged periods.

They say that:

The current over-supply of lower grade office accommodation is limiting investment in the refurbishment of such stock as low rent levels make such investment unviable.

To summarise, Hart is seeking to block the redevelopment of low grade office blocks, and there’s no hope of refurbishing these into high quality office accommodation. So it seems that we are going to be stuck with many of the eyesores in the photo carousel below. They really have gone through the looking glass.

 

Elvetham Chase refused, Wates on the warpath

Wates image Elvetham Chase aka Pale Lane

Wates image of Elvetham Chase (Pale Lane)

Thankfully, last week Hart District Council decided to refuse the Elvetham Chase (Pale Lane) proposal. Whilst this is good news, it is clear from Wates’ press release that they are very disappointed. They are likely to be on the warpath and launch an appeal.

Here is their statement in full, my emphasis:

Wates Developments today expressed disappointment at Hart District Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for its Elvetham Chase proposal without giving it the chance for proper consideration at Committee.

Emma Gruenbaum from Wates Developments said, ‘Housing in Hart is in crisis, with the District Council relying on 22 year old Local Plan, and the emerging Plan remaining untested and therefore a long way off adoption.  With homes costing 12 times average household income, the simple fact is Hart needs more homes now.  This decision prevents 280 new affordable homes being delivered to help the 1,300 families currently registered on the housing waiting list. The Council’s decision to refuse this sustainable, high quality, proposal offering a total of 700 homes, delivering an outstanding new community, is simply astonishing.’

The proposal which has no technical constraints and no statutory objections would have provided a vast array of community benefits including;

  • £10 million of investment to local primary and secondary schools
  • Facilitation of a new on-site primary school for 420 children
  • A new on-site 60 place pre-school nursery
  • £600k of investment to existing medical facilities
  • £6 million to essential local highway improvements as well as physical works across many local road, cycle and footpath routes, improving safety and easing congestion to address local concerns
  • A new community bus servicing both the new and existing communities of Elvetham Chase and Elvetham Heath to Fleet railway station and other local destinations
  • 82 acres of public open space including; on-site SANG, areas of play, woodland walks and informal space

Emma added, ‘this exemplar landscape led scheme would, we believe, become as loved locally as its predecessor Elvetham Heath. We remain 100% committed to the site and are reviewing our next steps.

They are obviously less than complimentary about Hart Council. We think that it is inevitable that Wates will appeal this decision. The full statement can be downloaded here.

Impact of Local Plan timetable on Elvetham Chase (Pale Lane)

Separately, we understand that the Government has postponed its planned publication of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) indefinitely. The new NPPF and associated new approach to calculating housing need was supposed to have been finalised by the end of January.

We understand that Hart District Council will press ahead with the consultation on the draft Local Plan. This will run from 9 February until 26 March 2018. This will be to test the soundness, legal compliance and the duty to cooperate.

This means that is is unlikely that the Plan will be examined by the Inspector until September 2018, or later.

This may well be enough time for Wates to lodge an appeal, for it to be heard and decided before the Local Plan is examined. There may not be sufficient grounds for the appeal to be rejected.

We have to hope that the right planning reasons can be found to overturn the appeal. And of course get the Local Plan in place on time, without the unnecessary new town.

Fleet resident calls for plans to regenerate Fleet

Plea to regenerate Fleet and Hart urban areas. Old Police Station in Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire

Plea to regenerate Fleet and Hart urban areas

An important letter has been published in Fleet News and Mail, pleading for the Hart Local Plan to be altered to include plans to regenerate Fleet and our other urban areas.

The author of the letter first sympathises with the plight of councillor Parker who voted reluctantly for the Local Plan. Councillor Parker said ‘an appalling plan is better than no plan at all’.

However, he goes onto criticise the CCH/Lib Dem leadership of the current administration, in particular calling out the two councillors who defected from Conservative to Community Campaign Hart without calling by-elections.

The main plea from the letter though is:

..our dysfunctional cabinet has ignored pleas for the [Local] plan to deliver regeneration of the urban areas (especially Fleet) and has favoured unnecessary greenfield development….

Since the change in administration last year, HDC has become less transparent, and does not encourage engagement with the electorate.

Meetings in public do not welcome participation from the public, and the bureaucracy is weighted in favour of councillors and officers.

Interestingly, the author comes from Fleet.

We could not agree more.  The disastrous policy SS3 setting out plans for an unnecessary new town should be dropped from the Local Plan. In the fullness of time, this policy should be replaced by plans to regenerate Fleet and other urban areas. Please join us in delivering this message when the consultation is launched.

 

 

New Local Plan fails to address infrastructure funding gap

Hart District Council Failed to address infrastructure funding gap

Hart Local Plan Fails to address infrastructure funding gap

The new draft Local Plan fails to address the infrastructure funding gap facing Hart. At the very least, this fails the residents of Hart, but sadly, may render the plan unsound at inspection. We therefore believe significant extra work needs to be done before this version of the Local Plan is put to consultation later this month.

Why is infrastructure so important to the Local Plan?

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is clear that infrastructure must be planned alongside new housing. Failure to adequately plan for infrastructure requirements and costs could lead to the Local Plan being found unsound at inspection. See references to paras 17 and 177 of the NPPF below.

plan to avoid infrastructure funding gap

NPPF Para 17: Avoid infrastructure funding gap NPPF Para 17: Avoid infrastructure funding gap

Recently, the leader of Community Campaign Completely Concrete Hart, James Radley went on the record in Fleet News and Mail saying he would deliver an ‘infrastructure led’ Local Plan.

We tried to ask questions at Hart Council about the £72m infrastructure funding gap, but our questions were not allowed to be even asked, let alone answered.

Hart infrastructure funding gap £72m

Hart infrastructure funding gap £72m

Now the draft Local Plan has emerged, and it is clear why they were so reluctant to answer questions.

What are the infrastructure proposals in the Local Plan?

That is very good question, to which there is only an inadequate answer. As far as we can tell, there are five fairly insipid ‘policies’ about infrastructure, and that is it:

  • Policy I1: Infrastructure – weak policy simply requiring developers to deliver adequate infrastructure as part of their developments
  • Policy I2: Green Infrastructure – feeble policy to supposedly protect green infrastructure
  • Policy I3: Transport – inadequate policy simply to provide ‘maximum flexibility in the choice of travel modes’, nothing specific to improve road network
  • Policy I4: Open space, sport and recreation – policy to support development that improves sporting facilities, but no tangible plans for anything new
  • Policy I5: Community Facilities – a very vague policy to improve childcare facilities, healthcare, police stations, youth provision, libraries, community halls, local shops, meeting places, cultural buildings, public houses, places of worship, and public toilets. But crucially, no specific projects or proposals.

However, it gets worse. In the details of the infrastructure proposals, several road and junction improvement schemes have been dropped. Examples include the junction near Fleet railway station;  the junction between the A30 and Thackams Lane at Phoenix Green and the junction between the A287 and Redfields Lane.

Deletion of road and junction improvement policies to avoid infrastructure funding gap

Moreover, the amount of land set aside for school expansion has been reduced. Here is the before and after map for Robert Mays.

Land for Robert Mays Expansion (Before)

Land for Robert Mays Expansion (Before)

Land for Robert Mays Expansion (After)

Land for Robert Mays Expansion (After)

This simply isn’t good enough.

What infrastructure proposals should we expect?

We would expect as a minimum:

  • Acknowledgement of the existing £72m infrastructure funding gap
  • Quantification of the items missing from the Hampshire County Council assessment such as healthcare, extra-care housing for the elderly and green infrastructure
  • A set of prioritised, costed projects that are required to alleviate the worst of our infrastructure problems. This should include road improvements, particularly near Fleet station and the bridge over the railway near the end of Elvetham Heath Road. It should also include significant improvements to the cultural facilities, particularly in Fleet.
  • Proposals for raising the necessary funds for delivering the required projects
  • Some external validation that the infrastructure plans in the draft Local Plan are ‘sound’ and will pass inspection

Perhaps if the councillors spent less time planning for a new town we don’t need, they would then be able to focus on the real needs of the district.