London promises to meet its housing needs, reducing pressure on Hart District

Construction Workers

Construction Workers

At the July Hart Council meeting, it was announced that the council leader had met with a number of other council leaders from the South East and  Sir Edward Lister, the Deputy Mayor for Planning in London.  Interestingly, Sir Edward “took pains to assure us that London intends to meet its own objectively assessed housing needs within its own geography”.  If this promise were kept, this would reduce housing pressure on Hart District.

This is a very interesting development, because it calls into question some of the assumptions in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) about inward migration.  The SHMA says:

“The authorities are also affected by their proximity to London with in-migration from the capital and commuting to London for work. This relationship is reflected in the population and economic projections for the area.”

The SHMA also says:

“Hart and Surrey Heath may attract in-migrant families from quite a wide area (London, the Greater South East, and job-related in migration from other regions)”

The SHMA makes an upward adjustment of 1,210 houses across Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath based on some spurious assumptions about inward migration.  However, if London were to make good its promise of meeting its needs within its own boundaries, then surely this increase in housing requirement would reduce.

Brownfield Capacity increases in Hook and Fleet update

Vacant, derelict brownfield site in Hook, Hampshire

Landata House in Hook, Hampshire

There have been some recent developments that have increased the brownfield capacity to 2,438 units.  This includes 1,688 units on sites identified since last November, plus the original 750 dwellings identified by Hart Council that they said was the capacity over the entire 20 year plan period.

The additions since last time are Fleet Police station, due to be vacated by the end of the year which could deliver around 50 apartments and Landata House, Hook where a new planning application has been made to increase the capacity of the site from 50 to 78 units, adding a net 28 units.  This brings the total of units identified since November 2014 to 1,688.

These sites are over and above the original 750 dwellings identified by Hart Council in their SHLAA.

LocationNumber of Dwellings
Guillemont Park Phase 1 (not included as brownfield site in SHLAA) 150
Guillemont Park Phase 2320
Ancells Farm, Fleet370
Bartley Wood, Hook200
Fleet Road, Fleet220
Bramshill House350
Fleet Police Station50
Extra dwellings at Landata House28
Created using the Donation Thermometer plugin,350Raised 3,993 towards the 2,350 target.3,993Raised 3,993 towards the 2,350 target.170%

With greater political will and some creativity, the overall target must now be within spitting distance, especially if higher densities are used on the sites originally identified by Hart Council.


Will the Government have to write the Hart Local Plan?

Hart District Local Plan Project Behind Schedule

Hart District Local Plan Project Behind Schedule

Government minister Brandon Lewis has said that Local Authorities may have their Local Plans written for them if they are not in place by early 2017.

This must be a concern for Hart Councillors because at questions last week, the Council could only give a vague indication of when the draft of the Local Plan would be published, but also acknowledged that the project plan to create the Local Plan was a “work in progress” and could not give a date by when the project plan would be completed.  It is clear we don’t even have a plan for creating the Local Plan, despite Hart Council insisting the project was “on track”.

However, Brandon Lewis has also gone on record calling for councils to build on brownfield land first to protect the countryside and more recent guidance suggesting councils should plan to build higher density housing around commuter hubs.  If the Government were to take over the process then they may well force Hart to drop the ridiculous plan for a new town in Winchfield which has a massive infrastructure requirement for which there appears to be no funding, as well as concreting over hundreds of acres of green fields.


New Brownfield Site comes available – Fleet Police Station

Fleet Police Station, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire

New Brownfield Site – Fleet Police Station

Fleet Police station looks like it is going to be an additional brownfield site available for development. At the Hart Council meeting last week it was announced that:

“The plan is to close a lot of Police Stations, including Fleet but not yet Yateley, but to locate a small team in Council offices. There have been delays in implementing this but there should be a team in our offices by the year end.”

This is a welcome development because it appears as though this site did not appear in Hart’s land database that they used to assess that there is capacity for only 750 dwellings on brownfield sites in Hart District up to 2032.  A quick assessment of the site on Google maps shows it is about 0.3 Ha, big enough for perhaps 50 apartments, giving affordable homes for young people in Fleet.

This updates our brownfield monitor to 2,438 units out of the 4,000 to find identified since last November.

Created using the Donation Thermometer plugin,350Raised 3,993 towards the 2,350 target.3,993Raised 3,993 towards the 2,350 target.170%

Hart Council censors questions about the Local Plan

Hart Council so ronery it has to censor questions

Hart Council so ronery it has to censor questions

In an astonishing move reminiscent of North Korea or Stalinist Russia, Hart Council have decided to censor questions saying they “do not publish speculative views from the public” and that they will “prepare and publish guidelines on the format of questions that will be accepted”.

This arose because we asked three questions about school places, brownfield sites and whether Hart would consider an alternative approach to delivering the Local Plan.  Each question had a preamble to set the context before the short question was asked.  Hart have decided to censor the preamble part of each question so that members of the public can’t see them, although they did say they circulated the full text to councillors.

There is a saying that the flak gets heaviest when you are over the target, so I guess this means that the council are finding the questions we are asking uncomfortable.  But we are astonished by their attempt to stifle democracy and how they seek to infantilise the debate about the best approach to the Local Plan.

We think the Planning Inspector will take a dim view of this approach as NPPF Para 155 says:

“Early and meaningful engagement and collaboration with neighbourhoods, local organisations and businesses is essential. A wide section of the community should be pro-actively engaged, so that Local Plans, as far as possible, reflect a collective vision and a set of agreed priorities for the sustainable development of the area, including those contained in any neighbourhood plans that have been made.”

This clearly places an obligation on Hart Council to consult widely and they seem to be afraid to engage, even though they asked us to make a submission to the Hop Garden Road (Owens Farm) appeal and were pleased to receive our criticism of the Rushmoor Local Plan.




Hart Council in denial about the Local Plan

Hart Council refuse to acknowledge failings in the Local Plan

Hart Council refuse to acknowledge failings in the Local Plan

Hart Council’s answers to questions put at the council meeting on 30 July reveal a staggering level denial about the status of the Local Plan.  We put some questions to council, but many more questions were put by Winchfield Action Group members.  A lot can be learned from the answers, and in some cases non-answers to the questions put.  The detailed answers can be found here and here, and are summarised below:

  • Hart Council have ruled out again the creation of a register of brownfield sites and have refused to establish a formal “brownfield” option for consideration as part of the Local Plan process.  Hart also refused to consider our proposals for an alternative approach to the Local Plan.
  • They are still working on the project plan for the Local Plan project, and can’t say when the project plan will be available for public scrutiny. Despite not having a project plan, they are hoping the new draft Local Plan will be available by the end of the year.  It is clear that the plan is in some disarray, despite the council insisting as recently as the April meeting that the project was on track.
  • The council is continuing to insist that “many” people in Hart support the new town plan, despite only around 200 people supporting that as their first preference in Hart’s consultation, and over 2,000 people signing the We Heart Hart petition opposing the new town idea.
  • Both Hart and Hampshire Councils have not done any planning for the supply and demand for school places beyond 2018.
  • Hart has no “Plan B” if the new town proposal doesn’t pass testing.
  • The council may allow a further round of consultation on the new draft Local Plan, but have not yet taken a decision on that.

Taken together this is a staggering number of failings and they appear to have no plan to bring the project back on track, even though they still insist that it is imperative the Local Plan is produced quickly.

Fleet News and Mail covers infrastructure costs story

Fleet News and Mail - £300m cost risk to 5000 houses July 16 2015

Fleet News and Mail – £300m cost risk to 5000 houses July 16 2015

We are delighted that Fleet News and Mail has latched on to our story about the massive infrastructure costs of the Local Plan and in particular of a new town in Winchfield.  It is interesting that Hart District Council declined to comment on the story, which appears to mean they don’t dispute any of the figures we put forward, so they must acknowledge that the Local Plan project is in a bit of a hole.

The story was covered in the July 16 issue of Fleet N&M, and an image of the full story can be found here (caution large file).  Hopefully the story will be placed online soon.

Hart Council Responds to Rushmoor’s Local Plan

Empty Offices at Farnborough, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire.

Empty Offices at Farnborough, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire.

Hart Council has responded to Rushmoor’s Draft Local Plan.  In summary their points are:

  • Rushmoor should look again at the SHLAA to seek out new sites and increase densities
  • Rushmoor should reconsider the scope for using surplus employment sites for housing and also releasing some surplus retail space.
  • Rushmoor should alter its housing target to better reflect its delivery trajectory so that it clarifies that the alleged unmet need comes after 2024, and then commit to a review of the plan to investigate the potential housing shortfall nearer the time.

Hart also suggests that much more dialogue is required between the councils and with the service providers to resolve infrastructure issues.

We Heart Hart broadly welcomes this feedback from Hart Council but believes they could have gone further by asking that the densities on Wellesley be reviewed and even more of the protected 96 Ha of employment land could be released for housing.  Even so, if Rushmoor takes on board Hart’s observations, then Rushmoor will not need to ask Hart to build 1,600 houses for them. This would probably mean a new town at Winchfield is not required.


Hart Council on collision course with new Government brownfield planning policies

Hart Council on Collision Course with Government Brownfield Planning Policy

Hart Council on Collision Course with Government Brownfield Planning Policy

Hart District Council has written to local Parish Councils setting out its interpretation of the new Government planning policies set out in the new Productivity Plan.  However, it doesn’t seem to be following this guidance and is on a collision course with Government policy.  Their interpretation is shown below in italics, with our comments in red plain text:

“If you don’t get a Local Plan in place soon the Government will intervene and arrange that they are written for you. We pointed out months ago that the Local Plan project is well behind schedule, but Hart dismissed these concerns. Hart has recently announced it will publish a draft local plan later this year, at least six months behind their original schedule, but it appears set on ignoring our 5-point plan for change.  This additional consultation step is welcome, but it does illustrate the weaknesses in project management and governance.

To speed up the Local Plan process the Government will bring forward streamlined processes

The government will strengthen guidance to improve the operation of the duty to cooperate on key housing and planning issues, to ensure that housing and infrastructure needs are identified and planned for. Hampshire as a whole has a £1.9bn funding deficit, Rushmoor £80m and Hart £78m.  All of these figures are likely to be under-estimates because many of the numbers were compiled before the latest housing allocations were calculated.  Rushmoor has barely mentioned infrastructure in its draft plan and Hart has barely started identifying the infrastructure requirements.

The government will consider how policy can support higher density housing around key commuter hubs. The government will also consider how national policy and guidance can ensure that unneeded commercial land can be released for housing. This is in line with the arguments we have been making about building higher density developments in urban areas, yet Hart is persisting with its new town idea in defiance of government direction.  Indeed, we have used the Employment Land Review evidence to demonstrate that at the end of the plan period there’ll be 195 hectares of vacant employment land across the Housing Market Area yet neither Hart nor Rushmoor appear to be taking this seriously.

The government has already committed to legislating for statutory registers of brownfield land suitable for housing in England. The government will go further by legislating to grant automatic permission in principle on brownfield sites identified on those registers, subject to the approval of a limited number of technical details. On brownfield sites, this will give England a ‘zonal’ system, like those seen in many other countries, reducing unnecessary delay and uncertainty for brownfield development. Hart has refused to even take the first step of a ‘brownfield first’ strategy by ruling out creating a register of brownfield sites. Hart risks being lumbered with poorly designed schemes if it doesn’t take a proactive approach to brownfield sites.

The Government intends tighten the planning performance regime, so that local authorities making 50% or fewer of decisions on time are at risk of having decision making taken away from them.

It legislate to extend the performance regime to minor applications, so that local authorities processing those applications too slowly are at risk having decision making taken away from them

The Government will introduce a fast-track certificate process for establishing the principle of development for minor development proposals, and significantly tighten the ‘planning guarantee’ for minor applications

The Government will introduce a dispute resolution mechanism for section 106 agreements, to speed up negotiations and allow housing starts to proceed more quickly

The government will deliver its commitment to get 200,000 Starter Homes built by 2020, at a 20% discount for young first time buyers. The government is bringing forward proposals to help deliver this commitment, which include:

  • requiring local authorities to plan proactively for the delivery of Starter Homes. Surely, apartments in higher density developments in urban areas will give a much greater opportunity for delivering starter homes.  Yet Hart is eschewing this type of development.

  • extending the current exception site policy, and strengthening the presumption in favour of Starter Home developments, starting with unviable or underused brownfield land for retail, leisure and institutional uses (Good but will be exploited by developers to build on the edges of towns and villages)

  • enabling communities to allocate land for Starter Home developments, including through neighbourhood plans

  • bringing forward proposals to ensure every reasonably sized housing site includes a proportion of Starter Homes (

  • implementing regulations to exempt these developments from the Community Infrastructure Levy, and re-affirming through planning policy that section 106 contributions for other affordable housing, and tariff-style general infrastructure funds, will not be sought for them” We don’t agree with this aspect of Government policy in that all extra housing will create additional demands for infrastructure, so a way needs to be found of funding infrastructure.  However, even the contributions to green field development are not sufficient to cover the costs of additional infrastructure partly because 40% of developments that have to be “affordable” do not attract CIL or S106 contributions.


Additional response to Rushmoor Local Plan

Empty Offices at Southwood Business Park, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire.

Empty Offices at Southwood Business Park, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire.

We have made an additional submission to the Rushmoor Borough Council Local Plan consultation pointing out the absurdity of seeking to protect 96 Ha of employment land when there’s going to be a surplus of 195 Ha of employment land across the Housing Market Area of Hart District, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Boroughs at the end of the plan period.

This is available as a download for those wishing to add their voice to the consultation.


Additional Response to Rushmoor Local Plan


Our first submission and reasoning can be found here and here.