How to respond to the new consultation

How to respond to Hart District Council's (HDC) new consultation on the Local Plan

How to respond to the new consultation

Hart Council’s new consultation on the Local Plan is now live, is open until 18 March 2016 and can be found here.

If you responded to the previous consultation and gave your email address, you should have been contacted by the council asking you whether you want to re-submit your response to the new consultation.  If you have received that e-mail, we recommend you re-submit your prior submission.  This can be done here.

If either you did not respond to the last consultation, or you did not give your email address before, then you will need to submit a brand new response here. We have set out some guidance below, to help you make up your mind.

You might want to wait until we have received the results of our FOI requests related to the number of 1 & 2-bed properties we need to build and the amount of specialist accommodation we need to build for the elderly before responding.

The consultation is split into three parts:

The first asks about our attitudes to meeting the needs of specialist groups such as those needing affordable and starter homes; specialist housing for older people and sites for the travelling community.  It then goes on to ask if we are happy with the settlement hierarchy and the main questions about how we would prioritise the different approaches they put forward to meeting our housing need.  Hart DC have not included an approach to meet our remaining needs from brownfield sites alone, which we believe is achievable.  Neither a new town nor an urban extension are needed and there is a brownfield solution.  It is invidious to force people to rank approaches that simply are not needed.  However, we have to respond to the questions put in front of us, so for Question 4, we urge you to put Approach 1 – Dispersal as your first preference, Approach 2 – Urban extensions as your second preference and Approach 3 – new settlement as your last preference. You might wish to add in the comments that you want to see a stronger focus on brownfield development and that you would like to see the council meet the needs of the young by building more affordable 1 and 2-bed properties (around 3,800) and build the full allocation of specialist accommodation for the elderly (around 2,500 units).

For Question 5, we suggest you rank the approaches as follows: Approach 4: 1, Approach 5: 4, Approach 6: 3, Approach 7: 2.

The second part shows a number of selected sites for each parish and asks us to rank them according to preference and make comments. Unbelievably, you have to rank a site even if you don’t want it to be developed and the site list presented misses out those sites the council has for unknown reasons discounted and inexplicably misses out other (some brownfield) sites from the SHLAA.  We have set out the brownfield sites you may wish to suggest are developed instead or alongside those presented and some comments about what this consultation is not covering.

The third part asks us about the key issues we see across the district, Hart Council’s proposed vision and key objectives.  Again this doesn’t cover redevelopment of the massive surplus of employment land on brownfield sites adequately and glosses over the massive infrastructure issues we face.  We have set out some comments you might like to make about the issues, the vision and the objectives.

We have updated our two guides to responding to the consultation that are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided.  It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside. Please respond to the consultation and ask your friends and family to join in too.

Quick guide for those with not much time:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

Full guide for a more complete response to all questions:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

Hart Council makes more errors in new local plan consultation

Hart District Council (HDC) keep getting it wrong

Hart Council keep getting it wrong

Hart Council have relaunched the consultation about the Local Plan and we are sad to report that there still appear to be errors and anomalies in the materials.

In summary, there are discrepancies between the number of houses proposed for each parish in the table on page 48 of the main consultation document and those proposed in the New Homes Booklet. In addition, not all of the settlements that will be affected by the dispersal option are named in the revised Question 4.

This comes despite the council saying in its announcement of the new consultation (our emphasis):

The earlier consultation which started in November was stopped on 14 January 2016 because it became apparent, following feedback from local residents, that not all the settlements that were anticipated to be included within one of the key questions had been correctly captured.

Leader of Hart District Council, Cllr Stephen Parker, said: “We have been working hard over the past weeks to identify and rectify our consultation material. This has been completed and we are now confident that the new consultation is robust.”

The fact that these errors were there in the first place is bad enough, but as they’ve now spent three weeks supposedly going through the material with a fine tooth comb and the errors are still there is beyond belief.  Surely now it is clear to all that we cannot continue like this and that those running this project are totally incompetent. We urge everyone to contact their councillors to ask them to intervene to replace the Local Plan Steering Group.  We also suggest that nobody responds to this new consultation until we know the new housing allocation from the revised Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), which is expected in late February.

The detail of the errors are shown below:

First, the new wording of Question 4 does not include Long Sutton or Odiham parishes even though both of those parishes are shown in the table on p48 of the main document, the New Homes Booklet and they are identified for comment in Q6 of the online consultation. Elvetham Heath is shown in Q4, the New Homes Booklet and opinion is sought in Q6 of the consultation, but it does not appear in the table.  South Warnborough is not in Q4, but it is in the table on p48, the New Homes Booklet and our opinion is sought in Q6 of the consultation.

[Update 1: We have been told that Approach 1, to which Q4 relates is supposed only to cover settlements outside the SPA zone of influence and that is why Long Sutton, Odiham and South Warnborough don’t appear.  We think this is confusing, especially considering Q6 is a question about all of the non-strategic sites and does include those parishes.]

[Update 2: Please also note that the description of Approach 1 changes depending upon which document you read, as the images below illustrate.

Summary Booklet Approach 1

Summary Booklet Approach 1

Main Document Approach 1

Main Document Approach 1



Hart District Council (HDC) new Local plan consultation Q4

New Local plan consultation Q4

Hart District Council (HDC) New Local Plan consultation p48 table

New Local plan consultation p48 table

Second, here is a summary of the different impacts on the each parish in the different parts of the main consultation document, the new homes booklet and the SHLAA, with the differences highlighted in red:

Hart District Council (HDC) New Local Plan consultation errors and discrepancies.

New Local Plan consultation errors and discrepancies.

The main errors are with the following parishes:

Blackwater and Hawley, where the table says the impact will be 60 homes, but the New Homes Booklet (and Question 6) shows a total of 276 dwellings in sites SHL100 & SHL153.  Even worse, the same sites show a capacity of 380 in the official SHLAA.

Crookham Village, where there is a discrepancy between the capacities in the table in the main document and the capacities for the same sites in the New Homes Booklet, Q6 and SHLAA.

Elvetham Heath, where the table in the main document shows no impact, but the New Homes Booklet (and Question 6) shows 40 dwellings from SHL104 and the SHLAA shows a capacity of 45 dwellings for the same site.

Fleet, where the main document shows 30 dwellings, but the New Homes Booklet (and Question 6) show 73 dwellings from sites SHL320, 322, 338 & 357. The SHLAA shows a capacity of 217 dwellings for the same sites.

Hartley Wintney, where the main document and the New Homes booklet show a capacity of 290, whereas similar sites in the SHLAA have a capacity of only 180 units.  The main discrepancy being site SHL19 in the SHLAA showing a capacity of 80 dwellings on 32Ha, whereas in the New Homes Booklet, two smaller sites, SHL19a and SHL19b are shown with 150 and 90 dwellings respectively, or a total of 190 units.  It beggars belief that a sub-set of site SHL19 should have a larger capacity than the entire site.

Odiham, where the capacity shown in the main document is shown as 384 units, but the total of the shortlisted sites (and Neighbourhood Plan sites) is shown as 389 in the New Homes Booklet and the SHLAA for Odiham has a capacity of 434 for the same sites.

The overall impact is that the table on p48 gives a total of 2,896 dwellings on dispersal sites, whereas the total for the same sites in the New Homes Booklet is 3,227 and the total for the same sites in the SHLAA is 3,415.


Hart restarts consultation as cabinet member condemns excess spending on consultations

Hart Council restarts consultation as cabinet member condemns excess spending

Hart Council restarts consultation as cabinet member condemns excess spending

Hart Cabinet Council has re-started the failed consultation on the Local Plan, details can be found here.  In a master stroke of organisation, the link to the detailed consultation page does not seem to work at the time of writing. We will digest the materials and then post again with our views on how Hart residents should respond to it.

Hart Council Cabinet Member Steve Forster Resigns from Fleet Town Council

Hart Council Cabinet Member Resigns from Fleet Town Council

In other news and without a hint of irony, Hart Council cabinet member, Steve Forster has resigned his position on Fleet Town Council (full article here).  He was particularly irked by the planned rise in Fleet’s share of the council tax and his other reasons for resignation inlcuded:

“Too much money has been spent on consultations”

The council is “out of touch with residents”

“When it comes to strategic vision and then importantly delivery, which could really improve the town…I believe they still have a long way to go”

Hart Council is also planning to increase the council tax by 1.99%.

Given that he feels so strongly, one is left wondering if Steve will also resign his position on Hart Council as it appears to us as though it suffers from a similar malaise.

Hart Council: Keep Calm and Hide the Facts

Hart District Council (HDC) Keep Calm and Hide the Facts 2

Hart Council Keep Calm and Hide the Facts

Readers will recall that at the Hart Council Meeting last week, senior councillors refused to answer some questions and gave vague and unsatisfactory answers to those questions.  The council has now published the full exchange on their website.  We give our view on what they really meant below.  We ask readers to bear in mind Hart’s Code of Corporate Governance which has as its four key principles:

  • Openness: openness is required to ensure stakeholders can have confidence in the decision making and management processes of the Council.
  • Inclusiveness: an inclusive approach ensures that all stakeholders and have the opportunity to engage effectively in the decision-making processes and actions of the Council.
  • Integrity: is based upon honesty, selflessness and objectivity, and high standards of propriety and probity in the stewardship of public funds and management of the Council’s affairs.
  • Accountability: accountability is the process whereby the Council, members and staff are responsible for their decisions and actions regarding all aspects of the Council’s work

Here is the full set of questions and answers, abridged and with our interpretation below in blue:

Question 1: Given that a) in October 2013, you were quoted as saying we would submit a new version of the Local Plan to the Inspector in Autumn 2014 and b) in each subsequent year this has slipped by a further year, with the current LDS indicating a local plan ready for submission in Winter 2016, will you now publish the detailed project plan to support this target, so we can be assured that project management processes have improved?

Answer: It was our intention to proceed with a revised Core Strategy after the withdrawal of the 2013 version. However, as many will well know, the Government changed the nature of Local Plans and we also had to address the issue of a new SHMA to overcome the defects blah….blah….blah…

Blah…blah..blah…The Local Development Scheme is the council’s three-year project plan that identifies which local development documents will be produced, in what order, and when. We do not propose to publish more background information on internal workings because that offers no practical advantage to anyone. There is already proper scrutiny of the Local Plan progress with all members of the Council having the opportunity to be actively engaged.

We also last summer enlisted the support of Chris Dorn to lend project management support. His work has been invaluable and he gave positive and independent feedback to the Hart District Association of Parish and Town Councils.

Finally, we have now full project management arrangements from our neighbours at East Hampshire District Council, who have recent and relevant experience of bringing a local plan through Examination to adoption.

What they really meant: Here’s some blather and vague implausible excuses why we haven’t been able to publish a Local Plan when 82% of Local Councils have managed to do it. There’s no way that we are going to publish the project plan, because we don’t want to be held accountable for any future slippage.

Question 2: Given that in January 2015, HDC commissioned work to test the proposed new settlement and urban extensions with the objectives to test the “deliverability of a new settlement and/or urban extension (ie [sic] suitability, availability and achievability)”, including a land use budget; provide “indicative costing of the major infrastructure items needed”; and consider viability including the “infrastructure requirements of sites to identify likely infrastructure impacts, subsequent costs and potential funding sources”, can you explain if these objectives have been met, and say when the results will be published?

Answer: The current position on testing is set out in the Refined Housing Options Paper. It specifically highlights and comments on where we have got to with the issue of testing. As paragraph 12 we say:

“The testing we decided to undertake is still ongoing as is the testing of all other options. The testing will go on in some form or other right up until we finalise the submission Local Plan. There is still much work to be done, but we have reached a point where we can now ask you if we are on the right track”.

We then go on to summarise on pages 9 and 10 what outcomes have been received from the testing that we have carried out so far.

The outcome of the testing will therefore, inform both the draft Local Plan and will inform the submitted Local Plan in that it will comprise part of the evidence base. All these documents will be published at the appropriate time and everyone will have the right to comment upon them when the Local Plan is independently examined by an Inspector appropriated by the Secretary of State.

What they really meant: No, we haven’t met the objectives.  If we actually finished the testing, it would likely show that a new town in Winchfield is not viable and we wouldn’t want to be transparent about that would we?

Supplementary Question: All of the sites identified to make up the new town and urban extensions are listed in the SHLAA as “Not currently developable”, we have no costing of roads, bridges, railway improvements, sewage, sports or community facilities and we have no land use budget that includes SANG, so why are you consulting on a new town that is not deliverable, as well as excluding brownfield sites for the same reason?

Answer: This is part of the consultation. Brownfield sites are only deliverable if the landowner puts them forward for development. Brownfield sites may not be deliverable for other reasons, but once they are put forward as a SHLAA site they can be considered. [Note:  Although not recorded in the minutes Cllr Parker did go on to say words to the effect that many of the green field sites put forward were not currently developable because to do develop them would be contrary to current policies and they would look to change their policies as part of the Local Plan]

What they really meant: How dare you ask me for facts? Of course, we will change our policies to get a new town at all costs, just like we changed the questions in the consultation.

Question 3: Given that an FOI request to elicit the evidence to support the assertion made at cabinet (Paper E 5.2) in September 2015, and in Hart news (p2), that brownfield capacity for the district was 1,800 units has failed, are we to conclude that the council and public were misled in September, or will you now produce the evidence and ensure that any new consultation includes a proper stand-alone option for brownfield sites?

Answer: Nobody was misled by this council. The FOI request did not fail.

The Freedom of Information requests were dealt with blah…blah.blah…

Blah..blah..One key point that seems to be missed in the question is that there can be no standalone option for “brownfield sites” because the evidence suggests that there is not enough deliverable ‘brownfield land’ available to meet all our need for new homes because too few suitable sites are being promoted as being available by developers or landowners. Blah…blah…

[Note: Here is the answer given to the FOI request: “With regards to the first request, we do not hold that information.” and also note that none of the other options put forward were able to meet the remaining needs on their own either.]

What they really meant: Of course, it was a mistake to publish the real brownfield capacity, but we’re not going to publish how we arrived at the figure. We are doing our best to erase that from history and push on for a new town. 

Question 4: You will recall that I wrote to you on 20 November 2015, highlighting discrepancies between the consultation materials and SHLAA, the most important point being point 4 (and appendix) showing the very different site capacities in the New Homes Booklet compared to the official evidence base, the SHLAA; can you now give an explanation of those discrepancies and will they be corrected before any new consultation is carried out?

Answer: I understand from the Council’s Planning Policy Manager that you have already received
an explanation about the differences between the SHLAA and the New Homes Sites Booklet regarding site capacities (email from the Planning Policy Manager sent on 23rd December 2015).

That response explained that:

“In preparing the consultation papers we drew on not only the SHLAA but also more recent information where it was available. Such information includes the high level site assessments prepared by Adams Hendry and the shortlisting exercise work (available at ), pre-application plans, recent planning permissions, and any recent changes to site boundaries. These can all influence the sites that are shown in the documents. The SHLAA itself will be updated next year.”

The plan is to publish an updated SHLAA in the summer of 2016 to reflect the best information available at that time including data on annual completions which becomes available around June each year. [Note:  I did point out that I had written back to them on 12 January making clear that Point 4, amongst others, had not been answered].

What they really meant: We deliberately make it all very confusing, and who cares if the material we send out to the electorate doesn’t match the official evidence we spent loads of your money to produce and published at the same time as the consultation.

Question 5: Given that the SHMA (section 9.33) calls for 60-70% of our 7,534 housing need (or around 4,900) to be met from 1 & 2-bed properties, can you give a breakdown by number of bedrooms, of the 4,500 or so dwellings built or permitted since 2011 and tell us how many more 1 & 2 bed homes need to be built out of the remaining ~3,000 to be permitted to meet the need expressed in the SHMA? [Note: is has subsequently emerged that the preamble to this question did contain a mistake, and the need for 1 & 2-bed properties is ~3,800 units, but that doesn’t take away the need for Hart Council to measure how well it is meeting the need, nor does it stop the question being answered].

Answer by Chairman: This is a technical research question and does not form part of any current Council workstream. This is not the proper forum to be used to elicit the use of Council resources in pursuit of your own personal research. I say this because the information that you seek is already published.

You can obtain the information by accessing all the planning application details of applications submitted and determined which is published on the online Public Access system.

I would also point out that section 9.33 of the SHMA relates to affordable housing and not general housing mix. It may be you have missed out a few words which fundamentally alters the meaning of your question. [Note: I asked by email immediately after the meeting where this information can be found and have received no response].

What they really meant: You just don’t get it do you?  This isn’t about facts or meeting the needs of Hart residents it’s about getting a new town. Of course we’re not going to tell you how well or badly we are meeting the needs of local residents nor information that might suggest that a new town is not the right answer.  Where would we be if we were transparent?

Question 6: Given that the SHMA (Figure 10.15) calls for around 2,500 specialist units for the elderly, split into various categories to be built in Hart under the Local Plan, can you tell us how many of these units have been built or permitted since 2011, how many remain to be permitted and what you consider to be the best types of location for these types of accommodation?

Answer: The part of the question seeking statistics is appropriate to an FOI request and thus specifically outside the scope of a question at council. I have therefore asked that this request is handled under FOI rules. You will thus receive a formal response under that protocol. Blah…blah…

Blah…blah…This approach is exactly in accordance with government policy as set out in Paragraph: 003 Reference ID: 12-003-20140306 of the updated September 2015 National Planning Policy Guidance.

What they really meant: Meeting the needs of the elderly is not our priority and you must be joking if you think we are going to publish any information that shows we’re not meeting their needs.  We want loads more detached houses in the countryside from a new town and urban extensions.

Supplementary: How can the young who need the affordable 1 & 2-bed dwellings and elderly have confidence in the Local Plan process when the leader doesn’t know what we need to build to meet their needs?

Answer: This will be dealt with under the FOI request.

What they really meant: How many more times do we have to explain, we don’t do facts? This isn’t about meeting the needs of local people.  It’s all about getting a new town at all costs.

Question 7: What are the risks that a second consultation “anticipated to be run again from late January”, will be a further waste of Hart residents’ money, when the revised SHMA is due “early in 2016” and a revised employment land review is also being prepared, thus meaning that the evidence base is likely to change significantly during the consultation, leading to a further consultation being required?

Answer: It would be premature to speculate on the outcome of the refresh of the SHMA. Data sets change all the time and all we are looking at is one single snap shot of a combination of changing data sets…blah…blah…

What they really meant: I don’t care about risks and I don’t care about your money, I want a new town. The new SHMA will likely show a big reduction in the housing need so we won’t need to build 3,000 houses for Surrey Heath and Rushmoor and we’ll be able to meet all Hart’s remaining needs from brownfield sites. If that were put to residents they wouldn’t vote for a new town or urban extensions and where would that leave us?

Question 8: Who instigated, who authorised and who will take responsibility for each decision to repeatedly change the materials in the recent consultation part way through?

Answer by Chairman: I am directing that this question is not to be answered. This is because, as Mr Turver knows, it forms the basis of a separate investigation by Overview and Scrutiny and indeed, Mr Turver has been party to representations made pursuant to that investigation. It would therefore be wholly inappropriate to enter into discussions in public without all the facts surrounding the events that resulted in the early curtailment of the Refined Housing Options consultation having first been investigated by Overview and Scrutiny Committee. [Note: Cllr Bailey did make the point that the O&S work is a review, not an investigation and he did not intend that review to act as block on members of the public asking questions].

What they really meant: How dare you ask us to be open, transparent and accountable for our actions? 

Supplementary: We’ve heard tonight that you have failed with the last consultation, haven’t got a grip on the timeline, project management or the quality and content of the outputs, isn’t it time that you and the rest of the Local Plan Steering Group did the decent thing and resigned?

Answer: I do intend to do the decent thing and deliver the local plan.

What they really meant: We can’t have someone in charge who might actually look at the evidence and try and meet the real needs of Hart residents can we?  


Hart misses another deadline

This is where the miracle occurs

This is where the miracle occurs

In the immediate aftermath of the consultation debacle, Hart Council said that the consultation was “anticipated to be run again from late January“.  Of course, the last working day of January has now passed and there is no sign of the revised consultation and their website has been updated to say the consultation will run “from early Feb into mid March 2016”.

This now makes it a racing certainty that the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) will be released during the proposed new consultation period.  We believe that the new SHMA will reduce the housing need for the whole Housing Market Area, thus heading off the risk that we will have to build extra 3,000 houses for Rushmoor and Surrey Heath as well as reducing Hart’s own allocation.  This would of course render the whole consultation irrelevant as it would have been run on the wrong evidence base.

As we have written before, it would be better to wait until the new SHMA is released and run the consultation using the revised housing need numbers.  Due to the purdah rules, the results of the revised consultation could even be released at about the same time as if the consultation were started next week.

Hart District Council (HDC) Local Plan Consultation Time Lines

Local Plan Consultation Time Lines

It is time Hart Council too a leaf out of Rushmoor’s book and waited for the new SHMA before carrying on with the consultation.



Hart Council refuses to answer questions about the Local Plan

Dad's Army Hart District Council (HDC) refuse to answer questions and don't like it up 'em

Dad’s Army Hart Council don’t like it up ’em

In a quite astonishing development Hart Council refused to answer most of the questions I put to them last night. Most worrying was they refused to answer the questions about how well we are meeting the housing needs expressed in the SHMA.

I was told it was inappropriate use of council resources to further my own research into how well we are meeting the needs of the young with 1 and 2-bed dwellings and was told I should submit an FOI request to find out how many specialist units for the elderly we had built or permitted since 2011 (see SHMA figures 9.8 and 10.15 below). This is despite the SHMA itself (para 9.28) calling for the councils to use the data in the SHMA to monitor their own performance and ensure that future delivery is not unbalanced.

We think this obfuscation is outrageous and we are most concerned that the council refused to answer the questions about how well they are meeting the needs of Hart residents.  So we think it is time for some people power. I ask everyone to help me find out by downloading the suggested text below and emailing it to their councillor and copying in leader, Stephen Parker and chairman, Alan Oliver. You can find your own councillors here, and the email addresses of Stephen Parker and Alan Oliver are and respectively.

How well are we meeting the SHMA requirements?

In, addition, they said they would not publish the new project plan for the Local Plan, nor would they say how they arrived at the conclusion that brownfield capacity for the district was 1,800 units as they said at cabinet in September and in Hart News.

They refused to say who would take responsibility for the consultation debacle, saying it might interfere with the review being carried out by Overview and Scrutiny Committee (O&S).  I have to thank Stuart Bailey, chairman of O&S, who said that he did not intend his review to act as a block to the public asking questions, but this did not alter the view of chairman Alan Oliver that they were not going to answer.

We also learned that apparently the discrepancies between the site capacities shown in the New Homes Booklet and the official evidence base of the SHLAA, don’t matter. They were also very cagey on laying out the risks that the consultation may have to be run a third time when the new SHMA is released next month.

We did find out that the costs of re-running the consultation will be £13,000, although we didn’t find out how much the failed one cost us. We also learned that East Hampshire Council planners will effectively be running the Local Plan on Hart’s behalf now.

Leader Stephen Parker refused to resign when called upon to do so, after presiding over this unholy mess.

We will publish the full text of the questions and answers once they are available on Hart’s website.

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 9.8

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 9.8

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 10.15

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 10.15



We Heart Hart responds to Overview and Scrutiny Committee investigation

Hart District Council (HDC) Overview and Scrutiny Committee to examine consultation errors

Overview and Scrutiny Committee to examine consultation errors.  

In response to Hart Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s request for contributions from local groups to their investigation into the Local Plan Consultation debacle, We Heart Hart have sent in their thoughts on the matter.

The full response is available form the download below:

We Heart Hart contribution to consultation investigation


Questions to Hart Council 28 January 2016

Hart District Council Offices, We Heart Hart. We Love Hart

Hart District Council Offices in Fleet, Hampshire.

After the Local Plan consultation debacle, we have put a series of questions to Hart Council that will be answered at their meeting on 28 January 2016.  Please do come along if you can.

The full questions can be found on the download below, and cover whether Hart Council has a project plan we can believe in; the progress (or otherwise) made in testing the Winchfield new town proposals; what happened to the 1,800 dwellings that Hart said in September could be built on brownfield sites; discrepancies between the consultation documents and the official SHLAA; how well we are meeting the needs of the young and elderly; the risks of re-running the consultation now, given the housing target (SHMA) is about to change and of course, seeking clarity on who instigated and authorised the fateful changes to the consultation materials part way through.

Questions for Council 28 Jan 16


Hart Council still has no idea

Hart District Council (HDC) still has no idea

Hart Council still has no idea.

Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.  And sometimes people who are normally quite sensible and rational as individuals can become delusional and irrational as part of a group, in a phenomenon known as “Groupthink”.

Please bear this in mind as you read about Hart’s plans to embark on a new consultation about the Local Plan.

The Local Elections are to be held on 5 May 2016.  Prior to that, there’s a six week period of ‘purdah’ where the council can make no significant announcements nor take any significant decisions.  This year, purdah starts on 24 March.

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee is examining what went wrong with the abandoned consultation, but won’t report until the end of February at the earliest.

I have been told by someone who spoke to Stephen Parker as Cabinet last night, that the revised Housing Need from the new SHMA is due in late February, with perhaps some highlights being released earlier. Of course, our expectation is that Hart’s (and Rushmoor’s and Surrey Heath’s) housing requirement will be significantly reduced.

However, the Council now plan to start the consultation again, either on 29 January, or a week later and run it for six weeks, taking us to either 11 March or 18 March.  Not only that, they plan to ask those who submitted responses if they want to carry forward their responses to this new consultation, even though the evidence base is going to change mid-way through the consultation. Surely this would be highly irregular.

We think it will take at least two weeks for the results of the consultation to be properly analysed, meaning that they will not be available until after purdah has started, and so will not be able to be released until 6 May at the earliest.

Surely, it would be better for the council to wait until the new housing target is released and they have learned the lessons from the last shambolic consultation before starting the new one.  Interestingly, they could do that, and still be able to publish the results at exactly the same time as if they started the consultation next week, as the graphic below demonstrates.

Hart District Council (HDC) Local Plan Consultation Time Lines

Local Plan Consultation Time Lines

Q. What do you call a blind deer?  A. No idea

Q. What do you call a blind deer with no legs? A. Still no idea.

We suggest that readers who are concerned about this, write to their councillors and see if you can get them to see sense.

Consultation process to be examined by Overview & Scrutiny Committee

Hart District Council (HDC) Overview and Scrutiny Committee to examine consultation errors

Overview and Scrutiny Committee to examine consultation errors

Hart Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee is going to examine the decision making process surrounding the recently withdrawn Housing Options Consultation.  The terms of reference are:

  1. How decisions were made to approve and authorise the Refined Housing Options Consultation going ‘live’ in November 2015
  2. How decisions were made to alter consultation documents part way through the consultation process
  3. On what basis and rationale were decisions taken to withdraw the consultation
  4. Identify actions that the Council should take and recommend improvements to the process in regards to future consultation exercises.

The Committee hope to produce a report during February 2016. They have invited representations from local groups, so We Heart Hart will put in a submission.