Consultation ends in farce

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the omnishambles Consultation.

Consultation ends in farce

Fleet News and Mail has carried the story of the Hart Local Plan consultation omnishambles in its 20 January 2016 edition.  The full article can be found on this large image here. Now also online.

They cover our call for significant change in the Local Plan project, including replacing the Local Plan Steering Group who have presided over this sorry mess. We cannot continue to have a situation where with each year that goes by, the project slips by another year. They also cover our call for a proper brownfield solution to be included as one of the options.

Dermot Smith of Hook Action Against Over Development also criticises the council for wasting our time and money. Although he wrongly accuses We Heart Hart of having a vested interest in undermining the process.

To be clear, we want the process to be solid, we want a good Local Plan and quickly.  We first highlighted the project management and governance issues last April and called for change.  However, Hart Council ignored us, and all Hart residents are now paying the price.

Hart Consultation ends in farce Fleet News and Mail 20 Jan 2016

Hart Consultation ends in farce.

Update 2 includes clip – We Heart Hart interviewed on Eagle Radio

We Heart Hart interviewed on Eagle Radio

We Heart Hart interviewed on Eagle Radio.

We Heart Hart has been interviewed today by Eagle Radio about Hart Council’s (HDC) astonishing decision to abandon the Local Plan consultation.  The clip will be broadcast on news bulletins on the hour between 6 am and 10am tomorrow, Wednesday 20 January 2016. You can tune-in on 96.4FM, DAB or online.

If and when we get a copy of the clip, we will post it below:

 

This has now been broadcast on Eagle news and they are running a story on their website, here.  The clip can be found below:

 

 

 

We Heart Hart response to the decision to abandon the consultation

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the omnishambles Consultation.

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices.

After a period of reflection, we have now had time to compose a response to Hart’s astonishing decision to abandon the Local Plan consultation and set out what we think should happen to bring the Local Plan back on track. This has been sent to all councillors.

Readers may wish to copy a link to this page and send it to their ward councillor and add their own ideas on what should be done.  A list of councillor contact details can be found here.

What should we think about Hart Council’s decision to call off the Local Plan consultation with only a day to go before it was due to close?  Well, to misquote Churchill, this consultation has been a farce in a fiasco inside an omnishambles.  Never has so little been achieved by so many with so much of our money.

This is but the latest entry in a catalogue of mismanagement and misjudgement.

Back in April 2015, Peter Village QC described Hart’s position as “hopeless” and precious little has changed since then.  This abandoned consultation has not even covered the areas that he said should have been covered, namely, employment, retail, transport and infrastructure.

Now, let’s look at the timeline:

  • In October, 2013, when the earlier version of the plan was rejected by the Planning Inspector, the council said:

“that while the council operates under the interim strategy, it is working on an updated Local Plan…. We expect to put this out for consultation early next year, and would look to submit it to an inspector next autumn [2014],”

  • In April 2014, the plan was to have a resubmission plan ready for consultation in October 2015.
  • In February 2015, the plan was to have a resubmission plan ready for Autumn 2015.
  • As late as April last year, the council was insisting that they were still on track to deliver a Resubmission Plan by Autumn 2015, despite our warnings that the project was slipping.
  • We are now in a position, according to the latest schedule, where the Resubmission plan is due in Autumn 2016, but this has to be in serious doubt given the failure of this consultation and the fact that the evidence base won’t be revised until Spring 2016 and Hart have to hold a Regulation 18 consultation on the draft Local Plan, and heaven knows why it is planned for the Summer, when many people will be on holiday.

It is difficult to come to a conclusion other than the project management is woeful.

We need also to look at the governance of the project.  Power on the Local Plan Steering Group (LPSG) is concentrated in the hands of urban councillors who have presided over this mess.

Role Member
Cabinet Member for Planning (Chairman) Stephen Parker (Con Fleet East)
The Leader of Council Stephen Parker (Con Fleet East)
Cabinet Member for Housing Stephen Gorys (Con – Odiham)
Chairman of Planning Committee Simon Ambler (CCH – Crookham West and Ewshot)
Political Group Leaders David Neighbour (Lib Dem – Yateley East)

James Radley (CCH – Crookham East)

Stephen Parker (Con – Fleet East)

 

Not only that, the quality of the deliverables to date is poor.  By way of example, in January last year Hart commissioned a piece of work to test the new settlement and urban extension options.  The published results of this work have not met the objectives set at the outset.

I have had many people send me Facebook messages, tweets and emails saying what a farce the process has been a shambles and a waste of time and money.  One correspondent has even been moved to write a poem, saying they thought our leader has led us up the garden path and couldn’t even run a bath. In short the council is a laughing stock. Many people have also come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the reason the consultation has been called off is that the people were giving the ‘wrong answer’. There is no confidence in the council, the credibility of the whole Local Plan process is subterranean, with some complaining of “consultation fatigue”.

If the consultation is re-run at the end of January, it is extremely likely that parts of the new evidence base will be released during the consultation, thus meaning that the consultation will be run on the wrong evidence base, invalidating the results.

The Local Plan process is so far behind schedule that we are running the risk of Central Government stepping in and doing the Local Plan for us.  Moreover, the Government is currently consulting on plans to remove the New Homes Bonus from councils that do not have a Local Plan, so this further failure may result in a hit to services or increases in council tax. So, it is clear we need a good Local Plan and quickly.

But before we can move forwards it is imperative that we fix the management and governance failings that have led us to this unhappy place. It is simply untenable for the current incumbents to carry on as if nothing has happened.

The changes we need are:

  • Resignation of the entire LPSG from their positions to be replaced by a new group of senior councillors from a balance of rural and urban wards.
  • I’m sorry to say it, but the cabinet member for planning and leader’s position is untenable after presiding over such a comedy of errors.
  • Whoever authorised the change to the questions mid-way through the consultation within the “officer” side must at least be severely reprimanded.
  • Hart need to appoint an experienced project manager to run the Local Plan project who should immediately review it and put together a realistic scope, objectives, deliverables, resource requirements, costs and timelines, publish it, and offer it for scrutiny by a recognised project assurance organisation
  • Only when the revised evidence base (SHMA and Employment Land Review) has been published, should Hart run a new Regulation 18 consultation covering employment, retail, transport, infrastructure as well as housing distribution as per the advice from Peter Village QC. The consultation should be put together and run by a competent third party organisation.
  • A standalone brownfield approach, covering all current brownfield sites in the SHLAA, the Stonegate Report and any new zones of opportunity identified in the call for sites should be added to the consultation as per the request of the 2,130 signatories of the WHH petition. It is simply not credible to set a “deliverable” criterion for brownfield sites when almost all of the green field sites subject to consultation were “not currently developable”.  The council can’t have it one way for brownfield and another for greenfield sites. Many brownfield sites in the SHLAA/New Homes Booklet were “rejected” for apparently arbitrary reasons, they certainly did not appear to have more onerous constraints on them compared to those selected for consultation in Q6.
  • The differences between the site capacities shown in the New Homes Booklet compared to those in the official evidence base in the SHLAA (see point 4 in this letter to councillors, dated 20 November 2015 and Appendix) need to be rectified.
  • The process of the consultation needs to be simplified and improved, with the weighting system being resolved and published before the consultation starts.
  • The risks of a new town and urban extensions should be properly laid out (including creating capacity to take 3,000 houses from Rushmoor and Surrey Heath and the infrastructure costs).
  • All of the SHLAA sites should be offered for consultation in Q6, and the ranking approach changed to something more objective and able to be analysed across parishes such as “strongly oppose, oppose, support, strongly support”. It should be possible to pass comment without ranking sites that you don’t agree should be developed. It was particularly odd to see that the NHB rejected sites that had appeared in Neighbourhood plans.
  • You might do well to review my suggested 5-point plan that I tried to put to council in the Summer, but my question was censored.
  • The different infrastructure contribution regimes for different styles of development should be properly explained: a certain cabinet member was spreading misleading information about this during the recent consultation. My understanding is that only office conversions attract no S106/CIL whereas brownfield redevelopment is subject to the same contribution regime as green field development. It should also be explained that new homes in vacant office blocks attract council tax (and new homes bonus), which HDC retains, rather than business rates much of which is surrendered to the Government.
  • There also needs to be more robust processes for verifying the identity of all those participating in the consultation, and proper rules set on who can and cannot comment: theoretically the consultation just abandoned could have been answered by babes in arms in Aberdeen which is clearly ridiculous.

Only root and branch change of process and personnel will restore confidence and give enough credibility to create a sporting chance of getting a good Local Plan on time.

Press release is available for download below, together with a carousel of pictures of our shot demo outside Hart Offices.

Response to Hart’s decision to abandon the consultation

 

 

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the consultation shambles

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices about the consultation shambles.

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the omnishambles Consultation

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices about the omnishambles Consultation

Protest at Hart's Offices about the Consultation farce

Protest at Hart’s Offices about the Consultation farce

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the consultation fiasco

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices about the consultation fiasco

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the Consultation farce

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices about the omnishambles Consultation.

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the Consultation shambles

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices about the omnishambles Consultation

link

Clip added: Breeze Radio interviews We Heart Hart

Breeze Radio

We Heart Hart has been interviewed for the Breeze radio about the calling off of the Hart Local Plan consultation.

We understand the interview will be broadcast on news bulletins today, Friday 15 January 2016.

The local frequency for Breeze is 107.6 FM, and can also be found on-line. Full details on how to listen to Breeze can be found here.

[Update]

The clip is available below:

[/Update]

Hart Council calls off Local Plan Consultation

Breaking News: Hart calls off Local Plan Consultation

Breaking News: Hart calls off Local Plan Consultation

In an astonishing move, Hart Council have called off the Local Plan consultation with only 24 hours to go before the consultation was due to close.

Their full statement is (our emphasis):

From 2pm on Thursday 14 February Hart District Council stopped the Local Plan Consultation and removed the online response form from the website.

Leader of Hart District Council, Cllr Stephen Parker, said:

“We have found errors in the consultation material for our Local Plan Consultation. In order not to undermine the consultation process and to maintain a fair and transparent procedure, we have taken the decision to stop the consultation and have ceased our online response form.

I apologise to the residents and businesses of Hart for the inconvenience caused and I would like to reassure the public that by working with my colleagues to rectify the issues discovered, we will create a robust consultation going forward.”

It is deliciously ironic that they got the month wrong in the statement calling off the consultation.

 

Rushmoor calls for new town, urban extensions and dispersal in Hart

Empty Offices at Farnborough, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire.

Empty Offices at Farnborough, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire.

Earlier this week Rushmoor cabinet considered its response to Hart’s Local Plan consultation and has come up with some controversial proposals.

First, their response says:

Rushmoor Borough Council supports the strategy of prioritising development on brownfield land, and on land outside the zone of influence for the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area. Rushmoor expects that in addition to this, the first full consultation version of the Hart Local Plan will be based on a strategy to meet housing needs that requires a combination of the options set out in in the consultation paper. This will include dispersed development, strategic urban extensions and a new settlement at Winchfield in order to help deliver the housing need identified in the SHMA.

And in a veiled criticism of Hart’s strategy of holding the consultation now, when the evidence base is under review it says:

At this stage in the plan preparation process, Rushmoor Borough Council considers that the most appropriate strategy and timescale for meeting housing need across the HMA can only be identified once the update to the evidence base is in place. Moreover, until the implications of the conclusions in the updated evidence base are understood, it is not possible to comment on the detail of the housing options in isolation from other strategic cross boundary issues.

However, Rushmoor reserves the right to change its response, once the new evidence base is published:

It may be that once this evidence base is updated, some of Rushmoor’s comments may change or fall away, particularly when Hart publishes a complete version of its Local Plan for consultation, based on the most up to date evidence.

It seems to us that it would be poor strategy to commit to a new town now, when the evidence base is being reviewed. It may be that the threat to build 3,000 extra houses for Rushmoor and Surrey Heath falls away and Hart’s own alleged “need” also falls, in which case we will be able to build all of our remaining need on brownfield sites and have many sites left over for future planning periods. If we had a vision to keep our essential countryside, and not build a new town, then we would not need to meet Rushmoor’s need.

If you would like to ask Hart to abandon the new town alternative and create a brownfield solution to our housing needs, we urge you to respond to the Hart District Council consultation about the Local Plan and ask them to think again. We have created a dedicated consultation page and 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.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

Rushmoor responds to criticism by revising evidence base and delaying its Local Plan

Empty Offices at Farnborough, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire.

Empty Offices at Farnborough, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire

While all of our eyes have been on the Hart Consultation about the Local Plan, Rushmoor has also been busy on its own Local Plan.  The most important point is that Rushmoor is revising the SHMA and the Employment Land Review which will:

be beneficial in assisting with a response to a number of comments received through the consultation, which challenged elements of the evidence base, and in particular, raised objection to the fact that the potential shortfall in housing supply in Rushmoor should be accommodated in Hart.

We might add that it was largely We Heart Hart supporters who made these comments – so thank you very much for your contributions.  It does show that reasoned analysis of the evidence base can lead to real change, at least in Rushmoor.

In addition, as well as making reference to the Government’s lower population and household forecasts, Rushmoor say that “all of the three major forecasting houses that produce employment forecasts at local authority level have updated forecasts since those used in the SHMA and the ELR”.  We Heart Hart have strongly challenged the previous jobs forecasts, so we can only hope that these forecasting houses have come up with something more reasonable.

Rushmoor is also revising its land bank database (SHLAA), and this should be available in early 2016.

Interestingly, Rushmoor has also delayed its Local Plan by up to a year in total to cater for these revisions to the evidence base.  Rushmoor’s next consultation, built upon the new evidence base will be in October 2016.

We find it difficult to see how Hart is going to manage to produce a full draft Local Plan by the Summer of this year, when the updated evidence base is not going to be available until the Spring, and it is going to take Rushmoor at least 6 months to process that information and produce the next draft of its Plan.

Rushmoor has also provided a response to Hart’s Housing Options consultation that we will cover in another post.

Hart Council starts to identify brownfield opportunities

Hart District Council (HDC) starts the process of identifying brownfield opportunities

Hart Council starts the process of identifying brownfield opportunities

In a welcome development, it appears as though Hart Council has started the process of identifying brownfield opportunity areas.

These include Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), Ancells Farm and part of Redfields Business Park.  This is an important development as Hart had previously ruled out Pyestock as a location.

They also identify a wide range of other brownfield sites, from the SHLAA that were deemed to have a capacity of 592 units, at an average density of 32.5 dwellings per hectare.

Parish/Ref Sum of Site Assessment Capacity (Low) Sum of Site Assessment Capacity (High) Sum of Size (Ha.) Average of Low Density (dpa)
Blackwater and Hawley 320 320 12.00 26.7
SHL100 320 320 12.00 26.7
Church Crookham 6 6 0.42 14.3
SHL28 6 6 0.42 14.3
Elvetham Heath 45 45 2.25 20.0
SHL104 45 45 2.25 20.0
Fleet 221 221 3.56 62.1
SHL113 12 12 0.68 17.6
SHL245 8 8 0.18 44.4
SHL320 150 150 1.80 83.3
SHL322 37 37 0.61 60.7
SHL41 6 6 0.05 120.0
SHL42 8 8 0.24 33.3
Grand Total 592 592 18.23 32.5

Whilst this is a welcome development, it is clear that work is yet to start on the rest of the district outside the environs of Fleet and Church Crookham.

We do call into question the assertions in the consultation that there is only capacity for 450 units on brownfield sites and the timing of the consultation, as it seems clear that brownfield capacity is going to rise significantly, so we will not need a new town, nor urban extensions.

If you would like to ask Hart to redouble its efforts to build the case for a brownfield solution to our housing needs, we urge you to respond to the Hart District Council consultation about the Local Plan and ask them to think again. We have created a dedicated consultation page and 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.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

Hart Local Plan Consultation descends into omnishambles

Omnishambles

Omnishambles

Following our post this morning pointing out material discrepancies between two different versions of the Hart Local Plan consultation response form, Hart Council have issued a statement saying they have corrected the issues and published version 6 of the consultation form and:

“The administrative error occurred when the Response Form was corrected on 6 January 2016 to include the villages of Crookham Village, Dogmersfield and Eversley in the list at Question 4 (Approach 1).  This reflects the main consultation document itself (Refined Options for Delivering New Homes) which is correct.  Unfortunately an earlier, incorrect, version of the Response Form (which was never published) was used as the basis for this correction, which is where the error lies.  To be absolutely clear, there was no conscious attempt by anyone to change the text in the Response Form that precedes Question 1.”

However, this statement suggests the latest response form is now in line with the main Refined Options paper and the summary booklet, but it is not.

1) The text of Q4 in V6 says:
Response Form V6 Question 4

Response Form V6 Question 4

Clearly Dogmersfield and Crookham Village are now included.  But V4 did not include them.

2) The summary booklet does not include reference to Dogmersfield and Crookham Village:

Summary Booklet Question 4

Summary Booklet Question 4

3) The text of the refined options paper does not include references to those parishes either.
Refined Options Paper Question 4 (b)

Refined Options Paper Question 4

Refined Options Paper Question 4

Refined Options Paper Question 4

This begs a number of questions:
  • What are HDC going to do about the people who answered the V4 document?
  • Has the on-line version changed?
  • If so, when, and what about the people who answered under the old wording?
  • What are they going to do about hte discrepancies between all of the documents?
It seems to me that those who relied on the main refined options paper and the booklet distributed to every home, may well have been misled by those documents as the actual questions in the actual response forms are different to the main source documents.
All in all, the only word I can find to describe this is “omnishambles”

 

Hart Council changes the rules of the Local Plan consultation as it goes along

Banana Republic?

If this is a fair process, I’m a banana republic

In a quite astonishing development, we have been alerted to the fact that Hart District Council has changed the rules of the consultation part way through the process.  This is in addition to the inexplicable decision to postpone how the way answers will be weighted until after the consultation has closed.

Version 4 of the consultation paperwork, dated 3 December 2015, stated clearly that questions 4 and 5 of the consultation must be answered:

Hart consultation V4 must answer Q4 and Q5

Hart Consultation V4 must answer Q4 and Q5

But Version 5 of the consultation paperwork, dated 6 January 2016, says there is no requirement to answer questions 4 and 5:

Hart consultation V5 no requirement to answer Q4 and Q5

Hart Consultation V5 no requirement to answer Q4 and Q5

As of 09:30 on Monday 11 January 2016, Questions 4 and 5 were mandatory in the on-line version of the consultation. This is a fundamental change to the rules in the middle of the consultation and one is left wondering quite how the results can be considered valid and surely it can’t be right that the rules for paper submission are different to those for online submission.

In addition, Hart Council announced at a meeting of the Hart District Association of Town and Parish Councils that they would not decide how to weight the answers to the questions until the consultation was complete.  This is confirmed by a question to the December Council meeting:

Hart determining scoring criteria after the consultation is complete

Hart determining scoring criteria after the consultation is complete

[Update]

It gets worse. The paper copies of the form have no comments box for Q4 of the consultation, but the on-line form does:

Page 3 of the Consultation form

Page 3 of the Consultation form

Page 4 of the Hart District Council Local Plan Consultation form

Page 4 of the Consultation form

[/Update]

[Update 2]

I have been alerted to even more differences between the two versions of the document:

V5 now seems to include Crookham Village, Dogmersfield & Eversley in Q4.  V4 doesn’t include those parishes. The online version now includes them, but I don’t know if it has been changed.
Neither version has a comments box for q4, but there is a q4 comment box online, even though Q6 directs you to a comments box for q4.
In V4, the question directs you to Table 2 on page 7, in V5 it directs you to the same table on page 9.  In the version of the booklet I have, Table 2 starts on page 8.
And perhaps most significantly:
Q6 has been changed, with V4 allowing comments on rejected sites and V5 not including the following in the question:
“You may also comment on any ‘rejected ‘sites (in blue and listed on the tables on each map)”
 
Has someone been taking inspiration from The Thick of It?
[/Update 2]

This is a very worrying development and resembles how one might expect countries to operate that do not have as mature democracies as we enjoy in this country.

If you would like to try your luck in responding to the consultation and objecting to the new town idea, we urge you to respond to the Hart District Council consultation about the Local Plan and ask them to think again. We have created a dedicated consultation page and 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.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes