Hart’s O&S committee met on Tuesday night and they recommended amendments to the flawed Shapley Heath Garden Village proposal. It was a long, tempestuous meeting. The discussion below about the recommendations relates to this paper. The main outcomes were:
Shapley Heath Proposal: The Good
Recommendation 4: That the Cabinet approve the Governance structure proposed. It was recommended that the Governance be amended to make reference to the “evaluation phase” only. This is not approving the actual delivery of the “garden community”.
Recommendation 7: That the previously budgeted £785,990 budgeted for the new settlement be returned to reserves. It was recommended to Cabinet that this recommendation continue.
Recommendation 8: That a £500K budget be allocated to the Joint Chief Executive to utilise in relation to the Shapley Heath Garden Village. This was amended to recommend that it is merely noted that an amount up to £500K might be required in the future to support the project.
Shapley Heath Proposal: The Bad
Recommendation 1: That Cabinet notes that HDC is now part of the Garden Communities Programme. This was accepted.
Recommendation 2: That Cabinet approves the exploration of the opportunity to deliver a Garden Community through a place making/place shaping approach. Even though nobody could explain what this meant, the recommendation was accepted.
Recommendation 3: That the Cabinet agrees to move forward with place making/place shaping the Garden Community based on the key principles. There were a number of questions about what this actually meant. But no coherent answers were forthcoming. Nevertheless this recommendation was passed. On the plus side, a new key principle was added to include Land Value capture. If the Garden Village is to go ahead, it will be necessary for the landowners to accept a lower price for their land. It is envisaged that the extra money available to developers will be invested in infrastructure.
Recommendation 5: That Cabinet grants delegated authority to the Garden Community Board to approve terms of reference for other governance tiers. This was amended to only for the initial phase. But it wasn’t clear that the champions of the project knew what the different phases might be, not what they were delivering.
Shapley Heath Proposal: The Ugly
Recommendation 6: That Cabinet approves in principle the initial £155K Garden Community spending plan. Amazingly, this was passed. However, there is an expectation, that it will be amended to include a more specific plan to describe what is actually going to be delivered. However, it still includes a commitment to spend public money on “Land Value/Equalisation Issues”. This is essentially white-collar welfare for the developers who should be quite capable of working out how to share the spoils of the project without public funding.
During the meeting, the portfolio holder for planning, was adamant that this work on the Garden Community was going on outside of the normal Local Plan and planning process.
A statement was made by Winchfield Parish Council, on behalf of 9 Parish Councils explaining that they believed the Government funding had been made in error. They asked that the programme be suspended until issues they had raised with the Secretary of State had been resolved. Amazingly, there was no debate about this statement.
We made the statement set out below. We set out our view that pursuing the Shapley Heath Garden Village outside of the normal planning process and in contempt of the Inspector’s recommendations to look impartially at other options was unlawful. The Rural Hart Association has raised funds for a proper legal opinion on the matter. We asked that the project be postponed until such legal opinion had been published. Again, there was no debate about this serious matter. However, they did address some of the other points we made.
This is some encouragement from the meeting, but the proposal will still go forward to Cabinet.
A petition to stop the Shapley Heath proposal has been created. Please press the button below and sign and share the petition.
Statement to Hart Overview and Scrutiny 17 September 2019 from RHA on the Shapley Heath Proposal
RHA believes that the Garden Community Programme paper represents a gross and deliberate distortion of the Planning Process and an attempt to avoid implementing the recommendations of the Planning Inspector. We do not accept the Council’s argument that SS3 and Shapley Heath Garden Village (SHGV) are two separate things, and we consider that such a view is fatally undermined by the assumption in the Council’s bid for MHCLG funding that SS3 would be approved by the Inspector and form an integral part of the Local Plan.
Furthermore, we are advised that the spending of public funds on the Shapley Heath proposal in defiance of the Inspector’s findings and the Local Plan could be unlawful. We have now secured funding for a legal opinion on this question. Given the serious nature of this matter we request that the O&S committee recommends a postponement of this paper until the legal opinion has been completed and presented to the council.
If you do not decide to make such a recommendation, then there are numerous other detailed points that you should consider as part of your deliberations. The first points relate to the financing of the project.
- There are no tangible deliverables associated with £155K funding request as part of Rec 6.
- Appendix 3 calls for hiring two extra people without quantifying the full-year impact on future year’s finances. This cannot be in-line with good practice.
- Appendix 3 calls for public funds to be used to resolve the private matters of ‘land value/equalisation issues’ between developers and landowners with deep pockets. This is an inappropriate use of public funds.
- There are no timescales, tasks, milestones or deliverables associated with the broader £500K request associated with Recommendation 8. It is inappropriate to effectively create a slush fund and grant such wide discretion over such a large sum when you don’t know what you are going to get for it.
We believe you should ask for Recommendations 6 & 8 to be removed or amended to be in line with best practice for use of public funds. The second set of points relates to the scope and objectives of the proposal.
- The paper does not mention one of the key Inspector recommendations:
I am of the view that a significant level of further supporting work would be required for Policy SS3 to be found sound in its current form, which would need to include appropriate and proportionate area/site assessments, infrastructure considerations, viability testing, evidence in support of deliverability and further SA work, which would need to be done in an impartial manner with sufficient evidence to support its findings and comparisons with alternative options.
2. The work programme does not envisage any of the work recommended by the Inspector and Para 5.6 explicitly rules out looking at alternative locations. This puts the proposal in contempt of the Inspector’s recommendations and is effectively pre-determination.
3. The final sentence of Para 5.6 is gibberish.
We believe that you should ask for the paper to be amended so that the work programme reflects the recommendations of the Inspector. Finally, there are several issues with the proposed governance arrangements:
- It is inappropriate to have such a large and unwieldy governance structure for £155K of spend.
- It is inappropriate to have effectively all senior members and officers of the Council on the Board, with a role to “champion delivery”. This leaves no mechanism for effective review and challenge.
- The proposed governance structure doesn’t comply with Cabinet decision of Nov 2018 which decided to create a “Parish Stakeholder Advisory Group”.
We believe the governance and Rec 4 should be amended to address these points.