Council concedes that we could build at higher density on brownfield land

Derelict Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

Derelict Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

In a piece of good news on Thursday night, Hart District Council conceded that it would be possible to build at higher density than they previously planned on brownfield sites in the district.  The detailed questions and answers can be found here.

Hart District Council uses a rule of thumb of 30 dwellings per hectare (dph) for most sites in its database.  We Heart Hart put to them that it might be possible to plan for up to 250dph in urban areas and still create vibrant communities.  Hart rejected such high densities, but did concede that densities of 80-160dph might be possible.

Hart District Council answer to brownfield question March 2015

Hart District Council answer to brownfield question

This is a very significant move.  Currently Hart District Council have said the capacity of brownfield is around 700 dwellings, based on 30dph.  However, if the capacity was scaled up to an average of say 120dph, the capacity increases to 2,800 dwellings.  Moreover, there are a number of brownfield sites such as at Ancell’s Farm in Fleet and Bartley Wood in Hook that are not in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), and so there is even more capacity available.

This could take us within spitting distance of meeting the remaining 4,000 houses that have yet to be granted planning permission for the Local Plan, without concreting over our green fields.  This would mean we would not need a new town in Winchfield nor do we need more strategic urban extensions in Fleet, Church Crookham or Hook.  A further advantage would be that the centre of Fleet could be rejuvenated and could sustain more shops and amenities.

This is clearly good news, but it remains to be seen whether Hart District Council will take this opportunity seriously as there answer to the supplementary questions were not particularly encouraging.

Hart District Council gets its facts wrong on the Local Plan

Hart District Council Local Plan Update Spring-Summer 2015

Hart District Council Local Plan Update Spring-Summer 2015

Hart District Council has published an article in the latest copy of Hart News that gets its facts wrong on how many houses we have to build under the emerging Local Plan.

As can be seen from the above image, Hart Council is saying we only need to build 4,000 houses up to 2032.  However, this is in direct contradiction to the strategic housing market assessment and the evidence presented to Cabinet back in November 2014 that clearly states we need to build 7,534 houses in the period up to 2032.

Hart District Council Housing Requirement from Cabinet Meeting November 2014 or Local Plan; SHMA

Hart District Housing Requirement from Cabinet Meeting Nov 2014

Even 7,534 houses is probably an understatement, because Rushmoor Borough Council and Surrey Heath Borough Council have told Hart that they cannot build all of their allocation on their own patches and want Hart to build a further 3,100 houses for them.  This would give a total of 10,634 houses to be built in Hart up to 2032.

Hart District acts as sink for 3,100 houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor

Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Housing Shortfall

Hart’s strategy of building a new settlement (option 4) in Winchfield creates additional capacity that makes it much more likely that we will have to take these additional houses.

The article in Hart News also further illustrates that Hart is not serious about its brownfield strategy as they are continuing to ignore the large number of vacant office blocks and sites such as Sun Park and Hartland Park and are still assuming only 30 dwellings per hectare. Furthermore, they make no mention of the need to build specialist housing for our ageing population which a new town won’t deliver.

Finally, Hart Council were supposed to be consulting on the draft plan now, with a view to modifying it during the Summer before publication of the actual plan for a further round of consultation in the Autumn.  But now they have skipped one of the consultations.

We can only speculate as to the motives behind this mistake and the skipping of one round of consultation. However, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Hart District Council are hiding the truth, and trying to push through a disastrous strategy without proper consultation.

If you would like to oppose Hart’s approach to the Local Plan, please sign and share our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

 

 

Fleet and Church Crookham to be devastated by congestion from new town

Estimated Extra Daily Journeys

Extra Daily Journeys

5,000 extra houses in a new town in Hart District will dramatically increase congestion all over the district, including Fleet and Church Crookham with 10’s of thousands of extra journeys per day.   It is clear that those councillors who think they are getting a free-ride from a new town in Winchfield need to think again and campaign for fewer houses to be built overall.

If you think the council should think again, please sign the petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/we-hart

Hart District Council have been asked by Winchfield Action Group (WAG), as part of their Neighbourhood Planning process to provide some figures on the current road usage on roads in and around the proposed new town at Winchfield and for an assessment of the impact on neighbouring areas.  Astonishingly, it seems Hart doesn’t have any traffic monitoring data.

Helpfully, the appendices in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) give an analysis of the travel to work patterns of Hart residents and the Department of Transport has conducted a National Travel Survey (NTS) that has helped the We Heart Hart (aka We ♥ Hart and We Love Hart) campaign to calculate the impact of all of these extra houses and extra cars.

The SHMA says that we can expect around 2.5 people per household, the SHMA appendix gives a split of how Hart residents travel to work and the NTS says that work related travel accounts for only 18% of journeys.  Of course people need to go shopping, play sports, visit friends and relatives, go to clubs and societies and ferry around their children and so on.

Using the 2011 numbers it is possible come up with the extra journeys 5,000 extra houses will generate.  Of course, these numbers will need to be doubled if they go ahead with the new town and Hart has to act as a sink for the 3,100 extra houses that Surrey Heath and Rushmoor say they cannot build.  This is shown below.

Extra Journeys Arising from New Town in Hart

Extra Journeys Arising from New Town in Hart

Using this data, you can come up with an estimate of the impact of all these extra journeys will have in terms of increased traffic in Fleet, Church Crookham, Hartley Wintney and Hook because of the routes people will have to follow to get to those destinations.  Of course, there will be also extra train journeys, giving rise to 775 extra commuters going to London each day without even estimating the other non-work related journeys:

Impact on Fleet, Church Crookham, Hartley Wintney and Hook

Impact on Fleet, Church Crookham, Hartley Wintney and Hook

This is of course a very rough and ready estimate, and Hart will no doubt have to find a way of doing some better modelling.  But this gives an indication of the impact which is far from trivial.

Surely it is very important that the impact of building 5,000 houses in a new town, or more than 10,000 if Surrey Heath and Rushmoor get their way, is properly assessed by the council before they finalise the local plan.  Not only that there are going to be thousands of new houses in neighbouring areas like Basingstoke and Deane, Reading and Waverley.  All of these houses are bound to increase the traffic even further in Hart too.

Of course everyone has sympathy for the level of development Fleet, Church Crookham, Crookham Village  and Hook have had to endure over the past few years.  But it is clear that building a new town in Winchfield will only add to the problem of congestion for those areas and the councillors who think they are getting a free-ride from a new town need to think again and start campaigning for fewer houses to be built in Hart.

Download a poster: http://wehearthart.co.uk/home/get-involved/

Sign the petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/we-hart

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/IHeartHart/

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/WeHeartHart

Please Help Spread the Word across Hart District

Downloads of posters to support the We Heart Hart (aka We ♥ Hart and We Love Hart) campaign and a letter to councillors are now available on the website.

The campaign is moving on quickly.  We now have nearly 400 people who have signed the petition, and 31 January was the busiest day on the web site ever, with over 500 visitors.  But to get our voice heard we need to get the number of people signing the petition over 550 – the number of respondents to the original consultation, and preferably into the thousands.  It would be good to use the power of the internet to demonstrate that there is a strong groundswell of opinion against the path that Hart District Council is taking.

Please help spread the word across the district by downloading the posters, printing them off and putting them up across the district. Good locations would be sites with lots of foot-fall like railway stations, bus-stops, churches, community noticeboards and local shops.

The downloads are available here:

Please Sign the Petition A4
Simple A4 Poster PDF
Dear Councillor Letter

And if you haven’t already, please sign the petition.

 

3,100 Reasons to Oppose a New Town in Hart

Hart becomes Housing Sink for Surrey Heath and Rushmor

Hart becomes sink for 3,100 houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor

A new town in Hart District, whether in Winchfield or anywhere else, will open up Hart to be a sink for 3,100 overflow houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils. Yet Hart District Council’s strategy for the Local Plan has set us on the path for a new town which makes this inevitable and will destroy our green fields and wildlife habitats and clog up all of our infrastructure.

If you disagree with this strategy please sign the We Love Hart (We ♥ Hart) petition.

The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), calls for Hart to build a total of around 7,500 houses in the district up to 2031.  Our neighbouring districts, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor also have demanding targets and are saying that they cannot build all of their own allocation in their districts.  So, they want to pass over an extra 3,100 or so houses (1,700 from Rushmoor and 1,400 from Surrey Heath) to Hart that will push our target up to around 10,600 houses.  See answers to questions here, page 17.

In their housing options paper the council says that we would need to deliver 1,800-2,400 houses on a new settlement (Option 4). However, the Barratts New Town proposal document says that such a new settlement would have capacity for 5,000 houses, more than twice the size of Elvetham Heath,  and could start building as early as 2017.  This leaves a convenient surplus  of around 3,000 dwellings in the new settlement that could be used to fill the shortfall  from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.

The We Heart Hart campaign believes this is a grave strategic error on the part of Hart Council because they are following a policy that means there is a real risk we will have to build even more houses in Hart and concrete over our green fields.

The impact of this could be enormous:

  • Massive increase in congestion throughout all of the district.
  • Increased stress on already creaking infrastructure
  • Overcrowding of trains already running over capacity
  • Massive environmental harm to the SSSI’s, SINCs and the Thames Valley Heath SPA
  • Coalescence of Fleet, Church Crookham, Crookham Village, Dogmersfield, Winchfield, Hartley Wintney, North Warnborough and Odiham into a giant conurbation.

Changing Demographics means a New Town is a Bad Idea

A new town in Hart, whether located in Winchfield or anywhere else, will not meet the needs of the growing ageing population.  We run the risk of building the wrong type of housing in the wrong place to cater for the excess housing needs of Rushmoor and Surrey Heath without meeting the needs of Hart, and concreting over our green fields in the process.

Please sign the petition.

The demographics of the district are changing.  According to council documents, by 2031, there will be an additional 10,000 people over 60 (including more than 6,850 over 75) expected to be living in the district and an extra 3,620 people who will be suffering from dementia or have some sort of mobility problem.

The housing needs of the elderly and infirm are very different to those of the general population and the council plans will do nothing to meet those needs.   Studies have shown that specialist retirement housing has significant benefits:

  • A higher quality of life for its residents. The report notes that 92% of residents are very happy and contented and most would recommend their accommodation to others.
  • Improved health for residents and reduced impact on the NHS. As specialist accommodation is designed for impaired mobility, residents can manage better and spend fewer nights in hospital.
  • Good for the environment. 51% of residents said that their energy bills were noticeably lower than they had been in their previous homes.  What is more, the elderly tend to own fewer cars and tend to travel less once living in retirement housing.
  • Retirement housing boosts local neighbourhoods. Older people regularly use shops and local facilities during weekdays, when they are often underutilised, and at weekends. 80% use the shops almost daily or often; over 40% used the library or post office almost daily or often.
  • Retirement housing has a positive impact on local housing markets. On moving, most residents free up a substantial family home, with two thirds moving from homes with three or more bedrooms, freeing up housing stock for families.

However, the SHMA says that Hart should continue to build housing in line with the current housing stock profile.  The impact of this is that we will concrete over our green fields with traditional housing estates and not meet the needs of our growing elderly population and leave the shopping areas in the centre of our towns to wither away whilst increasing congestion all over the district.

The We Love Hart campaign says this is the wrong approach and we should focus on building specialist accommodation for the elderly in higher density brownfield sites near to town centres, perhaps alongside high quality affordable flats for the younger generation.

 

What’s Wrong with the Housing Target?

[These arguments have been expanded and refined on this page]

The December 2014 version of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) for Hart District Council, and Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils (together the Housing Market Area) can be found here.

The SHMA above calls for around 7,534 houses to be built in Hart District over the period from 2011-2031 and 23,600 over the whole area. It is built on a process mandated by the Government, but at almost every stage the decisions taken err on the side of building more houses.  Examples of this are:

  • The starting point for the housing need is population projection.  The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) population projections would lead to an overall need for 790 houses per annum across the whole Housing Market Area, or 15,800 houses in total.  This approach in itself essentially says that if you have carried out lots of development in the past (such as Elevetham Heath, Queen Elizabeth Barracks and St. Mary’s Park), you must continue to develop at that rate even though there has been net migration out of the area in recent years.
  • However, the report then states that the ONS usually understates these requirements so cherry picks inward migration data from the time we were building most housing, reverses the recent trend in average household size makes an arbitrary adjustment upwards to 925 houses per annum, leading to a need for 2,700 additional houses over the plan period and taking the total to 18,500.
  • During the unsustainable economic boom from 1998 to 2008, the whole housing market area created jobs at  around 720 per annum.  Over the full economic cycle from 1998 to 2012 the whole area generated jobs at a rate of 529 per annum.  The report assumes that up to 2031 the area will create jobs at more than double this, at a rate of 1,130 per annum.  This has the effect of increasing the number of houses required to 1,180 per annum, or a total of 23,600 houses.  Over the plan period this leads to a need for a further 5,100 extra houses being required.

The combination of these and other assumptions is that the combined area of Hart, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor needs to build an additional 7,800 houses (of which around a third is allocated to Hart District) over and above the government starting point which adds to the pressure on our green spaces and adds to congestion.

The impact on Hart is we have to build 7,534 houses.  But Surrey Heath and Rushmoor have said that we need to build 3,100 houses that they say they can’t build in their own area.  This pushes up our target to around 10,600 houses.  If the questionable assumptions in the SHMA were taken away, our housing target would fall substantially to around 6,100 houses, but there may be opportunities to shift some of our remaining target on to Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.

Challenging the SHMA

[These arguments have been expanded and refined on this page. ]

The following questions about the housing allocation for Hart were asked at the council meeting on 27 November.

This post refers to the Strategic Housing Market Assessment and its Appendix that are published on the Hart Website here:

(http://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/4_The_Council/Policies_and_published_documents/Planning_policy/HRSH%20Consultation%20Draft%20SHMA%20May%202014.pdf  and

http://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/4_The_Council/Policies_and_published_documents/Planning_policy/HRSH%20Consultation%20Draft%20SHMA%20Appendices%20May%202014.pdf ).

Process

 

  • Background: I would like to understand the process that was adopted to select Wessex Economics to conduct the SHMA. Their website (http://www.wessex-economics.co.uk/about/ ) indicates that they have extensive experience in the property sector, but the principal’s background is with DTZ a leading provider of services to investors and developers.  I am concerned that such a company will be biased towards “development” and not sympathetic to the needs of local people or the environment. Question:  What process was followed to select Wessex Economics and what process was followed to determine that Wessex did not have inappropriate relationships with or financial interests in any housing developers?
  • Background: In the appendix (A1.2), the process for stakeholder engagement is set out. The only people consulted were from local authorities or from developers and housing associations or their representatives.  If the main people consulted are the salivating developers, it cannot be a surprise that their input errs towards the need to build more.  Question: How can the SHMA be a truly Objective Assessment of Housing Need if the main consultees have a vested interest in the outcome?
  • Background: The SHMA is still in draft form on the Hart website. Question: Why is such a fundamental document as the Strategic Options for Housing Growth is being based on a flawed, unchallenged, draft document?
  • Background: Section 1.6 of the SHMA says “For a local plan to be considered sound in terms of overall housing provision, it first needs to have identified the full, objectively assessed need for housing in the housing market area. Local authorities then need to meet these needs in full and demonstrate how they will be met, or provide robust evidence that they cannot be delivered.Question: What evidence is the council producing to demonstrate the objectively assessed housing need is not deliverable?
  • Background: The starting point for the SHMA is the CLG forward population projections. These essentially project forward past trends.  Question: Notwithstanding this is the “preferred approach” in the NPPG, what evidence is there that basing the future need of an area on past population growth is the best or most desirable approach and has the council considered working with other councils to challenge the government mandated approach in the courts?
  • Background: Most of the consultation feedback from developers was against Option 4. The only developer in favour was Barratts and they produced an expensive glossy brochure as part of their submission.  Question: Please set out all of the contact between the council (meaning council officers and councillors) and Barratts in the period from one month before the SHMA was commissioned and 31 October 2014, and all of the contact between the council (meaning council officers and councillors) and all other significant developers for the same period.

 

Content

 

There are a large number of tautologies and flawed assumptions in the SHMA which I would like to draw out and thus challenge the overall conclusion.

 

  • Background: Surrey Heath and Rushmoor are both more highly developed than Hart.  Question: What is the rationale for grouping largely rural Hart with such heavily built up areas?  Would it not be more appropriate to group Hart with more rural districts to the west and south?
  • Background: The report uses as it starting point for the OAHN the official government projections for the number of households in the Housing Market Area (HMA) that includes Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath which states that the total number of new homes required per annum is 790. The report then states that the ONS usually understates these requirements so it makes an arbitrary adjustment upwards to 925 homes per annum.  However, the government website (https://www.gov.uk/household-projections-notes-and-definitions-for-data-analysts ) states that “The current methodology in England reflects work to improve the household projections outputs and methods to better meet user needs”.  Question: What is the justification for a small economics consultancy to challenge the official government figures when the government itself asserts that it has improved its methods and outputs, especially when the assumption leads to an additional 135 dwellings per annum being required across the whole HMA over a 20 year period, a total of 2,700 dwellings?
  • Background: The summary in section 3 notes that the level of household growth in Hart at 10% over the past 10 years has been higher than the regional and national averages. This growth in households can only have been accommodated by new building (e.g. Elvetham Heath in Fleet and St Mary’s Park in Hartley Wintney).  Question: Why is it that we need to base our future housing need on past rates of development that were above the regional and national average, this can only lead to the conclusion that over time, more building will lead to even more building which is absurd and cannot be “sustainable”?
  • Background: Section 7 of the report deals with migration into and out of the Surrey Heath, Rushmoor and Hart Housing Market Area (HMA). Figure 7.5 draws a correlation between migration and housing completions.  In essence, if you build more houses more people will come to the area.  This is perhaps an obvious point.  For Hart in particular, they use the years of 2005-2010 as the years that are most representative of the trend of migration (years in which significant building in Elvetham Heath and other places was taking place).  More recent trends in Figure 7.4 shows a slowdown of migration and indeed a net outward migration from Hart during 2009-2011 and a net outward migration from the whole of the HMA in 2011-12.  In essence they are saying in para 7.35 that we must assume levels of house-building during the credit boom (itself hardly sustainable) to support the population growth of that time in order to predict future population growth for which we will then need to build even more houses.  This is an absurd tautology which leads to a gross distortion of underlying need.  Question:  Why are we basing future need on the years with the highest inward migration that happened during an unsustainable credit boom, and not the most recent years with lower migration which will lead to a more economically and environmentally sustainable solution?
  • Background: Figure 7.7 shows that the trend in household size as measured by the census is slightly upward for the period from 2001 to 2011. However, all of the forward projections reverse this trend and predict a further fall in average household size without any justification.  Wessex have taken some mid-point of the CLG projections.  Question: Why can’t we base our projected household size on the most recent Census data rather than data that is 30 years old and thus reduce our OAHN?
  • Background: Para 7.63 assumes as its base level a higher rate of future job growth (700 p.a.) in the future than was achieved (650 p.a.) during the exceptional, unsustainable boom years of 1998-2008 when our rate of building was already above regional and national averages. Paras 7.68 and 7.69 then further exaggerate the future level of job growth by suggesting it could rise to 1,560 jobs per annum, more than double the Scenario 1 estimate which is based on employment growth that occurred during the largest, unsustainable credit boom in history.  The final jobs growth based estimate used is then a mid-point between the already over-estimated base assumption and the wildly exaggerated high end projection.  Question:  Why aren’t we using employment projections based on more sustainable economic and environmental assumptions which probably ought to be lower than those achieved between 1998-2008?
  • Background: Para 7.81 sets out six ways in which jobs can increase without increasing the need for additional housing. Para 7.83 says the modelling has taken account of only one of those factors.  This again has the impact of increasing the housing stock required in the OAHN.  Question: Why can’t we take account of all six ways in which jobs can increase without building more housing?
  • Background: Figure 8.9 suggests Hart needs to build around 260 affordable homes per annum if the backlog is to be cleared in five years as part of the overall 370 homes per annum required.  Question: Please explain how building a Barratts estate new town in Winchfield will address this affordable requirement?
  • Background: The demographics of the district are changing. According to the SHMA, by 2031, there will be an additional 10,000 people over 60 (including more than 6,850 over 75) expected to be living in the district and an extra 3,620 people who will be suffering from dementia or have some sort of mobility problem. Section 9 of the SHMA suggests that future housing stock should be built to broadly reflect the existing stock. Evidence from developers such as Churchill and McCarthy and Stone suggests (http://www.mccarthyandstone.co.uk/documents/research%20and%20policy/oorh%20full%20report%20may%202011.pdf  ) that remote estate locations are not good places to house the elderly and infirm.  Question: What evidence base is there to suggest that the needs of the future population will be met by past housing stock?  What evidence has the council collected to determine the best types of accommodation and the best places to build those types of housing to meet the needs of the elderly and infirm?
  • Background: Para 7.119 states the following “These market signals point to the need to identify and address the demographic and economic need for housing; they do not themselves provide a quantifiable need for housing (and indeed there is no recognised methodology for this)”. Question: If there is no recognised methodology for providing a quantifiable need for housing, why are we following an approach that is artificially inflating the housing need for the area that will inevitably lead to the destruction of the most attractive parts of the district?
  • Background: The Localism Act requires local authorities to maintain a list of assets of community value which have been nominated by the local community. Question: Where can the Hart register of assets of community value be found, and can I nominate the Winchfield area as an asset of community value?
  • Question: Can the council please commence activity to protect the Winchfield area as Green Belt on the following grounds:
    • To check the unrestricted sprawl of built-up areas.
    • To safeguard the surrounding countryside from further encroachment.
    • To prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another.
    • To preserve the special character of historic towns.