Return of the New Town: Winchfield fights back

Return of the New Town - Winchfield fights back

Return of the New Town – Winchfield fights back

We Heart Hart and Winchfield Parish Council (WPC) are fighting back against the decision to award funding for the  new town.

WPC has written to the Secretary of State demanding that the decision to award £150,000 of capacity funding to support the delivery of the Hartley Winchook/ Shapley Heath garden community new town be reversed.   In addition, We Heart Hart has written to MHCLG making a similar request, using slightly different arguments. We understand that the Rural Hart Association will also be making representations to MHCLG.

A summary of the WPC letter is shown below, together with links to the full text. The full text of the WHH letter follows.

Winchfield fights back: WPC Letter

The letter has the support of Hartley Wintney, Dogmersfield, Crondall, Greywell and Long Sutton & Well Parish Councils. The Parish Councils of Eversley, Odiham and South Warnborough have made known to WPC their concerns about the proposed development and will consider adding their full support to the letter when they next meet. WPC’s letter highlights the following concerns:

  1. The Inspector’s findings following the independent examination of the Local Plan rejected the SHGV proposal, which followed HDC’s Garden Village Application in November 2018.
  2. HDC’s ongoing promotion of SHGV is not supported by the Inspector’s findings on the submitted Local Plan and he is quite clear that other options need to be considered in an impartial manner.
  3. The absence of sound justification for bringing forward SHGV (as it is not needed to meet identified housing needs) and the lack of evidence to demonstrate that the proposal is deliverable and sustainable was confirmed by the Inspector’s findings on the submitted Plan.
  4. The numerous shortcomings with HDC’s bid when considered against the Garden Communities prospectus lead us to question how it has been successful.
  5. HDC pre-determined the plan-making process, and failed to provide the evidence to the Inspector to demonstrate that it had impartially assessed reasonable alternatives. If HDC proceed with a Local Plan review as indicated based on SHGV as its chosen long term growth strategy, it will irresponsibly overlook the Inspector’s criticisms of the current Plan’s failure to impartially assess reasonable alternatives, and continue to ignore local opinion. HDC’s bid to be included in the Gardens Community Programme is a further demonstration of their continuation of pre-determine the planning process.
  6. HDC’s ongoing promotion of SHGV is not supported by the local communities directly impacted by this large scale proposal.

The full text of their letter can be found here. And the appendix can be found here.

Winchfield Fights Back: We Heart Hart letter

The full text of our letter is set out below:

Dear Ministers,

 Re: Hart District Shapley Heath Garden Community Funding Award

My name is David Turver. I run a campaign in Hart District called We Heart Hart. We have taken an active role in the Hart Local Plan, and I was invited to speak at the examination hearing. We have successfully campaigned against the new settlement proposal. We believe that urban regeneration and brownfield development is a much more sustainable and better way to deliver Hart’s longer term development needs.

I note that you have recently awarded £150,000 of capacity funding to Hart District Council to support the delivery of the Shapley Heath so-called Garden Village in Winchfield/Murrell Green.

I would like to share with you some extra facts which may cause you to reconsider your decision. The main letter sets out the main points, backed up with links and references in the Appendices. I have copied my local MP, the leader of the Conservatives on Hart Council and your garden communities email address so you can obtain a soft copy of this letter and follow the embedded links if required.

New Settlement Policy SS3 not required and not sound

Hart’s Garden Community bid in November 2018 relied on Policy SS3 being found sound in their Local Plan examination. Policy SS3 proposed a new settlement in the same area of search as the proposed Shapley Heath development. The Local Plan itself acknowledges that the new settlement is not required to meet Hart’s housing needs. The Planning Inspector, Jonathan Manning, found that he had “a number of fundamental concerns with regard to the soundness of Policy SS3”. As a result, Hart Council has removed policy SS3 from the Local Plan to make the plan sound. See Appendix A for more details.

More work required to make new settlement sound leading to a delay of up to five years

The Inspector has said that much more work was required to make the new settlement sound:

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. Any further SA work would also need to include additional standalone consultation….

I am also mindful that following further work, there can be no guarantee that the evidence would support it as the most appropriate long-term growth strategy or that Policy SS3 would be found sound.

There are several alternative options, including alternative sites and alternative strategies such as urban regeneration. So, it is clear that a new SA would be a considerable undertaking in its own right. In the risk assessment accompanying Hart’s bid they anticipated this outcome. Their mitigation was to press-on regardless with the new settlement DPD, independent of the Local Plan. I am not at all convinced that creating a DPD outside of the Local Plan process is in line with the planning regulations.

However, the Inspector makes clear that significant SA work and a standalone consultation ought to precede a new DPD.  Moreover, in Hart’s latest consultation into the modifications required to make the Local Plan sound, they have completely changed their tune. The Sustainability Appraisal Addendum says that “the AoS/DPD process will effectively be replaced by a different process, most likely a new Local Plan” (see Appendix B). The impact of this is that:

  1. The further SA work may conclude that there are better alternatives to delivering longer term growth. I know there are many in the District who support our local MP’s call for urban regeneration.
  2. Even if it is decided that a new settlement is the best long term growth option, the timescales for a new Local Plan process indicate that work on a new DPD will not start for a considerable time; maybe up to five years.

No plans to meet commitments in the Garden Community bid

In their bid, Hart committed to producing a New Settlement DPD in December 2019 if they received the Garden Community funding (see Appendix C). Yet, in response to recent questions at council, they confirmed that they have no current plans to start the additional SA work required by the Inspector; no plans to produce the New Settlement DPD and have not allocated any of the £786K budget set aside for the New Settlement in FY19/20. It might be expected that the wide scope SA work would take at least six months, plus a further 2-3 months for a consultation. It is therefore difficult to see how work can start on a new DPD this financial year. Therefore, it is difficult to see how the Garden Communities grant money can be spent effectively during this financial year.

Deceptive Communications

In addition, I am sorry to report that the Lib Dem/Community Campaign Hart led Hart Council has not been as open and transparent as one would hope in its communications on this matter.  Recently, the council was asked who had been informed that Policy SS3 had been found unsound and removed from the Local Plan. Their answers stated that both Homes England and MHCLG had been kept informed prior to the funding announcement. However, a subsequent release of correspondence shows that the removal of Policy SS3 was a passing comment to an official in Homes England in an email about a different subject. There is no record of MHCLG being contacted directly. I am therefore concerned that MHCLG may not have been aware that the new settlement had been found unsound between Hart Council’s bid and the award of funding in June 2019. It would be a shame if the Government awarded money to fund an unnecessary and unsound white elephant project.

Alternative options

Quite separately, Hart made a recent bid for funds under the Future High Streets scheme and was turned down. Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena is running a campaign to support urban regeneration within Hart.

The catalyst for this could be the publicly owned civic quarter containing the Hart Council offices and the Harlington Centre. The area is ripe for mixed-use redevelopment including offices, homes, social and retail. If all levels of Government got behind this, it would spark interest in redeveloping the rest of the High Street, including the Hart Shopping Centre.

Conclusions

In conclusion, it is clear that the facts have changed since the bid was submitted.

  • Policy SS3 covering the Shapley Heath new settlement has been found to be unnecessary and unsound and removed from the Hart Local Plan.
  • There are no plans to conduct the wide ranging SA work required that might bring the new settlement back on to the agenda.
  • There is no guarantee that such work will conclude that a new settlement is the best option for long term growth.
  • It is inconceivable that such work could be completed during this financial year, meaning that work on a new settlement DPD could not even start before FY20/21, so the funds you have awarded could be wasted.

Therefore, I would be grateful if you could review your decision in the light of new facts. There are many residents of Hart who would be pleased if the Garden Communities funds were redirected towards regeneration of our decaying urban centres instead of concreting over the very green fields that make Hart such a great place to live.

Thank you for your kind consideration of these points. I understand Hart Council representatives are meeting with Homes England this month, so I hope you have time to re-consider the funding decision before that meeting. I look forward to your prompt reply.

Yours faithfully,

 

David Turver

cc:           Ranil Jayawardena MP (by email)

gardencommunities@communities.gov.uk (by email so the embedded links work)

Anne Crampton, leader of Conservative group on Hart Council (by email)

 

Appendix A: – Hart’s Assumptions and Inspector’s Report into Hart Local Plan

Here is Hart’s bid assumption that Policy SS3 would need to be found sound in the Local Plan:

Winchfield Fights Back - Shapley Heath funding assumes Policy SS3 remains in Hart Local Plan

Shapley Heath funding assumes Policy SS3 remains in Hart Local Plan

The Inspector’s post-hearing letter about the examination of the Hart Local Plan can be found here.

May I draw particular attention to paras 17-39. A summary of his findings with respect to the Sustainability Appraisal and the New Settlement are shown below:

  • The ranking of Option 1b (the new settlement) “as the best performing under heritage is not justified”.
  • For land and other resources, the ranking of Option 1b “is also therefore not, in my view, robust”.
  • The Inspector decided that “the decision not to rank the options in terms of flood risk to be very questionable”.
  • On landscape issues the Inspector concluded:

Option 1b was ranked joint highest with Option 1a. However, it is unclear why this is the case, given that the proposed new settlement would result in the development of large areas of open countryside and Option 1a already benefits from planning permission and is largely previously developed land. Further, the post submission SA notes that Pale Lane is ‘relatively unconstrained’, but despite this and it being a smaller site / potential development, Option 3a is ranked lower than Option 1b.

  • The Inspector has this to say on the climate change ranking:

Option 1b has been ranked the highest under the category climate change. This is as a result of the potential for the proposed new settlement to deliver a district heating system. However, there is little evidence to suggest that this is a feasible or realistic option that is being actively pursued by the site promoters. I consider this raises doubt about the appropriateness of such a ranking.

  • The ranking for the impact on water was also criticised by the Inspector.

In conclusion on the SA the Inspector said:

In my judgement the scoring of Option 1b above or equal to other options is not justified by the evidence. As a result, I consider that Policy SS3 and its supporting text are not justified, as, on the currently available evidence, it cannot be determined that it represents the most appropriate long-term growth strategy.

I consider that the post submission SA is therefore not robust and should not be relied upon in support of the Plan.

In addition, the Inspector clearly states:

Given my earlier findings in terms of the housing requirement, Policy SS3 is not required for the Plan to be sound and, in light of my comments above, I consider that the most appropriate course of action would be to remove it (along with any other necessary subsequent changes) from the Plan through Main Modifications (MMs). This would allow the Plan to progress towards adoption without any significant delay to the examination process…

I consider that it would not be unsound for the Plan to retain the Council’s aspirations to plan for long-term needs beyond the Plan period, which could include the delivery of a new settlement. But, the Plan should clearly state that this, as a growth option, would need to be fully considered and evidenced in a future (potentially early or immediate) review of the Plan or a subsequent DPD…

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…

I am also mindful that following further work, there can be no guarantee that the evidence would support it as the most appropriate long-term growth strategy or that Policy SS3 would be found sound.

 

 

Appendix B: Local Plan Modifications and Sustainability Appraisal Addendum

The main modification related to removing Policy SS3, New Settlement from the Hart Local Plan can be found below. The full consultation can be found here.

Winchfield Fights Back - Shapley Heath Policy SS3 removed from Hart Local Plan

Winchfield Fights Back – Shapley Heath Policy SS3 removed from Hart Local Plan

The Sustainability Appraisal Addendum accompanying the consultation into the Main Modifications to the Local Plan can be found here.

I draw your attention to page 2:

Winchfield Fights Back: SA Addendum impact on Winchfield New Town Area of Search

Winchfield Fights Back: SA Addendum impact on Winchfield New Town Area of Search

 

Appendix C: Bid Commitments and Lack of Current Plans

No doubt you already have a copy of their bid commitment. Here is the commitment to produce a New Settlement DPD for consultation by December 2019.

Winchfield Fights Back: Shapley Heath New Town Bid Timeline for DPD

New Settlement Bid Timeline for DPD

The draft minutes from the Hart Council meeting held on 25 July 2019 can be found here. I refer you to Q&A in Appendix A.

Here is the response that shows no plans to carry out the additional SA work required by the Inspector:

Winchfield fights back: No plan for SA work

Winchfield fights back: No plan for SA work

No plans to allocate budget:

Hart Council has no idea how it will spend £786K winchfield new town money

Hart Council Knows Nothing: No idea how much of £786K will be spent or when

No plans for a New Settlement DPD.

Hart Council has no plan for Winchfield New Town proposals

Hart Council Knows Nothing: No plan for New Settlement DPD

 

Appendix D – Deceptive Communications

Statement at Hart Cabinet in July that both Homes England and MHCLG were informed:

Winchfield fights back: Chairman Announcement MHCLG kept informed

Winchfield fights back: Chairman Announcement MHCLG kept informed

Question asking how MHCLG and Homes England were kept informed of the changing status of the New Settlement in Policy SS3 in the Hart Local Plan.

Winchfield fights back: Cockarill MHCLG and civil servant kept informed

Winchfield fights back: Cockarill MHCLG and civil servant kept informed

 

The subsequent release of correspondence shows only one email to Kevin Bourner informing him in passing of the removal of Policy SS3. This can be found here.

Key passage:

Winchfield fights back: HDC email to Homes England

Winchfield fights back: HDC email to Homes England

The only correspondence with MHCLG prior to the announcement is asking for an update on the announcement timetable. This email is not addressed to Simon Ridley who made the award.

 

 

 

 

Hart Local Plan: Restore strategic gaps

Hart Regulation 18 Strategic gaps

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation removes the Regulation 18 Strategic Gaps

This is the sixth and final part of our submission to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation. This article explains how Hart have removed the strategic gaps around Harley Wintney and Hook that were present in the last consultation. We believe they should restore them and policy NBe2 should be amended.  The process for making a submission is as follows:

  1. Go to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 Consultation page of the Council website
  2. From the Hart website, download and complete Response Form Part A (Personal Details). A copy can be downloaded here.
  3. Also download and complete the Response Form Part B (Your Representations), a separate Part B is required for each representation you wish to make. A copy can be downloaded here.
  4. Make sure you include words of this form in each representation. Policy [X] is not sound because it is not [positively prepared, justified, effective or consistent with national policy] (delete as appropriate).
  5. Once you have filled in Part A and Part B, please email them to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk or post them to Planning Policy Team, Hart District Council, Harlington Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 4AE.
Submissions have to be made before 4pm on 26 March 2018. If you are keen to get your submission completed, you can use the summary guide we have pulled together, or for the more adventurous, you can use our full submission. Please edit the text into your own words.

Restore the strategic gaps to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 Consultation

The Local Plan identifies strategic gaps between settlements.

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19: Hartley Winchook leads to no strategic gaps around Hartley Wintney nor to the east of Hook

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 Consultation Strategic Gaps

However, no gaps are proposed to the east of Hook, to the north west of Fleet or anywhere around Hartley Wintney. This is contrary to the Regulation 18 consultation (see top), where strategic gaps were included to the east of Hook and the SW of Hartley Wintney. These should be restored and new ones added to give effective gaps between Winchfield and the west of Fleet/Elvetham Heath to avoid coalescence into a Hartley Winchook urban sprawl.

Remedy: This policy needs to be amended to include:

  1. A gap to the west of Hook from the east bank of the River Whitewater to at least the power line between Hook and Hartley Wintney
  2. A gap to the south and west of Hartley Wintney/Phoenix Green. This should be at both sides of the A30, from the existing end of development to the Murrell Green light-industrial estate and from St Mary’s Park to the motorway
  3. A gap from Elvetham Heath/A323 to the River Hart and from Edenbrook/Hitches Lane to the River Hart
  4. A gap from the east of Taplins Farm Lane/The Hurst to the River Hart.

 

Hart Local Plan: Remove Policy SS3 to build a new town

We have finally pulled together our submission to the Regulation 19 Hart Local Plan consultation. This, the first of a series of article explains some of the reasons why Policy SS3 to build a new town should be removed.

The process for making a submission is as follows:
  1. Go to the Hart Local Plan Consultation page of the Council website
  2. From the Hart website, download and complete Response Form Part A (Personal Details). A copy can be downloaded here.
  3. Also download and complete the Response Form Part B (Your Representations), a separate Part B is required for each representation you wish to make. A copy can be downloaded here
  4. Make sure you include words of this form in each representation. Policy [X] is not sound because it is not [positively prepared, justified, effective or consistent with national policy] (delete as appropriate).
  5. Once you have filled in Part A and Part B, please email them to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk or post them to Planning Policy Team, Hart District Council, Harlington Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 4AE. 
Submissions have to be made before 4pm on 26 March 2018. If you are keen to get your submission completed, you can use the summary guide we have pulled together, or for the more adventurous, you can use our full submission. Please edit the text into your own words.
WHH Local Plan Reg 19 Guide
WHH Local Plan Reg 19 Entry

Why should Policy SS3 for a new town be removed from the Hart Local Plan?

The most egregious part of the draft Local Plan is the proposal to include an unnecessary new town. This should be removed for the following reasons:

  • The new town is not required, even with the inflated housing numbers in Policy SS1
  • The proposal is unsustainable and undeliverable
  • The supposed sweetener of a secondary school is unnecessary and won’t be placed in a viable location
  • Will lead to coalescence with surrounding settlements
  • Breaks a number of the council’s own objectives elsewhere in the plan
  • It will hinder the much needed regeneration of our urban centres, in particular Fleet

The new town is not required

The housing numbers in the draft Local Plan are too high. Even if one assumes the housing numbers are correct, the council itself admits that the new town is not required.

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19: Hart say we don't need a new town

Not only that, the council themselves admit that the housing supply is under-estimated.

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19: Understated housing supply

And even this under-estimate does not include housing supply identified in the Winchfield and Hartley Wintney Neighbourhood plans.

The combination of the over-inflated housing demand numbers and the under-stated housing supply numbers mean that the new town simply is not required.

The new town proposal is unsustainable

The area of search identified in the Local Plan contains a very wide area, consisting of the areas known as Murrell Green and Winchfield.

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19: Policy SS3 Murrell Green and Winchfield Area of search for Hartley WInchook new settlement

We don’t need Hartley Winchook new town so why is it in the Local Plan?

The attempts at sustainability appraisals of the Murrell Green and Winchfield sites have been poor, but nevertheless have demonstrated some very significant weaknesses that cannot be overcome.

SHL167 SHLAA Map - Beggars Corner, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

SHL167 SHLAA Map – Beggars Corner, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

Let’s deal with Murrell Green first. Part of the site, known as Beggars Corner was the subject of a planning application for a Solar Farm. This was refused on the grounds that it would spoil the views from Odiham.  It is difficult to see how a 1,800 unit development would be any less intrusive than a solar farm. Moreover, that planning application identified that part of the Beggars Corner location is former landfill and some of it has unknown contents. This does not appear to be a suitable location on which to build new houses, or indeed form part of a SANG.

SHL 167 Landfill details Beggars Corner

SHL 167 Landfill details Beggars Corner, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

The sustainability appraisal conveniently did not cover this part of the proposed Murrell Green development.

Moreover, the SA did not manage to discover that there is a Major Accident Hazard Pipeline crossing the site.  Not only that, the developer’s proposal included a secondary school sited right on top of the pipeline. After examination of the HSE rules regarding such installations, I conclude that neither houses nor schools will be able to be built within up to 100m of that pipeline. I also understand that roads should not cross such pipelines either. See analysis here.

Murrell Green high pressure gas main

Murrell Green development with high pressure gas pipeline

When one adds in other constraints such as SINCs, proximity of a high voltage power line, the railway and the M3, it appears as though the Murrell Green part of the area of search is not suitable for large scale development.

Turning to the Winchfield part of the area of search, it should be noted that the Winchfield sustainability assessment had to be extracted from HDC by FOI request. It can be found here.

The first point to note is that much of land in the Winchfield area of search is not in fact for sale. This comprises the central swathe known as Talbothay’s Farm plus other areas. Immediately, this leads to the conclusion that it won’t be possible to plan for a coherent settlement if the central part is not available.

In addition, the main areas considered to be constraints in the SA report were:

  • Historic Environment
  • Bio-diversity
  • Landscape
  • Water Quality
  • Flood risk

More detail on this can be found here. Other spurious claims were made in the SA, such as the claim that building a “renewable and low-carbon energy generation and transfer” plant will diversify energy supply. What they mean is building a wood-burning power station utilising locally sourced timber (p74). Such a plant would be extremely undesirable since burning wood produces more CO2 than burning coal, and none of the proposed master plans include such space for such a plant. Plus, of course, I don’t think many people would support chopping down Bramshill forest to fuel such a plant. This claim was used to indicate that Winchfield was somehow more sustainable than other potential locations.

They also claim that building 3,000 new houses, with associated traffic will somehow “reduce the
emissions of greenhouse gases and manage the impacts of climate change”. Again, complete and utter nonsense.

They also say there was some evidence of wet ground at the far east of SHL183, but “no other obvious evidence of current or past flooding”.

Winchfield Strategic Assessment - Flood Risk 1

This is of course complete nonsense. The detailed assessment also says there’s only a one in 30 year chance of surface water flooding. The area of Taplins Farm Lane near the railway bridge flooded three times in 2016 alone. Evidence documenting the flood events can be found here (4 Jan) , here (7 Jan)here (9 March on Station Road) and here (28 March due to #StormKatie). I also understand that a similar area has flooded again in January 2018. These are obviously more than one in 30 year events.

The area east of Winchfield fared less well than Murrell Green in the sustainability assessment even with the grossly understated the flood risk. And of course there were other issues with Historic Environment, Bio-diversity, Landscape and Water Quality. It is difficult to see how this could deliver a significant number of houses.

The area west of Winchfield was ruled out of the sustainability assessment, because it is a more peripheral location relative to the train station, does not offer a central focus and is in close proximity to Odiham SSSI. It therefore offers little prospect of significant housing development.

It is clear that there are very considerable constraints even before considering the infrastructure problems.

Hart has not put together proper estimates of the costs of infrastructure; despite saying it would do so.

Hart Testing Commitment January 2015

We have made several estimates that can be found here, here and here. Essentially, if a new motorway junction is required, the costs will be in excess of £300m. If the new junction is not required, the costs will be at least £200m. A rough schedule of requirements includes:

  • Secondary school and three primary schools
  • New sewage works
  • Power station (as per SA)
  • Improved drainage
  • Re-routing or burying of electricity power lines
  • Railway station upgrade to extend platforms and car park (or relocate)
  • The bridges that carry the railway over Station Road, Taplins Farm Lane and Pale Lane will all need to be upgraded in some way
  • New big roundabouts at either end of the B3016
  • New smaller roundabouts from B3016 and A30 to the new town, new roundabout to join Pale Lane and the A323, new roundabout on A287/Crondall Road and at Pilcot Road/Hitches Lane
  • New or widened roads at Bagwell Lane, Taplins Farm Lane/Church Lane, Station Road, Pale Lane and Chatter Alley/Pilcot Road. Plus many ancient hedgerows will have to be relocated.
  • Potentially widening the A30 around Phoenix Green on the approach to artHHartley Wintney
  • New healthcare facilities
  • New sports and community facilities

If this is a 5,000 dwelling new town, with 40% ‘affordable’, the remaining market houses might be expected to generate £15-20K per unit of S106/CIL. This would amount to around £45-60m. This is well short of the funding requirement and therefore might be expected to make the existing infrastructure funding gap worse.

Taken together, it is difficult to see how such a new town could be either sustainable or viable. Indeed, it is notable that in the three years of this saga, with many Hart Council members being supportive and apparently developers becoming anxious, no planning application has been made. Perhaps that’s because the developers also realise this is a pipedream.

Secondary school unnecessary and not in a suitable location

A number of councillors have made a fuss about a new settlement bringing a new secondary school. The trouble with this is that they have yet to provide a shred of evidence that a new secondary school is in fact required.

Back in 2015, Hampshire’s forecast went as far as 2018 and they were predicting a surplus of places up to 2018. They also forecast a falling birth rate and a significant number of existing pupils attending Hart schools from outside the district.

In 2017, HCC published a new school place plan that showed an overall surplus of places in both secondary and primary schools up to 2021.

A recent letter from a Hampshire Councillor shows that 98% of Hampshire secondary pupils have been allocated a place at a school of their choice for the next academic year.

Hampshire schools keep up with demand

So, having established that a new school is probably not required, we must now address the proposals that have been put forward over the past three years for the sites of new secondary schools.

First, we had Barratts in 2014 putting up a proposal to place a new school right next door to an institution housing sex offenders.

Mildmay Oaks Hospital next door to proposed school

Proposed school next door to Mildmay Oaks Hospital that held escaped child sex offender

Then we had the proposal, described above to build a secondary school right on top of the high-pressure gas main running through the Murrell Green site.

More recently we have had another proposal from promoters of Winchfield which placed the secondary school directly under the high-voltage power lines.

Winchfield Garden Community Master Plan with pylons and powerline

Winchfield Garden Community Master Plan with pylons and powerline

If after three years of trying, they cannot find a suitable location for a secondary school, one does have to come to the conclusion that they never will.

In conclusion, it is apparent that we don’t need a secondary school, and none of the developers involved have managed to find a suitable location.

Coalescence

The area of search is very wide. It borders Hook to the west, Hartley Wintney/Phoenix Green to the north east and comes very close to the Edenbrook development and the proposed Pale Lane development to the east. The bulk of the proposal also comes very close to Dogmersfield.

In other areas of the Local Plan, the council have been quite assiduous in defining strategic gaps. They have produced no such gaps around the new area of search, nor to the east of Hook or anywhere around Hartley Wintney. Nor are any gaps proposed to the north west of Fleet.

Hartley Winchook leads to no strategic gaps around Hartley Wintney nor to the east of Hook

If they are allowed to go ahead with this area of search, unconstrained by strategic gaps, there is a strong risk that they will come up with proposals that lead to coalescence of our proud villages.

Breaks the Objectives elsewhere in the Hart Local Plan

Elsewhere in the Local Plan, Hart have come up with a number of objectives. These are reproduced below with my comments in bold on how these proposals break those objectives.

  1. To support the vitality and viability of the District’s town and village centres to serve the needs of residents. Adding a new settlement will draw retail traffic away from our existing urban centres, most notably Fleet, and lead to even faster degeneration of Fleet as a retail destination. This can hardly be described as supporting vitality and viability.
  2. To conserve and enhance the distinctive built and historic environment in the District including the protection of heritage assets and their settings. The proposed area of search includes a Norman church dating back to the Domesday Book and several SSSI’s including at Odiham and Basingstoke Canal. There are numerous other distinctive and historic buildings. Building a new settlement right next door to these valuable assets with neither conserve nor enhance the environment.
  3. To protect and enhance the District’s natural environment, landscape character, water environment and biodiversity, including ensuring appropriate mitigation is in place for new development to avoid adverse impacts on the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (TBHSPA).Building a new settlement in one of the most attractive parts of the district, containing many woodlands and hedgerows supporting much wildlife such as deer and kingfishers, used by many for leisure and recreation will actively damage the landscape and biodiversity.
  4. To provide measures for adapting to the impacts of climate change and minimising the contribution of new development to the causes of climate change, including reducing the risk of flooding by directing development away from areas at risk of flooding, and using opportunities offered by new development to reduce the causes and impacts of flooding from all sources. We have already established that the SA grossly under-stated the flood risk in the area known as Winchfield East, yet they are proposing to build on this area, directly against their stated objective.
  5. To promote healthy and sustainable local communities through protecting and enhancing community, sport, health, cultural, recreation and leisure facilities, and through the delivery of a multi-functional green infrastructure network across the District. We already have a multi-functional green infrastructure network in Winchfield used for recreation and leisure. Building on it will destroy it, again directly contravening their own objective.
  6. To maintain the separate character and identity of settlements by avoiding development that would result in their physical or visual coalescence. Again, we established the risk of coalescence earlier. This proposal, if implemented would effectively create a single urban conurbation from Hartland Park in the east, across Fleet and Hartley Wintney to Hook in the west. This is an appalling prospect, again directly breaking their own objective.

Remedy:  I would propose that Policy SS3 is removed entirely from the Hart Local Plan, and consequent amendments are made to SS1.

Hartley Wintney Preservation Society criticise new town in Hart Local Plan

Hartley Wintney Preservation Society blast new town proposal in Hart Local Plan

Hartley Wintney Preservation Society blast new town proposal in Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 Consultation

Hartley Wintney Preservation Society have criticised the proposals for a new town contained in the draft Hart Local Plan. Their full comments can be found in the download below.

They are concerned about the threat to Hartley Wintney represented by Policy SS3 New Settlement at the Murrell Green/Winchfield. This could lead to 3,000 homes at Winchfield and 1,800 homes at Murrell Green.

A summary of their arguments follows:

  1. The prior consultations about the Hart Local Plan that resulted in a preference for a new town are invalid because they were predicated upon much higher housing numbers that we now don’t need to achieve
  2. The proposed housing numbers are far too high, containing arbitrary uplifts to the new Government figures that simply are not required
  3. Even using the inflated housing numbers in the draft Hart Local Plan, the new town simply is not required, and the plan itself makes that clear
  4. The alleged funding for infrastructure for the new town will not materialise and won’t be enough to cover the costs
  5. Significant parts of the area of search are not suitable for housing, such as Murrell Green (gas main) and Beggars Corner (former landfill and planning permission for a solar farm already turned down)
  6. Lead to inevitable coalescence of Hartley Wintney with Murrell Green, Hook and the three hamlets that make up Winchfield
  7.  The new town proposals will starve Fleet of much needed funding and focus on regeneration

Please use these words as guidance for your own response, but try to rephrase the comments.

We will be publishing our own objections to the Hart Local Plan in the coming days. Stay tuned.

The consultation runs from 9 February 2018 to 4pm on 26 March 2018. The whole suite of documents can be found here.

HWPS Reg 19 Guide

 

Time to oppose silly Hartley Winchook new town in Local Plan

Policy SS3 Murrell Green and Winchfield Area of search for Hartley WInchook new settlement

We don’t need Hartley Winchook new town so why is it in the Local Plan?

Hart District Council has begun the Regulation 19 consultation on the Local Plan. This is the final version before submission to the Inspector later this year. Unsurprisingly, this still contains Policy SS3, with proposals for the entirely unnecessary Hartley Winchook new town.

The consultation run from 9 February 2018 to 4pm on 26 March 2018. The whole suite of documents can be found here.

We will, of course, oppose the new town elements of the Local Plan. However, we have to take great care in opposing the plan, because the worst outcome would be that the whole plan is failed by the Inspector.

Hart says that representations about the Local Plan should relate to legal compliance, duty to cooperate and tests of soundness. Helpfully, the council has provided a guidance note on how to respond.

We beleive there are grounds to challenge the plan on the grounds of soundness. Overall our objective should be to get Policy SS3 removed, together with the necessary grammar changes to Policy SS1 to ensure consistency.

How will the Inspector assess the Local Plan

We understand the Inspector is going to look at seven key areas:

1. Duty to co-operate / legal compliance
2. Spatial strategy
3. Housing numbers
4. New settlement area of search
5. Town centre regeneration
6. Infrastructure
7. Development management policies

We believe the spatial strategy is flawed, because it includes provision for the new town, which is enitrely unnecessary to meet the still inflated housing numbers.

The housing numbers themselves are based on the new Government methodology. However, they have included an arbitrary 25% uplift to the requirement, which we believe is too high.

The new settlement area of search is very wide and covers areas that have already not passed testing:

  • The area west of Winchfield was ruled out of the sustainability assessment, because it is a more peripheral location relative to the train station, does not offer a central focus and is in close proximity to Odiham SSSI.
  • The area east of Winchfield fared less well that Murrell Green and of course the sustainability assessment grossly understated the flood risk. And of course there were other issues with Historic Environment, Bio-diversity, Landscape and Water Quality.
  • The sustainability appraisal famously did not take account of the high-pressure gas main traversing the site.

Moreover, it is highly likely that the costs to deliver the required infrastructure will far exceed any realistic assessment of developer contributions.

Hart acknowledge that Fleet will face a challenge “to secure investment so that it can compete with the comparable towns in neighbouring districts”. Yet, the local plan contains no plans to regenerate our main town centre.

The infrastructure plan is paper thin, and they offer no solutions on how to close the £73m infrastructure funding deficit and no plans in particular to improve healthcare in the district.

The development plan policies contain a number of strategic gaps around the district, but leave Hartley Wintney totally exposed with no strategic gaps planned.

 

 

Hartley Winchook leads to no strategic gaps around Hartley Wintney nor to the east of Hook

We will pull together a more detailed response in the coming weeks.

Hartley Winchook plan comes back like a terminator

Hartley Winchook new town keeps coming back like a terminator

Community Campaign Hart and Liberal Democrats bring back the Hartley Winchook new town plan, like a Terminator

Happy New Year to everyone. Before Christmas we reported on the details of the forthcoming draft Local Plan.  We thought the new Government approach to calculating housing need had killed off the idea of a Hartley Winchook, but it has returned like a Terminator who doesn’t understand its time has passed.

The CCH/Lib Dem coalition have included plans for a new Hartley Winchook settlement in the draft Local Plan, even though a new town is not required. There are key council meetings on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of January 2018 to discuss these plans. We would urge as many people as possible to go along an oppose this aspect of the proposed Local Plan.

 

Policy SS3 Murrell Green and Winchfield Area of search for new settlement

Policy SS3 Murrell Green and Winchfield Area of search for new settlement

We oppose this element of the proposed Local Plan for the following reasons:

  1. A new town is not needed to meet the required housing numbers. The Council have set the housing target at a generous 6,208 over the planning period from 2016 to 2032. We believe this target is more than is required, but we could live with it. A new town is not required to deliver these numbers. They have identified 6,346 homes to supply this requirement, without the new town being required.
  2. They are intending to plan for a new town that will start delivering even more new houses in 2024. This will lead to significant over-delivery of housing, unnecessarily decimating our countryside and setting an increased target for future generations.
  3. Diverts attention away from the necessary regeneration of our urban centres of Fleet, Hook, Blackwater and Yateley.
  4. We believe the proposal is misleading and potentially unsound because the area of search includes land that is definitely not available, for example Andrew Renshaw’s farm in Winchfield.
  5. Unnecessarily blights the property values of residents in the area of search, which might well be illegal.
  6. No local gaps provided around Hartley Wintney, Winchfield or to the east of Hook, (see image below).
  7. Creates unnecessary extra work and lack of focus at this crucial stage of plan development. It is imperative that the Local Plan is approved as quickly as possible. Everybody would be able to live with the proposals if the Hartley Winchook new town plan were deleted. Including it now, adds unnecessary controversy.

Hartley Winchook leads to no strategic gaps around Hartley Wintney nor to the east of Hook

Please do go along to the following council meeting and make these arguments:

  • Overview and Scrutiny meeting on 2nd January at 7pm
  • Cabinet meeting on 3rd January at 7pm  and finally,
  • Full Council on 4th January at 7pm

It is time to terminate this daft idea. We are sorry that we can’t be there, as we are travelling over this Christmas and New Year period.

 

Is the Murrell Green new settlement viable?

Murrell Green new settlement proposal

Murrell Green new settlement proposal

We wrote yesterday that the council has prioritised the Murrell Green new settlement as part of the Hart Local Plan. However, there are very real questions about the viability of these proposals.

  • Environmental concerns
  • Infrastructure issues
  • Coalescence of Hartley Wintney and Hook
  • Financial stability of the promoter

Environmental concerns about the Murrell Green new settlement

Part of the site includes Beggars Corner which is the triangular piece of land between the railway and motorway. A proposal for a solar farm on this land was turned down at appeal last year. The main reasons for turning it down were:

  1. Harming the enjoyment of those walking the public footpath across the site. This is shown as a dotted red line on the map
  2. Spoiling the view from the Deer Park at Odiham

Houses are obviously taller than solar panels, and indeed some houses might have solar panels on their roofs. So, how can it be sensible to build houses when solar panels were deemed inappropriate?

Furthermore, a significant part of Beggars Corner used to be landfill, with unknown contents

SHL 167 Landfill details Beggars Corner

SHL 167 Landfill details Beggars Corner, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

It is not appropriate to build houses on this type of land. Nor should it be promoted as green-space for children or dog walking when we don’t know what toxins lie beneath.

It should also be noted that a 110kV electricity transmission line traverses the site as well as a high pressure gas main. Hardly appropriate for housing or recreation.

Gas Main through Murrell Green new settlement Site

Gas Main through Murrell Green Site

The site is also within the Thames Valley SPA 5km zone of influence. There are three Sites of Interest to Nature Conservation (SINC) on the site plus a further SINC just to the west at the River Whitewater.

Finally, there are a number of public footpaths that currently criss-cross the site and they appear to be destoyed by this new proposal.

Infrastructure Issues

The only access to the south of the proposed Murrell Green new settlement is Totters Lane. This is single track in places with a very narrow bridge over the railway. To the north there is the A30 which is already very busy, with choke points at Phoenix Green, Hartley Wintney and the roundabout in Hook. It is difficult to see how these choke points can be alleviated.

Those of us who use Winchfield station know that the car-park is frequently full to capacity and of course, the whole line to London is running over capacity. The idea that either Hook or Winchfield stations can accommodate the extra passengers from thousands more houses is simply laughable.

In addition, the previous strategic assessment of Murrell Green included concerns about:

  1. Healthcare provision – I can speak from personal experience that Whitewater Health that covers Hook and Hartley Wintney is full
  2. Primary school provision
  3. Availability of supermarkets

Coalescence of Hartley Wintney and Hook

The proposed site abuts the south western boundary of Hartley Wintney parish and is close to what are currently quite widely spaced houses.

Hook SHLAA sites in Hart District, Hampshire

Hook SHLAA sites in Hart District, Hampshire

The western side of the Murrell Green new settlement comes within a couple of hundred metres of the new development to the NE of Hook (sites 1, 2 and 3 on the image above). Note that sites 4 and 126 on the map above are not (yet) included in the new settlement proposal.

In essence, we are creating Hartley Winchook.

Financial viability of the promoter

Last year, it came to light that there was a ‘secret plan‘ for a very large settlement that included both Winchfield and Murrell Green. The Murrell Green part of the proposal was promoted by a company called Pearson Strategic Limited.

There are a number of pertinent facts about this company:

  1. It only has one director, James Turner
  2. It was only incorporated in November 2014 and has no revenue
  3. At the time of its last accounts, it has a negative net worth of £3,240
  4. Its only real asset is promotion rights over Totters Farm that has been mortgaged under a fixed and floating charge to Monopro Limited.

One really has to question whether we should be building the Hart Local Plan around a site with such little backing.

Accounts to Pearson Strategic can be found here.

Fixed and Floating charge document can be found here.

Conclusion

Some Hart Councillors seem hellbent on a new settlement regardless of the suitability or viability. In addition, they have not challenged the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) hard enough. If we are sensible about the housing targets and get properly serious about the brownfield opportunities we don’t need a new settlement anywhere in Hart.

Time to make our voice heard again.

 

Tories lose control of Hart Council after 2 defect to CCH

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

Hart Council has been thrown into some disarray after Conservative Councillors Sara Kinnell and Richard Woods have defected to Concrete Community Campaign Hart (CCH). These changes to the balance of power on the Council have not been formally announced by either the council or the parties. However, they are clearly shown on the council website.

[Update]

Hart Council releases short statement:

On Tuesday 29 November we received confirmation that Cllr Sara Kinnell and Cllr Richard Woods had changed political party both from Conservative to Community Campaign Hart (CCH).

There have been no changes in the Leadership of the Council or the Cabinet Members and the allocation of major committees remain unchanged.

[/Update]

[Update 2] Councillors release statement [/Update 2]

Hart Councillor Richard Woods Community Campaign Hart

From Hart Council Website: Councillor Richard Woods, Community Campaign Hart

 

Hart Councillor Sara Kinnell Community Campaign Hart

From Hart Council Website: Councillor Sara Kinnell, Community Campaign Hart

It is not clear why CCH have not announced this coup on their own website. It is also not clear why these councillors have not done the honourable thing and resigned their seats and fought by-elections to reaffirm the support of their constituents.

Impact on Hart Council Power Balance

Prior to the defections, the Tories held 16 of the 33 seats and relied upon independent councillor Rob Leeson for a majority. Now they only hold 14 seats which makes them the largest party but still two short of an absolute majority even if they can continue to rely upon the support of Councillor Leeson.

Hart District Council Party Affiliation

It is unclear why the councillors have made this move. However, at the council meeting of 27 October both councillors voted for the CCH amendment to mandate a new settlement in Hart even though the other Tories (and some Liberal Democrats) voted down that amendment.

Their move is strange for a number of reasons. First, even though the CCH amendment failed, the current position does not preclude a new settlement. Secondly, We Heart Hart understands that the proposed Winchfield New Town has failed testing, so regardless of the opinions of Councillors Kinnell and Woods, this new town won’t go ahead because it is not viable.

Impact on Planning Committee balance

It is not clear what the impact of this move will be on the composition of the Planning Committee. We Heart Hart understands that the composition of this committee should be proportional to the number of seats each party holds on the council. Councillor Woods sat on the committee as a Conservative, but is now CCH.  So, the Tories lose one and CCH gain one seat on the committee, giving each party the same number of seats on the committee, even though CCH have four fewer seats on the council. It would be ironic indeed if Councillor Woods was ejected from the Committee to be replaced by a councillor opposed to the Hartley Winchook New Town. Indeed it would be even more ironic if he was unable to vote on the upcoming planning application about Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse).

Hart Council Planning Committee Composition

It is clear there is huge amount of wrangling going on over the spatial strategy that is due to be unveiled on 13 December. It seems the Tories will be reliant upon some of the Liberal Democrats to carry through their preferred proposals.

Election update: Hook candidates declare their positions

We Love Hart Ballot Box

Hook Action Against Over Development have been in touch with some of the local candidates for Hook ward in the Hart District Council local elections 2016, and managed to get some additional information out of their local candidates and have circulated this in an email to their supporters.

This is reproduced below, with our response where appropriate. The appropriate detailed pages for each party have been updated accordingly as well as our summary page.  The detailed party pages are:

Colin Ive, Liberal Democrat – No election leaflet delivered, local party website has no information on the current elections and no candidate contact details.

Mike Morris, The Conservative Party Candidate:

I joined the council because of the 550 houses that were proposed at NE Hook and out of choice became part of the planning team that is processing that site and others around Hook. As you know none of which I welcomed and said so in front of all that attended the Basingstoke Hotel Hook residents meeting.

I do not support urban extensions as they do not bring forward sufficient new infrastructure capacity but just overload current capacity. Nor do some Brownfield sites under permitted development! However I welcome the proposed development at Hartlands (sic) Park (Pyestock) with its 1000 plus housing which will reduce the housing numbers Hart has to deliver. Nevertheless this hasn’t changed my mind regarding the need for a large settlement site at Winchfield which I support as its deemed the only sustainable and developable site in the district to deliver sufficient housing numbers for the current ( impending ) plan and the future.

As you would expect every District Councillor defends his Ward and therefore some of my Conservative colleagues particularly those serving Wards in and adjacent to Winchfield would naturally be against the proposed Winchfield development. I fully understand their position and I would do the same if it applied to Hook or Rotherwick.

I’m unaware of a party line to vote one way or another on any future development and always intended to vote for and on behalf of Hook and Rotherwick residents within best practice in terms of planning policy.

Our response:

  1. Hart Council has said Hartland Park has capacity for 1,500 homes, not 1,000.  And of course it will not reduce the number of houses Hart has to deliver, but will make a significant contribution to meeting the alleged ‘need’.
  2. All of the sites proposed for the Winchfield new town are classified as “not currently developable” in the SHLAA, so it is misleading to suggest otherwise.  No evidence has been presented to demonstrate that a new town at Winchfield is ‘sustainable’.
  3. Hook is adjacent to Winchfield, and indeed around 1,850 of the proposed 5,000 new houses in the Hartley Winchook new town are actually in Hook parish.  One might hope that Hook councillors would acknowledge this fact and look more closely at our brownfield proposal that would result in fewer new houses in Hook than any of the other proposals.  Now that Pyestock is on the table, this is now self-evident.

Verd Nabbs, The Labour Party Candidate

From printed election material:

Local councillors have surprisingly limited powers, but they can be held to account, so they represent YOUR views. In particular over the proposed Winchfield development. A new development will prevent the irresponsible expansion of existing towns and will come with essential infrastructure improvements. We need to act now, before a solution is imposed upon us!

Dai Rees, UK Independence Party (UKIP)

Statement from local branch website:

On housing, a UKIP representative would weigh up the merits of any particular project and would decide accordingly. We all understand the results of over-development – schools, doctor’s surgeries, roads etc. simply cannot cope with the additional strain being placed upon them but nothing ever seems to get done to curb the problem. A UKIP councillor would introduce a measure of realism into the debate and could be relied upon to listen to residents and take account of any grievances they may have. We recognise that new dwellings do have to be built to cope with the increase in our population – caused largely by a laissez-faire attitude to immigration by subsequent governments – but accommodating additional persons must be done sensibly and UKIP councillors would concentrate on brown field sites as a priority.

A UKIP councillor would support improved infrastructure measures and would seek to ensure that there are better schooling and medical facilities, more parking places especially where doing so helps local businesses, and an improved transport network.

[Update] the UKIP candidate has now said he will oppose a new town in Hook. [/Update]

 

 

 

Response to Hook Action Against Over Development

Which would you rather preserve - derelict eyesore or our wildlife?

Which would you rather preserve – derelict eyesore or our countryside and wildlife?

Hook Action Against Over Development have written an article on their website which has been shared on Facebook, criticising both our support of a brownfield solution to our housing needs and the statement from the CPRE saying that the Winchfield New Town proposal was the worst site and the worst option for development.

We re-produce their article below, together with our responses in blue:

There has been a lot of talk about brownfield development and some claims that a new settlement is not necessary because brownfield housing development can provide for all of Hart’s housing needs. Brownfield housing development is the reuse of property or land for residential use where it was previously used for something else, for example office space, industrial land, military use or farm buildings.

Yes, we do believe that all of Hart’s remaining housing need can be met from brownfield sites, and we have set out the case and our plan here and here.  This draws on sites in the SHLAA at only ~26 dwellings per hectare (dph) and the work of the Stonegate Report, plus we have added the civic area that Fleet Future recommended for redevelopment and Fleet Town Council have raised their council tax to fund the costs of preparing a redevelopment plan.

One group in particular from outside of Hook is putting forward the suggestion that the Hart consultation is a simple choice between brownfield and greenfield development. But no matter how much they repeat it does not make it any more true. The CPRE, an organisation with laudable aims, appears to have now fallen for this fiction and hijacking of the term “sustainable development”.

We believe they are referring to We Heart Hart.  We believe the CPRE have not put forward an actual plan, but have clearly stated that they think that a new town at Winchfield is the worst site and worst option for development in Hart.  Sustainable development was defined by the Sustainable Development Commission as:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The concept of sustainable development can be interpreted in many different ways, but at its core is an approach to development that looks to balance different, and often competing, needs against an awareness of the environmental, social and economic limitations we face as a society.

We believe that sustainable development does not include concreting over the equivalent of 25 football pitches per year of green fields and leaving untouched, vacant, decaying office blocks. A new settlement would compromise future generations by needlessly concreting over hundreds of hectares of green fields, depriving future generations of the health benefits of the countryside. The economics of the proposals don’t stack up, requiring ~£350m of infrastructure spending, money that neither Hart nor Hampshire County Council have, especially now that HCC is facing an £81m per annum funding deficit. 

Hart’s housing strategy is brownfield first, but Hart cannot propose development on sites that are in commercial use or that have not been put forward for housing. If they were to do so then the Local Plan would fail inspection again at the first hurdle and this would be a disaster. Even hypothetically utilising these unavailable brownfield sites would demand construction at inner city density in order to meet Hart’s objectively assessed housing need. We cannot believe that CPRE are promoting building at such a density in Hart. That would not be sustainable.

We agree that sites need to be developable and eventually deliverable and nobody wants to see the Local Plan fail. Back in September, Hart Council said that they thought the brownfield capacity was 1,800 units.  Miraculously, this has fallen by 75% to only 450 units in the consultation. However, as described above, most of the sites we have put forward are in the SHLAA and in no worse state of deliverability than those put forward for consultation. The other sites are in the Stonegate report and we understand Stonegate are working hard to secure these sites.  The average density for the SHLAA sites is less than Hart’s planning rule of thumb at 26dph, and the Stonegate sites are at no higher density than developments that Hart has granted permission for such as the McCarthy & Stone’s recent development on Fleet Road which many people think is an attractive building.

Hart are actually consulting on which of Hart’s green fields should be selected for housing in the event that there is insufficient brownfield land to meet the housing need. Given the vast expansion of the existing towns and villages in Hart already, with Hook alone having a 25% expansion approved for this Local Plan period, the only suitable and truly sustainable option is a new settlement to allow for a planned increase in infrastructure. Just expanding existing towns and villages either piecemeal or with “urban extensions” is still building on green fields, but in a way that will not provide the opportunity to build extra schools, roads and health facilities that the thousands of new Hart residents will require. That would not be sustainable.

The proposed new town will in fact deliver over 1,800 houses in Hook Parish, which is more than the proposed urban extension and more than the undeveloped brownfield sites.  To be clear, we do not support urban extensions either because we believe all of the remaining need can be met on brownfield sites. The infrastructure costs for a new town do not stack up and a new town will do nothing to close the large £12.2m existing infrastructure funding gap in Hook, and £20.7m gap in Fleet and Church Crookham. No evidence has been presented that we need a new secondary school and the funding for a new town will not address existing road bottlenecks, nor will there be sufficient funding to address the roads requirements of a new town. We repeat, we do not believe concreting over 25 football pitches each year is at all sustainable.

Elimination of all potential commercial property space in Hart is in fact extremely short-sighted. Even the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership which is urging more housing would not want to see commercial space becoming rare and expensive. There is already an acknowledged shortage within Hart of small business units and light industrial space. Larger available office space provides options for small local businesses to grow without leaving the area. A thriving local economy needs a balance of housing and business to provide employment opportunities locally and avoid all of these new residents having to take to the roads and railways to commute out of the area for work on already busy transport links. That would not be sustainable.

Nobody is saying that all of the vacant commercial space be handed over to housing.  But even the Employment Land Review, based as it is on the inflated Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) and the inflated jobs forecasts, suggests that there will be around 600,000 sq m of vacant employment space across the Housing Market Area at the end of the plan period and Rushmoor was planning to “protect” 96 Ha of vacant brownfield sites that simply are not needed. If there was such a shortage of offices or of light industrial space, places like the Murrell Green Estate would not have the big vacancies they currently have. Of course it would be more sustainable to free up some of these spaces and redevelop them for residential use rather than leave them to rot and decay.

There is very little brownfield land in Hart but there is an amusing “brownfield site slideshow”, made available by campaigners whose aim is to push development away from their village, to supposedly “demonstrate” how much brownfield land is available for housing. If you happen to see it, do bear in mind that:

  • Several of the sites are already being developed for housing (and therefore counted in existing housing build numbers!) such as Landata House and Greenwell in Hook, Sun Park and others.
  • Several of the sites are being converted to other commercial uses, e.g. Warehousing at Pyestock and retail development on Fleet Road where M&S are looking to move to an expanded new store.
  • Several of the sites are in fact just one vacant floor(or even a partial floor) in an otherwise occupied office building!

Now perhaps the future really is an office building with some adjacent floorspace being residential, but can anyone imagine this being attractive to either residential or commercial tenants?!

The fact that some of the sites have already been taken up for redevelopment simply proves our case and shows it can be done.  Our brownfield solution has taken account of the sites that are already underway. Work at Hartland Park (aka Pyestock) stopped years ago, and there is no sign of it re-starting.  The owners will not wish to keep an expensive site forever generating no returns. Of course if M&S moves into another Fleet Road site, then they will leave behind a different vacant block to go with the many other vacant units in the Hart Centre.

There are plenty of examples of mixed residential and commercial use, both in this country and on the continent.  Nobody is suggesting this should happen without comprehensive redevelopment.

This current consultation is clearly not about a choice between brownfield and greenfield development, it is about the best way to provide Hart’s required housing with essential supporting infrastructure and only a new settlement can achieve that. For more, please refer to our previous article hookdevaction.org.uk/hart-housing-consultation-restarted-your-action-needed.

The Hartley Winchook new town is not required, it not viable because of the flood risks and the massive, unfunded infrastructure costs, and will not be sustainable in any sense of the word. There is a brownfield alternative, and we should seize that opportunity.

 

 

Here are the slideshows of vacant brownfield sites we have found in Hart and Rushmoor:

 

  • We Heart Hart's Mascot - Bravehart
    We Heart Hart's Mascot - Bravehart

 

If you would like to ask Hart to abandon the new town and urban extension ideas 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, updated our two guides to responding to the consultation and they 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