Hart Council rejects opinion of 2,130 people who signed the We Heart Hart petition

Hart in Heart of Hart, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

Hart in the Heart of Hart, Winchfield, Hampshire

We went to the Cabinet meeting last night armed with a draft of Hart Council’s response to the petition and unfortunately, the council rejected the three main elements of petition to reduce the overall housing allocation for Hart and our demand that the remaining housing allocation is met from brownfield sites alone.  The council also refused to stop planning to build a new town that would act as a sink for 3,100 houses from Rushmoor and Surrey Heath.

It is outrageous that Hart Council should dismiss the opinion of 2,130 people.  Hart’s own consultation only received 750 replies and only 202 of those expressed a preference for a new town. Given the earlier failure of the Local Plan at inspection, it is simply astonishing that Hart should be basing their planning policy on a “guesstimate” of brownfield capacity. It is unbelievable that they refuse to set up a proper register of brownfield sites and can’t be bothered to track which brownfield sites have been granted planning permission.

We have produced a press release about this that can be downloaded from the link below:

 

We Heart Hart Press Release 2 October 2015

 

Hart becomes Housing Sink for Surrey Heath and Rushmor

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

On a more positive note, the council did say they would consider the vision we put forwards and will include a new vision in the forthcoming consultation.  The council did also say they would try to accommodate the needs of the elderly, but implied they could only do so if they built a new town at Winchfield. It is clear the council has no means of measuring its performance against the SHMA requirement to build 2,500 specialist units for the elderly.

The debate at council raised a number of interesting points, but Cabinet did not resolve to alter anything in the draft response they had put forward and clearly had not fully considered our suggested response to the petition.  In effect, the council are ignoring the views of 2,130 people on several of the key issues raised by the petition.  We will have to mobilise our supporters to put forward their views in the forthcoming consultation.

The detail of the discussion covered a number of topics:

Challenging the SHMA.  The council did concede that they would need to re-visit the SHMA in due course and update the employment forecasts.  We did point out that the jobs forecasts assume a growth rate nearly double that we achieved in the period 1998-2012, and that Cambridge employment forecasts for the South East used in a challenge to the Vale of White Horse Local Plan are similar to historic average growth rates we beleive should be used in the SHMA.

The council refused to undertake a study to quantify the value of Hart’s environment and ecology.  This is a blow as it could enable the council to use environmental constraints as an argument for not building the full housing allocation.

Brownfield sites.  Despite putting evidence in front of council that there is brownfield capacity for at least 2,438 dwellings and possibly over 3,600 units, Hart is still sticking by its current “guesstimate” of only 1,800 units on brownfield sites.  It is quite astonishing that Hart is basing its planning policy on a “guesstimate”. Last week Hart Council did admit that there was a residual requirement of only 2,900 houses.  It is clear to us, that meeting the the remaining need from brownfield only is well within reach.

Some councillors were concerned about our proposed densities in urban areas until we pointed out that they have already approved and are delivering developments at even higher densities.  Other concerns raised were about using up too much employment land until we pointed out that there’s over 500,000 sq m of vacant employment land across the housing market area, and we are in no danger of running out any time soon.

Overall I am afraid I got the impression that they listened, but they had already made their mind up that a new town was the answer to the Local Plan no matter what contrary evidence was put to them.

We must gird our loins for a long campaign to fight against these proposals.

 

 

Petition Response: We don’t need a new town

Cows in Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

Do we want to lose our cows to concrete?

As we posted earlier, we have submitted the We  Hart petition with 2,130 responses to Hart District Council and the council have set out the process by which they will consider the petition.

We have drafted some suggestions as to how the council should respond  and sent them to Council leader, Stephen Parker.  We have a chance to put these ideas to Cabinet on 1 October at 7pm.  Please tell us if you are coming along to give us your support and please e-mail your councillors to ask them to support these proposals and incorporate them into the forthcoming consultation about the Local Plan.

The full set of suggestions can be found here.

If the council implements all of the ideas we have put forward, there will simply be no need for a new town, in Winchfield or anywhere else. Especially if you consider the following:

 

We Heart Hart to present to Odiham Parish Council

Odiham High Street, Hart District Hampshire

Odiham High Street, Hampshire

We Heart Hart has been asked to present to Odiham Parish Council about the Rushmoor and Hart Local Plans on Monday 7 September at 7:30pm at The Bury, Odiham. RG29 1NB. The presentation we will give is available for download below:

We Heart Hart presentation to Odiham Parish Council

link

Petition response: Reduce the housing allocation

Discontinuity between ABI and BRES jobs data for Housing Market Area

Discontinuity between ABI and BRES jobs data for Housing Market Area

As we posted earlier, we have submitted the We  Hart petition with 2,130 responses to Hart District Council and the council have set out the process by which they will consider the petition.

We have drafted some suggestions as to how the council should respond  and sent them to Council leader, Stephen Parker.  We have a chance to put these ideas to Cabinet on 1 October at 7pm.  Please tell us if you are coming along to give us your support and please e-mail your councillors to ask them to support these proposals and incorporate them into the forthcoming consultation about the Local Plan.

The full set of suggestions can be found here.

The first suggestions relate to challenging the overall housing numbers Hart have to build.

First, challenge the SHMA to reduce the overall housing allocation for the whole HMA.  There is a strong risk that Hart will be asked to build the highest number of houses in the Housing Market Area if we don’t challenge the numbers.

 Hart DistrictSurrey Heath BoroughRushmoor BoroughTotal Housing Market Area
Original SHMA7,5347,0579,82224,413
Proposed Transfers3,022(1,400)(1,622)0
New Total10,5565,6578,20024,413

If this is successful, then it will have a two-fold effect of reducing Hart’s own need and also reduce the risk of overflow from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.  We believe the key arguments are around inward migration assumptions; average household size and in particular jobs growth assumptions which are at a rate nearly double what was achieved over the economic cycle from 1998-2012 and will result in unprecedented levels of participation in the labour market (rising from around 70% to around 86%) for those of employment age.

Data Point2011 (Census)2011 (BRES)2031 (PROJ 2)2031 (PROJ 5)
SHMA Population (a) 272,394 272,394 307,578 322,278
People in employment (b) 122,300 125,000 162,233 170,223
Overall % in employment (b/a)44.9%45.9%52.7%52.8%
People over 70 (c) 28,559 28,559 51,164 51,164
People 5-19 (d) 67,375 67,375 73,206 73,206
People of working age (a-c-d)=e 176,460 176,460 183,208 197,908
% working age in employment (b/e)69.3%70.8%88.6%86.0%

We gave more detail on these arguments at both the Hop Garden Road appeal and in my response to the Rushmoor Local Plan.  More detail can be found here. However, we do recognise it is difficult for the council to challenge its own document and await Rushmoor’s response to my strong challenge, but we do understand that the SHMA may be re-visited and it would be helpful if the council would commit to challenging the assumptions set out above as part of that process.

Second, in conversation with a number of professionals in the planning sector, we have been told a number of times, that it is uncommon for councils to explore fully their “policy on” options with regard to environmental and other constraints.  One of the main attractions of Hart as a district is its rural environment with associated SPA, SSSI’s, SINCs, green space and wildlife.  May we suggest that a proper environmental study is carried out to set out the value of Hart’s environment and ecology to build an argument for not meeting the full requirement of the SHMA?  We know that WAG is working on some proposals in this area with some of the rural parishes and would be keen to discuss the matter with you and offer to share the costs of preparation. 

How Hart Council should respond to the We Heart Hart petition

Vacant brownfield Block at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire

Vacant Office at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hampshire

As we posted earlier, we have submitted the We  Hart petition to Hart District Council and the council have set out the process by which they will consider the petition.

We have drafted some suggestions as to how the council should respond  and sent them to Council leader, Stephen Parker and they are shown below.  We have a chance to put these ideas to Cabinet on 1 October at 7pm.  Please tell us if you are coming along to give us your support.

Please e-mail your councillors to ask them to support these proposals.

 

Dear Stephen,

Thank you very much for your email.

As you know the petition is from 2,130 signatories, nearly four times the number that responded to Hart Council’s consultation last year and more than ten times the number of people who expressed a first preference for a new town and is therefore a very significant expression of local opinion.

I welcome your approach to treat the petition seriously.  My understanding is that a petition of over 1,000 signatories would trigger an automatic debate at full council.  However, I do believe a debate at Cabinet is more likely to be more productive, so I support the approach you suggest.

As you might expect, I have my own suggestions as to what the appropriate responses to the petition should be and I set them out below for your consideration, interwoven with the petition objectives:

  1. To reduce the overall housing allocation for Hart District

 I think there are two broad approaches to this.  First, challenge the SHMA to reduce the overall housing allocation for the whole HMA.  If this is successful, then it will have a two-fold effect of reducing Hart’s own need and also reducing the risk of overflow from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.  I believe the key arguments are around inward migration assumptions; average household size and in particular jobs growth assumptions which are at a rate nearly double what was achieved over the economic cycle from 1998-2012 and will result in unprecedented levels of participation in the labour market (rising from around 70% to around 86%) for those of employment age.  I gave more detail on these arguments at both the Hop Garden Road appeal and in my response to the Rushmoor Local Plan.  More detail can be found here. However, I do recognise it is difficult for the council to challenge its own document and I await Rushmoor’s response to my strong challenge, but I do understand that the SHMA may be re-visited and it would be helpful if the council would commit to challenging the assumptions set out above as part of that process.

Second, in conversation with a number of professionals in the planning sector, I have been told a number of times, that it is uncommon for councils to explore fully their “policy on” options with regard to environmental and other constraints.  One of the main attractions of Hart as a district is its rural environment with associated SPA, SSSI’s, SINCs, green space and wildlife.  May I suggest that a proper environmental study is carried out to set out the value of Hart’s environment and ecology to build an argument for not meeting the full requirement of the SHMA?  I know that WAG is working on some proposals in this area with some of the rural parishes and would be keen to discuss the matter with you and offer to share the costs of preparation. 

  1. Demand that the Council develops a vision and strategy for Hart that retains its role as a rural, green hinterland for NE Hampshire that respects the separate character and identity of Hart’s settlements and landscapes and preserves the green spaces as amenity space for the urban settlements.

You may recognise the words above as taken from the withdrawn 2013 Core Strategy.  This was, and remains a good vision.  I would ask that as a minimum, the forthcoming Regulation 18 consultation sets out at least one potential “vision” for the district, and that one of the “vision” options includes words to this effect.

  1. To require that the housing need is met by building on brownfield sites and increasing density in our existing urban areas

Last November, the council’s estimate of brownfield capacity over the entire plan period was around 750 units (taken from parts 1 and 3 of the SHLAA as per the FOI request I made) out of the then remaining 4,000 units to build (or grant permission for) up to 2032.  Since then considerable progress has been made in identifying and in some cases granting permission on additional brownfield sites:

LocationNumber of Dwellings
Guillemont Park Phase 1 (not included as brownfield site in SHLAA) 150
Guillemont Park Phase 2320
Ancells Farm, Fleet370
Bartley Wood, Hook200
Fleet Road, Fleet220
Bramshill House350
Fleet Police Station50
Extra dwellings at Landata House28
Total1,688

All of the dwellings above were not included as brownfield sites in the SHLAA.  Guillemont Park (Sun Park) was in the SHLAA but for a lower number of units, and in Part 2, which was not considered to include brownfield locations.  Since last November revised permission has been granted at Landata House for 28 more dwellings than were included in the 5 year land supply calculation.

If the original 750 units were to be added to the 1,688 units identified above, then that amounts to a total of 2,438 potential units on brownfield.  If it were possible to increase the density (from 30dph to a still reasonable 80dph in urban areas) on the original 750 units, the total identified capacity would rise to some 3,688 units.

The remaining requirement of 4,000 has of course been reduced by the unfortunate decisions to allow development at Watery Lane (300 units) and Hawley Park Farm (126 units) leaving the remaining allocation at 3,574.

It is clear that with some creativity and energy, the gap between the remaining allocation of 3,574 and the currently identified brownfield capacity can be closed by working on a combination of reducing the overall allocation by reducing the SHMA or applying environmental “policy on” considerations, increasing density and finding more brownfield sites.

In the light of this, I welcome the paper that is to be put before Cabinet next week, signalling the more positive approach that the council proposes towards building housing on previously developed land.

I would ask though, that you consider some further steps:

  • Creating a new, formal “reasonable suitable alternative” option of meeting the remaining housing allocation solely through brownfield development.  This option should appear in the consultation paper.
  • Creating a complete database of all of the potential brownfield sites in the district, including those not in the October 2014 SHLAA and those not yet formally promoted to the council, including sites such as Bramshill House, Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), Sun Park, Ancells Farm, Bartley Wood, Fleet High St, Fleet Police Station and all of the run down town centres (e.g. Fleet, Yateley, Blackwater and Hook).
  • Inviting leading architects to compete to produce some visionary outline schemes of what a “brownfield solution” might look like for the district, taking into account changing demographics, changing shopping habits driven by the internet and achievable housing densities.
  • Organising a conference with the architects, land owners, developers and local community representatives with the objective of identifying the art of the possible for brownfield development amongst the competing solutions from the architects.
  • This could be done in conjunction with the neighbouring authorities of Surrey Heath and Rushmoor, particularly given the massive amount of current and forecast vacant employment land and Rushmoor seeking to protect 96 Ha.
  1. To request that future housing stock reflects the needs of the changing demographics of the district.

I set out in a question to council earlier this year that Hart will need to deliver around 2,500 housing units to meet the needs of the ageing population.  I contend that a new town will simply build the wrong type of accommodation in the wrong place to meet those needs.  It would be far better if these were built on brownfield sites in more urban areas, close to amenities such as doctors, post offices, shops and so on.  When the elderly move into these types of development, their well-being improves and of course, they free up conventional housing stock for families.  Could I therefore ask that the forthcoming consultation paper contains specific proposals on how the needs of the ageing population will be met?

  1. To demand the council and government do not plan for any new settlement in Hart that will act as a sink for the unmet housing need in neighbouring areas.

Addressing points 1, 2, 3 & 4 will render a new town unnecessary particularly when you consider the:

I do hope you find these suggestions helpful.  I would be grateful if you could circulate them to planning officers and Cabinet members for their consideration.

We Heart Hart Petition submitted to Hart District Council

We Heart Hart Campaign Logo

We Heart Hart Campaign Logo

Last Saturday, we submitted the We Heart Hart petition to Hart District Council.  We chose this time so that the petition would be considered before the new proposed restrictions on petitions were able to come into force.  They have now acknowledged receipt of the petition and Council Leader, Stephen Parker will consult we me in due course.

Council rules state that petitions with more than 1,000 signatories will trigger a debate of the full Council.  At the time the petition was submitted there were 2,130 signatories.  This is nearly four times the number of people who responded to Hart’s consultation and more than 10 times the number of people who expressed a preference for a new town.  According to the Council Petition Scheme, the petition may also be debated by Cabinet.

The aims of the petition that all signatories signed up for were:

  • Demand that the Council develops a vision and strategy for Hart that retains its role as a rural, green hinterland for NE Hampshire that respects the separate character and identity of Hart’s settlements and landscapes and preserves the green spaces as amenity space for the urban settlements.

Please comment on this post or on our Facebook page or Twitter feed with your ideas on what we should say at the consultation and for content of the motion to be debated at Council.

Support for urban development bigger than for a new town at Winchfield

Cows in Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

Do we want to lose our cows in Winchfield to concrete?

Hart Council is still saying that “many” people support a new town at Winchfield, but the evidence for this is paper thin.  However, many more people have supported our petition, calling for a brownfield strategy and even Hart’s own consultation showing many others support some form of urban development.

At Hart Council meeting in July it was stated by the council leader that:

“For many people in Hart the Winchfield new settlement option is far preferable to continual growth of existing settlements”

Their evidence for this is the outcome of the consultation that took place between August and October 2014.  The outcome emphasised by the council is Table 1 which shows that by ranking first preferences only, Option 4 (Focused Growth – New Settlement) was the preferred option by only 202 people.  However, the obvious point is far more people voted for a solution other than a new town.

Hart Council Local Plan Consultation Ranking of Responses Table 1

Hart Council Local Plan Consultation Ranking of Responses Table 1

However, Hart Council also published a second table produced by giving a score to each rank ,with 1st rank choices getting 5 points, down to fifth rank choices getting 1 point.

Hart Council Local Plan Consultation Ranking with scoring system Table 2

Hart Council Local Plan Consultation Ranking with scoring system Table 2

As can be seen, this gives the top score to Option 1 (Settlement Focus), second place to Option 4 and a strong showing for Option 3 (Focussed Growth – Strategic Urban Extension).

Since then, of course, the We Heart Hart petition has generated over 2,100 signatures and calls for the vast bulk of our housing requirement to be built on brownfield sites.  However, it is worthwhile considering what Options 1-3 actually meant:

  • Option 1 was described as concentrating new housing development within the existing boundaries of the main settlements and larger villages within Hart. Opportunities would be sought for planned regeneration and change within the settlements, including the potential re-allocation of some employment and other land for residential redevelopment, where the land was no longer required or appropriate for the original purpose.
  • Option 2 would involve allocating new housing development adjacent to each settlement within tiers 1-4 of Hart’s settlement hierarchy. A starting point could be to try and enable growth in proportion to each settlement’s overall size, and could take into account factors such as the existing dwelling stock within those communities, their level of infrastructure capacity and their accessibility by different modes of transport.
  • Option 3 would involve a small number (perhaps one to four) locations being targeted for concentrated growth and development in the form of a major expansion of one or more existing settlements within Hart.

Careful analysis of these options shows that that what they really mean is development within existing urban areas or very close to them.  Taking the raw first preference choices would show that 295 people out of the 550 valid responses, a clear majority, would prefer development within urban areas or close to existing settlements and not a new settlement.

Yet, despite their own evidence from Table 2, the evidence from the We Heart Hart petition and the revised analysis of Table 1, Hart Council has set its course towards a new settlement at Winchfield, despite massive infrastructure issues and big environmental issues associated with the Thames Valley Heath Special Protection Area, several SSSI’s and SINCs.  Moreover, a new town leaves Hart open to becoming a sink for 3,100 houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.

This seems to us to be the flimsiest of evidence on which to build a housing strategy and runs the risk of falling apart under inspection.

 

Hart Council censors questions about the Local Plan

Hart Council so ronery it has to censor questions

Hart Council so ronery it has to censor questions

In an astonishing move reminiscent of North Korea or Stalinist Russia, Hart Council have decided to censor questions saying they “do not publish speculative views from the public” and that they will “prepare and publish guidelines on the format of questions that will be accepted”.

This arose because we asked three questions about school places, brownfield sites and whether Hart would consider an alternative approach to delivering the Local Plan.  Each question had a preamble to set the context before the short question was asked.  Hart have decided to censor the preamble part of each question so that members of the public can’t see them, although they did say they circulated the full text to councillors.

There is a saying that the flak gets heaviest when you are over the target, so I guess this means that the council are finding the questions we are asking uncomfortable.  But we are astonished by their attempt to stifle democracy and how they seek to infantilise the debate about the best approach to the Local Plan.

We think the Planning Inspector will take a dim view of this approach as NPPF Para 155 says:

“Early and meaningful engagement and collaboration with neighbourhoods, local organisations and businesses is essential. A wide section of the community should be pro-actively engaged, so that Local Plans, as far as possible, reflect a collective vision and a set of agreed priorities for the sustainable development of the area, including those contained in any neighbourhood plans that have been made.”

This clearly places an obligation on Hart Council to consult widely and they seem to be afraid to engage, even though they asked us to make a submission to the Hop Garden Road (Owens Farm) appeal and were pleased to receive our criticism of the Rushmoor Local Plan.

 

 

 

Hart Council Responds to Rushmoor’s Local Plan

Empty Offices at Farnborough, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire.

Empty Offices at Farnborough, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire.

Hart Council has responded to Rushmoor’s Draft Local Plan.  In summary their points are:

  • Rushmoor should look again at the SHLAA to seek out new sites and increase densities
  • Rushmoor should reconsider the scope for using surplus employment sites for housing and also releasing some surplus retail space.
  • Rushmoor should alter its housing target to better reflect its delivery trajectory so that it clarifies that the alleged unmet need comes after 2024, and then commit to a review of the plan to investigate the potential housing shortfall nearer the time.

Hart also suggests that much more dialogue is required between the councils and with the service providers to resolve infrastructure issues.

We Heart Hart broadly welcomes this feedback from Hart Council but believes they could have gone further by asking that the densities on Wellesley be reviewed and even more of the protected 96 Ha of employment land could be released for housing.  Even so, if Rushmoor takes on board Hart’s observations, then Rushmoor will not need to ask Hart to build 1,600 houses for them. This would probably mean a new town at Winchfield is not required.

 

Additional response to Rushmoor Local Plan

Empty Offices at Southwood Business Park, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire.

Empty Offices at Southwood Business Park, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire.

We have made an additional submission to the Rushmoor Borough Council Local Plan consultation pointing out the absurdity of seeking to protect 96 Ha of employment land when there’s going to be a surplus of 195 Ha of employment land across the Housing Market Area of Hart District, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Boroughs at the end of the plan period.

This is available as a download for those wishing to add their voice to the consultation.

 

Additional Response to Rushmoor Local Plan

 

Our first submission and reasoning can be found here and here.

Link