Impact of Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill on Hart

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - RIP Shapley Heath

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – RIP Shapley Heath

Earlier this week, the Government launched the long awaited Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. The full Bill, all 338 pages of it, can be found here. A summary of the proposed measures can be found here. The interviews carried out by Michael Gove and the Bill itself had a number of potential impacts on Hart.

  • National Housing Target
  • Five-Year Land Supply
  • Neighbourhood Plans
  • Duty to Cooperate
  • Enhanced Environment Protection
  • Mandatory Infrastructure Contributions
  • Regeneration

On first examination, these look to be positive proposals for Hart, particularly in that they appear to weaken the case for Shapley Heath. The proposals also strengthen powers to drive regeneration of town centres, which should be good news for Fleet and its businesses.

Let’s go through the detail.

National Housing Target

Michael Gove gave a number of interviews about the new Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. On BBC Radio 4, he was repeatedly asked about whether the Government was sticking to the national housing target of 300,000 new dwellings per year. He refused to give a clear answer each time he was asked, saying he didn’t want to be “tied to a Procrustean bed”. Yes, we had to look that up too. Essentially, it means an arbitrary target. He also said that that while “arithmetic is important”, he was not “bound by one criterion alone”.

On the face of it, the Government is backing away from this target, which means that Hart’s housing target should fall from the current 286dpa.  However, the Telegraph reported that a Downing Street spokesman stressed the target remained – while saying it was important to build the right sort of houses.

So, this is not something we can bank on yet. However, the current Local Plan calls for 423dpa. We are currently building far more than that. It seems unlikely to us that the current target of 286dpa will rise, so the upcoming Local Plan review ought to relieve pressure into the future. This will make the claims that Shapley Heath is required even more difficult to sustain.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Five-Year Land Supply

Related to the housing target, the new Bill proposes to scrap the requirement for Councils to maintain a five year land supply.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - Five-Year Land Supply Requirement scrapped

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Five-Year Land Supply Requirement scrapped

However, this is conditional upon the Local Plan being up to date. By this they mean adopted in the past five years. To benefit from this proposal Hart will have to have an updated Local Plan in place by April 2025. Our current Local Plan is front-loaded, with completions falling below target beyond around 2026/27. This proposal should help with that problem.

At the very least, this Bill should scupper CCH’s “suicidal” plans to build Shapley Heath at a rate of 500dpa.

Neighbourhood Plans

The summary of the proposals says that neighbourhood plans will be strengthened to have equal weight with other planning documents.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - Neighbourhood Plans given equal weight

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Neighbourhood Plans given equal weight

On the face of it, this is a positive development because is inconceivable that Winchfield Parish Council would include Shapley Heath in their Neighbourhood Plan. However, this must be tempered by statement in the full Bill that seems to prohibit Neighbourhood Plans reducing the amount of housing a Local Authority can deliver.

Neighbourhood Plans Cannot Cut Housing for the Authority

Neighbourhood Plans Cannot Cut Housing for the Authority

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Duty to Cooperate

The current duty to cooperate requirement will be repealed and replaced with a more flexible alignment test.

Duty to Cooperate Repealed

Duty to Cooperate Repealed

This is a positive development, because the current Local Plan includes an allowance to build housing for Surrey Heath. This allowance was already under question because the housing target for both Surrey Heath and Rushmoor has been reduced. Rushmoor is building far more than it is now required to do and could easily take any unmet need from Surrey Heath. However, the requirement to build houses for neighbouring authorities appears to fall away. This is good news in that it reduces Hart’s housing target.

Enhanced Environment Protection

The Bill also seeks to enhance environmental protections.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - Enhanced Environmental Protection

Enhanced Environmental Protection

We know that parts of the Shapley Heath contain significant areas that are at risk of flooding. On the face of it, these proposals will make it harder to build in such an area. Moreover, the area contains SSSIs, SINCs and other protected areas. Enhanced environmental protections ought to help fend off proposals for Shapley Heath.

Mandatory Infrastructure Contributions

The Bill proposes changes to infrastructure funding. A new mandatory infrastructure levy is proposed to replace S106 contributions and Community Infrastructure Levy.

New Mandatory Infrastructure Charge

New Mandatory Infrastructure Charge

On the face of it, this seems to close the loophole where developers converting office blocks under permitted development rights were able to avoid infrastructure contributions. This should help the council adopt a better attitude to brownfield development.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Regeneration

New compulsory purchase powers are proposed in the Bill. These should help Councils rejuvenate town centres and regenerate brownfield land.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill - Strong Support for Urban Regeneration

Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – Strong Support for Urban Regeneration

Taken together, these proposals should finally end the ridiculous proposals for a new town at Shapley Heath. There will no longer be any excuses for Hart not to come up with bold new plans to regenerate Fleet, Blackwater and Yateley. These urban centres should be the focus of the updated Local Plan so we can make Hart an even greater place to live.

CCH Commits “Political Suicide”

CCH Commits Political Suicide

CCH Commits Political Suicide

A CCH Councillor has said that it would be “political suicide” to impose more housing on Hart than is needed.

Political Suicide to Build More than Needed

Political Suicide to Build More than Needed

However, the same Councillor has also outlined her party’s plans for Shapley Heath that amount to the very same “political suicide” she mentions.

Katie Davies 5000 over 10 years

Katie Davies 5000 over 10 years

Let’s go through how CCH commits political suicide:

Shapley Heath Not Required

CCH as a party are still pushing the very same development that was removed from the Local Plan by the Inspector because it was not required to meet our housing targets out to 2032. In their bid for Government funding they even claimed they would deliver Shapley Heath “in addition to” the requirements of the Local Plan.

Shapley Heath in addition to Local Plan

Shapley Heath in addition to Local Plan

CCH Propose Faster Build Rate than Required

Moreover, Councillor Davies has proposed a far faster rollout for Shapley Heath than was proposed in the Council’s bid for funding. The plan they put forward then ran for 16 years from 2024 to 2040, with a steady state run rate of 360dpa.

Shapley Heath Housing Trajectory Sept 2020

Shapley Heath Housing Trajectory Sept 2020

CCH are now proposing the development takes place over 10 years. Simple arithmetic would indicate an average build rate of 500 dpa. The pace of this single proposed development is nearly twice the latest Government target of 286dpa.

Government Housing target climbdown: New targets Hart Rushmoor and Surrey Heath

New targets for Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath

CCH Not Addressed Inspector Concerns

They have said that they will “explore all options”. However, they have spent over £700K on Shapley Heath since FY19/20 and delivered nothing of substance. They have not formally considered any other option.  This is in direct contravention of the Inspector’s findings:

I am of the view that a significant level of further supporting work would be required for Policy SS3 [Shapley Heath] 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

Summary

They are proposing to consult on the same proposal that:

  • Is not required to meet our housing needs
  • Was rejected by the Inspector
  • Will deliver housing at nearly twice the rate required

They will do all this without properly considering any other option. Political suicide indeed.

 

Virtue Signalling Council Refuses Help for Hard Pressed Families

Virtue Signalling Hart Council Refuses Help for Hard Pressed Families

Virtue Signalling Council Refuses Help for Hard Pressed Families

At Council last week, we asked a number of questions to challenge the budget for next year. One of those questions asked what specific deliverables would be produced from the £250K they have set aside to “tackle climate change”. The answer revealed that they didn’t have the faintest clue what they were going to spend it on or what they were going to deliver with the money. The supplementary question asked if they wouldn’t be better to keep the money in reserves to balance future budgets or offer a rebate on council tax to help families struggling with the cost of living rather than signalling their virtue with other people’s money.

The full exchange can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/sa2I5KxdmsM?t=3809

This accusation caused offence to the Leader of the Council. We’re sorry if the truth hurts. Remember, climate change is supposed to be their “top priority”, but they have no plan. During the debate about the budget many of the Councillors got up to virtue signal express their outrage at such a suggestion. As they expelled lots of hot air containing 40,000ppm CO2, not one of them came up with a single idea to reduce emissions or improve the environment. The Conservatives proposed a motion to remove that item from the budget and instead offer a council tax rebate to the poorest households in the district. This amendment was rejected.

Among the critics of the amendment was Saint Councillor Peter Wildsmith, who asked for the £250K annual budget to be extended indefinitely to tackle the problem. Again, he didn’t come up with a single idea on how to use the money effectively. Now he has taken to social media to describe as a “disgrace” anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him.

The budget was eventually passed with a small amendment to offer a welcome £10,000 grant to Fleet Food Bank.

6 Ideas to Improve Hart’s Environment

We are very concerned about waste at Hart Council. Over £700K has been splurged on the doomed Shapley Heath project since FY19/20 and nothing of substance has been produced. They squandered ~£140K on planters and signs for the disastrous Fleet pedestrianisation project. Now it appears they want to create a permanent £250K/yr climate slush fund to parade their virtue and produce nothing but CO2-laden hot air.

We think if we criticise the Council we should offer some alternative ideas.

  1. The Council has substantial capital reserves. They should invest some of this to insulate better the social housing in the district. This would reduce emissions and reduce residents’ soaring energy bills.
  2. They have been talking about the “green grid” for a long time now and delivered nothing. They should accelerate this project to encourage and enable more walking and cycling.
  3. The Council offices are far bigger than they need. They should move to smaller, better insulated premises and reduce their own energy consumption.
  4. Apply for one or more of these grants to support planting trees in the District.
  5. End support for their disastrous plan to build 5-10,000 unnecessary houses at Shapley Heath. Construction alone would emit 1m tonnes of CO2 and destroy valuable habitat and carbon sinks.
  6. Extend the range of items that can be recycled in the blue bins.

Readers should also note that earlier iterations of Shapley Heath pushed the idea of a locally-sourced biomass energy plant. This is essentially chopping down the wonderful trees in the district to produce electricity. Burning wood produces more CO2 per unit of electricity generated than burning coal. At Drax, it also produces more particulate emissions than burning coal.

The Council declared a Climate Emergency last year. Since then the committee has met several times and produced nothing but hot air. None of the ideas above would require a single penny of the £250K they have allocated to be spent, but would help Hart residents directly and improve the environment. It’s time for the Council to stop the hot air and start acting.

 

 

 

Hart FY22-23 Budget Good News

Hart FY22-23 Budget: Good News

Hart FY22-23 Budget Good News

This is the first of three posts covering the Good, the Bad and the downright Ugly parts of Hart’s proposed FY22-23 budget.  The really good news is that they are not budgeting to spend anything on the New Settlement. The New Settlement is also known as Shapley Heath or the Shapley Heath Garden Village (SHGV).

We can see this from the proposed budget for the service area. The full document can be found on Hart’s website. However, there is a history of these documents changing, so we have also uploaded it to this website, here.

Hart FY22-23 Budget: Good News

Hart FY22-23 Budget: Good – No funds allocated to Shapley Heath

As you can see, no funds at all are allocated to FY22-23. The bad part of this is that we can now calculate the full costs of this disastrous project since FY19-20.

  • Net actual and budgeted spending: FY19/20-FY21/22: -£30,361 + £186,126 + £149,167 = £304,932
  • Add grant funding and transfers from reserves: £150,000 + £130,000 + £130,000 = £410,000
  • Total Actual and Budgeted spend: £714,932.

Aside from some pretty inconclusive reports (which were funded by developers), nothing of any substance has been delivered for this eye-watering sum.

Changes to the FY21-22 Budget

There is also some ugliness contained in this report. They have changed the budget for the current year yet again. The original budget for FY21-22 was published in February last year. The part related to SHGV is re-produced below. This shows a total budget of £279K, with no contribution from Government grants.

HASETT - Shapley Heath New Settlement Budget Original FY21-22

HASETT – Shapley Heath New Settlement Budget Original FY21-22

In July, the budget had been changed in the Final V2 version of the budget. A £130K Government grant had been added.

HASETT - Shapley Heath Final Budget FY21-22

HASETT – Shapley Heath Final V2 Budget FY21-22

As you can see in the image above, that same £130K Government Grant has been moved to FY20-21. This is the year the money was received. Now for FY21-22 the grant has been replaced by a £130K transfer from reserves. We should add that we are unaware of any public process that has authorised either of these changes to the budget.

Call us old fashioned, but once a budget is set, we believe it should remain fixed and any variances reported against the budget.  The budget should not be changed during the year.

 

 

Housing Delivery Test – Hart Builds Twice the Requirement

Housing Delivery Test Hampshire 2021

Housing Delivery Test Hampshire 2021

The latest Housing Delivery Test numbers have recently been released by the Government. These have been processed into fancy graphics by various companies in the property sector. Strutt and Parker’s graphic above shows that Hart has built at more than twice the required rate in the past three years. This is more than any other part of Hampshire.

This is confirmed by the figures in the Government spreadsheet. In this document, we can compare Hart with neighbouring Rushmoor and Surrey Heath.

Housing Delivery Test Government Figures

Government Table for Neighbouring Local Authorities

Hart is delivering more housing than both of them and far more than required. Further analysis of this sheet shows Hart is 23rd out of the 294 planning authorities. This puts Hart in the top decile of housing delivery compared to requirement.

Housing Delivery Test – Developer View

Developers are disappointed by this development. Planning Insight has produced a report analysing the performance of  Planning Authorities across Hampshire. They are less than pleased about Hart’s housing delivery and 10.2 year land supply.

Planning Insight Hart Housing Delivery Test

Planning Insight Hart Performance

Planning Insight do not expect Hart to be in the “Presumption In Favour of Sustainable Development” anytime soon. In fact, they assign a cloud next to Hart’s name.

This means that it does not look good for developers putting forward speculative housing proposals in Hart.

 

It is very puzzling that until very recently, Hart Council was pushing the Shapley Heath Garden Community. They proposed to deliver this community in addition to the Local Plan Requirements. Why on earth would we want to deliver even more houses when we’re already delivering at more than twice the required rate. Over £500K down the drain since 2018/19 on a totally unnecessary project.

Shapley Heath Survey Results – Bin this development

Shapley Heath Survey Results - Bin This Development

Shapley Heath Survey Results – Bin This Development

The results are in. Hart have finally published the answers to the Shapley Heath Garden Community Survey they ran over the summer. The results of the freeform comments are overwhelming: Hart residents do not want Shapley Heath to happen. In fact one comment urged the Council to bin the project. And that was one of the more polite comments.

The summary paper can be found here, and the full detailed results here.

The summary paper tries to put a brave face on things, claiming:

A sizeable number of respondents used template answers published by a local campaign group. Many of the template responses used similar wording throughout the survey. In many cases, these template responses did not answer the question being asked, but expressed a general objection to the project.

Do they mean us? Yes, we did publish a handy guide to the survey. However, what is most remarkable is the level of creativity in the freeform answers. Very few answers were verbatim copies of our guide. Some of the more entertaining responses are shown below, including the plea to “bin this development”. The summary report omits to mention the scale of Hart’s own promotional activity. There was an extensive Facebook ad campaign and they produced a number of promotional videos.

Most of the respondents came from Hartley Wintney parish. It is interesting that despite much higher populations, there were relatively few respondents from Fleet and Church Crookham. This indicates that CCH failed to mobilise their own supporters to respond to the survey. Virtually nobody from Yateley or Blackwater responded to the survey, indicating that nobody really cares about Shapley Heath in the Lib Dem strongholds.

Below is an image bringing together the significant comments from the summary report.

Shapley Heath Survey Responses

Shapley Heath Survey Responses

Shapley Heath Survey Results – Most Entertaining Comments

We have skimmed the results and picked out the results we found most entertaining.

Community Identity Section

The garden community will do nothing to enhance Hart’s local identity, and it should be cancelled now. The best place for an attractive and vibrant centre with public spaces can best be achieved through the regeneration of Fleet town centre.

The community of Hart does NOT want to see the rural parts of the district destroyed in order to facilitate the CCH/LibDem vanity project of Shapley Heath. The community identity will be best served by cancelling these
plans forthwith.

Please don’t build the Shapley Heath Garden Community.

Don’t build it, we live in villages, we don’t want urban sprawl.

Hart already has a clear identity. It has an historic countryside and green fields at it’s heart which would be destroyed by the Shapely Heath development. DO NOT BUILD IT. Hart does need urban regeneration to make Fleet in particular more attractive to live in and visit.

This is the first proper countryside one reaches on the trains departing from London. It is part of north Hampshire’s rural heritage. Is MUST NOT be built on.

I consider Shapely Heath development should be cancelled in order to preserve the existing rural character of the area and concentrate on the regeneration of Fleet which is badly needed.

WE DON’T NEED SHAPLEY HEATH. THIS IS A STUPID IDEA.

Yes, Hart does have a unique identity. Most of that unique identity derives from its mix of urban, semi-rural and rural areas dotted across the landscape as separate, unique, distinct communities. As your map shows, a new town in the Heart of Hart would effectively create a single conurbation, obliterating Winchfield and joining Fleet, Crookham Village, Dogmersfield, Hartley Wintney, Hook and Odiham together. This would destroy the main attraction of Hart and so the best way to preserve that identity would be to abandon the project altogether.

Yes and the current green spaces around Winchfield are a key part of that. It beggars belief that you would want to destroy that to build houses that aren’t even required to meet targets. No one wants this.

Sustainable Community Section

You have totally ignored the need to invest in road and rail infrastructure. Prior studies into a new settlement in this location discussed extending the car parks and platforms at the stations; potentially a new station;
improving the existing road network, building new roads and even the potential for a new motorway junction. The most sustainable option would be to retain the rural nature and green space in the area. So, the best way
of ensuring this project is “sustainable” is not to do it at all. Cancel it now.

The opening statement is beyond presumptive and directing the answers whilst perpetuating a myth that development can be dressed up with greenwashing – this question cannot be answered honestly.

Why are you asking me hypothetical questions – I am completely against turning any area of Hart into a Garden Community – unless you want to follow all the garden community principles properly instead of cherry picking the ones you might be able to achieve. Have you actually listened to Lord Taylor of Goss Moor? You’ve got him on the payroll and he talks a lot of good sense about the requirements for land value capture,
infrastructure first, room for growth. you wont stand up to the developers to get any of those, you will sacrifice Winchfield to coalesce with Hartley Wintney, Hook and Dogmersfield with no room for proper growth, no
centre to the community, no land bought at sensible rates. Never mind ‘future facilities’ – get the fundamental first principles right.

We don’t want a garden “village”!!

We do not need this development, this positive spin is crass.

Leaving the space as it is for environmental reasons and quality of life for people already living here and paying council tax.

Shapley Heath Survey Results: Community Connection Question

Yes. The open land and woods of the country side, most of which you intend to destroy. Cancel as soon as possible.

Yes, the green spaces that this development will destroy.

I strongly oppose SHGV and this survey is a farce.

Shapley Heath Survey Results: Governance Question

Cancel this project, stop wasting money on this crazy project.

Certainly not Hart District Council.

This is a very biased survey. It assumes the project will go ahead in the way the questions are asked. HDC’s management of planning and history suggest HDC should not be allowed anywhere near this project. Their
handling of this whole process over a number of years can only be described as pathetic.

I read the Lib Dem leaflet at the last election where it clearly stated that the Shapley Heath project was not going ahead and that the Tories were telling lies by stating that it is. Why therefore are you doing this survey
which is heavily slanted towards giving the green light to it. Who was telling the lies?????

Hart already has its building quota agreed by the Planning Inspector J Manning. This proposal is grotesque conceived by idiots having a pique over rejection of their fanciful plans for that known as “Winchook”. This is
simply another badly thought through scheme by an incompetent Lib DEM / CCH alliance.

There is no requirement for this development and I strongly object to it.

This is a ridiculous question. No one wants this settlement.

We already have open spaces and countryside! JUST CANCEL THE ENTIRE PROJECT!

Anyone except the HDC!

There is a CLIMATE EMERGENCY abandon this project.

Shapley Heath GV was removed from the Local Plan by the inspector in 2019 as he deemed it unnecessary. It is still unnecessary.

NOT HART COUNCIL. NOT FIT TO RUN A KEBAB VAN.

You ask me how you should proceed. Not if. This is wrong. The Hampshire majority believe, (1) SHGV is not needed. (2) SHGV should only be studied once it has been shown to be the best development option (3)
SHGV is an unnecessarily climate-damaging development (4) SHGV damages the possibility of Fleet development / redevelopment (5) There is no room for a Garden Village in the Winchfield area.

I really am not sure of the best answer to this question. However, based on the conduct of Hart D C in recent years they should not be let anywhere near it. If Hart D C listened to the majority opinion of sensible residents
THE PROJECT SHOULD BE CANCELLED NOW!

It’s tempting to say something about a blend of councillors, piano wire and lampposts, but I will refrain.

Shapley Heath Survey Results: Exercise Questions

Local public footpaths, heaths, wildlife areas, streets and areas around my home in the countryside which you are planning to destroy. Cancel the project now.

Stupid question by a stupid council.

I walked miles around the canal and village as did many others – the area that you are planning to destroy.

The local countryside. Odd that isn’t an option! Or are you just massaging the survey to give you the answers you want?

Dogging hotspots.

Resilience Questions

Shapley Heath will damage the local environment and amenity, will not help with the economic future of the area, will harm the ability to absorb, recover and prepare for environmental changes – response to this survey
does NOT endorse Shapley Heath, now or later. I DO NOT SUPPORT SHAPLEY HEATH #STOP SHAPLEY HEATH.

You are planning to destroy important agricultural and leisure land in order to build thousands od dwellings that are not needed or wanted. Please consider the planet first and help to maintain the agricultural land and
green lungs that provide our food and fresh air. Please cease all work on this project.

The best way to protect our environment is to avoid unnecessary development of green areas. Cancel these plans now.

The best way to prepare for future environmental change is to keep our green spaces that can be used to produce food, act as a carbon sink and provide amenity space for residents of urban areas. Cancel the project
now.

The open countryside should be preserved. It is an asset for all and it contributes to a healthy environment.

None of the above, as we want to keep the local villages.

This survey is a poor use of tax payers money and time. There is no good evidence to support the creation of the SHGV and most local residents feel that it is being bulldozered through by local authorities. Using this
‘consultation’ as a means to paper over the cracks of the lack of logic or support for SHGV is poor.

The phrase “garden community “is an anathema. I would refer you to the inspector’s comments on the local plan – a new settlement is not necessary.

Building homes on brownfield sites and not greenfield. Not building on floodplains.

Natural and Historic Environment

This is where the kind and sensitive CCH supporters reared their heads:

No. Concrete the lot – just don’t build more bloody houses in Fleet and Church Crookham

But others has their say too:

In 2019 the Inspector ruled that SHGV could not be reintroduced into the Local Plan until it had been shown (with proper evidence and a public consultation) to be the best strategy when compared to alternative strategies (including other locations and urban regeneration). This work has not been done so SHGV is premature.

As long as CCH councillors and their developer partners make lots of money then that is the main thing.

The cancellation of this unnecessary proposed project would be the most important measure you could adopt to ensure that the natural and historic environment of the local area is reflected and respected.

Don’t build this unwanted village.

Yes, by not building on it in the first place. Cancel the project.

Just to repeat myself again please stop wasting precious public money which could be better spent in so many other ways in the district.

This whole survey is based on the assumption that the Shapley Heath Garden Community is desirable. It is not. And furthermore it is not necessary, it is merely being proposed so that the Fleet Councillors can avoid
improving Fleet.

Yes. Abandon this senseless charade. SHGV was removed from the local plan by the inspector. Your own declaration of a Climate Emergency means Shapley is unjustifiable, especially when regenerating Fleet Town is the common sense solution and would retain the green spaces between Hook, Odiham and Fleet. Persevering with this senseless Garden Village is putting off developers putting forward proposals for regenerating Fleet so wise up.

Transport Questions

There are already so many cyclists, runners, walkers, horseriders, etc. If you’re desperate tospend money on the area, why not introduce lots more safe cycle paths? Why does it have to be accompanied by a great big
new garden community?

Ensuring proper transport capacity should be the primary concern. Building new roads, enhancing existing roads and adding rail capacity to ensure that the extra traffic movements generated by any new development do not negatively impact existing residents and settlements.

The mainline to/from Waterloo does not have capacity for more trains, therefore the already overcrowded services (outside of pandemic), so how can a new community more than twice the size of Church Crookham be
accommodated?

None of this is relevant, since we do not need a new mini-town. It is misleading to call it a garden anything.

In April 2021 HDC declared a Climate Emergency and promised to ‘put the reduction of CO2 at the front and centre of all policies and formal decision-making’. The Local Plan has recognised that Fleet has fallen behind
as a town and that this has caused an ‘outflow of retail expenditure from the District…[which] is relatively high and is likely to remain high in the future” [Local Plan para 65]. This outflow equates to unnecessary travel which is highly carbon inefficient. Therefore, HDC should be investing in a plan to regenerate Fleet as the best way to reduce Hart carbon emissions.

The best option is not to introduce 10-20,000 people to the countryside at all. If we wanted to live in a town we would have bought a house in Fleet.

This is a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of a question. These are blue sky objectives that assume a garden project will be built. The best way to make the transport system more sustainable is to not build 5-10,000
unnecessary houses in addition to the Local Plan. Cancel the project.

Pandemic Travel Questions

This is totally irrelevant, because if this is ever built, the pandemic will be long gone. Plus, it tells you nothing about what the future residents might do. Cancel the project now.

How is this relevant to future plans… You can’t base future needs on the past year.

I worked at home and took breaks in the countryside you want to destroy.

Shapley Heath Survey Results: Pandemic Shopping Questions

An irrelevant question for this survey. Cancel Shapley Heath.

Why is this relevant? The pandemic will be long gone when and if this development actually takes place. My belief is that we don’t need it and it should be cancelled.

Cancel the project now.

Irrelevant question as pandemic will be over.

None of the above, I object to this project. The development is NOT required.

This is a waste of money.

School run questions

Where’s the option for kids to stay at home? Useless question, like a lot of the policies Hart council dreams up.

I keep an ostrich in the garage. We sat on it’s back and together, shot through the traffic no problem at all. Cancel the Shapley Heath project now.

MIND YOUR BUSINESS! This project has NOTHING to do with Covid. Cancel it now!

An irrelevant question for this survey. Cancel Shapley Heath.

Daft question. Cancel the project.

Quality of Life Questions

Please keep the existing countryside as it is to best help my mental health. The threat of this project is having a detrimental effect on my mental health. Please stop it now.

Keeping the existing fields, woodland and habitats will be the best thing to promote my health, wellbeing and quality of life. Cancel the project now.

Don’t build and you won’t ruin what’s already here.

More than happy with the existing fields and woodland, which you will destroy. Cancel the project now.

Leaving nature alone. This development is NOT NECESSARY.

I don’t like answering this as the whole project should be dropped.

Ecology and Biodiversity Questions

Building 2,000, 5,000 or up to 10,000 new houses in the countryside will irreparably damage the ecology and biodiversity. The only way to protect and enhance them is to cancel the project now.

You can’t build biodiversity, it takes thousands of years to develop. This housing development will create a wasteland for animals. Planting a tree after you cut down a ancient forest is tokenistic, the local community
already enjoys this wonderful environment.

The optimum improvement would be actively protecting green spaces, woodland and natural areas and improving them. Concreting over them, building houses on them, increasing traffic and pollution, is only harming what’s left of our beautiful countryside.

The existing countryside has worked for centuries. Don’t interfere with it.

Shapley Heath Survey Results: Future Proofing Questions

Re-purpose empty office buildings in a post covid working environment.

Invest in our existing communities and protecting all countryside – abandon the focus on building a new town as it is ridiculous and would destroy hart. It’s only benefit is giving money to the council to bail it out due
to the mismanagement since CCH and LibDems took control.

I don’t want the garden community.

You can best future proof the area by cancelling the Shapley Heath Garden Community project.

Don’t ruin the already existing communities.

The best way to future-proof our district is to protect our green fields, protect the woodlands, SINCs, SSSI’s. They enhance well being and quality of life, provide food, habitat and carbon sinks. Cancel the project
now.

The best thing that can be done is to cancel the whole idea and protect our wonderful environment.

Technological Opportunities

Most of the items here are not in the gift of the council to deliver. We do not want a wood-burning
power plant or windmills and before even considering intelligent transport solutions, make sure you
put in the proper investment into road and rail capacity.Of course, the best thing you could do would be to leave this area alone and keep it as an area of peace and calm and a place to escape from technology. Cancel the project now.

Leave countryside alone – do not build huge, sprawling, soulless estates on natural countryside.

Yes. One where the voters of the community can be heard by CCH so that they stop Shapley Heath.

This is outside of the council’s gift to deliver, so any such proposals make your vanity project even more ridiculous. Cancel Shapley Heath now.

Bear in mind that futuristic forecasts seldom happen as envisaged so trying to second guess them is futile. They will come into use in different ways than you expect. Just make the best use of the developed land we
have and the new technology will be fitted into that as it has to be to serve all the existing residents. A whole new garden community requires so much infrastructure that you seem unlikely to be able to provide anyway
that second guessing seems entirely pointless. Why not spend the money you have been allocated to do the studies it is supposed to be funding and also spend money on eg the homeless instead of cutting the budget
for that. Please stop wasting taxpayers’ money in this way.

This is total pie in the sky, unrealistic How could this information be used in practice by Hart dealing with profit motivated developers intent on keeping costs low to maximise profit.

The countryside should be kept as it is because once lost it is lost forever. The emphasis should be placed on regeneration and improving built up areas of Hart. Please do not build Shapley Heath New Town.

Hart Massively Underestimates Infrastructure Funding Gap

Hart Massively Under-Estimates Infrastructure Funding Gap

Hart Massively Under-Estimates Infrastructure Funding Gap

Hart has recently launched a consultation about Community Infrastructure Levy or CIL. The consultation materials contain an updated Infrastructure Delivery Plan. Well, they call it a plan but as we shall see, that is something of an over-statement.

The “plan” indicates that there is an Infrastructure Funding Gap of £57.9m. This sounds a lot, but is actually an improvement on the £72.3m reported in 2017. We have summarised the funding gap shown in this paper from Hart in the image below:

Hart Infrastructure Plan 72% uncosted

Hart Infrastructure Plan 72% un-costed

The trouble is, the new figure is a massive under-estimate of the true picture. Why do we say this? As you can see from the image above, 116 of the 161 identified projects do not yet have confirmed costs. That’s right, they don’t even know the costs of nearly three quarters, or 72% of the projects they have identified. Of course, they don’t have any funding for those projects either, so the actual funding gap must be much wider than they claim.

There’s also a catalogue of errors and omissions throughout the Infrastructure Delivery Plan document:

  • Green Infrastructure Projects un-costed and unfunded
  • Healthcare projects un-costed and unfunded
  • S106 contributions over-allocated
  • Duplicated Projects

Green Infrastructure Projects Un-costed and Unfunded

None of the district wide green infrastructure projects have been costed. They are supposed to be funded by unspecified developer contributions and CIL that is already going to close the £57.9m gap. This is despite all of the projects being classified as “Immediate and Ongoing” and Hart being named as a lead agency on most of them. This plan doesn’t seem to even include the much promoted “green grid”.

Hart Green Infrastructure Plans uncosted

Hart Green Infrastructure Plans un-costed and unfunded

Healthcare Projects Un-costed and Unfunded

None of the healthcare projects has been costed. None have any funding allocated. The funding gap in unknown. To be fair to Hart, the funding should come from the NHS or central Government. However, this perhaps gives an indication why local GP surgeries are struggling.

Hart Healthcare projects uncosted and unfunded

Hart Healthcare projects un-costed and unfunded

Infrastructure Funding Gap – Over-allocated S106 contributions

By way of example, we searched for all the places the £1.42m S106 contribution for Netherhouse Copse (now Hareshill) was mentioned. It turns out that it is mentioned as a source of funding for projects with costs totalling £6.12m. Some of the Watery Lane (now Albany Park) money is also earmarked for some of the projects. Some of the projects the £1.42m is supposed to fund, don’t even have costs. So, the funding is over-allocated by a factor of at least 4.

Hart Infrastructure Funding Over Allocated

Hart Infrastructure Funding Over Allocated

Duplicated Projects

On some occasions, projects appear to have been duplicated. In this example, projects TR4 and TR21 appear to be cover the same improvements and have the same estimated costs.

Apparently duplicated Hart Infrastructure Projects

Apparently duplicated Hart Infrastructure Projects

 

Infrastructure Funding Gap Conclusions

It is clear that Hart has not got a grip on the Infrastructure Delivery Plan. It is simply not acceptable for 72% of the projects to remain un-costed at this stage. Remember the CCH leader promised “an infrastructure led Local Plan”. Yet, the plan they have shows a massive funding gap. They don’t have any idea about costs or funding sources for nearly three quarters of the promised projects. They have over-allocated large parts of the funding. It is clear the infrastructure plan is not going to be delivered.

If you still think Shapley Heath would deliver the promised infrastructure nirvana, I have an un-costed, unfunded and unbuilt bridge to sell you.

 

 

CCH Sponsors Shapley Heath Internal Audit

CCH Sponsors Shapley Heath Internal Audit

CCH Sponsors Shapley Heath Internal Audit

CCH has sponsored a paper recommending an internal audit of the Shapley Heath project finances. This comes despite increasingly vitriolic comments about We Heart Hart on their Facebook page.

The full paper can be found here. The title block shows what the paper is about and the Cabinet member responsible:

James Radley Sponsor of Shapley Heath Internal Audit

James Radley Sponsor of Shapley Heath Internal Audit

They are proposing quite a wide-ranging review of the project:

Shapley Heath internal Audit Scope

Shapley Heath Internal Audit Scope

We are concerned that such a wide ranging review might overlook the key issues, that we covered here and are summarised below:

  • How did they manage to spend nearly double the revised FY18/19 budget (£90K spend vs £50K approval) without  authorisation? As I understand it, this breaches the Constitution.
  • For FY20/21, why did the budget change so often?
  • Why did they need to transfer £283K from reserves to cover spending against what ended up being a zero budget?  Spending against a zero budget and/or spending over the original £167K budget without authorisation is surely also a breach of the Constitution.

We also ask whether it is appropriate a Cabinet member to sponsor an audit of a project that he himself was responsible for.

CCH U-Turn on Shapley Heath Internal Audit

This is a significant U-turn from CCH because previously they have dismissed concerns about the financial controls surrounding the project.

Most recently, Councillor Radley dismissed our question as “disingenuous”, even as he described continued spending on a project that is supposedly cancelled. Spending was reported as £81K at the end of September. Now it’s up to £92.5K, and is expected to rise to over £135K by the end of March.

Questions about Shapley Heath Financial Controls are Disingenuous

Questions about Shapley Heath Financial Controls are Disingenuous

It does seem odd that they should spend nearly all of the budget when they terminated the project in October. This is only around  half way through the financial year. He even got his statement wrong. The latest version of the budget shows New Settlement spending is set at £149K.

HASETT - Shapley Heath Final Budget FY21-22

HASETT – Shapley Heath Final Budget FY21-22

Councillor Axam, CCH Chair of the Audit Committee said he didn’t recognise some of our figures when we asked him a question about them at the September meeting.

 

We raised concerns about the budgeting and financial controls surrounding the Shapley Heath project as part of the objection we raised against the accounts. Previously, Mr Radley has described the objection to the accounts as ill-founded.

 

5-Year Land Supply Blows Shapley Heath Out of the Water

5-Year Land Supply Blows Shapley Heath Out of the Water

5-Year Land Supply Blows Shapley Heath Out of the Water

A new announcement was made at Council on Thursday, in response to one of our questions. They announced that the new 5-year land supply shows Hart has over 10 years of land supply. Not only that, the Housing Delivery Test will be met up to around 2028.  Their whole justification for pursuing Shapley Heath in the first place was as an “insurance policy”.

Unfortunately, we were unable to be at the meeting, even remotely. However, the Chairman agreed to read out our questions for us. The announcement and questions are shown below, with short video clips of the answers. They covered:

  1. 5-Year land supply announcement
  2. A request for an outline of the activities and timescales for the Local Plan review
  3. Demanding a specific date for the publication of the Shapley Heath survey
  4. Asking for the cost savings arising from stopping the Shapley Heath project early
  5. A question about the costs of having two joint-CEOs, compared to other councils that share CEOs and senior management teams.

There’s another clip of Councillor Kinnell flouncing out of the meeting after being asked some straightforward questions about the Dog Warden service.

5-Year Land Supply Blows Shapley Heath Out of the Water

Here is the announcement about the 5-year land supply:

The key points to note are that the Housing Delivery Test will be met until at least 2028 and Hart has 10 years of land supply.  The full document can be found here.

Q1: Local Plan Review Activities and Timelines

Hart needs a revised Local Plan in place by five years from adoption, which is April 2025. Various steps will need to be completed such as Examination and various consultations. The Council will also need to find sites to meet the housing delivery test and make adjustments resulting from new household projections due to be published in 2023. The Inspector also said that “appropriate and proportionate area/site assessments [and] viability testing would need to be done in an impartial manner”. Can you sketch out the broad activities and timelines required to meet the April 2025 deadline?

The answer is shown in the video below.

We think the Council has got its head in the sand, because the National Planning Policy Guidance is fairly clear that Local Plans need to be reviewed every five years. If there is any ambiguity, surely it would be prudent to plan for the worst case scenario. We are reminded of the aphorism, failure to plan is to plan to fail.

Local Plan Review Guidance

Local Plan Review Guidance: land Supply Blows Shapley Heath out of the Water

Q2: Shapley Heath Survey Results

At the September Council meeting we were promised that the Shapley Heath survey results were going to be published “in full” (subject to GDPR check) “shortly”. Most reasonable people would have expected “shortly” to mean within a couple of weeks. They are still being kept secret, with a vague commitment to publish sometime in the New Year. Can you give a precise deadline for when these important results will be made available to the taxpayers of Hart who paid for the survey?

The answer is shown in the video below:

We can now expect the survey to be published on 13 December. However, they leave the door open to later publication if they have not received other surveys. However, there are no other surveys, just baseline studies many of which have been completed for some time.

Q3: Financial Benefits of Terminating Shapley Heath

Back in September we were promised a “a business case for the cost benefit analysis of starting to commence the preparation for the next local plan review”. Subsequent papers have been notable because they contained no costs and no benefits of stopping Shapley Heath and changing course. Are we to assume that all of the FY21/22 budget for Shapley Heath has been spent already, despite the project being terminated early, and so no savings will be made, or is this just another example of weak financial controls?

The answer is shown in the video below.

It seems that Councillor Radley thinks our question is disingenuous, because there are no examples of weak financial controls.  First, he says that the full year outturn is going to be £135K against a budget (after the £130K Government grant) of £149K. It seems odd that they have spent most of the budget in just over half the year. Even odder that they are continuing to spend money on a project that’s been stopped.

There are many other examples of weak financial controls. First, they spent £90K against a £50k budget for New Settlement in FY18/19 and £283K against a zero budget in FY20/21. Second, they lost over £1m in relation to the Waste Contract and finally, even the S151 officer said that they needed to “make sure that our financial controls are fully, fully embedded” in the organisation.  Why do they need to do that if the controls are already solid?

Q4: Why Two CEOs?

As you know, Hart is facing a significant structural budget deficit for the foreseeable future. The Level 1 and Level 2 savings identified so far do not fill the financial black hole. Nearby East Hampshire and Havant councils get along fine with just one CEO and senior management team shared between them. Yet Hart, one of the smallest local authorities in the country, has two CEOs. What actions are you taking to ensure this shameful waste of taxpayers’ money does not continue?

The answer is shown in the video below:

At least the Councillor Neighbour has moved on from insisting the budget is balanced. But he seems to have his head in the sand about the costs of Hart’s senior leadership. We covered leadership costs here, where we showed that Hart’s leadership team cost over £540K per annum, whereas the combined team for Havant and East Hampshire is £333K. His comparison of staff paid over £50K is likely distorted by different levels of outsourcing.

Councillor Neighbour challenged our claim that Hart was one of the smallest local authorities. He said there were 64 authorities smaller than Hart. There’s 333 local authorities in England. This puts Hart into the smallest quintile of authorities. This means that 80% of local authorities are larger than Hart; we think that makes Hart one of the smallest.

Councillor Kinnell Flounces Out

We could not leave out the scene of Councillor Sara Kinnell flouncing out of the meeting after fielding a fairly innocuous question about dog wardens.

This isn’t the first time we have seen dramatic behaviour from Councillor Kinnell. If she can’t cope with fairly innocuous questions, then it might be better for her health if she reconsiders her position as a Cabinet member.

 

Hart Terminates Shapley Heath Collaboration Agreement

Hart Terminates Shapley Heath Collaboration Agreement

Hart Terminates Shapley Heath Collaboration Agreement

Hart Council’s Cabinet last night voted unanimously to terminate the collaboration agreement it has had in place with developers since February of this year.

The vote was taken on an amendment to the published papers for the meeting. The original recommendations were as follows:

  1. A Local Plan review assessment is carried out once any ‘Planning Bill’ has passed through Parliament and the Government has issued any associated updated guidance.
  2. That the Shapley Heath Garden Community Project is concluded with immediate effect but that existing baseline studies and surveys proceed to completion and be published early in the new year.
  3. Cabinet agrees to the principle of seeking the commissioning of a ‘Settlement Capacity and Intensification Study’ to be funded through a drawn down from the Local Plan reserve.

At this stage we only have video evidence of the amendment to Recommendation 2 fom the meeting. We will update this post once the minutes have been published. The video below is edited to show just the amended recommendation and the eventual vote.

[Update:] Thematic Group Members Email [/Update]

Confirmation of Shapley Heath Termination

Confirmation of Shapley Heath Termination

Hart Terminates Shapley Heath Collaboration Agreement: Impact

The impact of this decision is very positive for the We Heart Hart Campaign. Not only have they stopped the Shapley Heath project, they have now also ended the agreement with developers.

They also voted to begin a process to review the Local Plan, in line with legislation. At this stage they are going to assess what might need to be done to the Local Plan in 2025. At the very least they will have to update the housing target numbers with the up to date numbers from the housing need methodology. This should reduce the annual requirement from 423dpa to 286 dpa. However, updated household projections, based on the 2021 census won’t be published until 2023. Each time new projections have been published, Hart’s housing target has been reduced. So, we can hope for even lower numbers.

The Cabinet also voted to undertake a “Settlement Capacity and Intensification Study”. This will look at how much of our additional housing could be built within the settlement boundaries of our existing urban centres. We have been calling for such a study for years, so welcome this about face from the Council.

However, it is clear that the Lib Dem/CCH coalition are carrying out these actions under duress. There was certainly no enthusiasm in their voices as they voted to end the project and terminate the collaboration agreement. They are still wedded to the idea of Shapley Heath.

No doubt the proposal will be back in the Local Plan review.

The video of the full item is shown below. Viewers may note the sometimes bad tempered exchanges as the Conservative Councillors observing the meeting tried to get to the bottom of how much Shapley Heath has cost. They also asked about when we are finally going to see the output.