Council Adopts Hart Local Plan

Council Adopts Hart Local Plan

Council Adopts Hart Local Plan

It’s been a long time coming, but Hart Council has finally adopted the Hart Local Plan. This took place at their first virtual meeting that happened at 7pm on 30 April 2020.

The meeting was broadcast on Hart’s live streaming page: https://www.facebook.com/HDCLiveStreaming/

However, these videos are often removed shortly after broadcast.  So we have downloaded it, and uploaded it to YouTube for posterity.

We can all sleep relatively easily now that we have a Local Plan. This plan has had Policy SS3 removed from it. However, we need to remain vigilant that the Council doesn’t seek to bring back the unnecessary Shapley Heath Garden Village at a later point.

 

Hart #Covid19 funding black hole shrinks to “only” £628K

Hart #Covid19 funding black hole shrinks to £628K

Hart #Covid19 funding black hole shrinks to £628K

The Government has awarded Hart more Covid19 funding that shrinks its expected deficit to from the pandemic to “only” £628K. This is welcome news as only last week the deficit stood at £1.6m.

However, £628K still represents about 6% of the council’s budget. We are left wondering which project could be cancelled to make good most of this shortfall? 😉

Stop Shapley Heath

Stopping Shapley Heath could help close Hart’s Covid19 funding gap

Hart #Covid19 funding black hole details

The council have circulated their estimate of the loss of income and extra costs they are facing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,

Hart Council covid19 funding hit

Hart Council Covid19 funding hit

This amounts to over £1.6m. The Government have announced they will provide £987K of Covid19 funding to Hart.

Hampshire Councils covid19 funding

Hampshire Councils #Covid19 funding

But this still leaves a £628K funding gap, on top of the “perfect storm” they faced in their finances even before the pandemic hit.

It will be interesting to see if this subject comes up at the “virtual” council meeting to adopt the Local Plan. The live stream can be found here.

Covid19 blows £1.6m hole in Hart finances

Covid19 blows £1.6m hole in Hart finances #Covid19

Covid19 blows £1.6m hole in Hart finances

We do hope everyone is staying safe from the coronavirus and coping well with the lockdown. Hopefully, the disease will be brought under control soon and we can start to get back to normal. However, Covid19 has blown a big hole in Hart’s finances.

Amongst other things, we understand that Covid19 has reduced Hart’s car parking revenue by around £240K. The Council expect to lose £140K of council tax and business rates. They also expect to lose £360K from planning income and £390K from the leisure centre. Of course, they still have to pay for the leisure centre loans. They have also incurred technology and staff costs of over £200K in providing the Hart response Hub.

So far, they have received £24K from the Government to cover these costs and expect more to come, but don’t expect that it will bridge the £1.6m funding gap. They expect to have to bridge any remaining gap from reserves.

There is some good news. So far, they have distributed £6.5m under the Government’s Small Business Grant Scheme. This means that 65% of all businesses that have applied for the grant have now been paid. They expect to pay the balance by the end of April. A number of businesses have not applied for the grant. If you, or any of your friends think you might be eligible, visit Hart’s website to check eligibility and apply: https://www.hart.gov.uk/covid-19-information-for-businesses.

With most construction sites being shutdown, and one might imagine that the housing market will be subdued for some time, they will probably lose some New Homes bonus too.

All this comes on top of the “perfect storm” facing Hart’s finances that we reported on back in January. We hesitate to be political at this difficult time, but surely they must reexamine whether they should be spending  £650K on Shapley Heath Garden Village at the moment. We have shown how the project is not required. Now more than ever, it is likely housing demand is going to fall as people have less money in their pockets. The Inspector said there’s no evidence it’s viable or deliverable. It will drive up the housing target and be made irrelevant by Grazeley. Not to mention the unnecessary 1m tonnes of CO2 that will be emitted during construction. This is a white elephant project that we cannot afford.

Stay well and keep healthy everyone.

Developer fox in charge of the Shapley Heath hen house

Developer fox in charge of Shapley Heath hen house

Developer fox in charge of Shapley Heath hen house

Hart Council has held the first meeting of the Shapley Heath “Opportunity” Board. It was a meeting that could be attended by the public, but they didn’t publicise it, so nobody turned up. But, the papers and the minutes have been published, so we can get a sense of what went on. Perhaps the most disturbing point is that the developers will procure and fund the production of all of the baseline studies.

As the promoters/developers with significant land interest, Lightwood Strategic and L&Q Estates, have confirmed that, subject to Board approval, they will procure and fund all of the baseline surveys.

This is putting the developer fox in charge of the Shapley Heath hen house. What could possibly go wrong? The list of baseline documents is as follows:

Developer fox in charge of Shapley Heath henhouse baseline evidence

Shapley Heath baseline evidence

Can we really trust the developers to produce objective, impartial assessments on these issues? What sort of documents are they going  too produce, when much of this work has been done already? And much of it persuaded the Inspector to throw Shapley Heath/Policy SS3 out of the Local Plan. Winchfield Parish Council produced a lot of this evidence for the Local Plan examination. Their evidence covered flood risk, heritage assets, ecology, green infrastructure and agricultural land. It also looked at the constraints from the M3, the railway electricity pylons and the high pressure gas main. The constraints were handily summarised in a single diagram.

Figure 6 Winchfield Summary of Key Findings

Figure 6 Winchfield Summary of Key Findings

 

The council has committed to fund a number of strategic reports:

Developer fox in charge of Shapley Heath henhouse - Shapley Heath strategy reports

Shapley Heath strategy reports

So far, they don’t appear to have pulled together a bottom-up estimate of the costs of these reports. But they are going to spend nearly two years producing them all.

Developer fox in charge of Shapley Heath henhouse - Shapley Heath Phases and Timeline

Shapley Heath Phases and Timeline

Sloppy Financial Control

But the problems don’t stop there. It is clear that the financial control over the project is sloppy at best. Previously, they had budgeted £70K for a “full time dedicated senior post” and a part time administrator.

 

£70K for 1 full time and 1 part time resource

But, now they have cut the budget to £65K and hope to hire three people. If you pay peanuts, you know what you can expect.

Developer fox in charge of Shapley Heath henhouse. Shapley Heath Sloppy Financial Control

Shapley Heath Sloppy Financial Control

They have now signed off funding for four people, when the original request was for 1.5 FTEs. Further, they are funding 3 of these full time positions from a one-off grant from Government. What happens to these people when the money runs out? We remind readers that Hart finances are facing a “perfect storm”. This is not a time to be creating unfunded liabilities. Similarly, they are paying for the project manager from part of the £500K being transferred from reserves, which again is a one-off source of funding.

This looks like a project that is out of control. The council are throwing our hard-earned money at a project that is not required, at a time when their finances are severely constrained.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hart Urban Revitalisation is urgently required

Urban Revitalisation - Blackwater

Hart Urban revitalisation is required in Blackwater

We have already written extensively about why Shapley Heath is a bad idea. However we have to acknowledge that, even with the reduced housing requirement that could be delivered by an early review of the Hart Local Plan, we will need to build some extra housing between now and 2040. We strongly believe that much of this housing can be delivered by revitalising our urban centres in Fleet, Hook, Blackwater and Yateley. We support proportionate development in the other parishes.

There’s plenty of sites to consider:

Hook has already made a start. Its Neighbourhood Plan contains a master plan to revitalise the centre of the village. Overall, this will deliver a market square, better traffic management, much improved commercial premises and 8,916 sq m of residential accommodation, perhaps around 130-150 flats.

Hook Revitalisation Master Plan

Hart Urban Revitalisation in action in Hook

There is promising work starting to look at the civic quarter in Fleet. But CCH’s latest newsletter demonstrates that their heart isn’t in it. They claim Fleet isn’t that bad and offer no support for any sort of regeneration.

Hook Parish Council have done it. It’s time for the the other parish/town councils to follow their lead and shame Hart Council into action. Let’s look at the case for revitalising our town centres.

Rationale for Hart Urban Revitalisation

There are four main reasons to focus on urban revitalisation.

  • Enhance the built environment to enrich all of our lives
  • Address the infrastructure funding gaps
  • Hart in general and Fleet in particular is falling behind neighbouring areas
  • Fleet not valued by visitors and business confidence is low

Sensitive revitalisation, taking advice from companies like Create Streets can transform decaying urban centres into attractive places to live, work and play.

There are acknowledged infrastructure funding gaps in the district. These are concentrated in Hook, Fleet and Yateley and Blackwater.

Urban revitalisation Existing Hart Infrastructure Funding gaps

Existing Hart £78m Infrastructure Funding gap

Building a new town at Shapley Heath/ Winchfield won’t address these funding gaps. But, proper revitalisation will beging to address these issues.

Fleet is falling behind neighbouring towns. Farnham, Wokingham, Basingstoke, Aldershot and Farnborough are attracting hundreds of millions of pounds of investment. Hart Council’s curmudgeonly approach is delivering nothing for Fleet or the wider Hart community.

Urban revitalisation - Fleet falling behind neighbouring towns

Fleet falling behind neighbouring towns

And Hart’s own bid for Future High Streets funding found:

  • 88% say Fleet doesn’t meet their retail and leisure needs
  • 52% would not recommend a visit to the town centre
  • 67% think the poor retail offer reflects badly on the town
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • The confidence of local businesses is extremely low, with 44% reporting declining turnover
Urban revitalisation - Fleet not valued by residents and visitors

Fleet not valued by residents and visitors

If we are to address these issues, we must follow Hook’s lead and develop master plans for our other urban centres.

Benefits of Urban Revitalisation

The benefits of going ahead with these ideas would be large and far reaching:

  • Deliver infrastructure to the areas that need it. Budgets will be limited but we should aim for:
  • Improved Fleet station access and cycle paths connecting Fleet centre to the station and Hartland Park
  • Social facilities such as a multi-purpose venue including theatre/cinema and meeting space and an outdoor public event space
  • Improved Health facilities such as a drop-in health centre for physio, mental health and routine nursing
  • Improved leisure such as restaurants and bars to deliver a thriving night time economy
  • Open green spaces within the town centre
  • Commercial – better retail offer and modern offices
  • Housing that people can afford and social housing for those in need

This can be delivered by focusing on creating attractive places, with no more than 4 or 5 storey development.

 

#StormDennis dissolves daft Shapley Heath idea

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#StormDennis has taken its toll on Hart District. As far as we can tell, the worst hit area is around the mooted Shapley Heath/ Winchfield new town.  Here we have evidence of yet another of these supposed 1 in 30 year events. We drove around there this morning and found:

  • The river Whitewater had flooded by the A30 opposite the Crooked Billet. This is the area that is supposed to be Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). The sort of area earmarked for country rambles and dog-walking. Definitely not water-skiing.

  • Totters Lane flooded at the top for quite a distance
  • Bagwell Lane in Winchfield flooded
  • Station Road flooded
  • Pilcot Road in Dogmersfield flooded
  • Hitches Lane in Crookham Village flooded near the new roundabout for the Grove Farm development. Who knows how the new residents are supposed to get out of their new houses.
  • Taplins Farm Lane flooded again. We didn’t even attempt to drive through in a 4×4.
Taplins Farm Lane Flood. #StormDennis.

Taplins Farm Lane Flood

  • #StormDennis also flooded Pale Lane and the fields either side. The west side is also supposed to be SANG for the proposed Shapley Heath development.

This latest flood comes in addition to the other floods we have recorded in the area. We have recorded flood events on 15 January 2020 (#StormBrendan), 20 December 2019,  4 February 2019,  in April 2018 and three times in 2016 alone. Evidence documenting the 2016 flood events can be found here (4 Jan) , here (7 Jan)here (9 March on Station Road) and here (28 March due to #StormKatie).

The Whitewater Valley Society have also reported that North Warnborough has been badly hit.

The actual weather has once again refused to comply with the flood assessment carried out for Hart Council as part of its evidence base for the Local Plan. The sustainability assessment claimed:

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

The detailed assessment also said there’s only a one in 30 year chance of surface water flooding.

Winchfield Strategic Assessment - Flood Risk 3

As far as we can tell, the road through the proposed development area and all roads out of the area were affected by the floods. Both SANG areas were also flooded.  When will Hart District Council see sense and abandon this daft project?

Hart Local Plan Immediate Review

Stop Shapley Heath

Stop Shapley Heath – Hart Local Plan Immediate Review

The adoption of the Hart Local Plan is anticipated in February or March 2020. The council has conceded in its main modifications to the need for an early review of the Local Plan in certain circumstances (see MM121). We support an immediate review of the Hart Local Plan, once adopted.

We think the following objectives should be set:

  1. Build what we need, no more, no less.
  2. Avoid any new settlement or large scale green field development. This means we should not build Shapley Heath, Rye Common or West of Hook.
  3. Focus on brownfield development to revitalise our urban centres by delivering better health, community and cultural facilities.
  4. Proportionate development within each parish.

We believe this can be done, and this post explains the first stage of how we do that.

Hart Local Plan Housing Delivery Test

Before we start, we need to acknowledge a weakness in the Local Plan that will shortly be adopted. The Government have imposed the Housing Delivery Test (HDT) on all councils. The HDT aims to maintain a steady supply of housing by forcing councils to keep their rolling 3-year delivery in line with the average required rate. The Hart Local Plan will run into trouble with the Housing Delivery Test (HDT) around 2025/26. This was covered by a question to the full Council meeting in July 2019. This effect might be delayed or reduced if some or all of the large developments underway slip their delivery schedules.

But, if places like Hartland Park and Grove Farm stick to their delivery schedules, we will be running short of housing in 2025/26. To rectify this, pass the HDT at 100% based on the 423 dwellings per annum (dpa) imposed by the Local Plan, we will have to build an extra 1,700 houses over the period to 2032.

Hart Local Plan Immediate Review

Hart Local Plan and the Housing Delivery Test

Some council members may use this as a justification to pursue Shapley Heath Garden Village. We have already shown that Shapley Heath will deliver far more houses than we need, and unnecessarily urbanise the district.

Hart Local Plan versus the Standard Method

However, the Local Plan was examined under the (old) SHMA method. This, together with the alleged unmet need from Surrey Heath, resulted in a housing target of 423dpa. But, under the new standard method Hart’s housing requirement from 2020-2041 is only 251dpa (including a 40% affordability uplift).

Hart Household Requirements 2016-2041

Hart Household Requirements 2016-2041

Hart District Build Requirements under various scenarios

Hart District Build Requirements under various scenarios

This results in a total requirement from 2020-2041 of “only” 5,271 houses.

Hart Local Plan Immediate Review

Hart Local Plan versus the Standard Method

Revised Hart Local Plan to meet the Housing Delivery Test

However, any revised Local Plan would also have to meet the HDT. This would result in a total requirement of 6,783 houses over the period 2020-2041. The Local Plan has already identified 4,012, leaving 2,771 to find.

Hart Local Plan Immediate Review

Hart Local Plan versus the proposed Revised Plan

Hart Local Plan Immediate Review

So, the challenge from a Hart Local Plan immediate review is during 2020 develop a vision for Hart in 2040 to:

  • Deliver the 2,771 houses we need at a steady rate
  • Revitalise our urban centres
  • Proportionate development across remaining parishes to make up the difference
  • Protect the green spaces that make Hart an attractive place to live
Hart Local Plan Immediate Review - 2020 Vision for Hart 2040

2020 Vision for Hart 2040

We believe this can be done. We will work on how this might be done in subsequent posts.

This is another of our posts showing:

  • What is Shapley Heath, explaining its location and scale?
  • All the reasons why Shapley Heath Garden Village is a bad idea
  • An outline of an alternative approach to long term planning in Hart

The master page containing all of these posts can be found here. A link is also provided in the navigation at the top of the page.  Please do keep an eye out for further updates and share them with your friends.

 

 

Hart Council holds Shapley Heath Secret Meeting with developers and Homes England

Stop Shapley Heath

Shapley Heath Secret Meeting

It has emerged that Hart Council officers have held a secret meeting about Shapley Heath with Homes England and the developers. The meeting was revealed in a late response to a question put to Graham Cockarill back in November. He didn’t turn up to the meeting, and the promised written answer has only been provided today.

No wonder he didn’t want to answer the question during the General Election campaign.

The question was put by head the head of the Conservative group on the council, Anne Crampton. The response is produced in full below.

Hart District Council holds Shapley Heath secret meeting with developers and Homes England

Hart holds Shapley Heath secret meeting with developers and Homes England

It is astonishing that meetings like this are not minuted. Even more astonishing is that the developers are more involved in the process than elected councillors.

We also asked a question at the same meeting. This was about the climate change impact of building up to 10,000 unnecessary houses. Sadly, the response didn’t really answer the question. But it is clear they are doubling down on investigating Shapley Heath Garden Village.

Cockarill doubles down on Shapley Heath Garden Village madness

Cockarill doubles down on Shapley Heath madness

The full minutes can be found here.

Shapley Heath too expensive for Hart’s finances

Shapley Heath Garden Village too expensive for Hart District Council's finances

Shapley Heath too expensive for Hart’s finances

Hart Council has committed to spending the £150K Government funding it received on Shapley Heath. It has also said that it will seek a further £500K of funding from next years’ budget. By way of context, Hart’s annual spending budget is around £10m. So, this £500K represents about 5% of annual expenditure.

However, Hart’s finances are coming under increasing pressure.

First, they are forecasting an overspend for the current 2019-20 financial year.

Hart District Council FY19-20 129K deficit

Hart District Council FY19-20 129K deficit

Second, the medium term outlook is deteriorating. It was described in a recent Cabinet paper as a “perfect storm of detrimental changes to funding”.

Shapley Heath too expensive for Hart's finances

Hart District Council perfect Storm of detrimental changes to funding

This is caused by a number of issues such as the New Homes bonus being phased out and a reduction in business rates income. They are reliant upon risky and uncertain income from their commercial activities to balance the books from 2021/22.

This is illustrated in the following excerpt from the Cabinet paper:

Shapley Heath Garden Village too expensive for Hart's finances

Shapley Heath too expensive for Hart’s stretched finances

The medium term forecast is reliant upon making more than £500K profit in FY21/22 from commercial activities. This rises to over £1m in the following year.

Hart District Council reliant on commercial income from 2021

Hart District Council reliant on commercial income from 2021/22

Given this backdrop, it is unbelievable that they are planning to spend around £650K on Shapley Heath Garden Village. We have shown how the project is not required. The Inspector said there’s no evidence it’s viable or deliverable. It will drive up the housing target and be made irrelevant by Grazeley. Not to mention the unnecessary 1m tonnes of CO2 that will be emitted during construction. This is a white elephant project that we cannot afford. It must be stopped.

 

Grazeley Garden Town makes Shapley Heath irrelevant

Grazeley Garden Town Masterplan Scenario 1 - 15,000 homes

Grazeley Garden Town Masterplan – 15,000 homes

Amongst all of the noise about Shapley Heath it is easy to overlook the work going on in neighbouring areas. A consortium of West Berkshire and Wokingham councils have received £750,000 to explore the Grazeley Garden Town.

It is proposed to develop 15,000 new houses on land surrounding Grazeley village. This site lies just to the south of the M4 and west of the A33, adjacent to AWE Burghfield. The councils have already carried out a master-planning exercise. The plans include a new railway station, primary and secondary schools, employment buildings and outdoor space. Incidentally, this master-plan work looks far higher quality than anything so far produced for Winchfield New Town/Shapley Heath.

The press release from Wokingham Council says the development will require £750m of infrastructure spending for 15,000 houses. This equates to £50,000 per house. Interestingly, the master-plan evaluated 5,000, 10,000 and 15,000 house schemes. Only the 15,000 house scenario produced a viable outcome.  The viability assessment for Shapley Heath included only £164m of infrastructure funding for 5,300 houses or only £31,000 per house. Grazeley is proposing around 61% more spending per dwelling than Shapley Heath. It seems Hart Council’s claims of massive infrastructure spending for Shapley Heath are just a pipe-dream.

The Grazeley site is close to the northern boundary of Hart District. Of course the extra traffic from extra 15,000 houses on our doorstep will have a big impact on our district. But the bigger question is, why do we need Shapley Heath Garden Village, if there is to be a much bigger new town just a few miles away?

[Update] Consultation on Grazeley Garden Town planned for February as part of the Wokingham Local Plan [/Update]

Surely Grazeley makes Shapley Heath completely irrelevant?

The full Grazeley Garden Town master-plan document can be downloaded from the button below.

Grazeley Garden Town Masterplan

This is another of our posts showing:

  • What is Shapley Heath, explaining its location and scale?
  • All the reasons why Shapley Heath Garden Village is a bad idea
  • An outline of an alternative approach to long term planning in Hart

The master page containing all of these posts can be found here. A link is also provided in the navigation at the top of the page.  Please do keep an eye out for further updates and share them with your friends.