Hart Council revises the timetable for the Local Plan

Hart District Council Offices

Hart District Council Offices

Hart District Council’s planning department is working on revising the process and timetable for producing the Local Plan, introducing a new consultation step, but adding further delay to the process.

Back in February, Hart changed the Local Development Scheme (LDS), so that they were due to produce a complete draft Local Plan prior to submission in Autumn 2015.

However, we now understand that the process and timetable will be revised so that:

  • A revised “Housing Options Paper” will be produced in late October 2015 and will be consulted upon through to December 2015.  We believe this will be a Regulation 18 consultation, but it will also be an opportunity for everyone to put forward alternative ideas as to how we should meet the assessed housing requirement.
  • The council will then move quickly to produce a fully worked up Local Plan in early Spring 2016 which will also be subject to consultation.  We believe this will be a final Regulation 19 consultation.
  • Once the Local Plan has been amended to take account of the feedback received it will be submitted for inspection in the Autumn of 2016.

It is to be welcomed that the council is introducing this extra consultation step, but we are concerned that this revised timetable is getting very close to the time when the Government has said it might step in and write the Local Plan for councils that haven’t met the end 2016 deadline it has set.

This presents a real opportunity for our ideas on the council’s response to the We Hart petition to be incorporated into the consultation document due to be published in October 2015.

 

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.

Hart District Council outlines the process for receiving the We Love Hart Petition

We Love Hart Ballot Box

As we posted earlier, we have submitted the We  Hart petition, containing 2,130 signatures, to Hart District Council.  The Council have now  set out the process by which they will respond to the petition.  An email from council leader, Stephen Parker, has said he will:

  • Notify the Local Plan Steering Group (LPSG) that the petition has been received (this has been done)
  • Seek input from all council members on how the council should respond
  • Ask the council planners for advice on how to respond
  • Prepare a draft response to be discussed at the LPSG at the end of September
  • Take the response to Cabinet at 7pm on 1 October, where we will be allowed to speak in the debate and the final decision will be made.

Of course other members of the public are allowed at Cabinet meetings, and would encourage as many people as possible to come. We have set up a Facebook invite on our Facebook page.

I have drafted my own suggestions as to how the council should respond and they will be the subject of another post.

We Heart Hart petition breaks the 1,500 barrier

The We Heart Hart petition is now really taking off, breaking through the 1,500 barrier today. This is approaching three times the number of valid responses to the Hart Council consultation that took place in Autumn 2014 and nearly 7 times the number of people (220) of said they favoured a new settlement.

It seems that the people of Hart are waking up to the reality that the Council’s plans will:

  • Turn the northern part of Hart will turn into a single urban sprawl when there is an alternative of building higher density in urban areas to help rejuvenate our high streets
  • Ignore many brownfield sites untouched all over the district where we could build housing
  • Destroy our environment and the very nature of Hart’s unique appeal – the reason we all love living here.

 

If you would like to join our campaign, please sign and share our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

Surely it is now time for Hart Council to think again and listen to the people.

Rushmoor could take all of Hart’s allocation and more

Example High Density Brownfield Development - Arundel Square, London

Example High Density Brownfield Development – Arundel Square, London

 

If we used our brownfield land better we could meet our existing housing needs and more without concreting over our green fields.  A study by trainee architect, Gareth Price shows that Rushmoor Borough Council is not making the most of its brownfield sites, and if it showed more vision, it could meet its own housing needs and those of Hart District using brownfield sites only.

If you would like to add to the pressure to Hart to change tack and take brownfield more seriously, then please sign our petition.

Typically, suburban developers and councils use a metric of around 30 dwelling per hectare (dph) as a rule of thumb for how many houses can be fit on to  any particular space. However, a study of London has shown that in central areas, densities of between 160-405 dph can be achieved and deliver viable, vibrant social communities with amenity space incorporated into the design.

This study has been used by Gareth Price, a final year architecture student, to propose an alternative set of schemes for Rushmoor (see download below).  His work shows that it is entirely possible for Rushmoor to not only build their own housing need, but could also take all of Hart’s requirement and more.

Of course, these concepts could equally be applied to Hart.  Bravehart has already found loads of brownfield sites that don’t even appear on the land database of Hart council. These include derelict buildings in the heart of Fleet and Hook.

Derelict Offices in Fleet

Derelict Offices in Fleet

Not only that, we know that Fleet town centre is dying with many vacant shops in the shopping centre and on the High Street. Surely the best way to rejuvenate our town centres is to build vibrant communities at their heart, rather than concreting over the countryside on their outskirts.  Using the same metrics, it is probable, that all of Hart’s housing need could be met by using brownfield sites.

Empty Shop in Hart Shopping Centre, Fleet

Empty Shop in Hart Shopping Centre, Fleet

Another advantage of the types of schemes that Gareth proposes is that on average, the dwellings are likely to be smaller and so more affordable for our young people.  We could also build mixed use developments with some schemes dedicated to specialist homes for older people.

Surely it is time we ask our councillors in Rushmoor Borough Council, Surrey Heath Borough Council and Hart District to break from the past, think out of the box, get more creative and take brownfield much more seriously instead of proposing endless urban sprawl across our countryside.

A Sustainable Approach to Housing on Brownfield

We Love Hart Campaign Update

We haven’t been posting too much for a couple of weeks, but there’s been plenty going on behind the scenes.

We are working up plans to enhance the campaign by mounting a face to face leafleting campaign in the major settlements of Fleet, Crondall, Church Crookham, Hartley Wintney, Hook, Odiham and North Warnborough, Yateley and Blackwater)  to raise awareness of how much housing we are being asked to deliver and the devastation a new town will bring.  We will need “boots on the ground” to help with this, so please do get in touch if you can help.  We are provisionally targeting the weekend of 28/29 March for this.

On top of that, we are raising money to do a leaflet drop across the district during April to add further weight to the campaign and to ask all residents to challenge those councillors who are up for re-election to oppose Option 4: New Settlement because it will result in massive urban sprawl and open Hart up to 3,100 extra houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.  We will publish the names, wards, parties and contact details of all those contesting the election to make it easy for you to make your voice heard.

One supporter has also taken a look at the plans for building in Rushmoor.  He is horrified at how brownfield land is being wasted at the proposed Aldershot Barracks site.  We will be posting more about that in the next few days.

 

Official: Hart has no Vision

SHLAA Sites in Hart District Jan 2015

SHLAA Sites in Hart District Jan 2015

It’s official, in an answer to a question to be posed at tomorrow’s council meeting, Hart District Council has disclosed that it doesn’t have a vision.  It is quite simply astonishing that after months of work on the Hart Local Plan they still don’t have a vision for what Hart is going to look like in 2031.

If you want to protest against this staggering lack of leadership, please sign and share our petition.

We Heart Hart posed a number of questions to the council ahead of tomorrow’s meeting.  Among them was a question about their vision for the future of the district that they must prepare in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

One might expect this to be an early part of their work so that they can objectively assess alternative development scenarios against that vision.  However, their approach appears to be the other way round, decide where they are going to dump the houses and then retro-fit a vision to that.  Sadly we seem to be on the slippery slope to a giant, sprawling conurbation in the north east of Hart by default (joining up Fleet, Dogmersfield, Church Crookham, Crookham Village, Hartley Wintney, Hook, Odiham and North Warnborough) because they can’t be bothered to come up with a more positive vision.  Not only that, but they are still insisting on a new town option that will act as a sink for the 3,100 houses that Surrey Heath and Rushmoor say they can’t build.

Other revelations from their answers include:

  • Their belief that the locations of the houses we build won’t change the traffic and congestion impact very much.  I am not sure residents of Hartley Wintney, Hook, Fleet Odiham and Church Crookham will welcome the additional traffic from a new town on their doorstep in Winchfield.
  • Admission that they are being forced to include a new town option in their planning so they can accommodate the overspill from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor
  • Insisting that there is capacity for only 750 houses on brownfield land even though many of the brownfield sites BraveHart photographed are not in the SHLAA despite there being several sites on Ancells Farm up for sale.

The full questions and answers can be found here.

 

We Heart Hart Questions for Hart Council

There is a Hart District Council meeting on 26 February at the Hart Council Offices in Fleet at 7pm.  There is an opportunity for members of the public to ask questions about any subject including the emerging Local Plan.  Great questions would be:

  1. If Hart keeps the new town in its plan, what is the risk it will have to build the new town and strategic urban extensions in Fleet and Church Crookham to accommodate the extra 3,100 houses that Surrey Heath Borough Council and Rushmoor Borough Council are trying to force on to Hart?
  2. What will be the additional traffic and congestion impact of the proposed new town on surrounding settlements of Church Crookham, Crookham Village, Fleet, Hook, Hartley Wintney and Odiham?
  3. What are the criteria, marking scheme and weighting factors Hart are using to evaluate the alternative housing development options?
  4. What is Hart’s vision for the future of the district?
  5. How will Hart evaluate the risk of coalescence of the existing settlements that will effectively happen if a new town is built?
  6. What is Hart DC’s strategy for identifying and analysing and maximising the development of brownfield sites to avoid concreting over our valuable green spaces?
  7. What will be the environmental impact of a new sewage works discharging into the River Hart?
  8. What will be the environmental impact of 5,000 new houses in the SPA zone of influence?
  9. What will be the environmental impact of 5,000 new houses on the SSSI’s at Odiham Common and Basingstoke Canal?
  10. What will be the environmental impact of concreting over the green gaps between the SSSI’s and SINCs in Winchfield?

We Heart Hart has asked a number of these questions already as shown in the download and is aware of others asking questions too.

Please take some time to ask your own questions of the council.  You can use the download below that already has the e-mail addresses in it you need.  Questions need to be submitted by noon on Friday 20 February.

We Love Hart Questions for Hart Council

And if you have not done so, please sign the petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/we-hart

We Heart Hart Press Coverage

We are delighted to see that the We Heart Hart (We Love Hart) campaign has been covered in the Basingstoke Gazette, “It’s time for Hart to think again”, p20 and online at “We Heart Hart petition get 600 signatures“.

We Heart Hart in Basingstoke Gazette

Also covered in the Fleet News and Mail, “Number against building more homes in Hart swells”, p3, and online at “Petition attracts hundreds of signatures opposing more homes in Hart

We Love Hart in Fleet News and Mail

This shows support is growing across Hart District for a change of tack on the Local Plan