Council to remove Winchfield new town from Local Plan

Hart Council to Remove Winchfield New Town from Local Plan

Hart Council to Remove Winchfield New Town from Local Plan

Hart Council have called an emergency Cabinet Meeting for 14 March 2019 to remove Winchfield new town from the Local Plan.

The meeting has one main agenda item which is to consider the report of the Inspector into the Local Plan examination. The main recommendation is as follows:

Hart Cabinet remove Winchfield New Town from Local Plan

Hart Cabinet remove Winchfield New Town (Policy SS3) from Local Plan

The main paper for discussion can be found here.

Interestingly, the Council implicitly admit that the prior work into the new town was not carried out impartially. This is a quote from section 4.4.1 of the paper before Cabinet:

The Inspector is of the view that a significant level of further supporting work would be required for Policy SS3 to be found sound in its current form, which would need to include appropriate and proportionate area/site assessments, infrastructure considerations, viability testing, evidence in support of deliverability and further Sustainable Appraisal (SA) work, which would need to be done in an impartial manner with sufficient evidence to support its findings and comparisons with alternative options. Any further SA work would also need to include additional standalone consultation. This would all lead to a significant delay in the examination, whilst it was paused, to allow such work to be undertaken. Further hearing sessions would be needed. In the interim, there is a risk that Inspectors considering major planning appeals such as Pale Lane and Owen’s Farm might attach much less weight to the Plan notwithstanding the Inspector’s letter, because of the uncertainty the additional work would give rise to.

This is quite a stunning admission and backs up our demand for heads to roll over the way the previous assessment was carried out. It is simply unacceptable for the Sustainability Appraisal (SA) to have been biased by officers or councillors.

Meanwhile, there’s ructions in a bunker in deepest Church Crookham.

CCH can’t quite bring themselves to admit that the Inspector has asked for the new town to be removed from the Local Plan:

Hart’s Local Plan
​​
Following the Local Plan enquiry in the autumn of last year, the planning inspector has written to Hart to suggest that he will find our plan sound and acknowledges that we have sufficient housing supply – such that we no longer need to fear planning by appeal.

This is fantastic news for the people of Hart who have faced years of unconstrained planning blight because the previous administration failed to knuckle down and face up to the arduous task of getting a sound plan drafted, supported by sufficient evidence and compliant with national planning policies. Hart has not had a new Local Plan since 1996, which accounts for why we have struggled to defend many planning appeals in recent years.

It is disingenuous therefore for some politically motivated commentators to be painting this as if it is some kind of failing. It is a major strategic and meaningful win for the people of Hart. The inspector, despite some of the misinformation doing the rounds, has also identified that a new settlement is an appropriate option for Hart to consider pursuing. A new settlement would in future years deliver housing with the necessary infrastructure which has been so sadly lacking from most of the new bolt on urban extensions of recent years. No new secondary school and no increased capacity on our local roads being prime examples.

At long last Hart are on the cusp of adopting a sound local plan which will protect our environment and quality of life for years to come – don’t let any one try to detract from this critically important achievement.

http://www.cchart.org.uk/ (scroll down below the free parking u-turn)

Local Plan Examination: Heads Must Roll!

Hart Local Plan Examination is damning: Heads must roll

Hart Local Plan Examination is damning: Heads must roll

As regular readers will recall, the Council announced the preliminary results of the Hart Local Plan Examination a couple of days ago. We have now had time to read the detailed letter from the Inspector and form some conclusions.

The purpose of this post is to summarise the Inspector’s preliminary findings and suggest our own next steps for the Local Plan. In short, the Inspector’s report is damning and heads must roll.

Summary of Local Plan Examination Preliminary findings

First, the Council’s characterisation of “a couple of issues in relation to the Local Plan” understates the ferocity of the Inspector’s criticisms by quite some margin. The Inspector’s full report can be found here.

His criticisms of Policy SS3 and the area of search for the new settlement are deep and comprehensive. He says:

I have a number of fundamental concerns with regard to the soundness of Policy SS3.

He lays out concerns about infrastructure, saying the plans lack substance. He also points out there’s a large tract of land in the middle of the Area of Search is not and will not be available. But he reserves his most scathing attack for the Sustainability Appraisal (SA). Even though there were concerns raised about the legal compliance of the document, these don’t matter, because the document itself was so bad.

Far from being a “couple of issues”, these criticisms explode a cruise missile right at the heart of the Council’s flagship policy.

The criticism of the SA is damning. Hart submitted two sustainability appraisals, one before submission and one after.  Of the first, the Inspector says:

I am not of the view that the pre-submission SA, in its own right, appropriately or robustly considers reasonable alternatives to a new settlement as a long-term growth strategy

The second SA did test reasonable alternatives, but inappropriately. The Inspector cites several examples:

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

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

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

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

  • The ranking for the impact on water was also criticised by the Inspector.
  • In conclusion on the SA the Inspector said:

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

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

In addition, the Inspector clearly states:

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

Substantially all of these points were made by We Heart Hart and Winchfield Parish Council during the consultation process. So, all the issues were known to Hart Council before submitting the plan for examination, yet they chose to press on with the doomed policy. In effect, the Council has been caught red-handed trying to gerrymander the SA in what looks to us like a clear case of policy-based evidence making.

It is true that the Inspector has left open the door for the new town to return in future. But this is conditional upon the new town being considered properly alongside all other options for long term growth beyond 2032.

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

I am of the view that a significant level of further supporting work would be required for Policy SS3 to be found sound in its current form, which would need to include appropriate and proportionate area/site assessments, infrastructure considerations, viability testing, evidence in support of deliverability and further SA work, which would need to be done in an impartial manner with sufficient evidence to support its findings and comparisons with alternative options.

[Update 5/3/2018] But there is a significant caveat from the Inspector:

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

[/Update]

Budget Impact of New Town Planning

In addition to the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of pounds already spent, we should also note that in the same Council meeting, they agreed to spend £785,990 on the new settlement in the next financial year (Paper B Appendix 3). Residents might reflect on the other important services that might be delivered with this money, like free-parking in Fleet to boost retail footfall.

Hart Council 2019-20 budget for new settlement

Hart Council 2019-20 budget for new settlement

In summary, we have a Council that has botched its flagship policy, had it found unsound but is proposing to squander even more of our hard-earned council tax on the same failed policy.

Next Steps after the Local Plan Examination

The first and most obvious point is that we need to get the Local Plan over the line as soon as possible. This means that the Council should abandon Policy SS3 immediately and agree to take Surrey Heath’s unmet need. They should reply to the Inspector forthwith, agreeing to his demands and get on with changing the plan to make it sound.

This is necessary to protect Pale Lane and Owens Farm in Hook and any other planning appeals that might come along.

Before any further review of the plan to identify and evaluate properly the options for long term growth beyond the plan period, root and branch reform is required.

Root and Branch Reform – Heads Must Roll

Let’s take a look at what is required. First, let’s look at the members.

Liberal Democrats

Hart Local Plan Examination: Liberal Democrats David Dave Neighbour in the pocket of CCH James Radley

Liberal Democrats in the pocket of CCH

The Portfolio Head for Planning, Graham Cockarill and the Council Leader, David Neighbour have allowed themselves to be the puppets of Community Campaign Completely Concrete Hart (CCH). They have preened themselves in positions of power whilst presiding over the car-crash that is Policy SS3. They have wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds, wasted precious time and put at risk more of our green fields. Trying to position the Inspector’s report as a success with only a couple of minor issues to resolve, simply will not wash.

They have lost all credibility and authority and should immediately resign their Cabinet positions and consider whether they should continue in their role as Councillors. Hopefully, their Yateley electors will see through their ineptitude and bring down the guillotine on their political careers.

Community Campaign Hart

Community Campaign Completely Concrete Hart screwing up Hart Planning since 2004

Completely Concrete Hart screwing up Hart Planning since 2004

Then we have the puppeteers in CCH. The main protagonists are James Radley and Alan Oliver. Their track record is woeful. The then ruling Conservatives (who are far from blameless in this affair) had a draft Local Plan, without the new town, in late-2016. CCH scuppered that plan by insisting that a new option to include the new town be included. This was even though surprise, surprise, Winchfield had failed testing due to concerns about flooding and lack of infrastructure. This delayed the Local Plan, put Pale Lane and Bramshill at risk and wasted even more money.

They persisted with the lost cause appeal against Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse, wasting probably over £100,000. Our questions to Council have been censored because they found them uncomfortable (see here and here). They have dismissed We Heart Hart’s concerns, that have now been proven to be right, as “Trump-like diatribes”, “misinformation and outright lies”. They said in Fleet News that they would deliver an “infrastructure-led” Local Plan, yet the plan contains only threadbare infrastructure proposals, with big gaps in costing and funding. Moreover, the Inspector has dismissed the new town partly on the grounds that infrastructure plans lacked substance.

CCH have obstructed brownfield development and won’t even consider urban regeneration seriously. Their pig-headed delusion has resulted in the new town plans being shredded in public by the Inspector. CCH have been revealed as an empty vessel that makes a lot of noise but has no substance. They should immediately resign their Cabinet positions and consider their positions as Councillors. Even Church Crookham electors might begin to recognise the pattern of failure and remove them at the ballot box.

Hart Council Officers

We cannot ignore the role of the officers in this fiasco. In 2012, they recognised that a new town at Winchfield would require new studies, more land, infrastructure assessment and testing. Seven years on, and all that work has either not been completed or failed. We should remember that their 2013 Local Plan failed at Inspection. They too have pursued inappropriate appeals that were doomed to failure. In 2015, they said that there was capacity for only 450 dwellings on brownfield land. Since then permission has been granted for thousands of homes at Hartland Park, Sun Park and many office conversions. Their estimate was out by a factor of at least 5.

They admitted at the Examination that they have been working with the developers on the new town plan for over four years. Now they have been caught out gerrymandering the SA. All this wasted time and money has resulted in their flagship policy ending in abject failure. One must question their judgement, independence and ability to offer sound advice to members and residents.

It is time for a complete replacement of the Planning Team, starting at the top with the joint-Chief Executive.

 

It is only after getting rid of the dysfunctional Cabinet and the failed Planning team that we can start to plan properly for the future beyond the plan period with fresh ideas.  This should include a proper assessment of the regeneration of our urban centres as a much more palatable option than unnecessarily concreting over more of our precious green fields.

Ding Dong! Winchfield new town is dead

Ding Dong the New Town is Dead - New town policy SS3 to be removed from the Hart Local Plan

Ding Dong! Winchfield New Town is Dead

[Update: Inspector’s Letter now published here. Analysis to follow at the weekend – now here]

Hart Council has received a letter from the Planning Inspector giving a provisional assessment of the Hart Local Plan. He has made two recommendations to make the plan sound.

  1. Remove Policy SS3, so we won’t be having a new town in Winchfield within the plan period, because the extra houses are not needed.
  2. We must take around 750 of Surrey Heath’s unmet need, which can be met with the current development plans.

The news was given at tonight’s council meeting by Graham Cockarill. This is obviously very good news for those of us who have been campaigning for this result for years. However, it is clear form Councillor Cockarill’s statement that there are still factions within the council that want to try and sneak the new town back in at a later point. Indeed the body language of the councillors is more of disappointment than jubilation that they are close to getting a sound Local Plan.

The full letter from the Inspector will be published here on Hart’s website tomorrow morning. We will provide updates once we have considered the detail.

A video of the councillor’s statement about the Hart Local Plan is shown below, together with our transcript of what he said (with our emphasis).

Impact of removing the Winchfield new town policy SS3 from the Hart Local Plan

It remains to be seen what the fallout might be form this news. First, the positives.

The Inspector’s view ought to scupper the Pale Lane/Elvetham Chase Appeal. It should also ensure the appeal for the land West of Hook around Owens Farm doesn’t succeed either.

Now on to the negative aspects. One has to think that this whole process would have gone much quicker and cost much less money if the Council had abandoned the unsound idea of the new town much earlier. I am sure that We Heart Hart will not be the only people holding our councillors and officers to account for this waste of our time and money.

Graham Cockarill Announcement about Hart Local Plan 28 February 2019

I have received a message a couple of days ago from the Inspector Jonathan Manning giving us provisional feedback on a couple of issues associated with the Local Plan. I must stress that this is not his final report, but it gives us a clear indication that subject to the council agreeing a couple of important modifications, we are close to having in place a sound Local Plan.

It is a very important milestone because we have never reached this stage before.

The Inspector has accepted our assessment of what is our Objectively Assessed Housing Need of around 388 dwellings per annum. And recognised our positive approach to meeting that need. It is for this reason that the Inspector recommends that we agree to meet Surrey Heath’s unmet need because he considers that it can be done within our projected targets without changing our plan or having to find other sites.

The Inspector’s other key recommendation is that we do not at this time pursue policy SS3. In his view, the new settlement approach is not sufficiently developed to be included in the plan, particularly as the numbers of new homes it may deliver are not necessary to meet the housing numbers within this plan [period].

The important point here is that the Inspector does not rule out a new settlement option in the future. He recognises our clear aspiration to deliver a settlement to meet our long-term housing needs. He accepts that it would be acceptable for the Plan to retain the Council’s aspirations to plan for long term needs beyond the plan period which could refer to the delivery of a new settlement through potentially either an early or immediate review of the Plan or a subsequent Development Plan Document (DPD).

He says that this would not change any timescales.

I intend later tonight, indeed before the end of this meeting, to circulate the Inspector’s letter and it will be published on our web page in the morning. I also intend to work with the respective group leaders and through the Local Plan Steering Group to agree the next steps. But it would seem to me that our best interests lie in getting a sound Local Plan swiftly in place in the form recommended by the Inspector.

This is great news for both the Council and its residents, because having a Local Plan in place gives us a sound basis to make future planning decisions and removes the threat of planning by appeal.

Question: Can you make sure all councillors get a summary of the Bramshill result once it has been studied?

Answer: Yes. An email has been sent by the joint-CEO a couple of weeks ago. I will ask for a more concise version to be circulated.

Question: Could you confirm the number of houses from Surrey Heath that will be accepted.

Answer: [Uncertain], but around 750 over the plan period.

 

Winchfield floods yet again 4th Feb 2019

Winchfield Floods again. Bagwell Lane 4 February 2019

Winchfield Floods again. Bagwell Lane 4 February 2019

Winchfield floods again. Yet another 1 in 30 year event hit Winchfield again yesterday. The photo shows the bottom of Bagwell Lane near the junction with Station Road. I can confirm that the flooding on Taplins Farm Lane was even worse around 6.45pm last night. However, it was too dark for taking photos and too dangerous to stop.

[Update: we have now been sent a picture of the flooding on Taplins Farm Lane yesterday]

Winchfield Floods again. Taplins Farm Lane 4 February 2019.

Winchfield Floods again. Taplins Farm Lane 4 February 2019.

This comes despite the sustainability assessment claiming:

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 says there’s only a one in 30 year chance of surface water flooding.

Winchfield Strategic Assessment - Flood Risk 3

This is of course complete nonsense. The area of Taplins Farm Lane near the railway bridge flooded 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).  These Winchfield floods are obviously more than one in 30 year events.

It appears as though this latest flood was caused by rain melting the snow on the already saturated ground. Surely, everybody can see this area is not suitable for new housing. Let’s hope the Planning Inspector sees sense in his assessment of the new town proposal in the Local Plan.

Hart Planning Update

 

Keep Calm and Wait for news about the Hart Local Plan

Hart planning update early 2019

Belated Happy New Year and welcome to our Hart planning update. We haven’t published much recently, because there hasn’t been much to say. However, a few people have been in touch to ask how things are going. So, welcome to the New Year and to our update on the major planning issues affecting Hart.

Hart Planning Update: Local Plan

[Update 28 Feb 2019: Plan will be sound if Policy SS3 is removed and Hart takes ~750 of Surrey Heath’s unmet need]

First up is the Hart Local Plan. The examination took place in November and December last year. We Heart Hart participated in the discussion about Infrastructure on 5 December. We understand that the Inspector is due to deliver his opinion in early to mid-February. Until then, we can only speculate on the outcome.

The Inspector can decide one of three outcomes:

  • the submitted Plan is found sound
  • Local Plan is not sound but could be made sound by making modifications
  • the Local Plan is not sound and could not be made sound

The second outcome is the one we hope for. It is to be hoped Policy SS3 related to the Winchfield new town is removed as the main modification.

We understand that during the examination the Inspector asked for changes to the policies related to Local Gaps and SANG. However, he remained inscrutable on the other key issues which we believe are the:

  • Housing numbers
  • New settlement
  • Sustainability Appraisal (SA)

Given the reports we have received about some of the key discussions, we believe Hart is vulnerable on the new settlement and the sustainability appraisal. Hart attempted to present evidence about the new settlement that had been submitted after the deadline. This evidence was rejected. Strong arguments were presented on both sides of the argument. However, we believe a key exchange was when the Inspector got Hart (and we believe the developers) to agree that he could not approve the new settlement unless he found that it was deliverable.

We also understand the SA came in for sustained criticism.

We have to await the Inspector’s judgement. If major changes are required, then there may well be political implications at the council.

Hart Planning Update: Elvetham Chase/Pale Lane Appeal

The Elvetham Chase (aka Pale Lane) appeal took place earlier this month. We understand one of the council’s arguments was that the extra 700 houses were not required were not needed to meet the housing targets in the Local Plan. This is somewhat ironic as the Winchfield New Town is also not required to meet the targets. The proposed site for the new town is only a couple of hundred metres from the Pale Lane site. Yet the council is supporting the new town and opposing Pale Lane.

Of course, we hope the Pale Lane appeal fails.

We understand that the appeal hearing was adjourned, pending the results of the Local Plan examination. Apparently, both Wates and Hart Council will then be given a short period to  respond to the Pale Lane Planning Inspector.  The inspector will then make his recommendation to the Secretary of State who will decide whether to uphold or dismiss the appeal.

Quite a lot will rest on how much weight is given to the Local Plan by the Pale Lane inspector. We understand uncontentious elements will carry significant weight. Contested elements will carry no weight. So, we have to hope that the Local Plan inspector accepts the housing targets presented in the Local Plan (or lower). If he does, we can see no reason why Pale Lane should go ahead. However, if the Inspector accepts Hart’s own argument in the Local Plan that they need to plan for more houses than required, the appeal may succeed.

Hart Planning Update: Bramshill Appeal

We haven’t heard much about this, but believe some appeal hearings have been held. We have no further information on the timing of any decision.

Hart Planning Update: West of Hook Appeal

We understand the appeal will start on 19 March 2019 and will sit for up to 8 days.  More details can be found here.

Again, we hope this appeal fails. However, quite a lot depends upon the results of the Local Plan examination and the weight placed upon it at that time.

 

We will keep you up to date as more information emerges.

 

Hart slips down quality of life survey

Hart slips to 13th in Halifax quality of life survey

Hart slips to 13th in Halifax quality of life survey 2019

In the latest Halifax ‘Best Place to Live’ survey, Hart has dropped from top spot to 13th.  Orkney is now officially the best place to live in the UK, with Richmond, in North Yorkshire second.

Hart still rates highest for the proportion of residents in good health at 97.4%, compared to a national average of 94.6%.

Rushmoor has leapt 108 places in the overall league table from 125th place to 17th. This appears to be largely driven by Rushmoor polling highest in the personal wellbeing category.  Rushmoor residents come out top for Happiness, Life Satisfaction and believing what they do in life is worthwhile.

Surrey Heath has also risen 80 places in the league table to 24th overall.

Perhaps Hart Council should take an in depth look at the figures to work out why Hart has fallen so far in the league tables.  We would urge them to look at:

  • Urban Environment, that covers population density and traffic flows. Building more houses than we need will not help us on these measures.
  • Personal Wellbeing. Over-development is bound to decrease life satisfaction and happiness, whilst increasing anxiety.

Hart Council should reconsider its policy to build an unnecessary new town that will do irreparable damage to our precious green fields. On the plus side, Hart residents might consider moving to Rushmoor to be happier and more satisfied.

The full press release from Halifax can be found on the download below.

Hart slips down quality of life survey

Hart Council Verdict: Nothing to see here

Angela Delaney - Move along nothing to see here. No case to answer

Hart Council – Move along nothing to see here

The monitoring officer of the council has been in touch in response to my complaint about the Councillor Angela Delaney’s declarations of interest.

In summary, the complaint is rejected because “a valid complaint not been made out but more importantly the matter subject to the complaint falls outside the proper arrangements for dealing with complaints”.

This is not satisfactory, and a detailed rebuttal has been sent to the monitoring officer that:

  • More precisely details the matters in the complaint and the paragraphs in the Code of Conduct that have allegedly been breached.
  • Rebuts each main point made by the monitoring officer
  • Points out that the Monitoring Officer’s position is constitutionally and practically unsound, and so he must pass the matter to the Standards Committee for adjudication.

What follows is the Monitoring Officer’s response to my original complaint and my detailed rebuttal.

Hart Council’s Monitoring Officer Response to the Complaint

I do not intend to action this matter as not only has a valid complaint not been made out but more importantly the matter subject to the complaint falls outside the proper arrangements for dealing with complaints.

It is for the individual Councillor to make a judgement as to whether a declared interest prevents them from taking part in any discussions or voting. They are in the best position to assess their personal circumstances and to judge how these circumstances affect their role as a councillor in regard to a particular matter. If you consider that they should not have participated and that their actions unfairly influenced any decision then that goes to the heart of the lawfulness of the decision made by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee – it is not a Code of Conduct matter.

In any event, other than through innuendo, you have not made out a complaint. The key question that you have not addressed is what makes you believe that Cllr Delaney could reasonably have known from the paper that was presented to the Overview & Scrutiny paper there was a direct link to an interest that she had declared?

The matter under consideration by Overview & Scrutiny Committee was solely about discussion on potential draft governance arrangements that the Council could put in place to deliver the first stage of the new settlement project. It was a very high level discussion. It included reference to a possible landowner forum which could comprise landowners and respective developers. There was no reference to a particular land owner or developer and there was certainly no intention to prejudge who in the future would comprise that forum. Therefore, your identification of a particular potential member of the forum is totally premature, speculative, and without foundation. It creates a speculative scenario in abstract from the matter that was under discussion.

Looking at this objectively Cllr Delaney had absolutely no reason to delve deeper into the Overview & Scrutiny Committee paper’s background. She had no reason to believe that her declared shareholding had any relevance to the matter under consideration – any link could only be described as so remote and insignificant that it need not be declared.

I will send a copy of this reply to Cllr Delaney.

Daryl Phillips

We Heart Hart Reply

Thank you for your prompt reply to my complaint. I note that you have not challenged any of the facts raised in my complaint.

You say that I have not made a valid complaint and that the subject matter complained about is not the proper subject of a complaint. However, you have only addressed one of the three matters raised in my complaint.

Detailed Matters in the Complaint

You say that I have not provided a proper complaint, other than innuendo. Quite the contrary, I have provided detailed evidence, sourced from Hart’s own website, Companies House and the website of councillor Delaney’s own company. I thought the nature of the complaint was self-explanatory. However, here is each matter in clear and unambiguous language.

  • Matter 1. Councillor Delaney has not properly declared her, or her husband’s joint ownership of St Swithins Construction Limited. They each own 50% of the company, the place of business is within Hart District and the net assets are over £50K, so each the value of each holding is over £25K.  These holdings should be properly declared on section 7 of the Declaration of Interests form. I believe this omission is contrary to paras 16 and 17 of the Code of Conduct which place an obligation on councillors to properly declare their interests and keep them up to date.
  • Matter 2. Councillor Delaney has not declared the client relationships of St Swithins Construction Ltd. Companies House defines the company as a micro-company. As such, the relationship between the directors of St Swithins and the clients is a quasi-employment relationship. I believe these relationships should be declared in section 1 of the Declaration of Interest form, especially as their work is in the sensitive area of construction and they have relationships with several large building companies. I believe failure to do this is contrary to section 7 of the Code of Conduct which says, “You must not place yourself in situations where your honesty and integrity may be questioned, must not behave improperly and must on all occasions avoid the appearance of such behaviour” and sections 16 and 17. If, as is now claimed by the chairman of the council, St Swithins construction has never had a client relationship with Barratts, then I believe this is also a breach of para 7 of the code, in that she has apparently misrepresented her company’s clients and has thus created a situation where her honesty and integrity is under question.

  • Matter 3. The O&S meeting in October. Councillor Delaney did not declare either her husband’s shareholding in Barratts, nor the client relationship of St Swithins Construction with Barratts at that meeting. The meeting did the following:
  1. Agreed in principle the governance arrangements for the new settlement project. This included the developer’s role as key stakeholders and their role in the various governance bodies. All developers in the project will benefit from this decision. It is well known that Barratts is one of the key players in this development as they have previously circulated a “vision document” and have made representations on the Local Plan, including Policy SS3.
  2. Discussed funding of nearly £1.5m over three years to be allocated to prepare for the new town. Clearly developers, including Barratts will benefit from this.
  3. Agreed that HDC would work with all the developers to secure funding under the Garden Communities Programme

I believe this failure to declare her interests and failure to recuse herself from the discussion is in contravention of sections 18 and 19 of the Code of Conduct which say:

Councillors must declare interests in meetings and not participate in discussion

Hart Code of Conduct. Councillors must declare interests in meetings and not participate in discussion

Further, I believe this is also in contravention of section 20 of the code of conduct which says “If you attend a meeting at which any item of business is to be considered and you are aware that you have a[sic] “other interest” in that item, you must make verbal declaration of the existence and nature of that interest at or before the consideration of the item of business or as soon as the interest becomes apparent”. Footnote 6 then goes on to say “However, you should not ignore the existence of interests which, from the point of view of a reasonable and objective observer, you should have been aware of.” Any reasonable and objective observer would expect a councillor who is an active advocate of the new settlement to be aware that Barratts is a key player. Even in the unlikely event that she was not aware, then given the shareholding in Barratts, it is reasonable to expect a councillor to make enquiries about the identity of the developers. The existence of the Barratts shareholding and client relationship is clearly a relevant interest.

I have updated the summary section of the Complaint and reattach it for your consideration.

Validity of the Complaint

You say a valid complaint not been made out but more importantly the matter subject to the complaint falls outside the proper arrangements for dealing with complaints”. I have demonstrated above how each matter discussed in the complaint relates to specific sections of the Code of Conduct, so I reject your assertion. I believe this is a prima facie case of misconduct that should be investigated. If you still disagree, please explain to me how these matters can be addressed if not through the Complaints Procedure.

You then go on to say The key question that you have not addressed is what makes you believe that Cllr Delaney could reasonably have known from the paper that was presented to the Overview & Scrutiny paper there was a direct link to an interest that she had declared?”.

It is common knowledge that Barratts are a key player in the new town project. Councillor Delaney is active on social media opposing the Pale Lane development and advocating the new settlement. It is inconceivable that she did not know that Barratts are involved in that project. Even in the unlikely event that she was not aware, then given the shareholding in Barratts, it is reasonable to expect a councillor to make enquiries about the identity of the developers. The paper states that HDC is working with all the developers to secure funding under the Garden Communities Programme. Indeed, the council has produced a joint Statement of Common Ground with Barratts, Gallaghers and Lightwood. It is clear that Barratts and the other developers would benefit from the decisions taken. Therefore, there is a direct link between the subject matter and her declared and undeclared interests. Even if you don’t agree that this is a direct link, I don’t think it necessary to demonstrate a direct link to an interest:

  • First, section 7 of the code places an obligation on councillors not to put themselves in a position where their honesty or integrity can be questioned. Clearly, the existence of this complaint demonstrates this is not the case.
  • Second, the whole point is that her interests were apparently not properly declared on the Declaration of Interest form, nor at the meeting. The main issue is that it appears there were links to interests that she had not declared.
  • Third, the definition of pecuniary interest is “A pecuniary interest in a matter is one where there is a reasonable likelihood or expectation of appreciable financial loss or gain to the person”.  A reasonable likelihood or expectation does not require a direct link. I believe it is obvious that there is a reasonable likelihood or expectation that Councillor Delaney and her husband will benefit financially from their shareholding in Barratts if the new settlement is approved and/or from work arising from their client relationship. This should preclude participating in any matter relating to the new settlement.

You then suggest that my assertion that Barratts would be a member of those governance arrangements is premature, speculative, and without foundation”.  This is a totally untenable claim. Indeed, the Statement of Common Ground between HDC, Barratts, Gallaghers and Lightwood says All parties are also supportive of joint working through the governance arrangements associated with the New Settlement”. So, all parties, including Barratts, are going to be involved in the governance, contrary to your assertion.

Finally, you say Cllr Delaney had absolutely no reason to delve deeper into the Overview & Scrutiny Committee paper’s background. She had no reason to believe that her declared shareholding had any relevance to the matter under consideration – any link could only be described as so remote and insignificant that it need not be declared”. This is frankly ridiculous. Given the shareholding in Barratts, it is reasonable to expect a councillor to make enquiries about the identity of the developers. People on Overview and Scrutiny are supposed to delve deeper. That is their role. Both her declared and undeclared shareholdings and undeclared client relationships to Barratts are clearly relevant. Discussing anything to do with the new settlement is going to be an issue where Barratts is a well-known key player, especially when the council’s own documents show a close working relationship between HDC and all the developers.

In this situation, I think it is reasonable to think “what would I do in such a situation” or what would a reasonable person on the street expect to have happened. I think the answer is clear in both cases:

  • Fully and properly declare shareholdings and client relationships on the Declaration of Interests form
  • Disclose those interests at council meetings and recuse oneself from the meeting where those items are being discussed

Legal Issues

It was only after I submitted the complaint that I realised failure to properly disclose interests might be unlawful under the Localism Act as well as breaching the Code of Conduct.

I am not seeking the involvement of the police or courts in this matter. However, if you fail to properly address this complaint, you might leave me with no other choice. Please advise on the most appropriate way of raising these matters should you continue to maintain that it is not a matter for the Code of Conduct.

You have also raised the point that upholding this complaint “goes to the heart of the lawfulness of the decision made by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee”. I have made a prima facie case for breaches of the Code of Conduct. The potential further legal implications of the complaint should not be a criterion by which the validity of the complaint is judged. If you have any inkling at all that the decision made by O&S was unlawful, then you should separately seek legal advice and report the matter to the Standards Committee.

Objectivity of the Complaint Process

It has not escaped my attention that you wear many hats in the council. You are one of the joint Chief Executives, de facto head of Planning Policy and Monitoring Officer. In terms of the Constitution, you are fulfilling the posts of both the (joint) Head of Paid Service and Monitoring Officer. The constitution says that the post of Head of Paid Service and Monitoring Officer should not be the same person.  Constitutionally, you should not be Monitoring Officer and therefore you should not be assessing this complaint.

Moreover, Policy SS3 in the Local Plan is a flagship policy of the council and so you as de facto head of planning and joint CEO, have a vested interest in it proceeding smoothly. Moreover, you participated in the meeting that is the subject of one of the matters in the complaint. Practically speaking, you are therefore tainted by the process, and should take no part in deciding the merits of the complaint.

Moreover, the chairman of the council is from the same party as Councillor Delaney and has gone on social media, referring to her as a colleague and a friend, so cannot be objective either.

As you are constitutionally and practically conflicted and hamstrung on this complaint, I insist this matter is passed to the Standards Committee. They can look at this with fresh eyes and be seen to be objective. The Standards Committee should decide on whether this matter goes beyond the Code of Conduct and whether to involve the legal authorities.

Outcomes

The outcomes I suggested in the original complaint were perhaps not properly thought through. I would now like to suggest the following, if the complaint is upheld:

  • Overall: Councillor Delaney makes a full, public apology for misleading Hart residents on the true extent of her shareholdings and relationships with Barratts and for not declaring her interests properly at O&S.
  • For Matter 1: Failure to declare the St Swithins Construction Limited shareholding. Section 7 of the Declaration of Interest form should be brought up to date.
  • For Matter 2: Failure to declare the client relationships of St Swithins Construction. Bring the Declaration of Interest form up to date with these client relationships. I believe the Council should also give guidance on the extent to which it is appropriate for Cllr Delaney to hold private meetings with developers, where those companies have a land-holding or are seeking planning permission or a contract within Hart District. I understand that a councillor was removed from office for inappropriate meetings with developers a few years ago, and it would be unfortunate if Councillor Delaney got herself into the same position.
  • For Matter 3: Failure to declare her interests at O&S. I think the remedy here would be temporary suspension from the committee for a period of 3-6 months. It should also be made clear that it is not appropriate for Councillor Delaney to participate in any matter related to the new settlement (or indeed any other proposal that may involve any other of her company’s client list). She should declare her interests at any meeting she attends and recuse herself from the discussion, decisions and votes on these matters.

I have updated the outcome section of the complaint accordingly.

I look forward to your response. I have been asked by the Chairman of the Council on social media to publish your reply to me. I will do so, together with this response. If I do not receive a satisfactory response from you, I will send details of the complaint direct to the Chairman of the Standards Committee.

Angela Delaney’s undeclared links to Barratts under investigation

Councillor Angela Delaney fails to declare Barratts interests at meeting

Angela Delaney undeclared links to Barratts under investigation

Councillor Angela Delaney has apparently undeclared links to Barratts that have been reported to Hart Council’s monitoring officer by We Heart Hart.

[Update: Council’s response and my reply]

The complaint produces evidence to show the Community Campaign Hart councillor has significant undeclared links to Barratt Developments. Councillor Delaney declared her partner’s significant shareholding in Barratt Developments. However, her 50% ownership of the company she jointly owns with her husband was not disclosed. Nor was it disclosed that her company lists Barratts as a client.

The complaint shows that Councillor Delaney attended the recent Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting. That meeting covered the role of the developers (which include Barratts) in the new town governance arrangements. Of course, the developers will benefit greatly if the proposal to build 5,000 houses is approved. Her links to Barratts were not declared at the meeting. It is alleged that this breaches the Hart Council Code of Conduct. The failure properly to declare her interests may also be an offence under the Localism Act.

Councillor Delaney is one of the founders of Stop Elvetham Chase. We have supported her campaign, but have always been puzzled by the contrast in Councillor Delaney’s positions. She has been strongly opposed to Elvetham Chase (aka Pale Lane) and been a passionate advocate of the Winchfield new town. Elvetham Chase is promoted by Wates. Wates is apparently not a client of her company. However, Winchfield New Town, that is adjacent to Elvetham Chase is promoted by Barratts, Gallagher Estates and Lightwood. Barratts is listed as a client of her company, St Swithins Construction.

Elvetham chase adjacent to Winchfield New Town

Elvetham chase adjacent to Winchfield New Town

The evidence in the formal complaint is reproduced below.

Angela Delaney Declaration of Interests

Councillor Delaney declared her interests in May 2018. These included her employment with St Swithins Construction.

Angela Delaney employed by St Swithins Construction

Angela Delaney employed by St Swithins Construction

Councillor Delaney also declared her partner’s significant shareholding in Barratt Developments

Angela Delaney partner owns shares in Barratt Homes

Angela Delaney’s partner owns shares in Barratt Homes

However, she failed to declare her 50% shareholding in St Swithins Construction, that lists its place of business in the District. We believe this is a technical breach of the declaration rules.

St Swithins Construction Ownership

Councillor Delaney is listed as a director of St Swithins Construction at Companies House.

Angela Delaney Director of St Swithins Construction

Angela Delaney Director of St Swithins Construction

She is also listed as holder of 50% of the shares in the company according to the most recent Annual Return, dated 2016.

Angela Delaney owns half of St Swithins Construction

Angela Delaney owns half of St Swithins Construction

St Swithins Construction Client List

However, the website of St Swithins Construction lists Barratts as a client. This indicates a far closer relationship with Barratts than has been declared.

St Swithins Construction client list includes Barratts

St Swithins Construction client list includes Barratts

This is not disclosed in her declaration of interests.

Angela Delaney participates in meeting that includes how Hart will govern relationship with new town developers

The Overview and Scrutiny meeting that took place on 16 October 2018 covered the new town governance and resourcing arrangements. The minutes of the meeting show that councillor Delaney participated in the meeting.

Angela Delaney attends Overview and Scrutiny Committee Meeting

Angela Delaney attends Hart Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee Meeting Minutes 16 October 2018

However, she didn’t declare her interests in Barratts at the meeting. Indeed, no declarations of interest were made at all.

No Interests declared at Hart Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee Meeting Minutes 16 October 2018

No Interests declared at Hart Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee Meeting Minutes 16 October 2018

The meeting covered the new town governance arrangements and Hart Council’s relationship with the developers, which of course include Barratts. The meeting also covered how the council would spend nearly £1.5m preparing for the new town. The council is also seeking support from the developers in the form of cash or people. Of course, the developers will greatly benefit if granted permission to build 5,000 houses.

Hart Council to squander £1.5m on new town planning

Hart to spend nearly £1.5m on new town planning

 

Role of developers Barratt Homes on the agenda

Role of developers including Barratt Homes on the agenda

 

Role of developers Barratt Homes on the agenda

Developers including Barratts proposed as project team members

 

Role of developers Barratt Homes on the agenda

Developers’ role including Barratts on the agenda

Consequences of failure properly to declare interests

Hart Council’s code of conduct states that councillors must disclose their interests at any meeting of the council and not participate in discussion.

Councillors must declare interests in meetings and not participate in discussion

Hart Code of Conduct. Councillors must declare interests in meetings and not participate in discussion

We believe that Councillor Delaney’s failure properly to declare her interests, together with her participation in the O&S meeting represents a breach of this code.

It may also be an offence under the Localism Act to fail properly to declare interests.

Angela Delaney's Failure properly to declare interests may be an offence

Failure properly to declare interests may be an offence

We await the results of the investigation. We will of course allow Councillor Delaney the right of reply should she choose to get in touch.

 

Hart gets into bed with Winchfield new town developers

Hart District Council gets into bed with developers

Hart gets into bed with Winchfield new town developers

Hart Council seems to be developing an unhealthily close relationship with the developers seeking to build the proposed Winchfield new town. The evidence for this is as follows:

  • The council has confirmed it is seeking input from the developers in its bid for Government “Garden Communities” funding.
  • Hart is proposing to accept financial support or seconded personnel from developers to come up with its new town plan

Sadly, Hart Council isn’t even capable of adding up the budget properly. Heaven knows how it will manage to retain control and ownership of the project.

Developer support for Garden Communities funding bid

This revelation is contained in a written answer to a supplementary question asked at Council on 25 October. The question and answer are shown below (our emphasis):

Supplementary Q1: Is the Bid solely from HDC or is it a joint bid with one or both New Settlement developers or associates or any other private sector partner?

Answer: You asked who the Hart Garden Communities bid would be submitted from? It is my understanding that the bid will be submitted by Hart District Council but we will be liaising with the respective site promoters to ensure that they have an opportunity to help us inform the bid.

Developer resources seconded to Winchfield new town development plan

This was stated in the proposed Resourcing and Governance paper presented to Overview and Scrutiny and more recently to Cabinet:

Developers to provide resources for WInchfield new town planning

Developers to provide resources for Winchfield new town planning

Developers to fund technical studies for Winchfield new town

Developers to fund technical studies for Winchfield new town

There was also a supplementary question asked about this at council (our emphasis):

Supplementary Q3: The Joint CEO statement at the O&S meeting also said that HDC would expect and accept contributions from the New Settlement developers either in financial terms and/or staff augmentation for key roles in the project, so how will HDC in this instance continue to lead the NS project and also provide transparency to the public on the involvement of the developers?

Answer: In light of the Council agreeing to accept assistance from the site promoters you ask how they will continue to lead the new settlement project and also provide transparency to the public on the involvement of the developers?  Our position is as set out in both the report to Overview Committee and now paragraph 6.4 of the report to Cabinet.  The Council will look actively for external resources to support this project.  Sources for this will include Government, Enterprise M3 LEP and the site promoters.  It is expected that some of the technical evidence will be funded by site promoters within a scope agreed by the Council.  This will reduce the financial costs currently identified for the technical studies, but at this time the impact of this on the overall budget is difficult to predict. Any funding received from site promoters will then be audited through the normal budget management process by Cabinet with quarterly scrutiny by Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Eagle eyed readers will note that the answer given doesn’t actually address the question posed. The question was about how the Council will retain control and lead the project if it is reliant on both people and financial resources from the developers. The answer given doesn’t address that point, and para 6.4 reproduced in the image above doesn’t help either. We recall the maxim “he who pays the piper calls the tune”. It is clear the developers will be calling the shots.

Hart Council gets its Winchfield new town sums wrong

It is particularly worrying that the council can’t even add up the budget properly, so heaven knows how they will manage to keep control and ownership of a project of this size and complexity.

Supplementary Q2: Do the figures contained in Appendix 4 actually add up?

  • The total expenditure for 2019/20 is identified as £820,000, but the figures in the table only add up to £780,000.
  • The total expenditure for 2020/21 is identified as £612,000, but the figures in the table only add up to £575,000.
Hart Council to squander £1.5m on new town planning

Hart to spend £1.5m on new town planning

Can you explain these two discrepancies and what assurance can you provide that the HDC project team has the skill-set to manage what will be a major project with £multi-million budgets?

Answer: Thank you for highlighting the need to adjust the Cabinet report.  A corrected report has been circulated to all members and it is published here.

 

 

CPRE Hampshire host event on protecting Hart countryside

CPRE Hampshire event on protecting the countryside in Hart and Rushmoor

CPRE Hampshire event on protecting the countryside

CPRE Hampshire are hosting an event about protecting the countryside in Hart and Rushmoor.

The event is free and everybody is welcome, so please do attend if you can. However, you need to book in advance so they can organise catering.

The event is taking place at the Church on the Heath, Elvetham Heath, Fleet GU51 1HA at 7pm on 24th October 2018.

You can book by following the link to www.cprehampshire.org.uk or phoning them on 01962 841897.

The full leaflet can be downloaded here.