Prof Dieter Helm – policymakers should pause for thought before concreting greenbelt

An important paper on the future of the green belt has recently been published by Professor Dieter Helm.  The paper is quite long, but the conclusion is applicable to Hart Council as it continues to push for a new settlement in Winchfield that will concrete over the green lung at the heart of Hart as part of the Local Plan.

Before policy makers surrender to the direct interests of the developers, they should pause for thought. There is a viable third alternative that at least deserves proper analysis, and it is potentially rich in benefits. Instead of yet more urban sprawl, imagine a Green belt with lots of natural capital, a much more environmentally benign agriculture, much greater public access, woodlands located next to people so it could fulfil not only the original purpose of limiting the sprawl but also provide the lungs of the cities, the fresh air for children to play in, and the recreational benefits which are crucial to health and well being. That is worth exploring before the irreversible destruction of this major asset located exactly where it is needed – next to people. There is after all no shortage of land to build houses on if that is what is required. It does not have to be at the expense of a key asset that the previous generation left to us, and which we have a responsibility to pass onto the next generation.

It seems obvious that Hart would derive significant benefits from avoiding urban sprawl by maintaining and enhancing our natural green spaces, through keeping places for children to play and for all of us to walk and cycle so we can improve our health and well-being.

Time for Hart to think again.  If you would like to add to the pressure on Hart to change its approach, please sign and share our petition.

 

Go to Petition

 

 

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.

Hart District Council and Government Inspector ride roughshod over local democracy

We Love Hart Campaign Logo

We Love Hart Campaign Logo

Recent meetings between Hart District Council and Keith Holland, the Planning Inspector, demonstrate the council and Government are trying to ride roughshod over local democracy and the environment.  It should be noted that our petition asking the council to change course has reached more than 1,300 signatories, more than 6 times the number of people who expressed a preference for a new town in Hart’s consultation.

Nevertheless, from the papers of the meetings in October 2014 and March 2015 between the council and the government inspector, it is clear that between them, they are seeking ways to bypass local democracy. Downloads of the working papers for the meetings can be found at the bottom of this post.

First, it is clear that Hart Council is seeking to make a new settlement a “political preference” and then load the assessment of options so that those options that didn’t include a new settlement would perform less well than options that did.  Given that many councillors have stated that they are only reluctantly going along with the idea of a new town as the “least worst option”, it is quite staggering that the council should seek to proceed in such a biased manner.

New settlement as political preference

New settlement as political preference

Sadly, it appears as though the inspector agrees with Hart’s approach, however he did indicate that the council should first establish all of the needs of the district in terms of housing and social and economic development.  Hart does not appear to have done any work at all on establishing the infrastructure needs of the district.

Vision should include more than housing

Vision should include more than housing

 

Second, it is clear that both the council and the inspector want to ride roughshod over local democracy by making the Local Plan override any Neighbourhood Plans prepared in advance of it. This again bypasses the democratic process in each parish and flies in the face of the Government’s supposed “localism” policy where David Cameron said in 2012:

“Our reforms will make it easier for communities to say ‘we are not going to have [a] big plonking housing estate landing next to the village, but we would like 10, 20, 30 extra houses and we would like them built in this way, to be built for local people’.”

Local Plan supersedes Neighbourhood plans

Local Plan supersedes Neighbourhood plans

 

Third, the risk of having to take 3,100 extra houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor, leaving Hart having to take on by far the largest number of houses across all three districts has been confirmed.  The Planning Inspector said that Hart “must test an option whereby it takes all of the estimated shortfall in Rushmoor and Surrey Heath”.

 HartSurrey HeathRushmoor
Original Assessed Need7,5349,8227,057
Shortfall from SH and Rn/a1,7001,400
New Need10,6348,1225,657

 

Fourth, both Hart District Council and the planning inspector are trying to sneak through the Local Plan with minimal consultation.  At the first meeting the planning inspector advised that consultation should be kept to a minimum and since then the council has quietly dropped the Regulation 18 consultation it said it would carry out in March 2015.  This clearly shows that both the Local Council and the Inspector want to rush through the Local Plan without properly consulting with the people.  It is worth noting that the size of the 3,100 dwelling unmet need from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor was not known at the time of the first consultation. This pushed up Hart’s requirement from 7,534 to 10,634.  This surely represents a major change that on its own would justify a further consultation.

Keep consultation to a minimum

Keep consultation to a minimum

Surely it would be better for Hart to knock out Option 4 – new settlement now on the grounds of environmental damage to avoid the need to take on the additional requirement from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor?

Finally, Hart has to demonstrate where it is going to put all of the houses, but doesn’t have to show it will protect our environment by providing suitable green spaces.

Attitude to SANG capacity

Finding SANG capacity not as important as finding sites for houses

This is surely a ridiculous position to take and puts our environment at unnecessary risk, where they adopt a new settlement in the Local Plan but don’t have to show exactly how they will mitigate the environmental impact.

Downloads of the papers referred to in this post can be found below.

Note of Hart DC meeting with PINS 30 Mar 2015
Briefing note for Hart DC meeting with PINS 30 Mar 2015
Note of Hart DC and PINS Meeting 20 Oct 14

Meeting 30/3/15 Briefing note for 30/3/15 meeting Minutes from 20/10/14

We Heart Hart Presentation to Crondall Parish Council

We Heart Hart were delighted to be invited to speak at tonight’s parish council meeting at Crondall.

 

The presentation went well with lots of interest in the Hart Local Plan and how we might persuade Hart Council to think again, particularly to focus on brownfield development and fight off the demand for us to build 3,100 extra houses for Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils.  Lots of interest in our leaflet too.

 

A copy of the presentation and leaflet are available for download below.

 

We Heart Hart Presentation to Crondall Parish Council

 

We Heart Hart Campaign Flyer

 

Presentation

We Heart Hart petition is now twice as big as Hart District Council consultation

The We Heart Hart petition is now really taking off, now exceeding 1,200, adding more than 280 since Friday night. This is more than twice the number of valid responses (550) to the Hart District Council consultation that took place in Autumn 2014 and more than 5 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 District 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.

We Love Hart Campaign Logo

Signatories to We Heart Hart Petition go over 1,000

We Heart Hart is delighted to announce that the number of signatories to the petition has now broken through the 1,000 barrier.  Many thanks to all of our supporters.  If you haven’t signed it yet, the please sign and share with your friends.

 

Go to Petition

 

The signatories have been boosted this weekend with a coordinated leafleting campaign across the district.  Many thanks to al those who have been wearing out their shoe leather across the district.  Anecdotal feedback from our leafleters and those who were handing out leaflets in the street is that the overwhelming majority of people are opposed to a new town and would like Hart Council to focus on brownfield development instead.

Please ask your local council candidates to oppose a new town.

Where does your Hart District Council candidate stand on a new town?

We Love Hart Ballot Box

The Hart Council elections will take place on May 7 2015 and all of the candidates can be found here. We Heart Hart urges you to find out where your candidate stands on the issue of a new settlement in the district and ask them to oppose it. If they come an canvas you, then please raise the issue of the local plan with them.

Key issues are:

  • We are being asked to build too many houses, our housing allocation relies on us created nearly double the number of jobs than was created during the boom times of 1998-2008 and
  • Hart’s planning assumption of only 30 dwellings per hectare (dph) is too low, and even they have admitted they could go to 808-160dph.  If they increased density on brownfield, we would not need a new town
  • Hart already have a funding gap of £78m for infrastructure.  Building a new town is likely to mean this gap will get much worse because building on green fields requires much more infrastructure than brownfield development

We have compiled a list of all of the candidates standing, and where we know it, their position on a new town.  How many will endorse our new approach to the local plan?

 

Hart District Council Candidates May 2015

WardNamePartyPosition on New Settlement
Blackwater & HawleySteve Francis??
Mike GascoigneUKIP?
Vivienne GascoigneConservative?
Bob HarwardLiberal DemocratVoted in favour
Les LawrieLabour & Co-operative?
Crookham EastChris AxamCommunity Campaign HartVoted in favour
Helen ButlerConservative?
Dawn MoorsUKIP?
Ruth Ann WilliamsLabour?
Crookham West & EwshotDominic ArthurLabour?
Tony ClarkeCommunity Campaign HartVoted in favour
David Franklin OwensUKIP?
Christopher James SimmonsConservative?
Fleet CentralMatthew Cyril BennettGreen?
John BennisonCommunity Campaign HartVoted in favour
Alex GrayConservativeAgainst new town, favours brownfield development over building on green fields
Satdeep Kaur GrewalLabour?
Howling Laud HopeMonster Raving Loony?
Fleet EastPeter William DevonshireUKIP?
John Grant GawthorpeLabour?
Stephen George ParkerConservativeVoted in favour
Neil Christopher WaltonLiberal Democrat? But all Lib Dems voted in favour
Fleet WestStephen Robert CantleCommunity Campaign Hart? But, all CCH voted in favour
Paul Stephen Walter EinchcombLiberal Democrat? But all Lib Dems voted in favour
James Edwin HurstLabour?
Sara KinnellConservativeVoted against, but changed ward
Gordon SmithUKIP?
Hartley WintneyAltay AliUKIP?
Anne CramptonConservativeVoted against
Tony OverLiberal DemocratStated against, but all Lib Dems voted in favour
Andrew James RenshawConservativeAgainst
Alan WoolfordLiberal DemocratStated against, but all Lib Dems voted in favour
HookBrian Douglas BurchfieldConservativeVoted in favour
Ruth Stella HamiltonUKIP?
Verd NabbsLabour?
Jeffrey Robert SmithLiberal Democrat? But all Lib Dems voted in favour
OdihamRosalyn Jane GordonLiberal Democrat? But all Lib Dems voted in favour
Stephen Alexander GorysConservativeVoted in favour
Kevin OliverUKIP?
Yateley EastJohn Peter Simon BurtonConservative?
Dave NeighbourLiberal DemocratVoted in favour
Sue PerkinsUKIP?
Joyce StillLabour?
Yateley WestAndrew Shawn DickensConservative?
Claire ElhaggagiLiberal Democrat? But all Lib Dems voted in favour
John William HoweUKIP?
Alistair William SutherlandLabour?

 

If you are a candidate and want to update your position, please get in touch, and we will update the table.

The declared positions of the North East Hampshire parliamentary candidates can be found here.

We Heart Hart and Winchfield Action Group are delivering leaflets all across the district and engaging with people in the street.  The overwhelming number of people we have spoken to are against a new town in Hart when they understand the facts.  This is in line with the findings of the Get Hampshire survey of Hampshire residents.  It is time our councillors and candidates started listening to the people.  Copies of the leaflet can be found here.

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

 

Go to Petition

 

 

Hart District Council not serious about catering for the ageing population

We Heart Hart - Older People

Hart District Council fails to consider the needs of the ageing population

In a piece of further news from the last Hart District Council meeting on 26 March, the Council demonstrated that it has not properly considered how they were going to cater for the needs of the ageing population in the Local Plan, as we posted earlier. The detailed questions and answers can be found here.

If you would like to ask Hart Council think again, please sign and share our petition:

Go to Petition

In our question we estimated that the council would have to ensure there were around 2,200 further specialist dwellings built for the elderly in the plan period.  Our calculations were dismissed as “speculative” and that the council would rely on more detailed analysis in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA).

Hart District Council fail to properly consider the needs of the ageing population

Hart District dismissed We Heart Hart’s calculations.

However, having now gone back to look at the final version of the SHMA in more detail, it is clear that the SHMA requires even more specialist units than we originally thought.

 

Hart District Requirements for the Ageing Population

Hart District Requirements for the Ageing Population

We found that between 2012 and 2030, Hart needs to provide 1,390 specialist units for the elderly and infirm.  Extending this back to 2011, and out to 2032 at the 80 dwellings per annum rate identified in the report would give 1,630 units.  To this must be added the further 940 registered care places in the graphic above.  This gives a total of 2,590 additional units for the ageing population, which is around 300 more than we estimated.

In addition, the SHMA says:

“There is the potential opportunity therefore to reduce under-occupation and free up family sized dwellings for overcrowded households; although to achieve this it would very likely be necessary to provide attractive options in areas where households currently live and where they have social and community ties”

This clearly states that we should build this specialist accommodation where people currently have ties and can be close to amenities, which is in line with the land buying policies of specialist companies like McCarthy & Stone and Churchill. This seems to us to rule out building specialist accommodation for the elderly in a new town at Winchfield.

Building a new town at Winchfield will effectively crowd out most of the other development in the district.  As there are around a further 4,000 units left to grant planning permission to, then building up to 2,400 houses in Winchfield will mean there isn’t sufficient remaining capacity to meet the need of 2,590 units for the ageing population. This runs the risk of the plan being found unsound and could even lead to the inspector adding this on to our overall requirement.

Of course, if the council were to focus on higher density development on brownfield closer to the centre of existing settlements then our duty to the elderly could be met more easily.

 

Brandon Lewis supports the value of the countryside

Our Countryside

Countryside: minister says decisions should recognise intrinsic character and beauty

 

In a letter to Simon Ridley of the Planning Inspectorate, planning minister Brandon Lewis has drawn attention to the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside.  Will Hart Council heed this message when preparing the Local Plan?

A quote from the letter is shown below:

Landscape character and prematurity in planning decisions

I have become aware of several recent appeal cases in which harm to landscape character has been an important consideration in the appeal being dismissed.

These cases are a reminder of one of the twelve core principles at paragraph 17 of the National Planning Policy Framework – that plans and decisions should take into account the different roles and character of different areas, and recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside – to ensure that development is suitable for the local context.

The full letter can be found here.

This is an important development, and so far it looks like Hart District Council is ignoring this advice as it continues to test a new town at Winchfield, whilst ignoring the potential of brownfield development.  Government guidance suggests that it inappropriate to use old documents, but the only one can find for Hart is dated 1997.  We understand Hart District is going to commission a new study, but don’t yet know the terms of reference.

If you would like to add to pressure to Hart to change tack, remove Option 4 and focus on brownfield instead, then please sign and share our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

 

Hampshire residents say protecting our towns and villages is a key election issue

Election demands from Hampshire residents

Election demands from Hampshire residents according to Get Hampshire

A survey of Hampshire residents by Get Hampshire has shown the protection of our green and pleasant land and historic towns and villages is a key election issue.  This issue ranked third behind controlling immigration and  helping our small businesses.

Looking at the questions and answers in more detail, a staggering 77.7% of people thought either that our green and pleasant land was of paramount importance or there were other legitimate sites available for development that councils should look at rather than using green space.

Get Hampshire Housing Crisis Questions and Answers

Get Hampshire Housing Crisis Questions and Answers

This shows an overwhelming majority in favour of protecting our historic towns and villages and protecting our green fields from over-development.

How to tackle the housing crisis from Get Hampshire

How to tackle the housing crisis from Get Hampshire

Only 12.3% of people wanted us to build thousands of houses in new towns and garden cities, whilst 36.4% of people wanted tax breaks to encourage building on brownfield sites.

Surely it is time for Hart District Council to think again about a new town at Winchfield, reject Option 4 and focus instead on creative use of the many brownfield sites in the district.  Time also for Ranil Jayawardena and Gerald Howarth to take a message back to Conservative Central Office (and Parliament if they are elected) about changing the National Planning Policy Framework to reduce the pressure on local councils.

Focusing on brownfield and regeneration of our town centres will make better use of that land and build more critical mass to support the local retailers so would help with meeting two of the top 3 election issues.

If you would like to join our campaign to ask Hart Council to think again, please sign and share our petition:

 

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As an addendum, protection of greenbelt by building on brownfield sites is a key issue for Surrey residents too.

Surrey Election Demands from Get Surrey

Surrey Election Demands from Get Surrey