What legacy do Winchfield landowners want to leave for future generations?

Cows in Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

Cows in Winchfield

Robert Worsley has made the news recently by famously turning down an offer of £275m for his land in Sussex, saying:

‘What would I be doing to my neighbours and the other farmers round here? I could not be held responsible for putting the area under concrete.’

His principled stand to protect the legacy he leaves behind for future generations has won admiration across the country.

Andrew Renshaw, one of the landowners in Winchfield took a stand against development even before Robert Worsley, by expressing his strong opposition to a new town and he put up signs saying his part of Winchfield is not for sale.

Might it be possible to persuade the other landowners in Winchfield to think about the legacy they might be leaving for future generations and turn down the offers from the voracious developers?  That might force a much stronger focus on brownfield development and a more common sense approach to Hart Council’s Local Plan.


Hart District Council under-estimates brownfield capacity again

Vacant Sun Park (Guillemont Park) block near J4A of M3, Cove, Hart District, Hampshire

Vacant Sun Park (Guillemont Park) block near J4A of M3, Cove, Hart District, Hampshire

A preliminary application has been made to build 350 dwellings at the old Sun Park (Guillemont Park) site, near J4A of the M3, Fleet, in addition to the earlier application for a further 120 homes on another part of the site.  Provided concerns over road access can be overcome, this looks like a valuable addition to our brownfield capacity.

On the face of it, this is good news but further illustrates how misleading Hart District Council’s figures about brownfield capacity were when the council voted for plans to test a new town at Winchfield back in November 2014. Back then, they estimated overall brownfield capacity at only 700 units.

However, even though this site (SHL152) was in their assessment of Land Availability (SHLAA), it underestimated capacity (300 dwellings compared to the total now at 470), and wasn’t counted as a brownfield site as it was included in their “Adjacent to settlement boundaries” section.

If Hart Council are serious about a “brownfield first” strategy, surely they must now create a proper register of potential sites and properly assess the capacity and feasibility of delivering our residual requirement on brownfield only sites.

If you are worried about Hart’s hopeless position on the Local Plan and like our 5-point plan to bring it back on track and add to the pressure to Hart to adopt a brownfield strategy and drop all ideas of a new town, the please sign and share our petition:


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Please tell Hart Council how much you value our countryside

Hart District Council is running a consultation about the quantity and quality of open space provision within Hart District. This is a great opportunity for you to express your support for the countryside and open spaces within Hart and request that they are maintained as havens for exercise, quiet contemplation, for viewing wildlife – or whatever you use them for.

This has surely got to be better than handing over our countryside over to developers and filling them with concrete.

The survey can be found here and more details on Hart’s website here.

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


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We Heart Hart submits objection to Hop Garden Road development in Hook

We Heart Hart has submitted an objection to the Hop Garden Road (Owens Farm) development in Hook.

The full details of the submission can be found here:

Submission to oppose development of Hop Garden Road

The summary of the submission is presented below:

The purpose of this submission by the We Hart Campaign is to oppose the specific unnecessary development proposed at Hop Garden Road in Hook and demonstrate to other developers who may wish to put forward speculative proposals for the over-development of the district that they will face formidable opposition to their plans.  Hart District is facing a scale of development that is against the wishes of its residents and in contradiction to stated Government policy to place planning decisions in the hands of local people.

Let me remind you of the Prime Minister’s words in 2012, taken from this Telegraph article:


He said: “I care deeply about our countryside and environment. Our vision is one where we give communities much more say, much more control. The fear people have in villages is the great big housing estate being plonked down from above.

“Our reforms will make it easier for communities to say ‘we are not going to have 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’.”

Mr Cameron, who was being interviewed in his Oxfordshire constituency, denied that the reforms would lead to large swathes of the countryside being built on.

He told BBC1’s Countryfile programme: “Here we are in west Oxfordshire one of the most beautiful parts of our country, set in some of England’s finest countryside. I would no more put that at risk than I would put at risk my own family.

“I care deeply about our countryside and environment. Our vision is one where we give communities much more say, much more control.”

We Hart object to this proposed development and any future speculative proposals on the grounds summarised below:

  • The SHMA and OAN are not objective and represent a “need” that is far too high.
  • Understated brownfield capacity means green field development is not necessary
  • This proposed development will not contribute towards meeting the needs of the changing demographics of the district
  • The proposed development will make the current infrastructure funding gap worse
  • Lack of consideration of the environment

You can help by going along to the appeal, to be held between Tuesday 12th May and Thursday 14th May, 10am to 5pm.  The first day starts at 10am and probably through to 5pm at Hart Council’s Civic Offices, Harlington Way, GU51 4AE, Fleet.  More details here.


Hart Council rules out register of brownfield sites

Vacant, derelict brownfield site in Hook, Hampshire

Vacant, derelict block in Hook, Hampshire

In a worrying development at the Hart Council meeting on Thursday 30th April, the leader of the council, Stephen Parker, ruled out creating a register of brownfield sites in the district, whilst at the same time insisting that the council supported a “brownfield first” strategy.

He said that the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) had identified only 750 dwellings as being “deliverable” within the time-scale of the Local Plan.

The council insisted that all sites in the Local Plan must be “deliverable”.  However, this is misleading as the term “deliverable” has a special meaning in planning terms and only applies to the first five years of the plan when it is submitted.  Beyond five years sites only have to be “developable”.

We have previously posted that there are loads of mistakes in the SHLAA that have the effect of reducing the apparent brownfield capacity and the density assumptions that Hart uses are far below what they themselves say would be achievable in urban areas.

If Hart were to include “developable” sites such as the vacant and derelict offices, Bramshill House, Pyestock (aka Hartland Park) and Sun Park as potential sites and increase the density assumptions then it is entirely possible that the whole of our remaining housing requirement could be met by brownfield development.

Surely any credible “brownfield first” strategy should include as its starting point a register of all the redundant brownfield sites in the district.

If you would like to join the campaign to get Hart to think again, then please sign and share our petition:


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NPPF Definition of Deliverable:

“to be considered deliverable, sites should be available now, offer a suitable location for development now, and be achievable with a realistic prospect that housing will be delivered on the site within five years and in particular that development of the site is viable”

NPPF Definition of Developable:

“to be considered developable, sites should be in a suitable location for housing development and there should be a reasonable prospect that the site is available and could be viably developed at the point envisaged”


Leaflet campaign doubles size of We Heart Hart petition

A big thank you to all the volunteers who have helped with the We Heart Hart leafleting campaign.  Just before we started leafleting we had 923 signatories.  Today, the number is 1,846; meaning the petition has doubled in size in just three weeks.  This is more than three times the number of people who responded to Hart District Council’s consultation and more than 8 times the number of people who expressed a preference for a new town.

Support for our cause has increased after we published the legal opinion from Peter Village QC that said that Hart was in a “hopeless position” with the Local Plan.  Surely it is time for Hart to think again and adopt our 5-point plan to bring the Local Plan back on track which is summarised below:

  • Create a medium growth scenario with a lower housing requirement than the current high growth scenario to give an option to reduce the environmental impact of development.
  • Create a formal brownfield option and invite a competition to design the best way of using our brownfield land.
  • Do the work and consult upon the additional elements of a proper Local Plan such as employment, education, transport, retail and other infrastructure.
  • Consider the Environment and Landscape by carrying out proper habitat studies and landscape character assessments.
  • Fix the management and governance problems within Hart Council that have resulted in the past failure and current hopeless position.

If you would like to support our position, then please sign and share our petition.


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Rushmoor’s Employment Land Review has errors that reduce brownfield site availability

Vacant Block at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire

Vacant Block at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire

Rushmoor Borough Council has produced a draft Employment Land Review (ELR) on behalf of Hart District Council, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.  We Heart Hart has examined this draft document and found some serious errors in the way they have calculated both the historic jobs growth numbers and the future jobs projections for the area. Moreover, after discounting the Experian methodology for calculating future jobs growth saying:

“Experian-derived forecasts which are considered unreliably high in that they make too many assumptions around unconstrained economic growth”,

they recommend that the scenario that is used for testing should be based on the numbers for housing development contained in the SHMA, which themselves are inflated by the self same Experian forecasts they earlier dismissed as unreliable. This is clearly an absurd position that results in the forward B-class job projections (598 per annum) being nearly double the rate (300 per annum) that would be achieved if we continued at the rate of growth that was delivered between 1998 and 2012.  The impact of this is that the amount of employment land we need is being over-stated and so reducing the amount of brownfield land that might be available for housing.  This represents a great opportunity for Hart Council to challenge Rushmoor to re-visit the ELR and revise it so that more brownfield land comes available across the three districts.

We have asked several questions about the errors we found, but have not received satisfactory responses. We urge you to contact your councillors and ask them to challenge Rushmoor to come up with more realistic estimates and revise the ELR before it becomes final and sign our petition:


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The detail of the analysis is shown below.

ELR Table 8.2

ELR Table 8.2

The starting point for the analysis is Table 8.2 that shows the forecast employment change in a number of different types of jobs, from which it is possible to derive the ratio of B-Class jobs to all jobs at 53% (17,428/32,906). B-Class jobs means those jobs that require office space or light industrial units, rather than an indication that they are somehow inferior.  Then we must look at Figure 7.12 that allegedly compares the historic rate of growth of B-Class jobs to the forward projections.

Figure 7.12 ELR

Figure 7.12 ELR

By inspection, Figure 7.12 shows the trend in B-Class jobs as approx 555 per annum from 2002-2012.  The data from Table 8.2 allows us to derive total job growth of around 1,048 per annum.  However, as we shall show below, this number is far in excess of the actual job growth achieved according to the SHMA.

The SHMA contains data on the historic rates of job growth.  This shows two sets of data that are derived from different sources and cover different time periods (Figures 4.3 & 4.4 of the SHMA).

First, there is the period 1998-2008, covered by ABI data.  This shows overall job growth in the period of 7,200, or 720 per annum for the 10 year period with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 0.6%.  This would equate to a growth rate of B-Class jobs of 382 per annum, far lower than the 555 jobs per annum shown in figure 7.12.

Second there are different BRES sourced data for the periods of 2009-2012. The BRES data from 2009-2012 shows total jobs growth of 200, or 67 per annum (35 B-Class per annum) for the 3 years in question or a CAGR of 0.05%, again far lower than the 555 in figure 7.12.  It is difficult to see how the 555 number was derived since it is much higher than either period covered in the SHMA.  Despite repeated questions, no one has been able to explain how they derived their number for Figure 7.12.

Comparison of the BRES data and the ABI data shows a discontinuity between 2008 and 2009, with a jobs increase of nearly 10,000 when we know the economy was in the teeth of a deep recession. Note that the report states that the ABI and BRES data cannot be directly compared because they are compiled using different methods. It is therefore clear that each period (and dataset) should be treated separately and independently rather than splicing them together.

Treating the datasets separately would indicate total jobs growth over the economic cycle of 7,400, or 529 per annum or a CAGR of 0.41%, based on backward extrapolation of the BRES data.  This would equate to B-Class jobs growth rate of 280 per annum, or about half the number in Figure 7.12 of the ELR.

Taking the 0.41% rate of growth as a future projection would mean we would add 11,332 overall jobs over the period of 2012-2032 at an average rate of 567 total jobs per annum, or 300 B-Class jobs per annum.

However, the scenario recommended for testing in the ELR assumes a rate of B-Class jobs growth of 598 per annum (or total jobs growth of 1,128 per annum), nearly double the rate that would represent a forward projection of past performance over the economic cycle.  Incidentally, this is almost the same number as the future jobs growth number contained in the SHMA, which is based on the same Experian forecasts that the ELR itself discredits.


Hart New Town plan proposes school next door to child sex offender unit

Mildmay Oaks Hospital next door to proposed school

Proposed school next door to Mildmay Oaks Hospital that held escaped child sex offender

Most residents in Hart District will have heard of the recent escape of a convicted child sex offender from the Mildmay Oaks hospital in Winchfield (formerly known as the Vistacare hospital). Fortunately, the patient has been found and detained in another establishment.

However, what many may not know is that the Barratt Homes plan for a new town at Winchfield included a secondary school right next door to the Mildmay Oaks hospital and a further primary school only a little further away.  The image above is taken from the Barratts Vision document with an illustration added to highlight the proximity of the hospital adjacent to the proposed schools.

It seems beyond the bounds of credulity that anyone would consider that a suitable location for a secondary school was right next door to a hospital looking after convicted child sex offenders, especially when the unit failed CQC inspection twice whilst under the management of Vistacare and now has suffered a serious security breach under the new Partnerships in Care management.

The constraints placed by the location of the hospital have not been considered in the on-going testing of the new town location.

Surely it is time now for Hart Council think again about its absurd new town plan.

Top QC says Hart Council’s position on the Local Plan is “hopeless”

Scales of Justice weigh against Hart District Council

Scales of Justice weigh against Hart District Council


Top planning QC, Peter Village has produced a devastating legal opinion on Hart District Council’s Local Plan process and pronounced that they are in a “hopeless position“.  Hart Council have received this opinion, but have refused a meeting to discuss ways of improving the plan.  In fact, at last night’s council meeting, council leader Stephen Parker dismissed the report as “just one opinion among many”.

It is imperative that Hart gets a high quality local plan in place quickly and fends off the demands from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils to build an extra 3,100 houses in Hart.  The council’s attitude displays a staggering level of arrogance and complacency that can only lead to more delays and extra costs to get the plan right.  We urge all voters to press their council candidates to push to get the Local Plan process back on track by adopting our 5-point plan and dropping all ideas of a new town in Hart District.

The essence of the opinion is:

  • The Regulation 18 public consultation in the autumn of 2014 addressed housing options and did not consider other vital issues such as employment, retail, transport and infrastructure.
  • Hart District Council said in April 2014 that they would conduct a second Reg 18 consultation in March 2015, which they have since dropped and now intend to proceed directly to a Regulation 19 consultation on the Draft Plan for Final Inspection.  This plan is likely to fail because either the Local Plan will not contain all the elements it should, or they will not have consulted on all of the things they should consult upon.
  • Hart have not consulted upon the demands from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor that Hart build 3,100 houses for them.
  • Hart have not considered a medium growth “policy on” scenario of not meeting the full housing need on environmental grounds.
  • Hart have not properly considered the brownfield capacity of the district, highlighting that the capacity could be up to 3,500 dwellings, far more than the 750 dwellings Hart is still insisting upon.

Reader may recall that set out a 5-point plan to address these issues and this is summarised below:

  • Create a medium growth scenario with a lower housing requirement than the current high growth scenario to give an option to reduce the environmental impact of development.
  • Create a formal brownfield option and invite a competition to design the best way of using our brownfield land.
  • Do the work and consult upon the additional elements of a proper Local Plan such as employment, education, transport, retail and other infrastructure.
  • Consider the Environment and Landscape by carrying out proper habitat studies and landscape character assessments.
  • Fix the management and governance problems within Hart Council that have resulted in the past failure and current hopeless position.

If you want to press for change, please sign our petition:


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The full Legal Opinion and our latest Press Release can be found below:

Peter Village QC Legal Opinion
We Heart Hart Press Release 1 May 2015

This has been covered in the Basingstoke Gazette.


QC Opinion

Press Release


Beware the ‘garden village’: it’s not green and it’s not a village

Protect our green fields

Protect our green fields

In a sign that much of the South East of England is starting to revolt against the Government’s plans to concrete over our green fields, the Sunday Times has published an important article attacking “meaningless” garden villages and urban sprawl.  This echoes the recent survey of Hampshire residents that put protecting our towns and villages as a key election issue.  Just to be clear, We Heart Hart does not support the Rudlin proposal outlined in the article below of taking bites out of our green belt.  We believe that Hart District’s housing need can be met from brownfield development.

It remains to be seen if our Parliamentary and District Council candidates will take heed.  If you want to join 1,600 other people who want to oppose Hart District Council’s plans for a new town in Hart, please sign and share our petition.


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The article can be found here and is reproduced below.

Beware the ‘garden village’: it’s not green and it’s not a village

by Charles Clover, Sunday Times

OUR nearby town has just leapt towards us. It vaulted the trunk road, previously a barrier to development, with a huge park-and-ride for 1,000 cars. The lights of that were turned on this month, just after a proposal for a new “garden village” of 4,000 homes emerged from the imagination of local speculators. Were this approved, it would push far north into green countryside and towards Constable country.

Our nearby town is Colchester but it might be anywhere in the southeast. The quandary is the same: how to provide enough land to build about 1,000 homes a year for the next 15 years to address the desperate need to house the young and to tackle rising house prices.

The town is under pressure to find the right number of homes to put in its local plan or it will lose control and be forced to approve every speculative proposal, as has happened in another local town, Braintree, when an inspector found its numbers too low. So a rather chilling thing has happened. Colchester issued a “call for sites”. This flushed out not only every farmer with a few acres he wouldn’t mind selling — the little red patches on the map of offered land in every village are a tale of rampant opportunism. The call has also galvanised some large landowners to band together and propose “garden villages” in green countryside.

Some are considered wildly speculative. But the largest of these proposals, up to 15,000 homes on the A12/A120 corridor known as West Tey, is being taken seriously. The landowners in question could then fly off to the Channel Islands with £1m an acre, leaving the rest of us to fund the roads, hospitals, railways and schools these homes will need.

This “landowner-led” process is a consequence of the government’s simplification of the planning system. It has taken out the layer of bureaucracy known as regional planning and pushed responsibility down to the boroughs. In a few years the effect of this may reduce the upward pressure on house prices. But it has left local authorities struggling to find sufficient land. Our own has done a good job, until now, of building on brownfield sites. Now the numbers are too great. It must consider green fields because it has no more brown ones. There are plenty of brownfield sites to the south, along the Thames, but there is no mechanism for pushing the development there because under the new system each borough must provide for its own population.

Sensibly, our borough has decided not to make every chancer’s day. It favours the idea of a few new settlements, still euphemistically described as “garden villages”. The thing is that 15,000 homes is not a village. It is a town. Without inspired planning, it is Los Angeles-style sprawl. Any resemblance to century-old garden cities, such as Letchworth, is purely coincidental. Developments such as West Tey are speculative and there is, as yet, no certain way of tapping into the windfall profits, known as “uplift”, to upgrade stretched infrastructure: our hospital has been under emergency measures, the roads are clogged and you may have to stand on the train to London.

The problem with the process here is that it has brought forward land along a main road that is already outdated, in green countryside that is not close enough to the local town for walking or cycling and on grade 2 agricultural land that is meant to be protected. Contrast what is going on in Ebbsfleet, Kent, where the same number of homes are planned: the government is pouring £200m into infrastructure and the settlement sits on the underused Channel Tunnel rail line. The windfall profits will be diverted into an urban development corporation — like the ones used to develop postwar new towns such as Harlow. This option does at least mean the public get the kind of town they need.

Thoughtful locals are pressing Colchester to think again about a town extension instead of meaningless “garden villages”. That debate is opening up across the country. The advocates of expanding existing towns cite the arguments made by David Rudlin, an urban planner who won last year’s £250,000 Wolfson economics prize: that postwar new towns lacked sufficient scale to be successful and stagnated economically when large employers closed. Rudlin favours instead taking “confident and well-planned” bites out of the green belt and developing them like new towns.

It is not too late for those arguments to prevail here — indeed, one of the options being considered in Colchester is an extension of 5,000 homes near the university. But it will take a jolt from local MPs after the election to get sensible options fully considered. That is nothing to the jolt there will be in the form of opposition, across the country, if wildly speculative developments like those I’ve seen find their way into local plans.