Hart District Council has begun the Regulation 19 consultation on the Local Plan. This is the final version before submission to the Inspector later this year. Unsurprisingly, this still contains Policy SS3, with proposals for the entirely unnecessary Hartley Winchook new town.
The consultation run from 9 February 2018 to 4pm on 26 March 2018. The whole suite of documents can be found here.
We will, of course, oppose the new town elements of the Local Plan. However, we have to take great care in opposing the plan, because the worst outcome would be that the whole plan is failed by the Inspector.
Hart says that representations about the Local Plan should relate to legal compliance, duty to cooperate and tests of soundness. Helpfully, the council has provided a guidance note on how to respond.
We beleive there are grounds to challenge the plan on the grounds of soundness. Overall our objective should be to get Policy SS3 removed, together with the necessary grammar changes to Policy SS1 to ensure consistency.
How will the Inspector assess the Local Plan
We understand the Inspector is going to look at seven key areas:
1. Duty to co-operate / legal compliance
2. Spatial strategy
3. Housing numbers
4. New settlement area of search
5. Town centre regeneration
7. Development management policies
We believe the spatial strategy is flawed, because it includes provision for the new town, which is enitrely unnecessary to meet the still inflated housing numbers.
The housing numbers themselves are based on the new Government methodology. However, they have included an arbitrary 25% uplift to the requirement, which we believe is too high.
The new settlement area of search is very wide and covers areas that have already not passed testing:
- The area west of Winchfield was ruled out of the sustainability assessment, because it is a more peripheral location relative to the train station, does not offer a central focus and is in close proximity to Odiham SSSI.
- The area east of Winchfield fared less well that Murrell Green and of course the sustainability assessment grossly understated the flood risk. And of course there were other issues with Historic Environment, Bio-diversity, Landscape and Water Quality.
- The sustainability appraisal famously did not take account of the high-pressure gas main traversing the site.
Moreover, it is highly likely that the costs to deliver the required infrastructure will far exceed any realistic assessment of developer contributions.
Hart acknowledge that Fleet will face a challenge “to secure investment so that it can compete with the comparable towns in neighbouring districts”. Yet, the local plan contains no plans to regenerate our main town centre.
The infrastructure plan is paper thin, and they offer no solutions on how to close the £73m infrastructure funding deficit and no plans in particular to improve healthcare in the district.
The development plan policies contain a number of strategic gaps around the district, but leave Hartley Wintney totally exposed with no strategic gaps planned.
We will pull together a more detailed response in the coming weeks.