Status of Hart Local Plan set out in email to parish councils

Hart District Local Plan delayed again

The current state of play of the Hart Local Plan was set out in an email to Parish Councils last week.  We reproduce it below with our commentary in [bold italics]

Dear All, I am writing to update you on the current position with regard to the Hart Local Plan.

The Council’s overall strategic position on the Local Plan was agreed in October 2016.  It is to:

“Seek to meet Hart’s full, objectively assessed need for new homes, subject to the inclusion of an appropriate contingency to allow for any delays or the non-delivery of sites, and that it will also seek to accommodate any demonstrated unmet need for new homes from its Housing Market Area partners, and additionally provide for essential infrastructure including a site for a secondary school”. 

We have a Local Plan Steering Group (LPSG) that was set up by Cabinet and comprises a small Core Group of Members (The Leader, the respective Portfolio Holders for Planning and Housing, all Group Leaders, and the Chairman of Planning Committee). The purpose of LPSG is to advise Cabinet on Local Plan matters. It is not a decision making body. LPSG meetings are not held in public but the meetings are not secret and the minutes of each meeting are reported to Cabinet. The meetings are also open to all Councillors to attend and Stephen Parker, as Chairman, has encouraged all present to participate.

The latest meeting in December (LPSG minutes attached) tested the Policy Planners recommendation that we should support a potential option (which we called Option 3a) that included a possible small new settlement, urban extensions and a balanced distribution of new homes across the District. [We believe this included Murrell Green, Grove Farm and Owens Farm to the west of Hook. We understand Winchfield and Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) were specifically excluded]. A site for a secondary school was also identified. In principle Option 3a would have accorded with the strategic aims agreed by the Council in October 2016. If agreed it would have resulted in a draft Plan being progressed to Council at the end of January with a view to it all going out to public consultation.

Whilst Option 3a still lies on the table the consensus from the recent LPSG meeting was that Option 3d (a larger new settlement and distribution option) [We believe this brought Winchfield back into the equation. The likely timescales would probably mean that Grove Farm and some combination of Pale Lane and Owens Farm would be required] should be revisited [We understand the driving force behind this initiative was Concrete Community Campaign Hart, who seem intent on derailing the whole process]. This was because the recent Housing Options consultation had confirmed that the public’s first preference is for future growth to be focused on the delivery of a new settlement [Actually the council stated its first preference was for brownfield development, but did not give the public an opportunity to vote on that solution].  The least preferred option was for more urban extensions. The broad cross party consensus was that we should look to avoid delivering urban extension and Option 3d would in itself be an alternative way of delivering the strategic aims agreed by the Council in October 2016.

At the moment we are reflecting upon this. We are reviewing the two options and we will consult shortly on one of them. At the time of consultation we will offer a briefing to all Parish and Town Councils. We are also testing the need for any affordable housing uplift [This is the rumoured 2,155 extra houses to meet an alleged need for 800+ extra affordable homes] which is also an new approach that is being recommended to us by the Policy Planners. It does have an implication for how many new homes that we should built but it does reflect issues that have been raised by Inspectors at recent Local Plan examinations. We need to consider it further and a policy decision made by the Council about whether it agrees to follow it. This testing may require a little additional work and re-evaluation of delivery timescales and trajectories. More information is being submitted to help us with the evaluation.

In the meantime Officers are keen not to undermine the democratic processes by engaging in a public debate [!!!!!] in advance of the District Councillors themselves having formed a view about how they wish to see the way forward [Perish the thought that councillors be involved in a debate with the public] . There is absolutely no benefit in seeking to rehearse decisions that have not yet been made and I’m sure that everyone would agree that it would not be right for Officers to engage in what is in effect political speculation.

We understand form elsewhere the delay to the Local Plan will be 4-6 weeks, or longer. Given that five of the six weeks have already all but gone by since the LPSG meeting on 13 December, we shall not be holding our breath.

Reply received from local MP Ranil Jayawardena

Ranil Jayawardena at a brownfield site

Ranil Jayawardena at a brownfield site

You may recall that before Christmas we wrote to our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena setting out concerns about how the planning system is working for Hart. The letter we sent can be found here.

We have now received a reply from Ranil which is reproduced below. We don’t agree with some of it, but it is good to see that he has produced a substantive reply. Links to even larger versions of the images are at the bottom of the post. We will produce a more substantive reply soon.

Reply from Ranil Jayawardena Page 1 of 3

 

Reply from Ranil Jayawardena Page 2 of 3

 

Reply from Ranil Jayawardena Page 3 of 3

 

Page 1, here

Page 2, here

Page 3, here.

Hart Council fails in its own Monitoring Report

Hart District Council Failed

Hart District Council Failed

Hart District Council has published its Annual Monitoring Report (AMR) and shows it is failing in a wide range of areas:

  1. The Local Development Scheme (LDS) is out of date. This is the document that sets out the plan for creating the Local Plan.
  2. They have not implemented the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), They have no plans to do so until after the Local Plan is adopted. Delays to the Local Plan mean even more delays to the CIL scheme.
  3. Hart’s policies are out of date with three not complying with the NPPF in a major way
  4. Outstanding planning permissions show a decline in the proportion allocated to brownfield sites
  5. Hart District Council has missed its Affordable Housing target for each of the past four years. The outstanding planning permissions show it will continue to miss the target
  6. The report shows we are running out of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) capacity
  7. There have been secret meetings about the proposed Winchfield new town

LDS out of date

The AMR is for the financial year up to 31 March 2016. At that time the LDS was out of date and has not since been updated. Hart District Council claim they will publish a new LDS when they publish the draft Local Plan. However, the Local Plan has also suffered a long series of delays. The current LDS, published on 2 October 2015, said there would be a consultation on a draft Local Plan in Summer 2016. At this rate we will be lucky to see it before Summer 2017.

Hart District Council LDS out of date

Hart District Council LDS out of date

CIL not adopted

The CIL is the new way that councils should be collecting infrastructure contributions from developers. The system is much more flexible than S106 contributions, allows pooling of money between schemes for larger pieces of infrastructure and allows for some money to be distributed to parish and town councils to meet local needs.

Hart District Council is obliged to report how much CIL money it has received. But Hart has not yet implemented a CIL scheme and won’t until after the Local Plan is adopted. So, this is another item that is delayed because of the Local Plan shenanigans.

Hart District Council fails to implement CIL

Hart District Council fails to implement CIL

Hart District Council policies out of date

The AMR states that all of the policies are out of date.  Three of the policies contravene the NPPF. Two of those ae related to conversion of employment sites to housing – or delivery of brownfield sites.

Hart District Council Policies out of date and no monitoring

Hart District Council Policies out of date and no monitoring

 

Decline in future brownfield delivery

The report does show a welcome increase in the proportion of homes delivered on brownfield sites. in the year 2015-16, 72% of homes delivered were on previously developed land.

Hart District Council brownfield homes delivery

Hart District Council brownfield homes delivery

However, it also shows that only 1,009 or 42% of the 2,377 outstanding planning permissions (as of 31 March 2016) are on brownfield land.

Hart District Council running out of brownfield sites

Hart District Council running out of brownfield sites

Under-delivering on Affordable Housing

Hart District Council has a target that 40% of new homes should be ‘Affordable’. The report shows that in each of the past four years actual delivery has been in the range 11-22%. Only 653 (or 27%) of the outstanding planning permissions are for affordable homes.

Hart District Council under-delivering on Affordable Housing

Hart District Council under-delivering on Affordable Housing

Running out of SANG

SANG capacity is required to build new homes within the 5km zone of influence of the Thames Valley Heath SPA. The report shows that as of 31 March 2016, there was only capacity for 1,162 new homes. Although the report does say that the council is in the process of acquiring new strategic SANG sites.

Hart District Council running out of SANG

Hart District Council running out of SANG

Winchfield Secret Meetings

The appendix of the report shows that there were at least two secret meetings with the promoters of the proposed Winchfield New Town. The first in October 2015 was to discuss school provision and the second in March 2016 to discuss transport issues.

Meeting October 2015 about Winchfield New Town

Meeting October 2015 about Winchfield New Town

 

Meeting March 2016 about Winchfield New Town

Meeting March 2016 about Winchfield New Town

 

Conclusion

This report, taken together with the interminable delays in the Local Plan are damning evidence that the members and officers at Hart District Council simply do not have a clue how to run planning in general and the Local Plan in particular.

Surely, it is time for root and branch change of personnel.

 

 

Hart Local Plan still in disarray

 

Hart Local Plan still in disarray

The minutes of the Cabinet meeting held on 5 January sadly show the Hart Local Plan is still in disarray.

Lack of clarity on extra 2,000 houses

The ‘topic paper’ about the extra 2,000+ houses sprung on members late last year has not yet been produced. It appears that the requirement for the extra houses was decided by an officer on his own initiative. However, it should more properly be a policy decision for members.

Uncertainty on testing of Winchfield New Town

There is still uncertainty about the level of testing that has been carried out in relation to the potential Winchfield New Town. This was the only option recommended for testing at the fateful council meeting in November 2014. The Local Plan Steering Group (LPSG) on 13 December 2016 agreed:

Further testing of a new settlement option would take place and be brought back for consideration

When challenged about this at Cabinet, the leader said:

Testing is a continual process as further information becomes available to us. The officers had tested a new settlement option, however officers had been asked to benchmark against work already completed for this site.

This sounds like bureaucratic gobbledygook and gives no clarity at all. Back in October, the unoffical news was that Winchfield New Town had failed testing. One wonders what exactly has been going on for the past two years.

Litany of Hart Local Plan delays

Apparently, the already delayed Local Plan, will be delayed by a further 4-6 weeks whilst this new ‘testing’ is carried out. Presumably, the consultation will not now happen until March or April this year.

This is the latest in a long line of delays:

In October, 2013, when the earlier version of the Hart Local Plan was rejected by the planning inspector, the council said:

“Cllr Parker said that while the council operates under the interim strategy, it is working on an updated Local Plan.

“We expect to put this out for consultation early next year, and would look to submit it to an inspector next autumn[2014],” he added.”

In April 2014, the plan was to have a resubmission plan ready for consultation in October 2015.

By February 2015, the plan was to have a resubmission plan ready for Autumn 2015.

The plan was delayed yet again in April 2016, with the timetable clearly stating that a draft version of the Local Plan would be published in September 2016.

When we reached August 2016, the timetable slipped again, pending the arrival of the new SHMA.

Finally, in November 2016, the consultation version of the Hart Local Plan was due to be published on 3 February 2017.

Our best estimate of of the timetable, with the plan and slippage since April 2016 in brackets is as follows:

Consultation Draft Hart Local Plan – March/April 2017 (Summer 2016, 8 months slippage)

Submission Plan – July 2017 (Autumn 2016, at least 8 months slippage)

Submit to Secretary of State – TBA (Winter 2016, unknown slippage)

Examination – TBA (Spring 2017, unknown slippage)

Adoption – TBA (Summer 2017, unknown slippage)

Education funding climb down

In other news, Hart District Council was forced into a humiliating climb down on its stance on S106 contributions for education. All funds raised from developers must now be remitted to Hampshire County Council (HCC). HCC will now be a party to all agreements about education funding.

 

The minutes of the Cabinet Meeting held on 5 January 2017 can be found here.

The minutes of the LPSG held on 13 December 2016 can be found here.

The paper about S106 education provisions can be found here.

 

Hart misses out on brownfield starter homes scheme

Berkeley Homes (St Edward) launches consultation site for new development at Hartland Village, aka Pyestock and Hartland Park

The Government has given the green light for thousands of starter homes to be built on brownfield sites across the country. Rushmoor is one of the 30 Starter Home Land Fund partnerships, but unfortunately, Hart District is not on the list.

The partnerships have been established under the government’s £1.2 billion Starter Homes Land Fund. This scheme supports the development of starter homes on sites across England. They will be built exclusively for first-time buyers between 23 and 40 years old at a discount of at least 20% below market value.

It is a real shame that Hart has not seized the initiative to be part of this scheme, when only last year it was saying:

Hart District Council is proud to be one of a number of local planning authorities who have agreed to first pilot the creation of a Brownfield Land register

Hart has also not yet published the results of their brownfield study. This was supposed to outline the art of the possible with a number of urban brownfield sites in Fleet.

It is also disappointing because Hart is not building enough smaller properties whilst over-building 4+bed houses. A real commitment to starter homes on brownfield sites would go a long way towards meeting the housing needs of the district.

However, all is not lost as the Homes and Communities Agency is seeking expressions of interest from local authorities who are interested in using their land to deliver homes at pace through the recently announced £1.7 billion accelerated construction scheme. This will see up to 15,000 homes started on surplus public sector land this Parliament.

Government announces 14 new garden villages

Government announces new garden villages

Happy New Year everyone. The Government has announced plans for 14 new garden villages across England. In addition, the Government has also announced support for three new garden towns, with over 10,000 homes each. These are located in Aylesbury, Taunton and Harlow & Gilston.

The 14 new garden villages are from 1,500 up to 10,000 homes:

  • Long Marston in Stratford-on-Avon
  • Oxfordshire Cotswold in West Oxfordshire
  • Deenethorpe in East Northants
  • Culm in Mid Devon
  • Welborne near Fareham in Hampshire
  • West Carclaze in Cornwall
  • Dunton Hills near Brentwood, Essex
  • Spitalgate Heath in South Kesteven, Lincolnshire
  • Halsnead in Knowsley, Merseyside
  • Longcross in Runnymede and Surrey Heath
  • Bailrigg in Lancaster
  • Infinity Garden Village in South Derbyshire and Derby City area
  • St Cuthberts near Carlisle City, Cumbria
  • North Cheshire in Cheshire East

The garden villages will have access to a £6m fund over the next 2 financial years to support the delivery of these new projects. The garden towns will be supported to the tune of £1.4m. The new garden projects will also have access to infrastructure funding programmes across government, such as the new £2.3 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund announced in last year’s Autumn Statement.

None of the sites are in Hart District, which is both encouraging and disappointing at the same time. We are encouraged that neither Winchfield nor Murrell Green has made this list, but of course disappointed that the proposed Hartland Village (aka Pyestock) has not yet received Government support.

However, there may be hope for Pyestock yet as the Government also said it may run a further call for expressions of interest in 2017 for other places with proposals for new garden villages.

Open letter to Ranil Jayawardena, Sajid Javid and Gavin Barwell

Ranil Jayawardena Stephen Parker and Michael Fallon meet at Pyestock (Hartland Park or Hartland Village

Below is the text of an open letter sent to our Local MP, Ranil Jayawardena asking for his help to make changes to national policy to help Hart come up with a more realistic Local Plan and help fend off the threat of too many houses.

Let’s see what happens.

Dear Ranil,

To date, I have been very impressed with you as our local MP. You seem to be well in tune with your constituents and your campaign to promote more brownfield development in our area is to be commended.

I know that, quite rightly, you are reluctant to get involved in local planning matters because they are the responsibility of the local council. However, I am writing to you today to ask for your support in changing some elements of national policy that should help Hart District Council produce a more realistic Local Plan.

There are four main sections to this letter:

  • Process and outcome of assessing housing need
  • Affordable housing
  • Infrastructure contributions
  • Suggested policy changes

The links in the text take you to more in depth research, mostly from the WeHeartHart.co.uk website, which I run, to support the assertions made. I have also copied this letter to the ministers responsible for this area of policy and the leader and joint-CEO of Hart Council.

Assessing Housing Need

 

The 2012-based government projections of population and number of households points to a need of around 215,000 dwellings per annum, compared to recent delivery of 130-150,000 new dwellings each year. It is clear we need to respond to the objective in the National Planning Policy framework to “boost significantly the supply of housing”. To achieve this, it follows that the sum of all the housing market assessments across the country should add up to the total expected increase in households, or a little more to give some margin of safety.

However, there is increasing evidence that house builders have too strong an influence over the process that is leading to housing market assessments being artificially inflated to a level much higher than that required by the national household projections.

In Hart, the 2014 Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) is currently being revised to take account of more up to date population and household forecasts. However, I believe the process being followed will be largely the same as before.

The way it works is as follows. The raw household forecasts are subject to a set of dubious adjustments and convoluted calculations to arrive at a spurious objectively assessed ‘need’.  In the case of the 2014 SHMA, the outcome was ~7,500 houses. For the SHMA area as a whole this results in an uplift to the raw DCLG household forecasts of more than 50%.

If this were applied across the whole country, then we would be allocating land and allowing the building of some 305,000 new dwellings each year, far above the national requirement. This goes against latest planning guidance that states that housing need should be “principally understood as a measure of future demand rather than aspiration”.  I did make a FOI request to the DCLG to provide the national figures, but this has been refused on the grounds that DCLG “does not hold this information”. Given the importance that is being placed on housing delivery, it is quite staggering that central Government is not collecting the data to allow it to monitor the results of its own housing policy.

The experience of the Hart, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA is by no means unique. Analysis of five other housing needs assessments of planning authorities across Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey and Berkshire reveals an average housing uplift on the baseline household projections of around 42%.

A further illustration of the absurdity of the calculations used in the 2014 SHMA is contained in its own appendix.  This clearly shows that if the more up to date 2012-SNPP number were used, the starting point for Hart would fall from 337 to 247 dwellings per annum or a fall of 1,800 units over the plan period.

Taken together, these results show that the process for producing the SHMAs is fatally flawed and cannot be justified.

There might be some justification if this process had actually resulted in more house building. But it is clear from a recent House of Lords report that it has not:

Nevertheless, we see the gap between planning permissions and housing completions as a fundamental one in respect of securing increased housing supply. In a climate where over 240,000 homes a year are being granted planning permission, it is a fundamental failure of the development system that over 100,000 fewer homes are actually being built. This situation must be addressed.

We believe that the Government must consider measures to help accelerate the delivery of housing on sites with planning permission, such as permitting the charge of equivalent council tax rates when development has not commenced after a specified period of time, subject to safeguards when there are genuine reasons to prevent the development proceeding

This is borne out by local experience, where as of 1 April this year there were over 3,000 unimplemented planning permissions, with over 1,000 of those from 2013 or earlier.

It is clear that creating ever increasing housing targets is merely encouraging ‘land-banking’ by builders, who then build at a rate to maximise their own profits.

Imagine my surprise to find out that one of the outcomes from Hart’s yet to be published revised SHMA is that the housing target is going to be raised again to over 10,000 units (although this is being further examined by the council). Yes, you read that correctly: despite the starting point being based on the more up to date population forecasts described above, that should result in a ‘need’ of 1,800 fewer houses, the target is going to be raised 30% above the earlier ‘need’ and nearly 100% above the new starting point.

Apparently, there are some further arbitrary adjustments, some other sophistry and some new guidance from Government about the provision of so called ‘Affordable Homes’ that means in order to satisfy a shortfall of ~800 affordable homes, we must build over 2,000 more new houses in total because the affordable component cannot be more than 40% of the total.

The consequence of this change is that it will inevitably mean we can no longer meet our remaining housing need from brownfield sites and will have to sacrifice great swathes of our beautiful countryside to satisfy some bureaucratic pen-pushers rather than the actual housing needs of the district.

This is plainly ridiculous and cannot be allowed to stand. But that leads me on to policy improvements  around ‘Affordable Homes’

 

Affordable Homes

 

Many in Government seem to hold the view that merely calling some houses ‘”Affordable” makes them so. This is clearly an absurd position to take.

Let’s take a local example in my own village.  Recently, Bewley Homes built around 90 new houses in a new development called Hartley Row Park at a reasonably sensible add-on to the village.

The lowest price for a 3-bed semi-detached home was set at £465,000. The lowest anticipated price of the 2-bed homes that were due to be released later in 2016 was £370,000. This means that the cheapest 3-bed house is 11.5 times median income, and the cheapest 2-bed home will be 9.2 times median income.  Even with a 20% ‘Affordable’ homes discount, the cheapest new properties will be totally out of reach of middle-income families in the district.

This is further compounded by the lack of measurement and poor controls over the size of properties bring built. There is clear evidence that Hart is under-building 1-bed and 3-bed starter homes and over-building 4+bed properties. This is doing nothing for the younger residents of Hart, whom the Local Plan is supposed to serve, yet encouraging even more inward migration from London into properties that locals cannot afford. Clearly, the controls needed are really a matter for the local council, but there may be something that can be done at a national level to mandate new developments to meet local needs.

However, there are some national policies that need to be examined, not least the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, interest rates and QE.

As any economist will tell you, if you subsidise the price of anything, then demand will go up and prices will follow. I find it quite amazing that a supposedly free-market Conservative Government is borrowing to use taxpayers’ money in the HTB scheme to subsidise higher house prices, especially at a time when we still have a massive budget deficit.

But the bigger impact on house prices has probably come from ultra-low interest rates and QE. This inexorable flow of cheap money has artificially raised the price of all assets and property in particular. You cannot hope to bring house-prices to reasonable levels unless and until you address monetary policy.

 

Infrastructure Contributions

 

Hart, like many other places in the country is suffering from creaking infrastructure. Our schools are full, it is difficult to get appointments at the doctors and road congestion is increasing.

According to the latest figures available Hart is running a £78m infrastructure funding deficit, and this is probably an under-estimate as it was prepared before the current, let alone the new SHMA. Key quotes from the document include:

“It is therefore reasonable to conclude that it is unlikely that there will be sufficient future funds, from both capital programmes and developer contributions, within the plan period, to deliver all of the projects listed in the HCC Transport Statement”

“Although developer contributions will continue to play an important role in helping to bridge the funding gap, it is also clear that the funds raised through developer contributions will only contribute a modest proportion of the total identified funding gap”

 “The South West Main Line (SWML) outer trains, which serve Hart, has significant forecasted future peak crowding, with a capacity shortfall of over 6,100 passengers in the high-peak hour, even if every main line train is at maximum length”

It is true that many developments attract S106 or CIL contributions towards infrastructure. However, it is also clear that both ‘Affordable Homes’ and office conversions using ‘Permitted Development Rights’ deliver no such contributions. Overall, the policy mix has delivered a massive funding gap, yet we are expected to continue to even more houses, when the funding delivered is much less than the funding required to bring the infrastructure up to scratch.

This is clearly unsustainable and must change.

 

Suggested Policy Changes

 

As I see it you can help your constituents by demanding policy changes in several key areas:

  • The Government should collect and analyse all SHMAs across the country to monitor that the total of the local ‘needs’ is in line with the overall national totals
  • There should be some greater controls put on the way that seemingly arbitrary adjustments to the starting points are made to ensure they do not go too far above those levels. 20% would seem like a reasonable level to me.
  • Encourage builders to build existing planning permissions faster by introducing a charge equivalent to council tax rates when development has not completed after a specified period of time.
  • Stop subsidising higher house prices through HTB, QE and ultra-low interest rates.
  • Introduce a ‘planning gain levy’ on land owners who make significant windfalls from selling agricultural land for development to fund infrastructure. This would be similar to the original ideas behind “Garden Cities” where landowners helped fund infrastructure
  • Introduce S106/CIL funding for all new development. Every new home has people in it and they all use local infrastructure, so all new development should include some contribution
  • Introduce ‘open book accounting’ to each development and force developers to make increased S106 contributions if they make more than planned profit on a development.
  • Increase Government funding for smaller, local infrastructure projects such as road widening, junction improvement, bridge widening, school building and surgery building. This would be a much better use of money than building white elephants like HS2.

I do hope you find this letter constructive and helpful in understanding the impact of national policy on your local area.

May I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Time to work together to head off new Hart housing threat

Hart Housing threat: sites under consideration

Hart Housing threat: sites under consideration

Overshadowed by our earlier  story of CCH further delaying the Hart Local Plan was the news of the new Hart housing threat of our target being raised from 7,500 to over 10,000 new houses up to 2032. This comes on top of the potential financial costs of delay.

Details of how this has come about are sketchy. It is related to how Hart should respond to Government rules about how to deal with affordable housing. We understand Hart Council is working on a ‘topic paper’ to give a further explanation.

We have analysed the impact of this new target below. Sadly, most of the large, sensitive green field sites are potentially under threat once again.  In addition, it is likely that Hart would no longer have more than five years of land supply. This exposes us to the threat of speculative planning applications. If most of these additional houses end up being ‘affordable’, they won’t attract contributions from developers to fund vital infrastructure.

So, we have come to the conclusion that it is time for all the politicians and pressure groups to work together to fight off this new threat rather than spend their time arguing over where the new houses should go. This level of development will mean that substantially all of the district will be under threat for some time. Moreover, this increased rate of building will be carried forward into the new planning period making things even worse for decades to come. We need to demand three key actions:

  1. The councillors need to stop squabbling and get a Local Plan in place ASAP
  2. Challenge robustly this new housing target and get the ridiculous new Government rules changed
  3. Pressure the council to properly examine the brownfield options for the district, complete their brownfield study and bring these sites forward instead of the precious green field sites.

Impact of the Hart housing threat on sensitive sites

First we take a look at where we would need to build to meet this new target and compare it to last year’s consultation; the most recent land supply position and our estimate of a ‘fair’ housing target.

Impact of new Hart housing threat on Hart District sites

Impact of new Hart housing threat on sensitive sites

As can be seen above, if the housing target remains around current levels, our remaining housing needs can easily be met from brownfield sites such as Hartland Village (Pyestock), the sites Hart Council identified in the consultation, Bramshill House and some further redevelopment of Ancells Farm and Bartley Wood. Moulsham Lane, Yateley was given the go ahead at appeal over the summer.

For some reason related to the Hop Garden Road appeal, Hart decided to increase our housing requirement up to 8,022 houses.  This is achievable from the 4,000 units we have identified on brownfield sites. But the planners would need to be persuaded to:

  • Redevelop the area around the Harlington and Hart’s offices in Fleet for mixed use.
  • Bring the many other smaller borwnfield sites across the district into the equation.

Failing that, it is inevitable that one of the green field sites is chosen.  For the purposes of this analysis we have used Grove Farm/ Netherhouse Copse as that is up for determination at the moment and the officers have recommended it.

Our estimate of a ‘fair’ housing target is based on the work of Alan Wenban-Smith. This starts with the population projections which on their own would generate a housing need of 5,040 houses over the planning period. A generous allowance is then added for additional economic growth to arrive at a need of 7,140 houses. This is easily achievable on brownfield sites, with some left over for future periods. Note that the new housing target is twice the level of housing required to meet the projected population forecasts.

The new target of 10,177 houses makes it much more difficult to achieve on brownfield. Again, the brownfield capacity could be larger than indicated above if the councillors and planners were to finally deliver on their brownfield study. If they don’t, it is inevitable that most of the sensitive green field sites including Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase), the land west of Hook and one or more of Murrell Green, Winchfield, Lodge Farm or Rye Common come into the equation. As you can see this new housing target will impact everyone.

Impact of Hart housing threat on the land supply

In the absence of the Hart Local Plan and up to date policies, the only defence we have against voracious developers is the five year land supply. This gives some limited control over speculative planning applications. So, we have taken a look at what the new target will mean for our five year land supply.

Impact of new Hart housing threat on 5 year land supply

Impact of new housing target on Hart District 5 year land supply

The left hand columns show the current 5-year land supply that Hart Council use. This shows we are in the relatively comfortable position with over 6 years land supply. If We Heart Hart’s fair housing target was adopted this would rise to 8 years supply.

However, the new housing target would reduce our land supply to below the crucial 5-year threshold leaving Hart very exposed. We would need another 525 additional houses to be granted permission ASAP to bring us back over the threshold.

Conclusion

We are in a very serious position with many of our cherished green fields under grave threat from speculative planning applications. There is no Local Plan and our policies are out of date. Hart is running an infrastructure funding deficit of £78m. The new housing target is double what we need to meet the official Government population forecasts. If the new housing target is adopted, Hart will no longer have a five year land supply. Unless we change tack, all our green fields will be concreted over and lost forever.

To preserve all that makes Hart such a great place to live we need to take serious action:

  1. The councillors need to stop squabbling and get a Local Plan in place ASAP
  2. We need to challenge robustly this new housing target and get the ridiculous new Government rules changed
  3. We need to pressure the council to properly examine the brownfield options for the district, complete their brownfield study and bring these sites forward instead of the precious green field sites.

This can only be done by everyone with a stake in Hart housing development working together to get the best outcome for Hart.

Community Campaign Hart incompetence could cost taxpayers millions

Community Campaign Hart incompetence on Hart Planning since 2004

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) incompetence over the Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse planning application and behaviour about the Local Plan could cost Hart Council and taxpayers millions of pounds.

Impact of Hart Local Plan delays

First, the Hart Local Plan. Councillors were warned at their meeting last night that a delay to the Local Plan could cost Hart £2.4m in lost New Homes bonus in 2018/19. Of course it was Community Campaign Hart that forced a delay upon us at the LPSG meeting on Tuesday evening. However, there will be a meeting between the council leader and joint-CEOs on Monday 19 December to decide a way forward.

[Update: extract of minuted statement from joint-CEO]

Joint CEO statement on the impact of delays local plan on New Homes Bonus

[/Update]

Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse Debacle

Now on to the Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse planning application. This application was due to be determined at the planning meeting on Wednesday 14 December. The planning officers had recommended that planning permission be granted. CCH had intended to refuse the application, but did not follow the correct procedure. They voted instead on a motion to simply delay the determination of the application for further transport studies.

The effect of this is now that the application is ‘not determined’. The developers could appeal the application on grounds on non-determination in the required time. There is a strong likelihood that Hart would lose this appeal.

Even if they manage to fudge this problem and issue a notice of refusal, it is still highly likely the developers will appeal the decision anyway because the officers recommended approval. Realistically, it is likely Hart would lose the appeal.

Financial Impact of Community Campaign Hart Incompetence

The costs of running an appeal are approximately £200K. However, there is a real risk that the Inspector would also grant costs to the developers of a further £200K.

But the costs don’t stop there. New rules mean that if houses end up getting approved on appeal, then the council in question loses the New Homes Bonus on those houses. Councils typically receive around £4,000 per dwelling over a period of six years. So loss of the bonus on the 423 houses in the Grove Farm application could end up costing over £1.6m on top of around £400K in appeal costs.

CCH councillor loses seat on Hart Planning Committee

As a final denouement, it was announced that recent defector to CCH, Richard Woods would lose his seat on the Planning Committee and be replaced by Steve Forster. This is to maintain the correct party balance on the Committee.

It is supremely ironic that the councillor who said that he wanted to:

do what the people who entrusted you with their vote would want you to do to represent them in the fullest possible way

has now lost the very seat on the Committee that gave him the means to represent his voters

 

In the words of Mumford and Sons:

‘It was your Hart on the line,

You really f****d it up this time’.

CCH force delay to the Hart Local Plan as housing numbers rise

CCH force delay to Hart Local Plan- this is no time to keep calm

This is no time to keep calm

We Heart Hart has learned that last night’s meeting of the Hart Local Plan Steering Group was a”disaster”.  Concrete Community Campaign Hart (CCH) councillors forced a further delay on to the timetable by insisting that Winchfield New Town is included as an option.

Affordable Housing blow

In a further blow, it appears as though Hart’s housing allocation has been further inflated by up to 2,000 additional houses due to new Government guidelines that may force Hart to build even more ‘Affordable Homes’. This new requirement would be in addition to the 40% of homes that must be ‘Affordable’ in the SHMA target.

Apparently, there are no plans to publish the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) until they are ready to publish the Regulation 18 consultation on the new draft Local Plan. We don’t know the timescale for that yet.

This shows that Hart’s statement in October that Hart had to build 1,500 fewer houses was a total sham.

Impact of Delay to the Hart Local Plan

There were three potential options on the table at LPSG for detailed consideration. However, CCH insisted on a fourth option that included the Winchfield New Town. We don’t know the specifics of the other options, but we suspect they included Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse.

WeHeartHart had been led to believe that the Winchfield New Town option failed testing due to concerns about groundwater flooding and lack of infrastructure. The level of testing that was carried out is now in doubt. It is difficult to see how a further delay and more testing is going to change the viability of the new town.

CCH’s stance is strange because the delay to the Local Plan will weaken Hart’s defences against the speculative applications being submitted by developers. The proposed developments at Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse and Bramshill House are due to be determined at tonight’s Planning Committee meeting. Of course, an application to develop the Pale Lane site into Elvetham Chase has recently been submitted and this will need to be determined in the New Year. If there is no draft Local Plan, then it will be difficult to defend against it.

Conclusion

It is imperative that we get the Hart Local Plan in place quickly so we can manage the inevitable housing growth that we face. CCH should stop their ideological pursuit of the unviable Winchfield New Town and start to work constructively to solve the problems of the whole district.

We would wish to see many new homes that are truly affordable for Hart residents. However, there is strong evidence of developer land-banking in Hart and of not building enough smaller properties. Simply increasing the housing target won’t lead to a meaningful increase in housing supply. Even the smallest properties at recent developments (for instance Rifle Range Farm/Hartley Row Park at Hartley Wintney) were out of reach of most Hart residents. We think the new additional target for affordable homes should be vigorously challenged.