What’s wrong with the consultation
Hart has just embarked on a new consultation asking us where we think we should put the 2,500 or so houses that remain to be built or permitted. We believe this latest consultation is flawed for a number of reasons:
The Government published revised population and household forecasts earlier this year and these showed much lower figures for Hart. The housing needs assessment is being revised but we won’t know the results until the New Year. Independent expert Alan Wenban-Smith said our housing allocation should fall by around 2,000 units which would mean we don’t need either an urban extension or a new town. So, we are being asked where we should put houses that we don’t need.
Second, for some reason Hart has decided to reduce its forecast of brownfield capacity from the 1,800 it said in Hart News in September by 75% to 450 in this consultation. Hart has started work to identify more brownfield sites but the results of that won’t be known until the New Year either.
Third, the consultation documentation doesn’t explain the economics properly. Hart has a £78m infrastructure funding deficit and Hampshire as a whole is facing a £1.9bn infrastructure black hole. The local NHS is also under pressure with a predicted £47m per year budget deficit. We don’t have the money to fund the likely £300m required for a new town of 5,000 houses.
Fourth, our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena has come out strongly against “large-scale top-down volume-led development” and would prefer it if we built on brownfield sites. He urged councillors to be more proactive and use compulsory purchase powers to buy up brownfield sites and utilise the profits to fund infrastructure.
Fifth, this consultation doesn’t address the points raised by Peter Village QC who said Hart's position was "hopeless" and it was inconceivable for a sound local plan to emerge without consulting upon important issues like employment, retail, transport and infrastructure. This consultation does not ask those questions.
Finally, Hart have ignored the WeHeartHart petition of 2,130 Hart residents who asked for a brownfield option to be included in the consultation.
Nevertheless, Hart has decided to go ahead, so we must respond to the consultation in the best way we can.
There are a number of complicated options that have been put forward. It isn’t quite as clear as it might be that a new town opens us up to 3,000 extra houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor. Opposite we offer some guidance on how to respond to the various questions.
As our housing allocation is likely is to reduce as a result of the new Government figures, the most appropriate strategy would be to avoid committing now to a new town or an urban extension. The damage to our environment would be enormous. Instead we should focus on finding more brownfield sites such as Bramshill, Hart’s own offices, the Harlington Centre, the derelict buildings on Fleet Road, Ancells Farm, Bartley Wood and Pyestock.
Think carefully about how you respond to the consultation. Once our countryside is concreted over, we can’t get it back.
How to respond to the consultation
The consultation has now closed
The consultation is now live, is open until 18 March 2016 and can be found here.
If you responded to the previous consultation and gave your email address, you should have been contacted by the council asking you whether you want to re-submit your response to the new consultation. If you have received that e-mail, we recommend you re-submit your prior submission. This can be done here.
If either you did not respond to the last consultation, or you did not give your email address before, then you will need to submit a brand new response here. We have set out some guidance below, to help you make up your mind. It is now clear that the new SHMA is not going to be released until June and our FOI requests related to the number of 1 & 2-bed properties we need to build and the amount of specialist accommodation we need to build for the elderly are not going to be answered, so please respond without delay.
The consultation is split into three parts:
The first asks about our attitudes to meeting the needs of specialist groups such as those needing affordable and starter homes; specialist housing for older people and sites for the travelling community. It then goes on to ask if we are happy with the settlement hierarchy and the main questions about how we would prioritise the different approaches they put forward to meeting our housing need. Hart DC have not included an approach to meet our remaining needs from brownfield sites alone, which we believe is achievable. Neither a new town nor an urban extension are needed and there is a brownfield solution. It is invidious to force people to rank approaches that simply are not needed. We urge you to put Approach 1 - Dispersal as your first preference, Approach 2 - Urban extensions as your second preference and Approach 3 - new settlement as your last preference.
The second part shows a number of selected sites for each parish and asks us to rank them according to preference and make comments. Unbelievably, you have to rank a site even if you don't want it to be developed and the site list presented misses out those sites the council has for unknown reasons discounted and inexplicably misses out other (some brownfield) sites from the SHLAA. We have set out the brownfield sites you may wish to suggest are developed instead or alongside those presented and some comments about what this consultation is not covering.
The third part asks us about the key issues we see across the district, Hart Council's proposed vision and key objectives. Again this doesn't cover redevelopment of the massive surplus of employment land on brownfield sites adequately and glosses over the massive infrastructure issues we face. We have set out some comments you might like to make about the issues, the vision and the objectives.
We have updated our two guides to responding to the consultation that are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided. It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside. Please respond to the consultation and ask your friends and family to join in too.
Quick guide for those with not much time:
Full guide for a more complete response to all questions: