Remaining Hart District housing target can be met from brownfield sites alone

Vacant block at Bartley Wood in Hook, Hampshire

Bartley Wood Estate in Hook

New facts have come to light since Hart Council planning department put together their estimate of brownfield capacity which show that Hart’s remaining housing target can be met from brownfield development alone. Please support us in getting a brownfield only option included in the forthcoming consultation by attending the Hart Cabinet on 1 October where Hart’s response to the We Heart Hart petition will be agreed.

Last November, the council’s estimate of brownfield capacity over the entire plan period was around 750 units (taken from parts 1 and 3 of the SHLAA as per the FOI request we made) out of the then remaining 4,000 units to build (or grant permission for) up to 2032.

Since then, a number of interesting things have happened:

  • An important study by Stonegate Homes has shown that brownfield capacity is much larger
  • Planning permission has been applied for or granted on other sites that were either not in the SHLAA or were not counted as brownfield sites.
  • New potential sites have come to light that were not included in the SHLAA
LocationNumber of Dwellings
Guillemont Park Phase 1 (not included as brownfield site in SHLAA) 150
Guillemont Park Phase 2320
Ancells Farm, Fleet370
Bartley Wood, Hook200
Fleet Road, Fleet220
Bramshill House350
Fleet Police Station50
Extra dwellings at Landata House28
Total1,688

All of the dwellings above were not included as brownfield sites in the SHLAA.  Guillemont Park (Sun Park) was in the SHLAA but for a smaller number of units, and was shown in Part 2, which was not considered to include brownfield locations.  Since last November revised permission has been granted at Landata House, Hook for 28 more dwellings than were included in the 5 year land supply calculation.

The Bramshill House and Fleet Police station sites were not included in the SHLAA.

The Stonegate report identified 370 units at Ancell’s Farm in Fleet, 200 units at Bartley Wood in Hook and a further 220 units on Fleet Road in Fleet.

Derelict Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

Derelict Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

However, the proposals for Ancells Farm cover only 7 of the 23 office buildings in the business park which shows that there is additional capacity there.  Moreover, there are even more vacant office blocks in Hook so there is more capacity there too.  Of course, across Hart, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor, there is currently 500,000 sq m of vacant office space, and forecasts for even more vacancies, so there is no danger of restricting jobs growth by redeveloping offices.

If the original 750 units were to be added to the 1,688 units identified above, then that amounts to a total of 2,438 potential units on brownfield.  If it were possible to increase the density (from 30dph to a still reasonable 80dph in urban areas) on the original 750 units, the total identified capacity would rise to some 3,688 units.

Hartland Park (Pyestock) near Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire, warehouse development not started

Brownfield site: Hartland Park (Pyestock) near Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire, warehouse development not started

Moreover, these figures do not include the massive potential of the 119 acre Hartland Park (or Pyestock) site where planning permission for a big warehouse was given years ago, but no activity is visible.  Surely, the developers of this site want to earn some return on their investment and would change to residential.

The remaining requirement of 4,000 has of course been reduced by the unfortunate decisions to allow development at Watery Lane (300 units) and Hawley Park Farm (126 units) leaving the remaining allocation of at most 3,574.

It is clear that it is easily possible to meet the entire remaining of 3,574 from brownfield alone.  It will take some creativity and energy, but a combination of increasing density and allocating more vacant offices is easily within reach, so we don’t need a new town and can protect our countryside.

We have put proposals to Hart Council to include a formal brownfield option in their forthcoming consultation on the Hart Local Plan.  Please support us by coming along to the Hart Cabinet on 1 October where Hart’s response to the We Heart Hart petition will be agreed.

Petition Response: Make the most of brownfield land

Old Police Station in Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire

Old Police Station in Fleet, Hampshire

As we posted earlier, we have submitted the We  Hart petition with 2,130 responses to Hart District Council and the council have set out the process by which they will consider the petition.

We have drafted some suggestions as to how the council should respond  and sent them to Council leader, Stephen Parker.  We have a chance to put these ideas to Cabinet on 1 October at 7pm.  Please tell us if you are coming along to give us your support and please e-mail your councillors to ask them to support these proposals and incorporate them into the forthcoming consultation about the Local Plan.

The full set of suggestions can be found here.

The suggestions in this post relate to making the most of the brownfield opportunity.

Last November, the council’s estimate of brownfield capacity over the entire plan period was around 750 units (taken from parts 1 and 3 of the SHLAA as per the FOI request we made) out of the then remaining 4,000 units to build (or grant permission for) up to 2032.  Since then considerable progress has been made in identifying and in some cases granting permission on additional brownfield sites:

LocationNumber of Dwellings
Guillemont Park Phase 1 (not included as brownfield site in SHLAA) 150
Guillemont Park Phase 2320
Ancells Farm, Fleet370
Bartley Wood, Hook200
Fleet Road, Fleet220
Bramshill House350
Fleet Police Station50
Extra dwellings at Landata House28
Total1,688

All of the dwellings above were not included as brownfield sites in the SHLAA.  Guillemont Park (Sun Park) was in the SHLAA but for a lower number of units, and in Part 2, which was not considered to include brownfield locations.  Since last November revised permission has been granted at Landata House for 28 more dwellings than were included in the 5 year land supply calculation.

If the original 750 units were to be added to the 1,688 units identified above, then that amounts to a total of 2,438 potential units on brownfield.  If it were possible to increase the density (from 30dph to a still reasonable 80dph in urban areas) on the original 750 units, the total identified capacity would rise to some 3,688 units.

The remaining requirement of 4,000 has of course been reduced by the unfortunate decisions to allow development at Watery Lane (300 units) and Hawley Park Farm (126 units) leaving the remaining allocation at 3,574.

It is clear that with some creativity and energy, the gap between the remaining allocation of 3,574 and the currently identified brownfield capacity can be closed by working on a combination of reducing the overall allocation by reducing the SHMA or applying environmental “policy on” considerations, increasing density and finding more brownfield sites.

In the light of this, we welcome the paper that has been put before Cabinet, signalling the more positive approach that the council proposes towards building housing on previously developed land.

We would ask though, that you consider some further steps from our 5-point plan:

  • Creating a new, formal “reasonable suitable alternative” option of meeting the remaining housing allocation solely through brownfield development.  This option should appear in the consultation paper.
  • Creating a complete database of all of the potential brownfield sites in the district, including those not in the October 2014 SHLAA and those not yet formally promoted to the council, including sites such as Bramshill House, Pyestock, Sun Park, Ancells Farm, Bartley Wood, Fleet High St, Fleet Police Station and all of the run down town centres (e.g. Fleet, Yateley, Blackwater and Hook).
  • Inviting leading architects to compete to produce some visionary outline schemes of what a “brownfield solution” might look like for the district, taking into account changing demographics, changing shopping habits driven by the internet and achievable housing densities.
  • Organising a conference with the architects, land owners, developers and local community representatives with the objective of identifying the art of the possible for brownfield development amongst the competing solutions from the architects.

 

 Employment Space (sq m)
Overall Requirement to 2032 (a)266,368
Current vacant space (b)527,840
Sites with planning permission (c)338,187
Surplus in 2032 (b+c-a)599,659

 

 

We Heart Hart to present to Odiham Parish Council

Odiham High Street, Hart District Hampshire

Odiham High Street, Hampshire

We Heart Hart has been asked to present to Odiham Parish Council about the Rushmoor and Hart Local Plans on Monday 7 September at 7:30pm at The Bury, Odiham. RG29 1NB. The presentation we will give is available for download below:

We Heart Hart presentation to Odiham Parish Council

link

How Hart Council should respond to the We Heart Hart petition

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

Vacant Office at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hampshire

As we posted earlier, we have submitted the We  Hart petition to Hart District Council and the council have set out the process by which they will consider the petition.

We have drafted some suggestions as to how the council should respond  and sent them to Council leader, Stephen Parker and they are shown below.  We have a chance to put these ideas to Cabinet on 1 October at 7pm.  Please tell us if you are coming along to give us your support.

Please e-mail your councillors to ask them to support these proposals.

 

Dear Stephen,

Thank you very much for your email.

As you know the petition is from 2,130 signatories, nearly four times the number that responded to Hart Council’s consultation last year and more than ten times the number of people who expressed a first preference for a new town and is therefore a very significant expression of local opinion.

I welcome your approach to treat the petition seriously.  My understanding is that a petition of over 1,000 signatories would trigger an automatic debate at full council.  However, I do believe a debate at Cabinet is more likely to be more productive, so I support the approach you suggest.

As you might expect, I have my own suggestions as to what the appropriate responses to the petition should be and I set them out below for your consideration, interwoven with the petition objectives:

  1. To reduce the overall housing allocation for Hart District

 I think there are two broad approaches to this.  First, challenge the SHMA to reduce the overall housing allocation for the whole HMA.  If this is successful, then it will have a two-fold effect of reducing Hart’s own need and also reducing the risk of overflow from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.  I believe the key arguments are around inward migration assumptions; average household size and in particular jobs growth assumptions which are at a rate nearly double what was achieved over the economic cycle from 1998-2012 and will result in unprecedented levels of participation in the labour market (rising from around 70% to around 86%) for those of employment age.  I gave more detail on these arguments at both the Hop Garden Road appeal and in my response to the Rushmoor Local Plan.  More detail can be found here. However, I do recognise it is difficult for the council to challenge its own document and I await Rushmoor’s response to my strong challenge, but I do understand that the SHMA may be re-visited and it would be helpful if the council would commit to challenging the assumptions set out above as part of that process.

Second, in conversation with a number of professionals in the planning sector, I have been told a number of times, that it is uncommon for councils to explore fully their “policy on” options with regard to environmental and other constraints.  One of the main attractions of Hart as a district is its rural environment with associated SPA, SSSI’s, SINCs, green space and wildlife.  May I suggest that a proper environmental study is carried out to set out the value of Hart’s environment and ecology to build an argument for not meeting the full requirement of the SHMA?  I know that WAG is working on some proposals in this area with some of the rural parishes and would be keen to discuss the matter with you and offer to share the costs of preparation. 

  1. Demand that the Council develops a vision and strategy for Hart that retains its role as a rural, green hinterland for NE Hampshire that respects the separate character and identity of Hart’s settlements and landscapes and preserves the green spaces as amenity space for the urban settlements.

You may recognise the words above as taken from the withdrawn 2013 Core Strategy.  This was, and remains a good vision.  I would ask that as a minimum, the forthcoming Regulation 18 consultation sets out at least one potential “vision” for the district, and that one of the “vision” options includes words to this effect.

  1. To require that the housing need is met by building on brownfield sites and increasing density in our existing urban areas

Last November, the council’s estimate of brownfield capacity over the entire plan period was around 750 units (taken from parts 1 and 3 of the SHLAA as per the FOI request I made) out of the then remaining 4,000 units to build (or grant permission for) up to 2032.  Since then considerable progress has been made in identifying and in some cases granting permission on additional brownfield sites:

LocationNumber of Dwellings
Guillemont Park Phase 1 (not included as brownfield site in SHLAA) 150
Guillemont Park Phase 2320
Ancells Farm, Fleet370
Bartley Wood, Hook200
Fleet Road, Fleet220
Bramshill House350
Fleet Police Station50
Extra dwellings at Landata House28
Total1,688

All of the dwellings above were not included as brownfield sites in the SHLAA.  Guillemont Park (Sun Park) was in the SHLAA but for a lower number of units, and in Part 2, which was not considered to include brownfield locations.  Since last November revised permission has been granted at Landata House for 28 more dwellings than were included in the 5 year land supply calculation.

If the original 750 units were to be added to the 1,688 units identified above, then that amounts to a total of 2,438 potential units on brownfield.  If it were possible to increase the density (from 30dph to a still reasonable 80dph in urban areas) on the original 750 units, the total identified capacity would rise to some 3,688 units.

The remaining requirement of 4,000 has of course been reduced by the unfortunate decisions to allow development at Watery Lane (300 units) and Hawley Park Farm (126 units) leaving the remaining allocation at 3,574.

It is clear that with some creativity and energy, the gap between the remaining allocation of 3,574 and the currently identified brownfield capacity can be closed by working on a combination of reducing the overall allocation by reducing the SHMA or applying environmental “policy on” considerations, increasing density and finding more brownfield sites.

In the light of this, I welcome the paper that is to be put before Cabinet next week, signalling the more positive approach that the council proposes towards building housing on previously developed land.

I would ask though, that you consider some further steps:

  • Creating a new, formal “reasonable suitable alternative” option of meeting the remaining housing allocation solely through brownfield development.  This option should appear in the consultation paper.
  • Creating a complete database of all of the potential brownfield sites in the district, including those not in the October 2014 SHLAA and those not yet formally promoted to the council, including sites such as Bramshill House, Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), Sun Park, Ancells Farm, Bartley Wood, Fleet High St, Fleet Police Station and all of the run down town centres (e.g. Fleet, Yateley, Blackwater and Hook).
  • Inviting leading architects to compete to produce some visionary outline schemes of what a “brownfield solution” might look like for the district, taking into account changing demographics, changing shopping habits driven by the internet and achievable housing densities.
  • Organising a conference with the architects, land owners, developers and local community representatives with the objective of identifying the art of the possible for brownfield development amongst the competing solutions from the architects.
  • This could be done in conjunction with the neighbouring authorities of Surrey Heath and Rushmoor, particularly given the massive amount of current and forecast vacant employment land and Rushmoor seeking to protect 96 Ha.
  1. To request that future housing stock reflects the needs of the changing demographics of the district.

I set out in a question to council earlier this year that Hart will need to deliver around 2,500 housing units to meet the needs of the ageing population.  I contend that a new town will simply build the wrong type of accommodation in the wrong place to meet those needs.  It would be far better if these were built on brownfield sites in more urban areas, close to amenities such as doctors, post offices, shops and so on.  When the elderly move into these types of development, their well-being improves and of course, they free up conventional housing stock for families.  Could I therefore ask that the forthcoming consultation paper contains specific proposals on how the needs of the ageing population will be met?

  1. To demand the council and government do not plan for any new settlement in Hart that will act as a sink for the unmet housing need in neighbouring areas.

Addressing points 1, 2, 3 & 4 will render a new town unnecessary particularly when you consider the:

I do hope you find these suggestions helpful.  I would be grateful if you could circulate them to planning officers and Cabinet members for their consideration.

Hart Council starts to take brownfield development more seriously

Derelict Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

Derelict Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

Hart District Council is due to consider a new paper designed to encourage development of brownfield land at the next meeting of the Cabinet on 3 September.

The paper contains some interesting proposals in preparation for the Local Plan including:

  • The Portfolio Holder for Planning be delegated authority to identify suitable “zones of residential opportunity areas” on sites or areas where there are vacant offices, including areas where planning permission has been granted for employment use but the development is not proceeding.  We presume this would include sites such as Bartley Wood, Sun Park, Ancells Farm and Pyestock.
  • Suspending policy RUR5, essentially lifting restrictions on converting agricultural buildings to residential use because the policy contravenes the NPPF.
  • Simplifying the administrative burden of converting offices to residential use.
  • Being more flexible on developer contributions whilst continuing to insist upon infrastructure funding and mitigation measures such as Suitable Alternative Natural Green Spaces (SANGs) when close to the Thames Valley Heath SPA.

We Heart Hart welcomes these proposals as a step in the right direction, however, when we submit our suggestions for appropriate responses to the petition, we will be suggesting some additional measures.

Of course, given Hart’s recent history of dismissing the brownfield development opportunities, we will have to satisfy ourselves that this paper is not simply paying lip-service to the Government agenda and ensure that real action follows.

Do we really want to lose the harts from Winchfield, the heart of Hart?

Hart in Heart of Hart, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

Roe deer in the Heart of Hart, Winchfield

Take a look at the lovely picture above, taken yesterday of a roe deer in Winchfield.

Hart District Council should think very carefully before concreting over our green fields and destroying the environment of the beautiful animals that lend their name to our district.

Surely it would be better to re-double the efforts to find brownfield sites to meet our housing needs.

We Heart Hart Petition submitted to Hart District Council

We Heart Hart Campaign Logo

We Heart Hart Campaign Logo

Last Saturday, we submitted the We Heart Hart petition to Hart District Council.  We chose this time so that the petition would be considered before the new proposed restrictions on petitions were able to come into force.  They have now acknowledged receipt of the petition and Council Leader, Stephen Parker will consult we me in due course.

Council rules state that petitions with more than 1,000 signatories will trigger a debate of the full Council.  At the time the petition was submitted there were 2,130 signatories.  This is nearly four times the number of people who responded to Hart’s consultation and more than 10 times the number of people who expressed a preference for a new town.  According to the Council Petition Scheme, the petition may also be debated by Cabinet.

The aims of the petition that all signatories signed up for were:

  • Demand that the Council develops a vision and strategy for Hart that retains its role as a rural, green hinterland for NE Hampshire that respects the separate character and identity of Hart’s settlements and landscapes and preserves the green spaces as amenity space for the urban settlements.

Please comment on this post or on our Facebook page or Twitter feed with your ideas on what we should say at the consultation and for content of the motion to be debated at Council.

Call for Hart Council to work with Winchfield Action Group and We Heart Hart

Cooperation between Hart District Council and We Heart Hart and Winchfield Action Group

Call for Hart District Council to work with We Heart Hart and Winchfield Action Group

Tristram Cary, spokesperson for Winchfield Action Group (WAG) has called for Hart District Council to work with groups like We Heart Hart and WAG in the preparation of the Local Plan instead of refusing to meet and seeking to suppress questions.

Tristram’s call came in an excellent email to the Standards Committee of Hart District Council, asking them to reject the proposals that seek to restrict the questions that can be put and limiting the petitions that can be served upon the Council.  We Heart Hart fully endorse Tristram’s stance which is re-produced in full below:

I wish to register my very strong objection to the proposal to restrict questions and petitions which are to be debated at the Standards Committee on Thursday.

I can understand that it is tiresome for Hart to have to deal with so many questions from the public, and I can understand the view that the questions are being used as a platform to state opinions of groups such as WAG and WeHeartHart. But so what? Isn’t the point of public participation at Council Meetings to allow opinions to be heard, and questions to be asked? Surely an hour a month isn’t a big price to pay for public involvement in the debate?

I would also like to point out that Mr Parker has said in his proposal that “the proper way to deal with such matters [ie planning matters] is to participate in the consultation exercise”. But Hart has decided (illegally in the view of Peter Village QC) to remove the Public Consultation on the Local Plan from the planning process.

As well as objecting to the proposal to restrict questions, I would like to make a more general point.I think that Hart’s attitude to the work of WAG and WeHeartHart has been dismissive. For instance Hart refuses to have a meeting with us to discuss the legal opinion, and the answers given to our questions and suggestions have been on the whole incomplete and unhelpful. Hart’s message appears to be “we have decided what we want to do and we are going to ignore your views to the greatest extent possible”. I suggest that Hart would do well to regard WAG and WeHeartHart as allies in the attempt to arrive at the best possible Local Plan for Hart, backed up by the strongest possible evidence base. WAG and WeHeartHart have got access to funds and expertise, and I see no reason why these resources should not be used in collaboration with Hart DC to do work that is in the common interest of the whole community. I am thinking of work packages such as a study of Brownfield site capacity in Hart and Rushmoor and an ecological/environmental study of Hart to better understand the value of the countryside.

The NPPF (para 155) requires councils to “engage in early and meaningful engagement and collaboration with neighbourhoods, local organisations and businesses…A wide section of the community should be proactively engaged, so that Local Plans, as far as possible, reflect a collective vision and a set of agreed priorities for the sustainable development of the area, including those contained in any neighbourhood plans that have been made”. I think that Hart has so far failed dismally to live up to the spirit of the NPPF. Hart’s engagement with WAG and WeHeartHart has been the exact opposite of proactive, and I think that a change of attitude is long overdue.

I would welcome a meeting between Hart DC and WAG/WeHeartHart to discuss how we might engage together in a more productive way.

Let us hope that Hart Council respond positively to this suggestion and build on the work we did to support the council with the Hop Garden Road (Owens Farm) Hook, appeal and the response to the Rushmoor Local Plan.

Support for urban development bigger than for a new town at Winchfield

Cows in Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

Do we want to lose our cows in Winchfield to concrete?

Hart Council is still saying that “many” people support a new town at Winchfield, but the evidence for this is paper thin.  However, many more people have supported our petition, calling for a brownfield strategy and even Hart’s own consultation showing many others support some form of urban development.

At Hart Council meeting in July it was stated by the council leader that:

“For many people in Hart the Winchfield new settlement option is far preferable to continual growth of existing settlements”

Their evidence for this is the outcome of the consultation that took place between August and October 2014.  The outcome emphasised by the council is Table 1 which shows that by ranking first preferences only, Option 4 (Focused Growth – New Settlement) was the preferred option by only 202 people.  However, the obvious point is far more people voted for a solution other than a new town.

Hart Council Local Plan Consultation Ranking of Responses Table 1

Hart Council Local Plan Consultation Ranking of Responses Table 1

However, Hart Council also published a second table produced by giving a score to each rank ,with 1st rank choices getting 5 points, down to fifth rank choices getting 1 point.

Hart Council Local Plan Consultation Ranking with scoring system Table 2

Hart Council Local Plan Consultation Ranking with scoring system Table 2

As can be seen, this gives the top score to Option 1 (Settlement Focus), second place to Option 4 and a strong showing for Option 3 (Focussed Growth – Strategic Urban Extension).

Since then, of course, the We Heart Hart petition has generated over 2,100 signatures and calls for the vast bulk of our housing requirement to be built on brownfield sites.  However, it is worthwhile considering what Options 1-3 actually meant:

  • Option 1 was described as concentrating new housing development within the existing boundaries of the main settlements and larger villages within Hart. Opportunities would be sought for planned regeneration and change within the settlements, including the potential re-allocation of some employment and other land for residential redevelopment, where the land was no longer required or appropriate for the original purpose.
  • Option 2 would involve allocating new housing development adjacent to each settlement within tiers 1-4 of Hart’s settlement hierarchy. A starting point could be to try and enable growth in proportion to each settlement’s overall size, and could take into account factors such as the existing dwelling stock within those communities, their level of infrastructure capacity and their accessibility by different modes of transport.
  • Option 3 would involve a small number (perhaps one to four) locations being targeted for concentrated growth and development in the form of a major expansion of one or more existing settlements within Hart.

Careful analysis of these options shows that that what they really mean is development within existing urban areas or very close to them.  Taking the raw first preference choices would show that 295 people out of the 550 valid responses, a clear majority, would prefer development within urban areas or close to existing settlements and not a new settlement.

Yet, despite their own evidence from Table 2, the evidence from the We Heart Hart petition and the revised analysis of Table 1, Hart Council has set its course towards a new settlement at Winchfield, despite massive infrastructure issues and big environmental issues associated with the Thames Valley Heath Special Protection Area, several SSSI’s and SINCs.  Moreover, a new town leaves Hart open to becoming a sink for 3,100 houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.

This seems to us to be the flimsiest of evidence on which to build a housing strategy and runs the risk of falling apart under inspection.

 

New houses near Winchfield station will increase congestion

New houses lead to traffic congestion in Hart District

Example of traffic congestion that could happen in Winchfield

A new study by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), has shown that adding houses near railway stations in country areas could see a massive increase in car journeys each week to create additional congestion and delays on roads that are already overloaded.  Of course there is a direct read across from the RTPI analysis to Hart Council’s proposals for a new town at Winchfield, that would inevitably impact Hartley Wintney, Hook, Odiham, Dogmersfield, Crookham Village, Church Crookham and Fleet.

We can estimate how many extra traffic movements there might be from a 5,000 house new town at Winchfield by looking at the Hampshire County Council transport contributions policy.  They estimate 7 trips per average dwelling per day, which would lead to an extra 7 x 5,000 = 35,000 trips per day or 12.8m extra trips per annum on both minor country roads and our already congested wider road network.

Janet Askew, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), said:

“Quite apart from other good reasons why building in the green belt on such a scale might be opposed, these figures demonstrate a fundamental flaw in the reasoning that there is a quick fix and a sustainable solution to the housing crisis by putting large numbers of new homes close to railway stations.”

The RTPI press release went on to say:

“The view of the RTPI is that brownfield sites should be looked at as a priority for housing but not all brownfield sites will be suitable. The housing crisis is complex and will require a number of different policy solutions, such as increasing access to mortgage finance, improving transport and infrastructure, encouraging the house builders to build more homes, and a strong, delivery focussed planning system. Major proposals for new homes, whether they are in the green belt or on brownfield sites, must be preceded by adequate investment in schools, health, transport and other infrastructure, and planned in a strategic and holistic way, with up to date local plans being critical.”

Of course this is consistent with what We Heart Hart has been saying for many months, but Hart Council will not consider adding a brownfield development option into the Local Plan process; won’t look at our alternative 5-point plan and won’t even establish a register of brownfield sites.

The full text of the RTPI press release is shown below:

Using commuting data from  the 2011 Census the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), has today published analysis which finds that adding 1 million homes near railway stations in the Metropolitan London green belt area could see 3.9-7.5 million car journeys each week added to roads which are already struggling with congestion and delays. These findings – Building in the green belt? A report into commuting in the Metropolitan green belt challenge the assumption that building in the green belt around railway stations would see the majority of new residents using the train to get to jobs in London and could therefore be easily accommodated.

Over the past year various think tanks, academics and policy commentators have considered whether green belt boundaries around London should be relaxed in order to ease the housing crisis. These proposals often suggest the release of green belt land within easy walking or cycling distance of key railway stations, land which could provide space for figures upwards of 1 million homes. The assumption behind these proposals is that the majority of new residents will commute by rail to jobs in central London, enabling sustainable housing growth in the wider Metropolitan region without placing excessive strain on existing roads. However the implications of growth on commuting patterns is difficult to predict without looking at those already living in the green belt. Where are these residents travelling for work, and what methods of transport are they using to get there?

The RTPI examined commuting data for five medium-sized towns within the existing Metropolitan green belt, towns which are centred around railway stations and have direct connections to central London. We found that in these five towns, only 7.4% of commuters actually travel to inner London by train on a regular basis, despite living within easy walking or cycling distance of a station. The majority of commuters (72%) instead travel by private vehicle, mostly driving to jobs within their hometown and to other places not in London.

Janet Askew, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), said:
“If 1 million new homes were built in the green belt in this way, this is likely to result in a huge increase in the number of car journeys being made across the green belt to work, and between schools health facilities and stations”.
“Quite apart from other good reasons why building in the green belt on such a scale might be opposed, these figures demonstrate a fundamental flaw in the reasoning that there is a quick fix and a sustainable solution to the housing crisis by putting large numbers of new homes close to railway stations. While it is difficult to predict exactly future commuting patterns, the overwhelming evidence is that people will use their cars and this will result in vastly increased numbers of car journeys in and through the green belt.”

Trudi Elliott, Chief executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), said:
“The outcome of the analysis was surprising given the range of voices calling for housing around railway stations in the green belt. Our data shows, using one region of the green belt, just how complex the issue of commuting patterns is and how unpredictable they are likely to be in the future. The green belt is an important planning tool. Our findings demonstrate that it is vital to have an evidence base before you make major policy.”

The view of the RTPI is that brownfield sites should be looked at as a priority for housing but not all brownfield sites will be suitable. The housing crisis is complex and will require a number of different policy solutions, such as increasing access to mortgage finance, improving transport and infrastructure, encouraging the house builders to build more homes, and a strong, delivery focussed planning system. Major proposals for new homes, whether they are in the green belt or on brownfield sites, must be preceded by adequate investment in schools, health, transport and other infrastructure, and planned in a strategic and holistic way, with up to date local plans being critical. Any development in the green belt continues to need rigorous justification under the planning system and there are many checks and balances in place.

The five towns in the RTPI analysis were: Hemel Hempstead, High Wycombe, Watford, Maidenhead and Bracknell.

The RTPI is also publishing today a short YouTube film and a new public information note explaining the history, background and purpose of the green belt. A recent Ipsos Mori poll found 71% of all age groups knew just a little/ heard of but know nothing/never heard of green belt land. Among the under 34s this was 85% and among the under 24s the figure was 92%.