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,

 

CPRE says most sites yet to be identified on Hart brownfield register

CPRE Hampshire Logo

The CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) have been analysing Hart’s brownfield register. The have concluded that most of the brownfield sites without planning permission are not yet on the register.

CPRE Investigation

Spokespeople for CPRE North East Hampshire, Edward Dawson and Philip Todd said:

“Hart’s pilot Brownfield Register lists all the sites with planning permission that have yet to be built. However, some sites in Hart do not currently have planning permission.

These include a rural site in South Warnborough and the former Pyestock works called Hartland Village.

It suggests that most brownfield sites without planning permission; ones which should form the basis of a new Brownfield Register, are yet to be identified.

CPRE welcomes that Hart has identified sites that can accommodate nearly three times as many homes as it had forecast would come forward from brownfield sites.”

We Heart Hart Analysis

This concurs with our own analysis that showed:

  • All but two of the sites already have planning permission, indeed a number of them have already been built (e.g. Queen Elizabeth Barracks at Church Crookham, Landata House in Hook, and Monachus House in Hartley Wintney).
  • Some of the sites are not even brownfield sites, for example Rifle Range Farm in Hartley Wintney.
  • None of the sites that Hart Council itself identified as brownfield sites in the recent consultation are recorded in the register.
  • None of the other potential sites that have not yet been permitted on Ancells Farm or along Fleet Road have made it on to the register.
  • Very few, if any, of the brownfield sites in the SHLAA that we identified in our brownfield solution, most particularly sites like the former police college at Bramshill House have made it into the register.
  • Over 2,000 of the units in the register have already been granted planning permission, with 1,500 units at Hartland Village (aka Pyestock) and 16 at another site yet to be granted permission.

CPRE in North East Hampshire is encouraging the identification of more brownfield sites across Hart to protect our greenfield sites from unnecessary development.

Hart recommends Grove Farm and Bramshill planning proposals be accepted

Hart District Council recomend approval of Grove Farm Bramshill House planning applications

Hart District Council officers are recommending that the planning application for Netherhouse Copse (aka Grove Farm) and some of the applications to redevelop the former Police College at Bramshill House be granted. This has been revealed in papers recently published to go before the Planning Committee that meets on 14 December 2016. The relevant papers are available for download below.

Netherhouse Copse (Grove Farm)

The Nether House Copse (Grove Farm) application is for 423 dwellings on a green field site on Hitches Lane, Fleet in Hampshire. The controversial proposals have been opposed by a wide range of local community groups including Crookham Village and Dogmersfield Parish Councils and Fleet Town Council. But they have also been supported by various parts of Hampshire County Council and Thames Water amongst others. The planning officers have recommended that the application be granted, subject to certain conditions, and that it should go to full council for ratification. See p176 of the Agenda download below.

Bramshill House Police College

The proposals for the largely brownfield site at Bramshill House are more complex, in that there are a total of 7 applications covering various aspects of the proposed redevelopment.

Applications 2 and 3 (respectively 16/00722/FUL, 16/00724/FUL) cover the conversion of the main Bramshill House, the Stable Block and Nuffield Hall into both a single dwelling house (00722) and offices (00724).  Application 7 (16/01290/FUL) covers the provision of 14.4Ha of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). The officers recommend that these three proposals be granted planning permission, subject to a number of conditions.

Applications 1 (16/00720/FUL), covers converting Bramshill House into 25 dwellings and publically accessible museum space. Application 4 (16/00726/FUL) covers the development of up to 235 dwellings in the grounds of Bramshill House. Application 5 (16/00727/FUL) covers the development of 14 dwellings in a different part of the grounds. Finally Application 6 (16/00728/FUL) is for 9 residential units in an area of the site known as Pinewood.

The officers have asked the Planning Committee for a ‘steer’ on these applications. The applicants have asked that Hart view the development of these additional dwellings as enabling development. This would fund the maintenance of the main Grade I listed building. The Officers have said that applications 1, 4 and 5 are opportunities to recommend the applications for approval, subject to agreeing to total volume of housing. They are not minded to recommend Application 6 for approval.

Analysis

Overall we are opposed to the Netherhouse Copse proposal as this is green field development. We believe there is plenty of brownfield land available to meet our housing needs. We agree in principle that the Bramshill site should be redeveloped. However, we recognise the sensitivity of the site. We would suggest that suitable payments are made for the provision of infrastructure and affordable housing without increasing the number of houses that are built.

We predict fireworks at the Planning Committee, especially after the recent defection of two councillors from the Tories to CCH. The full council meeting on 15 December will be interesting to say the least. As the Kaiser Chiefs might say, “I predict a riot”.

It really is a shame that more councillors and more of the various groups across the district did not get properly behind a brownfield strategy. Plus they did not heed our warnings about the poor management of the Local Plan project. If they had, we might have a brownfield focused Local Plan by now and have a proper defence against the Grove Farm proposals.

Hart Planning Committee Agenda 14 December 2016
Hart Planning Committee Paper about Bramshill House

 

 

St Edward Homes releases Hartland Village consultation material

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

Brownfield Land at Pyestock, Hartland Village Hart District, Hampshire.

St Edwards Homes (part of Berkeley Homes) have released the materials they used in the recent consultation sessions about the proposed Hartland Village.  You can find them on the downloads below. They include the materials used on exhibition boards and a feedback form.

Suggested feedback on Hartland Village

Our feedback would include:

  • More Emphasis to be placed on cycle paths and footpaths to access Fleet railway station and Fleet town centre
  • Improvements required to the surrounding roads to increase capacity and reduce congestion
  • Additional analysis required to help decide if we need a new secondary school in Hart and if so, allocation of some land on this site to provide it, in addition to the primary school
  • Need more detail on the healthcare facilities to be provided

A correspondent has also been in touch asking that St Edward go for a more modern and inspiring approach to the architecture of the buildings.

More detail about the proposals can be found here. We encourage everyone to download the feedback form and send to St Edward: hartlandvillage@glhearn.com.

Hartland Village Exhibition Boards
Hartland Village Feedback Form

Rushmoor seeks to protect brownfield sites from redevelopment

Brownfield sites to be protected from development by Rushmoor Borough Council

Rushmoor Borough Council is to seek to protect many of its brownfield sites from redevelopment using ‘Permitted Development Rights’. The list of sites they are seeking to protect are listed in the image above.

A paper has been submitted to the Cabinet meeting due to take place on 15 November seeking to make a non-immediate Article 4 direction to withdraw permitted development rights related to the change of use of offices, light-industrial units, and storage or distribution units to residential use within the Strategic Employment Sites and the Locally Important Employment Sites.

Our view

We agree that we should not release all of our employment sites for housing, but equally it seems rather odd to be seeking to protect most of the employment sites in Rushmoor. There are literally dozens of vacant offices and light industrial blocks.

Even though Rushmoor Borough Council have committed to met their  housing need within their own borough, this extended level of protection may mean they will seek to offload future housing needs, beyond the current plan period, on to Hart District.

Rushmoor have not sought to protect the sites below, due to their proximity to the Thames Valley Heath SPA:

Brownfield sites not to be protected from development by Rushmoor Borough Council due to proximity to Thames Valley Heath SPA. We Heart Hart

Here is a set of images showing some of the vacant buildings in Rushmoor that Bravehart found last year:

  • We Heart Hart's Mascot - Bravehart
    We Heart Hart's Mascot - Bravehart

Odiham Parish Council to discuss Rye Common Proposals

Rye Common, Odiham, Hart District, Hampshire

The Basingstoke Gazette has run a story about the proposed Rye Common new village development. Odiham Parish Council is going to discuss the proposals for a new village between Odiham and Crondall.  It is clear they are very concerned about the proposals, with chairman saying:

“The parish council are well aware of the consultation being undertaken for a large development at Rye Common, located within the parish of Odiham.

“This has of course created significant interest and indeed concern within our community.”

He added: “While the parish council are required to review all proposals with an open mind, I have heard no local enthusiasm for the scheme and would want to understand how this volume of houses proposed works against HDC’s revised Strategic Housing Market Assessment.”

“It is hard to see any value to our existing community and in my view would significantly impact the character of Odiham and the surrounding of communities.”

We Heart Hart is quoted in the article saying:

“The Rye Common development is simply not required because our housing targets are reducing and there are plenty of brownfield sites available that can meet our housing needs for decades to come.”

More details about the proposals and how to respond to the consultation can be found here.

MoD frees up more brownfield land in Rushmoor

Clayton Barracks, Aldershot in Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire

The Ministry of Defence has announced the closure of 91 sites across the country as part of the ongoing restructuring to free up more brownfield sites in Rushmoor Borough.

Five of these sites are in Aldershot, which of course is in the Borough of Rushmoor.  The sites are:

  • Fitzwygram House (Royal Army Veterinary Corps Centre), Aldershot
  • Thornhill barracks, Aldershot
  • Aldershot distribution outlet
  • Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Aldershot
  • Clayton barracks, Aldershot

We can understand that these closures will be alarming for those working there. However, the positive news is that more brownfield sites are being freed up in Rushmoor, meaning they have more capacity to meet their own housing needs in future planning periods. This should help Hart Council in the production of the Hart Local Plan.

CPRE find that more than 1 million homes can be built on brownfield sites

CPRE find more than 1 million homes can be built on brownfield land

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) has conducted a new study and found that more than 1 million new homes can be built on brownfield sites across the country.

The CPRE has used the Government’s own pilot brownfield register scheme to calculate that suitable brownfield sites can provide between 1.1 and 1.4 million new homes.

CPRE studied the findings of 53 councils that have published their data on suitable sites, and found that these areas alone could provide 273,000 homes. Comparing this new data with the last available data from 2010-2012, CPRE noted an 11% increase in the number of homes that could be provided on suitable sites. Planning permissions for such sites has increased by 21%. The number of suitable sites being identified has gone up by 50%.

Applying the same 11% increase to the 2010-2012 figures for the whole country gives a new estimated minimum capacity of 1.1 million homes on suitable brownfield sites.

Hart District Council was a participant in the pilot brownfield register scheme, but missed out many brownfield sites from their register, so if anything the CPRE study will underestimate the brownfield capacity.

Let us hope Hart adopts its own brownfield first strategy to meet the remaining housing need in the forthcoming draft Hart Local Plan.

 

Hartland Village (Pyestock) public exhibitions to be held in November

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

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

St Edwards (part of Berkeley Homes) will be holding public exhibitions in November about its proposed Hartland Village development on the former Pyestock brownfield site to the east of Fleet, Hampshire.

The details of the events are shown below, together with a download of their flyer.

  • Saturday 12th November 2016, 10am-4pm at Harlington Centre, 236 Fleet Rd, Fleet GU51 4BY,
  • Monday 14th November 2016, 3:30pm-8:30pm at Farnborough Community Centre, Meudon Avenue, Farnborough GU14 7LE

More details can be found at the consultation website, here.

We suggest that the people who attend these events focus on:

  • Provision of essential infrastructure, such as primary and secondary schooling
  • Environmentally friendly access to Fleet station and town centre, with cycle lanes
  • Proper road access to the M3 and major road network.

Of course we must also ensure that the design of the new dwellings are attractive and that the nearby Fleet Pond reserve is adequately protected.

Hartland Village public exhibitions

 

Fleet News demands action on Local Plan as Hart comes under siege

Fleet News Hart must get a Local Plan in place now

Today’s Fleet News has run an important series of stories on the sorry state of the Local Plan in Hart District. Most importantly, they have run a comment piece demanding that Hart get the Local Plan in place now to protect us from the voracious developers who are putting Hart under siege by developing proposals for big green field developments we don’t need at places like Winchfield, Murrell Green, Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase), Grove Farm (Nether House Copse) and now the Rye Common new village proposal.

If one or more of these green field developments goes ahead before an application is made to redevelop the Pyestock (Hartland Village) site we may well end up with our green fields been ripped up whilst the derelict brownfield site is left undeveloped.

But without a new Local Plan and without up to date policies, Hart is essentially defenceless against the proposals. Moreover, the further delay to the Local Plan means that there is a real risk the Government will step in to do the Local Plan for us if the plan is not in place by early 2017.

The articles from Fleet News can be found on the links below:

Hart under siege from developers’ plans to build over Hart

Hart must get a Local Plan in place now

Hart District Council slashes number of new homes