Response to Hook Action Against Over Development

Which would you rather preserve - derelict eyesore or our wildlife?

Which would you rather preserve – derelict eyesore or our countryside and wildlife?

Hook Action Against Over Development have written an article on their website which has been shared on Facebook, criticising both our support of a brownfield solution to our housing needs and the statement from the CPRE saying that the Winchfield New Town proposal was the worst site and the worst option for development.

We re-produce their article below, together with our responses in blue:

There has been a lot of talk about brownfield development and some claims that a new settlement is not necessary because brownfield housing development can provide for all of Hart’s housing needs. Brownfield housing development is the reuse of property or land for residential use where it was previously used for something else, for example office space, industrial land, military use or farm buildings.

Yes, we do believe that all of Hart’s remaining housing need can be met from brownfield sites, and we have set out the case and our plan here and here.  This draws on sites in the SHLAA at only ~26 dwellings per hectare (dph) and the work of the Stonegate Report, plus we have added the civic area that Fleet Future recommended for redevelopment and Fleet Town Council have raised their council tax to fund the costs of preparing a redevelopment plan.

One group in particular from outside of Hook is putting forward the suggestion that the Hart consultation is a simple choice between brownfield and greenfield development. But no matter how much they repeat it does not make it any more true. The CPRE, an organisation with laudable aims, appears to have now fallen for this fiction and hijacking of the term “sustainable development”.

We believe they are referring to We Heart Hart.  We believe the CPRE have not put forward an actual plan, but have clearly stated that they think that a new town at Winchfield is the worst site and worst option for development in Hart.  Sustainable development was defined by the Sustainable Development Commission as:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The concept of sustainable development can be interpreted in many different ways, but at its core is an approach to development that looks to balance different, and often competing, needs against an awareness of the environmental, social and economic limitations we face as a society.

We believe that sustainable development does not include concreting over the equivalent of 25 football pitches per year of green fields and leaving untouched, vacant, decaying office blocks. A new settlement would compromise future generations by needlessly concreting over hundreds of hectares of green fields, depriving future generations of the health benefits of the countryside. The economics of the proposals don’t stack up, requiring ~£350m of infrastructure spending, money that neither Hart nor Hampshire County Council have, especially now that HCC is facing an £81m per annum funding deficit. 

Hart’s housing strategy is brownfield first, but Hart cannot propose development on sites that are in commercial use or that have not been put forward for housing. If they were to do so then the Local Plan would fail inspection again at the first hurdle and this would be a disaster. Even hypothetically utilising these unavailable brownfield sites would demand construction at inner city density in order to meet Hart’s objectively assessed housing need. We cannot believe that CPRE are promoting building at such a density in Hart. That would not be sustainable.

We agree that sites need to be developable and eventually deliverable and nobody wants to see the Local Plan fail. Back in September, Hart Council said that they thought the brownfield capacity was 1,800 units.  Miraculously, this has fallen by 75% to only 450 units in the consultation. However, as described above, most of the sites we have put forward are in the SHLAA and in no worse state of deliverability than those put forward for consultation. The other sites are in the Stonegate report and we understand Stonegate are working hard to secure these sites.  The average density for the SHLAA sites is less than Hart’s planning rule of thumb at 26dph, and the Stonegate sites are at no higher density than developments that Hart has granted permission for such as the McCarthy & Stone’s recent development on Fleet Road which many people think is an attractive building.

Hart are actually consulting on which of Hart’s green fields should be selected for housing in the event that there is insufficient brownfield land to meet the housing need. Given the vast expansion of the existing towns and villages in Hart already, with Hook alone having a 25% expansion approved for this Local Plan period, the only suitable and truly sustainable option is a new settlement to allow for a planned increase in infrastructure. Just expanding existing towns and villages either piecemeal or with “urban extensions” is still building on green fields, but in a way that will not provide the opportunity to build extra schools, roads and health facilities that the thousands of new Hart residents will require. That would not be sustainable.

The proposed new town will in fact deliver over 1,800 houses in Hook Parish, which is more than the proposed urban extension and more than the undeveloped brownfield sites.  To be clear, we do not support urban extensions either because we believe all of the remaining need can be met on brownfield sites. The infrastructure costs for a new town do not stack up and a new town will do nothing to close the large £12.2m existing infrastructure funding gap in Hook, and £20.7m gap in Fleet and Church Crookham. No evidence has been presented that we need a new secondary school and the funding for a new town will not address existing road bottlenecks, nor will there be sufficient funding to address the roads requirements of a new town. We repeat, we do not believe concreting over 25 football pitches each year is at all sustainable.

Elimination of all potential commercial property space in Hart is in fact extremely short-sighted. Even the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership which is urging more housing would not want to see commercial space becoming rare and expensive. There is already an acknowledged shortage within Hart of small business units and light industrial space. Larger available office space provides options for small local businesses to grow without leaving the area. A thriving local economy needs a balance of housing and business to provide employment opportunities locally and avoid all of these new residents having to take to the roads and railways to commute out of the area for work on already busy transport links. That would not be sustainable.

Nobody is saying that all of the vacant commercial space be handed over to housing.  But even the Employment Land Review, based as it is on the inflated Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) and the inflated jobs forecasts, suggests that there will be around 600,000 sq m of vacant employment space across the Housing Market Area at the end of the plan period and Rushmoor was planning to “protect” 96 Ha of vacant brownfield sites that simply are not needed. If there was such a shortage of offices or of light industrial space, places like the Murrell Green Estate would not have the big vacancies they currently have. Of course it would be more sustainable to free up some of these spaces and redevelop them for residential use rather than leave them to rot and decay.

There is very little brownfield land in Hart but there is an amusing “brownfield site slideshow”, made available by campaigners whose aim is to push development away from their village, to supposedly “demonstrate” how much brownfield land is available for housing. If you happen to see it, do bear in mind that:

  • Several of the sites are already being developed for housing (and therefore counted in existing housing build numbers!) such as Landata House and Greenwell in Hook, Sun Park and others.
  • Several of the sites are being converted to other commercial uses, e.g. Warehousing at Pyestock and retail development on Fleet Road where M&S are looking to move to an expanded new store.
  • Several of the sites are in fact just one vacant floor(or even a partial floor) in an otherwise occupied office building!

Now perhaps the future really is an office building with some adjacent floorspace being residential, but can anyone imagine this being attractive to either residential or commercial tenants?!

The fact that some of the sites have already been taken up for redevelopment simply proves our case and shows it can be done.  Our brownfield solution has taken account of the sites that are already underway. Work at Hartland Park (aka Pyestock) stopped years ago, and there is no sign of it re-starting.  The owners will not wish to keep an expensive site forever generating no returns. Of course if M&S moves into another Fleet Road site, then they will leave behind a different vacant block to go with the many other vacant units in the Hart Centre.

There are plenty of examples of mixed residential and commercial use, both in this country and on the continent.  Nobody is suggesting this should happen without comprehensive redevelopment.

This current consultation is clearly not about a choice between brownfield and greenfield development, it is about the best way to provide Hart’s required housing with essential supporting infrastructure and only a new settlement can achieve that. For more, please refer to our previous article hookdevaction.org.uk/hart-housing-consultation-restarted-your-action-needed.

The Hartley Winchook new town is not required, it not viable because of the flood risks and the massive, unfunded infrastructure costs, and will not be sustainable in any sense of the word. There is a brownfield alternative, and we should seize that opportunity.

 

 

Here are the slideshows of vacant brownfield sites we have found in Hart and Rushmoor:

 

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

 

If you would like to ask Hart to abandon the new town and urban extension ideas and create a brownfield solution to our housing needs, we urge you to respond to the Hart District Council consultation about the Local Plan and ask them to think again. We have created a dedicated consultation page, updated our two guides to responding to the consultation and they 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.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

Urban areas not taking their fair share of development 2001-2032 Part 3

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District Dispersal 2001-2032

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District Dispersal 2001-2032

Our previous posts (here and here) about the level of development that will be faced by the different parishes under the different development proposals put forward by Hart District have been criticised for two reasons:

  1. That the parishes are grouped in to clusters and,
  2. That the analysis does not go back far enough in time

The answer to the first point is that unfortunately, Hart have only provided the development from 2011-2015 in the parish groupings shown, so there is no other way of presenting the data and still maintaining accuracy.

In answer to the second point, we have now incorporated the census data from 2001 into the calculations, so now it is possible to see the percentage increase in the same parish clusters from 2001-2032 and from 2011-2032.  The results in graphical and tabular form are shown above and below. This data for dispersal shows that Fleet, Church Crookham and Crookham Village will not take more proportionate development than many other areas of Hart such as Hook, Hartley Wintney and the “Other” rural districts.  But it does show that Yateley and Blackwater have taken least proportionate development over both time periods and the smaller rural districts would take a very large proportionate increase if this strategy were pursued to the fullest extent.

First, the dispersal approach, the graph is shown above, and the table below:

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District Dispersal Table 2001-2032

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District Dispersal Table 2001-2032

Second, the urban extension approach below. This shows that Hook will take the largest proportionate development using this approach over both time periods and Crookham Village will also see a very large proportionate increase in housing. Again Yateley and Blackwater are relatively unscathed, with the smaller rural districts taking relatively little proportionate development.  This would point towards a need for some more dispersal towards those districts, but not to the full extent described above:

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District Urban Extensions 2001-2032

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District Urban Extensions 2001-2032

 

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District Urban Extensions Table 2001-2032

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District Urban Extensions Table 2001-2032

And finally, the new town approach. This shows again that Hook parish would bear a large proportionate increase in housing, plus the Winchfield part of “Others” would also bear a massive increase in housing, with Winchfield enduring a 6-fold increase during the plan period, with much more thereafter.

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District New Town 2001-2032

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District New Town 2001-2032

 

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District New Town Table 2001-2032

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District New Town Table 2001-2032

To us, this points to the need to redouble efforts to rebalance the housing proposals and redouble efforts to find a brownfield solution.

If you would like to ask Hart to abandon the new town and urban extension ideas and create a brownfield solution to our housing needs, we urge you to respond to the Hart District Council consultation about the Local Plan and ask them to think again. We have created a dedicated consultation page and 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.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

Urban Areas not taking their fair share of homes part 2

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District New Town

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District New Town

Further to our post of yesterday, that showed the impact by parish of following a dispersal strategy, we have now created graphs to show the impact by parish of urban extensions and a new town.  In each case, it shows that the urban areas of the district are not taking their fair share of housing.

This demonstrates to us the need to step up efforts to follow a brownfield strategy and re-find the 1,400 units on brownfield sites that Hart lost after saying that 1,800 units on brownfield land could be readily quantified back in September 2015.

First, let’s take at the new town strategy.  The chart showing the %-age increase in dwellings by parish from 2011 to 2032 if we followed a new town strategy to meet the remaining need from now on is shown above.  The table showing how this has been calculated is shown below:

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District New Town Table

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District New Town Table

Of course, only 2,000 of the full 5,000 will be delivered before 2032.  We have distributed these across Winchfield (in others) and Hook parish in the same ratio of the overall delivery shown in the SHLAA.  However, the secret plan from the Winchfield Consortium showed the Murrell Green sites would be developed first, so this may understate the impact on Hook.

Now, let’s take a look at the Urban Extension option.  he chart showing the %-age increase in dwellings by parish from 2011 to 2032 if we followed an urban extension strategy to meet the remaining need from now, together with the table showing how this has been calculated are shown below:

[Update: The West of Fleet urban extension is actually in Crookham Village Parish so chart and table updated to show that]

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District Urban Extensions 201-2032

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District Urban Extensions 201-2032

 

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District Urban Extensions Table 2001-2032

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District Urban Extensions Table 2001-2032

The urban extensions are at Pale Lane which is split across Elvetham Heath and Hartley Wintney parishes, west of Hook which is in Hook parish and west of Fleet (in Crookham Village Parish].

Finally, let’s re-look at the dispersal strategy, we covered in yesterday’s post:

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District - dispersal strategy

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District – dispersal strategy

Parish  2011 Census Dwellings 2011-2015 % of total  2011-2015 Number 2011-2015 % increase  Dispersal Proposal 2011-2032 % Increase
Crookham Village 1,630 7% 322 19.8% 177 31%
Elvetham Heath, Fleet, Church Crookham, Ewshot 14,879 45% 2,070 13.9% 466 17%
Hartley Wintney 2,222 10% 460 20.7% 290 34%
Hook 3,111 19% 874 28.1% 204 35%
Odiham/Long Sutton/ South Warnborough 3,142 5% 230 7.3% 583 26%
Yateley/ Blackwater 9,826 11% 506 5.1% 480 10%
Others 2,526 3% 138 5.5% 1,027 46%
Total 37,336 100% 4,600 12.3% 3,227 21%

If you would like to ask Hart to abandon the new town and urban extension ideas and create a brownfield solution to our housing needs, we urge you to respond to the Hart District Council consultation about the Local Plan and ask them to think again. We have created a dedicated consultation page and 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.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

 

Fleet, Elvetham Heath, Crookham Village, Yateley, Blackwater and Ewshot not taking their fair share of housing

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District

Proposed percentage increase in dwellings by parish in Hart District.

Hart Council has published a lot of data related to the new consultation.  We have taken a look at it, come to the conclusion that the combination of the houses built or permitted since 2011, plus the proposals for dispersal show that our urban areas are not taking their fair share of housing. We think that Hart District should be trying harder to find brownfield sites in Fleet, Yateley and Blackwater to redress the balance and save our countryside (see slider of sites below).

Which would you rather preserve - derelict eyesore or our wildlife?

Which would you rather preserve – derelict eyesore or our wildlife?

The chart above shows the %-age increase in dwellings by parish by combining the data shown in the table in para 30 of the main consultation document. This gives the distribution of dwellings built or permitted since 2011:

Split of dwellings built or permitted since 2011 by Parish

Split of dwellings built or permitted since 2011 by Parish

It did look odd to us that the parishes of Elvetham Heath, Fleet, Church Crookham and Ewshot should be grouped together like they were to give the impression that these parishes had already taken a lot of housing.  Of course if you combine a number of parishes together, then it is obvious that their combined contribution is going to be larger than the individual parishes to which they are compared.

So, we started with the census data for the number of dwellings by parish, and combined them together in the same way Hart had, then added on the number of houses implied by the figure above, then added the number of houses proposed by the dispersal option and expressed the result as a %-age increase on the number of dwellings that were there in 2011:

Parish  2011 Census Dwellings 2011-2015 % of total  2011-2015 Number 2011-2015 % increase  Dispersal Proposal 2011-2032 % Increase
Crookham Village 1,630 7% 322 19.8% 177 31%
Elvetham Heath, Fleet, Church Crookham, Ewshot 14,879 45% 2,070 13.9% 466 17%
Hartley Wintney 2,222 10% 460 20.7% 290 34%
Hook 3,111 19% 874 28.1% 204 35%
Odiham/Long Sutton/ South Warnborough 3,142 5% 230 7.3% 583 26%
Yateley/ Blackwater 9,826 11% 506 5.1% 480 10%
Others 2,526 3% 138 5.5% 1,027 46%
Total 37,336 100% 4,600 12.3% 3,227 21%

This shows that the urban areas that include Fleet, Yateley and Blackwater will take the lowest %-age increase in housing. Whereas, places like Hook, Hartley Wintney and the other rural parishes  are going to take massive %-age increases in housing.

Of course, a new town would disproportionately impact Winchfield, but would also lead to 1,800 further houses in Hook and effectively join those parishes to Hartley Wintney, into a giant Hartley WInchook conurbation.  Even the proposed urban extensions will further increase the pressure on Hartley Wintney and Hook.

One of the proposed extensions, the so-called Pale Lane extension (SHL 52) is largely in Hartley Wintney Parish, and another of the extensions is to the west of Hook (SHL 173).

If you would like to ask Hart to abandon the new town and urban extension ideas and create a brownfield solution to our housing needs, we urge you to respond to the Hart District Council consultation about the Local Plan and ask them to think again. We have created a dedicated consultation page and 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.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

 

How to respond to the new consultation

How to respond to Hart District Council's (HDC) new consultation on the Local Plan

How to respond to the new consultation

Hart Council’s new consultation on the Local Plan 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.

You might want to wait until we have received the results of 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 before responding.

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.  However, we have to respond to the questions put in front of us, so for Question 4, 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. You might wish to add in the comments that you want to see a stronger focus on brownfield development and that you would like to see the council meet the needs of the young by building more affordable 1 and 2-bed properties (around 3,800) and build the full allocation of specialist accommodation for the elderly (around 2,500 units).

For Question 5, we suggest you rank the approaches as follows: Approach 4: 1, Approach 5: 4, Approach 6: 3, Approach 7: 2.

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:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

Full guide for a more complete response to all questions:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

Hart Council: Keep Calm and Hide the Facts

Hart District Council (HDC) Keep Calm and Hide the Facts 2

Hart Council Keep Calm and Hide the Facts

Readers will recall that at the Hart Council Meeting last week, senior councillors refused to answer some questions and gave vague and unsatisfactory answers to those questions.  The council has now published the full exchange on their website.  We give our view on what they really meant below.  We ask readers to bear in mind Hart’s Code of Corporate Governance which has as its four key principles:

  • Openness: openness is required to ensure stakeholders can have confidence in the decision making and management processes of the Council.
  • Inclusiveness: an inclusive approach ensures that all stakeholders and have the opportunity to engage effectively in the decision-making processes and actions of the Council.
  • Integrity: is based upon honesty, selflessness and objectivity, and high standards of propriety and probity in the stewardship of public funds and management of the Council’s affairs.
  • Accountability: accountability is the process whereby the Council, members and staff are responsible for their decisions and actions regarding all aspects of the Council’s work

Here is the full set of questions and answers, abridged and with our interpretation below in blue:

Question 1: Given that a) in October 2013, you were quoted as saying we would submit a new version of the Local Plan to the Inspector in Autumn 2014 and b) in each subsequent year this has slipped by a further year, with the current LDS indicating a local plan ready for submission in Winter 2016, will you now publish the detailed project plan to support this target, so we can be assured that project management processes have improved?

Answer: It was our intention to proceed with a revised Core Strategy after the withdrawal of the 2013 version. However, as many will well know, the Government changed the nature of Local Plans and we also had to address the issue of a new SHMA to overcome the defects blah….blah….blah…

Blah…blah..blah…The Local Development Scheme is the council’s three-year project plan that identifies which local development documents will be produced, in what order, and when. We do not propose to publish more background information on internal workings because that offers no practical advantage to anyone. There is already proper scrutiny of the Local Plan progress with all members of the Council having the opportunity to be actively engaged.

We also last summer enlisted the support of Chris Dorn to lend project management support. His work has been invaluable and he gave positive and independent feedback to the Hart District Association of Parish and Town Councils.

Finally, we have now full project management arrangements from our neighbours at East Hampshire District Council, who have recent and relevant experience of bringing a local plan through Examination to adoption.

What they really meant: Here’s some blather and vague implausible excuses why we haven’t been able to publish a Local Plan when 82% of Local Councils have managed to do it. There’s no way that we are going to publish the project plan, because we don’t want to be held accountable for any future slippage.

Question 2: Given that in January 2015, HDC commissioned work to test the proposed new settlement and urban extensions with the objectives to test the “deliverability of a new settlement and/or urban extension (ie [sic] suitability, availability and achievability)”, including a land use budget; provide “indicative costing of the major infrastructure items needed”; and consider viability including the “infrastructure requirements of sites to identify likely infrastructure impacts, subsequent costs and potential funding sources”, can you explain if these objectives have been met, and say when the results will be published?

Answer: The current position on testing is set out in the Refined Housing Options Paper. It specifically highlights and comments on where we have got to with the issue of testing. As paragraph 12 we say:

“The testing we decided to undertake is still ongoing as is the testing of all other options. The testing will go on in some form or other right up until we finalise the submission Local Plan. There is still much work to be done, but we have reached a point where we can now ask you if we are on the right track”.

We then go on to summarise on pages 9 and 10 what outcomes have been received from the testing that we have carried out so far.

The outcome of the testing will therefore, inform both the draft Local Plan and will inform the submitted Local Plan in that it will comprise part of the evidence base. All these documents will be published at the appropriate time and everyone will have the right to comment upon them when the Local Plan is independently examined by an Inspector appropriated by the Secretary of State.

What they really meant: No, we haven’t met the objectives.  If we actually finished the testing, it would likely show that a new town in Winchfield is not viable and we wouldn’t want to be transparent about that would we?

Supplementary Question: All of the sites identified to make up the new town and urban extensions are listed in the SHLAA as “Not currently developable”, we have no costing of roads, bridges, railway improvements, sewage, sports or community facilities and we have no land use budget that includes SANG, so why are you consulting on a new town that is not deliverable, as well as excluding brownfield sites for the same reason?

Answer: This is part of the consultation. Brownfield sites are only deliverable if the landowner puts them forward for development. Brownfield sites may not be deliverable for other reasons, but once they are put forward as a SHLAA site they can be considered. [Note:  Although not recorded in the minutes Cllr Parker did go on to say words to the effect that many of the green field sites put forward were not currently developable because to do develop them would be contrary to current policies and they would look to change their policies as part of the Local Plan]

What they really meant: How dare you ask me for facts? Of course, we will change our policies to get a new town at all costs, just like we changed the questions in the consultation.

Question 3: Given that an FOI request to elicit the evidence to support the assertion made at cabinet (Paper E 5.2) in September 2015, and in Hart news (p2), that brownfield capacity for the district was 1,800 units has failed, are we to conclude that the council and public were misled in September, or will you now produce the evidence and ensure that any new consultation includes a proper stand-alone option for brownfield sites?

Answer: Nobody was misled by this council. The FOI request did not fail.

The Freedom of Information requests were dealt with blah…blah.blah…

Blah..blah..One key point that seems to be missed in the question is that there can be no standalone option for “brownfield sites” because the evidence suggests that there is not enough deliverable ‘brownfield land’ available to meet all our need for new homes because too few suitable sites are being promoted as being available by developers or landowners. Blah…blah…

[Note: Here is the answer given to the FOI request: “With regards to the first request, we do not hold that information.” and also note that none of the other options put forward were able to meet the remaining needs on their own either.]

What they really meant: Of course, it was a mistake to publish the real brownfield capacity, but we’re not going to publish how we arrived at the figure. We are doing our best to erase that from history and push on for a new town. 

Question 4: You will recall that I wrote to you on 20 November 2015, highlighting discrepancies between the consultation materials and SHLAA, the most important point being point 4 (and appendix) showing the very different site capacities in the New Homes Booklet compared to the official evidence base, the SHLAA; can you now give an explanation of those discrepancies and will they be corrected before any new consultation is carried out?

Answer: I understand from the Council’s Planning Policy Manager that you have already received
an explanation about the differences between the SHLAA and the New Homes Sites Booklet regarding site capacities (email from the Planning Policy Manager sent on 23rd December 2015).

That response explained that:

“In preparing the consultation papers we drew on not only the SHLAA but also more recent information where it was available. Such information includes the high level site assessments prepared by Adams Hendry and the shortlisting exercise work (available at http://www.hart.gov.uk/Evidence-base ), pre-application plans, recent planning permissions, and any recent changes to site boundaries. These can all influence the sites that are shown in the documents. The SHLAA itself will be updated next year.”

The plan is to publish an updated SHLAA in the summer of 2016 to reflect the best information available at that time including data on annual completions which becomes available around June each year. [Note:  I did point out that I had written back to them on 12 January making clear that Point 4, amongst others, had not been answered].

What they really meant: We deliberately make it all very confusing, and who cares if the material we send out to the electorate doesn’t match the official evidence we spent loads of your money to produce and published at the same time as the consultation.

Question 5: Given that the SHMA (section 9.33) calls for 60-70% of our 7,534 housing need (or around 4,900) to be met from 1 & 2-bed properties, can you give a breakdown by number of bedrooms, of the 4,500 or so dwellings built or permitted since 2011 and tell us how many more 1 & 2 bed homes need to be built out of the remaining ~3,000 to be permitted to meet the need expressed in the SHMA? [Note: is has subsequently emerged that the preamble to this question did contain a mistake, and the need for 1 & 2-bed properties is ~3,800 units, but that doesn’t take away the need for Hart Council to measure how well it is meeting the need, nor does it stop the question being answered].

Answer by Chairman: This is a technical research question and does not form part of any current Council workstream. This is not the proper forum to be used to elicit the use of Council resources in pursuit of your own personal research. I say this because the information that you seek is already published.

You can obtain the information by accessing all the planning application details of applications submitted and determined which is published on the online Public Access system.

I would also point out that section 9.33 of the SHMA relates to affordable housing and not general housing mix. It may be you have missed out a few words which fundamentally alters the meaning of your question. [Note: I asked by email immediately after the meeting where this information can be found and have received no response].

What they really meant: You just don’t get it do you?  This isn’t about facts or meeting the needs of Hart residents it’s about getting a new town. Of course we’re not going to tell you how well or badly we are meeting the needs of local residents nor information that might suggest that a new town is not the right answer.  Where would we be if we were transparent?

Question 6: Given that the SHMA (Figure 10.15) calls for around 2,500 specialist units for the elderly, split into various categories to be built in Hart under the Local Plan, can you tell us how many of these units have been built or permitted since 2011, how many remain to be permitted and what you consider to be the best types of location for these types of accommodation?

Answer: The part of the question seeking statistics is appropriate to an FOI request and thus specifically outside the scope of a question at council. I have therefore asked that this request is handled under FOI rules. You will thus receive a formal response under that protocol. Blah…blah…

Blah…blah…This approach is exactly in accordance with government policy as set out in Paragraph: 003 Reference ID: 12-003-20140306 of the updated September 2015 National Planning Policy Guidance.

What they really meant: Meeting the needs of the elderly is not our priority and you must be joking if you think we are going to publish any information that shows we’re not meeting their needs.  We want loads more detached houses in the countryside from a new town and urban extensions.

Supplementary: How can the young who need the affordable 1 & 2-bed dwellings and elderly have confidence in the Local Plan process when the leader doesn’t know what we need to build to meet their needs?

Answer: This will be dealt with under the FOI request.

What they really meant: How many more times do we have to explain, we don’t do facts? This isn’t about meeting the needs of local people.  It’s all about getting a new town at all costs.

Question 7: What are the risks that a second consultation “anticipated to be run again from late January”, will be a further waste of Hart residents’ money, when the revised SHMA is due “early in 2016” and a revised employment land review is also being prepared, thus meaning that the evidence base is likely to change significantly during the consultation, leading to a further consultation being required?

Answer: It would be premature to speculate on the outcome of the refresh of the SHMA. Data sets change all the time and all we are looking at is one single snap shot of a combination of changing data sets…blah…blah…

What they really meant: I don’t care about risks and I don’t care about your money, I want a new town. The new SHMA will likely show a big reduction in the housing need so we won’t need to build 3,000 houses for Surrey Heath and Rushmoor and we’ll be able to meet all Hart’s remaining needs from brownfield sites. If that were put to residents they wouldn’t vote for a new town or urban extensions and where would that leave us?

Question 8: Who instigated, who authorised and who will take responsibility for each decision to repeatedly change the materials in the recent consultation part way through?

Answer by Chairman: I am directing that this question is not to be answered. This is because, as Mr Turver knows, it forms the basis of a separate investigation by Overview and Scrutiny and indeed, Mr Turver has been party to representations made pursuant to that investigation. It would therefore be wholly inappropriate to enter into discussions in public without all the facts surrounding the events that resulted in the early curtailment of the Refined Housing Options consultation having first been investigated by Overview and Scrutiny Committee. [Note: Cllr Bailey did make the point that the O&S work is a review, not an investigation and he did not intend that review to act as block on members of the public asking questions].

What they really meant: How dare you ask us to be open, transparent and accountable for our actions? 

Supplementary: We’ve heard tonight that you have failed with the last consultation, haven’t got a grip on the timeline, project management or the quality and content of the outputs, isn’t it time that you and the rest of the Local Plan Steering Group did the decent thing and resigned?

Answer: I do intend to do the decent thing and deliver the local plan.

What they really meant: We can’t have someone in charge who might actually look at the evidence and try and meet the real needs of Hart residents can we?  

 

Hart Council refuses to answer questions about the Local Plan

Dad's Army Hart District Council (HDC) refuse to answer questions and don't like it up 'em

Dad’s Army Hart Council don’t like it up ’em

In a quite astonishing development Hart Council refused to answer most of the questions I put to them last night. Most worrying was they refused to answer the questions about how well we are meeting the housing needs expressed in the SHMA.

I was told it was inappropriate use of council resources to further my own research into how well we are meeting the needs of the young with 1 and 2-bed dwellings and was told I should submit an FOI request to find out how many specialist units for the elderly we had built or permitted since 2011 (see SHMA figures 9.8 and 10.15 below). This is despite the SHMA itself (para 9.28) calling for the councils to use the data in the SHMA to monitor their own performance and ensure that future delivery is not unbalanced.

We think this obfuscation is outrageous and we are most concerned that the council refused to answer the questions about how well they are meeting the needs of Hart residents.  So we think it is time for some people power. I ask everyone to help me find out by downloading the suggested text below and emailing it to their councillor and copying in leader, Stephen Parker and chairman, Alan Oliver. You can find your own councillors here, and the email addresses of Stephen Parker and Alan Oliver are stephen.parker@hart.gov.uk and alan.oliver@hart.gov.uk respectively.

How well are we meeting the SHMA requirements?

In, addition, they said they would not publish the new project plan for the Local Plan, nor would they say how they arrived at the conclusion that brownfield capacity for the district was 1,800 units as they said at cabinet in September and in Hart News.

They refused to say who would take responsibility for the consultation debacle, saying it might interfere with the review being carried out by Overview and Scrutiny Committee (O&S).  I have to thank Stuart Bailey, chairman of O&S, who said that he did not intend his review to act as a block to the public asking questions, but this did not alter the view of chairman Alan Oliver that they were not going to answer.

We also learned that apparently the discrepancies between the site capacities shown in the New Homes Booklet and the official evidence base of the SHLAA, don’t matter. They were also very cagey on laying out the risks that the consultation may have to be run a third time when the new SHMA is released next month.

We did find out that the costs of re-running the consultation will be £13,000, although we didn’t find out how much the failed one cost us. We also learned that East Hampshire Council planners will effectively be running the Local Plan on Hart’s behalf now.

Leader Stephen Parker refused to resign when called upon to do so, after presiding over this unholy mess.

We will publish the full text of the questions and answers once they are available on Hart’s website.

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 9.8

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 9.8

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 10.15

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 10.15

 

 

Questions to Hart Council 28 January 2016

Hart District Council Offices, We Heart Hart. We Love Hart

Hart District Council Offices in Fleet, Hampshire.

After the Local Plan consultation debacle, we have put a series of questions to Hart Council that will be answered at their meeting on 28 January 2016.  Please do come along if you can.

The full questions can be found on the download below, and cover whether Hart Council has a project plan we can believe in; the progress (or otherwise) made in testing the Winchfield new town proposals; what happened to the 1,800 dwellings that Hart said in September could be built on brownfield sites; discrepancies between the consultation documents and the official SHLAA; how well we are meeting the needs of the young and elderly; the risks of re-running the consultation now, given the housing target (SHMA) is about to change and of course, seeking clarity on who instigated and authorised the fateful changes to the consultation materials part way through.

Questions for Council 28 Jan 16

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Consultation ends in farce

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the omnishambles Consultation.

Consultation ends in farce

Fleet News and Mail has carried the story of the Hart Local Plan consultation omnishambles in its 20 January 2016 edition.  The full article can be found on this large image here. Now also online.

They cover our call for significant change in the Local Plan project, including replacing the Local Plan Steering Group who have presided over this sorry mess. We cannot continue to have a situation where with each year that goes by, the project slips by another year. They also cover our call for a proper brownfield solution to be included as one of the options.

Dermot Smith of Hook Action Against Over Development also criticises the council for wasting our time and money. Although he wrongly accuses We Heart Hart of having a vested interest in undermining the process.

To be clear, we want the process to be solid, we want a good Local Plan and quickly.  We first highlighted the project management and governance issues last April and called for change.  However, Hart Council ignored us, and all Hart residents are now paying the price.

Hart Consultation ends in farce Fleet News and Mail 20 Jan 2016

Hart Consultation ends in farce.

We Heart Hart response to the decision to abandon the consultation

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the omnishambles Consultation.

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices.

After a period of reflection, we have now had time to compose a response to Hart’s astonishing decision to abandon the Local Plan consultation and set out what we think should happen to bring the Local Plan back on track. This has been sent to all councillors.

Readers may wish to copy a link to this page and send it to their ward councillor and add their own ideas on what should be done.  A list of councillor contact details can be found here.

What should we think about Hart Council’s decision to call off the Local Plan consultation with only a day to go before it was due to close?  Well, to misquote Churchill, this consultation has been a farce in a fiasco inside an omnishambles.  Never has so little been achieved by so many with so much of our money.

This is but the latest entry in a catalogue of mismanagement and misjudgement.

Back in April 2015, Peter Village QC described Hart’s position as “hopeless” and precious little has changed since then.  This abandoned consultation has not even covered the areas that he said should have been covered, namely, employment, retail, transport and infrastructure.

Now, let’s look at the timeline:

  • In October, 2013, when the earlier version of the plan was rejected by the Planning Inspector, the council 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],”

  • In April 2014, the plan was to have a resubmission plan ready for consultation in October 2015.
  • In February 2015, the plan was to have a resubmission plan ready for Autumn 2015.
  • As late as April last year, the council was insisting that they were still on track to deliver a Resubmission Plan by Autumn 2015, despite our warnings that the project was slipping.
  • We are now in a position, according to the latest schedule, where the Resubmission plan is due in Autumn 2016, but this has to be in serious doubt given the failure of this consultation and the fact that the evidence base won’t be revised until Spring 2016 and Hart have to hold a Regulation 18 consultation on the draft Local Plan, and heaven knows why it is planned for the Summer, when many people will be on holiday.

It is difficult to come to a conclusion other than the project management is woeful.

We need also to look at the governance of the project.  Power on the Local Plan Steering Group (LPSG) is concentrated in the hands of urban councillors who have presided over this mess.

Role Member
Cabinet Member for Planning (Chairman) Stephen Parker (Con Fleet East)
The Leader of Council Stephen Parker (Con Fleet East)
Cabinet Member for Housing Stephen Gorys (Con – Odiham)
Chairman of Planning Committee Simon Ambler (CCH – Crookham West and Ewshot)
Political Group Leaders David Neighbour (Lib Dem – Yateley East)

James Radley (CCH – Crookham East)

Stephen Parker (Con – Fleet East)

 

Not only that, the quality of the deliverables to date is poor.  By way of example, in January last year Hart commissioned a piece of work to test the new settlement and urban extension options.  The published results of this work have not met the objectives set at the outset.

I have had many people send me Facebook messages, tweets and emails saying what a farce the process has been a shambles and a waste of time and money.  One correspondent has even been moved to write a poem, saying they thought our leader has led us up the garden path and couldn’t even run a bath. In short the council is a laughing stock. Many people have also come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the reason the consultation has been called off is that the people were giving the ‘wrong answer’. There is no confidence in the council, the credibility of the whole Local Plan process is subterranean, with some complaining of “consultation fatigue”.

If the consultation is re-run at the end of January, it is extremely likely that parts of the new evidence base will be released during the consultation, thus meaning that the consultation will be run on the wrong evidence base, invalidating the results.

The Local Plan process is so far behind schedule that we are running the risk of Central Government stepping in and doing the Local Plan for us.  Moreover, the Government is currently consulting on plans to remove the New Homes Bonus from councils that do not have a Local Plan, so this further failure may result in a hit to services or increases in council tax. So, it is clear we need a good Local Plan and quickly.

But before we can move forwards it is imperative that we fix the management and governance failings that have led us to this unhappy place. It is simply untenable for the current incumbents to carry on as if nothing has happened.

The changes we need are:

  • Resignation of the entire LPSG from their positions to be replaced by a new group of senior councillors from a balance of rural and urban wards.
  • I’m sorry to say it, but the cabinet member for planning and leader’s position is untenable after presiding over such a comedy of errors.
  • Whoever authorised the change to the questions mid-way through the consultation within the “officer” side must at least be severely reprimanded.
  • Hart need to appoint an experienced project manager to run the Local Plan project who should immediately review it and put together a realistic scope, objectives, deliverables, resource requirements, costs and timelines, publish it, and offer it for scrutiny by a recognised project assurance organisation
  • Only when the revised evidence base (SHMA and Employment Land Review) has been published, should Hart run a new Regulation 18 consultation covering employment, retail, transport, infrastructure as well as housing distribution as per the advice from Peter Village QC. The consultation should be put together and run by a competent third party organisation.
  • A standalone brownfield approach, covering all current brownfield sites in the SHLAA, the Stonegate Report and any new zones of opportunity identified in the call for sites should be added to the consultation as per the request of the 2,130 signatories of the WHH petition. It is simply not credible to set a “deliverable” criterion for brownfield sites when almost all of the green field sites subject to consultation were “not currently developable”.  The council can’t have it one way for brownfield and another for greenfield sites. Many brownfield sites in the SHLAA/New Homes Booklet were “rejected” for apparently arbitrary reasons, they certainly did not appear to have more onerous constraints on them compared to those selected for consultation in Q6.
  • The differences between the site capacities shown in the New Homes Booklet compared to those in the official evidence base in the SHLAA (see point 4 in this letter to councillors, dated 20 November 2015 and Appendix) need to be rectified.
  • The process of the consultation needs to be simplified and improved, with the weighting system being resolved and published before the consultation starts.
  • The risks of a new town and urban extensions should be properly laid out (including creating capacity to take 3,000 houses from Rushmoor and Surrey Heath and the infrastructure costs).
  • All of the SHLAA sites should be offered for consultation in Q6, and the ranking approach changed to something more objective and able to be analysed across parishes such as “strongly oppose, oppose, support, strongly support”. It should be possible to pass comment without ranking sites that you don’t agree should be developed. It was particularly odd to see that the NHB rejected sites that had appeared in Neighbourhood plans.
  • You might do well to review my suggested 5-point plan that I tried to put to council in the Summer, but my question was censored.
  • The different infrastructure contribution regimes for different styles of development should be properly explained: a certain cabinet member was spreading misleading information about this during the recent consultation. My understanding is that only office conversions attract no S106/CIL whereas brownfield redevelopment is subject to the same contribution regime as green field development. It should also be explained that new homes in vacant office blocks attract council tax (and new homes bonus), which HDC retains, rather than business rates much of which is surrendered to the Government.
  • There also needs to be more robust processes for verifying the identity of all those participating in the consultation, and proper rules set on who can and cannot comment: theoretically the consultation just abandoned could have been answered by babes in arms in Aberdeen which is clearly ridiculous.

Only root and branch change of process and personnel will restore confidence and give enough credibility to create a sporting chance of getting a good Local Plan on time.

Press release is available for download below, together with a carousel of pictures of our shot demo outside Hart Offices.

Response to Hart’s decision to abandon the consultation

 

 

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the consultation shambles

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices about the consultation shambles.

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the omnishambles Consultation

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices about the omnishambles Consultation

Protest at Hart's Offices about the Consultation farce

Protest at Hart’s Offices about the Consultation farce

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the consultation fiasco

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices about the consultation fiasco

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the Consultation farce

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices about the omnishambles Consultation.

Protest at Hart Council's Offices about the Consultation shambles

Protest at Hart Council’s Offices about the omnishambles Consultation

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