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.

Please help Hart fend off an extra 1,600 houses from Rushmoor

Is this what we want Hart to turn into?

Is this what we want Hart to turn into?

Rushmoor Borough Council has published a draft Local Plan where it proposes to build only 8,200 of its assessed need of 9,822 houses over the plan period.  It is clear that Rushmoor is seeking to offload the remaining 1,622 houses on to Hart District.

We need to oppose this move and We Heart Heart have produced some materials to help you do this easily.  Our voice will have greater weight if we can get more Hart residents to comment on Rushmoor’s plan than Rushmoor residents. Please follow the simple process below:

  1. Download the Local Plan response form from the link below.
  2. On page 3, fill in your name and contact details and type your name and date in the boxes at the bottom of the page.
  3. Review the comments made and feel free to add, amend or delete as you see fit.
  4. Save the document, attach it to an email and send to plan@rushmoor.gov.uk
  5. Share a link to this page to all your friends and family as well as any sports clubs or community groups you belong to via word of mouth, email, Facebook and Twitter and ask them to put in a response and share this page again.
  6. If you have not already done so, please sign and share our petition too.
Rushmoor Local Plan Response Form

A summary of the arguments we are putting forwards is outlined below.

Slippery slope to taking more housing than the other districts

The proposal to take an additional 1,622 houses from Rushmoor puts us on the slippery slope to accepting a further 1,400 houses from Surrey Heath such that Hart District ends up having to build the most houses in the Housing Market Area.

 

 Hart DistrictSurrey Heath BoroughRushmoor BoroughTotal Housing Market Area
Original SHMA7,5347,0579,82224,413
Proposed Transfers3,022(1,400)(1,622)0
New Total10,5565,6578,20024,413

 

This will impact all of our districts including Blackwater and Hawley; Bramshill;  Church Crookham; Crondall; Crookham Village; Dogmersfield; Elvetham Heath; Eversley; Ewshot; Fleet; Greywell; Hartley Wintney; Heckfield; Hook; Mattingley; North Warnborough; Odiham; Rotherwick; South Warnborough; Winchfield; and Yateley adding additional pressure to an already difficult situation and make it more likely we have to accept both a new town and urban extensions on our beautiful green fields and countryside.

Hart and the rest of Housing Market Area are being asked to build too many houses

The whole Housing Market Area (HMA) should reduce the assessed need by 7,800 units which would reduce the pressure on Hart directly and remove the need for Surrey Heath and Rushmoor to ask us to build >3,000 houses for them. This is discussed in more detail here.

Rushmoor isn’t making best use of its brownfield sites

This is discussed in more detail here and here. As can be seen, if Rushmoor gets more creative with Wellesley and plans to build on the sites it has already identified, there is potential capacity for over 30,000 dwellings, more than three times its (overblown) assessed need.   It surely cannot be too much to expect them to find the 1,600 houses they say they can’t build out of this wealth of opportunity.  Rushmoor Borough Council should re-visit its planned densities and seek to meet all of its assessed need within in its own boundaries.  It could then make some sites available for neighbouring rural districts in line with a recent survey of Hampshire residents seeking to protect rural areas.  Neighbouring districts could be approached to provide SANG capacity if required.  Rushmoor should also take a closer look at all the vacant sites in the district and seek to convert them to residential use.

Rushmoor’s Employment Land Review is overblown and seeks to protect more employment land than is necessary.

This is discussed here.  It is also clear that past forecasts got it wrong as evidenced by the large number of vacant office blocks and empty shops across Hart District.  If the ELR was reduced to more sensible levels they could free up more land for housing.

Indeed, even if you accept the overblown employment forecasts, there will be a surplus of nearly 600K sq m of employment space at the end of the plan period, covering around 195 Ha.  Yet Rushmoor seeking to protect 96 Ha of land whilst asking Hart to build 1,600 houses on green fields.

Rushmoor’s infrastructure plans are not credible

We posted here that Hampshire as a whole has a £1.9bn infrastructure funding deficit, with Rushmoor’s share of that being £80m.  Rushmoor makes no mention of this deficit in its draft Local Plan.  Hart’s own numbers show an infrastructure deficit of £78m.  All of these numbers are probably an under-statement given they were all produced before the scale of development now proposed was known.  This is in contravention of NPPF para 177 that says there must be a “reasonable prospect” of delivering the required infrastructure alongside housing:

“It is equally important to ensure that there is a reasonable prospect that planned infrastructure is deliverable in a timely fashion. To facilitate this, it is important that local planning authorities understand district-wide development costs at the time Local Plans are drawn up. For this reason, infrastructure and development policies should be planned at the same time, in the Local Plan”

Finally, they don’t even attempt to quantify the extra infrastructure Hart would need to build the extra 1,600 houses nor do they make any offer to fund any of that extra cost.

Rushmoor not planning to meet the needs of the ageing population

Figure 10.15 of the SHMA sets out the need for specialist housing and registered care places for the HMA and Rushmoor.  This states Rushmoor must build 710 sheltered and extra care units as well as provide an extra 600 registered care places. Their draft Local Plan makes no mention of the extra registered care places and sets no target for the sheltered and extra care units.  This is in contravention of NPPF para 50 which states:

“local planning authorities should…plan for a mix of housing based on current and future demographic trends, market trends and the needs of different groups in the community (such as, but not limited to, families with children, older people, people with disabilities, service families and people wishing to build their own homes)”

Therefore the Rushmoor draft Local Plan runs the risk of being found unsound and should be revised.

 

In conclusion, the Rushmoor draft Local Plan contains many serious flaws and needs to be revised.

Link

 

Revised submission to Owens Farm (Hop Garden Road) Appeal

The slot we thought we had been allocated to the first part of the Hop Garden Road (Owens Farm), Hook  appeal (APP/N1730/W/14/2226609) unfortunately didn’t happen due to some administrative hiccough.  However, we have now been allocated a slot at 10am on 9 June 2015.  This has presented an opportunity to improve further our submission and make it stronger.

The full details of the submission can be found here:

Revised submission to Hop Garden Road Appeal

The summary of the submission is presented below and the main challenge to the SHMA here:

This purpose of this submission by the We Hart Campaign is to oppose the specific unnecessary development proposed at Hop Garden Road in Hook and demonstrate to other developers who may wish to put forward speculative proposals for the over-development of the district that they will face formidable opposition to their plans.  Hart District is facing a scale of development that is against the wishes of its residents and in contradiction to stated Government policy to place planning decisions in the hands of local people.

Let me remind you of the Prime Minister’s words in 2012, taken from this Telegraph article:

He said: “I care deeply about our countryside and environment. Our vision is one where we give communities much more say, much more control. The fear people have in villages is the great big housing estate being plonked down from above.

“Our reforms will make it easier for communities to say ‘we are not going to have big plonking housing estate landing next to the village, but we would like 10, 20, 30 extra houses and we would like them built in this way, to be built for local people’.”

Mr Cameron, who was being interviewed in his Oxfordshire constituency, denied that the reforms would lead to large swathes of the countryside being built on.

He told BBC1’s Countryfile programme: “Here we are in west Oxfordshire one of the most beautiful parts of our country, set in some of England’s finest countryside. I would no more put that at risk than I would put at risk my own family.

“I care deeply about our countryside and environment. Our vision is one where we give communities much more say, much more control.”

We Hart object to this proposed development and any future speculative proposals on the grounds summarised below:

  • The SHMA and OAN are not objective and represent a “need” that is far too high.
  • Understated brownfield capacity means green field development is not necessary
  • This proposed development will not contribute towards meeting the needs of the changing demographics of the district
  • The proposed development will make the current infrastructure funding gap worse
  • Lack of consideration of the environment

As shown in section 8, the combined effects of reducing the OAN as assessed in the SHMA to a more realistic level and taking account of brownfield development in the pipeline that is not included in the Land Supply calculation would increase the land supply to 11.7 years.

The only reasonable conclusion from this analysis is that the Hop Garden Road application should be refused as it is not required; would build the wrong type of housing in the wrong place to meet the changing demographics of the district; would make the already difficult infrastructure funding position worse and needlessly concrete over our valuable green fields and damage the environment.

We Hart respectfully requests that this application is turned down.

 

Link

How to make a better Local Plan for Hart District

Protect our green fields

Protect our green fields

We know that progress on the Local Plan for Hart District is slow and that it is not going in the direction many would like to see.  We thought it was time to outline an alternative approach, and see if Hart Council and the candidates for election will change their minds. Below we set out a five point plan for change:

  • Create a medium growth scenario
  • Create a formal brownfield option and invite a competition to design the art of the possible
  • Do the work and consult upon the additional elements of a proper Local Plan
  • Consider the Environment and Landscape
  • Fix the management and governance problems

1.  Create a Medium Growth Scenario

We need to work on creating a reasonable, alternative “medium growth” scenario to go alongside the current “high growth” scenario. We have posted earlier about why we believe the SHMA is flawed (as shown here and here) and is forcing us to build too much –  7,534 houses in Hart plus 3,100 extra from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.  Hart District Council should work with Rushmoor and Surrey Heath work to create a joint new, “policy on” lower housing requirement for the whole Housing Market Area that:

  • Takes account of the environmental damage that large scale over-development would cause to our valuable countryside and the green belt in Surrey Heath
  • Uses more realistic jobs growth assumptions of say around 650-750 jobs per annum over the cycle which is above what was achieved over the last economic cycle as opposed to the existing assumption in the SHMA of 1,130 jobs per annum
  • Uses more realistic inward migration and household size assumptions.

The more realistic assumptions above could reduce the overall housing “need” for the combination of Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath by around 8,000 dwellings from 23,600 to 15,790. We believe this would relieve the pressure on all three districts, and in particular, reduce the pressure on Hart to take the unmet needs of Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Boroughs.

2. Create a formal brownfield option and invite a competition to design the art of the possible

We have already demonstrated that Hart has no effective brownfield strategy.  Hart Council should create a new, formal “reasonable suitable alternative” option of meeting the housing need solely through brownfield development. This should involve the following:

  • Creating a complete database of all of the potential brownfield sites in the district, including those not yet in the 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 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.

3. Do the work and consult upon the additional elements of a proper Local Plan

Hart District Council needs to work on the other elements that should make up a local plan such as education, retail, transport, employment, meeting the needs of the ageing population and other infrastructure.  Hart should conduct suitable, high level strategic analysis to build an evidence base to answer the following questions:

  • Education. How many school places will we need and where in both the current “high growth” and proposed “medium growth” alternative requirement scenarios? How might these be delivered and what are the costs of the alternatives?
  • Retail. What is the range, type and location of shops required across the district, taking into account changing shopping habits, the growth of the internet, changing demographics and the alternative growth scenarios?  How will we regenerate our high streets?
  • Transport. What investment will be required in the major road and rail infrastructure under both growth scenarios? Considering alternative sites for each of the development options (including the new “brownfield option”), what investment will be required in minor roads, making broad assumptions on the location of alternative sites?
  • Employment. This review should be conducted across the Hart, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.  What types and quantities of employment land will be required under the alternative growth scenarios, taking into account changing work structures and habits; what is the current forecast surplus/deficit in 2032? Would any extra employment land need to be found?  How much current employment land could be released for housing?
  • Other infrastructure. It is likely that a new town, particularly in Winchfield, would require even further infrastructure spending due to its current lack facilities such as mains sewage and mains gas. What is the cost of providing additional infrastructure for a new town such as sewage, gas, roads, electricity, rail etc?
  • Ageing Population.  What type of housing is required to meet the needs of the 6,850 extra people aged over 75 and the extra 3,620 people who will be suffering from dementia or have some sort of mobility problem and where should it be located?

For each option and scenario Hart should outline the total cost of infrastructure spending required and the likely contribution from developers so that a proper financial model can be created.

4.  Consider the Environment and Landscape

Fourth, Hart should conduct the other studies that are required to update the evidence base such as the landscape character assessment and an assessment of the potential damage caused to our wildlife by over-development.

 

Once this work has been completed, Hart District Council should carry out a new Regulation 18 consultation on the above that includes both a medium and high growth scenario and the properly evaluated options for meeting the housing need including the new proposed “brownfield” option. It would be preferable if the current “Option 4 – New town at Winchfield” (or indeed a new settlement anywhere in Hart) was dropped as an option. It will be important for the council to step up its engagement efforts during this period to ensure that a much larger proportion of the public responds to the consultation.

After the results of the consultation is known, firm up a preferred growth scenario and delivery option(s) to work up into a more detailed Local Plan and conduct an exercise to ensure democratic endorsement of the preferred option. This could take the form of a district wide referendum or a series of Parish Polls, followed by a Regulation 19 consultation before submission to the inspector.

 

5.  Fix the management and governance problems

Finally, Hart need to work on the setting up the Local Plan project properly and address the governance deficiencies. There is clearly no properly defined scope or deliverables as the recent questions to the Planning Inspector demonstrate.  Moreover, the timeline keeps slipping as we were originally supposed to have been consulted on a draft plan in March 2015, and it is clear that Hart is nowhere near that milestone even though it has dropped that consultation from its plan.  This indicates the Local Plan project is not properly resourced. The Council needs to appoint a suitably qualified, experienced project manager, follow a properly recognised project management methodology such as Prince 2 and invest in the proper resources required to carry out the project on time to proper quality standards.

Given the prior failure of the earlier Local Plan at inspection and the current hopeless path the new Plan is taking, it is also clear that the governance of the Local Plan is deficient, with power effectively concentrated into the hands of only two people. The Council needs to explore ways of separating powers so that there is better transparency and accountability on both the “officer” and “member” sides. We suggest that the project should report to the joint chief executive who is not also in charge of planning; that roles of council leader and portfolio head for planning are carried out by two separate people and the council members elect a more proactive and capable chairman. This should lead to a wider range of opinions to be heard and appropriate checks and balances to be implemented.

It remains to be seen if our Parliamentary candidates or our Hart District Council candidates will endorse this plan.

If you would like to join the campaign to change Hart’s mind, please sign and share our petition.

 

Go to Petition

 

 

Hart District Council not serious about catering for the ageing population

We Heart Hart - Older People

Hart District Council fails to consider the needs of the ageing population

In a piece of further news from the last Hart District Council meeting on 26 March, the Council demonstrated that it has not properly considered how they were going to cater for the needs of the ageing population in the Local Plan, as we posted earlier. The detailed questions and answers can be found here.

If you would like to ask Hart Council think again, please sign and share our petition:

Go to Petition

In our question we estimated that the council would have to ensure there were around 2,200 further specialist dwellings built for the elderly in the plan period.  Our calculations were dismissed as “speculative” and that the council would rely on more detailed analysis in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA).

Hart District Council fail to properly consider the needs of the ageing population

Hart District dismissed We Heart Hart’s calculations.

However, having now gone back to look at the final version of the SHMA in more detail, it is clear that the SHMA requires even more specialist units than we originally thought.

 

Hart District Requirements for the Ageing Population

Hart District Requirements for the Ageing Population

We found that between 2012 and 2030, Hart needs to provide 1,390 specialist units for the elderly and infirm.  Extending this back to 2011, and out to 2032 at the 80 dwellings per annum rate identified in the report would give 1,630 units.  To this must be added the further 940 registered care places in the graphic above.  This gives a total of 2,590 additional units for the ageing population, which is around 300 more than we estimated.

In addition, the SHMA says:

“There is the potential opportunity therefore to reduce under-occupation and free up family sized dwellings for overcrowded households; although to achieve this it would very likely be necessary to provide attractive options in areas where households currently live and where they have social and community ties”

This clearly states that we should build this specialist accommodation where people currently have ties and can be close to amenities, which is in line with the land buying policies of specialist companies like McCarthy & Stone and Churchill. This seems to us to rule out building specialist accommodation for the elderly in a new town at Winchfield.

Building a new town at Winchfield will effectively crowd out most of the other development in the district.  As there are around a further 4,000 units left to grant planning permission to, then building up to 2,400 houses in Winchfield will mean there isn’t sufficient remaining capacity to meet the need of 2,590 units for the ageing population. This runs the risk of the plan being found unsound and could even lead to the inspector adding this on to our overall requirement.

Of course, if the council were to focus on higher density development on brownfield closer to the centre of existing settlements then our duty to the elderly could be met more easily.

 

Questions for Hart District Council from We Heart Hart

There’s another Hart District Council meeting next week on 26 March at 7pm.  We Heart Hart has tabled some questions about the planned housing density, planning for an ageing population and infrastructure costs.

Deadline for submission of your own questions is tomorrow at noon.

Please feel free to use the download below as inspiration for your own questions.

Questions for Hart District Council Meeting Mar 26 2015

Answers to our previous questions have now been published on here and here on Hart District Council’s website.

Answers to the questions we put have now been published in draft minutes on the Hart Council website.

Hart set to fail on duty to cater for ageing population

We Heart Hart - Older People

Hart District Council’s preferred housing strategy is running the risk of failing to meet the needs of the ageing population and so might be found unsound at inspection.

If you would like to ask the council to think again, please sign our petition.

At the Hart District Council cabinet meeting on Thursday 5 March, an interesting question was raise by councillor Adrian Collett.  He asked if the council had enough powers to ensure that the Local Plan met the needs of the local people.

I did make a comment that not only does it have the power to do so, it also has a duty to meet the needs of many groups in society.  Para 50 of the NPPF states:

“local planning authorities should…plan for a mix of housing based on current and future demographic trends, market trends and the needs of different groups in the community (such as, but not limited to, families with children, older people, people with disabilities, service families and people wishing to build their own homes)”

Over the course of the plan period up to 2032, there will be an extra 10,000 people over 60, including more than 6,850 over 75, expected to be living in the district and an extra 3,620 people who will be suffering from dementia or have some sort of mobility problem.

Let’s work through some numbers.

First, how many more specialist dwellings might we need to house the extra older people we will have in the district?  Well, let’s say on average there’s 1.5 older people per dwelling because so many live on their own.  That would be 6,850/1.5 = 4,566 units.  Not all of them will want to leave their existing homes and some may go and live with family.  So, let’s say we need half that number of new dwellings.  That’s in round numbers 2,280 units.  This assumes that all of the extra people with a mobility problem are also aged over 75.

Now let’s look at supply.  Of the 7,500 houses we need to build up to 2032, around 3,500 have already been given planning permission, which leaves a balance of around 4,000.  Of the 3,500 some are specialist units for the elderly – I know of a Churchill and McCarthy and Stone development in Fleet which will total around 100 units.  This leaves around 2,180 units to find for the elderly.

If we were to build a new town and deliver around 2,000 units (this is much lower than the Barratts vision document) in the plan period, then this would leave around 2,000 units still left to grant planning permission for elsewhere.

As can be seen, if we build the new town, we will not meet the needs of the ageing population unless all of the remaining units are specialist units for the elderly and there is no sign of the council taking this seriously.

This runs the risk of the Hart Local Plan being found unsound. Surely it is time for Hart District Council to think again.

How do we regenerate our high streets?

Bravehart has been on tour again, looking at Fleet High Street.  He couldn’t believe how many empty shops there were and how many vacant and derelict offices.

The nature of shopping is changing as more and more of us shop on-line and from our mobile phones.  The nature of our high streets needs to change to become centres for social activity and nightlife.  Surely it would be better to re-generate a lot of these brownfield sites and replace them with affordable apartments to bring more young and old people to the town centre without the need for more traffic, rather than building a new town that will concrete over our green fields.

The We Heart Hart campaign says we need a new vision for Hart District and some joined up thinking.

Changing Demographics means a New Town is a Bad Idea

A new town in Hart, whether located in Winchfield or anywhere else, will not meet the needs of the growing ageing population.  We run the risk of building the wrong type of housing in the wrong place to cater for the excess housing needs of Rushmoor and Surrey Heath without meeting the needs of Hart, and concreting over our green fields in the process.

Please sign the petition.

The demographics of the district are changing.  According to council documents, by 2031, there will be an additional 10,000 people over 60 (including more than 6,850 over 75) expected to be living in the district and an extra 3,620 people who will be suffering from dementia or have some sort of mobility problem.

The housing needs of the elderly and infirm are very different to those of the general population and the council plans will do nothing to meet those needs.   Studies have shown that specialist retirement housing has significant benefits:

  • A higher quality of life for its residents. The report notes that 92% of residents are very happy and contented and most would recommend their accommodation to others.
  • Improved health for residents and reduced impact on the NHS. As specialist accommodation is designed for impaired mobility, residents can manage better and spend fewer nights in hospital.
  • Good for the environment. 51% of residents said that their energy bills were noticeably lower than they had been in their previous homes.  What is more, the elderly tend to own fewer cars and tend to travel less once living in retirement housing.
  • Retirement housing boosts local neighbourhoods. Older people regularly use shops and local facilities during weekdays, when they are often underutilised, and at weekends. 80% use the shops almost daily or often; over 40% used the library or post office almost daily or often.
  • Retirement housing has a positive impact on local housing markets. On moving, most residents free up a substantial family home, with two thirds moving from homes with three or more bedrooms, freeing up housing stock for families.

However, the SHMA says that Hart should continue to build housing in line with the current housing stock profile.  The impact of this is that we will concrete over our green fields with traditional housing estates and not meet the needs of our growing elderly population and leave the shopping areas in the centre of our towns to wither away whilst increasing congestion all over the district.

The We Love Hart campaign says this is the wrong approach and we should focus on building specialist accommodation for the elderly in higher density brownfield sites near to town centres, perhaps alongside high quality affordable flats for the younger generation.

 

What’s wrong with Hart Council’s Approach?

We have several problems with Hart’s current approach:

  • Lack of overall vision for the district.  Sadly Hart Council is simply reacting to events and not setting out a vision of what it wants the district to look like in 20, 30, 50 or 100 years time.  This means that if we are not careful, we will end up with piecemeal development that will damage the very things that make Hart an attractive place to live.  Ideas for an improved vision are shown here.
  • Opening up the District to being a sink for the unmet housing needs of other districts.  The overall housing allocation plan for the plan period calls for 1,800-2,400 homes to be built in a new town at Winchfield.  However, the Barratts document Vision Document suggests that a new town at Winchfield could entail 5,000 new houses.  By pure coincidence (of course), Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils need to find space for about 3,100 more houses in their districts.  Building a new town anywhere in Hart opens up the strong possibility that we will be forced to take this additional requirement from bordering areas.
  • Lack of provision for elderly and infirm.  According to the SHMA, by 2031, there will be an additional 10,000 people over 60 (including more than 6,850 over 75) expected to be living in the district and an extra 3,620 people who will be suffering from dementia or have some sort of mobility problem. Section 9 of the SHMA suggests that future housing stock should be built to broadly reflect the existing stock.  This new stock will attract more families to the area and crowd out the developments required to meet the needs of the elderly and infirm.

Overall, the lack of strategy, opening up the potential for a new town and not addressing the needs arising from changing demographics amount to very serious flaws in approach which puts our countryside at risk.

We have outlined an alternative approach to producing the local plan here.