Hart Infrastructure Funding Gap as wide as ever

Hart infrastructure funding gap £72m

Hart infrastructure funding gap £72m

New figures have been published by Hampshire that shows the Hart Infrastructure funding gap to be as wide as ever. The overall funding gap for Hampshire is £1.2bn and Hart’s share is £72m.

Hampshire infrastructure spending shortfall

Hampshire infrastructure spending shortfall £1.2bn

Hart’s share of the gap is made up of:

  • Transport, £34m
  • Education: £38m.
  • Countryside: To be Determined.
  • Extra Care places: To be Determined.

No estimate has been made of the requirements or costs of additional healthcare provision.

Hart Infrastructure Funding Gap Transport

Hart District Strategic Infrastructure Schemes – Transport

The transport gap is £34m.

Hart Infrastructure Funding Gap Education and Countryside

Hart District Strategic Infrastructure Schemes – Education and Countryside

Education is the widest gap at £38m. Interestingly, this doesn’t include the costs of a new secondary school. The developers of Murrell Green have promised land and a contribution to a 9-form entry secondary school. This would amount to a 1,350 place school. A 150 place expansion of Robert Mays is indicated to cost £7.6m. It is therefore realistic to expect a 9-form entry, 1,350 place school would cost around £68m. Developer contributions from a 1,800 unit settlement might be expected to be £16m or so. This is calculated by assuming 40% of the development will be affordable housing, which does not attract S106 funding. It is assumed the remaining 1,080 open market dwellings would deliver S106 contributions of £15,000 per unit.

It is therefore clear that all of the developer contributions would be consumed by the new school, before any road improvements were made. And the road funding deficit is already £34m.

Hart Infrastructure Funding Gap Extra Care

Hart District Strategic Infrastructure Schemes – Extra Care

Hampshire identify the need for 221 more extra care units, but don’t identify the cost or say where the money will come from.

What does this mean for the Local Plan?

Community Campaign Hart are promising an “Infrastructure led Local Plan”. It is now obvious that a new settlement will only make the infrastructure funding gap worse. They are sticking to the ridiculous 10,185 housing target. If they adopted the new Government housing target of 6.132, then the infrastructure funding gap would be reduced. There would be fewer houses, therefore less need for road improvements. Fewer people and so less need for a new school. Indeed the latest figures from Hampshire show there’s no need for a new secondary school.

It is time to call them out on their plans and start asking “Show Me the Money”.

 

Community Campaign Hart have not learned lessons

Completely Concrete Hart (CCH) Community Campaign Hart have learned no lessons

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) have learned no lessons

Community Campaign (Hart) – CCH hint at keeping a new town in the Local Plan in an opinion piece in this week’s Fleet News and Mail. The full article can be found here. The summary is:

  • Building more houses won’t lead to a reduction in prices.
  • We need to build more Affordable homes, but set policies that will achieve precisely the opposite outcome.
  • The Grove Farm decision is everybody else’s fault. Yet CCH chaired the meeting that failed to make a decision on time.
  • There’s a conspiracy to derail and delay the Local Plan, yet CCH have frustrated the process.
  • Hint that they must press on with the ridiculous housing target and an unnecessary new town
  • Hart must deliver an Infrastructure led Local Plan (whatever that means). Yet they have no idea how to close the £1.2bn funding deficit across Hampshire and £72m in Hart.

In short, CCH have learned no lessons and are pressing on with their failed policies. No wonder they are becoming known as Completely Concrete Hart.

Let’s deconstruct what James Radley has to say.

Building more houses won’t lead to a reduction in prices

First, let’s start on points of agreement. We do agree that within sensible limits, building more houses will not bring down house prices. This is backed up by research by Ian Mulheirn of Oxford Economics, which we reported on here. We also agree the decision to go ahead and develop Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse), is a bad decision.

Community Campaign Hart policies will achieve the opposite of their objectives

However, we start to part company with Community Campaign Hart when they say we need to build more ‘Affordable’ homes. Yes, we do need more homes that people can afford to buy. But that isn’t the same as building Affordable homes. Take a recent development at Hartley Wintney where the cheapest 3-bed was over 11 times median household income in the district and the cheapest 2-bed was more than 9 times income. Even with a 20% ‘affordable’ discount, these houses are out of reach of most first time buyers in the district.

CCH’s argument is being used to justify Hart’s ridiculous decision to plan to uplift the housing target from the 8,022 in the SHMA to 10,185 units. This is justified on the grounds it will deliver ~800 extra ‘affordable’ homes. As Mr Radley states in his preamble, these extra homes won’t actually reduce prices. All they will do is attract more buyers from London, rather than meet the needs of ordinary people already here. They are doing their best to avoid and ignore the new Government consultation that set Hart’s housing target at 6,132 units, and that includes an affordable housing uplift on the base demographic requirement.

A glut of these ‘affordable’ homes won’t help those who can’t rent or buy, like Mr. Radley’s son. What these young people need is more social housing with cheaper rents. These ‘affordable’ houses won’t help those who can rent, but can’t buy either. These people can probably afford to service a mortgage if they can afford rent, but don’t have enough money for a deposit. Building extra houses won’t help these people either.

We understand that the new Lib Dem/CCH administration has shelved plans for Hart to create its own housing development corporation, which would have provided a significant number of social rented homes. Plans for this company have disappeared from the Corporate Plan consultation, thus reducing supply of social housing.

Moreover, the new Lib Dem/CCH cabinet have recently approved plans to obstruct brownfield development by restricting the supply of council owned SANG. These types of development tend to deliver smaller, cheaper properties. This type of property is more likely to be bought by young people trying to get on the housing ladder.

So, CCH’s actual policies are precisely the opposite of what is required to meet the objectives they have set.

Community Campaign Hart take no responsibility for the Grove Farm decision

Mr Radley blames the inspector for ‘setting aside the democratic expression of will’ in the Grove Farm decision. However, he fails to mention that the council officers recommended that permission be granted. However, we do think Community Campaign Hart is partly culpable because CCH was chair of the planning committee when they failed to determine the planning decision on time. Moreover, CCH caused a delay in the Local Plan last December, when they insisted Winchfield (which had failed testing), be included as an option.

The main reason why the inspector granted permission is that Hart don’t have a Local Plan, and the policies are out of date. The other reason of course is that our housing target is far too high. We have yet to see any public statement from CCH calling for:

  • A reduction in the ridiculous housing target.
  • More brownfield development.

Indeed, we hear on the grapevine that CCH argued in private for fewer houses to be built at Hartland Park (Pyestock). This puts extra pressure on green field development.

It is simply ridiculous to mourn the loss of Grove Farm, but strongly support concreting over green fields elsewhere.

Community Campaign Hart take no responsibility for Local Plan delays

The article says:

I fear there are some who may have deliberately attempted to derail the Local Plan process in order to achieve planning by appeal and so impose all the housing growth on those areas which already have over stretched schools and congested roads

In other words, he is right, everybody else is wrong, and anybody who disagrees with him is conspiring against him. On the one hand, he claims there’s majority support for his view, whilst arguing there’s a conspiracy against him. This is clearly ridiculous.

What Mr Radley overlooks since the last attempt at a Local Plan was thrown out:

  • He has been a councillor for all of that time.
  • Mr Radley himself has been a Cabinet member in 2014/15 and again now, in 2017
  • CCH delayed the Local Plan consultation last December, by insisting a new town at Winchfield be included, even though it was clear that the proposals had not passed testing
  • The previous administration promised a Regulation 19 consultation on the next version of the Local Plan in ‘Winter 2017’. This has now been pushed back until at least January 2018.
  • Despite promising in June this year that the responses to the latest consultation would be published ‘in a couple of months’, there is still no sign of them

It is to be hoped he wasn’t referring to us as part of the conspiracy to “derail” the Local Plan. We Heart Hart first highlighted the project management and governance problems back in April 2015 and again in January 2016 after the consultation omnishambles.

We have never seen a CCH member ask a question at council challenging the persistent missing of deadlines. We have never seen a CCH member challenge the ridiculous housing target. We have never seen Community Campaign Hart support brownfield development.

What is an Infrastructure led Local Plan?

This is the $64,000 question, to which we don’t have a proper answer. We think they mean to continue with a Local Plan that includes an unnecessary new settlement at Murrell Green or Winchfield. However, the justification for this falls away, if they adopt the new Government approach to calculating the housing target. If they do accept this, then the remaining housing needs can be met from Sun Park and Hartland Park.

Meanwhile, SWR are proposing to cut services at Winchfield and Hook train stations. This blows a hole in main main argument for siting a new town near Winchfield station.

Even their arguments for a new school are falling away, with latest Hampshire County Council projections showing a new secondary school is not needed.

Looking at the bigger picture, it’s even worse. The latest infrastructure plan from Hampshire County Council shows a £1.2bn funding deficit across the county. £72m of this shortfall is attributed to Hart.

These figures don’t include healthcare or provision of extra care places for the elderly. The overall numbers should be regarded as a minimum figure.

Hampshire £1.2bn infrastructure funding gap regarded as minimum

Hampshire £1.2bn infrastructure funding gap regarded as minimum

CCH would be much better off working out how to close the existing funding gap. Their policies will result in building more unnecessary housing that will make the problem worse.

It’s time for CCH to realise their mistakes, learn form them and change strategy. They should focus on a realistic housing target and support for brownfield development.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grove Farm development approved at appeal

Breaking News: Hart needs to build 1,500 fewer houses for the Local Plan

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) development allowed on appeal

The planning inspector has granted outline planning permission to the Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) development, between Fleet and Crookham Village. This comes as a blow to those of us who oppose green field development, so our commiserations go to those most affected by this decision.

Grove Farm - Netherhouse Copse appeal decision

The full decision can be found here.

Impact of Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) decision

It is early days to come to firm conclusions, but here are a few thoughts:

  • Costs. The appeal decision doesn’t talk about the costs of the appeal, but at the very least the council will have to meet its own costs. These are likely to be of the order of £100,000. This is a self-inflicted wound as it was the council itself that failed to make a decision on the planning application. This left the developer with little choice but to appeal on the grounds of non-determination.

 

  • Local Plan. This decision adds 423 houses to the housing supply that weren’t in the draft Local Plan. Theoretically, this could free up other sites that are in the Local Plan. Of course, if the council adopts the new Government methodology for calculating housing need, we certainly won’t need a new settlement now, and it is questionable whether even Hartland Village will be required. [Update 2] The finding that the polices are out of date and the level of housing supply is irrelevant makes it imperative that the council gets the Local Plan and associated policies in place ASAP [/Update 2].

 

  • Community Campaign Hart (CCH). This party will be particularly angry and disappointed at this decision. They also suffered setbacks with the recent decisions at Watery Lane, Crookham Park and Edenbrooke. However, to our knowledge, CCH have never challenged the ridiculous housing target. Now they are putting in place obstructions to brownfield development. Perhaps now is the time to rethink their strategy. They should focus on a sensible housing target and brownfield development.

We will provide further updates as we find out more information.

[Update 1]

Detailed findings from the Inspector

The decision rested on a number criteria. First, the inspector found limited impact on the Local Gap between Fleet and Crookham Village. Here is the Inspector’s summary:

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Local Gap decision

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Local Gap decision

Second, the inspector found no grounds to reject the application based on highway safety:

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Highway Safety decision

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Highway Safety decision

Third, the inspector found it to be very significant that most of the policies that the council relied upon for its defence were out of date:

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Out of date policies

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Out of date policies

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Out of date policies 2

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Out of date policies

Fourth, the inspector didn’t determine one way or the other whether the council has a five year land supply. Essentially, the five year land supply is irrelevant.

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Housing Supply Irrelevant

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Housing Supply Irrelevant

In summary, the inspector found significant economic benefits, and that the potential harms would not outweigh those benefits.

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Summary of decision

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Summary of decision

[/Update 1]

 

Hart SANG plan to obstruct brownfield development

James Radley of CCH pulling the string of Graham Cockarill in Hart SANG plan to obstruct brownfield development

CCH calling the shots on Hart SANG plan to obstruct brownfield development

Hart Council has published a new report recommending that its own SANG land should not be used to enable brownfield development. This effectively renders the council’s SANG useless and calls into question the council’s ability to fund the repayments on the loan it has taken out to buy the SANG.

The document is sponsored by Community Campaign Hart (CCH) Deputy Leader, James Radley and not the portfolio holder for Planning, Lib Dem Graham Cockarill. This indicates that CCH is pulling the strings on important planning matters. The Hart SANG plan will be discussed at Cabinet tomorrow.

Hart SANG plan

Hart has bought its own SANG land at Bramshot Farm which lies between Ancells Farm and the link road between Hartland Village and the M3. The site has capacity to support 1,745 new houses. The new report proposes that no SANG land is allocated to the sites set out below unless signed off by both the Services Portfolio Holder (James Radley) and the chair of the Planning Committee (Graham Cockarill).

Brownfield sites affected

The following brownfield sites will effectively be blocked from development by the Hart SANG plan:

  • Bartley Wood, Hook, RG27, 9UP
  • Bartley Point, Hook, RG27 9EX
  • Cody Park, Farnborough, GU14 0LX
  • Meadows Business Park, Blackwater, GU17 9AB
  • Osborne Way, Hook, RG27 9HY
  • Waterfront Business Park, Fleet, GU51 3OT
  • Ancells Business Park, Fleet, GU51 2UJ (right next door to Bramshot Farm)
  • Blackbushe Business Park, GU46 6GA
  • Eversley Haulage Yard, RG27 0PZ
  • Eversley Storage, RG27 0PY
  • Finn’s Business Park, Crondall, GU10 5HP
  • Fleet Business Park, Church Crookham, GU52 8BF
  • Grove Farm Barn, Crookham Village, GU51 5RX
  • Lodge Farm, North Warnborough, RG29 1HA
  • Murrell Green Business Park, RG27 9GR
  • Potters Industrial Park, Church Crookham, GU52 6EU
  • Rawlings Depot, Hook, RG27 9HU
  • Redfields Business Park, Church Crookham, GU52 0RD
  • Optrex Business Park, Rotherwick, RG27 9AY

Essentially, development on every significant potential brownfield site other than Hartland Park and Sun Park (which already have SANG earmarked), will be hindered by this new proposal.

This new proposal runs contrary to the Vision outlined in the draft Local Plan which says:

The priority will have been given to the effective use of previously developed land (‘brownfield land’) so that ‘greenfield’ development will have been limited,

It also runs contrary to paras 105 and 107:

Our preference is still to deliver as much of our New Homes Left to Plan as possible on previously developed land.

many new homes will be built on brownfield sites (where possible and if they are viable)

Their new approach also goes against policy MG2 that says:

Policy MG2: Previously Developed Land

The Council will encourage the effective use of land by reusing land that has been previously developed (brownfield land), provided that it is not of high environmental value.

Of course, this plan also goes against stated Government policy to encourage brownfield development. See here and here.

Financial impact of Hart SANG plan

However, all the large, controversial green field developments are being proposed with their own SANG. This includes Murrell Green, Winchfield, Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase), Rye Common and Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse). Most of these sites are probably outside the 5km catchment area of this SANG anyway or closer to Crookham Park SANG. Of course, the new Government consultation has reduced Hart’s housing target by ~4,000 houses compared to the draft Local Plan. If this new target (plus a few extra to help out Surrey Heath) was adopted, our remaining housing target could be more than met by Sun Park and Hartland Park alone.

So, if the main brownfield sites are excluded from using the council SANG, the other brownfield sites have their own SANG and the major greenfield sites are not needed, or have their own SANG,  we have to ask what it will be used for.

Apparently, the council is about to sign an agreement with Rushmoor to use the SANG to support the delivery of approximately 1,500 new homes in Rushmoor. However, the latest Government housing target consultation has reduced Rushmoor’s allocation by ~3,000 dwellings and Surrey Heath’s by 630 houses. This calls into question whether Rushmoor will need this SANG at all.

The council is strapped for cash, and has borrowed £5.3m to fund the purchase of this SANG. It must payback this loan in instalments up to 2023/24:

Financial implications of Hart SANG plan

These new developments call into question the immediate demand for this SANG, and of course, Hart’s ability to repay the loan.

Conclusion

It is a scandal that Hart is using its powers to obstruct brownfield development. The major greenfield developments come with their own SANG, and probably aren’t required anyway. Rushmoor and Surrey Heath’s housing targets will probably be reduced. This calls into question the financial sustainability of the council’s purchase of this SANG land.

image

Motion of No Confidence in Hart District Council submitted

Breaking News: Motion of No Confidence submitted in Hart District Council

Motion of No Confidence submitted in Hart District Council

A motion of no confidence in Hart District Council has been submitted by Community Campaign Hart (CCH), (or as some call them Completely Concrete Hart) and the Liberal Democrats.

Apparently, they are unhappy that a new settlement at Winchfield has not been included in the Local Plan. They plan to push for Winchfield to be re-included if they manage to take over.

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) screwing up Hart Planning since 2004

We think this is a bad idea for a number of reasons:

  1. This will add extra delay to the Local Plan process, adding to the risk that sites like Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) and Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) will be given the go ahead at appeal before the Local Plan can be put in place
  2. Winchfield has failed testing. The main issues with the proposal are:
    • groundwater and surface water flooding,
    • Cost of new road infrastructure and the need to travel to Fleet for main services
    • requirement for new wastewater treatment works
    • too much delivery risk concentrated in one site
    • impact on landscape
    • impact on heritage assets and SSSIs
  3. CCH have completely failed to oppose the main issue: we are being asked to build too many houses. Hart Council have arbitrarily added an extra 2,000 houses to the already inflated SHMA figure of 8,000, giving a total over 10,000 houses. Tackling this would mean we don’t need a new settlement at Winchfield or Murrell Green, nor would we need Pale Lane or Grove Farm
  4. A new settlement at Winchfield will likely have a major impact on congestion in Church Crookham and the western edge of Fleet.

We predict a stormy council meeting on 25 May.

[Update  – Statement from Conservative Council Leader]

Conservative Council Leader Stephen Parker commented:

We have a clear track record of success in running Hart Council. Despite cuts to Hart’s government funding we used Conservative ministerial contacts to reduce the cuts, froze Council tax for 6 years and made minimum increases for the last two years. At the same time we made innovative partnerships to make sure that no cuts were made to our services or to our support to the voluntary sector. We delivered the new Hart Leisure Centre, a superb facility which pays for itself with no increases to Hart’s Council tax. We listened to residents in making our Local Plan which maximises use of brownfield sites and protects our towns and villages from unwanted expansion. At no time in the last eight years of Conservative leadership have they challenged any of these successes. Residents will no doubt look forward to reading their joint manifesto.

[/Update]

[Update 2 – statement from CCH]

Statement about motion to bring about a vote for Council Leader

Until fairly recently Hart District Council had a democratic process of electing the council Leader every year at the AGM. This right was taken away by the then Conservative administration, presumably because they realised that as is the case now there would be times when they did not have a majority on the council.

The Conservatives forced through the instigation of a 4 year term for the council Leader, the maximum period they could have gone for without falling foul of legislation.

Out of 33 councillors there are 14 Conservative, 10 Community Campaign, 8 Lib Dems and 1 Hook Independent. No one party have the 17 councillors required to hold a majority on the council.

The Community Campaign have asked the current Leader if he’d be willing to continue as Leader with a proportional Cabinet made up of 3 Conservatives, 2 Lib Dems and 2 Community Campaign members. Given the proportionality of such a Cabinet it does not seem to be an unreasonable request.

We await his response. However, should the Conservatives not wish to work with a cross party partnership then we believe that the Council should have the right to elect a new Leader.

The nature of the council’s constitution is such that in order to bring about the opportunity to elect a new Leader a motion to withdraw support for the current leadership needs to be lodged 7 clear working days before the council’s AGM.

The full motion moved by Cllr. James Radley of the Community Campaign reads;
The council wishes to use this AGM, as it represents the traditional point in the municipal year, to undertake a vote for the leader of council. To bring about such a vote the constitution requires that a vote to remove the current leader first be tabled. To this end this council retracts support for the current leader and does so as required by the constitution by voting to ‘remove from office the current Leader of the Council and agrees that a new Leader should be elected forthwith’.

[/Update 2]

[Update 3: Lib dems tweet to say they don’t support new settlement at Winchfield]

NE Hants Lib Dems statement about Winchfield

[/Update 3]

Hart Cabinet sell us down the river as they plan for 10,000 houses

Hart Cabinet sell us down the river by planning for far more houses than we need

Hart Cabinet plan for houses we don’t need

Hart Cabinet sold us down the river on Thursday night as they voted to plan for 10,000 houses to be built in Hart District in the period up to 2032.

Aside from vote on the paper some other interesting information was disclosed on a number of subjects:

  • Hart Cabinet vote on the 10,000 houses?
  • Do we need a secondary school?
  • Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) update
  • Hart Cabinet and Council politics

Hart Cabinet vote on the 10,000 houses?

Well, the short answer is we don’t. Our statement was received without challenge and was described as “informed” by the joint Chief Executive. There really is no answer to the points about double counting, nor the extra 1,200 houses on top of the alleged additional affordable housing requirement. To his credit, Ken Crookes asked some challenging questions. He didn’t really receive satisfactory answers.

The cabinet chose to plan for the extra 2,000 houses on top of those set out in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), even though Ken abstained.

The plan was supported by two cabinet members from Hook. They apparently favour a new settlement that will deliver more houses in Hook Parish. But they vehemently oppose the proposed new development to the west of Hook, that is outside the Thames Valley Heath SPA zone of influence.

There is a risk that Hart will no longer have a five year land supply, now it has agreed an uplift to 10,000 houses. Apparently, officers are working on a new document.

The leader and joint chief executive will now proceed to produce a draft Local Plan. A new consultation will be held on this draft will begin some time in March.

Do we need a new secondary school?

One of the justifications for the new settlement at Murrell Green is that the district needs a new secondary school. You may recall that the council voted on a resolution to include a secondary school in the Local Plan.

However, in his statement to cabinet, the joint chief executive said that although:

Hampshire County Council (HCC) welcome the principle of a new school site, the scale of growth envisaged in the Local Plan is not one that would require the delivery a new school in the planning period.

HCC is responsible for planning school places. But HCC is not responsible for delivering new schools as they will now be delivered as free schools, outside local authority control.

Apparently, Hart has also been offered secondary schools by the developers of Winchfield, West of Hook and Rye Common.

In other words, Hart has acted outside its responsibilities in resolving to deliver a site for a school and the authority responsible for planning school places don’t believe we need a new school. So, we are creating a new settlement to create capacity for houses we don’t need and a school we don’t need either.

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) update

In conversation we found out more about the Grove Farm application. The developer has now appealed this case on the grounds of non-determination.

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) screwing up Hart Planning since 2004

To re-cap, the Community Campaign Hart (CCH) chair the planning committee and failed to make a decision on the application at last December’s planning meeting. The council officers has recommended approval.

Hart is going to fight the appeal, probably on the grounds of wishing to maintain the Local Gap between Fleet and Crookham Village.

If Hart does lose its five year land supply, then this will make things difficult at appeal.

Apparently, the risk of losing £1.6m of New Homes Bonus has been mitigated because the indications from Government are that they are no longer going to push through those proposals.

However, there is still a significant risk that Hart will lose this appeal. The expectation is the appeal inquiry will be held in June, with a decision in August.

Hart Cabinet and Council Politics

We have now heard from several sources that one of the reasons Hart Cabinet appears to be so dysfunctional is that the ruling Conservative Party fears a vote of no confidence over the summer. This would entail CCH bidding to oust the Tories, presumably to be replaced by some sort of CCH/Lib Dem coalition. Maybe, the CCH coup is dependent upon the outcome of the Grove Farm appeal.

So, it appears as though we are planning for the extra houses to deliver a new settlement and secondary school we don’t need to appease CCH, who would prefer the new settlement at Winchfield.

It does seem very odd that we are having a new settlement forced upon us by dysfunctional politics.

 

 

Status of Hart Local Plan set out in email to parish councils

Hart District Local Plan delayed again

The current state of play of the Hart Local Plan was set out in an email to Parish Councils last week.  We reproduce it below with our commentary in [bold italics]

Dear All, I am writing to update you on the current position with regard to the Hart Local Plan.

The Council’s overall strategic position on the Local Plan was agreed in October 2016.  It is to:

“Seek to meet Hart’s full, objectively assessed need for new homes, subject to the inclusion of an appropriate contingency to allow for any delays or the non-delivery of sites, and that it will also seek to accommodate any demonstrated unmet need for new homes from its Housing Market Area partners, and additionally provide for essential infrastructure including a site for a secondary school”. 

We have a Local Plan Steering Group (LPSG) that was set up by Cabinet and comprises a small Core Group of Members (The Leader, the respective Portfolio Holders for Planning and Housing, all Group Leaders, and the Chairman of Planning Committee). The purpose of LPSG is to advise Cabinet on Local Plan matters. It is not a decision making body. LPSG meetings are not held in public but the meetings are not secret and the minutes of each meeting are reported to Cabinet. The meetings are also open to all Councillors to attend and Stephen Parker, as Chairman, has encouraged all present to participate.

The latest meeting in December (LPSG minutes attached) tested the Policy Planners recommendation that we should support a potential option (which we called Option 3a) that included a possible small new settlement, urban extensions and a balanced distribution of new homes across the District. [We believe this included Murrell Green, Grove Farm and Owens Farm to the west of Hook. We understand Winchfield and Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) were specifically excluded]. A site for a secondary school was also identified. In principle Option 3a would have accorded with the strategic aims agreed by the Council in October 2016. If agreed it would have resulted in a draft Plan being progressed to Council at the end of January with a view to it all going out to public consultation.

Whilst Option 3a still lies on the table the consensus from the recent LPSG meeting was that Option 3d (a larger new settlement and distribution option) [We believe this brought Winchfield back into the equation. The likely timescales would probably mean that Grove Farm and some combination of Pale Lane and Owens Farm would be required] should be revisited [We understand the driving force behind this initiative was Concrete Community Campaign Hart, who seem intent on derailing the whole process]. This was because the recent Housing Options consultation had confirmed that the public’s first preference is for future growth to be focused on the delivery of a new settlement [Actually the council stated its first preference was for brownfield development, but did not give the public an opportunity to vote on that solution].  The least preferred option was for more urban extensions. The broad cross party consensus was that we should look to avoid delivering urban extension and Option 3d would in itself be an alternative way of delivering the strategic aims agreed by the Council in October 2016.

At the moment we are reflecting upon this. We are reviewing the two options and we will consult shortly on one of them. At the time of consultation we will offer a briefing to all Parish and Town Councils. We are also testing the need for any affordable housing uplift [This is the rumoured 2,155 extra houses to meet an alleged need for 800+ extra affordable homes] which is also an new approach that is being recommended to us by the Policy Planners. It does have an implication for how many new homes that we should built but it does reflect issues that have been raised by Inspectors at recent Local Plan examinations. We need to consider it further and a policy decision made by the Council about whether it agrees to follow it. This testing may require a little additional work and re-evaluation of delivery timescales and trajectories. More information is being submitted to help us with the evaluation.

In the meantime Officers are keen not to undermine the democratic processes by engaging in a public debate [!!!!!] in advance of the District Councillors themselves having formed a view about how they wish to see the way forward [Perish the thought that councillors be involved in a debate with the public] . There is absolutely no benefit in seeking to rehearse decisions that have not yet been made and I’m sure that everyone would agree that it would not be right for Officers to engage in what is in effect political speculation.

We understand form elsewhere the delay to the Local Plan will be 4-6 weeks, or longer. Given that five of the six weeks have already all but gone by since the LPSG meeting on 13 December, we shall not be holding our breath.

Time to work together to head off new Hart housing threat

Hart Housing threat: sites under consideration

Hart Housing threat: sites under consideration

Overshadowed by our earlier  story of CCH further delaying the Hart Local Plan was the news of the new Hart housing threat of our target being raised from 7,500 to over 10,000 new houses up to 2032. This comes on top of the potential financial costs of delay.

Details of how this has come about are sketchy. It is related to how Hart should respond to Government rules about how to deal with affordable housing. We understand Hart Council is working on a ‘topic paper’ to give a further explanation.

We have analysed the impact of this new target below. Sadly, most of the large, sensitive green field sites are potentially under threat once again.  In addition, it is likely that Hart would no longer have more than five years of land supply. This exposes us to the threat of speculative planning applications. If most of these additional houses end up being ‘affordable’, they won’t attract contributions from developers to fund vital infrastructure.

So, we have come to the conclusion that it is time for all the politicians and pressure groups to work together to fight off this new threat rather than spend their time arguing over where the new houses should go. This level of development will mean that substantially all of the district will be under threat for some time. Moreover, this increased rate of building will be carried forward into the new planning period making things even worse for decades to come. We need to demand three key actions:

  1. The councillors need to stop squabbling and get a Local Plan in place ASAP
  2. Challenge robustly this new housing target and get the ridiculous new Government rules changed
  3. Pressure the council to properly examine the brownfield options for the district, complete their brownfield study and bring these sites forward instead of the precious green field sites.

Impact of the Hart housing threat on sensitive sites

First we take a look at where we would need to build to meet this new target and compare it to last year’s consultation; the most recent land supply position and our estimate of a ‘fair’ housing target.

Impact of new Hart housing threat on Hart District sites

Impact of new Hart housing threat on sensitive sites

As can be seen above, if the housing target remains around current levels, our remaining housing needs can easily be met from brownfield sites such as Hartland Village (Pyestock), the sites Hart Council identified in the consultation, Bramshill House and some further redevelopment of Ancells Farm and Bartley Wood. Moulsham Lane, Yateley was given the go ahead at appeal over the summer.

For some reason related to the Hop Garden Road appeal, Hart decided to increase our housing requirement up to 8,022 houses.  This is achievable from the 4,000 units we have identified on brownfield sites. But the planners would need to be persuaded to:

  • Redevelop the area around the Harlington and Hart’s offices in Fleet for mixed use.
  • Bring the many other smaller borwnfield sites across the district into the equation.

Failing that, it is inevitable that one of the green field sites is chosen.  For the purposes of this analysis we have used Grove Farm/ Netherhouse Copse as that is up for determination at the moment and the officers have recommended it.

Our estimate of a ‘fair’ housing target is based on the work of Alan Wenban-Smith. This starts with the population projections which on their own would generate a housing need of 5,040 houses over the planning period. A generous allowance is then added for additional economic growth to arrive at a need of 7,140 houses. This is easily achievable on brownfield sites, with some left over for future periods. Note that the new housing target is twice the level of housing required to meet the projected population forecasts.

The new target of 10,177 houses makes it much more difficult to achieve on brownfield. Again, the brownfield capacity could be larger than indicated above if the councillors and planners were to finally deliver on their brownfield study. If they don’t, it is inevitable that most of the sensitive green field sites including Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase), the land west of Hook and one or more of Murrell Green, Winchfield, Lodge Farm or Rye Common come into the equation. As you can see this new housing target will impact everyone.

Impact of Hart housing threat on the land supply

In the absence of the Hart Local Plan and up to date policies, the only defence we have against voracious developers is the five year land supply. This gives some limited control over speculative planning applications. So, we have taken a look at what the new target will mean for our five year land supply.

Impact of new Hart housing threat on 5 year land supply

Impact of new housing target on Hart District 5 year land supply

The left hand columns show the current 5-year land supply that Hart Council use. This shows we are in the relatively comfortable position with over 6 years land supply. If We Heart Hart’s fair housing target was adopted this would rise to 8 years supply.

However, the new housing target would reduce our land supply to below the crucial 5-year threshold leaving Hart very exposed. We would need another 525 additional houses to be granted permission ASAP to bring us back over the threshold.

Conclusion

We are in a very serious position with many of our cherished green fields under grave threat from speculative planning applications. There is no Local Plan and our policies are out of date. Hart is running an infrastructure funding deficit of £78m. The new housing target is double what we need to meet the official Government population forecasts. If the new housing target is adopted, Hart will no longer have a five year land supply. Unless we change tack, all our green fields will be concreted over and lost forever.

To preserve all that makes Hart such a great place to live we need to take serious action:

  1. The councillors need to stop squabbling and get a Local Plan in place ASAP
  2. We need to challenge robustly this new housing target and get the ridiculous new Government rules changed
  3. We need to pressure the council to properly examine the brownfield options for the district, complete their brownfield study and bring these sites forward instead of the precious green field sites.

This can only be done by everyone with a stake in Hart housing development working together to get the best outcome for Hart.

Community Campaign Hart incompetence could cost taxpayers millions

Community Campaign Hart incompetence on Hart Planning since 2004

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) incompetence over the Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse planning application and behaviour about the Local Plan could cost Hart Council and taxpayers millions of pounds.

Impact of Hart Local Plan delays

First, the Hart Local Plan. Councillors were warned at their meeting last night that a delay to the Local Plan could cost Hart £2.4m in lost New Homes bonus in 2018/19. Of course it was Community Campaign Hart that forced a delay upon us at the LPSG meeting on Tuesday evening. However, there will be a meeting between the council leader and joint-CEOs on Monday 19 December to decide a way forward.

[Update: extract of minuted statement from joint-CEO]

Joint CEO statement on the impact of delays local plan on New Homes Bonus

[/Update]

Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse Debacle

Now on to the Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse planning application. This application was due to be determined at the planning meeting on Wednesday 14 December. The planning officers had recommended that planning permission be granted. CCH had intended to refuse the application, but did not follow the correct procedure. They voted instead on a motion to simply delay the determination of the application for further transport studies.

The effect of this is now that the application is ‘not determined’. The developers could appeal the application on grounds on non-determination in the required time. There is a strong likelihood that Hart would lose this appeal.

Even if they manage to fudge this problem and issue a notice of refusal, it is still highly likely the developers will appeal the decision anyway because the officers recommended approval. Realistically, it is likely Hart would lose the appeal.

Financial Impact of Community Campaign Hart Incompetence

The costs of running an appeal are approximately £200K. However, there is a real risk that the Inspector would also grant costs to the developers of a further £200K.

But the costs don’t stop there. New rules mean that if houses end up getting approved on appeal, then the council in question loses the New Homes Bonus on those houses. Councils typically receive around £4,000 per dwelling over a period of six years. So loss of the bonus on the 423 houses in the Grove Farm application could end up costing over £1.6m on top of around £400K in appeal costs.

CCH councillor loses seat on Hart Planning Committee

As a final denouement, it was announced that recent defector to CCH, Richard Woods would lose his seat on the Planning Committee and be replaced by Steve Forster. This is to maintain the correct party balance on the Committee.

It is supremely ironic that the councillor who said that he wanted to:

do what the people who entrusted you with their vote would want you to do to represent them in the fullest possible way

has now lost the very seat on the Committee that gave him the means to represent his voters

 

In the words of Mumford and Sons:

‘It was your Hart on the line,

You really f****d it up this time’.

CCH force delay to the Hart Local Plan as housing numbers rise

CCH force delay to Hart Local Plan- this is no time to keep calm

This is no time to keep calm

We Heart Hart has learned that last night’s meeting of the Hart Local Plan Steering Group was a”disaster”.  Concrete Community Campaign Hart (CCH) councillors forced a further delay on to the timetable by insisting that Winchfield New Town is included as an option.

Affordable Housing blow

In a further blow, it appears as though Hart’s housing allocation has been further inflated by up to 2,000 additional houses due to new Government guidelines that may force Hart to build even more ‘Affordable Homes’. This new requirement would be in addition to the 40% of homes that must be ‘Affordable’ in the SHMA target.

Apparently, there are no plans to publish the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) until they are ready to publish the Regulation 18 consultation on the new draft Local Plan. We don’t know the timescale for that yet.

This shows that Hart’s statement in October that Hart had to build 1,500 fewer houses was a total sham.

Impact of Delay to the Hart Local Plan

There were three potential options on the table at LPSG for detailed consideration. However, CCH insisted on a fourth option that included the Winchfield New Town. We don’t know the specifics of the other options, but we suspect they included Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse.

WeHeartHart had been led to believe that the Winchfield New Town option failed testing due to concerns about groundwater flooding and lack of infrastructure. The level of testing that was carried out is now in doubt. It is difficult to see how a further delay and more testing is going to change the viability of the new town.

CCH’s stance is strange because the delay to the Local Plan will weaken Hart’s defences against the speculative applications being submitted by developers. The proposed developments at Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse and Bramshill House are due to be determined at tonight’s Planning Committee meeting. Of course, an application to develop the Pale Lane site into Elvetham Chase has recently been submitted and this will need to be determined in the New Year. If there is no draft Local Plan, then it will be difficult to defend against it.

Conclusion

It is imperative that we get the Hart Local Plan in place quickly so we can manage the inevitable housing growth that we face. CCH should stop their ideological pursuit of the unviable Winchfield New Town and start to work constructively to solve the problems of the whole district.

We would wish to see many new homes that are truly affordable for Hart residents. However, there is strong evidence of developer land-banking in Hart and of not building enough smaller properties. Simply increasing the housing target won’t lead to a meaningful increase in housing supply. Even the smallest properties at recent developments (for instance Rifle Range Farm/Hartley Row Park at Hartley Wintney) were out of reach of most Hart residents. We think the new additional target for affordable homes should be vigorously challenged.