CCH defy QC opinion and pass Shapley Heath plan

Lib Dem & CCH cabinet pass Shapley Heath Plan

The CCH members of cabinet defied a QC’s opinion voted to pass the Shapley Heath plan at Cabinet on 7 November. Despite strong opposition from members of the public, NE Hants CPRE and some councillors, the plan was passed unanimously by all members of Cabinet in attendance. Sponsor of the plan, Lib Dem Cabinet member for Place, Graham Cockarill wasn’t there as he is now standing for election to Parliament. The plan proposes to spend the £150K grant from the Government and looks to allocate up to a further £500K from reserves in the next financial year as part of the budget process.

Regular readers may recall CCH had written a letter to Ranil stating that 5,000 houses had been “secured for the next planning period”. The QC’s opinion that said that because this statement was manifestly untrue, that it demonstrated CCH councillors had closed their minds to a proper consideration of Shapley Heath and alternatives. In Andrew Tabachnik QC’s opinion, this amounted to predetermination.

The QC Opinion can be downloaded using the button below:

QC Opinion: CCH Predetermination of Shapley Heath

The Shapley Heath section of the meeting was quite long and stormy at times. The complete videos of the item can be found at the bottom of this article. The key points as we see them with video excerpts are set out below.

Argument about Shapley Heath QC Opinion

The first part of the public engagement started with a statement from the Rural Hart Association (RHA). The full statement is reproduced below:

For some years the Rural Hart Association has been frustrated by what we see as the bias of the Council in pushing for a new settlement near Winchfield without properly analysing the scope for alternative strategies, including urban regeneration.

Our frustration led us last month to commission an opinion from leading counsel about a letter sent to our MP by eleven CCH councillors in July. This letter asserts that “… 5000 more homes [have been] secured for the next planning period through Shapley Heath”. The opinion has been delivered to the Council with this statement, but in summary the QC concludes that:

  1. CCH’s assertion is totally misleading
  2. All CCH councillors must publicly retract their statement and must ensure that their future conduct demonstrates a genuine willingness to consider matters with an open mind
  3. Councillors who are unwilling to retract their statement must recuse themselves from decision-making relating to Shapley Heath

We therefore request that the councillors concerned recuse themselves from discussion and voting on Item 11.

In addition, we expect CCH councillors to take the following steps to comply with the QC’s opinion that they must in future demonstrate a genuine willingness to act with an open mind:

  1. Abandon the current plans which focus exclusively on Shapley Heath

  2. Implement an alternative work plan to examine objectively and impartially all reasonable alternative options to Shapley Heath, in line with the Planning Inspector’s recommendations. This should include brownfield development and urban regeneration.

  3. Undertake in depth work to build a more robust policy to regenerate our urban centres in Fleet, Blackwater, Hook and Yateley.  This work should in particular address policy ED5 (Fleet town centre) to tackle the growing outflow of retail and leisure expenditure from the district caused by under-investment in Fleet. It is essential to develop a new and comprehensive strategy for Fleet along the lines of neighbouring towns like Camberley and Farnham.

  4. Undertake thorough master-planning for the main towns in Hart without which no proper assessment can be made of the true scope of town centre mixed-use regeneration

  5. Meet the two developers who expressed interest in regenerating the Hart Shopping Centre to explore their proposals

  6. Refrain from allocating Hart’s reserve funds to Shapley Heath unless and until it is reinstated into the Local Plan as the result of the necessary comparative assessment work called for by the Inspector.

Here is a video of the statement:

This led to a response to the QC’s opinion from CCH’s James Radley. Astonishingly, he stated that the letter to Ranil was just political rhetoric and implied it shouldn’t be taken at face value. How do we know when he’s just spouting rhetoric and when he really means what he says?

This then led to a row about the validity of the RHA QC’s opinion. The joint chief executive said that HDC had taken legal advice and were convinced that CCH’s actions did not amount to pre-determination.  However, HDC’s advice did not address the key point that CCH had made untrue statements in their letter to Ranil. That was the key point that showed a “closed mind” and hence predetermination. In the end the Cabinet chose to ignore the QC’s opinion and the CCH councillors continued to participate in the debate and voted on the Shapley Heath Plan. According to the QC they should have either retracted or recused themselves. They did neither.

Substantive debate on Shapley Heath Plan

The meat of the public arguments against pursuing this plan now were made by RHA and CPRE NE Hants. RHA made further points setting out clearly that HDC should at least look at the option of urban regeneration.

And CPRE challenged the logic of looking at a new village that would deliver housing over and above what we need to build. Their initial statement can be found here, and their powerful supplementary statement can be seen on the video below:

Sadly, these arguments were ignored by Cabinet and they pressed on regardless. On the plus side, this builds the case that they have closed minds on the matter.

CCH inconsistencies on the Shapley Heath Plan

During the meeting CCH made a series of statements that contradicted what they had previously said. For instance, during the Cabinet meeting, Councillor James “it’s only rhetoric” Radley emphasised that this Shapley Heath plan was very different to the new town presented in the Local Plan.

But in the Shapley Heath Q&A on their Facebook page, they say that the two things are the same. So, which is it?

Q3. Is Shapley Heath the same as the New Settlement that was previously included in Hart’s Local Plan?

A3. Yes, they are the same. Whilst the Local Plan Inspector suggested HDC remove the New Settlement from our LP, this was not because he thought it an inappropriate solution to our future housing needs. Hart were keen to get the LP in place ASAP to avoid anymore developer led applications being successful at appeal. The Inspector recommended removal of the New Settlement to enable the LP to be adopted quickly. The New Settlement, evaluated together with other options for future housing, needed more detailed work and would have delayed the LP, leaving doors open for developers.

Secondly, Councillor Radley said that the Shapley Heath proposal won’t go forward if it is found that it isn’t viable.

However, the Inspector found (in para 33):

In addition, to my above concerns, there is little evidence to demonstrate that a site can actually be delivered in terms of infrastructure, viability and landownership within the identified AoS.

Winchfield Parish Council’s representations to the Inspector showed there were big issues on land ownership and other significant planning constraints. Moreover, in 2016, the Tory administration had dropped plans for the Winchfield new town due to concerns about flooding and infrastructure costs. Similar plans for a new town were dropped in 2012 after concerns about viability. How many times do they need to look at it and how much of our money do they need to spend before they listen?

It also appears as though CCH can’t make their mind up about the importance of rail infrastructure. Councillor James “it’s only rhetoric” Radley didn’t mention rail as part of his infrastructure shopping list. But then made great play of there being a railway station at Winchfield.

He seemed to be blissfully unaware of the parking chaos at Winchfield station on Thursday.  This was exceptional, but it is by no means unusual for the car park to be full before 8am. Of course prior studies have shown that the railway station may well need to be moved to Murrell Green accommodate a further 5-10,000 houses.

Winchfield Station Parking Chaos

Version Control Shenanigans

At the beginning of the meeting there was considerable confusion about the version of the document they were supposed to be reviewing. The joint Chief Executive insisted that the version they were reviewing had been in the public domain for the requisite 28 days on the “key decision” part of the website. But we downloaded it this morning and found that the document was created in the early afternoon on Thursday, so could not have been available to the public for the required amount of time. In fact, it seems as though multiple versions were available and it isn’t clear how we are supposed to know which one to review. This is just another example of Hart’s incompetence.

This is the video of the exchange:

The full videos of the Shapley Heath discussion can be found on the links below. Thanks to Councillor Steve Forster for making them available on his Facebook page.

Part 1

Part 2.

 

 

 

CPRE Hampshire host event on protecting Hart countryside

CPRE Hampshire event on protecting the countryside in Hart and Rushmoor

CPRE Hampshire event on protecting the countryside

CPRE Hampshire are hosting an event about protecting the countryside in Hart and Rushmoor.

The event is free and everybody is welcome, so please do attend if you can. However, you need to book in advance so they can organise catering.

The event is taking place at the Church on the Heath, Elvetham Heath, Fleet GU51 1HA at 7pm on 24th October 2018.

You can book by following the link to www.cprehampshire.org.uk or phoning them on 01962 841897.

The full leaflet can be downloaded here.

CPRE concerned about new Government housing targets

CPRE concerned about new Government housing targets.

CPRE concerned about new Government housing targets.

In an article appearing in today’s Fleet News and Mail, the CPRE is concerned about new Government housing targets.

The Fleet N&M has picked up on our article that shows Hart’s housing target will fall to 6,132 new dwellings under new Government proposals. This compares to the Hart’s current Local Plan total of some 10,185. The total outlined in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) of 8,022.

CPRE is concerned about the impact of the new guidelines in southern and east Hampshire and in Basingstoke and Deane. Whilst we share some of this concern, we are delighted about the result for Hart, RUshmoor and Surrey Heath.

We have asked some questions of council that will be tabled at tomorrow’s meeting, so we will find out how Hart plans to respond to these new proposals.

The full Fleet N&M article can be found here.

 

CPRE slams Hart Local Plan

CPRE Murrell Green has slammed the draft Hart Local Plan

CPRE slams Hart Local Plan

The local CPRE has slammed the draft Hart Local Plan, saying it is incoherent and lacks regard for the countryside.

They say:

CPRE’s District Group for North East Hampshire are concerned that the Local Plan has no coherent strategy but is instead a series of tactics to deliver a housing and development supply without any recognition of the role of countryside and the value of the natural environment.

The rural areas seem to have been completely missed in that there is no recognition of the role or function of the countryside and rural communities in this part of the county. Hart’s Vision ignores landscape value, the value of historic or heritage assets, as well as the social and health value the countryside provides for recreation.

Employment site assessment and policies appear to be ill-considered, especially in the rural areas. There are no criteria to support the policies and this results in some sites that employ few people being designated as important for jobs yet other vibrant employment sites in the villages are allocated for housing. This is in direct conflict with the Plan’s aim to protect employment sites particularly in the rural areas.

Murrell Green, which lies close to Hartley Wintney, Winchfield and Hook, is a potential greenfield settlement for 1,800 houses and a secondary school. The site contains endangered woodland, ancient lanes and hedgerows, and lakes and ponds. The proposals show no regard for these natural features and there are concerns about water supply for the high level of proposed housing

We agree with the CPRE, and many of their ideas are incorporated in our suggested response to the draft Local Plan consultation. Please ask the council to think again  by downloading the link below and review our suggested comments on the draft Local Plan. Please do make amendments into your own words and submit it to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk before the deadline of 5pm on 9th June 2017. All of the Council’s consultation documents can be found here.

Response to the Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation

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

CPRE Hampshire Logo

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

CPRE Investigation

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

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

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

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

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

We Heart Hart Analysis

This concurs with our own analysis that showed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CPRE launches campaign to prevent more needless loss of countryside

CPRE Hampshire Logo

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) have launched a campaign to prevent further needless loss of our countryside. They have set up an easy way for people to write to their MP highlighting the 650,000 homes that have been permitted but not built (around three years worth of demand), urging the Government to alter the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to bring a stronger focus on brownfield development and abandon proposals to relax Green Belt planning laws.

The finally ask that housing targets are based on more realistic assessments.

All of this very much echoes what we have been campaigning for.

Their campaign can be found here, and we urge all We Heart Hart supporters to take 1 minute to support the CPRE and use their page to write to our local MP.

CPRE Hampshire says Winchfield is a ‘poor option’ in response to consultation

CPRE Hampshire Logo

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England’s (CPRE) Hampshire branch have responded to Hart Council’s Local Plan consultation and condemned the whole idea of a new town at Winchfield. Their full response can be found here.

In it, they say that they do not accept that a new town is a valid approach and describe it as a ‘poor option’. They also challenge the housing need figures, pointing out that the (allegedly) Objectively Assessed Housing Need is 58.6% above the latest Government household projections.

This response, coupled with Winchfield Parish Council’s very strong response, really does call into question the whole idea of a new town in Winchfield.

 

 

 

CPRE shows that brownfield sites deliver faster than green field sites

CPRE study shows brownfield sites complete faster than green field sites

New research from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has shown that brownfield sites are delivered around 6 months faster than green field sites.

The new detailed research report, carried out by construction consultants, Glenigan, covered 15 local authorities across England between March 2012 and December 2015. The data reveals that the time between planning permission being granted and construction work starting is generally the same for brownfield and greenfield sites, but that work on brownfield sites is completed more than six months quicker.

This new research illustrates that prioritising investment in brownfield sites is a highly effective way of building the homes we need. The research undermines claims that brownfield is either too slow or inconvenient to develop in comparison to greenfield.

In Hart’s case, it is also clear that brownfield sites have a much better chance of meeting the actual housing needs of the people of Hart, as it is much more likely that they will deliver the ~3,800 much needed, smaller 1 and 2-bed properties for the young as well as specialist units for the elderly that make up around one third of our housing need.

The case for a brownfield solution to our housing need gets stronger by the day.

As a result of this research, CPRE calls for changes to Government policy:

  • Amend the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to make the intentions of Ministers clear and prioritise the use of suitable brownfield sites in urban areas over greenfield – including empowering councils not to allocate greenfield sites in local plans and to refuse planning permission on greenfield sites where these would compete with suitable brownfield sites
  • Commit to seeing development started on 90% of suitable brownfield sites by 2020, rather than just aiming for planning permission on 90% of suitable sites by 2020
  • Make suitable brownfield sites the first priority for any public funding, and prevent public funding for greenfield sites where these would make competing demands
  • The Government should reform the New Homes Bonus to invest billions in regenerating brownfield sites
  • Make clear that planning and fiscal policies promoting brownfield development are focused on existing towns and cities, and damage to brownfield of high environmental or heritage value should be avoided

 

If a new town is the answer, then Hart Council is asking the wrong question – CPRE

Winchfield in Hart District, Hampshire

Winchfield

Hampshire Campaign to protect Rural England (CPRE) have published a new article on their website saying, “If a new town is the answer, then Hart is asking the wrong question”.

The article goes on to note that a new town at Winchfield will not deliver many homes during the plan period and so will be futile.  The CPRE also notes that there is evidence that the housing market assessment maybe 30-50% too high, echoing our analysis of a number of SHMAs in the South of England.

They also note that a new town is likely to build the wrong type of housing in the wrong place to meet the needs of the district, saying “Those in need of a £200,000 property close to urban amenities, public transport and employment may not be in the market for a £300,000 property in a remote dormitory village”.

We wholeheartedly agree with CPRE’s sentiments.

If you would like to give Hart Council more encouragement to persist in getting Pyestock released 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