#StormDennis has taken its toll on Hart District. As far as we can tell, the worst hit area is around the mooted Shapley Heath/ Winchfield new town. Here we have evidence of yet another of these supposed 1 in 30 year events. We drove around there this morning and found:
The river Whitewater had flooded by the A30 opposite the Crooked Billet. This is the area that is supposed to be Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). The sort of area earmarked for country rambles and dog-walking. Definitely not water-skiing.
Totters Lane flooded at the top for quite a distance
Bagwell Lane in Winchfield flooded
Station Road flooded
Pilcot Road in Dogmersfield flooded
Hitches Lane in Crookham Village flooded near the new roundabout for the Grove Farm development. Who knows how the new residents are supposed to get out of their new houses.
Taplins Farm Lane flooded again. We didn’t even attempt to drive through in a 4×4.
Taplins Farm Lane Flood
#StormDennis also flooded Pale Lane and the fields either side. The west side is also supposed to be SANG for the proposed Shapley Heath development.
The actual weather has once again refused to comply with the flood assessment carried out for Hart Council as part of its evidence base for the Local Plan. The sustainability assessment claimed:
There was some evidence of wet ground at the far east of SHL183, but “no other obvious evidence of current or past flooding”.
The detailed assessment also said there’s only a one in 30 year chance of surface water flooding.
As far as we can tell, the road through the proposed development area and all roads out of the area were affected by the floods. Both SANG areas were also flooded. When will Hart District Council see sense and abandon this daft project?
Whitewater Valley Flood, Hook, Hampshire
Whitewater Valley Flood, Hook, Hampshire. #StormDennis.
The CCH Rhetoric Machine went into overdrive at Thursday’s Cabinet. After claiming their untrue statements about Shapley Heath were just rhetoric, they went on to make more spurious claims in the Cabinet meeting (report here). We have produced a short video to tackle the main claims:
Since then , they have produced a defence of their position on Facebook. Below is their post, together with the RHA response in red.
CCH rhetoric machine goes into overdrive
This post is in response to accusations made against CCH Councillors on certain fb pages.
Do they mean us? Surely not.
If you would like to see for yourself what was said and how it was said, please see the link below for HDC’s live streaming of last night’s cabinet meeting and, Paper H relating to the Garden Community that was to be discussed.
Please take the video to 37 minutes to begin at the start of the Garden Community debate.
Alternatively, you can read our post, with edited highlights from the meeting here.
CCH have been accused of:
– being rude to members of the public.
Not by us. There are many words we could use to describe CCH’s attitude, but on the night they weren’t particularly rude to anybody.
– being prejudicial towards a new settlement.
Not true. Prejudicial has no meaning in this context. The accusation in the QC opinion is of CCH being of ‘closed mind’ and thus having a predetermined attitude to matters relating to Shapley Heath.
– wanting to build houses Hart doesn’t need.
Well, this is true. Their own Local Plan said that the new town wasn’t required. The inspector agreed and threw out Policy SS3. The Garden Village bid document said the same thing. Yet, they still bid for Government money for an unnecessary Garden Village. Now they have agreed to spend up to £650K to flesh out the plans for it having committed to Government that it would deliver 5,000 homes above local requirements with an indication that there is capacity “…for a development of 10,000 homes…”.
– wanting to build 10,000 new homes.
Up to 10,000 houses is stated both in the bid and the accompanying Vision Document.
We say, we were assertive in demonstrating our reasoning, were reactive to correct misinformation and were defensive, when necessary, of ourselves and, the people we represent.
As you decide for yourself, we would like to draw your attention (see below) to just one member of the public’s statement as it has bearing on one of the accusations made against us (We believe this refers to the RHA statement):-
Rural Hart Association (RHA, made up of 3 predominately Winchfield groups),
Not true. WAG is based in Winchfield. We Heart Hart is based in Hartley Wintney and NE Hants Greens are district-wide. In addition, other Hart-wide groups support RHA.
state they want to regenerate Fleet Town Centre and, have ‘given developers the Hart Centre’.
True. RHA does want to regenerate Fleet and the other urban centres to keep up with neighbouring towns like Camberley, Aldershot, Farnham and Wokingham. RHA came up with several options for regeneration of Fleet. Hart Shopping Centre was put forward as one of these options to developers by RSH.
They then state that their developers will not carry out any work on this ‘regeneration’ scheme ‘unless HDC takes the Garden Village off the table’.
Not true. The developers won’t invest time and money in urban regeneration when the Council has such an obvious bias towards the new town and clearly no interest in looking at urban regeneration.
Is this prejudicial by residents of Winchfield wanting future development away from them and for it to continue in and around Fleet?
Again ‘prejudicial’ has no legal meaning. Residents aren’t the people who actually make planning decisions, so they can’t be predetermined. Of course, they can oppose proposals they disagree with. The Local Plan itself identifies the decline of Fleet as a key issue, yet the policies to address this are feeble. It is the interests of all Hart residents for the countryside to be preserved and for all of the urban centres of Fleet, Hook, Blackwater and Yateley to thrive. Private money is clearly available to support such schemes as evidenced by the regeneration of Camberley, Farnham, Aldershot and Wokingham.
If you live in Fleet, Church Crookham, Crookham Village, Elvetham Heath and Hook, you will know they’ve seen the majority of urban expansion over the last decade.
Compared to their size, Hartley Wintney and Odiham have also seen big new developments. In addition, Fleet has fallen behind its neighbours in terms of retail, leisure and public amenities.
Do you ‘really’ want more development tagged on, using existing infrastructure… roads, schools, doctors, station that already cannot cope?
No. A masterplan for all of our urban centres will address these issues and should also deliver infrastructure funding in the places that need it. Remember the infrastructure plans for the new settlement were described by the Inspector as “not of any great substance”. Plus, a new town won’t deliver any new infrastructure for existing settlements. At least urban regeneration would deliver funds for infrastructure in the areas that are already creaking under the strain.
Do you want to live in town where it’s centre is high rise apartment blocks offering no outdoor space for families?
The LSH proposal for the Hart Shopping Centre utilised existing sightlines and in no sense was it “high rise”. Additional regeneration opportunities such as the Civic Campus could also deliver outdoor spaces.
That’s what RHA are proposing for you.
More rhetoric that you shouldn’t take too seriously.
We will look at all options open to us but, CCH want to deliver our future housing needs in a way that is high quality, sustainable and right for the majority of Hart not, just for the few.
But you clearly aren’t looking at anything other than a new settlement. The Paper explicitly rules out looking at alternatives. There is nothing ‘high quality’ about any of the new town proposals delivered so far. For instance, three locations for a secondary school have been proposed. One was next to a mental health unit housing sex offenders, the second was directly on top of a high-pressure gas main and the third was under electricity pylons. And of course, the Inspector threw out the last proposal because he wasn’t convinced it was deliverable.
And, as we have said many times before, reiterated by Councillor “it’s only rhetoric” Radley last night, if we don’t ‘need’ to build more houses then we ‘won’t build any more houses.
The CCH Rhetoric machine is up and running again. The bid to Government committed you to building over and above the local requirement. The new town isn’t needed to meet requirements. So, why are you spending £650K of taxpayers money?
Community Campaign Hart (CCH) have revealed their plan to Completely Concrete Hart by sticking to the ridiculous 10,185 housing target in the draft Local Plan. This comes despite the new Government method for calculating housing need results in a much lower housing target for Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath.
It is time to up the pressure on CCH to come up with a strategy to take account of this new information. They should build a Local Plan that is good for the whole of Hart that everybody can live with. It is time to drop their plan to Completely Concrete Hart.
To be clear, in our view, Hart’s housing target should be reduced to around 6,500, to take account of the new Government approach, plus a few hundred for Surrey Heath. Using the figures in the draft Local Plan consultation (para 104), this would leave 906 new houses left to plan for. This could be made up from
The remaining 40 can come from any number of brownfield sites for instance:
Hartley Wintney (Nero Brewery – 10)
Winchfield (Winchfield Court extension – 17)
The derelict eyesores on Fleet Road – up to 200.
We can save Hartland Village (Pyestock) for the 2030’s.
The revelations came in a reply to an email sent to CCH by a concerned correspondent on Facebook. We reproduce the question, James Radley’s answer and our commentary in red below.
Question to Community Campaign Hart (CCH)
I write to you ask a question about your party’s policy towards supporting (or not) a reduced housing total for Hart District. Specifically, in regard of this statement on the We Heart Hart (WHH) Facebook page:
If Hart followed the latest Government approach to calculating housing need, even Hartland Park wouldn’t be needed. The remaining housing need could be met from Sun Park and any number of other small brownfield sites.
Answer from CCH revealing commitment to Completely Concrete Hart
I am probably the best placed to explain the CCH position on housing numbers. It is true that as a rule we do not engage in social media debates, mainly due to a lack of time. As well as trying to fit in my day job I also expect to spend over 6 hours in total in the council offices today and similarly tomorrow.
One has to ask why the council Deputy Leader and portfolio holder for Services is spending quite so much time in council offices working on the Local Plan. One would hope this time would be put in by the portfolio holder for planning, Lib Dem councillor Graham Cockarill. It obviously takes a lot of effort to Completely Concrete Hart.
Social media debates are very time consuming in order to stay on top of all the posts and then the debate tends to descend to the lowest common denominator. I for one would certainly rather put the time and effort in where it matters and unless one is going to invest all that precious time in the social media arena, better not to engage at all.
This sounds like CCH want to stay in their own bunker and not actually engage with anyone who disagrees with them. They are afraid to engage because they don’t have any facts or arguments to back up their new town ideology.
Unfortunately WHH are wrong in their assessment of housing numbers.
Para 15 of Planning for the right homes in the right places
Working through this. The demographic baseline is the latest DCLG household projections (Table 406) that can be found here. These show that over the period 2011-2032, Hart requires 218 dwellings per annum, or 4,536 in total. In the reference period of 2016-2026 used by the Government, Hart requires 209 dwellings per annum. This 209 dpa is then modified to account for market signals and results in a new Government figure for Hart of 292 dpa. Scaling up to the full planning period results in 6,132 new houses for Hart. And that’s it. No more further adjustments for changes in household size. No more houses for people we have to import who then go and work in London. This compares to the 8,022 in the SHMA and 10,185 in the draft Local Plan.
Hart housing targets under alternative scenarios
They are citing a baseline figure in a government consultation paper which is not part of the planning policy framework in effect at this point in time and is a figure which even if it was policy is taken as a starting point on top of which other factors will add to the housing numbers needed.
We have answered the point about the baseline above. The baseline is the demographic projection. The Government then already made the upwards adjustment for market signals in the 292 dpa figure. It is true that these figures are so far only part of a consultation paper, but the feedback we have received is that the Government is committed to pushing these through. It would seem prudent to us for Hart to take these figures into account now and prepare a Local Plan with two scenarios:
The first scenario should be based upon the 6,132 outlined above. Plus a few hundred to give some flexibility to build some new houses for Surrey Heath. They may still have a problem meeting their new, lower housing target. This would give a total of around 6,500.
The second scenario should be based solely on the SHMA figure of 8,022.
To be clear, the daft 10,185 target in the draft Local Plan should be dropped forthwith. Even James Radley admits the extra 2,000+ houses on top of the SHMA won’t affect house prices. As the Government position becomes clear, Hart can make the decision on which scenario can be submitted to the inspector. There is no need to Completely Concrete Hart.
We lost the fight against Grove Farm because we don’t have a local plan in place. We don’t have a local plan because the Conservatives have allowed it to drift for years in a sea of procrastination driven by their internal in fighting.
True, Grove Farm was lost because we don’t have a Local Plan. It was also lost because our policies are out of date and because the application was not determined on time. Yes, the Tories missed all their own deadlines. But CCH have also played their part by forcing a delay in the Local Plan last December.
The main reason for taking control was to get the local plan out and to do so by a total focus and not letting the intentional disruptions from WHH to deflect us from that.
At no time have we sought to delay 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.
It is quite clear that if we don’t get a local plan out that is based on realistic and future proof housing numbers, then Fleet & Church Crookham will continue to be blighted by bolt on developments such as Grove Farm, Pale Lane and whatever is next.
Yes, we need a Local Plan. And quickly. The realistic numbers to use are the Government’s new numbers. These are already future proofed by the extra houses to take account of market signals. We have suggested a modest further uplift to help out Surrey Heath.
It is interesting that the Deputy Leader for the whole of Hart is only concerned about Fleet and Church Crookham. We are also concerned about Owens Farm to the west of Hook. We are also concerned about the long term impact of adopting a ridiculously high housing target. This will then be compounded for decades to come, putting even more of our green fields under threat, including Pale Lane and Crookham Village.
WHH know this and are trying to undermine the new settlement option in the full knowledge that they are condemning us to yet more incremental developments which do not produce any retrospective infrastructure.
We are opposed to the new settlement because we don’t believe it is needed. And we certainly don’t believe it will solve the infrastructure problems facing the district. And we don’t want to Completely Concrete Hart. If we adopt the new Government housing numbers, it will be better for everyone.
I hope that my brief explanation helps.
It does, but not in the way he thinks. It confirms CCH is in the driving seat, dragging the Lib Dems along with disastrous policies to Completely Concrete Hart. The explanation confirms CCH is in a bunker, unwilling and unable to debate the real issues. CCH is locked into its new town ideology and is trying to justify it by sticking to a ridiculous housing target.
We have looked at the responses from the following groups and can find no mention of their objection to the housing target:
Fleet and Church Crookham Society
Church Crookham Parish Council
Fleet Town Council
Many of these groups strongly oppose the now withdrawn Cross Farm proposal that was included as a strategic site in the draft Local Plan. Their message seems to be: go ahead and build thousands of houses we don’t need, but don’t put them in Fleet or Church Crookham.
Councillors fail to challenge the ridiculous housing target
Community Campaign Hart CCH councillors fail to challenge the ridiculous housing target
Moreover, three Community Campaign Hart councillors have responded to the consultation without opposing the ridiculous housing target of 10,185 in the draft Local Plan:
Removing Cross Farm from the Local Plan. This application for this site has now been withdrawn.
No wonder they are being nicknamed Completely Concrete Hart
Area of search for Winchfield new settlement opportunity
Brian Blewett of the Liberal Democrats has also responded, supporting the position of Blackwater and Hawley Town Council and Neighbourhood Plan group. Neither of these groups opposed the housing target. As far as we can tell, Hook and Crondall Parish Councils did not oppose the housing target either.
We struggle to understand the logic of this position. We can’t understand why members who purport to stand for the good of the whole of Hart support the ridiculous uplift from the SHMA total of 8,022. The Government consultation is clear, Hart’ new housing need is going to be 6.132 units. The remaining target can be met from brownfield sites alone.
Some councillors and local groups oppose the ridiculous housing target
In better news, Andrew Renshaw, member for Hartley Wintney argued for a lower overall housing target. As did the following groups:
Crookham Village Parish Council
Dogmersfield Parish Council
Eversley Parish Council
Hartley Wintney Preservation Society
Rotherwick Parish Council
Rural Hart Association
Whitewater Valley Preservation Society
Winchfield Action Group
Winchfield Parish Council
Alastair Clarke, chair of the Hart District Association of Parish and Town Councils (HDAPTC), also opposed the housing target in his personal response.
It’s great that such a diverse set of groups has seen the logic of opposing the ridiculous 10,185 housing target.
It is time all parishes and groups within Hart united behind the opportunity that the new Government consultation brings. This will benefit the whole of Hart and help stop the needless playing off of one parish against another.
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.
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.
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
Second, the inspector found no grounds to reject the application based on highway safety:
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
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
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
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:
These new developments call into question the immediate demand for this SANG, and of course, Hart’s ability to repay the loan.
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.
The planning application for a 160-unit Care Village at Cross Farm has been withdrawn. This comes hot on the heels of our report a few days ago where we said the appeal for this site had been withdrawn.
The withdrawal is of course good news for residents of Crookham Village. This area has seen significant development in recent years.
However, it leaves the Hart Local Plan in some difficulty as this was one of the flagship sites in the recent consultation. But, things may not be too bad as the Government has announced a new methodology for calculating housing need that should lead to a significant reduction in Hart’s housing need. If this new methodology is adopted, none of the green field sites in the Local Plan consultation will be required.
Hart Council clowns fail to decide Cross Farm application
Hart Council has failed to decide the Cross Farm in Crookham Village planning application on time. This has led the developers to submit an appeal on the grounds of non-determination. This comes on the heels of the failure to determine the Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) application back in December 2016. This is Jedi-level incompetence that makes the Council look like clowns.
The original application was made in January this year and should have been decided by 7 April. The application doesn’t seem to have been considered at all by the Planning Committee. Details of the original application for the Cross Farm development can be found here, and searching for 16/03400/OUT. The appeal documents can be found by searching for 17/00078/NONDET.
The proposed Cross Farm development in Crookham Village was one of the recommended sites in the recent Local Plan consultation. This indicates that the proposal was supported by officers.
We can only guess at why it wasn’t determined on time. Clearly, the council is dysfunctional. The Conservatives were in charge of the council when the application should have been decided. However, Community Campaign Hart (CCH) held the chair of the Planning Committee at that time. Now the Planning Committee is chaired by Graham Cockarill of the Liberal Democrats, and the administration is jointly run by CCH and Lib Dems. Therefore, it seems none of the parties are able to get a grip on the planning process and take decisions on time.
One explanation might be that despite Cross Farm being in the draft Local Plan, CCH councillors felt unable to support the proposals. Therefore, they abdicated responsibility, so they could blame any decision on the Inspector. Of course, the appeal will be at council taxpayer expense.
[Update] Another explanation might be that it wasn’t in the interests of the Tory administration or the officers to bring this to the Committee on time. Cross Farm in Crookham Village was a preferred site in the draft Local Plan. If Cross Farm had been rejected at Committee, it would have effectively scuppered the Local Plan. [/Update]
Cost of Cross Farm, Crookham Village appeal
It is likely that this public enquiry style appeal will cost the council over £100,000 to defend. We find it difficult to understand how they expect to win the appeal given that the site is in the draft Local Plan. Therefore, we think it likely the inspector will award costs to the developer should they win. This would bring the total costs of the appeal to over £200,000.
The overall council budget is ~£10m. Surely, this appeal money could be better spent on local services, infrastructure or social housing?
The draft Local Plan put forward by Hart Council includes proposals to make brownfield sites protected from redevelopment. We think this proposal is bonkers and should be challenged in the consultation.
There are two different types of protection proposed in the Local Plan. The first identifies “Strategic Employment Areas”:
Bartley Wood, Hook
Bartley Point, Hook
Cody Park, Farnborough
Meadows Business Park, Blackwater
Osborne Way, Hook
Waterfront Business Park, Fleet
These sites are “given the highest protection and safeguarding against loss to non-B-class employment uses by protecting them for B-class uses”. We would agree that some of these sites should be given some protection. But some of the sites, particularly in Hook suffer from high vacancy rates. Indeed, some of the sites have already been converted to domestic use. Recently the owners of the Virgin Media offices at Bartley Wood have sought advice on whether planning permission would be required to convert some of those buildings to housing. This demonstrates that there is little demand for offices on even the sites of alleged ‘strategic’ importance.
The trouble with this policy is that it cannot stop conversion of offices to apartments. These types of development require no planing permission. Nor do they bring any S106 or CIL contributions to infrastructure. Moreover, they don’t provide an attractive sense of place. By preventing proper redevelopment Hart is cutting off vital infrastructure funding. This makes no sense whatsoever.
The second type of protection is to “Locally Important Employment Areas”:
Ancells Business Park, Fleet
Blackbushe Business Park
Eversley Haulage Yard
Finn’s Business Park, Crondall
Fleet Business Park, Church Crookham
Grove Farm Barn, Crookham Village
Lodge Farm, North Warnborough
Murrell Green Business Park
Potters Industrial Park, Church Crookham
Rawlings Depot, Hook
Redfields Business Park, Church Crookham
Optrex Business Park, Rotherwick
These sites are offered a lower level of protection, but nevertheless the council is putting in place barriers to redevelopment.
Poor brownfield sites should not be protected from redevelopment
The reason this is a bad policy is that the Local Plan itself, as well as the Employment Land Review (ELR), acknowledges that there is an over-supply of low grade office space (para 125). The ELR states that investment in this stock is unviable (para 6.17):
Commercial agents note that the costs of refurbishing such stock to a good standard attractive to the market typically costs between £50-£60 per sq ft; and that the current over-supply of office accommodation limits investment in refurbishing such stock as low rent levels made such investment unviable.
Owners of these sites have three choices. First they can keep the wasting asset and collect no rent, which is not an attractive commercial proposition. Second, they can convert the offices into flats. By and large, they need no planning permission for this. However, these types of development carry no obligation for S106 or CIL payments to councils. Nor do they deliver a good ‘sense of place’. Finally, they could apply for planning permission to properly redevelop these sites into attractive homes, with a particular focus on affordable homes for the young. These types of development will be high-density, but with a good sense of place, and will attract some funding for infrastructure.
The consequences of this policy will be to discourage redevelopment of sites and either lead to more sites being simply converted or worse, sitting idle as eyesores.
We believe this policy should be reversed, particularly as it is a direct contravention of a statement made by the council leader, who said there were no plans to restrict the development of brownfield sites at a council meeting in September 2016:
This is our chance to shape the draft Local Plan that is currently our for consultation. Our suggested comments can be found on the link below. Please do download and review them. Please do make amendments into your own words and submit it to email@example.com 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
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.
We think this is a bad idea for a number of reasons:
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
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
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
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 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 3: Lib dems tweet to say they don’t support new settlement at Winchfield]