Do we really want to lose the harts from Winchfield, the heart of Hart?

Hart in Heart of Hart, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

Roe deer in the Heart of Hart, Winchfield

Take a look at the lovely picture above, taken yesterday of a roe deer in Winchfield.

Hart District Council should think very carefully before concreting over our green fields and destroying the environment of the beautiful animals that lend their name to our district.

Surely it would be better to re-double the efforts to find brownfield sites to meet our housing needs.

We Heart Hart Petition submitted to Hart District Council

We Heart Hart Campaign Logo

We Heart Hart Campaign Logo

Last Saturday, we submitted the We Heart Hart petition to Hart District Council.  We chose this time so that the petition would be considered before the new proposed restrictions on petitions were able to come into force.  They have now acknowledged receipt of the petition and Council Leader, Stephen Parker will consult we me in due course.

Council rules state that petitions with more than 1,000 signatories will trigger a debate of the full Council.  At the time the petition was submitted there were 2,130 signatories.  This is nearly four times the number of people who responded to Hart’s consultation and more than 10 times the number of people who expressed a preference for a new town.  According to the Council Petition Scheme, the petition may also be debated by Cabinet.

The aims of the petition that all signatories signed up for were:

  • Demand that the Council develops a vision and strategy for Hart that retains its role as a rural, green hinterland for NE Hampshire that respects the separate character and identity of Hart’s settlements and landscapes and preserves the green spaces as amenity space for the urban settlements.

Please comment on this post or on our Facebook page or Twitter feed with your ideas on what we should say at the consultation and for content of the motion to be debated at Council.

Call for Hart Council to work with Winchfield Action Group and We Heart Hart

Cooperation between Hart District Council and We Heart Hart and Winchfield Action Group

Call for Hart District Council to work with We Heart Hart and Winchfield Action Group

Tristram Cary, spokesperson for Winchfield Action Group (WAG) has called for Hart District Council to work with groups like We Heart Hart and WAG in the preparation of the Local Plan instead of refusing to meet and seeking to suppress questions.

Tristram’s call came in an excellent email to the Standards Committee of Hart District Council, asking them to reject the proposals that seek to restrict the questions that can be put and limiting the petitions that can be served upon the Council.  We Heart Hart fully endorse Tristram’s stance which is re-produced in full below:

I wish to register my very strong objection to the proposal to restrict questions and petitions which are to be debated at the Standards Committee on Thursday.

I can understand that it is tiresome for Hart to have to deal with so many questions from the public, and I can understand the view that the questions are being used as a platform to state opinions of groups such as WAG and WeHeartHart. But so what? Isn’t the point of public participation at Council Meetings to allow opinions to be heard, and questions to be asked? Surely an hour a month isn’t a big price to pay for public involvement in the debate?

I would also like to point out that Mr Parker has said in his proposal that “the proper way to deal with such matters [ie planning matters] is to participate in the consultation exercise”. But Hart has decided (illegally in the view of Peter Village QC) to remove the Public Consultation on the Local Plan from the planning process.

As well as objecting to the proposal to restrict questions, I would like to make a more general point.I think that Hart’s attitude to the work of WAG and WeHeartHart has been dismissive. For instance Hart refuses to have a meeting with us to discuss the legal opinion, and the answers given to our questions and suggestions have been on the whole incomplete and unhelpful. Hart’s message appears to be “we have decided what we want to do and we are going to ignore your views to the greatest extent possible”. I suggest that Hart would do well to regard WAG and WeHeartHart as allies in the attempt to arrive at the best possible Local Plan for Hart, backed up by the strongest possible evidence base. WAG and WeHeartHart have got access to funds and expertise, and I see no reason why these resources should not be used in collaboration with Hart DC to do work that is in the common interest of the whole community. I am thinking of work packages such as a study of Brownfield site capacity in Hart and Rushmoor and an ecological/environmental study of Hart to better understand the value of the countryside.

The NPPF (para 155) requires councils to “engage in early and meaningful engagement and collaboration with neighbourhoods, local organisations and businesses…A wide section of the community should be proactively engaged, so that Local Plans, as far as possible, reflect a collective vision and a set of agreed priorities for the sustainable development of the area, including those contained in any neighbourhood plans that have been made”. I think that Hart has so far failed dismally to live up to the spirit of the NPPF. Hart’s engagement with WAG and WeHeartHart has been the exact opposite of proactive, and I think that a change of attitude is long overdue.

I would welcome a meeting between Hart DC and WAG/WeHeartHart to discuss how we might engage together in a more productive way.

Let us hope that Hart Council respond positively to this suggestion and build on the work we did to support the council with the Hop Garden Road (Owens Farm) Hook, appeal and the response to the Rushmoor Local Plan.

Support for urban development bigger than for a new town at Winchfield

Cows in Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

Do we want to lose our cows in Winchfield to concrete?

Hart Council is still saying that “many” people support a new town at Winchfield, but the evidence for this is paper thin.  However, many more people have supported our petition, calling for a brownfield strategy and even Hart’s own consultation showing many others support some form of urban development.

At Hart Council meeting in July it was stated by the council leader that:

“For many people in Hart the Winchfield new settlement option is far preferable to continual growth of existing settlements”

Their evidence for this is the outcome of the consultation that took place between August and October 2014.  The outcome emphasised by the council is Table 1 which shows that by ranking first preferences only, Option 4 (Focused Growth – New Settlement) was the preferred option by only 202 people.  However, the obvious point is far more people voted for a solution other than a new town.

Hart Council Local Plan Consultation Ranking of Responses Table 1

Hart Council Local Plan Consultation Ranking of Responses Table 1

However, Hart Council also published a second table produced by giving a score to each rank ,with 1st rank choices getting 5 points, down to fifth rank choices getting 1 point.

Hart Council Local Plan Consultation Ranking with scoring system Table 2

Hart Council Local Plan Consultation Ranking with scoring system Table 2

As can be seen, this gives the top score to Option 1 (Settlement Focus), second place to Option 4 and a strong showing for Option 3 (Focussed Growth – Strategic Urban Extension).

Since then, of course, the We Heart Hart petition has generated over 2,100 signatures and calls for the vast bulk of our housing requirement to be built on brownfield sites.  However, it is worthwhile considering what Options 1-3 actually meant:

  • Option 1 was described as concentrating new housing development within the existing boundaries of the main settlements and larger villages within Hart. Opportunities would be sought for planned regeneration and change within the settlements, including the potential re-allocation of some employment and other land for residential redevelopment, where the land was no longer required or appropriate for the original purpose.
  • Option 2 would involve allocating new housing development adjacent to each settlement within tiers 1-4 of Hart’s settlement hierarchy. A starting point could be to try and enable growth in proportion to each settlement’s overall size, and could take into account factors such as the existing dwelling stock within those communities, their level of infrastructure capacity and their accessibility by different modes of transport.
  • Option 3 would involve a small number (perhaps one to four) locations being targeted for concentrated growth and development in the form of a major expansion of one or more existing settlements within Hart.

Careful analysis of these options shows that that what they really mean is development within existing urban areas or very close to them.  Taking the raw first preference choices would show that 295 people out of the 550 valid responses, a clear majority, would prefer development within urban areas or close to existing settlements and not a new settlement.

Yet, despite their own evidence from Table 2, the evidence from the We Heart Hart petition and the revised analysis of Table 1, Hart Council has set its course towards a new settlement at Winchfield, despite massive infrastructure issues and big environmental issues associated with the Thames Valley Heath Special Protection Area, several SSSI’s and SINCs.  Moreover, a new town leaves Hart open to becoming a sink for 3,100 houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.

This seems to us to be the flimsiest of evidence on which to build a housing strategy and runs the risk of falling apart under inspection.

 

Infrastructure costs of over £300m put Winchfield new town plans in doubt

Construction Workers

Construction Workers

A new study by Hart District Council has highlighted significant barriers to future housing delivery in the district. We estimate that the high level costs of meeting these infrastructure gaps might be over £300m.

The study covered 4 areas:

  • Education
  • Transport
  • Utilities
  • Flood Risk

Education was highlighted as having significant barriers to delivery, with a high level cost estimate of £80-100m (higher than the £62m estimate we put together back in February).

Transport was also highlighted as a significant barrier to delivery, but no cost estimate was given.  However, the possibility of needing a new junction on the M3 was discussed.  It is difficult to see how a brand new junction will give much change from £100m, given a new junction at Birmingham airport will cost £250m.  Of course other roads and bridges in the area will also need to be upgraded that we estimate at £35-40m.

The report also discussed railway provision and suggested that the existing railway bridges over the roads in Winchfield would need to be upgraded and that Winchfield station itself may need to be replaced with a new station at Murrell Green.  The report made no mention of the fact that these bridges and Winchfield station itself are now listed on  Hampshire’s Archaeology and Historic Buildings Record.  Amazingly, railways were not considered to be a significant barrier to housing delivery even though no site for a new station has been identified and the costs of such a construction and the new roads that would be needed have not been evaluated. The recent improvements to Fleet station cost >£8m, it is difficult to see how a totally new station, including platforms, buildings, signalling, car parks and new road access would cost less than £25m. The recent Network Rail funding debacle puts such an investment in grave doubt.

Provision of foul water capacity was identified as a significant barrier to housing delivery although no costs were identified.

The potential need to put the existing high voltage electricity lines that cross Winchfield underground was raised. This costs around £20/km, so would probably cost round £50m.  This was not considered to be a significant barrier.

The report did not cover the costs of additional healthcare facilities that would be required to cope with the increased population all these extra houses would create.

Adding all this up, and the total costs will be in excess of £300m.  We have reported before that Hart estimates that there is currently a £78m funding gap for infrastructure and Hampshire estimates a funding gap of £1.9bn across the county. All of the costs above will add to that gap.  It is simply not credible to believe that such large costs will be funded by developer contributions.

The study recommended that further studies be carried out to examine these issues in greater detail:

  • Identify potential implications for infrastructure provision of the Preferred Housing Distribution Strategy (June 2015) which broadly set out a higher level of growth than hitherto within existing settlements
  • Commencement of a full Transport Assessment (TA) potentially utilising the existing HCC North Hampshire Transport Model (NHTM)
  • Commencement of an Integrated Water Management Strategy (IWMS)
  • Continued engagement with HCC (particularly with regard to school place provision) and with South West Trains (SWT) and Network Rail (NR)
  • Consolidation of information into an updated Infrastructure Delivery Schedule (IDS) to support both the emerging local plan and community infrastructure levy (CIL) at public examination
  • Continued engagement with the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (E3LEP)

None of these tasks appear to be identified in the work plan for the Local Plan, so there is little doubt that the Local Plan project is now massively behind schedule.

We Heart Hart Petition breaks 2,000 barrier

We Heart Hart Campaign Logo

We Heart Hart Campaign Logo

The We Heart Hart petition is now really taking off, breaking through the 2,000 barrier over the weekend. This is approaching four times the number of valid responses to Hart Council’s consultation that took place in Autumn 2014 and more than 9 times the number of people (220) of said they favoured a new settlement.

It seems that the people of Hart are backing our 5-point plan for change and waking up to the reality that the Council’s plans will:

Created using the Donation Thermometer plugin https://wordpress.org/plugins/donation-thermometer/.2,350Raised 3,993 towards the 2,350 target.3,993Raised 3,993 towards the 2,350 target.170%
  • Turn the northern part of Hart will turn into a single urban sprawl when there is an alternative of building higher density in urban areas to help rejuvenate our high streets
  • Ignore many brownfield sites untouched all over the district where we could build housing
  • Destroy our environment and the very nature of Hart’s unique appeal – the reason we all love living here.

If you would like to join our campaign, please sign and share our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

Surely it is now time for Hart Council to think again, act on the legal opinion describing their position as “hopeless”,  focus on brownfield first and listen to the people.

Revised submission to Owens Farm (Hop Garden Road) Appeal

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

The full details of the submission can be found here:

Revised submission to Hop Garden Road Appeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Hart respectfully requests that this application is turned down.

 

Link

We Heart Hart submits objection to Hop Garden Road development in Hook

We Heart Hart has submitted an objection to the Hop Garden Road (Owens Farm) development in Hook.

The full details of the submission can be found here:

Submission to oppose development of Hop Garden Road

The summary of the submission is presented below:

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

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

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/hands-off-our-land/9002655/Hands-Off-Our-Land-Housing-estates-will-not-be-plonked-next-to-villages-pledges-David-Cameron.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can help by going along to the appeal, to be held between Tuesday 12th May and Thursday 14th May, 10am to 5pm.  The first day starts at 10am and probably through to 5pm at Hart Council’s Civic Offices, Harlington Way, GU51 4AE, Fleet.  More details here.

link

Leaflet campaign doubles size of We Heart Hart petition

A big thank you to all the volunteers who have helped with the We Heart Hart leafleting campaign.  Just before we started leafleting we had 923 signatories.  Today, the number is 1,846; meaning the petition has doubled in size in just three weeks.  This is more than three times the number of people who responded to Hart District Council’s consultation and more than 8 times the number of people who expressed a preference for a new town.

Support for our cause has increased after we published the legal opinion from Peter Village QC that said that Hart was in a “hopeless position” with the Local Plan.  Surely it is time for Hart to think again and adopt our 5-point plan to bring the Local Plan back on track which is summarised below:

  • Create a medium growth scenario with a lower housing requirement than the current high growth scenario to give an option to reduce the environmental impact of development.
  • Create a formal brownfield option and invite a competition to design the best way of using our brownfield land.
  • Do the work and consult upon the additional elements of a proper Local Plan such as employment, education, transport, retail and other infrastructure.
  • Consider the Environment and Landscape by carrying out proper habitat studies and landscape character assessments.
  • Fix the management and governance problems within Hart Council that have resulted in the past failure and current hopeless position.

If you would like to support our position, then please sign and share our petition.

 

Go to Petition

Top QC says Hart Council’s position on the Local Plan is “hopeless”

Scales of Justice weigh against Hart District Council

Scales of Justice weigh against Hart District Council

 

Top planning QC, Peter Village has produced a devastating legal opinion on Hart District Council’s Local Plan process and pronounced that they are in a “hopeless position“.  Hart Council have received this opinion, but have refused a meeting to discuss ways of improving the plan.  In fact, at last night’s council meeting, council leader Stephen Parker dismissed the report as “just one opinion among many”.

It is imperative that Hart gets a high quality local plan in place quickly and fends off the demands from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils to build an extra 3,100 houses in Hart.  The council’s attitude displays a staggering level of arrogance and complacency that can only lead to more delays and extra costs to get the plan right.  We urge all voters to press their council candidates to push to get the Local Plan process back on track by adopting our 5-point plan and dropping all ideas of a new town in Hart District.

The essence of the opinion is:

  • The Regulation 18 public consultation in the autumn of 2014 addressed housing options and did not consider other vital issues such as employment, retail, transport and infrastructure.
  • Hart District Council said in April 2014 that they would conduct a second Reg 18 consultation in March 2015, which they have since dropped and now intend to proceed directly to a Regulation 19 consultation on the Draft Plan for Final Inspection.  This plan is likely to fail because either the Local Plan will not contain all the elements it should, or they will not have consulted on all of the things they should consult upon.
  • Hart have not consulted upon the demands from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor that Hart build 3,100 houses for them.
  • Hart have not considered a medium growth “policy on” scenario of not meeting the full housing need on environmental grounds.
  • Hart have not properly considered the brownfield capacity of the district, highlighting that the capacity could be up to 3,500 dwellings, far more than the 750 dwellings Hart is still insisting upon.

Reader may recall that set out a 5-point plan to address these issues and this is summarised below:

  • Create a medium growth scenario with a lower housing requirement than the current high growth scenario to give an option to reduce the environmental impact of development.
  • Create a formal brownfield option and invite a competition to design the best way of using our brownfield land.
  • Do the work and consult upon the additional elements of a proper Local Plan such as employment, education, transport, retail and other infrastructure.
  • Consider the Environment and Landscape by carrying out proper habitat studies and landscape character assessments.
  • Fix the management and governance problems within Hart Council that have resulted in the past failure and current hopeless position.

If you want to press for change, please sign our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

The full Legal Opinion and our latest Press Release can be found below:

Peter Village QC Legal Opinion
We Heart Hart Press Release 1 May 2015

This has been covered in the Basingstoke Gazette.

 

QC Opinion

Press Release