Gallagher propose schools under power lines

Gallagher propose schools under power lines

Gallagher propose schools under power lines

In a desperate attempt to influence the Local Plan Consultation, a ‘newsletter’ has been issued in which Gallagher propose new schools under power lines. This is a last minute attempt to try and shoehorn a new settlement at Winchfield into the draft Local Plan. Apparently, the newsletter has only been issued to residents of Fleet and Church Crookham.

We have seen the newsletter and compared the schematic to the local OS map. As far as we can tell, the high voltage power line goes directly over the school grounds. Moreover, there is a pylon directly on top of the sports pitches. Our best attempt at showing the location of the school, and powerline is shown in the graphic above. Aside from the obvious electrocution risk, overhead power lines have been linked to increased risk of childhood cancers such as leukaemia. The secondary school is also right next to the mainline railway line.

The document has been issued by Curtin & Co on behalf of Gallagher. They apparently specialise in the ‘Politics of Planning’. The contact given is David Scane, who can be reached at davids@curtinandco.com. We deplore this crony corporatism. We recommend that WeHeartHart supporters email this man. We should let him know that we don’t approve of these shabby tactics and how ridiculous it is to propose schools in such an unsafe location.

Of course, no evidence has been produced in the Local Plan to show a new school is required. Even if such evidence is produced, it isn’t clear why we can’t simply allocate land for a school without the hundreds of acres for housing.

We have updated our guidance with this new information in our suggested response to the consultation that can be found on the download link below. 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

Local Plan misses opportunity to regenerate urban centres

Hart Local Plan to regenerate urban centres

Hart Local Plan to regenerate urban centres

The consultation on the Draft Local Plan misses an opportunity to regenerate urban centres in Hart District.

This is contrary to Para 131 of the Plan that says “The delivery of town centre redevelopment opportunities must be a priority”. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) indicates (paragraph 23) that planning policies should promote competitive town centre environments and set out policies for the management and growth of centres over the plan period.

This can be best illustrated by using Fleet as an example.

Fleet is the lowest density town of its size in the country. The chart below that there is significant scope for increasing development density in Fleet.

Fleet housing density versus towns of similar size

Fleet housing density versus towns of similar size

 

The retail offer in Fleet is poor, the cultural facilities (e.g. Harlington Centre) are outdated and there is no proper cinema.

Fleet Health score versus benchmarks

Fleet Health score versus benchmarks

 

However, Fleet has the highest average earnings per person of comparative towns by quite a large margin (eg 9% more than Camberley). High earnings should give Fleet a significant advantage over the comparison towns.

 

Fleet earnings versus competitors

Fleet earnings versus competitors

The Local Plan Vision and Objectives fail to take advantage of the opportunity to modernise Hart’s urban centres while at the same time protecting Hart’s countryside.

We believe that the Vision for the Local Plan should be centered on the proposition that Fleet and other urban centres will be re-generated. With Hart District Council’s full and active support, a plan based on urban regeneration would achieve the following benefits:

  1. An ambitious Hart Urban Re-generation Project (HURP) would attract private investment and thus be affordable
  2. Private investment would allow for Hart’s infrastructure to be upgraded in line with the urban re-generation
  3. Good urban design principles would achieve a higher population density in the urban centres while at the same time providing an improved ‘sense of place’ and making the urban centres more desirable places to live.

A similar approach could be adopted in Yateley to provide a proper retail-led centre and improvements could be made to Blackwater. The requirement for additional retail facilities in Hook, identified in the Local Plan could also be met.

Apparently, Hart did have a plan to conduct a brownfield study to evaluate the ‘art of the possible’ in our urban centres. This project has not delivered.

 

In addition, Yateley lacks a defined centre, Blackwater is indistinct and Hook lacks good quality restaurants and shopping facilities.

The council should be setting out a bold plan to improve the retail, cultural and recreational amenities in the district. We should also develop plans for a theatre and cinema in Fleet as part of an attractive mixed-use redevelopment. There will be significant cash available from developers to fund such an ambitious plan.

Moreover, the council should work collaboratively with developers to regenerate other urban areas such as Blackwater and redevelop the centres of Yateley and Hook.

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

Local Plan: Brownfield sites protected from redevelopment

Brownfield site at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hampshire. Hart Council protecting from redevelopment.

Brownfield sites protected from redevelopment

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
  • Eversley Storage
  • 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:

https://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/4_The_Council/Council_meetings/M_Archive/16%2009%20Council.pdf )

Please respond to the Local Plan Consultation

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 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

Hartland Village Planning application submitted by St Edward homes

Hartland Village (Pyestock) Master Plan

Hartland Village (Pyestock) Master Plan

A planning application for Hartland Village has been submitted by St Edward Homes.

Details can be found at Hart’s public access system using reference 17/00471/OUT.

We are broadly supportive of this application, but would echo a number of the objections that have been made:

  1. There should be greater provision for affordable homes. The application is for 1,500 new homes in total. Provision has been made for 195 social rented units and 105 intermediate units. Given the council has increased our housing allocation to 10,000 on the basis of needing more affordable housing, the application should not go ahead unless at least 600 units are affordable or starter homes.
  2. There should be more provision for cycling and walking to Fleet station and the town centre. It would be helpful if a new bus service was also provided, perhaps along the lines of the Hartley Wintney Community bus.
  3. More investment will be required in the local road network to make this development work. We would suggest Kennels Lane needs a significant upgrade.
  4. Specific provision needs to be made for a local health centre and dental practice.
  5. We need a definitive answer from Hampshire County Council on whether a new secondary school is required in Hart or not. If so, it should be provided on this site, which is where the bulk of new children will live.
  6. As is the case with any new development in Hart, the mainline train route to London needs to be significantly upgraded, including stations and parking.

We would urge everyone to make their voice heard in this important consultation.

Where is the draft Hart Local Plan?

Hart Local Plan - Keep Calm and Wait until 26 April

Hart Local Plan – Keep Calm and Wait until 26 April

Regular readers maybe wondering what has happened to the Hart Local Plan. On February 9th, Hart Cabinet agreed to a spatial strategy as part of the draft Local Plan that was due to go out to consultation in March. Obviously, there have been further delays. This is what we now understand to be the position:

Hart Local Plan timetable

The draft local plan will be released 26 April for a six-week Reg 18 consultation period after a briefing session with Parish Councillors on the 25th. There will be roadshows at the main settlements. Every house in the district will receive an A5 leaflet advising them of the consultation.

The Reg 19 process will follow in about November with submission of the full plan to the Secretary of State in mid-February 2018. All responses during the Reg 18 will be made public including the names of the individuals but with no contact details.

Hart Local Plan Headlines

Hart Council have decided to build 10,185 houses up to 2032 of which around 50% have already been built or granted permission. Please note that this number is far higher than 8,022 target the recently published Strategic Housing Market Assessment and more than double the requirement generated from demographic change. The numbers are now correct as of 31 January 17 and include all office conversions which have been approved.

Housing Numbers by area

  • Fleet 200 – mostly through office redevelopment
  • Hook was 200 now 10 from office redevelopment plus another 87. However, developers may chance their arm again with Owens Farm (750), and of course around half the Murrell Green site is in Hook Parish.
  • Sun Park 320
  • Hartland Park (Pyestock) 1500. Fleet town council have apparently made the point that the site offers only 20% affordable homes and the density per hectare is up to 97 in places which is equivalent to city centre densities which is of concern to them. OUr view would be to make the most of available brownfield sites.
  • Murrell Green 1800 but with challenges. There are 4 promoters and it will be some 3 to 4 years before planning permission is approved. It includes the site for a secondary school but there won’t be enough developer contributions to pay for it. New school funding rules mean that Hampshire can’t pay for it either.  It’ll probably be an Academy at a cost of circa £36 million. So we get a site for a school, but no money.
  • Crondall 66
  • Crookham Village 100 + 64 predominantly the care village
  • Eversley 124 on two sites
  • Heckfield 86
  • Long Sutton 10
  • Odiham 119 as per NP
  • Hartley Wintney 0. It seems odd that HW’s Neighbourhood Plan will be ignored. It should be noted that Murrell Green directly abuts Hartley Wintney Parish and about half of the proposed Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) development is in HW parish.
  • South Warnborough 34 on two sites
  • Yateley 88
  • An additional 50 via rural exceptions and a further 290 from windfall.
  • Interestingly, no mention of Winchfield, or their Neighbourhood Plan, but roughly half of Murrell Green is in Winchfield Parish.
  • Apparently, Bramshill will be very difficult to develop because of all the complications with the Grade 1 listed site.

Other news

Apparently East Hants have done such a stellar job on the Local Plan, the Planning Policy team is now back in house at Hart, reduced in size from 8 to 2.

There is a risk that developers will continue to pursue Pale Lane and take it to appeal before the Local Plan is adopted.

We await the results of the Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) appeal in June.

Hart Tories claim victory despite abject failure

Hart Tories (NE Hampshire Conservatives) claim victory despite abject failure

Hart Tories (NE Hampshire Conservatives) claim victory form abject failure

North East Hampshire Conservatives have managed to claim victory, despite their abject failure to plan for a sensible amount of housing for Hart District.

On Thursday, the Conservative led Hart Cabinet agreed to plan for more than 10,000 houses. This is many more than is required to meet the needs of Hart residents. Yet, because they have managed to avoid putting those houses near Fleet, they claim it as some sort of victory. They show no concern for Hart residents who live in the more rural areas.

Apparently, the Hart Tories are concerned about over-development, transport, traffic, education, loss of green space and the impact of development on existing infrastructure. But only in the immediate area around Fleet. The rest of us will just have to suffer.

To recap, to meet the demographic projections for Hart residents and meet the needs of those who can’t get on the housing ladder, we need to build 6,000-6,500 new dwellings. Anything over and above that requires massive in-migration to Hart. That is, massive in-migration of people whose housing needs are supposed to be met elsewhere. The SHMA also assumes that most of these people will work outside the district, putting even further pressure on local infrastructure.

Hart is planning for more than twice the demographic projections. They are not alone, other nearby districts are planning for 42% more houses than the demographic projections require.

However, their so-called victory may be short lived. The Grove Farm application is being appealed by the developers. The Planning Committee also has to make a decision about Pale Lane soon. It seems likely that they will turn it down. However, it seems equally likely the developer will appeal that decision too. With no Local Plan, out of date policies and a questionable 5-year land supply, the inspector may well grant permission for both these sites.

The only sensible way out of this, is to remove the extra 2,000 houses they voted through on Thursday and demonstrate that the houses are not required.

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.

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.

Hart recommends Grove Farm and Bramshill planning proposals be accepted

Hart District Council recomend approval of Grove Farm Bramshill House planning applications

Hart District Council officers are recommending that the planning application for Netherhouse Copse (aka Grove Farm) and some of the applications to redevelop the former Police College at Bramshill House be granted. This has been revealed in papers recently published to go before the Planning Committee that meets on 14 December 2016. The relevant papers are available for download below.

Netherhouse Copse (Grove Farm)

The Nether House Copse (Grove Farm) application is for 423 dwellings on a green field site on Hitches Lane, Fleet in Hampshire. The controversial proposals have been opposed by a wide range of local community groups including Crookham Village and Dogmersfield Parish Councils and Fleet Town Council. But they have also been supported by various parts of Hampshire County Council and Thames Water amongst others. The planning officers have recommended that the application be granted, subject to certain conditions, and that it should go to full council for ratification. See p176 of the Agenda download below.

Bramshill House Police College

The proposals for the largely brownfield site at Bramshill House are more complex, in that there are a total of 7 applications covering various aspects of the proposed redevelopment.

Applications 2 and 3 (respectively 16/00722/FUL, 16/00724/FUL) cover the conversion of the main Bramshill House, the Stable Block and Nuffield Hall into both a single dwelling house (00722) and offices (00724).  Application 7 (16/01290/FUL) covers the provision of 14.4Ha of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). The officers recommend that these three proposals be granted planning permission, subject to a number of conditions.

Applications 1 (16/00720/FUL), covers converting Bramshill House into 25 dwellings and publically accessible museum space. Application 4 (16/00726/FUL) covers the development of up to 235 dwellings in the grounds of Bramshill House. Application 5 (16/00727/FUL) covers the development of 14 dwellings in a different part of the grounds. Finally Application 6 (16/00728/FUL) is for 9 residential units in an area of the site known as Pinewood.

The officers have asked the Planning Committee for a ‘steer’ on these applications. The applicants have asked that Hart view the development of these additional dwellings as enabling development. This would fund the maintenance of the main Grade I listed building. The Officers have said that applications 1, 4 and 5 are opportunities to recommend the applications for approval, subject to agreeing to total volume of housing. They are not minded to recommend Application 6 for approval.

Analysis

Overall we are opposed to the Netherhouse Copse proposal as this is green field development. We believe there is plenty of brownfield land available to meet our housing needs. We agree in principle that the Bramshill site should be redeveloped. However, we recognise the sensitivity of the site. We would suggest that suitable payments are made for the provision of infrastructure and affordable housing without increasing the number of houses that are built.

We predict fireworks at the Planning Committee, especially after the recent defection of two councillors from the Tories to CCH. The full council meeting on 15 December will be interesting to say the least. As the Kaiser Chiefs might say, “I predict a riot”.

It really is a shame that more councillors and more of the various groups across the district did not get properly behind a brownfield strategy. Plus they did not heed our warnings about the poor management of the Local Plan project. If they had, we might have a brownfield focused Local Plan by now and have a proper defence against the Grove Farm proposals.

Hart Planning Committee Agenda 14 December 2016
Hart Planning Committee Paper about Bramshill House

 

 

Hart Councillors release statement about their defection from Tories to CCH

Richard Woods Sara Kinnell release statement about their defection from Conservatives to CCH

Hart Councillors Richard Woods and Sara Kinnell have released a statement about their move from the Conservative Party to Community Campaign Hart. The statement doesn’t really spell out the policy differences that led to their defection.

The full statement is presented below without further comment:

HART COUNCILLORS LEAVE CONSERVATIVES TO JOIN THE COMMUNITY CAMPAIGN (HART)

Hart District Councillors, Richard Woods and Sara Kinnell, made the difficult decision to leave the Conservatives this week, in a bid to represent their residents fully during the Local Plan process.

The Local Plan, which sets out where development across the District is to be placed, has challenged Hart Councillors to balance the needs of their residents with the long-term sustainability of the wider Hart District.

“It’s a true honour to be elected as a District Councillor” said Cllr Richard Woods. “But when you feel you are unable to represent the residents of your Ward honestly, it’s time to put your political beliefs to one side and do what the people who entrusted you with their vote would want you to do to represent them in the fullest possible way”.

Residents of Fleet West, which includes the Blue Triangle, Calthorpe, Edenbrook and Elvetham Heath; elected Richard in 2014 and Sara in 2015 on the promise they would always prioritise their residents’ needs.

“It’s one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make” said Cllr Sara Kinnell. “I have been a Conservative Councillor for 12 years, initially in Hartley Wintney and now Fleet West, where I live with my family. I have made some great friends and worked on some excellent projects; including the new Hart Leisure Centre and I look forward to continuing my term as a CCH Councillor.”

James Radley, Leader of the Community Campaign (Hart) said “The Community Campaign have long admired Richard and Sara’s integrity and focus on the issues which really matter to residents; always putting those they represent ahead of political agendas. We therefore welcome them both into our team and look forward to them being even more effective for the people of Fleet West now they can be truly independent representatives and not held back by constraints imposed by national politics.”

The Community Campaign (Hart), which saw its first Councillors elected in 2004, is made up of ten independent local Councillors from Fleet & Church Crookham. Richard explained “Sara and I are looking forward to working with the CCH Group. It will be great to be part of a community focused team for the benefit of all residents in Fleet & Church Crookham during the Local Plan process. We look forward to continuing to work with all Members of Hart District Council, regardless of political beliefs, for the good of Fleet & Church Crookham and the wider Hart District.”

Finally, Cllr Sara Kinnell added “This move should be taken in the honest spirit in which it was made. Whilst some people may be disappointed, we trust our residents will understand that our ability to represent them robustly together with our personal happiness must always come before Party politics.”