Hart Urban Revitalisation is urgently required

Urban Revitalisation - Blackwater

Hart Urban revitalisation is required in Blackwater

We have already written extensively about why Shapley Heath is a bad idea. However we have to acknowledge that, even with the reduced housing requirement that could be delivered by an early review of the Hart Local Plan, we will need to build some extra housing between now and 2040. We strongly believe that much of this housing can be delivered by revitalising our urban centres in Fleet, Hook, Blackwater and Yateley. We support proportionate development in the other parishes.

There’s plenty of sites to consider:

Hook has already made a start. Its Neighbourhood Plan contains a master plan to revitalise the centre of the village. Overall, this will deliver a market square, better traffic management, much improved commercial premises and 8,916 sq m of residential accommodation, perhaps around 130-150 flats.

Hook Revitalisation Master Plan

Hart Urban Revitalisation in action in Hook

There is promising work starting to look at the civic quarter in Fleet. But CCH’s latest newsletter demonstrates that their heart isn’t in it. They claim Fleet isn’t that bad and offer no support for any sort of regeneration.

Hook Parish Council have done it. It’s time for the the other parish/town councils to follow their lead and shame Hart Council into action. Let’s look at the case for revitalising our town centres.

Rationale for Hart Urban Revitalisation

There are four main reasons to focus on urban revitalisation.

  • Enhance the built environment to enrich all of our lives
  • Address the infrastructure funding gaps
  • Hart in general and Fleet in particular is falling behind neighbouring areas
  • Fleet not valued by visitors and business confidence is low

Sensitive revitalisation, taking advice from companies like Create Streets can transform decaying urban centres into attractive places to live, work and play.

There are acknowledged infrastructure funding gaps in the district. These are concentrated in Hook, Fleet and Yateley and Blackwater.

Urban revitalisation Existing Hart Infrastructure Funding gaps

Existing Hart £78m Infrastructure Funding gap

Building a new town at Shapley Heath/ Winchfield won’t address these funding gaps. But, proper revitalisation will beging to address these issues.

Fleet is falling behind neighbouring towns. Farnham, Wokingham, Basingstoke, Aldershot and Farnborough are attracting hundreds of millions of pounds of investment. Hart Council’s curmudgeonly approach is delivering nothing for Fleet or the wider Hart community.

Urban revitalisation - Fleet falling behind neighbouring towns

Fleet falling behind neighbouring towns

And Hart’s own bid for Future High Streets funding found:

  • 88% say Fleet doesn’t meet their retail and leisure needs
  • 52% would not recommend a visit to the town centre
  • 67% think the poor retail offer reflects badly on the town
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • The confidence of local businesses is extremely low, with 44% reporting declining turnover
Urban revitalisation - Fleet not valued by residents and visitors

Fleet not valued by residents and visitors

If we are to address these issues, we must follow Hook’s lead and develop master plans for our other urban centres.

Benefits of Urban Revitalisation

The benefits of going ahead with these ideas would be large and far reaching:

  • Deliver infrastructure to the areas that need it. Budgets will be limited but we should aim for:
  • Improved Fleet station access and cycle paths connecting Fleet centre to the station and Hartland Park
  • Social facilities such as a multi-purpose venue including theatre/cinema and meeting space and an outdoor public event space
  • Improved Health facilities such as a drop-in health centre for physio, mental health and routine nursing
  • Improved leisure such as restaurants and bars to deliver a thriving night time economy
  • Open green spaces within the town centre
  • Commercial – better retail offer and modern offices
  • Housing that people can afford and social housing for those in need

This can be delivered by focusing on creating attractive places, with no more than 4 or 5 storey development.

 

Latest CCH newsletter released

Pinocchio writes Community Campaign Hart newsletter

Latest CCH newsletter released

CCH have released their latest newsletter. They follow their usual path of being economical with the truth.  There are some quite astonishing claims in there, that need to be answered.

False Pale Lane Claim

They claim:

The Local Plan has already demonstrated its value by being part of the successful defence against inappropriate urban extensions in Hook and most notably at Pale Lane, on farmland adjacent to Elvetham Heath. Even as a draft, it has significant weight when considered at a planning appeal.

But the inspector said that the emerging Local Plan only carried “moderate weight“. CCH don’t mention that the most important piece of evidence was the Hartley Wintney Neighbourhood Plan, whcih carried “significant weight”.

Housing Numbers Warning

They say:

The very calculation the government use to reach our `Objectively Assessed Housing Need’ is expected to be radically modified in the near future. Any material change in this calculation of our housing numbers would render the Local Plan `out of date‘ and require Hart to fundamentally review its Local Plan….

There is some truth in the claim that Hart will run short of housing around 2025/26, as we covered here. But there is no evidence that the new formula for calculating housing need is going to be “radically modified”. Indeed their implication that housing numbers will rise is false.  In fact, if Hart were to conduct an early review of the Local Plan, our annual housing target would be reduced from 423 dpa to 251 dpa. But, in Hart’s answer to our latest question, they have ruled out an early review.

Shapley Heath Justification

CCH then go on to justify the need for Shapley Heath:

That is why the Community Campaign support the approach of carefully evaluating the possibility of a new eco-friendly garden village within walking distance of Winchfield station. Only if needed, this development could be used to deliver the bulk of any additional housing that may be required by central government in the period from 2026 onwards. As such, it must be very carefully planned to deliver all the necessary infrastructure.

Note how Shapley Heath has now become “eco-friendly”, despite the fact it is entirely unnecessary and building it will likely emit 1m tonnes of CO2.

CCH Newsletter: Fact Checking the myth busting

CCH’s newletter includes a section on “myth-busting” Shapley Heath.

First on housing need.

A new settlement is not needed as part of the new Local Plan. This is all about funding (with government grant support) a project to see what is possible. If the future government housing targets do not require such housing to be built – it will not be built. This is an insurance policy against Hart having to take on a higher housing quota in a few years’ time.

If they really wanted an insurance policy they would be conducting a immediate review of the Local Plan to take advantage of the lower housing target from the latest Government methodology.

Then on the size of Shapley Heath.  They claim that they are only considering a development of 5,000 houses. But the bid they submitted to Government was for up to 10,000. The flawed viability assessment was for 5,300 houses.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses

Shapley Heath Garden Village Viability Summary

Shapley Heath Garden Village Viability Summary

So, they are wrong again. They then go on to make some false claims about infrastructure.

Bolt-on urban extensions don’t deliver infrastructure. They don’t present the economies of scale to permit major road improvements, nor building a new secondary school, or doctors surgeries.

The flawed viability assessment for Shapley Heath pointedly does not include provision for healthcare.

Shapley Heath Garden Village Viability Assessment Infrastructure Costs

Their plans simply do not stack up to even cursory scrutiny. They go on to make extraordinary claims about the features of Shapley Heath.

Shapley Heath’ is being investigated using government grant funding designed to promote eco-friendly garden villages. This is about learning from the disasters of the past and building semi-rural communities which are sympathetic to and supportive of, the local and wider ecology and climate. There will be integrated transport, rainwater harvesting, centralised heat and power plants, carbon efficient housing design, an emphasis on renewables and truly sustainable living.

Let’s for a moment ignore the fact that this isn’t needed, so the 1m tonnes of CO2 produced during construction will also be an unnecessary. But even the Planning Inspector criticised the claims for a district heating system.

Option 1b has been ranked the highest under the category climate change. This is as a result of the potential for the proposed new settlement to deliver a district heating system. However, there is little evidence to suggest that this is a feasible or realistic option that is being actively pursued by the site promoters. I consider this raises doubt about the appropriateness of such a ranking.

The viability study only made allowance for standard build costs. No allowance was made for the additional costs of “carbon efficient housing design”. Their claims are simply marketing fluff that aren’t backed up by anything.

Ostrich approach to Fleet Revitalisation

The CCH newsletter then goes on to discuss Fleet. They claim that Fleet “isn’t all that bad”. This is despite the council’s own bid for Future High Street funding saying:

  • The council quotes a prior report that says a “do nothing scenario would not be viable in Fleet”.
  • Fleet faces a number of key challenges.
  • 88% of people say Fleet doesn’t meet their retail and leisure needs.
  • 52% of people would not recommend a visit to the town centre.
  • 67% think the poor retail offer reflects badly on the town centre.
  • The confidence of local businesses is extremely low.
  • Fleet unable to compete with neighbouring towns.
  • Major retailers identify Fleet as an investment risk.
  • Lack of affordable housing is identified as a key issue by 27%

Fleet is falling behind its local competitors. Most of the surrounding towns are attracting hundreds of millions of pounds of investment. Fleet isn’t getting anything.

CCH newsletter ignores Fleet falling behind neighbouring towns

Fleet falling behind neighbouring towns

CCH Newsletter – Regeneration untruths

CCH then go onto claim that revitalising our town centres must mean “high-rise” flats. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed high-rise developments do not deliver good places to live, and we oppose them. They offer no vision on how to address the issues facing Fleet. We will give further details on our ideas in further posts.

 

In the meantime, please do challenge CCH to come clean on their mendacious claims.

 

 

What is Shapley Heath Garden Village?

What is Shapley Heath

What is Shapley Heath Garden Village?

Shapley Heath Garden Village is a proposal to build up to 10,000 new houses in Winchfield and Hook parishes. If built, it would effectively create a single conurbation joining Fleet, Hartley Wintney and Hook. We have termed this abomination Hartley Winchook. It would virtually obliterate Winchfield as we know it. It is worth noting that earlier very similar proposals would result in around 1,850 houses being built in Hook parish.

Below is a map showing how the proposal fits into the local area.

Shapley Heath in Context

Shapley Heath in Context

The new town would start ~650m west of Edenbrook in Fleet. It would extend west to the Crooked Billet in Hook and be bounded to the north by the A30 & M3 near to St Mary’s Park in Hartley Wintney to the north. It stretches south to the Basingstoke Canal SSSI.

This new town was proposed as Policy SS3 in the Hart Local Plan. It was rejected by the Inspector on the grounds that it wasn’t necessary. Hart Council’s bid to the Government for funding to support this proposal included a housing trajectory.

Nightmare in Winchfield - Shapley Heath Winchfield New Town Housing trajectory

Shapley Heath Garden Village/Winchfield New Town Housing trajectory.

Starting in 2023, over the course of the Local Plan period up to 2032, the Garden Village would result in 2,440 unnecessary houses being built.

Scale of Shapley Heath

Scale of Shapley Heath

When completely built out to up to 10,000 houses it would be 5 times the size of Elvetham Heath, ~4 times the size of Hartley Wintney,  around 3 times the size of Hook, and nearly as many houses as Fleet parish.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses

This is the first of our posts showing:

  • What is Shapley Heath, explaining its location and scale?
  • All the reasons why Shapley Heath is a bad idea
  • An outline of an alternative approach to long term planning in Hart

The master page containing all of these posts can be found here. A link is also provided in the navigation at the top of the page.  Please do keep an eye out for further updates and share them with your friends.

The Shapley Heath Garden Village Vision Document can be downloaded below.

Shapley Heath Garden Village Vision Document

Shapley Heath Controversy Erupts at Hustings

Shapley Heath controversy: where each NE Hampshire candidate stands.

Shapley Heath controversy: where each NE Hampshire candidate stands.

The Shapley Heath controversy erupted at the recent North East Hampshire hustings. The Basingstoke Gazette covered the story here. In summary, Conservative candidate Ranil Jayawardena opposes the Shapley Heath proposal. He believes that our future housing needs can be met by redeveloping brownfield land and revitalising our urban centres. Liberal Democrat candidate, Graham Cockarill supports the proposal. Indeed in his role as Cabinet member for Place on Hart Council he is the sponsor of the programme. Labour’s Barry Jones admitted he knew little about the proposals but would reluctantly support the plan.

Three candidates were not invited to the hustings. The local Green party confirmed on Twitter that their candidate Culann Walsh opposes the scheme. Independent candidate Tony Durrant also opposes the plan. Monster Raving Loony, Screaming Laud Hope has not yet responded to our question. We have summarised the positions of the candidates in the graphic above.

[Update]: Screaming Laud Hope was interviewed by For Fleet’s Sake and came out against Shapley Heath, so the graphic has been updated. [/Update]

Shapley Heath Controversy – Details of the hustings

Apparently, candidate Cockarill challenged the notion of Shapley Heath being up to 10,000 houses. We were told that Mr Jayawardena brandished the vision document clearly showing the 10,000 ambition in the Vision Document.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses.

Shapley Heath Controversy: Vision Document 10,000 houses

We understand from others at the hustings that candidate Cockarill stated brownfield development was desirable. However, he thought landowners in Fleet aren’t interesting in selling. We know from the work carried out by the Rural Hart Association that the owners of the Hart Shopping Centre are interested in redevelopment. Indeed, they supported the Future High Streets bid (see final letter in the appendices) to regenerate Fleet. Moreover, some of the other prime regeneration sites are owned by either Hart District Council or Hampshire County Council. For instance, much of the Civic Quarter, including the Harlington Centre, plus Victoria Road car park and Church Road car park are in public ownership.

Creative thinking in three dimensions could preserve parking space; deliver better leisure and cultural facilities; housing that people can afford and infrastructure spending. It does seem odd that our local councils prefer to concrete over our green fields, rather than provide better facilities for their residents.

Of course, planning is a local rather than a national matter. However, our MP can ‘set the tone’ for the area; lobby Government to cut off further funding to Shapley Heath; call on Government to provide regeneration investment and vote more generally for brownfield first policies. Many people will of course be more concerned about national matters. Please bear Shapley Heath in mind when casting your vote on December 12th.

Hart fails to win share of Future High Streets Fund

Harlington Centre, Fleet Hampshire, could be a target for Future High Street Fund?

Harlington Centre – could have been target for Future High Streets Fund

The Government has announced the winners of the Future High Street fund. 50 areas have won support to develop plans to show how they can regenerate their high streets. Sadly, Hart is not among the winners. The objective of the fund is to “renew and reshape town centres and high streets in a way that improves experience, drives growth and ensures future sustainability.”

The Hart Local Plan acknowledged that the “challenge for Fleet specifically, will be to secure investment so that it can compete with the comparable towns in neighbouring districts”. (para 66)

Hart Council Cabinet resolved to consider making a bid back in February. It is unclear whether a bid was eventually made, but Hart didn’t win, even if they tried.

The winners can be found here.

Future High Streets Details

The scheme was launched back in December 2018. The deadline for expressions of interest as 22 March 2019.

It’s a real shame that Fleet did not win, because the key investment themes expected were:

  • Investment in physical infrastructure
  • Acquisition and assembly of land including to support new housing, workspaces and public realm
  • Improvements to transport access, traffic flow and circulation in the area
  • Supporting change of use including (where appropriate) housing delivery and densification
  • Supporting adaptation of the high street in response to changing technology

Most would agree that Fleet needs infrastructure investment and improvements in transport. Perhaps if the officers and councillors spent more effort on this bid, rather then focusing on the unsound new settlement, they might have been more successful.

History of Fleet regeneration

Over a period of years, Fleet Town Council has pursued a doomed proposal to replace the Harlington Centre by concerting over Gurkha Square car-park with taxpayers money. This has been rightly rejected by the people of Fleet.

Last Autumn, The Rural Hart Association put forward draft proposals for regenerating the Hart Shopping Centre as the first step to a broader regeneration of Fleet. This could have been achieved with private funding. So far, sadly, this has not been taken up by Hart Council.

Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena has called for regeneration of our urban centres. He has raised a petition, but so far, it isn’t clear what progress has been made.

 

 

 

 

Beware! Lib Dem Fake News

Lib Dem Fake News claims to have saved Winchfield

Lib Dem Fake News claims to have saved Winchfield

Quite astonishingly, the local Lib Dems have issued a Fake News leaflet claiming credit for the Winchfield New Town being removed from the Hart Local Plan.

In their leaflet, they say that County Councillor David Simpson and local campaigner Howard Kitto welcome the decision to remove the new town. To be fair, David Simpson has been a long-standing opponent of the new town.

However, the Lib Dem fake news leaflet fails to mention:

  • The Lib Dems were part of the administration that put forward the new town in the Local Plan. Indeed Lib Dem Councillor Graham Cockarill was and is the Portfolio head of Planning. In addition, David Neighbour is the Leader of the council who oversaw the policy.
  •  Every single Lib Dem Hart Councillor has voted in favour of the new town at every opportunity.
  • On the same night they made the announcement that the Inspector had found the new town unsound, they voted to keep £785,990 in next year’s budget for further work on the new town.
  • At the Cabinet that decided to withdraw the new town, Councillor Cockarill described the removal as “a bit of a defeat”

It is only after the Inspector found their plans unsound that they reluctantly removed the new town from the Local Plan. Look at the body language when they made the announcement, they were clearly sad to see it removed.

It will be interesting to see if they are delivering the same messages in Yateley and Fleet.

No wonder people have lost faith in politicians when they issue such blatant fake news.

Their full leaflet can be found on the links below:

Lib Dem Fake News 1

 

Lib Dem Fake News 2

CCH doubles down on Winchfield new town bias

CCH doubles down on Winchfield new town bias

Community Campaign Completely Concrete Hart CCH doubles down on Winchfield new town bias

In a quite astonishing development, Community Campaign Completely Concrete Hart CCH have doubled down on their Winchfield new town bias.

In an update to their website since last night, they have added the following paragraph:

The pressure for new development never goes away and a new settlement is the most effective way to absorb these central government imposed demands while delivering much needed infrastructure. If we don’t start the process of planning for this now we will forever face the blight of urban extensions over and over again.

Community Campaign Completely Concrete Hart CCH Doubles down on Winchfield new town bias

CCH doubles down on Winchfield new town bias

This comes despite the Inspector saying:

I am of the view that a significant level of further supporting work would be required for Policy SS3 to be found sound in its current form, which would need to include appropriate and proportionate area/site assessments, infrastructure considerations, viability testing, evidence in support of deliverability and further SA work, which would need to be done in an impartial manner with sufficient evidence to support its findings and comparisons with alternative options.

Of course, the Inspector said that their infrastructure plans lacked substance. So, they couldn’t even demonstrate the benefits of their main reason for supporting a new town.

The work simply hasn’t been done to demonstrate that a new town at Winchfield is the most effective way of delivering additional housing growth or infrastructure beyond the plan period. Moreover, the Inspector says that even the additional work might not show the new town being found sound:

I am also mindful that following further work, there can be no guarantee that the evidence would support it as the most appropriate long-term growth strategy or that Policy SS3 would be found sound.

We simply cannot trust CCH to be impartial on the matter if and when the additional work is carried out.

Alternatives to a new town

There is an alternative to both a new town and urban extensions. That is urban regeneration.

The Local Plan acknowledges that a big problem facing Hart is that it has not kept up with its neighbouring districts. Hart’s shops, restaurants and leisure services are losing out to the competition. This is openly acknowledged in the Local Plan:

  • The outflow of retail expenditure from the District…is relatively high and is likely to remain high in the future”: Local Plan para 65.

The main cause is that no effort has been made to invest in the re-generation of Fleet (where 40% of Hart’s population lives) or Blackwater, Hook or Yateley. This is also openly acknowledged in the Plan:

  • The main centres in Hart have not kept pace with other centres in the wider area. Other centres have strengthened and improved their offering through investment and development. Failure to invest in the centres will see them continue to fall in the rankings”. Retail, Leisure and Town Centre Study Part 1 para 2.15
  • The challenge for Fleet specifically will be to secure investment so that it can compete with the comparable towns in neighbouring districts. All the neighbouring towns are subject to regeneration or expansion projects”. Local Plan Para 66

It is to be welcomed that Hart Council are removing the new town from the Local Plan. Any plan for the future must include the option of regenerating our urban centres. This needs to be properly and impartially evaluated.

CPRE Hampshire host event on protecting Hart countryside

CPRE Hampshire event on protecting the countryside in Hart and Rushmoor

CPRE Hampshire event on protecting the countryside

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

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

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

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

The full leaflet can be downloaded here.

Fleet regeneration is feasible without taxpayer funding

Fleet Regeneration: Hart Shopping Centre Design Study

Fleet Regeneration: Hart Shopping Centre Design Study

We are delighted to announce the release of a study into Fleet regeneration undertaken on behalf the Rural Hart Association. This study shows that it is feasible and desirable to redevelop Hart Shopping Centre as a stepping stone to wider Fleet regeneration.

Benefits of Fleet Regeneration

The benefits of the proposed scheme are as follows:

  • 371 flats of 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms, with 20-40% affordable, ideal for first time buyers. It is possible that some of the units would be attractive to the private rented sector.
  • Potential for some of the unit to be sheltered housing for our growing elderly population.
  • Extra customers for local Fleet businesses including retail, restaurants, bars, photographers, hairdressers, mobile phone shops etc, bringing an extra ~£3m per year of spending to the town centre.
  • Provision of a cinema for film lovers.
  • Provision of a community space for local cultural events.
  • Modern retail units for a supermarket and to attract High Street retailers, benefiting existing Fleet residents. Although there is an option to increase the number of homes and have less retail space if necessary.
  • Underground car-parking.
  • The scheme will no doubt make contributions to fund infrastructure in Fleet.
  • Supports Fleet Town Council’s objectives to bring cultural and entertainment facilities to Fleet Town Centre as outlined in the Fleet Neighbourhood Plan.
  • Help Hart Council address the challenge of bringing investment to Fleet, as outlined in the Hart Local Plan.
  • The scheme would be profitable in its own right and would not require any contribution from Fleet or Hart taxpayers.

The proposals respect the sight lines of the existing Hart Shopping Centre, so it shouldn’t be intrusive.

The savings for Fleet taxpayers would run into £10’s of millions as they would no longer be on the hook for the controversial Gurkha Square development. The savings for Hart taxpayers would include the £1.5m for planning the unnecessary new town, and of course they would retain the Gurkha Square parking revenue.

Background to Fleet Regeneration Proposals

The genesis of this idea came at the January Council meeting, where the Graham Cockarill, portfolio head of Planning said they were pressing ahead with the unnecessary new town, because the regeneration of Fleet was an “impossible pipedream”. These proposals should give Hart Council food for thought. We would strongly recommend that Hart takes these proposals seriously and get behind a plan to regenerate Fleet. Together we can make a vibrant town and help Hart remain one of the best places to live in the country.

Next steps for Fleet Regeneration

These proposals will be formally submitted to Hart Council and Fleet Town Council early this week. We are also seeking for these proposals to be discussed as part of the upcoming Local Plan examination.

We think these proposals could be viewed as the first project of a larger programme to regenerate Fleet. The next site on our own target list would be the whole Civic area including Hart’s Offices, the library and the Harlington. There should be no need to disturb either Gurkha Square car park, or Bakers. The Fleet neighbourhood plan also targets this area for improvement. It is time for Hampshire, Hart and Fleet councils to get round the table with sensible planners like Lambert Smith Hampton to come up sensible plans for the future.

This is a much better idea than to concrete over our green fields with an unnecessary new town.

Rural Hart Association email to supporters about Fleet Regeneration

Dear Supporters

The Rural Hart Association (RHA) has made very good progress over the summer and we are now fully prepared to play our part in opposing a New Town at the Examination in Public (EIP) which starts on 20 November.

You will remember that the RHA decided to concentrate its resources on the single issue of Fleet regeneration. We set out to demonstrate that it was feasible for Fleet Town Centre to be regenerated with a mixed-use development (residential, retail and leisure) which would provide housing as well as reviving the commercial viability of Fleet as Hart District’s largest town.

The issue of Fleet Regeneration is of vital importance because Hart District Council’s justification for a New Town rests on their assertion that it can’t be done. In a bit more detail the argument runs like this:

  • The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires that  Brownfield sites are used to their maximum potential before building on greenfield land
  • The NPPF also requires that councils regenerate their Town Centres. NPPF para 86 says “Planning policies and decisions should support the role that town centres play at the heart of local communities, by taking a positive approach to their growth, management and adaptation”
  • HDC admits that Hart District is failing commercially (because there is a growing net outflow of retail and leisure spend from the district)  and the Local Plan states (para 66) that “the challenge for Fleet will be to secure investment so that it can compete with the comparison towns in neighbouring districts”
  • But HDC has made no attempt to secure the investment needed to regenerate Fleet. When challenged on this at the January council meeting HDC stated that regeneration of Fleet was an “impossible pipedream”.

In May we appointed Lambert Smith Hampton to undertake a Design Study to investigate the feasibility of a mixed-use regeneration of Fleet’s Hart Shopping Centre. This study is now complete and the main conclusions of the Study are:

  • Hart Shopping Centre can be regenerated to provide the same retail and parking space, as well as 950sqm of community space, a multi-screen cinema and 371 flats (of 1,2 and 3 bedrooms). The whole area would become modern and desirable, and the flats would provide a tremendous boost to the viability of the shopping centre.
  • The flats would be ideal for first time buyers and elderly people because they are close to the shops and the station – the Design Study has allowed for the full 40% affordability provision.
  • The return on investment for potential developers looks good.

In summary, we have demonstrated that Hart’s claim that Fleet cannot be regenerated is utterly wrong. Hart Council is dominated by CCH councillors whose agenda is to stop Fleet being regenerated at all costs. As a result the draft  Local Plan condemns Fleet in particular (and the whole Hart in general) to long-term economic decline.

We hope that on the basis of this Study, the Inspector will insist that the New Town is removed from the Local Plan and that a large-scale regeneration of Fleet is undertaken instead. Hart should be guiding the district towards a bright future in which Fleet becomes a modern, vibrant and highly successful town surrounded by beautiful countryside and rural villages.

LSH will submit the Design Study to Hart District Council, and will ask the Council to cooperate in its implementation. We will also submit the Design Study to Fleet District Council, whose Neighbourhood Plan supports mixed-use developments in the Town Centre. LSH will also submit the Design Study to the Inspector in preparation for the Inspector’s review of the Spatial Distribution of Housing (Matter 4) and Town Centre and Retail (Matter 10).

You can find the full study in David Turver’s excellent WeHeartHart website at www.wehearthart.co.uk. The We Heart Hart blog also provides a full commentary of the progress of the Local Plan and its well worth reading.

Thank you all for your generous contributions to the Design Study and to funding LSH to attend the Examination in November/December. I think that we have built a very strong case, and I believe that we have a good chance of preserving all of our green fields for many decades to come.

Tristram Cary
Chairman Rural Hart Association

Councillors suffer Gurkha Square derangement syndrome

Fleet councillors suffer Gurkha Square derangement syndrome

Fleet councillors suffer Gurkha Square derangement syndrome

The chairman of Fleet Town council has claimed there is a silent majority who support his plans to develop Gurkha Square. His words come despite the Fleet Parish poll that gave an emphatic thumbs down to the plans to build a new centre on Gurkha Square.

We think this is delusional and anti-democratic. It seems a number of elected politicians seem to succumb to derangement syndrome when votes don’t go the way they want.

Fleet Town Council are running a separate consultation about the development. Those who wish to express a view can find details here.

Voting closes on 5 October.

He even had a slide that described the Fleet Parish poll vote as overwhelming.

Fleet parish poll overwhelming against development on Gurkha Square

Fleet parish poll vote overwhelming

For the record, the Parish poll results were:

  • 952 votes were counted
  • 753 opposing the scheme
  • 199 in favour
  • There were two spoiled ballots

In better news, Hart Councillor for Fleet, Steve Forster has called for Hart and Fleet Town Council to work together to come up with a new proposal to improve the community facilities in Fleet. We agree with this approach and would strongly support measures to regenerate Fleet. The starting point ought to be a project to redevelop the whole Civic Quarter and improve the Hart Shopping Centre.