Hart Local Plan: No plans for infrastructure

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation: no proper plans for infrastructure

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation: no proper plans for infrastructure

This is the fifth part of our submission to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation. This article explains how Hart haven’t properly planned for infrastructure. In addition, the plans they do have will starve the places that really need it of investment. Policy I1 needs to be changed and policy SS3 needs to be removed. The process for making a submission is as follows:

  1. Go to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 Consultation page of the Council website
  2. From the Hart website, download and complete Response Form Part A (Personal Details). A copy can be downloaded here.
  3. Also download and complete the Response Form Part B (Your Representations), a separate Part B is required for each representation you wish to make. A copy can be downloaded here.
  4. Make sure you include words of this form in each representation. Policy [X] is not sound because it is not [positively prepared, justified, effective or consistent with national policy] (delete as appropriate).
  5. Once you have filled in Part A and Part B, please email them to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk or post them to Planning Policy Team, Hart District Council, Harlington Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 4AE. 
Submissions have to be made before 4pm on 26 March 2018. If you are keen to get your submission completed, you can use the summary guide we have pulled together, or for the more adventurous, you can use our full submission. Please edit the text into your own words.
WHH Local Plan Reg 19 Guide
WHH Local Plan Reg 19 Entry

How the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation needs to be changed to deal with infrastructure

One leading councillor has gone on the record, calling for an ‘infrastructure led’ Local Plan. Yet, they have not allowed questions to be put to them about infrastructure, let alone answer them.

Back in October 2014, Hart Council produced an infrastructure delivery schedule that set out the current deficit, split by type and area.  This shows a deficit of £78m not including healthcare facilities. The breakdown is shown by type and area in the images below:

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation: Hart District Estimated Infrastructure costs by type March 2013.

Hart District Estimated Infrastructure costs by type March 2013.

The breakdown of the costs by area showed the Fleet/Church Crookham and Hook areas had by far the largest deficits.

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation: Estimated Infrastructure costs by area March 2013

Hart District Estimated Infrastructure costs by area March 2013

Key quotes from the document include:

“It is therefore reasonable to conclude that it is unlikely that there will be sufficient future funds, from both capital programmes and developer contributions, within the plan period, to deliver all of the projects listed in the HCC Transport Statement”

“Although developer contributions will continue to play an important role in helping to bridge the funding gap, it is also clear that the funds raised through developer contributions will only contribute a modest proportion of the total identified funding gap”

 “The South West Main Line (SWML) outer trains, which serve Hart, has significant forecasted future peak crowding, with a capacity shortfall of over 6,100 passengers in the high-peak hour, even if every main line train is at maximum length”

It should be noted also that SWR has recently put forward proposals to reduce services at Winchfield and Hook, exacerbating the rail capacity problem. The Local Plan doesn’t even mention improvements to the rail network in infrastructure policies.

A more recent estimate from Hampshire County Council has estimated the infrastructure funding gap for Hart as £72m.

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation: Hart infrastructure funding gap £72m

Hart infrastructure funding gap £72m

Hart’s share of the gap is made up of:

  • Transport, £34m
  • Education: £38m.
  • Countryside: To be Determined.
  • Extra Care places: To be Determined.

No estimate has been made of the requirements or costs of additional healthcare provision.

The infrastructure policies in the Local Plan are insipid and fail to address the funding gap:

  • Policy I1: Infrastructure – weak policy simply requiring developers to deliver adequate infrastructure as part of their developments, when the studies above show that developer contributions won’t be adequate to bridge the gap
  • Policy I2: Green Infrastructure – feeble policy to supposedly protect green infrastructure. Yet they are proposing to build a new town that will destroy the best of our green infrastructure
  • Policy I3: Transport – inadequate policy simply to provide ‘maximum flexibility in the choice of travel modes’, nothing specific to improve road network or put pressure on SWR to improve rail
  • Policy I4: Open space, sport and recreation – policy to support development that improves sporting facilities, but no tangible plans for anything new
  • Policy I5: Community Facilities – a very vague policy to improve childcare facilities, healthcare, police stations, youth provision, libraries, community halls, local shops, meeting places, cultural buildings, public houses, places of worship, and public toilets. But crucially, no specific projects or proposals.

Yet, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is clear that infrastructure must be planned alongside new housing. Failure to adequately plan for infrastructure requirements and costs could lead to the Local Plan being found unsound. See references to paras 17 and 177 of the NPPF below.

plan to avoid infrastructure funding gap

NPPF Para 17: Avoid infrastructure funding gap

NPPF Para 17: Avoid infrastructure funding gap

It is clear from this post, that the proposals to build a new town will probably exacerbate the existing funding gap and not deliver any infrastructure in Fleet, Church Crookham and Hook, the very places where funding is most required.

Remedy: We therefore think the remedy to this issue should be that policy SS3 is removed in its entirety (with consequent changes to policy SS1 already outlined elsewhere). The infrastructure policies should be reworked to include as a minimum:

  • Acknowledgement of the existing £72m infrastructure funding gap
  • Quantification of the items missing from the Hampshire County Council assessment such as healthcare, extra-care housing for the elderly and green infrastructure
  • A set of prioritised, costed projects that are required to alleviate the worst of our infrastructure problems in Fleet/Church Crookham and Hook. This should include road improvements, particularly near Fleet station and the bridge over the railway near the end of Elvetham Heath Road. It should also include significant improvements to the cultural facilities, particularly in Fleet.
  • Plans to tackle Network Rail/SWR over rail capacity and services
  • Proposals for raising the necessary funds for delivering the required projects
  • Some external validation that the infrastructure plans in the draft Local Plan are ‘sound’ and will pass inspection

We believe that in preparation for the next review of the plan, a new policy should be created to regenerate our urban centres including attracting private capital so that we create a better place to live and address the existing infrastructure problems before even considering a new town that will only make matters worse.

Hart Local Plan: Missed opportunity to regenerate urban centres

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation won't regenerate Old Police Station in Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation: Missed opportunity to regenerate urban centres

This is the fourth part of our submission to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation. This article explains how we are missing the opportunity to regenerate our urban centres and why Policies Policies ED4, 5 and 6 (and SS3) need to be removed for the time being until we come up with a proper regeneration strategy. The process for making a submission is as follows:

  1. Go to the Hart Local Plan Consultation page of the Council website
  2. From the Hart website, download and complete Response Form Part A (Personal Details). A copy can be downloaded here.
  3. Also download and complete the Response Form Part B (Your Representations), a separate Part B is required for each representation you wish to make. A copy can be downloaded here.
  4. Make sure you include words of this form in each representation. Policy [X] is not sound because it is not [positively prepared, justified, effective or consistent with national policy] (delete as appropriate).
  5. Once you have filled in Part A and Part B, please email them to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk or post them to Planning Policy Team, Hart District Council, Harlington Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 4AE.
Submissions have to be made before 4pm on 26 March 2018. If you are keen to get your submission completed, you can use the summary guide we have pulled together, or for the more adventurous, you can use our full submission. Please edit the text into your own words.
WHH Local Plan Reg 19 Guide
WHH Local Plan Reg 19 Entry

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 Consultation: MIssed regeneration opportunity

Fleet is the lowest density town of its size in the country. The chart below shows that there is significant scope for increasing development density in Fleet.
Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation: 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. We might as well employ botanists to identify the new species of tumbleweed appearing in the Hart Shopping Centre.

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation: 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 (e.g.: 9% more than Camberley). High earnings should give Fleet a significant advantage over the comparison towns.

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation: Fleet earnings versus competitors

Fleet earnings versus competitors

The Local Plan fails to take advantage of the opportunity to modernise Hart’s urban centres and protect Hart’s countryside.

We believe that the Local Plan should be centred 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 Reg 18 Local Plan could also be met.

Hart did have a plan to conduct a brownfield study (We Heart Hart helped to write the terms of reference) 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.

Instead of creating a proper masterplan,  Fleet Town Council are pursuing an ill-thought out plan for a new theatre that will leave the existing Harlington Centre to rot. This is not regeneration in any meaningful sense of the word.

Our local MP, Ranil Jaywardena, has launched a campaign to regenerate our urban centres. He said:

Looking to some of our local, district and town centres, however, it is clear to see that Fleet, Yateley and Hook are all in real need of revitalisation and regeneration. I’ve been spending time speaking to your local Councillors about this and taking a look at the work that needs to be done.

I am more convinced than ever that all three places have great potential – be that simply as shopping destinations or, with the right infrastructure improvements, as great places for our young people to get their foot on the housing ladder.

The trouble is that there is no ‘masterplan’ for any of these places. I will be raising this with Hart District Council personally – but I need your help. If you want smart new shops, some new flats for local young people to buy above them and better car parking, then act now.

The BBC has recently interviewed a number of people in Fleet about what it is like to live there. Everybody loves it, but they think there’s been too much housing and not enough infrastructure. The draft Local Plan won’t fix either of those issues, because they’re insisting on building too many houses and aren’t addressing infrastructure.

However, policies ED4, 5 and 6 effectively cast the existing centres in aspic and preclude significant redevelopment. I do not have the resources available to me to completely re-write these policies.

Remedy:  Policies ED4, 5 and 6 should be removed for the time being and a proper community team put together to work with our local councillors and MP to come up with a master plan to regenerate our town centres. Policy SS3 (together with the consequent changes to SS1 already outlined) should also be removed, so that time and energy can be freed up to address the fundamental problem of our urban centres.

The Harlington project finances don’t add up

The Harlington Project - financial challenges could Save Gurkha Square in Fleet Hampshire

The Harlington Project – Financial challenges

We have uncovered some financial challenges to the Harlington Project to build a new facility on Gurkha Square in Fleet, Hampshire. Sadly, we have found that Fleet Town Council’s numbers don’t add up.

In summary, it is unlikely the project as currently constituted would meet Government lending criteria, without a significant precept increase. Moreover, Fleet taxpayers are on the hook for further increases in the precept if costs were to increase by even a modest amount.

If you want to do something about this, please respond to the petition that can be found here.

Please also object to the planning application here (or search for application 18/00147/OUT on https://publicaccess.hart.gov.uk/ )

Here is detail of the facts as we understand them, that have led us to the conclusions.

First, just to remind you, Fleet Town Council (FTC), is currently proposing to borrow £10,424,200 over 46 years to fund the vast majority of the project cost. The current total cost is estimated at £11,024,200, including a 7.5% estimate of inflation and 5% contingency. They have committed to keeping the annual precept on Fleet residents at £412,000 per year.

The Harlington Project Financial challenges to build on Gurkha Square FTC precept commitment

The Harlington Project – Precept Commitment

Will the Government approve the loan for the Harlington Project?

FTC has stated that it will seek a loan from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) to finance the Harlington project to build a replacement building on Gurkha Square.   The PWLB does indeed make such loans, but each loan has to be approved by the Government. Not surprisingly, the Government has set guidelines on how much parish and town councils can borrow.

This leads us to the first challenge. The Government has said:

The amount that an individual council will be allowed to borrow is normally limited to £500,000 in any one financial year.

The Harlington Project Financial challenges to build on Gurkha Square Fleet Government borrowing limit

The Harlington Project – Government borrowing limit

In short, FTC is proposing to borrow more than 20 times the amount that is normally allowed. Therefore, there must be a doubt that the loan will ever be made.

However, there is another challenge. In the current consultation on the prudential framework for capital finance of Local Government, maximum asset lives have been set. Freehold land gets a life of 50 years. Other assets have a maximum asset life of 40 years.

The Harlington Project Financial challenges to build on Gurkha Square Fleet Maximum Asset Life

The Harlington Project – Maximum Asset Life

Eagle eyed readers will have spotted that the maximum term that the Government will allow for buildings is less than the loan term that FTC is proposing. It isn’t even clear that the Government would allow an asset life of 40 years for such a building. This must lead to FTC increasing the precept to finance the reduced loan term (see sensitivity analysis below). Therefore, before any further cost increases, FTC has already broken its commitment to local taxpayers – see below.

Sensitivity of the Harlington Project to Cost Increases

The current proposal from FTC of total project costs of ~£11m, with council needing to borrow £10.4m to fund the build. This project costs figure includes 7.5% provision for inflationary increases and a 5% contingency. Given that stage the project has reached, we think 5% contingency is very low.

Harlington Horror Show: costs escalate to £11m

The Harlington Project costs £11m

This is borne out by FTC’s discussions last year with a Design and Build contractor. This might have been a way of FTC off-loading the risk of cost increases to the private sector. Of course, they would have had to pay a premium to cover this risk. However, the cost estimate put forward by the contractor was ‘unacceptable’, so FTC have decided to go it alone with some support from Rushmoor Borough Council.

The Harlington Project Financial challenges to build on Gurkha Square risk of cost increases

The Harlington Project – risk of cost increases

So, a private company is not willing to risk its own money on there being no further cost increases. We therefore think further cost increases are a virtual certainty. A sensible contingency at this stage of design would be at least 20%. A sensitivity analysis of the costs shows:

The Harlington Project Financial challenges to build on Gurkha Square Sensitivity Analysis

The Harlington Project Financial – Sensitivity Analysis

  • To complete the project at the current cost estimate, with a maximum loan term of 40 years, would require a precept increase of 7.3%
  • If the total project costs increased by 10% (15% over the current baseline), then the precept would need to increase by 18.6%
  • A precept increase of 24.3% would be required if costs increased by 15% (20% over current baseline).

FTC is considering mitigation measures such as seeking a grant from the Arts Council. This would lead to them borrowing £8.5m. They would then have around £1.2m of headroom for cost increases before they would have to consider increasing the precept.

There is of course the risk that the fixed term interest rates that PWLB offer may rise between now and when the loan is offered.

Security of the Loan for the Harlington Project

It is worth pointing out that the loan from the PWLB is different to a mortgage.

With a mortgage, the bank takes security over the property. This means it takes the future value of the property seriously. The bank needs to ensure there will be value in the property if the borrower defaults on the loan.

The Harlington Project Financial challenges to build on Gurkha Square Fleet Security over local tax

The Harlington Project financial challenges – Security over local tax

However, the PWLB takes a charge directly over the taxes raised by the town council, so it has no need to worry about the future value of the building being constructed. This means that if the building were to deteriorate over say, a 30 year period, Fleet taxpayers would still be on the hook to repay the loan, even though the building might be useless by then.

Be careful what you wish for.

See earlier posts:

Save Gurkha Square

The Harlington Horror Show

 

The Harlington Horror Show – public sector value destruction

The Harlington Fleet Horror Show of a Deal to replace it with a new building on Gurkha Square

The Harlington Horror Show in Fleet, Hampshire

We have done more digging into the plans to replace the Harlington in Fleet by building a new facility on Gurkha Square. We have uncovered the Harlington Horror Show. We believe these plans represent a massive destruction of value for taxpayers.

  • Hart taxpayers lose around £140K per year, and lose at least £1.2m of value in Gurkha Square. They might get some of the Views in return, but have to fork out maybe up to £500K to replace the lost parking spaces.
  • Fleet taxpayers gain Gurkha Square and a brand new £9.9m £11m building, that will cost them at least £26.6m £34.3m over a 45 58 year repayment period and they lose part of The Views. They might also gain parking revenue from the remaining car park. ***Stop Press: Costs now escalated to £11m***
  • Everybody gains another decaying building in the form of the old Harlington blighting the town centre for years into the future, with no plan and no money to do anything about it
  • There are no plans for the much needed wider regeneration of Fleet, and there are no plans to raise any private money to back the scheme.

It is difficult to see how these arrangements pass any sensible application of Government Value for Money principles. This is truly the Harlington Horror Show.

If you want to do something about this, please respond to the petition that can be found here.

Please also object to the planning application here (or search for application 18/00147/OUT on https://publicaccess.hart.gov.uk/ )

Here is detail of the facts as we understand them, that have led us to the conclusions:

The Harlington Centre Consultation

In 2017, Fleet Town Council (FTC) consulted on 3 options for the Harlington Fleet. The options were Repair, Refurbish, or Replace. The Replace option mean building a new facility on Gurkha Square car park. Of the 1,481 people who responded to the survey, 86% or 1,274 were Fleet residents. Of those Fleet residents, 53% or 675 people chose the ‘Replace’ option. FTC has taken this as a mandate to spend approximately £10 million to be raised from Fleet Council Tax payers.

The main issue with the consultation is that at the time, FTC did not even have a lease to operate within the existing Harlington and nor does it own the Gurkha Square car park. So, it held a consultation about two options that were not within its gift to deliver. It might as well have had a consultation about how many fairies we would like at the bottom of the garden.

Current position of the Harlington, Fleet

Currently the Harlington generates an operating loss of around £180,000 per year and this is expected to continue with the new facility.

Operating loss of Harlington Centre Fleet £180,000 per year. Harlington Horror Show

It was resolved earlier this year that the Joint Chief Executive in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Services be authorised to enter into an interim short term ‘two year rolling’ lease for the Harlington with FTC. We don’t know the details of that lease.

HDC FTC short term rolling lease for Harlington Centre. Harlington Horror Show

Current position of Gurkha Square

It is understood that HDC own the freehold for Gurkha Square. Currently it generates between £108,000 and £130,000 of parking revenue. As an average, let’s assume £120,000 per annum.

Parking revenue for Gurkha Square. Harlington Horror Show

Back at the March 2017 Cabinet meeting the car park was worth between £750K and £1.3m.

March 2017 cabinet value of Gurkha Square £750K-£1.3m. Harlington Horror Show

More recently, at Overview and Scrutiny Committee the value was set at £575K. The reason for this mysterious loss of value hasn’t been explained.

New Gurkha Square value £575K. Harlington Horror Show

We think the valuation is on the low side. A continuing stream of parking income, which is likely to be rise in line with inflation each year, might be valued at a multiple of 16 or above. This would value the car park at nearly £2m.

An alternative approach might be to value it as development land with planning permission. The SHMA suggested development land in Hart is worth £4m per hectare. The site is approximately 0.3Ha. This would value the site at £1.2m. This might be considered conservative as it is a prime site in one of the most affluent towns in the UK.

We believe that Hart wants to replace the lost parking revenue. We understand that it has been proposed that there be a ‘land swap’ where HDC give Gurkha Square to FTC and in return, FTC give HDC part of The Views. Hart would then use that land to build new parking spaces. The Views are one of the last remaining green spaces in Fleet town centre. As green space, the land has essentially zero economic value, and probably comes with maintenance costs attached.

The Harlington Proposal

As we understand it, FTC is proposing to build the new facility on Ghurka Square car park at a cost of £9.9m. ***Stop Press: Costs now escalated to £11m***. There are no plans for what happens to the existing Harlington centre, and apparently no money either. It has to be presumed that Hart taxpayers will shoulder the costs of maintenance and security, meanwhile Hart residents gain another decaying building in Fleet.

Harlington Horror Show: costs escalate to £11m

Harlington costs escalate to £11m

It is envisaged they will take loan to cover the cost from the Public Works Loan Board. Under this arrangement, monthly payments would remain fixed, but the term of the loan might vary depending upon changes in interest rates or cost escalations. The current plan is that the repayment period would be 45 years. 58 years based on the new £11m cost. Would the building even last that long?

Harlington costs and repayment £9.9m and 45 years. Harlington Horror Show

FTC has committed not to increase the precept levied to fund this project above £412,000 per annum.

Harlington precept £412000 per year. Harlington Horror Show

It is not clear what will happen if costs or interest rates rise so that the monthly payments don’t cover the interest. A quick sensitivity analysis shows that if the interest rate increases to 4.3% or above, and/or costs escalate to £13.6m or above, then the precept will not be sufficient to repay the interest, let alone repay any of the principal. We know that interest rates are rising, and construction costs only go up between project idea and completion.

Harlington Gurkha Square Sensitivity Analysis. Harlington Horror Show

Taken together, FTC is commiting to spend the continuing operating loss of £180,000 per annum plus the loan repayments of at least £412,000 per annum for the next 45 58 years. This totals at least £26.6m £34.4m over the term, assuming no further cost overruns and no interest rate increases.

The Harlington Horror Show Deal

Putting this all together, we believe this proposal is a lose-lose deal for Hart and Fleet residents. Let’s take a look at the position of Hart and Fleet taxpayers.

Hart Taxpayers

On the revenue side, they lose approximately £120K in parking income each year from Gurkha Square. They also lose the costs of maintaining and securing the decaying Harlington building. This might amount to a total of around £140K per year.

On the capital side of the account they lose Gurkha Square at a value of at least £1.2m. However, they gain part of The Views, at an unknown value. Essentially, this has no economic value as greenspace, and will probably come with maintenance costs attached.

The revenue costs could be mitigated by building more parking spaces on The Views. It is unlikely that the costs, once additional roadworks and machines are included will give much change from £500K. The resulting spaces will then be in an inconvenient position and unlikely to generate much income.

Fleet Taxpayers

On the revenue side Fleet taxpayers commit to paying at least £412K per annum for at least 45 58 years, plus £180K per year subsidy, for a total cost of at least £26.6m £34.3m. They might also gain parking revenue from the remaining car park.

On the capital side, they gain Gurkha Square at a value of £1.2m. However, they lose part of The Views at unknown value. Of course they gain a brand new building at a value of £9.9m £11m.

Taken together, this is the Harlington Horror Show.

 

 

Save Gurkha Square

Save Gurkha Square in Fleet Hampshire

Save Gurkha Square

The purpose of this post is to alert you to the plans to build on the much-loved Gurkha Square car-park and support the petition calling for a referendum of Hart residents before planning permission is granted.

Save Gurkha Square Petition

The petition can be found here.

Gurkha Square proposal

Fleet Town Council has made a controversial planning application to build a new facility on Gurkha Square car-park. This can be found here (or search for application 18/00147/OUT on https://publicaccess.hart.gov.uk/ ). This new facility is currently expected to cost around £9.9m to build.

This is to replace the aging Harlington centre that currently costs £178,300 to support each year. It is envisaged that this support cost will continue for the new centre. Additionally, Fleet residents will be asked to continue paying the £412,000 Harlington precept for 45 years to repay the loan. This assumes there is no escalation in building costs and no increase in interest rates. Hardly sensible assumptions.

At the time of writing, there have been 12 comments on the planning application and all of them are opposed to the proposal. One Hart resident has written:

When I found out about this and how little others living in Fleet knew about it I wanted to ensure that as Fleet residents you were made aware & could have a say in the future

Why is the Gurkha Square proposal a bad idea?

Regular readers will be aware that we are broadly in favour of redeveloping Fleet. So, we had to think long and hard about this proposal. We came down against it because:

  1. This removes much needed parking spaces from the town centre.
  2. Puts at risk the market and other community events.
  3. It is a poorly thought through proposal that isn’t part of a proper master plan for Fleet regeneration
  4. There is no plan to do anything with the vacant, decaying Harlington building or the rest of the underutilised complex.
  5. There is a risk that part of the Views will be concreted over to replace the lost parking spaces.
  6. Disrespects the Gurkha community by reducing the space dedicated to their support and sacrifice for the UK.
  7. This proposal has all the hallmarks of a doomed political vanity project.

Opaque financial arrangements for Gurkha Square transfer

The Gurkha Square car-park is currently owned by Hart District Council. In essence it belongs to all Hart residents. The financial arrangements related to the transfer of the car-park to Fleet Town Council are shrouded in mystery. They were discussed at Overview and Scrutiny Committee, but the key debate about finance was conducted in private.

We don’t think it appropriate that the transfer of assets between two public bodies should be conducted in secret. What we do know is that the Cabinet received advice that the value of the car-park is £575,000. Although it is unclear how this figure was determined. The site is approximately 0.3Ha and development land with planning permission is worth around £4m per hectare. One might expect prime development land in the town centre to be worth more. This would equate to a value of at least £1.2m, far in excess of the stated value.

However, we don’t know the basis on which HDC has agreed to transfer the asset. Some people fear they have agreed a much lower capital value, in exchange for a continuing income. But it seems odd they would rely upon an income from a facility that Fleet Town Council say will continue to lose £180,000 per annum. Moreover, the decaying Harlington Centre will revert to HDC, which looks like it will be a liability rather than an asset.

We think Hart residents should be consulted before ‘their’ asset is transferred to Fleet. Moreover, the financial arrangements should be transparent. Indeed, the deal as proposed may well be in breach of the Value for Money rules governing public bodies.

Conclusion

Please respond to the petition that can be found here.

Please object to the planning application here (or search for application 18/00147/OUT on https://publicaccess.hart.gov.uk/ )

Download the leaflet here:

Save Gurkha Square leaflet

 

 

Affordable homes blocked by Hart’s restrictive brownfield policies

Affordable homes blocked at Zenith House, 3 Rye Close, Fleet, Hampshire by Hart's restrictive brownfield policies

Affordable homes blocked by Hart’s brownfield policies

The delivery of 36 affordable homes is being blocked by Hart’s restrictive brownfield policies. Magna Group is seeking to convert Zenith House on Rye Close on Ancell’s Farm in Fleet into 36 relatively affordable properties, designed to retail at £175,000 to £300,000. But they are being blocked by Hart’s restrictive SANG policy.

The council has given its prior approval to the development. However, Hart is effectively blocking the development by refusing to allocate any of its SANG.

redevelopment of Old Police Station,Crookham Road, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire being blocked by restrictive brownfield policies

Proposals to redevelop Fleet Police station being blocked by restrictive brownfield policies

We understand the same developer owns the old Fleet Police station on Crookham Road in Fleet and plans to replace it with 14 new dwellings. However, we understand the council planning officers have been instructed to refuse planning permission for even compliant proposals.

This has the effect of:

  • Restricting the supply of housing that would be affordable for many young people trying to get on the housing ladder
  • Adding extra pressure to build on green field land
  • Stopping the market dealing with the problem of the over-supply of dilapidated office blocks in the district

This policy is also blocking Ranil’s ideas for regenerating Fleet. His petition can be found here.

It transpires that Hart’s SANG policy may well be illegal. We understand that legal representations have been made that cast doubt on Hart’s SANG policy:

First the policy is clearly intended to frustrate the delivery of housing rather than to facilitate development.  The policy confers on the head of the regulatory services absolute discretion to allocate SANG but makes clear that SANG will not be allocated to any development unless the Council considers it to be acceptable.

That means that if Planning Permission is granted on appeal the Council will nevertheless use its powers in relation to SANG to thwart that development.

The policy may result in the Council preventing people from exercising the rights they have been granted by Parliament through the permitted development process. In effect the Council is removing a property right from them in breach of the terms of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Furthermore the Council is in breach of its duty to make proper provision to facilitate the delivery of housing.

It certainly looks like the council is setting itself up for more expensive legal battles.

 

 

 

 

 

Fleet resident calls for plans to regenerate Fleet

Plea to regenerate Fleet and Hart urban areas. Old Police Station in Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire

Plea to regenerate Fleet and Hart urban areas

An important letter has been published in Fleet News and Mail, pleading for the Hart Local Plan to be altered to include plans to regenerate Fleet and our other urban areas.

The author of the letter first sympathises with the plight of councillor Parker who voted reluctantly for the Local Plan. Councillor Parker said ‘an appalling plan is better than no plan at all’.

However, he goes onto criticise the CCH/Lib Dem leadership of the current administration, in particular calling out the two councillors who defected from Conservative to Community Campaign Hart without calling by-elections.

The main plea from the letter though is:

..our dysfunctional cabinet has ignored pleas for the [Local] plan to deliver regeneration of the urban areas (especially Fleet) and has favoured unnecessary greenfield development….

Since the change in administration last year, HDC has become less transparent, and does not encourage engagement with the electorate.

Meetings in public do not welcome participation from the public, and the bureaucracy is weighted in favour of councillors and officers.

Interestingly, the author comes from Fleet.

We could not agree more.  The disastrous policy SS3 setting out plans for an unnecessary new town should be dropped from the Local Plan. In the fullness of time, this policy should be replaced by plans to regenerate Fleet and other urban areas. Please join us in delivering this message when the consultation is launched.

 

 

Ranil calls for Fleet regeneration

Ranil Jayawardena MP calls for Fleet regeneration and revitalisation of Hook and Yateley

Ranil calls for Fleet regeneration

Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena has called for the regeneration of Fleet, Hook and Yateley.

We warmly welcome this initiative. Ranil has begun a petition to promote his cause, and we urge readers to sign it. The petition can be found here. An article about this also appeared in Fleet News and Mail.

Ranil said:

Looking to some of our local, district and town centres, however, it is clear to see that Fleet, Yateley and Hook are all in real need of revitalisation and regeneration. I’ve been spending time speaking to your local Councillors about this and taking a look at the work that needs to be done.

I am more convinced than ever that all three places have great potential – be that simply as shopping destinations or, with the right infrastructure improvements, as great places for our young people to get their foot on the housing ladder.

The trouble is that there is no ‘masterplan’ for any of these places. I will be raising this with Hart District Council personally – but I need your help. If you want smart new shops, some new flats for local young people to buy above them and better car parking, then act now.

This is in stark contrast to the current Completely Concrete Community Campaign Hart/Lib Dem coalition, who are pressing ahead with plans for an unnecessary new town across Winchfield and Murrell Green. Their plans do not include any significant new infrastructure. Plus, there’s no ideas on how to revitalise our town centres or improve our cultural facilities. There are no plans to remove the eyesores that blight our environment.

Ranil Jayawardena MP calls for Fleet regeneration and revitalisation of Hook and Yateley

Derelict Offices on Fleet Road in Fleet, Hampshire – time for Fleet regeneration

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) says that planning policies should promote competitive town centre environments and set out policies for the management and growth of centres over the plan period. The current draft plan does not address this requirement.

Fleet Regeneration is necessary and desirable

As we have explained before, Fleet is one of the richest towns in the country. It has the lowest density development of comparative towns and one of the worst retail offers. It is time these problems were addressed.

When the consultation on the new Local Plan emerges, we will continue to urge residents to reject the plans for the completely unnecessary new town. Instead, we should push for a new policy to regenerate our town centres. This should not put the draft Local Plan at risk. Councillor Cockarill confirmed at Council on 4th January that the Local Plan should stand without the new town policy.

CCH reveal plan to Completely Concrete Hart

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) reveal plans to Completely Concrete Hart

CCH reveal plans to Completely Concrete Hart

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) have revealed their plan to Completely Concrete Hart by sticking to the ridiculous 10,185 housing target in the draft Local Plan. This comes despite the new Government method for calculating housing need results in a much lower housing target for Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath.

It is time to up the pressure on CCH to come up with a strategy to take account of this new information. They should build a Local Plan that is good for the whole of Hart that everybody can live with. It is time to drop their plan to Completely Concrete Hart.

To be clear, in our view, Hart’s housing target should be reduced to around 6,500, to take account of the new Government approach, plus a few hundred for Surrey Heath. Using the figures in the draft Local Plan consultation (para 104), this would leave 906 new houses left to plan for. This could be made up from

  • Sun Park (320), from Local Plan para 109
  • Grove Farm (423), sadly
  • The forthcoming Rawlings depot site in Hook (123)
  • The remaining 40 can come from any number of brownfield sites for instance:
    • Hartley Wintney (Nero Brewery – 10)
    • Winchfield (Winchfield Court extension – 17)
    • The derelict eyesores on Fleet Road – up to 200.

We can save Hartland Village (Pyestock) for the 2030’s.

The revelations came in a reply to an email sent to CCH by a concerned correspondent on Facebook. We reproduce the question, James Radley’s answer and our commentary in red below.

Question to Community Campaign Hart (CCH)

I write to you ask a question about your party’s policy towards supporting (or not) a reduced housing total for Hart District. Specifically, in regard of this statement on the We Heart Hart (WHH) Facebook page:

If Hart followed the latest Government approach to calculating housing need, even Hartland Park wouldn’t be needed. The remaining housing need could be met from Sun Park and any number of other small brownfield sites.

Answer from CCH revealing commitment to Completely Concrete Hart

I am probably the best placed to explain the CCH position on housing numbers. It is true that as a rule we do not engage in social media debates, mainly due to a lack of time. As well as trying to fit in my day job I also expect to spend over 6 hours in total in the council offices today and similarly tomorrow.

One has to ask why the council Deputy Leader and portfolio holder for Services is spending quite so much time in council offices working on the Local Plan. One would hope this time would be put in by the portfolio holder for planning, Lib Dem councillor Graham Cockarill. It obviously takes a lot of effort to Completely Concrete Hart.

Social media debates are very time consuming in order to stay on top of all the posts and then the debate tends to descend to the lowest common denominator. I for one would certainly rather put the time and effort in where it matters and unless one is going to invest all that precious time in the social media arena, better not to engage at all.

This sounds like CCH want to stay in their own bunker and not actually engage with anyone who disagrees with them. They are afraid to engage because they don’t have any facts or arguments to back up their new town ideology.

Unfortunately WHH are wrong in their assessment of housing numbers.

No, we are not wrong in our numbers. Here is the relevant section of the Government consultation document.

Para 15 of Planning for the right homes in the right places - baseline plus maket signals

Para 15 of Planning for the right homes in the right places

Working through this. The demographic baseline is the latest DCLG household projections (Table 406) that can be found here. These show that over the period 2011-2032, Hart requires 218 dwellings per annum, or 4,536 in total. In the reference period of 2016-2026 used by the Government, Hart requires 209 dwellings per annum. This 209 dpa is then modified to account for market signals and results in a new Government figure for Hart of 292 dpa. Scaling up to the full planning period results in 6,132 new houses for Hart. And that’s it. No more further adjustments for changes in household size. No more houses for people we have to import who then go and work in London. This compares to the 8,022 in the SHMA and 10,185 in the draft Local Plan.

Hart housing targets under alternative scenarios

Hart housing targets under alternative scenarios

They are citing a baseline figure in a government consultation paper which is not part of the planning policy framework in effect at this point in time and is a figure which even if it was policy is taken as a starting point on top of which other factors will add to the housing numbers needed.

We have answered the point about the baseline above. The baseline is the demographic projection. The Government then already made the upwards adjustment for market signals in the 292 dpa figure. It is true that these figures are so far only part of a consultation paper, but the feedback we have received is that the Government is committed to pushing these through. It would seem prudent to us for Hart to take these figures into account now and prepare a Local Plan with two scenarios:

  • The first scenario should be based upon the 6,132 outlined above. Plus a few hundred to give some flexibility to build some new houses for Surrey Heath. They may still have a problem meeting their new, lower housing target. This would give a total of around 6,500.
  • The second scenario should be based solely on the SHMA figure of 8,022.

To be clear, the daft 10,185 target in the draft Local Plan should be dropped forthwith. Even James Radley admits the extra 2,000+ houses on top of the SHMA won’t affect house prices. As the Government position becomes clear, Hart can make the decision on which scenario can be submitted to the inspector. There is no need to Completely Concrete Hart.

We lost the fight against Grove Farm because we don’t have a local plan in place. We don’t have a local plan because the Conservatives have allowed it to drift for years in a sea of procrastination driven by their internal in fighting.

True, Grove Farm was lost because we don’t have a Local Plan. It was also lost because our policies are out of date and because the application was not determined on time. Yes, the Tories missed all their own deadlines. But CCH have also played their part by forcing a delay in the Local Plan last December.

The main reason for taking control was to get the local plan out and to do so by a total focus and not letting the intentional disruptions from WHH to deflect us from that.

At no time have we sought to delay the Local Plan. We Heart Hart first highlighted the project management and governance problems back in April 2015 and again in January 2016 after the consultation omnishambles.

It is quite clear that if we don’t get a local plan out that is based on realistic and future proof housing numbers, then Fleet & Church Crookham will continue to be blighted by bolt on developments such as Grove Farm, Pale Lane and whatever is next.

Yes, we need a Local Plan. And quickly. The realistic numbers to use are the Government’s new numbers. These are already future proofed by the extra houses to take account of market signals. We have suggested a modest further uplift to help out Surrey Heath.

It is interesting that the Deputy Leader for the whole of Hart is only concerned about Fleet and Church Crookham. We are also concerned about Owens Farm to the west of Hook. We are also concerned about the long term impact of adopting a ridiculously high housing target. This will then be compounded for decades to come, putting even more of our green fields under threat, including Pale Lane and Crookham Village.

WHH know this and are trying to undermine the new settlement option in the full knowledge that they are condemning us to yet more incremental developments which do not produce any retrospective infrastructure.

We are opposed to the new settlement because we don’t believe it is needed. And we certainly don’t believe it will solve the infrastructure problems facing the district. And we don’t want to Completely Concrete Hart. If we adopt the new Government housing numbers, it will be better for everyone.

I hope that my brief explanation helps.

It does, but not in the way he thinks. It confirms CCH is in the driving seat, dragging the Lib Dems along with disastrous policies to Completely Concrete Hart. The explanation confirms CCH is in a bunker, unwilling and unable to debate the real issues. CCH is locked into its new town ideology and is trying to justify it by sticking to a ridiculous housing target.

Fleet and Crookham groups fail to oppose ridiculous housing target

The Scream - Hart Rushmoor and Surrey Heath SHMA

Fleet and Crookham groups fail to oppose ridiculous housing target

The responses to the draft Local Plan consultation have finally been published and it is clear that groups from Fleet and Church Crookham groups have failed to oppose the ridiculous housing target.

We have looked at the responses from the following groups and can find no mention of their objection to the housing target:

  • Face IT
  • Fleet and Church Crookham Society
  • Church Crookham Parish Council
  • Fleet Town Council

Many of these groups strongly oppose the now withdrawn Cross Farm proposal that was included as a strategic site in the draft Local Plan. Their message seems to be: go ahead and build thousands of houses we don’t need, but don’t put them in Fleet or Church Crookham.

Councillors fail to challenge the ridiculous housing target

Completely Concrete Hart CCH fail to challenge the ridiculous housing target

Community Campaign Hart CCH councillors fail to challenge the ridiculous housing target

Moreover, three Community Campaign Hart councillors have responded to the consultation without opposing the ridiculous housing target of 10,185 in the draft Local Plan:

Between them, these councillors argued for:

  • Fewer homes at the brownfield site Hartland Village (Pyestock), which would add to pressure for green field development
  • Dropping Murrell Green in favour of Winchfield East, even though the Murrell Green sites were in the area of search in the 2015 consultation (see image below)  and the Winchfield East sites fared less well in testing.
  • Removing Cross Farm from the Local Plan. This application for this site has now been withdrawn.

No wonder they are being nicknamed Completely Concrete Hart

Winchfield and Hook New Town proposal

Area of search for Winchfield new settlement opportunity

Brian Blewett of the Liberal Democrats has also responded, supporting the position of Blackwater and Hawley Town Council and Neighbourhood Plan group. Neither of these groups opposed the housing target. As far as we can tell, Hook and Crondall Parish Councils did not oppose the housing target either.

We struggle to understand the logic of this position. We can’t understand why members who purport to stand for the good of the whole of Hart support the ridiculous uplift from the SHMA total of 8,022. The Government consultation is clear, Hart’ new housing need is going to be 6.132 units. The remaining target can be met from brownfield sites alone.

Some councillors and local groups oppose the ridiculous housing target

In better news, Andrew Renshaw, member for Hartley Wintney argued for a lower overall housing target. As did the following groups:

  • Crookham Village Parish Council
  • Dogmersfield Parish Council
  • Eversley Parish Council
  • Hartley Wintney Preservation Society
  • Odiham Society
  • Rotherwick Parish Council
  • Rural Hart Association
  • Whitewater Valley Preservation Society
  • Winchfield Action Group
  • Winchfield Parish Council

Alastair Clarke, chair of the Hart District Association of Parish and Town Councils (HDAPTC), also opposed the housing target in his personal response.

It’s great that such a diverse set of groups has seen the logic of opposing the ridiculous 10,185 housing target.

Conclusion

It is time all parishes and groups within Hart united behind the opportunity that the new Government consultation brings. This will benefit the whole of Hart and help stop the needless playing off of one parish against another.