Goalposts changed in SWR timetable consultation

South West Trains SWR timetable consultation

South West Trains SWR timetable consultation comparison

The goalposts have been changed in the South West Railway SWR timetable consultation. As you may know already, SWR launched a consultation on the train timetable in late September. However, in response to negative feedback they have revised their proposals.

These new proposals are still unacceptable. Sorry to say this, but even if you have already responded to the first proposals, please respond to these new proposals. Please use the download below to respond to consultation by 22 December 2017. Feedback can be sent to: timetable.feedback@swrailway.com

SWR timetable consultation

Please also sign Ranil’s petition which can be found here.

Impact of South West Railway SWR timetable consultation

The current line to London is already running beyond capacity, and these changes represent a reduction in service at peak hours which cannot be a good idea.

In summary the changes proposed are:

  • Retains the same number of services from Hook and Winchfield to London, however, many of these services now no longer stop at Fleet and Farnborough
  • Keeps the same number of Fleet to London services as now
  • The new proposals result in slightly faster services to London

The impact of these changes will be:

  • School children and students attending Farnborough Sixth form, Salesian and Farnborough Hill will now have far fewer services to choose from to get from Hook/Winchfield to Farnborough.
  • This is likely to lead to both over-crowded trains and increased car journeys, leading to more pollution and congestion
  • No effective increase in capacity from Fleet, Winchfield and Hook to London, even though services are already over-crowded.

Alternative approach to SWR timetable consultation

Thousands of houses have either already been given permission or are proposed in Hart’s Local Plan. These include around 500 dwellings at Sun Park, 1,500 Hartland Village, and 420+ at Grove Farm all near to Fleet station. Moreover, 550 houses are currently being built in NE Hook and 1,800 dwellings are proposed at Murrell Green, both close to both Hook and Winchfield stations. Many hundreds more dwellings are being considered on brownfield sites in Hook. It does seem rather odd that SWR are not proposing to dramatically increase services just at the time when demand is going to increase. I would suggest the following alternative plan:

  • Ensure that many more of the Hook/Winchfield services stop at Fleet/Farnborough to help our kids get to school
  • Increase services from Fleet to London
  • Increase capacity by running more 12-car trains on the whole line at peak times
  • Reduce the number of first class carriages on 8 and 12-car trains to further increase passenger capacity

 

What do the SWR train timetable proposals mean for Fleet?

Hook Winchfield and Fleet SWR train timetable comparison

Hook Winchfield and Fleet SWR train timetable comparison

UPDATE: See details of new SWR timetable consultation here

Summary of SWR train timetable proposals

South Western Railways (SWR) has launched a consultation that proposes changes to services from Winchfield, Hook and Fleet train timetables. The full document can be found here. The proposals:

  • Reduce the number of peak morning services from Hook and Winchfield to London from eight to five.
  • Increase peak time services from Fleet by three.

Impact of SWR train timetable proposals

At first thought, the increase in Fleet services might seem like a good thing. And if accompanied by capacity increases elsewhere, then it would be a good thing. But, the cuts at Winchfield and Hook, coupled with the London line already running beyond capacity, these changes will lead to the following impact:

  • Three peak-time services from Winchfield and Hook to London cut from the timetable
  • Harder for commuters to get to work and for children to get to school/college
  • Increased pressure on already over-crowded Fleet station, with no planned increase in car-parking capacity
  • More road congestion and increased carbon footprint

Of course, we all know many thousands more houses are planned for the area, including 1,500 homes at Hartland Village (Pyestock). It cannot make sense to cut services in Hook and Winchfield and further increase the load on Fleet.

What can you do?

Ranil Jayawardena, our local MP has launched a campaign against these changes, so please do sign his petition that can be found here.

A Facebook group called Save our Station (SOS) Winchfield and Hook Stations Action Group, has been launched to combat the South Western Railways (SWR) train timetable changes. The group can be found here. Please do visit their page to learn more about what is going on and express your disgust at the proposed #SWRCuts.

It would also be helpful if you could respond to the consultation directly by emailing your views to timetable.feedback@swrailway.com. We have created a handy template to help you that can be downloaded below.

SWR timetable consultation

Grove Farm development approved at appeal

Breaking News: Hart needs to build 1,500 fewer houses for the Local Plan

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) development allowed on appeal

The planning inspector has granted outline planning permission to the Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) development, between Fleet and Crookham Village. This comes as a blow to those of us who oppose green field development, so our commiserations go to those most affected by this decision.

Grove Farm - Netherhouse Copse appeal decision

The full decision can be found here.

Impact of Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) decision

It is early days to come to firm conclusions, but here are a few thoughts:

  • Costs. The appeal decision doesn’t talk about the costs of the appeal, but at the very least the council will have to meet its own costs. These are likely to be of the order of £100,000. This is a self-inflicted wound as it was the council itself that failed to make a decision on the planning application. This left the developer with little choice but to appeal on the grounds of non-determination.

 

  • Local Plan. This decision adds 423 houses to the housing supply that weren’t in the draft Local Plan. Theoretically, this could free up other sites that are in the Local Plan. Of course, if the council adopts the new Government methodology for calculating housing need, we certainly won’t need a new settlement now, and it is questionable whether even Hartland Village will be required. [Update 2] The finding that the polices are out of date and the level of housing supply is irrelevant makes it imperative that the council gets the Local Plan and associated policies in place ASAP [/Update 2].

 

  • Community Campaign Hart (CCH). This party will be particularly angry and disappointed at this decision. They also suffered setbacks with the recent decisions at Watery Lane, Crookham Park and Edenbrooke. However, to our knowledge, CCH have never challenged the ridiculous housing target. Now they are putting in place obstructions to brownfield development. Perhaps now is the time to rethink their strategy. They should focus on a sensible housing target and brownfield development.

We will provide further updates as we find out more information.

[Update 1]

Detailed findings from the Inspector

The decision rested on a number criteria. First, the inspector found limited impact on the Local Gap between Fleet and Crookham Village. Here is the Inspector’s summary:

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Local Gap decision

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Local Gap decision

Second, the inspector found no grounds to reject the application based on highway safety:

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Highway Safety decision

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Highway Safety decision

Third, the inspector found it to be very significant that most of the policies that the council relied upon for its defence were out of date:

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Out of date policies

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Out of date policies

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Out of date policies 2

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Out of date policies

Fourth, the inspector didn’t determine one way or the other whether the council has a five year land supply. Essentially, the five year land supply is irrelevant.

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Housing Supply Irrelevant

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Housing Supply Irrelevant

In summary, the inspector found significant economic benefits, and that the potential harms would not outweigh those benefits.

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Summary of decision

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Summary of decision

[/Update 1]

 

Hart SANG plan to obstruct brownfield development

James Radley of CCH pulling the string of Graham Cockarill in Hart SANG plan to obstruct brownfield development

CCH calling the shots on Hart SANG plan to obstruct brownfield development

Hart Council has published a new report recommending that its own SANG land should not be used to enable brownfield development. This effectively renders the council’s SANG useless and calls into question the council’s ability to fund the repayments on the loan it has taken out to buy the SANG.

The document is sponsored by Community Campaign Hart (CCH) Deputy Leader, James Radley and not the portfolio holder for Planning, Lib Dem Graham Cockarill. This indicates that CCH is pulling the strings on important planning matters. The Hart SANG plan will be discussed at Cabinet tomorrow.

Hart SANG plan

Hart has bought its own SANG land at Bramshot Farm which lies between Ancells Farm and the link road between Hartland Village and the M3. The site has capacity to support 1,745 new houses. The new report proposes that no SANG land is allocated to the sites set out below unless signed off by both the Services Portfolio Holder (James Radley) and the chair of the Planning Committee (Graham Cockarill).

Brownfield sites affected

The following brownfield sites will effectively be blocked from development by the Hart SANG plan:

  • Bartley Wood, Hook, RG27, 9UP
  • Bartley Point, Hook, RG27 9EX
  • Cody Park, Farnborough, GU14 0LX
  • Meadows Business Park, Blackwater, GU17 9AB
  • Osborne Way, Hook, RG27 9HY
  • Waterfront Business Park, Fleet, GU51 3OT
  • Ancells Business Park, Fleet, GU51 2UJ (right next door to Bramshot Farm)
  • Blackbushe Business Park, GU46 6GA
  • Eversley Haulage Yard, RG27 0PZ
  • Eversley Storage, RG27 0PY
  • Finn’s Business Park, Crondall, GU10 5HP
  • Fleet Business Park, Church Crookham, GU52 8BF
  • Grove Farm Barn, Crookham Village, GU51 5RX
  • Lodge Farm, North Warnborough, RG29 1HA
  • Murrell Green Business Park, RG27 9GR
  • Potters Industrial Park, Church Crookham, GU52 6EU
  • Rawlings Depot, Hook, RG27 9HU
  • Redfields Business Park, Church Crookham, GU52 0RD
  • Optrex Business Park, Rotherwick, RG27 9AY

Essentially, development on every significant potential brownfield site other than Hartland Park and Sun Park (which already have SANG earmarked), will be hindered by this new proposal.

This new proposal runs contrary to the Vision outlined in the draft Local Plan which says:

The priority will have been given to the effective use of previously developed land (‘brownfield land’) so that ‘greenfield’ development will have been limited,

It also runs contrary to paras 105 and 107:

Our preference is still to deliver as much of our New Homes Left to Plan as possible on previously developed land.

many new homes will be built on brownfield sites (where possible and if they are viable)

Their new approach also goes against policy MG2 that says:

Policy MG2: Previously Developed Land

The Council will encourage the effective use of land by reusing land that has been previously developed (brownfield land), provided that it is not of high environmental value.

Of course, this plan also goes against stated Government policy to encourage brownfield development. See here and here.

Financial impact of Hart SANG plan

However, all the large, controversial green field developments are being proposed with their own SANG. This includes Murrell Green, Winchfield, Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase), Rye Common and Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse). Most of these sites are probably outside the 5km catchment area of this SANG anyway or closer to Crookham Park SANG. Of course, the new Government consultation has reduced Hart’s housing target by ~4,000 houses compared to the draft Local Plan. If this new target (plus a few extra to help out Surrey Heath) was adopted, our remaining housing target could be more than met by Sun Park and Hartland Park alone.

So, if the main brownfield sites are excluded from using the council SANG, the other brownfield sites have their own SANG and the major greenfield sites are not needed, or have their own SANG,  we have to ask what it will be used for.

Apparently, the council is about to sign an agreement with Rushmoor to use the SANG to support the delivery of approximately 1,500 new homes in Rushmoor. However, the latest Government housing target consultation has reduced Rushmoor’s allocation by ~3,000 dwellings and Surrey Heath’s by 630 houses. This calls into question whether Rushmoor will need this SANG at all.

The council is strapped for cash, and has borrowed £5.3m to fund the purchase of this SANG. It must payback this loan in instalments up to 2023/24:

Financial implications of Hart SANG plan

These new developments call into question the immediate demand for this SANG, and of course, Hart’s ability to repay the loan.

Conclusion

It is a scandal that Hart is using its powers to obstruct brownfield development. The major greenfield developments come with their own SANG, and probably aren’t required anyway. Rushmoor and Surrey Heath’s housing targets will probably be reduced. This calls into question the financial sustainability of the council’s purchase of this SANG land.

image

CPRE concerned about new Government housing targets

CPRE concerned about new Government housing targets.

CPRE concerned about new Government housing targets.

In an article appearing in today’s Fleet News and Mail, the CPRE is concerned about new Government housing targets.

The Fleet N&M has picked up on our article that shows Hart’s housing target will fall to 6,132 new dwellings under new Government proposals. This compares to the Hart’s current Local Plan total of some 10,185. The total outlined in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) of 8,022.

CPRE is concerned about the impact of the new guidelines in southern and east Hampshire and in Basingstoke and Deane. Whilst we share some of this concern, we are delighted about the result for Hart, RUshmoor and Surrey Heath.

We have asked some questions of council that will be tabled at tomorrow’s meeting, so we will find out how Hart plans to respond to these new proposals.

The full Fleet N&M article can be found here.

 

Rushmoor leads urban regeneration push

Rushmoor leads urban regeneration push

Rushmoor leads urban regeneration push

Leader of Rushmoor Council, Dave Clifford has published an article in Get Surrey, setting out how the council is tackling urban regeneration in Aldershot. Full article here.

He acknowledges the challenges facing town centres from increased internet shopping. Their response has been to produce a prospectus for Aldershot town centre. This includes a joined up plan to support redevelopment of areas such as Westgate and the Galleries. But they have also taken a leadership position by acquiring properties on Union Street. This is part of a plan to consolidate ownership, so a redevelopment plan can be put together.

There is much to be done, but it is clear Rushmoor is rising to the challenge.

Well done Rushmoor.

Hart is missing an opportunity

Hart Local Plan to regenerate urban centres

This is in stark contrast to Hart Council. The recent Local Plan consultation acknowledged “The delivery of town centre redevelopment opportunities must be a priority”. However, no significant proposals were put forward to improve the town centres of Fleet, Blackwater, Yateley or Hook. We did put forward some ideas on this in our response to the Local Plan consultation.

It remains to be seen if the new administration has the vision and the political will to tackle these issues.

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.