Rail capacity is significant barrier to Winchfield new town and Hart development

Rail capacity is significant barrier to Winchfield new town and Hart development

A concerned resident has written to South West Trains asking a series of questions about the capacity of the mainline railway that travels through Hart District and the alternative strategies for increasing capacity. The answers are a significant cause for concern and call into question not only the viability of the proposed Winchfield new town, but also further large scale development across Hart District.

In summary the mainline up to London already is 20% over-crowded at peak times and is forecast to have a 60% capacity shortfall by 2043.  There are no plans to have more trains stopping at Winchfield (and by implication no plans for more trains at Hook or Fleet). There are no plans to extend the station at Winchfield (and by implication Hook too) properly to accommodate 12-car trains. There are no plans to increase car-parking capacity at Winchfield. The mooted solution of double-decker trains is a non-starter because of the infrastructure requirements and increased dwell times. Network Rail would not be responsible for the costs of widening the three tunnels under the railway in Winchfield, nobody has estimated the cost, but it is known to be considerable.

All this leaves the proposal for a new town in Winchfield in tatters, but it also calls into question the viability of so many more houses across Hart as there simply is not the rail capacity to accommodate the increased population.

The answers to the questions were produced under the supervision of a senior executive in South West Trains and in consultation with Network Rail’s Wessex Route Strategy team and are reproduced below:

Q1: Is my assertion that the planning authorities should be considering the capacity of the whole Southampton to Waterloo line rather than the capacity of individual stations is correct?

A1: Network Rail would always look at the capacity of the whole line, particularly in relation to additional services. This is because the impact of increasing capacity through additional services does not just affect an individual station. Additional stops for existing services will have an impact on journey times owing to the time taken to accelerate/ decelerate and dwell time at the platform all adding in time. Those existing services may also be close to capacity and adding extra stops would impact upon the ability for passengers further down the line to get on to the train. Network Rail would encourage a joined up approach between local authorities to ensure that capacity is looked at across the whole line.

Q2: If I am correct, is the line under, at or over capacity? If it is over capacity by how much and when you plan to bring it down to safe levels?

A2: The Wessex Route Study, published in August 2015 (http://www.networkrail.co.uk/long-term-planning-process/wessex-route-study/), states that there is currently 20% overcrowding on Main Line services and that growth to 2043 will see an additional 40% capacity being required. Therefore in the period to 2043 we expect to be required to accommodate 60% extra capacity. The Wessex Route Study sets out the strategy for meeting this growth and mitigating overcrowding. Unfortunately there is no quick fix for what is needed and therefore there are a number of incremental steps that will be taken, including a flyover at Woking, track reconfiguration works between Clapham Junction and London Waterloo, and a major infrastructure such as Crossrail 2. The summary Chapter 6 sets out what is required and Chapter 5 has a bit more of the detail.

Q3: Do you have plans to increase the frequency of trains stopping at Winchfield to soak up additional passengers? It has been suggested that some of the fast trains from Southampton might stop there. If this is not the case are there impediments to so doing?

A3: There are presently no plans to increase the frequency of stopping trains at Winchfield as there is insufficient route capacity and no physical capacity on trains which would take the additional calls. Furthermore to have the faster services calling at Winchfield would be detrimental to journey time from longer distance locations to London such as Salisbury, Winchester and Southampton.

Q4. Are any plans to extend the station at Winchfield? If this did occur would this be the responsibility of SW Trains, Network Rail or the Local Council? Have you any indicative costs for such an activity?

A4: Network Rail currently have no plans to lengthen the platforms at Winchfield. Automatic Selective Door Opening (ASDO) is employed at some stations where the platforms are not long enough to accommodate all carriages of a train; Winchfield is an example. ASDO allows for only some of the doors to open at stations with short platforms negating the need for expensive platform extensions. This is only employed where it is deemed safe to do so. Where platform pedestrian capacity is a problem then ASDO may not be the correct solution because it wouldn’t allow passengers to spread along the platform to spread a crowd waiting for a train.

Q5. Are there any plans to increase the car parking capacity at Winchfield? Again, if this were to occur where would the costs lie and how much would they be?

A5: There are no plans in the present franchise to increase car park capacity at Winchfield.

Q6: Are double-decker trains a serious option to overcome the overcrowding on this line? If they are not please can you tell me if there are any single major obstacles that will preclude their adoption on this line?

A6: Double Decker Trains were investigated as part of the Wessex Route Study. The study looked at Waterloo to Basingstoke as the scope area. This was decided upon as there are relatively few limited clearance structures on this stretch of line and therefore if it wasn’t feasible here, then it wouldn’t work on other parts of the network such as between Basingstoke on Southampton where there are a number of tunnels. In short, the Route Study concluded that the combination of needing to operate bespoke rolling stock (as no rolling stock operated elsewhere in the world would work on our infrastructure), the cost of modifying the infrastructure to accommodate the trains (track lowering, bridge rebuilding, platform adjustments and lineside infrastructure moves and adjustments), the impact on dwell times and the fact that double deck services would only be necessary in the peak mean that the business case was not strong enough to warrant such investment.

Q7: There is an embankment running east of Winchfield Station pierced by three road tunnels. Should road widening be deemed necessary for any or all of these tunnels, what would your reaction be? Who would pay for such works? What would be the indicative costs please?

A7: Network Rail would need to assess the impact of widening the tunnels on the embankment and if it was deemed safe. The Network Rail Asset Protection team would need to be satisfied that Network Rail’s assets were not damaged or compromised in anyway. We do not have foresight of costs for such a scheme and this would not be a cost that Network Rail would expect to be accountable for.

Hart’s Brownfield Register fails to meet expectations

 

Brownfield site: vacant offices at Ancells Farm Business Park, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire.

Brownfield site: vacant offices at Ancells Farm Business Park, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire.

Hart District Council has at last published its register of brownfield sites in the district. Sadly, the register has failed to live up to expectations. The full register can be downloaded on the link below.

The purpose of the brownfield register is to provide house builders with up-to-date and publicly available information on all brownfield sites available for housing locally. The register is supposed to help housebuilders identify suitable sites quickly, speeding up the construction of new homes. Hart Council was one of the pilot local authorities participating in the national brownfield register scheme as announced back in March 2016.

At first glance, the register identifies 3,542 potential units on brownfield sites, which might be considered good news.  However, closer inspection of the register reveals:

  • All but two of the sites already have planning permission, indeed a number of them have already been built (e.g. Queen Elizabeth Barracks at Church Crookham, Landata House in Hook, and Monachus House in Hartley Wintney).
  • Some of the sites are not even brownfield sites, for example Rifle Range Farm in Hartley Wintney.
  • None of the sites that Hart Council itself identified as brownfield sites in the recent consultation are recorded in the register.
  • None of the other potential sites that have not yet been permitted on Ancells Farm or along Fleet Road have made it on to the register.
  • Very few, if any, of the brownfield sites in the SHLAA that we identified in our brownfield solution, most particularly sites like the former police college at Bramshill have made it into the register.
  • Over 2,000 of the units in the register have already been granted planning permission, with 1,500 units at Hartland Village (aka Pyestock) and 16 at another site yet to be granted permission.

We have contacted the council to find out the reasons why this important opportunity has been botched. We have been told this is a temporary blip due to lack of SANG capacity.  We are far from convinced of this reason as the register itself has a column for constraints.  The purpose of the register should be to identify all of the sites and not miss some out because SANG capacity is not yet available.

We do hope that Hart Council gets to grips with this, because a robust brownfield register will be a significant piece of evidence, as part of the Local Plan, to help fend off the proposals to build at Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) and Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse). The register of brownfield sites  becomes a statutory obligation next year.

Hart Council Brownfield Register

Berkeley Homes propose development to start at Hartland Village in late 2017

Berkeley Homes (St Edward) launches consultation site for new development at Hartland Village, aka Pyestock and Hartland Park

Berkeley Homes (St Edward) launches consultation site for new development at Hartland Village, aka Pyestock and Hartland Park

Berkeley Homes (St Edward) have begun their consultation on the proposed Hartland Village at the brownfield Pyestock site, near Fleet in Hampshire. They held meetings on 14th and 16th July. The papers they discussed at those meetings can be found here.

They propose submitting a planning application in Spring 2017, and assuming permission is granted relatively speedily, construction could begin in late 2017 or early 2018. This shows how important this brownfield development can be in delivering significant contribution to Hart District’s housing needs up to 2032as part of the Local Plan.

We Heart Hart broadly supports this development, provided proper infrastructure is developed along side the housing especially schools, community facilities, cycle paths and roads.

If you would like to make a comment on this application, then Berkeley Homes have set a deadline of 5 August 2016. Please send your comments to hartlandvillage@glhearn.com or see the main consultation page here.

Planning application made for Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse)

Grove Farm - Netherhouse Copse Fleet and Church Crookham Hampshire Site plan

Grove Farm – Netherhouse Copse Site plan

[Update] Application approved on appeal, making the council a sitting duck for new applications [/Update]

Berkeley Homes have submitted an application to build 423 dwellings at Nether House Copse (aka Grove Farm) in Fleet, Hampshire. Hart District Council have circulated a letter to some people seeking observations.

We Heart Hart does not believe this development is either necessary or desirable as there is plenty of brownfield land available, most notably the proposed Hartland Village at the Pyestock site, also proposed by the Berkeley Home group, and many others we have set out here.

We encourage you to object to this development, by going to the Hart consultation website and searching using the reference 16/01651/OUT.

Hartland Village SANG provided by MoD

Hartland Park (Pyestock) near Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire, warehouse development not started

Brownfield site: Hartland Park (Pyestock) near Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire

It was announced at Hart Council that some Army training land adjacent to Pyestock is to be released to provide SANG for the proposed 1,500 home Hartland Village development.  This is a big step forward in securing this important new development for the Hart Local Plan.

Stephen Parker was quoted as saying:

Finally, after my meetings in the Spring with the Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and following correspondence, yesterday I met along with officers the Commander of the Army training organisation in the South East.  The objective was to seek the release of some of the Army training estate to facilitate development at Pyestock and elsewhere.  I am pleased to announce that they have indicated an area adjacent to the Pyestock site, next to other Army training land which in turn adjoins Fleet Pond, which a preliminary estimates will be sufficient for the Pyestock site.  It still needs senior approvals, but as the training organisation has made it clear that they can spare this from their operational requirements, I do not anticipate a problem.

We now have a better understanding of the military utilisation of these areas, and there may be scope for future conversations

This is excellent news.

Two wolves and a lamb vote on what to have for lunch

1st preferences for new town by location Hart Housing Options consultation Q4

Hart Council have published the results of the recent Refined Housing Options consultation.  The summary of the results can be found here, and a geographic analysis of the results of questions 4 and 5 can be found here.

There was strong first preference support for a new town at Winchfield, as can be seen in the table below:

 

Responses to Hart Housing Options Consultation Q4

However, there was strong second preference support for the dispersal and urban extension options. The geo-analysis of the responses to Approach 3 are shown in the image at the top of the page, where it is clear there was very strong support for a new town in Winchfield from Hook and Fleet. This is analogous to two wolves and a lamb getting together to vote on what to have for lunch, as there are clearly fewer people in Winchfield to vote against the new town proposal. However, there was clearly very strong opposition to the new town coming from Hartley Wintney.

Responses to Hart Housing Options Consultation Q5

There was a very mixed bag of opinion on how to combine the options.

As we have said before, these results are largely irrelevant now that the Pyestock (aka Hartland Village) brownfield site has come forward with capacity for around 1,500 homes. Hart Council have said that brownfield development will be the preferred strategy over any green field development. Not only that, the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) will be revised soon and we hope the overall numbers will be revised downwards. Although we must be vigilant, because at least three developers are arguing that our housing target should be revised upwards by a very significant amount – more on that soon.

Hart Council are playing down the results, saying:

…the outcome of the Refined Housing Options Consultation should not be seen as determining which strategy the Council should follow to deliver its need to deliver new homes. The Options are still being tested against the evidence base which will include a refreshed SHMA, unmet need in neighbour districts, a sustainability appraisal, transport assessment, water cycle study, Habitats Regulation Assessment, and Adams Hendry site assessment report that will also help inform suitability of sites. It will be this information, when assessed as a whole, that will be used to assess which is the appropriate strategy to follow.

Berkeley Homes launches Hartland Village consultation website

Berkeley Homes (St Edward) launches consultation site for new development at Hartland Village, aka Pyestock and Hartland Park

Proposed location of the new Hartland Village development at the former Pyestock NGTE site, near Fleet Hampshire

Berkeley Homes has launched a consultation website about its proposed Hartland Village development of 1,500 new homes at Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), near Fleet, Hampshire.  Its subsidiary St Edward Homes has now named the new development Hartland Village.

The consultation site can be found here.

They have published an email address to which local residents can register for further updates: hartlandvillage@glhearn.com

Berkeley Homes’ representatives, GL Hearn have also sent letters to local businesses asking for their comments.  A copy of such a letter can be found here.

In the letter they say:

St Edward is now in the process of developing proposals for a residential development of the site, which would make a significant contribution towards meeting the need for new homes in the area. As a brownfield (already developed) site, Hartland Village will be an ideal location for delivery of new homes in a development with a distinctive character of its own with village shops and community facilities.

St Edward is committed to thorough public consultation on all of its projects and it is anticipated that the first round of engagement with local people will take place in the next few months. Further details of these public events and initial proposals for the site will be publicised in due course.

We Heart Hart encourages everyone to participate in this initial consultation, and would suggest that the proposed development is welcomed, but also make clear that this new development should take account of the following points:

  1. The proposed site is large at 135 acres.  It is essential we make the best use of this previously developed land, and we would encourage Berkeley Homes to consider building at a higher density than that proposed.  1,500 homes on 135 acres amounts to only around 27.5 dwellings per hectare – densities of double that should be considered.
  2. The area is short of truly affordable homes for local people, so the development should include a fair provision of smaller, starter homes for those struggling to get on the housing ladder. Remember just calling homes ‘affordable’ does not make them so and due note should be given to understanding what is genuinely affordable to those households on median incomes in the district
  3. It is essential that proper infrastructure is delivered alongside this development such as schools as well as shops and community facilities. Some of this land should be set aside to meet the educational needs of the area.
  4. We should also take a properly strategic view of transport and use this opportunity to build new roads and/or modify the existing road network to improve traffic flow in and around Fleet.
  5. It will be important to deliver proper SANG provision for recreation and sports facilities.
  6. Fleet Pond and its immediate surroundings should be protected.
  7. Decontamination of the land should be done properly, so there is no risk to future residents

 

Greens set out their position on Winchfield, Pyestock and housing policy

Green Party Logo

The local Green Party have been in touch, setting out their position on the key planning issues impacting the Hart Local Plan and some ideas on broader housing policy.  In short, all of the candidates oppose Winchfield New Town and support redeveloping the brownfield site at Pyestock (aka Hartland Park). This is an important issue for the Hart Local Elections 2016.

We have updated our summary page, and table of candidates accordingly.  The detail of their response is reproduced below.

In brief I can confirm that the local [Green] party, and all its candidates in these elections are opposed to the Winchfield new town, but support the latest proposal for redevelopment of housing in Pyestock.
1. Winchfield – No. It is not required to meet Hart’s own housing targets and  by concreting over such swathes of green space, would be the destruction of Hart as we know it for generations to come. In addition, Winchfield simply does not have the infrastructure to support a New Town – it would put strain on GPs, schools, roads and quality of life – not just in Winchfield but also in Hook, Fleet, Hartley Wintney, etc.
2. Pyestock for housing – Yes. By developing brownfield sites such as Pyestock, Hart’s housing targets can be met through dispersal of home building, and lessen the burden on roads and facilities in a concentrated area. Additionally, such developments are eligible for central Government grants towards infrastructure and do not leave HDC at the mercy of council tax hikes and s106-shy developers.
Our more detailed response will include demands for any new housing to be zero- or negative-carbon and high density, and any new roads to incorporate cycle lanes. But more importantly, we don’t see this as being just about whether or not to build the Winchfield development and need to address the broader policy – how the housing need projections are worked out and allocated. If this area continues to be put under pressure to build new houses, taking in allocations from outside the area, other beautiful rural areas will be hit.
We need to emphasise the importance of rural, countryside for everyone, not just those of us lucky enough to live in villages/ rural areas. There are genuine benefits for non residents too – loads of research on mental health benefits, conservation, getting children engaged with nature, air quality etc.
And we  need to be offering alternatives, and to acknowledge the problems lots of people have in getting onto the property ladder. Is continuing to build in the over-developed South East really the answer? Should we be pushing for a more equal distribution of investment, for example, promoting business growth and sustainable development in northern England?
Consequently we are developing a vision starting with what the area should look like in 2030, and then how to get there.
We Heart Hart welcomes the stance of the Green Party on the local development issues in Hart and broadly accept many of their ideas on wider housing policy.

Government to support site remediation at Pyestock

Hartland Park (Pyestock) near Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire, warehouse development not started

Brownfield site: Hartland Park (Pyestock) near Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire

The minutes of April’s Hart District Council meeting have been published and they show that the Government will provide some support to help remediate the Pyestock (aka Hartland Park) brownfield site, where it is proposed that 1,500 new homes will be built.  Moreover, the Defence Secretary was receptive to the idea of the Ministry of Defence providing some land that could be used for Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG).

This is very good news in that it shows the Government is starting to deliver on its support for brownfield development.  The key quotes from the minutes are:

To this end I asked the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Right Honourable Greg Clark MP, to spare me some time for a brief meeting to discuss this matter [North of Hampshire devolution], in particular to enquire whether ministers would be receptive to a Heart of Hampshire bid; they would.

Whilst I had him in my office, I raised the proposed Pyestock development with the Secretary of State, in particular the issue of the funding of site remediation, as developer funds spent on remediation are not available for necessary infrastructure. I am happy to report that there will be some help available, and I will contact him again at the appropriate time.

I also raised Pyestock with the Secretary of State for Defence, the Right Honourable Michael Fallon MP on his visit to Hart today. I wanted to talk to him as the Pyestock site is surrounded by MOD land, and I want to ensure it remains as an undeveloped buffer between Fleet and Farnborough. I was able to brief him on the Pyestock site on the status of the site surroundings with emphasis on the constraints. He was receptive to the principle, and has taken away maps of the site one of which was overlaid with designations such as SSSIs and SINCs.

Ranil supports redevelopment of Pyestock (Hartland Park)

Ranil Jayawardena Stephen Parker and Michael Fallon at Pyestock (Hartland Park)

Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena has published an article on his website showing his support for the redevelopment of the brownfield Hartland Park (formerly the Pyestock, National Gas Turbine Establishment (NGTE) site, near Fleet in Hart District, Hampshire. Readers will remember, that it is proposed to build 1,500 new homes on this site.

He is pictured with the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon and leader of Hart District Council, Stephen Parker.

Ranil Jayawardena, M.P., said: “Pyestock is exactly the sort of brownfield regeneration that should be supported. I am pleased that Hart are working together with HM Government to deliver homes on brownfield sites wherever possible, rather than building on green fields.”

Secretary of State, Michael Fallon, M.P., said: “It’s good to see sites like Pyestock being put forward for development. HM Government is ensuring that brownfield regeneration is central to local areas building new homes. A new ‘brownfield register’ is included in the Housing and Planning Bill, which will ensure that development is prioritised on brownfield sites rather than at the expense of the countryside.

We Heart Hart warmly welcomes Ranil’s support for this project. We understand that a site for Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG), needs to be found before the redevelopment can go ahead.  Let us hope that Michael Fallon can help find some redundant MoD land to help with this, so it can be included in the Hart Local Plan.