Guest Post: What is wrong with Shapley Heath

What is Wrong with Shapley Heath

What is Wrong with Shapley Heath

Today, we have a guest post from Tristram Cary, chairman of the Rural Hart Association. In this post, he sets out his reasons why the Shapley Heath Garden Community is a bad idea.

Having read the rest of this article, you might like to respond to the Shapley Heath survey. This is your chance to make known your concerns about the proposals. We have produced a handy guide with suggestions as to how you might choose to answer the freeform questions. The guide can be found on the download below. The full survey can be found here. The survey closes on 5 July.

Shapley Heath Survey with Suggested Responses

Introduction

Hart District Council is exploring the potential to build a new community in the district of up to 5,000 new homes, with associated community facilities, to meet its long-term housing requirements.” This statement, from the introduction to SHGV Community Survey, sums up HDC’s motivation for embarking on a major publicly-funded project which includes a SHGV website, a sophisticated Communications and Engagement Strategy, a SHGV Stakeholder’s Forum with five Thematic Groups and the commissioning of 13 Baseline Surveys on things like Transport, Heritage, Landscape, Flooding and Utilities.

This article makes the case that:

  1. Hart District Council (HDC) has no business undertaking the SHGV project because:
    • It is a blatant attempt to pre-determine Hart’s future development by promoting its preferred strategy over viable alternatives
    • It is not in synchronisation with the Local Plan which should guide all HDC’s planning activities
  2. By failing to consider the trade-offs involved in developing SHGV over alternative development strategies, the results of the SHGV Project in general, and the Community Survey in particular, will be largely invalid.
  3. The SHGV Project is not merely an expensive and misguided attempt at pre-determination. It is also damaging the prospects for regenerating Fleet (and Hart’s other urban centres), which is an Objective of the Local Plan (unlike SHGV)
  4. SHGV is objectively a bad development strategy for Hart (when compared to the alternatives) in terms of sustainability, climate/carbon footprint, and green spaces.

Predetermination

The SHGV Project team explains that the SHGV project is not an attempt at pre-determination because it is subordinate to the Local Plan. The Project team explains that the SHGV conclusions and recommendations will only carry weight if and when the Local Plan is updated to include SHGV, at that therefore the SHGV project is neutral and unbiased.

This argument is wrong for the following reasons:

  • SHGV is in fact the chosen strategy of HDC. HDC is dominated by Community Campaign Hart (CCH) whose primary objective is to save Fleet/Church Crookham from over-development by building a new Settlement in the Winchfield area. This is made clear in many of CCH’s newsletters (available on the CCH website). Here is an extract from the Spring 2012 CCH Newsletter:

We either continue to grow Fleet & Church Crookham outwards (in which case what, realistically, do you do with the traffic?) or we look at a new settlement.  Winchfield is about the only sustainable location for such a new settlement in Hart District.”

  • The Communication and Engagement Strategy for SHGV is heavily biased in favour of SHGV and makes no attempt to present a balanced view of SHGV in comparison to the alternatives. To illustrate this here are some quotes (with my comments in blue):

Use Shapley Heath in communications where possible [to get the public used to the idea that it is going to happen];

Create awareness of what the alternatives might be (sequential development, developments on appeal) [these are bad alternatives – no mention has been made of good alternatives including regeneration of Fleet to make it more attractive and commercially successful];

We want our audience to know why we think it’s the right location to explore [a clear bias in favour of SHGV and against alternative locations such as Rye Common];

Highlight key benefits – a new community with a unique character, green spaces, employment opportunities, retail space, leisure facilities, economic development, new schools, and other critical infrastructure [no mention of Key Disadvantages such as loss of green space, coalescence of towns, lack of growth potential, damage to prospects of Fleet regeneration, increasing housing capacity which would be taken up by Rushmoor and Surrey Heath under the Duty to Cooperate etc];

Be clear about the limited brownfield opportunities in the district [biased in favour of SHGV and ignores the alternative strategies];

Use subject matter experts (like Lord Taylor of Goss Moor) to highlight the benefits of garden communities from experience elsewhere [stressing benefits without acknowledging the downsides].

Failure to Consider Trade-Offs as a part of the SHGV Project

The SHGV project’s stated aim is to conduct an assessment of the potential of SHGV as a means of satisfying Hart’s long-term housing needs. The SHGV project team insists that the project is unbiased and that all alternatives will be properly explored as required by the Local Plan Inspector. However, if that is true, why would the SHGV project not be open about the pros and cons of SHGV when compared to alternative strategies such as alternative sites for a Garden Village and re-generation of Hart’s urban centres? Every alternative strategy will have advantages and disadvantages, and to hide the disadvantages is clearly biased.

Failure to present SHGV in the context of the alternative strategies will invalidate the results of the Community Survey.

SHGV Project is already Damaging the Prospects for the Regeneration of Fleet and Hart’s other urban centres

The Local Plan identifies that Hart does not provide adequate retail and leisure outlets for its residents. As a result, “The outflow of retail expenditure from the District…is relatively high and is likely to remain high in the future”: [Local Plan para 65.]

The Local Plan goes on to identify the cause of this problem: “The main centres in Hart have not kept pace with other centres in the wider area. Other centres have strengthened and improved their offering through investment and development. Failure to invest in the centres will see them continue to fall in the rankings”: [Retail, Leisure and Town Centre Study Part 1 para 2.15].

To provide Hart with adequate retail and leisure outlets the Local Plan states that “The challenge for Fleet specifically will be to secure investment so that it can compete with the comparable towns in neighbouring districts. All the neighbouring towns are subject to regeneration or expansion projects”: Local Plan Para 66

To attract major investment into Fleet an essential first step is to invest in a Masterplan for Fleet which would identify how the residential, employment, leisure, education, transport, and infrastructure needs could be developed in a coordinated way so that Fleet would become a better, greener, more prosperous and more commercially successful town. It is quite extraordinary that HDC has failed in its clear duty to invest in a Masterplan for Fleet (and note that HDC’s investigation into regeneration of the Civic Quarter is not sufficient)

But to make matters worse, by investing solely in the SHGV project, HDC is sending a further clear signal to developers that Fleet is not a priority. So HDC’s claim that the SHGV project is ‘neutral’ and can run in parallel with the Local Plan without damaging the Local Plan objectives is false. HDC has clearly nailed its colours to the SHGV mast, and by doing so it is already significantly damaging Fleet’s future prospects.

SHGV is Objectively a Poor Strategy

SHGV is objectively a poor strategy compared to the alternatives for the following reasons:

  1. It is a well-established fact that larger settlements are more sustainable than smaller ones (because larger settlements have more residential, employment, health and leisure facilities within easy reach of the residents than smaller ones). SHGV is therefore going to generate a larger carbon footprint than a strategy based on re-generating Hart’s existing towns and villages. This should be a critical issue now that HDC has declared a Climate Emergency and has undertaken to ‘put the reduction of CO2 at the front and centre of all policies and formal decision-making.’
  2. SHGV scores badly against several of the Guiding Principles of Garden Villages. In particular:
    • Green Space – Garden Communities should be surrounded by countryside. SHGV will not be
    • Sustainable Scale – This principle includes the ‘capacity for future growth to meet the evolving housing and economic needs of the local area’. SHGV will have very limited geographical scope for future growth
    • Future Proofed – This principle also includes the ‘capacity for future growth’ which SHGV will not have

Coalescence and Conurbation

What's wrong with Shapley Heath - Coalesence

What is wrong with Shapley Heath – Coalesence

This map shows the density of residential housing in the district (based on March 2017 residential address data in 1km squares). Areas which are not coloured in green are countryside (having less than one home per hectare).

Points to note are:

  1. The green areas of urban development clearly show how coalescence has already caused towns like Yateley, Camberley, Farnborough and Aldershot to be merged into a single conurbation
  2. This conurbation already spreads in a continuous thread from the centre of London westwards to the westerly edge of Fleet
  3. At present Fleet, Hartley Wintney, Hook and Odiham are all surrounded by countryside which adds significantly to their character and provides an important leisure amenity. This is what gives the district its rural character
  4. SHGV would merge Fleet, Hartley Wintney, Hook and Odiham a continuous conurbation, in defiance of the Garden Village principles and the Local Plan vision to maintain the rural character of the district

What is Wrong with Shapley Heath: Conclusions

  1. The SHGV Project is not an unbiased exploration of the potential of SHGV. It is an attempt at pre-determination.
  2. SHGV is causing real damage to the Local Plan aim of attracting investment for the re-regeneration of Fleet and other urban centres
  3. The results of the Community Survey will not be valid because no balanced context has been provided on the advantages/disadvantages of SHGV and alternative strategies
  4. SHGV is objectively a poor strategy which does not align with HDC’s Climate Emergency commitment to put the reduction of CO2 at the front and centre of all polices and decision-making
  5. SHGV will cause coalescence between Fleet, Harley Wintney, Hook and Odiham which will significantly damage their character as well as the rural nature of Hart District.

Recommendations

  1. HDC should abandon the SHGV Project and invest instead in a comprehensive Masterplan for Fleet which is an essential first step towards meeting the Local Plan objective to secure funding for Fleet regeneration
  2. Failing a), the SHGV project should provide clear information about the pros and cons of SHGV when compared to the alternative development strategies
  3. Respondents should be encouraged to object to the clear bias of the SHGV Community Survey

Shapley Heath Mapgate: Council map hides the reality

Shapley Heath Mapgate - Coalescence

Shapley Heath Mapgate – Coalescence

They say a picture paints a thousand words. However, sometimes, what’s missing from a picture can tell you more than what’s in it. As you may know, Hart has published a survey about the proposed Shapley Heath Garden Community. There is a map associated with the survey that is published on the dedicated Garden Community website.

Shapley Heath #Mapgate - Heart Shaped Love It

Shapley Heath #Mapgate – Heart Shaped Love It

Note the soft boundaries, the warm orange dots and the attempt to make the boundary heart shaped, so you will subliminally love it. Of course the OS map on which it is based doesn’t include the Edenbrook development on the western Fleet boundary.

To combat this propaganda, Winchfield Parish Council has published some maps of its own, showing the impact of Shapley Heath should it ever go ahead. The first, at the top of this post, shows the potential coalescence with surrounding towns and villages. If they build in the NE zone, it will effectively join Fleet to Hartley Wintney. On the other hand, if they build in the NW, around Murrell Green, then it will coalesce Harley Wintney and Hook. If they build both sides, then effectively, Fleet, Hartley Wintney, Hook and the new town will become a single, large conurbation. We have previously termed this Hartley Winchook.

Shapley Heath Mapgate: Central Land Not Available

Shapley Heath #Mapgate - Central Land Not Available

Shapley Heath Mapgate – Central Land Not Available

The next map shows land ownership in the area of search. The areas in green are under the control of the developers. Land that is potentially available to the developers – presumably not yet under option – is shown in blue. The red zone is land that is not and never will be under the control of the developers. Areas of ancient woodland, shown in brown, cannot be developed either.

As can be seen, there’s vast swathes of land in the area of search that cannot be developed. This means they have to build either in the NW area, the NE area or both. But none of those options allows for a single coherent settlement. All three options lead to coalescence.

Shapley Heath Mapgate: Additional Constraints

Shapley Heath #Mapgate - Physical Constraints

Shapley Heath Mapgate – Additional Constraints

However, the constraints don’t stop there. When you add on the additional environmental items such as the Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), then the area becomes even more constrained. The physical constraints of the high-voltage electricity pylons, the high pressure gas main, the M3, railway line and the former landfill all add further restrictions on what is safe or sensible to develop.

Conclusion

If you display an anodyne map to the general population, they will form one view of the site under consideration. When faced with maps that actually convey real information, then perceptions can change markedly. We wonder why Hart Council aren’t taking more heed of the Inspector’s words when he examined plans for a new town in the same area as part of the Local Plan (our emphasis):

I have a number of fundamental concerns with regard to the soundness of Policy SS3.

There is little evidence to demonstrate that a site can actually be delivered in terms of infrastructure, viability and landownership within the identified AoS.

Policy SS3 is not required for the Plan to be sound and, in light of my comments above, I consider that the most appropriate course of action would be to remove it (along with any other necessary subsequent changes) from the Plan.

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

All of these issues are known, yet the Council is pressing on spending money they don’t have, on a project we don’t need and probably won’t work anyway.

Having read this article, you might like to respond to the Shapley Heath survey. This is your chance to make known your concerns about the proposals. We have produced a handy guide with suggestions as to how you might choose to answer the freeform questions. The guide can be found on the download below. The full survey can be found here.

Shapley Heath Survey with Suggested Responses

CCH seek opt out from housing target as they build more than required

CCH seek opt out from housing targets

CCH seek opt out from housing targets

In a desperate move, CCH has launched a campaign for Hart District to opt out of the Government housing targets. The say:

We are therefore asking all residents who like us, want no more forced housing in Hart, to support us on a call to central government, via our MP Ranil Jayawardena, to remove Hart from any future government housing allocation.

Many of us have thought for some time that CCH displayed quite authoritarian tendencies. But this is virtually a declaration of independence on housing policy. Something tells us that Ranil won’t be receiving many emails.

Already building more than Local Plan Requires

The irony in their position is that they are in power when we are building far more than required. In each of the past five years, Hart has built far more than Local Plan requirement of 423 dpa.

Hart District Annual Housing Completions to Mar 2020

Hart District Annual Housing Completions to Mar 2020

Of course, they may argue that this is because many planning permissions were granted when Hart did not have a Local Plan.

No Intention of Reviewing the Local Plan

But looking forward, the most recently published housing target for Hart is 286dpa. Yet, despite being asked, they have no intention of reviewing the Local Plan to take advantage of this new, lower figure.

So, we are building more than is required by both the Local Plan and more than the Government housing target.

Shapley Heath will Add to the Excess Building

Yet, they are still planning Shapley Heath. The most recent housing trajectory for this project has housing delivery starting in 2024. The steady state housing trajectory is 360 dpa. Even on its own, Shapley Heath delivers far more than the Government housing target.

Shapley Heath Housing Trajectory Sept 2020

Shapley Heath Housing Trajectory Sept 2020

All of the housing delivered by Shapley Heath will be in addition to the Local Plan.

Shapley Heath in addition to Local Plan

Shapley Heath in addition to Local Plan

Adding it all up, over the period that Shapley Heath will be built, it will deliver about 2,400 houses in excess of requirements.

CCH seek opt out from housing target as they plan to build even more

CCH seek opt out from housing targets as they plan Shapley Heath to build more than Local Plan requirement

Perhaps it would be better for CCH to spend their time getting their own house in order instead of indulging in ridiculous grandstanding.

Shapley Heath Survey

You might like to respond to the Shapley Heath survey. We have produced a handy guide with suggestions as to how you might choose to answer the freeform questions. It can be found on the link below. The full survey can be found here.

Shapley Heath Survey with Suggested Responses

 

Hart Council to spend £406K on Shapley Heath White Elephant next year

Shapley Heath White Elephant

Hart Council to spend £406K on Shapley Heath White Elephant in FY21/22

In questions put to them at their meeting on 28 January, Hart Council admitted it planned to spend £406K on the Shapley Heath white elephant in FY21/22. This comes at a time they are secretly planning cuts elsewhere. The question is as follows:

What is the anticipated level of spend on SHGV over each of the next 2 financial years?

They don’t know how much they are going to spend in FY22/23. This comes at a time when the Council is considering a confidential paper about cuts to services because of forecast deficits. They forecast a deficit of £381K in FY21/22 and an eye-watering £1,081K in FY22/23.

No real plans for regeneration of our urban centres post-Covid

We also asked them to set out their plans and budget for regenerating our urban centres after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many of our local businesses have struggled during the pandemic and some have sadly had to close, leading to permanent change to our high streets. What is the action plan and budget over the next 2 financial years to help Fleet and other urban centres recover and regenerate post-Covid?

The answer was fairly vague and somewhat misleading. They have received £1.947m from Government for business support and recovery. Apparently £500K is for the recovery component. This money has to be spent by 31 March 2022. The only paper we can find about their recovery plans can be found here. Most of the actions are completed and include the over £100K spent on the ill-fated closure of Fleet Road. It appears as though most of the remaining money is going to be spent by the Council on itself. Projects include an employee assistance programme, replacing the telephony system and SharePoint training. Whilst these might be worthy projects, they fall far short of what is required.

Our town centres have been permanently changed by Covid-19, and will need very significant investment to re-establish themselves as thriving communities. We can see from this that the Council is prioritising a white elephant project we don’t need over our existing businesses and communities.

Justification for Shapley Heath White Elephant Spending

We did ask them about their justification for continuing to spend at such high level on a project we don’t need when cuts are being contemplated elsewhere:

The latest budget monitoring statement (s4.3) considered by Cabinet in early January, shows a forecast overspend of £972K in 2020/21. The draft budget (s.9.4) considered by O&S shows a deficit of £381K for 2021/22 and a further £1,081K deficit for 2022/23. How can you justify hiring full-time staff and continuing to spend vast sums on an unnecessary Garden Community when core services are at risk of being cut?

The initial answer was very defensive. It was only when pushed that Councillor Cockarill provided more detail.  The money they plan to spend on Shapley Heath is supposed to be coming from Central Government. However, they have set aside money from Reserves to fund Shapley Heath.  Councillor Cockarill did admit that they might have to “reassess the priority” of Shapley Heath if the Government grant doesn’t materialise.

Other Questions

We did ask other more technical questions:

  • Hart’s compliance with the Housing Delivery Test.
  • Whether they are considering an early review of the Local Plan to take advantage of the new lower Government targets.
  • If they will publish monthly project plans and status reports on the Shapley Heath projects.

The questions and answers can be found on the clips below.

Council Adopts Hart Local Plan

Council Adopts Hart Local Plan

Council Adopts Hart Local Plan

It’s been a long time coming, but Hart Council has finally adopted the Hart Local Plan. This took place at their first virtual meeting that happened at 7pm on 30 April 2020.

The meeting was broadcast on Hart’s live streaming page: https://www.facebook.com/HDCLiveStreaming/

However, these videos are often removed shortly after broadcast.  So we have downloaded it, and uploaded it to YouTube for posterity.

We can all sleep relatively easily now that we have a Local Plan. This plan has had Policy SS3 removed from it. However, we need to remain vigilant that the Council doesn’t seek to bring back the unnecessary Shapley Heath Garden Village at a later point.

 

Breaking News: Inspector approves Hart Local Plan

Breaking News: Planning Inspector approves Hart Local Plan

Inspector approves Hart Local Plan

The planning inspector has approved the Hart Local Plan.

The announcement has been made by Hart District Council and can be found here.

The Inspector has found the Local Plan to be sound and legally compliant, subject to some recommended changes. It will go before the Council for formal adoption in March.

The full Inspector report can be found here.  We will update this story as we digest what the Inspector has said.

The appendix containing the main modifications can be found here.

[Update 1]

  • Policy SS3 has been removed, so further confirmation of no new settlement in Shapley Heath/ Winchfield for the time being.
  • Reiteration in para 181 that future reviews of the Local Plan must look at all options including regeneration:

Nonetheless, the Council will need to ensure that all options for meeting future housing needs are considered fully in future reviews of the Plan, including the potential for regeneration.

  • Emphasis added to MM121 to make clear that all reasonable growth options should be considered and evidenced. This refers to the flawed SA that was submitted to the Examination to try and justify the new settlement:

All reasonable growth options, including the potential for a new settlement, would need to be fully considered and evidenced in a future review of the Plan or a subsequent DPD.

  • Changes to main modifications 70 and 71 to make clear that mixed residential and commercial use properties within town centres will be permitted. This will also help facilitate regeneration.  CCH should take note.
  • In light of recent events, it is also good to see that the vision has been updated to include a reference to flood risk:

New development will have been built to high environmental and design standards. It will have been designed and located so that it is safe from flooding and has not increased the risk of flooding elsewhere and includes measures to meet the challenges of climate change.

[/Update]

Hart Local Plan Immediate Review

Stop Shapley Heath

Stop Shapley Heath – Hart Local Plan Immediate Review

The adoption of the Hart Local Plan is anticipated in February or March 2020. The council has conceded in its main modifications to the need for an early review of the Local Plan in certain circumstances (see MM121). We support an immediate review of the Hart Local Plan, once adopted.

We think the following objectives should be set:

  1. Build what we need, no more, no less.
  2. Avoid any new settlement or large scale green field development. This means we should not build Shapley Heath, Rye Common or West of Hook.
  3. Focus on brownfield development to revitalise our urban centres by delivering better health, community and cultural facilities.
  4. Proportionate development within each parish.

We believe this can be done, and this post explains the first stage of how we do that.

Hart Local Plan Housing Delivery Test

Before we start, we need to acknowledge a weakness in the Local Plan that will shortly be adopted. The Government have imposed the Housing Delivery Test (HDT) on all councils. The HDT aims to maintain a steady supply of housing by forcing councils to keep their rolling 3-year delivery in line with the average required rate. The Hart Local Plan will run into trouble with the Housing Delivery Test (HDT) around 2025/26. This was covered by a question to the full Council meeting in July 2019. This effect might be delayed or reduced if some or all of the large developments underway slip their delivery schedules.

But, if places like Hartland Park and Grove Farm stick to their delivery schedules, we will be running short of housing in 2025/26. To rectify this, pass the HDT at 100% based on the 423 dwellings per annum (dpa) imposed by the Local Plan, we will have to build an extra 1,700 houses over the period to 2032.

Hart Local Plan Immediate Review

Hart Local Plan and the Housing Delivery Test

Some council members may use this as a justification to pursue Shapley Heath Garden Village. We have already shown that Shapley Heath will deliver far more houses than we need, and unnecessarily urbanise the district.

Hart Local Plan versus the Standard Method

However, the Local Plan was examined under the (old) SHMA method. This, together with the alleged unmet need from Surrey Heath, resulted in a housing target of 423dpa. But, under the new standard method Hart’s housing requirement from 2020-2041 is only 251dpa (including a 40% affordability uplift).

Hart Household Requirements 2016-2041

Hart Household Requirements 2016-2041

Hart District Build Requirements under various scenarios

Hart District Build Requirements under various scenarios

This results in a total requirement from 2020-2041 of “only” 5,271 houses.

Hart Local Plan Immediate Review

Hart Local Plan versus the Standard Method

Revised Hart Local Plan to meet the Housing Delivery Test

However, any revised Local Plan would also have to meet the HDT. This would result in a total requirement of 6,783 houses over the period 2020-2041. The Local Plan has already identified 4,012, leaving 2,771 to find.

Hart Local Plan Immediate Review

Hart Local Plan versus the proposed Revised Plan

Hart Local Plan Immediate Review

So, the challenge from a Hart Local Plan immediate review is during 2020 develop a vision for Hart in 2040 to:

  • Deliver the 2,771 houses we need at a steady rate
  • Revitalise our urban centres
  • Proportionate development across remaining parishes to make up the difference
  • Protect the green spaces that make Hart an attractive place to live
Hart Local Plan Immediate Review - 2020 Vision for Hart 2040

2020 Vision for Hart 2040

We believe this can be done. We will work on how this might be done in subsequent posts.

This is another of our posts showing:

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

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

 

 

Winchfield Flooding Returns with #StormBrendan

Winchfield Flooding returned on 15 January 2020 with #StormBrendan.

It does appear as though these one in 30 year events are turning into 1 in 30 day events. The video above is of flooding on Taplins Farm Lane.

The Winchfield flooding also affected Bagwell Lane, which relatively recently had new drainage installed.  It doesn’t seem to be working.

Of course this is not the first time it has flooded on Taplins Farm Lane. We have recorded flood events on 20 December 20194 February 2019,  in April 2018 and three times in 2016 alone. Evidence documenting the 2016 flood events can be found here (4 Jan) , here (7 Jan)here (9 March on Station Road) and here (28 March due to #StormKatie).

It seems that the actual weather is stubbornly refusing to comply with the flood assessment carried out for Hart Council as part of its evidence base for the Local Plan. The sustainability assessment claimed:

There was some evidence of wet ground at the far east of SHL183, but “no other obvious evidence of current or past flooding”.

Winchfield Strategic Assessment - Flood Risk 1

The detailed assessment also said there’s only a one in 30 year chance of surface water flooding.

Winchfield Strategic Assessment - Flood Risk 3

Taplins Farm Lane and Bagwell Lane are in the middle of the proposed Shapley Heath development. The proposal to spend £150-650K of taxpayer funds does not include any work to assess or mitigate flood risk.

Shapley Heath work-plan doesn’t look at flood risk

Let us hope for a more sensible approach prevails. We are working on a revision to the Hart Local Plan. These will mean we avoid a new settlement anywhere in Hart, and won’t need large urban extensions either to at least 2041. Plus we get improved facilities in our urban centres.

 

 

 

Shapley Heath increases housing target

Stop Shapley Heath

Shapley Heath increases housing target

Building Shapley Heath will increases Hart’s housing target. This is quite a complex argument, but please bear with us. First let’s dispel some myths.

The CCH/Lib Dem coalition claim that Hart’s housing target is bound to increase, so we must plan for Shapley Heath. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The Hart Local Plan is being examined under the old SHMA method, plus we have been asked to build 731 extra houses for Surrey Heath. This results in an average 423 dwellings per annum (dpa) over the plan period to 2032 (see main modification 19). The SHMA is the Strategic Housing Market Assessment, where the councils concerned pay consultants to make up numbers about our housing need. If we had been assessed under the new standard method, the housing need for Hart would have been 282 dpa.

In various documents Hart has suggested it will pursue an early review of the Local Plan once adopted. This early review will be carried out using the standard method. According to the latest ONS projections, this will see our annual average requirement fall to around 251 dpa for the period 2020-2041.

Hart District Build Requirements under various scenarios

Hart District Build Requirements under various scenarios

Moreover, Surrey Heath will be examined under the standard method. They have already ‘promised’ to build 4,901 houses on their own patch in the plan period 2016-2032 (see Objective A on page 13) . Under the standard method, their requirement will fall to 3,720. They already have more than enough sites identified to meet this need. It is likely that there will be no need for Hart to take any extra for Surrey Heath.

In summary, all the evidence points to Hart’s housing need falling, not increasing. Having dispelled the Lib Dem/CCH myth, let’s have a look at the impact of their proposals. In fact, building Shapley Heath will bake in over-building for decades to come.

Shapley Heath Garden Village impact on housing need

In recent years, we have built at a faster rate than is required by the Local Plan. This is the result of ‘planning by appeal’, where we have had a number of large developments forced upon us. This is forecast to continue out to around 2023. The Shapley Heath housing trajectory submitted to the Government adds to the build rate, starting in 2023.

Nightmare in Winchfield - Shapley Heath Winchfield New Town Housing trajectory

Shapley Heath/Winchfield New Town Housing trajectory

However, under the standard method, our requirement falls to 251 dpa over the period 2020-2041. The steady-state build rate for Shapley Heath is 360 dpa, far higher than the requirement. If we add Shapley Heath (at only 5,000 total houses) to the existing Local Plan commitments, and compare it to the 2020-2041 requirement, then we will end up building 3,225 extra unnecessary houses out to 2039. If Shapley Heath expands to 10,000 houses, then this excess build rate will continue for many more years.

Shapley Heath Garden Village Excess Building

Shapley Heath Garden Village Excess Building

But it gets worse. The housing target is derived from population and household projections. The population projections are based upon trends from the previous ten years extrapolated forwards. If we continue to build more than we need to, this over-build is baked into our future housing targets, affecting us for decades to come. This will add extra pressure to build even more settlements or urban extensions such as Rye Common or West of Hook. So we must try and build at a steady rate to match no more than our annual housing target.

In conclusion, the rationale for investigating Shapley Heath is built on (at best) a misconception about future housing targets. Continuing to build this monstrosity will add even more pressure to build even more. It is a reckless policy that must be stopped.

Let’s hold our politicians to their word:

If the Government don’t force any more houses on us, this development is not needed, it will never go ahead.

If we don’t need the houses, then it won’t get done.

Well, we don’t need the houses, so it’s time to save £650K and  abandon the project now.

This is another of our posts showing:

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

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

Shapley Heath not required and doubts about deliverability

Stop Shapley Heath

Shapley Heath not required

Shapley Heath is not required to meet our housing targets to 2032. Indeed we believe that our housing needs up to at least 2041 can be met without any new settlement or urban extension anywhere in Hart. Here is our evidence to support our claims.

The Local Plan submitted for examination said it wasn’t required (footnote 7 on page 29).

Shapley Heath not required

Shapley Heath Garden Village not required

The Inspector’s initial report agreed (para 37). Even the council’s own bid document (page 2) said:

As part of this we have identified a new settlement within the Local Plan. However, we did not need to do this as delivery from the new settlement is not required to meet the identified Local Plan housing target of 6,208 homes but is provided ‘in addition’ to this.

No evidence Shapley Heath Garden Village is deliverable or viable

In addition, the Inspector raised grave concerns about the soundness, viability and deliverability of the plan.

Shapley Heath not viable or deliverable

No evidence that Shapley Heath is viable or deliverable

At para 18 he said:

I have a number of fundamental concerns with regard to the soundness of Policy SS3.

Despite over 4 years of effort, the Inspector also found:

In addition, to my above concerns, there is little evidence to demonstrate that a site can actually be delivered in terms of infrastructure, viability and landownership within the identified AoS…

There is consequently some doubt, at this time, whether a comprehensive and inclusive new community can be delivered as required by Policy SS3 and its supporting text. Given all of this, I am not sufficiently content based on the evidence available to the examination that Policy SS3 is deliverable and is therefore not effective.

The Inspector did leave open the door to a new settlement in the future. However, this would need to be backed with proper evidence and:

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

Even the viability assessment submitted as part of the bid for Garden Communities funding had serious flaws.

Work programme not addressing the key issues

Work programme not addressing the key issues

Hart Council’s new work programme is not even trying to address the key issues. It is focusing on “visioning” to start with. Then using consultants to create a project plan and land equalisation issues. Finally, it is hiring some admin support.

There are natural constraints in the shape of SSSIs, ancient woodland SINCs and TPOs.

Shapley Heath Garden Village Key constraints Natural.

Shapley Heath Garden Village Key constraints Natural.

There are also physical constraints including conservation areas, pylons, high pressure gas main, former landfill, flood risks and of course a big land ownership gap.

Shapley Heath Key constraints Physical.

Shapley Heath Garden Village Key constraints Physical

In summary, Shapley Heath is not required and there’s no evidence that it will ever be deliverable. None of the money the council is spending will even attempt to address these issues. Why is this project happening at all when the council’s finances are constrained?

Remember what the councillors said when discussing this at Cabinet:

If the houses aren’t needed, it won’t get done.

If Shapley Heath doesn’t work, it won’t get done.

This is another of our posts showing:

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

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