Beware! Lib Dem Fake News

Lib Dem Fake News claims to have saved Winchfield

Lib Dem Fake News claims to have saved Winchfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their full leaflet can be found on the links below:

Lib Dem Fake News 1

 

Lib Dem Fake News 2

CCH doubles down on Winchfield new town bias

CCH doubles down on Winchfield new town bias

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

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

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

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

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

CCH doubles down on Winchfield new town bias

This comes despite the Inspector saying:

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

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

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

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

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

Alternatives to a new town

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Plan Examination: Heads Must Roll!

Hart Local Plan Examination is damning: Heads must roll

Hart Local Plan Examination is damning: Heads must roll

As regular readers will recall, the Council announced the preliminary results of the Hart Local Plan Examination a couple of days ago. We have now had time to read the detailed letter from the Inspector and form some conclusions.

The purpose of this post is to summarise the Inspector’s preliminary findings and suggest our own next steps for the Local Plan. In short, the Inspector’s report is damning and heads must roll.

Summary of Local Plan Examination Preliminary findings

First, the Council’s characterisation of “a couple of issues in relation to the Local Plan” understates the ferocity of the Inspector’s criticisms by quite some margin. The Inspector’s full report can be found here.

His criticisms of Policy SS3 and the area of search for the new settlement are deep and comprehensive. He says:

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

He lays out concerns about infrastructure, saying the plans lack substance. He also points out there’s a large tract of land in the middle of the Area of Search is not and will not be available. But he reserves his most scathing attack for the Sustainability Appraisal (SA). Even though there were concerns raised about the legal compliance of the document, these don’t matter, because the document itself was so bad.

Far from being a “couple of issues”, these criticisms explode a cruise missile right at the heart of the Council’s flagship policy.

The criticism of the SA is damning. Hart submitted two sustainability appraisals, one before submission and one after.  Of the first, the Inspector says:

I am not of the view that the pre-submission SA, in its own right, appropriately or robustly considers reasonable alternatives to a new settlement as a long-term growth strategy

The second SA did test reasonable alternatives, but inappropriately. The Inspector cites several examples:

  • The ranking of Option 1b (the new settlement) “as the best performing under heritage is not justified”.
  • For land and other resources, the ranking of Option 1b “is also therefore not, in my view, robust”.
  • The Inspector decided that “the decision not to rank the options in terms of flood risk to be very questionable”.
  • On landscape issues the Inspector concluded:

Option 1b was ranked joint highest with Option 1a. However, it is unclear why this is the case, given that the proposed new settlement would result in the development of large areas of open countryside and Option 1a already benefits from planning permission and is largely previously developed land. Further, the post submission SA notes that Pale Lane is ‘relatively unconstrained’, but despite this and it being a smaller site / potential development, Option 3a is ranked lower than Option 1b.

  • The Inspector has this to say on the climate change ranking:

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

  • The ranking for the impact on water was also criticised by the Inspector.
  • In conclusion on the SA the Inspector said:

In my judgement the scoring of Option 1b above or equal to other options is not justified by the evidence. As a result, I consider that Policy SS3 and its supporting text are not justified, as, on the currently available evidence, it cannot be determined that it represents the most appropriate long-term growth strategy.

I consider that the post submission SA is therefore not robust and should not be relied upon in support of the Plan.

In addition, the Inspector clearly states:

Given my earlier findings in terms of the housing requirement, 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 through Main Modifications (MMs). This would allow the Plan to progress towards adoption without any significant delay to the examination process.

Substantially all of these points were made by We Heart Hart and Winchfield Parish Council during the consultation process. So, all the issues were known to Hart Council before submitting the plan for examination, yet they chose to press on with the doomed policy. In effect, the Council has been caught red-handed trying to gerrymander the SA in what looks to us like a clear case of policy-based evidence making.

It is true that the Inspector has left open the door for the new town to return in future. But this is conditional upon the new town being considered properly alongside all other options for long term growth beyond 2032.

I consider that it would not be unsound for the Plan to retain the Council’s aspirations to plan for long-term needs beyond the Plan period, which could include the delivery of a new settlement. But, the Plan should clearly state that this, as a growth option, would need to be fully considered and evidenced in a future (potentially early or immediate) review of the Plan or a subsequent DPD.

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

[Update 5/3/2018] But there is a significant caveat from the Inspector:

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.

[/Update]

Budget Impact of New Town Planning

In addition to the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of pounds already spent, we should also note that in the same Council meeting, they agreed to spend £785,990 on the new settlement in the next financial year (Paper B Appendix 3). Residents might reflect on the other important services that might be delivered with this money, like free-parking in Fleet to boost retail footfall.

Hart Council 2019-20 budget for new settlement

Hart Council 2019-20 budget for new settlement

In summary, we have a Council that has botched its flagship policy, had it found unsound but is proposing to squander even more of our hard-earned council tax on the same failed policy.

Next Steps after the Local Plan Examination

The first and most obvious point is that we need to get the Local Plan over the line as soon as possible. This means that the Council should abandon Policy SS3 immediately and agree to take Surrey Heath’s unmet need. They should reply to the Inspector forthwith, agreeing to his demands and get on with changing the plan to make it sound.

This is necessary to protect Pale Lane and Owens Farm in Hook and any other planning appeals that might come along.

Before any further review of the plan to identify and evaluate properly the options for long term growth beyond the plan period, root and branch reform is required.

Root and Branch Reform – Heads Must Roll

Let’s take a look at what is required. First, let’s look at the members.

Liberal Democrats

Hart Local Plan Examination: Liberal Democrats David Dave Neighbour in the pocket of CCH James Radley

Liberal Democrats in the pocket of CCH

The Portfolio Head for Planning, Graham Cockarill and the Council Leader, David Neighbour have allowed themselves to be the puppets of Community Campaign Completely Concrete Hart (CCH). They have preened themselves in positions of power whilst presiding over the car-crash that is Policy SS3. They have wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds, wasted precious time and put at risk more of our green fields. Trying to position the Inspector’s report as a success with only a couple of minor issues to resolve, simply will not wash.

They have lost all credibility and authority and should immediately resign their Cabinet positions and consider whether they should continue in their role as Councillors. Hopefully, their Yateley electors will see through their ineptitude and bring down the guillotine on their political careers.

Community Campaign Hart

Community Campaign Completely Concrete Hart screwing up Hart Planning since 2004

Completely Concrete Hart screwing up Hart Planning since 2004

Then we have the puppeteers in CCH. The main protagonists are James Radley and Alan Oliver. Their track record is woeful. The then ruling Conservatives (who are far from blameless in this affair) had a draft Local Plan, without the new town, in late-2016. CCH scuppered that plan by insisting that a new option to include the new town be included. This was even though surprise, surprise, Winchfield had failed testing due to concerns about flooding and lack of infrastructure. This delayed the Local Plan, put Pale Lane and Bramshill at risk and wasted even more money.

They persisted with the lost cause appeal against Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse, wasting probably over £100,000. Our questions to Council have been censored because they found them uncomfortable (see here and here). They have dismissed We Heart Hart’s concerns, that have now been proven to be right, as “Trump-like diatribes”, “misinformation and outright lies”. They said in Fleet News that they would deliver an “infrastructure-led” Local Plan, yet the plan contains only threadbare infrastructure proposals, with big gaps in costing and funding. Moreover, the Inspector has dismissed the new town partly on the grounds that infrastructure plans lacked substance.

CCH have obstructed brownfield development and won’t even consider urban regeneration seriously. Their pig-headed delusion has resulted in the new town plans being shredded in public by the Inspector. CCH have been revealed as an empty vessel that makes a lot of noise but has no substance. They should immediately resign their Cabinet positions and consider their positions as Councillors. Even Church Crookham electors might begin to recognise the pattern of failure and remove them at the ballot box.

Hart Council Officers

We cannot ignore the role of the officers in this fiasco. In 2012, they recognised that a new town at Winchfield would require new studies, more land, infrastructure assessment and testing. Seven years on, and all that work has either not been completed or failed. We should remember that their 2013 Local Plan failed at Inspection. They too have pursued inappropriate appeals that were doomed to failure. In 2015, they said that there was capacity for only 450 dwellings on brownfield land. Since then permission has been granted for thousands of homes at Hartland Park, Sun Park and many office conversions. Their estimate was out by a factor of at least 5.

They admitted at the Examination that they have been working with the developers on the new town plan for over four years. Now they have been caught out gerrymandering the SA. All this wasted time and money has resulted in their flagship policy ending in abject failure. One must question their judgement, independence and ability to offer sound advice to members and residents.

It is time for a complete replacement of the Planning Team, starting at the top with the joint-Chief Executive.

 

It is only after getting rid of the dysfunctional Cabinet and the failed Planning team that we can start to plan properly for the future beyond the plan period with fresh ideas.  This should include a proper assessment of the regeneration of our urban centres as a much more palatable option than unnecessarily concreting over more of our precious green fields.

Ding Dong! Winchfield new town is dead

Ding Dong the New Town is Dead - New town policy SS3 to be removed from the Hart Local Plan

Ding Dong! Winchfield New Town is Dead

[Update: Inspector’s Letter now published here. Analysis to follow at the weekend – now here]

Hart Council has received a letter from the Planning Inspector giving a provisional assessment of the Hart Local Plan. He has made two recommendations to make the plan sound.

  1. Remove Policy SS3, so we won’t be having a new town in Winchfield within the plan period, because the extra houses are not needed.
  2. We must take around 750 of Surrey Heath’s unmet need, which can be met with the current development plans.

The news was given at tonight’s council meeting by Graham Cockarill. This is obviously very good news for those of us who have been campaigning for this result for years. However, it is clear form Councillor Cockarill’s statement that there are still factions within the council that want to try and sneak the new town back in at a later point. Indeed the body language of the councillors is more of disappointment than jubilation that they are close to getting a sound Local Plan.

The full letter from the Inspector will be published here on Hart’s website tomorrow morning. We will provide updates once we have considered the detail.

A video of the councillor’s statement about the Hart Local Plan is shown below, together with our transcript of what he said (with our emphasis).

Impact of removing the Winchfield new town policy SS3 from the Hart Local Plan

It remains to be seen what the fallout might be form this news. First, the positives.

The Inspector’s view ought to scupper the Pale Lane/Elvetham Chase Appeal. It should also ensure the appeal for the land West of Hook around Owens Farm doesn’t succeed either.

Now on to the negative aspects. One has to think that this whole process would have gone much quicker and cost much less money if the Council had abandoned the unsound idea of the new town much earlier. I am sure that We Heart Hart will not be the only people holding our councillors and officers to account for this waste of our time and money.

Graham Cockarill Announcement about Hart Local Plan 28 February 2019

I have received a message a couple of days ago from the Inspector Jonathan Manning giving us provisional feedback on a couple of issues associated with the Local Plan. I must stress that this is not his final report, but it gives us a clear indication that subject to the council agreeing a couple of important modifications, we are close to having in place a sound Local Plan.

It is a very important milestone because we have never reached this stage before.

The Inspector has accepted our assessment of what is our Objectively Assessed Housing Need of around 388 dwellings per annum. And recognised our positive approach to meeting that need. It is for this reason that the Inspector recommends that we agree to meet Surrey Heath’s unmet need because he considers that it can be done within our projected targets without changing our plan or having to find other sites.

The Inspector’s other key recommendation is that we do not at this time pursue policy SS3. In his view, the new settlement approach is not sufficiently developed to be included in the plan, particularly as the numbers of new homes it may deliver are not necessary to meet the housing numbers within this plan [period].

The important point here is that the Inspector does not rule out a new settlement option in the future. He recognises our clear aspiration to deliver a settlement to meet our long-term housing needs. He accepts that it would be acceptable for the Plan to retain the Council’s aspirations to plan for long term needs beyond the plan period which could refer to the delivery of a new settlement through potentially either an early or immediate review of the Plan or a subsequent Development Plan Document (DPD).

He says that this would not change any timescales.

I intend later tonight, indeed before the end of this meeting, to circulate the Inspector’s letter and it will be published on our web page in the morning. I also intend to work with the respective group leaders and through the Local Plan Steering Group to agree the next steps. But it would seem to me that our best interests lie in getting a sound Local Plan swiftly in place in the form recommended by the Inspector.

This is great news for both the Council and its residents, because having a Local Plan in place gives us a sound basis to make future planning decisions and removes the threat of planning by appeal.

Question: Can you make sure all councillors get a summary of the Bramshill result once it has been studied?

Answer: Yes. An email has been sent by the joint-CEO a couple of weeks ago. I will ask for a more concise version to be circulated.

Question: Could you confirm the number of houses from Surrey Heath that will be accepted.

Answer: [Uncertain], but around 750 over the plan period.

 

Hart Planning Update

 

Keep Calm and Wait for news about the Hart Local Plan

Hart planning update early 2019

Belated Happy New Year and welcome to our Hart planning update. We haven’t published much recently, because there hasn’t been much to say. However, a few people have been in touch to ask how things are going. So, welcome to the New Year and to our update on the major planning issues affecting Hart.

Hart Planning Update: Local Plan

[Update 28 Feb 2019: Plan will be sound if Policy SS3 is removed and Hart takes ~750 of Surrey Heath’s unmet need]

First up is the Hart Local Plan. The examination took place in November and December last year. We Heart Hart participated in the discussion about Infrastructure on 5 December. We understand that the Inspector is due to deliver his opinion in early to mid-February. Until then, we can only speculate on the outcome.

The Inspector can decide one of three outcomes:

  • the submitted Plan is found sound
  • Local Plan is not sound but could be made sound by making modifications
  • the Local Plan is not sound and could not be made sound

The second outcome is the one we hope for. It is to be hoped Policy SS3 related to the Winchfield new town is removed as the main modification.

We understand that during the examination the Inspector asked for changes to the policies related to Local Gaps and SANG. However, he remained inscrutable on the other key issues which we believe are the:

  • Housing numbers
  • New settlement
  • Sustainability Appraisal (SA)

Given the reports we have received about some of the key discussions, we believe Hart is vulnerable on the new settlement and the sustainability appraisal. Hart attempted to present evidence about the new settlement that had been submitted after the deadline. This evidence was rejected. Strong arguments were presented on both sides of the argument. However, we believe a key exchange was when the Inspector got Hart (and we believe the developers) to agree that he could not approve the new settlement unless he found that it was deliverable.

We also understand the SA came in for sustained criticism.

We have to await the Inspector’s judgement. If major changes are required, then there may well be political implications at the council.

Hart Planning Update: Elvetham Chase/Pale Lane Appeal

The Elvetham Chase (aka Pale Lane) appeal took place earlier this month. We understand one of the council’s arguments was that the extra 700 houses were not required were not needed to meet the housing targets in the Local Plan. This is somewhat ironic as the Winchfield New Town is also not required to meet the targets. The proposed site for the new town is only a couple of hundred metres from the Pale Lane site. Yet the council is supporting the new town and opposing Pale Lane.

Of course, we hope the Pale Lane appeal fails.

We understand that the appeal hearing was adjourned, pending the results of the Local Plan examination. Apparently, both Wates and Hart Council will then be given a short period to  respond to the Pale Lane Planning Inspector.  The inspector will then make his recommendation to the Secretary of State who will decide whether to uphold or dismiss the appeal.

Quite a lot will rest on how much weight is given to the Local Plan by the Pale Lane inspector. We understand uncontentious elements will carry significant weight. Contested elements will carry no weight. So, we have to hope that the Local Plan inspector accepts the housing targets presented in the Local Plan (or lower). If he does, we can see no reason why Pale Lane should go ahead. However, if the Inspector accepts Hart’s own argument in the Local Plan that they need to plan for more houses than required, the appeal may succeed.

Hart Planning Update: Bramshill Appeal

We haven’t heard much about this, but believe some appeal hearings have been held. We have no further information on the timing of any decision.

Hart Planning Update: West of Hook Appeal

We understand the appeal will start on 19 March 2019 and will sit for up to 8 days.  More details can be found here.

Again, we hope this appeal fails. However, quite a lot depends upon the results of the Local Plan examination and the weight placed upon it at that time.

 

We will keep you up to date as more information emerges.

 

Fleet regeneration is feasible without taxpayer funding

Fleet Regeneration: Hart Shopping Centre Design Study

Fleet Regeneration: Hart Shopping Centre Design Study

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

Benefits of Fleet Regeneration

The benefits of the proposed scheme are as follows:

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

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

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

Background to Fleet Regeneration Proposals

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

Next steps for Fleet Regeneration

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

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

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

Rural Hart Association email to supporters about Fleet Regeneration

Dear Supporters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tristram Cary
Chairman Rural Hart Association

Hart to squander nearly £1.5m on new town planning

Hart set to spend nearly £1.5m on new town planning

Hart District Council set to squander nearly £1.5m on new town planning

Hart District Council has revealed that it is set to squander nearly £1.5m on planning for a new town. The figures are revealed in a paper that is going before Overview and Scrutiny Committee next week.

The figures are buried in Appendix 4 of the document.

Hart District Council to squander £1.5m on new town planning

Hart to squander nearly £1.5m on new town planning

The real level of spend will be higher, because the proposal does not include a cost allocation of existing staff on the payroll. The annual budget of Hart is in the region of £10m. So, this level of spend represents a very significant proportion of our taxes.

We feel it is entirely unreasonable to be committing such a high level of spending to planning for the new town, because the Local Plan has yet to be approved by the Inspector.

There is significant opposition to the new town, and even Hart admits the new town is not necessary to meet even their own inflated housing targets.

Why a new settlement debunked predetermination

SInce then the ONS have released new figures for household growth that are even lower. These new figures mean we have enough housing supply already to meet our needs out to 2041 and beyond without the new town.

In addition, we will soon reveal documents that show regeneration of Fleet is a viable and attractive alternative, that won’t need any council taxpayer funds.

 

 

Parish Council demolishes Winchfield new town plan

Figure 6 Winchfield New Town Summary of Key Findings

Winchfield new town area not suitable for large scale development

The Parish Council have demolished plans for the proposed Winchfield new town in their submission to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation. The have produced a 690-page report that can be found here. Their main conclusions about Policy SS3 that calls for the new town to be built in the area of search are (our emphasis):

Our review of the available technical evidence, with STR005 released only through a FOI request, demonstrates the highly constrained nature of the AoS, and the significant environmental and infrastructure issues that need to be overcome. A Site Appraisal prepared by Michelle Bolger Expert Landscape Consultancy is provided and this demonstrates that the AoS is significantly constrained and concludes that little land exists within the AoS which could be considered suitable for large scale residential development. We flag up the complete failure of the Draft Plan to identify the key infrastructure necessary for the provision of a new settlement, or indicate how it will be provided, by whom and when. Given the complete lack of any detailed evidence demonstrating that a new settlement is either deliverable or viable, we do not see how provision can be made for it within the Draft Plan.

Winchfield New Town Expert Evidence

The expert evidence from Michelle Bolger is a joy to behold. Her much shorter report can be downloaded from the link below, together with the appendix that contains the wonderful graphics depicting all of the constraints on the area of search.

The final summary is shown on the image above. This summarises the findings of the whole report in relation to the various sites that have been put forward, concluding (emphasis mine):

All of the sites are significantly constrained and the vast majority of the area of search (AoS) south of the M3/Railway is considered to be unsuitable for large scale development (i.e. it would cause severe landscape harm that would be difficult to remedy or mitigate)…

Land within the north-western parts of the AoS…are also significantly constrained. Development here could not occur without harm to the local countryside character and this would also impact upon the character and enjoyment of the Public Right of Way network. Development may also result in visual coalescence between Hartley Wintney and Hook.

Overall this appraisal finds that the AoS identifies a landscape that is highly unsuitable for large scale residential development. The new settlement envisaged by draft policy SS3 would result in significant landscape and visual harm and be at risk of harming components within the landscape which hold high landscape, amenity, ecological and heritage value.

The build up to the final conclusion starts with the area of search:

Figure 1 Winchfield New Town Area of Search and Context

Figure 1 Winchfield new town Area of Search and Context

It then goes on to show Hart’s own landscape capacity study which shows that most of the area has low or low/medium capacity. The only area with medium/high capacity is the proposed Elvetham Chase (Pale Lane) site and it’s westward extension towards Winchfield. The Murrell Green area is shown as Medium capacity. However, this was decided before the Major Accident Hazard gas pipeline was discovered by Hart Council.

Figure 2 Winchfield New Town Landscape Capacity Study

Figure 2 Winchfield Landscape Capacity Study

The paper then goes on to identify the constraints in the area of search, starting with areas designated as SSSI’s, SINCs, tree preservation orders, ancient woodland, and listed buildings.

Figure 3 Winchfield New Town Key Constraints Designations

Figure 3 Winchfield New Town Key Constraints Designations

Then other constraints such as visual sensitivity, flooding, footpaths, unavailable land, landfill, narrow bridges, high voltage transmission lines and the gas pipeline are added:

Figure 4 Winchfield New Town Key Constraints Assessment

Figure 4 Winchfield Key Constraints Assessment

Then all of the constraints are brought together on one diagram, showing just how little land exists within the AoS that could be considered suitable for large scale residential development.

Figure 5 Winchfield New Town Key Constraints Composite

Figure 5 Winchfield Key Constraints Composite

 

All of this report is drawn from pre-existing material. One wonders why Hart Council is continuing to promote such a daft idea. Certainly, £50K is not going to cover costs of putting together a robust Winchfield new town master-plan to fulfill all of their magical promises to turn horses into unicorns. We shall see what the inspector makes of this.

The report and appendix can be downloaded here:

Winchfield Site Appraisal
Winchfield Site Appraisal Appendix

 

Winchfield landowners beg for more land in new town

Winchfield landowners beg for more land in new town area of search

Winchfield landowners beg for more land in new town area of search

The responses to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation show Winchfield landowners begging for more of their land to be included in the area of search.

First up is Lady Henrietta Wigram begging for more of SHL 124 to be included in the new town:

Lady Henrietta Wigram begs for more land to be included in Winchfield new town area of search

Lady Henrietta Wigram begs for more land to be included in Winchfield new town area of search

Then we have Simon Jones-Parry begging for more of SHL 133 to be included in Winchfield new town. Note the block capitals – shouting just in case we can’t hear him.

Simon Jones-Parry begs for more land tobe included in Winchfield new town area of search

Simon Jones-Parry begs for more land to be included in Winchfield new town area of search

Given the controversy about this proposal, we think it crassly insensitive to include such representations in the consultation.

For context, here is a map of the sites they are bleating about:

Winchfield and Hook New Town proposal

And here is a map of the area of search:

Policy SS3 Murrell Green and Winchfield Area of search for Hartley WInchook new settlement

It seems Lady Wigram wants to include land north of the M3 to effectively join the existing St Mary’s Park to the proposed new town. Although, quite how they propose to sell houses so close to the motorway is beyond our understanding.

Mr Jones-Parry wants to extend the existing proposal covering part of SHL 133 to include land between the Basingstoke Canal SSSI and Odiham Common SSSI. This area was ruled out for development in the Sustainability Appraisal.

Brass neck doesn’t quite cover it.

Hart Council budgets only £50K for Winchfield new town plan

Hart District Council sets aside laughable budget for Winchfield new town plan

Hart District Council budgets only £50K for Winchfield new town plan

Questions put to Hart Council earlier this week have revealed they have set aside a budget of only £50,000 to create the detailed development plan for the Winchfield new town. Apparently, they are hoping for additional contributions from developers.

This is quite astonishing. There have been numerous statements made by councillors saying they want the plan to be council lead and not developer led. They’ve also made statements about the amount of infrastructure that will be delivered.

We suggest that the council has set aside barely a tenth of the money that will be required to:

  • Conduct sustainability assessments
  • Infrastructure studies
  • Habitat assessments
  • Flood assessments
  • Master-planning

This revelation shows the councillors were either lying through their teeth or were completely incompetent (or both). They are clearly going to rely on funding from developers so the developers are going to be in the driving seat.

Of course another interpretation of this pitiful budget is that they are anticipating the Winchfield new town being knocked out of the Hart Local Plan at examination.

In other news, it is now expected that the Hart Local Plan examination will start in mid-November and last 2-3 weeks.

The questions and contemporaneous account of the questions and answers are shown below:

Questions about Winchfield New Town

Q1: I understand the Local Plan has been submitted and Council “commits to planning for a new settlement at Murrel Green/Winchfield” to “provide a substantial contingency to any increase in the Government figures that could, in theory, result in an unmet need arising elsewhere in the HMA” (para 108).

Accepting that the requirement for the contingency for houses needed in Hart in excess of Government guidelines may or may not materialise, as evidenced by future plan revisions, could Council reassure Hart residents that, in the event it does not, planning permission will not be given for the new settlement?

Answer:  No.  The Government is keen to have houses in addition to the basic suggested figure and there is therefore a need to boost the numbers [But not apparently on brownfield sites!!]

Supplementary:

If, as the draft local plan suggests, all Hart’s housing needs are already provided for in the current plan period to 2032 without the need for a new settlement, should not the start of any construction of the new settlement be deferred until after 2032 at the earliest?

Answer:  No.  The lead time for a new settlement is long and the future requirement for housing uncertain – the start of building can’t be left to the last minute.

Q2. The Council committing to planning for a new settlement means Hart residents will be required to fund a substantial sum for the necessary consultants’ reports etc.  Can the Council please say 1)  How much is budgeted for this and 2) how much of this will be provided by the parties who will benefit financially from the building of the new settlement?

Answer:  £50,000 is the sum that has been initially set aside in the budget.  Contributions from developers will be welcome  [This number is laughable – a proper DPD will surely run into £000,000s]

Supplementary: The area of search for the new settlement includes Murrell Green (possible 2,990 houses) and Winchfield (possible 2,400 houses).  The proposals come from separate developers.  Is the intention to pursue one or the other development, or rather to combine the two?

Answer:  It was not possible to chose between the two originally.  Hence the “area of search” idea.  The DPD will determine the answer to the question. [Despite 3 years of testing!!]

Q3: The draft plan gives no indication of the size of the proposed new settlement, other than to say it must be “viable”.  What approximate size is considered viable, recognising that this will be further examined in the DPD

Answer:  The DPD will determine

Supplementary: I am not aware of any consultation with Winchfield residents about the possible shape, size and layout of the proposed new settlement, although Members were shown a four-page artist’s illustration dated August 2017 which I found in the Local Plan examination library.  When and how will the Winchfield community be consulted if the new settlement idea survives inspection

Answer:  There will be plenty of opportunity through the DPD and the usual consultation process which has already been followed.

Q4. What is the current status and expected number of Surrey Heath’s unmet housing need and what proportion of this unmet need would Hart be expected to meet?

Answer:  Currently not known, SH haven’t yet come up with numbers