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

 

 

Hart Local Plan Submission details revealed

Hart Local Plan Submission details

Hart Local Plan Submission Details Revealed

Details of the Hart Local Plan submission process and details have been revealed. They are contained in a presentation given to a range of parish, town and district councillors on Tuesday 12 June.

The full presentation is available on the download below.

Key points include:

1. The documents will be submitted to the Secretary of State on 18 June 2018

2. The documents will include:

      • The Proposed Submission Hart Local Plan and Policies Map (unchanged from February (Reg19 version)

      • Schedule of minor modifications

      • Sustainability Appraisal

      • Statement of Community Involvement

      • Consultation Statement

      • Duty to Cooperate Statement

      • Copies of the representations

      • Habitats Regs Assessment

      • Evidence base documents

3. In around mid-July the Inspector will write to all those who submitted representations to outline the procedures and timetable.

4. The inspector will be focused on testing whether the plan is sound

5. The examination in public hearings are expected to start in late September and last for 2-3 weeks

6. Appearance at the hearings will be limited to those people who submitted representations to the consultation and who were seeking to change the plan

7. After the hearings there may be an additional consultation if modifications to the Plan are recommended as part of the examination

We understand that the representations made during the last consultation will be published around the same time as submission to the Secretary of State. Things are certainly hotting up, and it’s all to play for.

Hart Local Plan Submission Briefing

Elvetham Chase Appeal Documents Revealed

Wates Pale Lane aka Elvetham Chase Appeal

Elvetham Chase Appeal Documents

The Pale Lane aka Elvetham Chase appeal documents have been made available. At the time of writing, they haven’t yet been published on the Hart Council website, nor on the Planning Inspectorate website. These documents confirm our story that the Wates have appealed the decision to turn down the proposed development of 700 new houses.

The two documents can be found as downloads at the foot of this article.

The key elements of their statement of case are:

Elvetham Chase Appeal – Policies out of date

Elvetham Chase Appeal Policies out of date

Wates argue that the policies used to refuse the original application are out of date. This argument was successful when the Grove Farm development was approved on appeal.

Elvetham Chase Appeal – Little impact on Fleet

Elvetham Chase Appeal Policies little impact on Fleet

Wates also argue that, contrary to Hart’s refusal decision, the Pale Lane development will have little impact on Fleet. In addition, the policies Hart have used to justify this stance are out of date.

Elvetham Chase Appeal – Local Plan too slow

Elvetham Chase Appeal Policies Local Plan too slow

Wates are also arguing that Hart have not kept to their timetable for the Local Plan. There was supposed to be a presentation to members during May, prior to submission on 18 June. We understand that presentation did not happen, so the 18 June deadline may be at risk.

They also argue that the draft Local Plan and the site allocation may well face legal challenge.

The draft Local Plan doesn’t include Pale Lane in the site allocation. They say the plan is a long way from adoption and that refusal isn’t justified on those grounds. Wates are effectively saying that the draft Local Plan should carry very little weight in the appeal decision.

Elvetham Chase Appeal – Our View

We think the appeal will rest on this issue. If the Inspector believes the draft Local Plan carries significant weight, then he may well refuse the appeal. If however, he believes the opposite, then on the past precedent of Grove Farm, then he will probably allow the development to proceed.

We think Hart’s chances of successfully fighting this appeal are higher than Grove Farm, and it is probably worth the cost and effort of doing so. However, we hear some councillors are much less optimistic about Hart’s chances of success. Let’s hope common sense prevails and the appeal is dismissed.

We will work on what we think are the best arguments for fighting the appeal.

Wates Pale Lane/ Elvetham Chase Appeal Statement
Wates Elvetham Chase/ Pale Lane Appeal Statement of Common Ground

Appeal statement of case that can be found here.

Draft statement of common ground that can be found here.

 

Council announce Hart Local Plan Submission Date

Council announces Hart Local Plan submission date

Council announces Hart Local Plan submission date

The council has announced the submission date for the Hart Local Plan.

The news is contained in papers due to be considered by Cabinet on 7 June. The relevant paper can be found here.

They say the plan will be submitted during week commencing 18 June:

It is anticipated that the Hart Local Plan Strategy and Sites 2016-2032 Submission Version (the Submission Plan) will be submitted to the Secretary of State in the week commencing 18 June 2018. Once submitted the Submission Plan does not supersede the Hart Local Plan 1996 – 2006 (Saved Policies). The saved policies will still comprise the Development Plan for Hart.

This is in line with earlier commentary from the Joint Chief Executive at an earlier council meeting.

Impact of submitting the Hart Local Plan

Although the submitted plan doesn’t yet form the development plan for Hart, it should have some weight in determining planning applications (and one hopes, planning appeals):

The Submission Plan gains some weight in decision-making. Paragraph 216 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)) states that decision-takers may also give weight (unless material considerations indicate otherwise) to relevant policies in emerging plans according to:

  • The stage of preparation of the emerging plan (the more advanced the preparation, the greater the weight that may be given).

  • The extent to which there are unresolved objections to relevant policies (the less significant the unresolved objections, the greater the weight that may be given).

  • The degree of consistency of the relevant policies in the emerging plan to the policies in NPPF (the closer the policies in the emerging plan to the policies in the Framework, the greater the weight that may be given).

The council’s comentary says:

The Submission Plan is at an advanced stage of preparation. Therefore, it should be given weight in the decision-making process and so upon submission to the Secretary of State it should be used in the determination of planning applications. Furthermore, as it reflects approved Council policy, applications that are determined in accordance with the Submission Plan should not be considered as representing “departures” where approval would otherwise require referral to Council for determination.

We can only hope that the submission of the Local Plan helps in fending off the unwelcome appeal against the decision to refuse planning permission for 700 new houses at Pale Lane.

Wates launch Elvetham Chase aka Pale Lane appeal

Wates launch Elvetham Chase aka Pale Lane appeal

Elvetham Chase aka Pale Lane appeal

[Update 1: 29/5/2018: We understand that the developers have stated they intend to appeal, but have not yet submitted the appeal documentation]

[Update 2: 6/6/2018: Story now confirmed by Fleet News and Mail. Copy here.]

[Update 2: 8/6/2018: Appeal documents published here.]

We understand that the agents for the developers have submitted a Pale Lane appeal. The site, also known as Elvetham Chase was, quite rightly in our view, turned down for development of 700 new houses by Hart Council back in February. The developers, Wates, were apparently quite angry.

The Pale Lane appeal comes despite the recent Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation. Of course, the draft Local Plan doesn’t include Pale Lane in the housing plans. We understand that Hart plan to submit the Local Plan to the inspector on 18 June. The plan published as part of the consultation has some weight to fend off this unwelcome development. That weight should increase when the plan is submitted to the Inspector. But it won’t have the same weight as a plan declared sound by the Inspector.

We don’t yet know the timeline for the Local Plan inspection hearing. Nor do we know the timeline for the Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) appeal.

Impact of Pale Lane Appeal

So, this move sets in train some complex legal and procedural manoeuvres and a race agaisnt time for both Hart and Wates. Clearly, Wates believe they can win or they wouldn’t be spending the money on the appeal. They are clearly hoping their appeal will be heard prior to the Local Plan being inspected and declared sound.

Despite opposing the development, we think the grounds for rejecting the proposed development were quite weak. The grounds for the decision can be found here. Unfortunately, Hart doesn’t have a good track record in defending appeals.

We have to hope that the current state of the Local Plan will provide stronger defence that the Council’s current outdated policies.

Cabinet Update: Pressure on to deliver the Hart Local Plan

Hart District Council seeks to block brownfield development

Hart District Council under pressure to deliver the Local Plan

Unfortunately, we could not make it to the Cabinet meeting on Thursday 5 April. However, we have received feedback from the meeting about the Hart Local Plan item.

Respondents to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 Consultation

We understand there were around 300 respondents to the consultation. However, there are about 1,500 individual representations. The council has its work cut out to analyse the representation and provide a response to each one.

Key themes

The key themes emerging from the consultation include a number of contradictory elements:

  • Inadequate infrastructure
  • Housing numbers too high
  • Housing numbers too low (from developers)
  • Housing numbers not robust
  • Quality of life issues
  • Reliance on strategic sites
  • Revisit reg 18 for sites
  • Should have more sites to spread the load
  • New gaps / more gaps
  • No gaps at all (from developers)
  • Employment sites/  brownfield sites
  • Regeneration of town centres, particularly Fleet
  • No minimum internal size (floor space) specified

In addition, there is a need to focus on sustainability and decide if the approach of adding a new settlement is sound. Apparently, Basingstoke and Deane objected to the new town on the grounds of the extra traffic it would generate. [Obviously we believe it is not sound, but that is for the Inspector to decide].

Timetable to submission of the Hart Local Plan

There was discussion of the work required before the Hart Local will be ready for submission. This includes:

Feedback from the Independent Planning Consultant (Keith Holland, a former Inspector) is expected by late April.

In addition a topic paper has to be produced to explain how the housing number was arrived at and other options if different numbers were used (i.e. plan ‘b’ and plan ‘c’).

Then  a further series of tasks are required:

  • Update project plan
  • Format each representation, enter onto database including HDC response
  • Update consultation statement
  • Identify issues arising from consultation
  • Make minor modifications to plan
  • Provide statements of common ground (highways, neighbouring councils etc.)
  • Review and update topic papers (including the new one on housing numbers)
  • Infrastructure plan review
  • Soundness check list
  • Review reg 18 and how consultation was responded to

There might be another meeting of the Local Plan Steering Group (LPSG) before submission.

The project team consists of one full-time leader and three part-time team members. However, the leader has been off sick recently. They want to get the plan submitted as soon as possible to help fight off two anticipated appeals. [We don’t know which ones exactly, but we would hazard a guess at Elvetham Chase (Pale Lane) and West of Hook].

They hope to achieve submission by mid-to-late May. [Our view is that this sounds ambitious given the level of work and the apparently sparse resources allocated].

Questions from the floor

Apparently, a number of questions were asked relating to:

  • Which housing numbers to use. Should these be based on the old SHMA or the newer Government methodology. It appears as though this hasn’t been decided yet. [We would prefer if the new Government methodology was used, as it gives a lower number. However, the inflated numbers the council have used in the Local Plan are slightly higher than the SHMA, once they are adjusted for the building between 2011 and 2016. So, either scenario does not require a new town].
  • Membership of the LPSG. Apparently, Conservative members won’t be invited to the LPSG unless their particular expertise is required.
  • Resourcing for the Local Plan. Apparently this is a very sensitive subject that resulted in some argument. [We take it that the officers feel under pressure to deliver quickly and are struggling for resource].

Let’s see what happens.