How do we regenerate our high streets?

Bravehart has been on tour again, looking at Fleet High Street.  He couldn’t believe how many empty shops there were and how many vacant and derelict offices.

The nature of shopping is changing as more and more of us shop on-line and from our mobile phones.  The nature of our high streets needs to change to become centres for social activity and nightlife.  Surely it would be better to re-generate a lot of these brownfield sites and replace them with affordable apartments to bring more young and old people to the town centre without the need for more traffic, rather than building a new town that will concrete over our green fields.

The We Heart Hart campaign says we need a new vision for Hart District and some joined up thinking.

We Love Hart Campaign covered in Star Courier

We are delighted to see that the press in the form of the Star Courier has started to cover the We Heart Hart campaign, although they termed it We Love Hart, next to an article about Ranil Jayawardena listening to local concerns about the Hart Local Plan

Download available below:

We Love Hart in Star Courier

Please Help Spread the Word across Hart District

Downloads of posters to support the We Heart Hart (aka We ♥ Hart and We Love Hart) campaign and a letter to councillors are now available on the website.

The campaign is moving on quickly.  We now have nearly 400 people who have signed the petition, and 31 January was the busiest day on the web site ever, with over 500 visitors.  But to get our voice heard we need to get the number of people signing the petition over 550 – the number of respondents to the original consultation, and preferably into the thousands.  It would be good to use the power of the internet to demonstrate that there is a strong groundswell of opinion against the path that Hart District Council is taking.

Please help spread the word across the district by downloading the posters, printing them off and putting them up across the district. Good locations would be sites with lots of foot-fall like railway stations, bus-stops, churches, community noticeboards and local shops.

The downloads are available here:

Please Sign the Petition A4
Simple A4 Poster PDF
Dear Councillor Letter

And if you haven’t already, please sign the petition.

 

Only 700 houses on Brownfield land?

Bravehart has been busy today touring Hart looking for brownfield sites in the district.  He found loads of sites and finds it difficult to believe that there is capacity for only 700 houses on sites like this.  Our brownfield tracker suggests otherwise

There’s vacant office buildings, sites earmarked for other development where building hasn’t started and derelict buildings on Fleet high street and in Hook.  The sites he found include sites like Sun Park near J4A of the M3; Hartland Park near Pyestock; much of Ancells Farm at Fleet; Bartley Wood and other areas in Hook.

If you know of sites you would like Bravehart to visit and photograph as examples of where we could be building instead of over our beautiful green fields, the please do get in touch with the We Heart Hart campaign through the website or this page.

Surely it is better to build on these brownfield sites before concreting over our green fields.

Photos of these sites are shown in the slider.

Please sign the petition

FOI Request made for Brownfield Site Capacity

Hart Council has made some assertions in meetings and in some documents that brownfield land in the district can only deliver around 700 houses.  This is contrary to the land being tacked on the brownfield tracker.

However, no analysis to support this assertion has been provided.  I did ask the council earlier this week for such an analysis, but no reply was forthcoming.

Accordingly, the We Heart Hart (aka We ♥ Hart and We Love Hart) campaign has made an Freedom of Information request asking them to set out the sites they have considered and the the amount and type of housing that can be built on each.  More here:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/housing_capacity_of_brownfield_s/new

Is this what we want for Hart?

SHLAA Sites in Hart District Jan 2015

SHLAA Sites in Hart District Jan 2015

Is this what we want for Hart? Take a look at the image taken from a document on the council website, that shows all of the sites Hart are looking at for development into the future as at January 2015.

Whilst not all of them will make it into the Local Plan, it is clear that we are on the slippery slope to Hartley Wintney, Hook, Fleet, Dogmersfield, the Crookhams, Winchfield and Odiham coalescing into a single, sprawling conurbation.  Each settlement will lose its distinctive identity and we will lose the green fields, wildlife and rural feel that make Hart such a great place to live.

Many of these sites are within the zone of influence of Thames Valley Special Protection Area and close to other environmentally sensitive areas such as the SSSIs at Basingstoke Canal and Odiham Common and the numerous other Sites of Interest to Nature Conservation (SINCs) that are dotted around the district.

The We Heart Hart campaign says we need to challenge this mindset of building a new town all over our green fields and force a re-think of the whole development strategy, with a much stronger focus on building on brownfield sites and increasing building density in the existing settlements.

Please sign the petition opposing this style of development: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/we-hart

We Heart Hart Campaign

Today marks the launch of the We Heart Hart campaign (aka We Love Hart and We ♥ Hart).

We believe the Government and Hart Council should think again. The objectives of our campaign are as follows:

  • To call for the overall housing allocation to be reduced by challenging the SHMA in front of the Inspector.
  • To demand that the Council develops a vision and strategy for Hart that retains its role as a rural, green hinterland for NE Hampshire that respects the separate character and identity of Hart’s settlements and landscapes and preserves the green spaces as amenity space for the urban settlements.
  • To require that the housing need is met by building on brownfield sites and increasing density in our existing urban areas to help rejuvenate our existing shopping centres.
  • To request that future housing stock reflects the needs of the changing demographics of the district, particularly the elderly and infirm.
  • To petition the council and government against any new settlement in Hart that will act as a sink for the unmet housing need in neighbouring areas.
  • To hold Hart Council to account to ensure the process is legal and transparent and properly consults all of the residents of Hart.

 

We Love Hart Campaign Logo

We Love Hart Campaign Logo

What’s wrong with Hart Council’s Approach?

We have several problems with Hart’s current approach:

  • Lack of overall vision for the district.  Sadly Hart Council is simply reacting to events and not setting out a vision of what it wants the district to look like in 20, 30, 50 or 100 years time.  This means that if we are not careful, we will end up with piecemeal development that will damage the very things that make Hart an attractive place to live.  Ideas for an improved vision are shown here.
  • Opening up the District to being a sink for the unmet housing needs of other districts.  The overall housing allocation plan for the plan period calls for 1,800-2,400 homes to be built in a new town at Winchfield.  However, the Barratts document Vision Document suggests that a new town at Winchfield could entail 5,000 new houses.  By pure coincidence (of course), Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils need to find space for about 3,100 more houses in their districts.  Building a new town anywhere in Hart opens up the strong possibility that we will be forced to take this additional requirement from bordering areas.
  • Lack of provision for elderly and infirm.  According to the SHMA, by 2031, there will be an additional 10,000 people over 60 (including more than 6,850 over 75) expected to be living in the district and an extra 3,620 people who will be suffering from dementia or have some sort of mobility problem. Section 9 of the SHMA suggests that future housing stock should be built to broadly reflect the existing stock.  This new stock will attract more families to the area and crowd out the developments required to meet the needs of the elderly and infirm.

Overall, the lack of strategy, opening up the potential for a new town and not addressing the needs arising from changing demographics amount to very serious flaws in approach which puts our countryside at risk.

We have outlined an alternative approach to producing the local plan here.