FT: Housebuilding boom will not make houses cheaper

Today, the FT has run a very important article about the proposed housebuilding boom in the UK. This echoes the work of Ian Mulheirn that we highlighted back in February. The key takeaways are:

  1. There is no housing crisis. The housing market is adequately supplied and there is no shortage
  2. Other than in London, rents have risen less quickly than consumer prices
  3. House prices are high because of low interest rates and easy availability of credit
  4. The way to reduce housing costs, if not house prices, is to increase the supply of homes for rent
  5. More of the same tweaks to the planning system and housing market are doomed to fail.

We do hope Hart Council take notice of this article. Because carpeting out green fields with 10,185 houses isn’t going to make them any more affordable for local people. All they will do is add to the £72m infrastructure funding gap, increase waiting times at doctor’s surgeries and add to our already bad road congestion.

It is time to adopt the new Government approach to calculating Hart’s housing target so we can meet local needs and address our infrastructure problems. This will cut our housing target to around 6,500 after we make allowance to build some houses for Surrey Heath.

The article in reproduced in full below.

Lex in depth: The false promise of a UK housebuilding boom

Chancellor Philip Hammond is under pressure to commit billions of pounds to build more affordable housing. But what if a lack of houses is not the real problem?

© AFP

The cost and availability of housing has become a potent political issue in the UK, where younger people especially are being priced out of the market as their parents and grandparents benefit from decades of above-inflation rises in home values.

The ruling Conservatives, traditionally the party of home ownership, now find themselves shunned by millennial voters frustrated by spiralling housing costs. So far, the response has been to provide subsidy to renters and buyers, and to exhort the construction industry to build more. Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is under pressure to announce more money for housing in Wednesday’s budget.

Yet building more homes is unlikely to meaningfully reduce prices, especially in the short term. One reason is that, whatever the other dysfunctions of the housing market there is — nationally at least — no shortage of homes.

To suggest this is to challenge a prevailing, almost universally accepted wisdom: that British house prices are high because the country has for many years failed to build enough houses. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, new home construction fell by more than a third, and even their pre-crisis levels were a far cry from the halcyon days of the 1960s or the 1930s, when completions were higher, both absolutely and relative to population.

Those on the left attribute this to the sharp fall in the construction of social housing since the 1980s. Those on the right blame the planning system for throwing sand in the wheels of the free market. Both broadly agree that the solution is to build many more homes. In 2015, ministers set a target of 1m new dwellings by 2020. On Sunday, Mr Hammond pledged to build 300,000 homes a year, though he did not specify a timeframe.

That number echoes the promise made by Harold Macmillan, housing minister in the 1951-55 Conservative government, whose achievements are hailed by those in the ruling party calling for more ambition on housing. The 1951 administration came to power on a promise to “give housing a priority second only to national defence” and presided over a construction boom in an era when austerity included food rationing.

Many prognostications about the housing market cite government data on new builds. But what matters more is the net change in overall supply, which includes property converted to residential from other uses, and subtracts the homes demolished.

The gap between these two was substantial in the Macmillan era and in the 1960s, when housebuilding was at its peak but thousands of condemned homes were also being flattened in slum clearances. It is still fairly wide today, but in the opposite direction. In the year to March 31 2017, 183,570 homes were built in England, the most since 2008. But conversions and changes of use took the total net new supply to 217,350.

All that would be academic if the supply were consistently behind demand, which at first glance does appear to be the case. In recent years, net new supply has been below the 210,000 dwellings that the government estimates will be needed each year from 2014 to 2039 in England. But long-range forecasts on household formation require big assumptions about longevity, fertility, household size and migration, and are subject to large margins of error. In 2008, the government estimated that 280,000 homes would be needed in the UK each year until 2016. In 2012, after the global financial crisis, that had dropped to 231,000 a year.

Not only are the figures a moving target — the statisticians now have to factor in the impact of Brexit on migration, for instance — but they are also some way off the reality. The 2012 forecasts predicted 27.7m households by 2016. Figures from the Office for National Statistics say there are now 27.2m households — around 500,000 fewer than predicted.

As for dwellings, there were 28m in 2014, the last year for which UK-wide figures are available. Even allowing for second homes — around 200,000 in England, down from over 300,000 a decade ago — and those that are temporarily empty, there are clearly more dwellings than there are households. That may be because there is a surplus of housing in some areas, such as old industrial towns. But Ian Mulheirn, director of consulting at Oxford Economics, says that even London and the south-east added more dwellings than households from 2001 to 2015.

One possible explanation for this contradiction is that high prices have suppressed household growth. Households cannot form because 30-year-olds are still living in their parents’ spare bedrooms. The data do not really bear out the anecdotal evidence of the “boomerang generation”. Around a quarter of people aged 20-34 still live in the parental home. In 1996, when house prices were much lower relative to earnings, the proportion was still a fifth.

But many more young people are now renting. A study by the Resolution Foundation in September found that two in five millennials (those born between 1981 and 2000) were living in private rented accommodation at the age of 30. For baby boomers (born 1946 to 1965), the equivalent figure was one in 10. Rented households are still households, but it may be that the individuals who rent together may prefer to have bought individually. The Resolution Foundation also found that, on average, renters were living in less space further from their place of work than would have been the case in the past.

Julie Rugg, a research fellow at the University of York’s Centre for Housing Policy, also cautions that national data on rents conceal wide regional variations. “There are parts of the country with housing oversupply, and where private rents may sit somewhere below social housing rents,” she says. Nevertheless, aggregate rents have risen far more slowly than aggregate prices — suggesting that high prices are about something more than just the supply and demand of homes.

For Toby Lloyd, director of housing policy at Shelter, the housing charity, that something is actually two things, “land and money”. Not just the cheap credit that followed the global financial crisis and pushed up real estate prices in cities around the world, but a whole series of policy interventions over several decades.

In Macmillan’s era, only building societies could extend mortgages, and only then on conservative terms. Liberalisation of credit and tax cuts led to the “Barber boom” of the early 1970s, where wages and prices (including house prices) rose sharply. More relaxing of credit regulation at the start of the 1980s drove an even larger expansion in lending. Mortgage securitisation facilitated further growth, as did the Basel II reforms cutting the risk weights applied to real estate. This made mortgage lending less capital-intensive for banks.

The fuelling of the housing boom

UK housing charts
  1. 1963 Tax on imputed rents scrapped
  2. 1969 Mortgage interest relief at source (Miras) introduced
  3. September 1971 Competition, Credit & Control Act (allows banks to borrow from wholesale market)
  4. October 1980 Housing Act gives council tenants right to buy their homes
  5. 1988 Assured shorthold tenancies introduced, giving landlords more rights
  6. 1996 First buy-to-let mortgages sold
  7. 2000 Miras scrapped
  8. 2007 Collapse of Northern Rock and onset of financial crisis

A similar thing happened in other European countries, notably Spain and Ireland. “After about 2003 [the boom] became more about rates and money,” says Kieran McQuinn, a research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin. “Lots of overseas banks set up shop in Ireland. More of the buying became about investment and retirement. Even business loans were increasingly tied to property.” In the peak year for home construction, 2006, this country of just 4m people built over 90,000 homes — yet prices still rose 11 per cent that year.

The expansion of credit was only one part of what Neal Hudson, a property market analyst, calls the “financialisation of housing”. In 1963, “schedule A” personal income tax, an annual levy on the imputed rent of an owned home, was abolished. Housing profits were exempted from the new capital gains tax. In 1969 came “Miras”, a tax break on mortgage interest that endured until 2000.

Council house sales in the 1980s gave rise to a private rental market, whose development was accelerated by the reform of assured shorthold tenancies and the advent of buy-to-let mortgages in the 1990s. These came with their own advantages: landlords only paid the interest, not principal, and until this year interest costs could be offset against profit in full. More recently came the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, and increased allowances for property within inheritance tax.

Such favourable treatment of property in the legal and tax systems, and the ready availability of cheap credit and government support, did more than just nurture a long house price boom. They created behavioural effects that no econometric house price model could capture.

“People like houses as an investment because they are tangible,” says Greg Davies, a behavioural economist. “They feel they understand them far more than funds or shares or bonds. People assume that property is safe because of its familiarity.”

They may also feel that policymakers are standing behind the market. The government spends £24bn a year on housing benefit, and recently earmarked another £10bn to the Help to Buy scheme. Andrew Lilico, an economist who subscribes to the idea that there is no housing crisis, points to a key Bank of England meeting in August 2005 when, according to the minutes, “the ongoing adjustment in the housing market” was one factor that resulted in a narrow vote to cut rates to 4.5 per cent. “We took a decision to protect those who had paid too much for houses at the expense of those who wanted to buy,” says Mr Lilico.

© Getty

From the mid-19th century until the start of the 1970s, the price of land moved more or less in line with the prices of homes, according to Paul Cheshire, professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics. After that, land prices tended to act as a leveraged play on house prices, with considerable volatility.

This was partly down to credit conditions. But it was also due to changes in the planning regime, especially the 1961 Land Compensation Act. This forced local authorities to pay a price for land that reflects its likely future use, rather than its current value, and gradually curtailed the involvement of local authorities in constructing new housing.

The steep rises in the value of land as it moves through the planning process are a major driver of profits for landowners and housebuilders, who have the legal expertise and financial resources to endure the often lengthy process. But the fact that land with permission to build is so costly, up to half the final selling price in some areas, is a major reason why British houses are small, poor-quality and expensive.

The existence of “green belts” around many conurbations, designed to limit further development, makes it hard for councils to approve new housing in response to local conditions. In the five years to 2017, more homes were built in Barnsley (3,480) a former mining town in South Yorkshire, than were built in booming Cambridge (2,490).

Few would dispute that building more homes is a good idea, even if aggregate data suggest there is no acute shortage. “All of the other problems become easier to solve if there are more houses to start with,” says Mr Lloyd. But few expect that building more homes to buy will reduce prices in anything but the long term — meaning over five years.

The problem for Mr Hammond is that other options are either ineffectual or politically difficult. No politician is going to turn off the credit tap. Appropriating unearned property profits from older homeowners — who in aggregate are under-occupying housing — results in howls of outrage from voters. Reforming the planning system to permanently lower the cost of development land risks incurring the wrath of voters in the leafy, prosperous counties that surround London.

Interventions such as taxing foreigners who buy UK property play well politically but have little impact. The same pattern is evident elsewhere; overseas investors buying property in Hong Kong, Singapore, Vancouver and some Australian cities pay additional stamp duty of up to 15 per cent, but such eye-watering levies have done little to stem the appetite for real estate in those cities.

Perhaps the most promising way to reduce housing costs — if not house prices — is to increase the supply of homes for rent. “The nub of the whole debate is that the market in housing assets is different from the market in housing services,” says Mr Mulheirn. “House prices do not set rents. Landlords charge what the tenant market will bear.” Yet even here, the current administration lacks the pragmatism of past ones.

© AFP

Harold Macmillan encouraged private developers, but also thought nothing of mobilising the resources of the state to ensure that his target of 300,000 homes a year was met. In some of the most open markets in the world, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, the state owns most of the land and up to half the population is housed in government-owned apartments.

Some have lobbied for more state intervention. Last week Sajid Javid, the UK secretary of state for communities and local government, said he would alter the rules so that housing associations are treated as private companies and can borrow more freely. But this is a timid reform compared with the one that many academics, think tanks and even former ministers have advocated: legislating to change planning rules so that the cost of land comes down. Mr Hammond appears unmoved. His comments so far suggest the Budget will offer more of the same: relying on benefits, mortgage subsidies, tweaks to planning rules and increased private-sector construction to improve the affordability of houses to buy. Like previous attempts, it looks doomed to fail.

Hart squanders £110K on doomed Grove Farm appeal

Grove Farm Appeal - Netherhouse Copse Site Layout

£110K squandered on Netherhouse Copse – Grove Farm  appeal

It has come to light that Hart spent nearly £110,000 on lawyers and consultants in the course of defending the doomed Grove Farm appeal.

Regular readers may remember that the council failed to answer our questions about this at the last council meeting. However, a recent FOI request from a concerned resident has finally turned up some answers.

In total the council spent £109,858.59 on external legal and consultant costs. Astonishingly, Hart Council does not seem to track the time spent by its own staff on such matters and can’t tell us the costs incurred by internal officers. The good news is that it seems the developer did not press to be awarded its own costs of running the appeal.

However, it appears as though the council did not seek an external view on the chances of success of the appeal. We said back in December 2016 that the failure to determine the application would lead to an appeal and that Hart would likely lose the appeal.

£110,000 represents about 1% of Hart’s spending budget, and they are strapped for cash. Even though we oppose the Grove Farm development, we don’t think the council should be wasting money trying to fight lost causes.

Full FOI request on Grove Farm appeal costs

The full questions and answers (in red) are shown below:

Can you please set out the cost of defending the appeal including:

a) External legal and consultant costs: The Council holds the information that you seek. The costs were £109,858.59. 

b) Internal time costs of officers. The Council does not hold the information that you seek. 

c) Any potential loss of New Homes Bonus. The Council does not hold the information that you seek.

d) Lost time on the Local Plan due to resources being diverted to defend the appeal. The Council does not hold the information that you seek.

e) Appellant costs. The Council does not hold the information that you seek 

Did the council receive legal advice on the chances of success in defending the appeal?  The Council does not hold the information that you seek 
a) What, in summary, did the advice say? The Council does not hold the information that you seek. 

b) Will you make the advice public? The Council does not hold the information that you seek 

c) Was the provider of this legal advice the same organisation that helped
defend the appeal? The Council does not hold the information that you seek

d) How much did the advice cost? The Council does not hold the information that you seek 

 

Hart Corporate Plan Consultation – please respond

Hart Corporate Plan: Liberal Democrats David Dave Neighbour in the pocket of Community Campaign Hart James Radley

Hart Corporate Plan: Liberal Democrats in the pocket of Community Campaign Hart

A consultation has been launched on the latest iteration of the Hart Corporate Plan. Whilst this contains some welcome initiatives, there are other developments that are of significant concern.

We rask that you respond to the consultation that can be found here. The deadline is 4pm on 31st October 2017. We suggest you make the following comments:

  1. Communities. Restore the plan to create a Hart-controlled trading company to deliver much needed social housing to the district.
  2. Communities. Drop the idea of delivering more houses than identified in the SHMA, and follow the new Government housing target of 6,132 instead.
  3. Communities: Focus infrastructure spending on the areas most in need: roads, education and healthcare provision. Adopt a Local Plan that minimises the infrastructure funding gap.
  4. Local Economy. Drop the idea to obstruct brownfield development by using Hart controlled SANG to restrict redevelopment of brownfield sites.
  5. Local EconomyRestore the focus on urban regeneration, by appointing a cabinet member with specific responsibility for this area.

Community Campaign Hart dominate Hart Corporate Plan

Anybody who has been to the last two council meetings cannot have failed to notice the domination of Community Campaign Hart (CCH). This is evidenced by:

  1. Council leader passing furtive glances to CCH deputy leader as he answers questions from members.
  2. CCH leader passing notes on how to answer questions to the head of the Planning portfolio.
  3. Submissive body language from Lib Dem cabinet members towards CCH members.

This shows that the changes to the Corporate Plan have been driven by the CCH dominance of the coalition administration.

In particular, the policies to restrict brownfield development, drop the housing trading company and remove the focus on urban regeneration will impact Liberal Democrat voting areas such as Blackwater and Ancells Farm, where they hold both District and County seats.

The Lib Dems should reassert their position and start fighting for policies that will help the areas that vote for them.

Local Plan Consultation responses to be published 6 November

Local Plan consultation responses are still being hidden by Hart Council

Local Plan consultation responses are still being hidden by Hart Council

The recent Local Plan consultation responses were being hidden by Hart Council. However, thanks to questions at Thursday’s Council meeting and pressure from an open Freedom of Information request, the results will now be published. Hart Council cabinet member, Graham Cockarill announced that the consultation comments will be released on 6 November 2017.

Local Plan Consultation Responses History

The consultation on the draft Local Plan completed on 9 June 2017. The pro-forma response form said:

All valid comments (electronic or written) and the name(s) of the respondent will be made publically (sic) available. Personal contact details will remain confidential.

In answer to a question made at the council meeting held on 29 June asking when the consultation comments would be made public, the answer was:

We hope to be able to publish this information in the next couple of months

One of Hart’s own Code of Corporate Governance principles calls for “Ensuring openness and comprehensive stakeholder engagement”. More than four months have now elapsed since the close of the consultation, and the consultation responses have not yet been published.

Hart’s website says:
It is our intention to publish all the responses received when we publish a Pre-Submission Local Plan for comments in Winter 2017.
 Hart Council to publish Local Plan Consultation responsesHowever, at September Cabinet, they said that the next round of consultation would not start until January 2018:
It was confirmed that the next stage on the Reg 19 consultation is expected to start in January
We have now submitted a Freedom of Information request to get these comments out in the public domain. The deadline they have set themselves for response is 16 November 2017.
Let’s see if they now stick by their commitments.

 

Hart don’t know cost of Grove Farm appeal

Hart Council knows nothing about Grove Farm Appeal

Hart Council knows nothing about Grove Farm Appeal

Hart Council have admitted they don’t know the cost of the Grove Farm appeal. They don’t know how much they spent on lawyers and consultants. They don’t cost the internal time costs of Hart Officers. Thankfully, there won’t be any loss of New Homes Bonus and the inspector did not award appellant costs against Hart.

Hart Council is very short of money, and the costs of this appeal must represent a significant proportion of Hart’s spending budget of £9m this year (see budget book p14). It is scandalous that they have no ability to track the costs of such large expenditures.

We warned back in December 2016 that the failure to determine the application would lead to an appeal and that Hart would likely lose the appeal.

It is still highly likely the developers will appeal the decision anyway because the officers recommended approval. Realistically, it is likely Hart would lose the appeal.

Apparently, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee won’t be looking into the decision to defend the Grove Farm appeal. Councillors apparently have no plans to forgo any of their allowance to help replenish public funds.

More worrying, Hart have no plan to avoid being a sitting duck in planning appeals between now and when the Local Plan is finally adopted.

Full questions and answers about Grove Farm appeal

Here is our list of questions and our recollection of the answers in red received at Council on Thursday (answers to be updated when the minutes are published):

Q1: It is of course a highly regrettable that the Grove Farm planning application was granted at appeal. However, given that officers recommended that planning permission be granted and the planning committee failed to make a determination on time, it is not unexpected that the appeal was allowed. Can you please set out the cost of defending the appeal including:

  1. External legal and consultant costs. A lot of words that amounted to “Don’t know”.
  2. Internal time costs of officers. Don’t identify internal costs.
  3. Any potential loss of New Homes Bonus. £0.
  4. Lost time on the Local Plan due to resources being diverted to defend the appeal. Don’t know.
  5. Appellant costs. £0.

Q2: Did the council receive legal advice on the chances of success in defending the appeal? In accordance with the Hart Code of Conduct objectives for openness and transparency, can you answer the following:

  1. What, in summary, did the advice say?
  2. Will you make the advice public?
  3. Was the provider of this legal advice the same organisation that helped defend the appeal?
  4. How much did the advice cost?

Answer: It’s a planning matter so we didn’t take legal advice on the chances of success

Q3: A recent joint Chief Executive statement said “In terms of the impact for planning across the District this appeal decision tells us little that is new.  The Inspector used the same reasons that had previously been used by the Inspector at Moulsham Lane”. In accordance with the Code of Conduct statements about “Managing risks and performance through robust internal control and strong public financial management”, will the Overview and Scrutiny Committee be examining the decision to defend the Grove Farm appeal and making recommendations to avoid future waste of public funds?

Answer: Overview and Scrutiny only examine decisions from the Executive, not of committees, so no.

Supplementary: Will councillors and officers who made the decision to proceed with the appeal forego all or part of their allowance or bonus to show solidarity with hard pressed council taxpayers by helping to replenish public funds? No.

Q4: Given the saved policies have been ruled to be out of date twice now, what steps can the council take to avoid becoming a sitting duck in future planning decisions and appeals in advance of the Local Plan being adopted? Lots of words that amounted to “None”.

Application for 700 houses at Owens Farm west Hook

Planning application submitted for 700 houses at Owens Farm west Hook 17/02317/OUT

Planning application submitted for 700 houses at Owens Farm west Hook

A planning application has been submitted for 700 new houses at Owens Farm west of Hook. This follows on from the consultation we discussed back in July. It appears as though the developer, Wilbur Developments Limited is taking advantage of Hart not having a Local Plan.

Since the appeal decision granting permission at Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse), Hart is effectively a sitting duck. Hart’s saved policies were ruled to be out of date and its five-year land supply was judged to be irrelevant.

The planning application, with reference 17/02317/OUT, is for an urban extension of 700 dwellings on Owens Farm, on the western edge of Hook. There’s over 140 documents to wade through.

This site did not figure in the draft Local Plan consultation. We don’t need it to even to meet Hart’s ridiculous 10,185 housing target. And we certainly don’t need it to meet the Government’s new target of 6,132 for Hart District.

Obviously, Hook residents are hopping mad with the proposals, with one resident describing the proposals as follows:

Owens Farm west Hook consultee comment 17/02317/OUT

Owens Farm west Hook consultee comment

How to object to Owens Farm West Hook

Please lodge you objections to these unnecessary proposals here.

You might like to join Hook Action against Over Development, whose website can be found here and their Facebook page is here.

 

 

 

Grove Farm decision makes Hart Council a sitting duck

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) decision makes Hart Council a sitting duck

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) decision makes Hart Council a sitting duck

Hart Council is a sitting duck after the planning inspector decided to grant planning permission for 423 new houses at Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse). The inspector demolished the main pillars of the council’s argument against the development (See below):

  1. The inspector found that the main policies it used to defend the appeal were out of date
  2. Hart’s claim to have a five-year land supply was essentially ruled to be irrelevant

The impact of this is that it opens the way for developers to make even more planning applications. It will also embolden developers to appeal where the council doesn’t take decisions on time or turns down planning applications.

This makes it imperative that the Local Plan and associated policies are put in place ASAP. Sadly, the precedent is not good because Hart has missed every deadline it has set itself over the past few years. It is now four months since the consultation into the draft Local Plan. The consultee comments haven’t even been published. Of course, we have no idea how the Council will respond to the comments. Nor do we have any idea how they will respond to Government consultation that will reduce our housing target by around 4,000 houses.

Detailed findings from the Inspector that make Hart Council a sitting duck

The decision rested on a number criteria. The inspector found it to be very significant that most of the policies that the council relied upon for its defence were out of date:

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Out of date policies make Hart Council a sitting duck

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Out of date policies make Hart Council a sitting duck

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Out of date policies make Hart Council a sitting duck

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Out of date policies make Hart Council a sitting duck

Second, the inspector didn’t determine one way or the other whether the council has a five year land supply. Essentially, the five year land supply is irrelevant.

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Housing Supply Irrelevant and makes Hart Council a sitting duck

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Housing Supply Irrelevant and makes Hart Council a sitting duck

 

Hart keeps 10,185 housing target

Hart keeps 10,185 housing target

Hart keeps 10,185 housing target

At Thursday’s council meeting it became clear that Hart Council is keeping the 10,185 housing target for now. We asked a number of questions (see below) about the new Government consultation which reduces Hart’s housing target to 292 dwellings per annum, compared to the 485 dpa  in the draft Local Plan.

The basic answer from the council was that so far, this is just a consultation, so they are sticking with the ridiculous housing target. However, they didn’t give any indication that they were going to consider the lower target even as an option. We think this is a dereliction of duty.

Impact of new housing need methodology on Hart Local Plan

Impact of new methodology on Hart Local Plan

We are disappointed that this approach keeps our sensitive large green field sites at risk of inappropriate development. Sites remaining at risk include Murrell Green, Winchfield, Rye Common and Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase).

Local Plan Update

There is still no sign of the 1,200 responses to the Local Plan consultation being published. We were led to believe at Cabinet these would be shown to councillors at last week’s LPSG and published shortly afterwards. It is now nearly four months since the consultation completed, so there can be no excuses.

Hart News Local Plan update

Hart News Local Plan update

 

 

Questions to HDC 28 September 2017 about Hart Housing Target

Q1: Recently the Government launched a consultation on a new method for calculating housing need. If this new approach was adopted Hart’s target building rate would fall to 292 dwellings per annum, compared to 382 in the SHMA and 485 in the draft Local Plan. How does HDC plan to respond to this consultation?

A: There could be benefits to having a standard approach to assessing the need for housing, but
a formula drawn up by the Government can never fully understand the complexity and
unique needs of local housing markets, which vary significantly from place to place. It is
crucial that councils and communities can lead new development in their areas.

The consultation runs until the beginning of November and we shall use that time to assess
the robustness of the government’s draft proposals to understand how it would meet all our
housing needs such as the need locally to deliver affordable homes for example. We intend
also to work with out Housing Market Area Partners and with other partners, such as the
District Council Network and the Local Government Association, to formulate our
response to the consultation.

Supplementary: Will you make the consultation response public, and if so, when?

A: We will endeavour to put as much in the public domain as soon as possible.

Q2: The same consultation (Table 1 and Para 54) indicates that councils with no Local Plan should start to use the new methodology immediately. What steps have the Council taken, and what steps will you take to adopt this new method and when?

A: The point about using the methodology immediately is not strictly true. The Government’s
paper is a consultation only on a possible standardised methodology. Clearly one cannot
prejudge the use of a possible methodology prior to the end of the consultation whilst also
speculating on the outcome. In any event, the consultation makes it clear that only if
adopted, the new methodology will only take effect for Local Plans submitted either after
1 April or when the new revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is published
(whichever is the later). It would clearly therefore be premature at such an early time to
start to speculate wildly about the possible use of an methodology that has not yet even
been agreed.

Q3: Both Rushmoor and Surrey Heath have also seen their housing targets reduced by the new methodology by 142 and 30 dpa respectively. Rushmoor have already said they will accommodate their original, higher figure. Will Hart still need to consider building additional houses for Surrey Heath?

Significant reduction in Hart Housing need

Government Housing Need Consultation results in reductions for Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath

A: The Governments’ paper is a consultation and consultation only – one should not speculate
about the outcome. It would therefore, be totally unwise to start to speculate about how
our market area partners would react to the consultation and what that may mean for
future unmet housing needs particularly as Surrey Heath is already well behind in meeting its
current needs.

Q4: The consultation says (Para 46) that Inspector should work on the assumption that the approach to calculating housing need is sound, if the plan calls for more houses than the standard method would provide. What does HDC now consider to be the most appropriate housing target to plan for in the Local Plan?

New Government housing methodology - impact on planning inspectors

New Government housing methodology – impact on planning inspectors

A: The current arrangements for calculating housing need remain in place until such time as the
methodology for calculating housing need is changed by the Government. The objectively
assessed housing need for Hart remains at 382 new homes/annum but we agree with the
previous administration that an affordable housing uplift is essential and that we should be
planning to deliver at least 485 new homes/annum.

Supplementary: The total of the Government housing targets for each planning authority amounts to ~266,000 dpa, in line with national needs identified in ONS figures. In the draft Local Plan, Hart is planning for more than twice the demographic requirement in the local ONS numbers. If this was repeated across the country, it would result in over 500,000 dpa, so what justification is there for keeping Hart’s planning target at 485 dpa, given that the new 292 dpa target already includes an affordable housing uplift to the base demographic requirement?

A: Not all districts are the same and we are not starting from the same point, This
consultation ends in November, with the results not available until the new year, and we
need to progress our local plan process rather than waiting for these consultation results. If
you need more detail please get in touch with me and I will try to help.

Hart misses another Local Plan deadline

Hart District Council Logo

Hart misses another Local Plan deadline

Hart Council has missed another Local Plan deadline. According to reports we have heard of Thursday’s Local Plan Steering Group (LPSG) Meeting, there was no discussion of the results of the recent Local Plan consultation.

Apparently the responses were still being analysed. At the 7th September Cabinet meeting, we were led to believe the consultation responses would be discussed at the LPSG and published shortly thereafter. This continues the trend of Hart Council missing every deadline it sets itself.

This means the Council has missed another self-imposed deadline which puts at risk the overall timetable for the Local Plan. The Regulation 19 consultation is due to start in January 2018.

Previously, councils were threatened with having their housing need determined for them if the Local Plan is not in place on time. However, as we reported here, this threat is now lower for Hart. The new Government consultation results in much lower housing need for Hart at 6,132 over the plan period. This compares to the SHMA at 8,022 and the draft Local Plan at 10,185.

It isn’t clear whether prior Government threats to withhold the New Homes Bonus if councils don’t get their act together are still in force.

However, having out of date policies and no Local Plan means Hart is at the mercy of speculative applications from developers.

 

Hart major planning site update

Hart Major Planning Site: Hartland Park (Pyestock) Master Plan

Hart major planning site: Hartland Park (Pyestock) Master Plan

This post will provide a Hart major planning sites update. We will cover:

  • Hartland Park (Pyestock)
  • Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase)
  • Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse), Fleet
  • Cross Farm

Hart Major Planning Site: Hartland Park (Pyestock)

The first Hart major planning site is Hartland Park. This is the site of former Pyestock National Gas Turbine Establishment. Hart Council’s planning committee has agreed to the principle of building up to 1,500 new homes on this brownfield site.

Hart Major Planning Site: Hartland Village

Hart Major Planning Site: Hartland Village

The decision is subject to a number of conditions:

  • Hampshire County Council withdrawing its highway objection.
  • Confirmation of viability issues associated with affordable housing.
  • Securing appropriate SANG land.
  • Further consideration by the Major Sites Sub-Committee.

Our views on Hartland Park

We agree with this decision in principle, but echo the council’s concern about a number of items:

  • The developer is proposing only 20% Affordable Housing. We would like to see more affordable housing and especially some social housing for those who can’t rent and can’t buy.
  • We are concerned about the road network and therefore think Kennels Lane should be upgraded to provide a relief road around the site
  • There should be a proper cycle/walking route installed to provide easy access to Fleet station.

We will continue to monitor this development.

Full documents on Hart’s planning site can be found here.

Hart Major Planning Site: Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase)

Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) planning application dates

Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) planning application dates

Second up is Pale Lane aka Elvetham Chase. This is an application for 700 new houses near Pale Lane, between Elvetham Heath, the railway and the M3. The controversial planning application was submitted for this site back in November 2016. The deadline for determination passed months ago, but it seems as though the agreed date for determination was changed to September 15 2017 by agreement with the developer. Sadly, no decision has been forthcoming because the site wasn’t even considered at the planning meeting held on 13 September.

There is therefore a risk that the developer will launch a “Non-Determination” appeal just like those that were launched for Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) and Cross Farm.

Consequently, we are concerned that the council seems to be missing the deadlines for these major applications.

Full documents on Hart’s planning site can be found here.

Hart Major Planning Site: Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse)

[Update] This site has been approved for development by the planning inspector [/Update] The third Hart major planning site is Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse). This is an application for 423 new houses on the site off Hitches Lane in Fleet. The appeal for this site was heard back in July. The Planning Inspectorate had published a document on its website saying the appeal decision would be made public on September 15 2017.

Hart Major Planning Site: Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse), Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire Appeal Dates

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Appeal Dates

Sadly, this deadline has not been met. We Heart Hart understands the decision will now be made on or before October 6 2017, although the website is now ambiguous.

Full documents on Hart’s planning site can be found here.

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Appeal

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Appeal

We can live in hope that the Government’s announcement on the new housing need methodology will influence the decision in a positive way.

Hart Major Planning Site: Cross Farm

[Update] The appeal and planning application have been withdrawn] Finally, we have Cross Farm. This is an application for a 160-unit care village in Crookham Village. This was supposed to be determined a few months ago. The council failed to make a decision on time and the developer launched an appeal. The council did say it would fight the appeal, going against it’s own draft local plan.

Hart Major Planning Site: Cross Farm Appeal withdrawn

Cross Farm Appeal withdrawn

However, it now appears as though the appeal has been withdrawn, so it isn’t clear whether the site will be in the next version of the Local Plan or not.

Full documents on Hart’s planning site can be found here.

Conclusion

All in all this is mixed news for the Hart major planning sites. First of all, we are pleased Hartland Village has passed one of the planning hurdles. Yet, we are concerned about the lack of decision on Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase). It is frustrating that no decision has been made in the Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) appeal. Finally, the Cross Farm application seems to be in limbo, with no formal decision by the Council and the withdrawn appeal.

We do hope that the three green field sites are dropped as a result of Hart’s housing ‘need’ being reduced due to the new Government methodology.