Hart Council holds Shapley Heath Secret Meeting with developers and Homes England

Stop Shapley Heath

Shapley Heath Secret Meeting

It has emerged that Hart Council officers have held a secret meeting about Shapley Heath with Homes England and the developers. The meeting was revealed in a late response to a question put to Graham Cockarill back in November. He didn’t turn up to the meeting, and the promised written answer has only been provided today.

No wonder he didn’t want to answer the question during the General Election campaign.

The question was put by head the head of the Conservative group on the council, Anne Crampton. The response is produced in full below.

Hart District Council holds Shapley Heath secret meeting with developers and Homes England

Hart holds Shapley Heath secret meeting with developers and Homes England

It is astonishing that meetings like this are not minuted. Even more astonishing is that the developers are more involved in the process than elected councillors.

We also asked a question at the same meeting. This was about the climate change impact of building up to 10,000 unnecessary houses. Sadly, the response didn’t really answer the question. But it is clear they are doubling down on investigating Shapley Heath Garden Village.

Cockarill doubles down on Shapley Heath Garden Village madness

Cockarill doubles down on Shapley Heath madness

The full minutes can be found here.

Shapley Heath too expensive for Hart’s finances

Shapley Heath Garden Village too expensive for Hart District Council's finances

Shapley Heath too expensive for Hart’s finances

Hart Council has committed to spending the £150K Government funding it received on Shapley Heath. It has also said that it will seek a further £500K of funding from next years’ budget. By way of context, Hart’s annual spending budget is around £10m. So, this £500K represents about 5% of annual expenditure.

However, Hart’s finances are coming under increasing pressure.

First, they are forecasting an overspend for the current 2019-20 financial year.

Hart District Council FY19-20 129K deficit

Hart District Council FY19-20 129K deficit

Second, the medium term outlook is deteriorating. It was described in a recent Cabinet paper as a “perfect storm of detrimental changes to funding”.

Shapley Heath too expensive for Hart's finances

Hart District Council perfect Storm of detrimental changes to funding

This is caused by a number of issues such as the New Homes bonus being phased out and a reduction in business rates income. They are reliant upon risky and uncertain income from their commercial activities to balance the books from 2021/22.

This is illustrated in the following excerpt from the Cabinet paper:

Shapley Heath Garden Village too expensive for Hart's finances

Shapley Heath too expensive for Hart’s stretched finances

The medium term forecast is reliant upon making more than £500K profit in FY21/22 from commercial activities. This rises to over £1m in the following year.

Hart District Council reliant on commercial income from 2021

Hart District Council reliant on commercial income from 2021/22

Given this backdrop, it is unbelievable that they are planning to spend around £650K on Shapley Heath Garden Village. We have shown how the project is not required. The Inspector said there’s no evidence it’s viable or deliverable. It will drive up the housing target and be made irrelevant by Grazeley. Not to mention the unnecessary 1m tonnes of CO2 that will be emitted during construction. This is a white elephant project that we cannot afford. It must be stopped.

 

Shapley Heath increases housing target

Stop Shapley Heath

Shapley Heath increases housing target

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

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

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

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

Hart District Build Requirements under various scenarios

Hart District Build Requirements under various scenarios

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

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

Shapley Heath Garden Village impact on housing need

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

Nightmare in Winchfield - Shapley Heath Winchfield New Town Housing trajectory

Shapley Heath/Winchfield New Town Housing trajectory

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

Shapley Heath Garden Village Excess Building

Shapley Heath Garden Village Excess Building

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

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

Let’s hold our politicians to their word:

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

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

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

This is another of our posts showing:

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

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

Shapley Heath not required and doubts about deliverability

Stop Shapley Heath

Shapley Heath not required

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

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

Shapley Heath not required

Shapley Heath Garden Village not required

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

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

No evidence Shapley Heath Garden Village is deliverable or viable

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

Shapley Heath not viable or deliverable

No evidence that Shapley Heath is viable or deliverable

At para 18 he said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work programme not addressing the key issues

Work programme not addressing the key issues

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

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

Shapley Heath Garden Village Key constraints Natural.

Shapley Heath Garden Village Key constraints Natural.

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

Shapley Heath Key constraints Physical.

Shapley Heath Garden Village Key constraints Physical

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

Remember what the councillors said when discussing this at Cabinet:

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

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

This is another of our posts showing:

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

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

 

What is Shapley Heath Garden Village?

What is Shapley Heath

What is Shapley Heath Garden Village?

Shapley Heath Garden Village is a proposal to build up to 10,000 new houses in Winchfield and Hook parishes. If built, it would effectively create a single conurbation joining Fleet, Hartley Wintney and Hook. We have termed this abomination Hartley Winchook. It would virtually obliterate Winchfield as we know it. It is worth noting that earlier very similar proposals would result in around 1,850 houses being built in Hook parish.

Below is a map showing how the proposal fits into the local area.

Shapley Heath in Context

Shapley Heath in Context

The new town would start ~650m west of Edenbrook in Fleet. It would extend west to the Crooked Billet in Hook and be bounded to the north by the A30 & M3 near to St Mary’s Park in Hartley Wintney to the north. It stretches south to the Basingstoke Canal SSSI.

This new town was proposed as Policy SS3 in the Hart Local Plan. It was rejected by the Inspector on the grounds that it wasn’t necessary. Hart Council’s bid to the Government for funding to support this proposal included a housing trajectory.

Nightmare in Winchfield - Shapley Heath Winchfield New Town Housing trajectory

Shapley Heath Garden Village/Winchfield New Town Housing trajectory.

Starting in 2023, over the course of the Local Plan period up to 2032, the Garden Village would result in 2,440 unnecessary houses being built.

Scale of Shapley Heath

Scale of Shapley Heath

When completely built out to up to 10,000 houses it would be 5 times the size of Elvetham Heath, ~4 times the size of Hartley Wintney,  around 3 times the size of Hook, and nearly as many houses as Fleet parish.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses

This is the first of our posts showing:

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

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

The Shapley Heath Garden Village Vision Document can be downloaded below.

Shapley Heath Garden Village Vision Document

Shapley Heath Controversy Erupts at Hustings

Shapley Heath controversy: where each NE Hampshire candidate stands.

Shapley Heath controversy: where each NE Hampshire candidate stands.

The Shapley Heath controversy erupted at the recent North East Hampshire hustings. The Basingstoke Gazette covered the story here. In summary, Conservative candidate Ranil Jayawardena opposes the Shapley Heath proposal. He believes that our future housing needs can be met by redeveloping brownfield land and revitalising our urban centres. Liberal Democrat candidate, Graham Cockarill supports the proposal. Indeed in his role as Cabinet member for Place on Hart Council he is the sponsor of the programme. Labour’s Barry Jones admitted he knew little about the proposals but would reluctantly support the plan.

Three candidates were not invited to the hustings. The local Green party confirmed on Twitter that their candidate Culann Walsh opposes the scheme. Independent candidate Tony Durrant also opposes the plan. Monster Raving Loony, Screaming Laud Hope has not yet responded to our question. We have summarised the positions of the candidates in the graphic above.

[Update]: Screaming Laud Hope was interviewed by For Fleet’s Sake and came out against Shapley Heath, so the graphic has been updated. [/Update]

Shapley Heath Controversy – Details of the hustings

Apparently, candidate Cockarill challenged the notion of Shapley Heath being up to 10,000 houses. We were told that Mr Jayawardena brandished the vision document clearly showing the 10,000 ambition in the Vision Document.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses.

Shapley Heath Controversy: Vision Document 10,000 houses

We understand from others at the hustings that candidate Cockarill stated brownfield development was desirable. However, he thought landowners in Fleet aren’t interesting in selling. We know from the work carried out by the Rural Hart Association that the owners of the Hart Shopping Centre are interested in redevelopment. Indeed, they supported the Future High Streets bid (see final letter in the appendices) to regenerate Fleet. Moreover, some of the other prime regeneration sites are owned by either Hart District Council or Hampshire County Council. For instance, much of the Civic Quarter, including the Harlington Centre, plus Victoria Road car park and Church Road car park are in public ownership.

Creative thinking in three dimensions could preserve parking space; deliver better leisure and cultural facilities; housing that people can afford and infrastructure spending. It does seem odd that our local councils prefer to concrete over our green fields, rather than provide better facilities for their residents.

Of course, planning is a local rather than a national matter. However, our MP can ‘set the tone’ for the area; lobby Government to cut off further funding to Shapley Heath; call on Government to provide regeneration investment and vote more generally for brownfield first policies. Many people will of course be more concerned about national matters. Please bear Shapley Heath in mind when casting your vote on December 12th.

Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact

Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact

Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact

In the light of the focus on the environment in the General Election campaign, we thought it would be a good idea to look at the Shapley Heath Climate Change impact.

Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact: Summary

  • 1,000,000 tonnes of CO2 emitted from construction
  • 312,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum from the occupants
  • Loss of pasture carbon sink
  • Damage to SSSIs, Ancient Woodland and heritage

Yet, Hart has agreed the “serious impact of climate change globally” and recognises “the need for urgent action”.  Councillor Graham Cockarill is standing in the General Election as a Liberal Democrat candidate. They say “the UK should be leading the world on tackling the environment crisis”.

Why are they pursuing an unnecessary new town that goes against their own climate change policies?

Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact: CO2 emissions

According to this article in the Guardian, construction of an average 2-bed cottage emits around 80 tonnes of CO2.  The average size of Shapley Heath dwellings is likely to be larger, so let’s assume 100 tonnes of CO2 per dwelling.  The vision and bid documents both suggested the eventual size of Shapley Heath will be 10,000 houses. So, building 10,000 houses will emit around 1,000,000 tonnes of CO2. There will of course be additional emissions from building new roads, supermarkets and office blocks.

These 10,000 houses will house around 24,000 people, and each of them will emit on average ~13 tonnes of CO2 per annum each. So, there will be 312,000 tonnes of CO2 emitted by the occupants of the houses.

Moreover, the existing pasture acts as a carbon sink, so this benefit will be lost too.

Remember, the Hart Local Plan, the Inspector’s report and even the bid document said that Shapley Heath isn’t required to meet our housing targets, so all of these emissions are entirely avoidable.

Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact: Damage to Nature

The area of search contains or borders many important natural sites. These include:

  • Odiham Common SSSI
  • Basingstoke Canal SSSI
  • Numerous ancient woodland sites that are also Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation
Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact - Damage to nature

Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact – Damage to nature

Hart District Council and Lib Dem Climate Change Policies

Back in September, Hart Cabinet decided the following in respect of climate change (our emphasis):

  1. Recognises the serious impact of climate change globally and agrees that there is a need for urgent action; and

  2. Agrees that a cross party Climate Change Member Working Group be established and that the Terms of Reference for that Group as set out in Appendix 1 be agreed in principle; and

  3. That a Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan led by the Member Working  Group be prepared by January 2020 based on Hart District Council becoming a net zero carbon emitter by 2040 at the latest.

Councillor Graham Cockarill is standing in the General Election as a Liberal Democrat candidate. They say:

The UK should be leading the world on tackling the environment crisis. Our planet is on the brink of being irreparably damaged and we are responsible for that damage.

Why are they pursuing an unnecessary new town that goes against their own climate change policies?

CCH defy QC opinion and pass Shapley Heath plan

Lib Dem & CCH cabinet pass Shapley Heath Plan

The CCH members of cabinet defied a QC’s opinion voted to pass the Shapley Heath plan at Cabinet on 7 November. Despite strong opposition from members of the public, NE Hants CPRE and some councillors, the plan was passed unanimously by all members of Cabinet in attendance. Sponsor of the plan, Lib Dem Cabinet member for Place, Graham Cockarill wasn’t there as he is now standing for election to Parliament. The plan proposes to spend the £150K grant from the Government and looks to allocate up to a further £500K from reserves in the next financial year as part of the budget process.

Regular readers may recall CCH had written a letter to Ranil stating that 5,000 houses had been “secured for the next planning period”. The QC’s opinion that said that because this statement was manifestly untrue, that it demonstrated CCH councillors had closed their minds to a proper consideration of Shapley Heath and alternatives. In Andrew Tabachnik QC’s opinion, this amounted to predetermination.

The QC Opinion can be downloaded using the button below:

QC Opinion: CCH Predetermination of Shapley Heath

The Shapley Heath section of the meeting was quite long and stormy at times. The complete videos of the item can be found at the bottom of this article. The key points as we see them with video excerpts are set out below.

Argument about Shapley Heath QC Opinion

The first part of the public engagement started with a statement from the Rural Hart Association (RHA). The full statement is reproduced below:

For some years the Rural Hart Association has been frustrated by what we see as the bias of the Council in pushing for a new settlement near Winchfield without properly analysing the scope for alternative strategies, including urban regeneration.

Our frustration led us last month to commission an opinion from leading counsel about a letter sent to our MP by eleven CCH councillors in July. This letter asserts that “… 5000 more homes [have been] secured for the next planning period through Shapley Heath”. The opinion has been delivered to the Council with this statement, but in summary the QC concludes that:

  1. CCH’s assertion is totally misleading
  2. All CCH councillors must publicly retract their statement and must ensure that their future conduct demonstrates a genuine willingness to consider matters with an open mind
  3. Councillors who are unwilling to retract their statement must recuse themselves from decision-making relating to Shapley Heath

We therefore request that the councillors concerned recuse themselves from discussion and voting on Item 11.

In addition, we expect CCH councillors to take the following steps to comply with the QC’s opinion that they must in future demonstrate a genuine willingness to act with an open mind:

  1. Abandon the current plans which focus exclusively on Shapley Heath

  2. Implement an alternative work plan to examine objectively and impartially all reasonable alternative options to Shapley Heath, in line with the Planning Inspector’s recommendations. This should include brownfield development and urban regeneration.

  3. Undertake in depth work to build a more robust policy to regenerate our urban centres in Fleet, Blackwater, Hook and Yateley.  This work should in particular address policy ED5 (Fleet town centre) to tackle the growing outflow of retail and leisure expenditure from the district caused by under-investment in Fleet. It is essential to develop a new and comprehensive strategy for Fleet along the lines of neighbouring towns like Camberley and Farnham.

  4. Undertake thorough master-planning for the main towns in Hart without which no proper assessment can be made of the true scope of town centre mixed-use regeneration

  5. Meet the two developers who expressed interest in regenerating the Hart Shopping Centre to explore their proposals

  6. Refrain from allocating Hart’s reserve funds to Shapley Heath unless and until it is reinstated into the Local Plan as the result of the necessary comparative assessment work called for by the Inspector.

Here is a video of the statement:

This led to a response to the QC’s opinion from CCH’s James Radley. Astonishingly, he stated that the letter to Ranil was just political rhetoric and implied it shouldn’t be taken at face value. How do we know when he’s just spouting rhetoric and when he really means what he says?

This then led to a row about the validity of the RHA QC’s opinion. The joint chief executive said that HDC had taken legal advice and were convinced that CCH’s actions did not amount to pre-determination.  However, HDC’s advice did not address the key point that CCH had made untrue statements in their letter to Ranil. That was the key point that showed a “closed mind” and hence predetermination. In the end the Cabinet chose to ignore the QC’s opinion and the CCH councillors continued to participate in the debate and voted on the Shapley Heath Plan. According to the QC they should have either retracted or recused themselves. They did neither.

Substantive debate on Shapley Heath Plan

The meat of the public arguments against pursuing this plan now were made by RHA and CPRE NE Hants. RHA made further points setting out clearly that HDC should at least look at the option of urban regeneration.

And CPRE challenged the logic of looking at a new village that would deliver housing over and above what we need to build. Their initial statement can be found here, and their powerful supplementary statement can be seen on the video below:

Sadly, these arguments were ignored by Cabinet and they pressed on regardless. On the plus side, this builds the case that they have closed minds on the matter.

CCH inconsistencies on the Shapley Heath Plan

During the meeting CCH made a series of statements that contradicted what they had previously said. For instance, during the Cabinet meeting, Councillor James “it’s only rhetoric” Radley emphasised that this Shapley Heath plan was very different to the new town presented in the Local Plan.

But in the Shapley Heath Q&A on their Facebook page, they say that the two things are the same. So, which is it?

Q3. Is Shapley Heath the same as the New Settlement that was previously included in Hart’s Local Plan?

A3. Yes, they are the same. Whilst the Local Plan Inspector suggested HDC remove the New Settlement from our LP, this was not because he thought it an inappropriate solution to our future housing needs. Hart were keen to get the LP in place ASAP to avoid anymore developer led applications being successful at appeal. The Inspector recommended removal of the New Settlement to enable the LP to be adopted quickly. The New Settlement, evaluated together with other options for future housing, needed more detailed work and would have delayed the LP, leaving doors open for developers.

Secondly, Councillor Radley said that the Shapley Heath proposal won’t go forward if it is found that it isn’t viable.

However, the Inspector found (in para 33):

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

Winchfield Parish Council’s representations to the Inspector showed there were big issues on land ownership and other significant planning constraints. Moreover, in 2016, the Tory administration had dropped plans for the Winchfield new town due to concerns about flooding and infrastructure costs. Similar plans for a new town were dropped in 2012 after concerns about viability. How many times do they need to look at it and how much of our money do they need to spend before they listen?

It also appears as though CCH can’t make their mind up about the importance of rail infrastructure. Councillor James “it’s only rhetoric” Radley didn’t mention rail as part of his infrastructure shopping list. But then made great play of there being a railway station at Winchfield.

He seemed to be blissfully unaware of the parking chaos at Winchfield station on Thursday.  This was exceptional, but it is by no means unusual for the car park to be full before 8am. Of course prior studies have shown that the railway station may well need to be moved to Murrell Green accommodate a further 5-10,000 houses.

Winchfield Station Parking Chaos

Version Control Shenanigans

At the beginning of the meeting there was considerable confusion about the version of the document they were supposed to be reviewing. The joint Chief Executive insisted that the version they were reviewing had been in the public domain for the requisite 28 days on the “key decision” part of the website. But we downloaded it this morning and found that the document was created in the early afternoon on Thursday, so could not have been available to the public for the required amount of time. In fact, it seems as though multiple versions were available and it isn’t clear how we are supposed to know which one to review. This is just another example of Hart’s incompetence.

This is the video of the exchange:

The full videos of the Shapley Heath discussion can be found on the links below. Thanks to Councillor Steve Forster for making them available on his Facebook page.

Part 1

Part 2.

 

 

 

Shapley Heath Proposal: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Shapley Heath Proposal good bad ugly

Shapley Heath Proposal: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Hart’s O&S committee met on Tuesday night and they recommended amendments to the flawed Shapley Heath Garden Village proposal. It was a long, tempestuous meeting. The discussion below about the recommendations relates to this paper. The main outcomes were:

Shapley Heath Proposal: The Good

Recommendation 4: That the Cabinet approve the Governance structure proposed. It was recommended that the Governance be amended to make reference to the “evaluation phase” only. This is not approving the actual delivery of the “garden community”.

Recommendation 7: That the previously budgeted £785,990 budgeted for the new settlement be returned to reserves. It was recommended to Cabinet that this recommendation continue.

Recommendation 8: That a £500K budget be allocated to the Joint Chief Executive to utilise in relation to the Shapley Heath Garden Village. This was amended to recommend that it is merely noted that an amount up to £500K might be required in the future to support the project.

Shapley Heath Proposal: The Bad

Recommendation 1: That Cabinet notes that HDC is now part of the Garden Communities Programme. This was accepted.

Recommendation 2: That Cabinet approves the exploration of the opportunity to deliver a Garden Community through a place making/place shaping approach. Even though nobody could explain what this meant, the recommendation was accepted.

Recommendation 3: That the Cabinet agrees to move forward with place making/place shaping the Garden Community based on the key principles. There were a number of questions about what this actually meant. But no coherent answers were forthcoming. Nevertheless this recommendation was passed. On the plus side, a new key principle was added to include Land Value capture. If the Garden Village is to go ahead, it will be necessary for the landowners to accept a lower price for their land. It is envisaged that the extra money available to developers will be invested in infrastructure.

Recommendation 5: That Cabinet grants delegated authority to the Garden Community Board to approve terms of reference for other governance tiers. This was amended to only for the initial phase. But it wasn’t clear that the champions of the project knew what the different phases might be, not what they were delivering.

Shapley Heath Proposal: The Ugly

Recommendation 6: That Cabinet approves in principle the initial £155K Garden Community spending plan.  Amazingly, this was passed. However, there is an expectation, that it will be amended to include a more specific plan to describe what is actually going to be delivered. However, it still includes a commitment to spend public money on “Land Value/Equalisation Issues”. This is essentially white-collar welfare for the developers who should be quite capable of working out how to share the spoils of the project without public funding.

During the meeting, the portfolio holder for planning, was adamant that this work on the Garden Community was going on outside of the normal Local Plan and planning process.

A statement was made by Winchfield Parish Council, on behalf of 9 Parish Councils explaining that they believed the Government funding had been made in error. They asked that the programme be suspended until issues they had raised with the Secretary of State had been resolved. Amazingly, there was no debate about this statement.

We made the statement set out below. We set out our view that pursuing the Shapley Heath Garden Village outside of the normal planning process and in contempt of the Inspector’s recommendations to look impartially at other options was unlawful. The Rural Hart Association has raised funds for a proper legal opinion on the matter. We asked that the project be postponed until such legal opinion had been published. Again, there was no debate about this serious matter. However, they did address some of the other points we made.

This is some encouragement from the meeting, but the proposal will still go forward to Cabinet.

A petition to stop the Shapley Heath proposal has been created. Please press the button below and sign and share the petition.

STOP Shapley Heath

Statement to Hart Overview and Scrutiny 17 September 2019 from RHA on the Shapley Heath Proposal

RHA believes that the Garden Community Programme paper represents a gross and deliberate distortion of the Planning Process and an attempt to avoid implementing the recommendations of the Planning Inspector. We do not accept the Council’s argument that SS3 and Shapley Heath Garden Village (SHGV) are two separate things, and we consider that such a view is fatally undermined by the assumption in the Council’s bid for MHCLG funding that SS3 would be approved by the Inspector and form an integral part of the Local Plan.

Furthermore, we are advised that the spending of public funds on the Shapley Heath proposal in defiance of the Inspector’s findings and the Local Plan could be unlawful. We have now secured funding for a legal opinion on this question. Given the serious nature of this matter we request that the O&S committee recommends a postponement of this paper until the legal opinion has been completed and presented to the council.

If you do not decide to make such a recommendation, then there are numerous other detailed points that you should consider as part of your deliberations. The first points relate to the financing of the project.

  1. There are no tangible deliverables associated with £155K funding request as part of Rec 6.
  2. Appendix 3 calls for hiring two extra people without quantifying the full-year impact on future year’s finances. This cannot be in-line with good practice.
  3. Appendix 3 calls for public funds to be used to resolve the private matters of ‘land value/equalisation issues’ between developers and landowners with deep pockets. This is an inappropriate use of public funds.
  4. There are no timescales, tasks, milestones or deliverables associated with the broader £500K request associated with Recommendation 8. It is inappropriate to effectively create a slush fund and grant such wide discretion over such a large sum when you don’t know what you are going to get for it.

We believe you should ask for Recommendations 6 & 8 to be removed or amended to be in line with best practice for use of public funds. The second set of points relates to the scope and objectives of the proposal.

  1. The paper does not mention one of the key Inspector recommendations:

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.

2. The work programme does not envisage any of the work recommended by the Inspector and Para 5.6 explicitly rules out looking at alternative locations. This puts the proposal in contempt of the Inspector’s recommendations and is effectively pre-determination.

3. The final sentence of Para 5.6 is gibberish.

We believe that you should ask for the paper to be amended so that the work programme reflects the recommendations of the Inspector. Finally, there are several issues with the proposed governance arrangements:

  1. It is inappropriate to have such a large and unwieldy governance structure for £155K of spend.
  2. It is inappropriate to have effectively all senior members and officers of the Council on the Board, with a role to “champion delivery”. This leaves no mechanism for effective review and challenge.
  3. The proposed governance structure doesn’t comply with Cabinet decision of Nov 2018 which decided to create a “Parish Stakeholder Advisory Group”.

We believe the governance and Rec 4 should be amended to address these points.

 

 

Proposal for £500K Shapley Heath Slush Fund

Proposal for £500K Shapley Heath Slush Fund

Proposal for £500K Shapley Heath Slush Fund

A paper will be put to Overview and Scrutiny next week, asking for a multi-year £500K Shapley Heath slush fund. It is clear that Hart Council are intending to press ahead with the Shapley Heath/Winchfield new town despite removing it from the Local Plan. This builds upon the £150K of funding recently allocated by the Government.

There are a number of issues with this proposal:

  1. Goes against the recommendations of the Inspector
  2. Trojan horse approach
  3. Flawed Governance
  4. Lax financial control

These points are explored below. The full report to O&S can be found here and more details about the meeting can be found here.

 Shapley Heath Slush Fund goes against the Inspector recommendations

The O&S paper clearly doesn’t follow all of the recommendations of the Planning Inspector. The paper only partially acknowledges the findings of the Inspector.

No mention of Inspector request for more SA work

It doesn’t include mention of one of the key recommendations that said:

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.

The council are clearly not carrying out the wide ranging site assessments, viability testing and SA work and they explicitly rule out considering alternative locations.

No intention to look at alternative locations to Shapley Heath/Winchfield

In addition, the council acknowledges that what they are doing falls outside the normal planning process:

Shapley Heath work outside of planning process

This is simply riding roughshod over the planning process and the Local Plan Examination findings. It is not acceptable.

Shapley Heath Trojan Horse

It is clear that this proposal is a Trojan Horse to be used to push through the unnecessary new town. In the main body of the report they use soft words like “test the Garden Community opportunity as a possible future growth option”. However, the detail of the Terms of Reference for the Garden Community Board shows that they are intending to deliver the Shapley Heath new town.

Shapley Heath Garden Community Board TOR 1 of 2

Shapley Heath Garden Community Board Terms of Reference 2 of 2.

Here are some examples:

  • The Garden Community Board (the Board) will have overall responsibility for steering the delivery of the Garden Community project
  • The Board will champion the Garden Community project and its delivery
  • To champion the Garden Community and its delivery
  • To facilitate and promote joined-up delivery

Flawed Governance

The Garden Community Board is made up of a vast number of people.

Shapley Heath Garden Community Board members

This includes the Cabinet members for “Place” (aka Planning) and Housing; the group leaders of each political party; the joint Chief executive and the chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny. This is substantially all of the senior member of the council and officers. Their role is to “champion the Garden Community and its delivery”.  Apparently nobody has a role to review and challenge what is going on. Somebody should be checking ongoing compliance with the Planning Inspector’s recommendations, planning law and good governance.  This is a recipe for the project to become a self-serving law unto itself, effectively accountable to nobody, because everyone is tasked with “championing delivery”.

Shapley Heath Slush Fund: Lax Financial Control

On the plus side, the paper returns the previously allocated £786K of funding to reserves.  However, the paper calls for “a £500K budget [to be] allocated to the Joint Chief Executive to utilise for expertise and resources to help the Council make informed choices associated with the Garden Community”. In addition, this money is expected to be spent over a number of years.

Multi-year £500K Shapley Heath Slush Fund

Multi-year £500K Shapley Heath Slush Fund

In other words, a multi-year slush fund.  This is particularly egregious in that the paper only identifies £155K of spending requirement at the moment.

Only £155K of the Multi-year £500K Shapley Heath Slush Fund is required.

Only £155K of the Multi-year £500K Shapley Heath Slush Fund is required.

Surely it would be better for money to be allocated when required to produce a specific deliverables. It is far too lax to grant discretionary powers to spend such a large amount of money over many years without knowing what they are going to get for the money.