Fleet regeneration is feasible without taxpayer funding

Fleet Regeneration: Hart Shopping Centre Design Study

Fleet Regeneration: Hart Shopping Centre Design Study

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

Benefits of Fleet Regeneration

The benefits of the proposed scheme are as follows:

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

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

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

Background to Fleet Regeneration Proposals

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

Next steps for Fleet Regeneration

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

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

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

Rural Hart Association email to supporters about Fleet Regeneration

Dear Supporters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tristram Cary
Chairman Rural Hart Association

Hart CEO breaches Government guidance on housing need

Hart CEO muddies the waters on housing need

Hart CEO persists with inflated housing requirement despite breaching Government guidance

In an email to councillors, the joint-CEO of Hart Council has made a desperate attempt to justify the Council’s inflated housing requirement in the Local Plan. This justification breaks Government guidance on when to build more than indicated by the standard method.

This comes after the release of ONS figures showing reduced household growth in Hart. By our calculations, we already have sufficient housing supply to 20141 and beyond without an unnecessary 5,000 house new town at Winchfield/Murrell Green.

In summary, he uses bluster, imaginary new ONS releases, unstarted Government consultations and dodgy logic to try to justify why the housing requirement will go up, when in fact the ONS figures show it is going down.

We are in the ridiculous position of the council arguing that we should keep an inflated housing requirement and build far more than we need to.

Inflated housing requirement breaches Government guidance

This is against Government guidance on when to plan for more housing than the standard method.

When to build more than the standard method

When to build more than the standard method

  1. There is no funding in place to promote growth. No part of Hart is identified by the M3 LEP as a growth area that will attract investment
  2. There are no strategic infrastructure improvements planned. In fact Hart has a massive infrastructure funding deficit. Extra houses will make this worse.
  3. Rushmoor is already planning for far more houses than it needs. The new ONS projections mean Surrey Heath can meet its own needs in full.

So, Hart meets none of the criteria to justify building more than the standard method says.

However, the council is breaking with this guidance and planning to build even more houses in the new town. They are proposing to spend £1.5m of public money to press on with it anyway.

Below we reproduce the email in full, together with our comments in red.

Hart CEO email to councillors

Dear Councillors, last night we received questions about the implications for the local plan and the assessment of Hart’s housing needs following the sharp fall in household projections as reflected in recently published Office of National Statistic (ONS) projections on 20th September 2018.  The household projection data is a key input into the new standard method of assessing housing need, and the new figures have prompted dramatic drops in many councils’ housing need figures when factored into the standard method.

Graham Cockarill pointed out that this was of concern to the Government and that the Government had delayed the use of the new methodology for calculating housing need because the revised projections undermined the Government’s objective to boost significantly the supply of new homes through building 300,000 new homes per annum.

The Government has issued guidance on how to calculate housing need in this period. This says that although the new standard method is not mandatory, any deviation will be closely scrutinised

Planning guidance use of standard method to calculate housing need

Planning guidance use of standard method to calculate housing need

But it has emerged today that the ONS plans to publish a different version of its figures on 3 December.

Yes, but this new version apparently just puts more detail on the figures released on 20 September 2018, by breaking out the household projections by housing type. There is no suggestion that the overall figures will change.

ONS Household type projections December 2018

ONS Household type projections December 2018

The ONS is also planning to publish a set of variant based household projections in which household formation rates for younger adults (those aged 25 to 44 years) are higher.

They may well be, but we can find no evidence of this in the ONS’ schedule of upcoming releases up to 31 December 2019. If this is going to arrive, then it is beyond the timing of the Local Plan examination and thus cannot be considered.

The ONS’s willingness to publish “variant” projections reflects its acknowledgement of concerns about the new approach taken to drawing up the 2016-based figures. Unlike the 2014-based projections, which drew on data from as far back as the 1971 census, the 2016-based figures were compiled with statistics that only go back to 2001. Critics have said that the new projections thus ‘bake in’ the adverse consequences for household formation of housing under-delivery  in this century.

“Experts” have been predicting that the average household size would continue to fall in line with the experience of earlier decades. However,  the 2011 census showed that this trend had come to an end.  Actual behaviour stubbornly refused to comply with expert opinion. The ONS’ own analysis of its new numbers still shows a reduction in average household size out to 2039. However, the rate of reduction in the newer 2016-based figures is slower than the 2014-based projections. We believe that part of this is down to social change – people are getting married later than in the 1960’s and 1970’s. THe increase in house prices may have played a part, but we already know from Ian Mulheirn’s analysis that building more won’t reduce prices. Prices are mostly driven by ultra-low interest rates.

ONS impact of 2016-based projections on household size

ONS impact of 2016-based projections on household size

In its methodology document, the ONS acknowledges those complaints. It says some respondents to its consultation on the new method thought that using data from only the 2001 and 2011 censuses would be “insufficient”. It says that: “There was a view that only using the 2001 and 2011 censuses would result in a downward trend in household formation for the younger age groups, which in turn would downplay the need for housing for younger people”.

OK. So what. It seems the ONS disagrees with this view, or it wouldn’t have continued with the method it has adopted.

The government has already said that it will consult on adjustments to the way housing need is calculated so it is consistent with delivering 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s and that it will do this “as soon as possible”.

The Government may well have said that, but the consultation has not been launched. In effect, the Government has set a ‘top-down’ target of 300,000 houses per annum. Now the detailed bottom-up work has shown this to be far more than we need, it is trying to find a way of fudging the numbers to arrive back at the number it first thought of. It is inconceivable that such a consultation can be launched, completed and the results analysed before the Hart Local Plan is examined. This might be a risk to the housing target we eventually adopt. However, surely the way to mitigate this risk is to demonstrate flexibility of supply, rather than increase the target. We have already shown that Hart has sufficient supply out to 2041 and beyond, without the unnecessary new town.

In effect therefore, the Government is not running with the current 2016 household projections for use with the standard methodology and as Cllr Cockarill highlighted, the Government’s objective is to boost the supply of new homes and wants to put in a methodology that does exactly that.

This is, at best, a disingenuous statement. The current Government guidance says the national household projections should be used. It isn’t clear which version should be used, but surely it makes most sense to use the most up to date figures.

Planning guidance setting the baseline using national household growth projections

Planning guidance setting the baseline using national household growth projections

The worked examples in the Government guidance are a bit ambiguous. We believe that using the new Government standard method is either:

Hart Household change 2018-2028

Hart Household change 2018-2028

a) 212 * (1+0.4) = 297 dwellings per annum using the capped 40% affordability uplift, or worst case

b) 212 *(1+0.5) = 318 dwellings per annum

Hart Housing Numbers

This compares to the 388dpa used in the Local Plan.

I think we can safely read into this that it means that the overall number of homes to be built is likely to go up rather than down.

There is no justification for this statement. There is already at least 70dpa headroom (or over 1,120 houses in the plan period) between the Government standard method and the Hart Local Plan. And even this elevated housing target does not require the proposed new town to be built. In any event, the best mitigtion for this is to demonstrate flexibility in supply

That was exactly why we included a buffer in our housing needs and until we see what they new “variant”  projections look like it is not wise to make any assumptions about not having to meet our neighbour potential unmet housing need.

The new household projections mean that Surrey Heath can meet its own need. Rushmoor is already planning for far more houses than it needs to build.

We now have the ridiculous situation of the council arguing to keep an inflated housing requirement and build more houses than we need so it can somehow justify keeping the unnecessary new town in the Local Plan.

 

Hart to squander nearly £1.5m on new town planning

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

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

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

The figures are buried in Appendix 4 of the document.

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

Hart to squander nearly £1.5m on new town planning

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

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

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

Why a new settlement debunked predetermination

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

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

 

 

Hart Council auditions for La La Land

Hart Council auditions for La La Land

Hart Council auditions for La La Land

Hart Council has made a quite extraordinary response to a question about the housing projections used in the Local Plan. This was made in answer to a question put to the Council Meeting held on 29 September 2018.

The council has contradicted its own chosen method for calculating housing need that was used in the submission version of the Local Plan. It has also contradicted its own Topic Paper on housing numbers published as recently as August 2018. It is suggesting we will be examined on the old ‘SHMA method’, rather than the new standard method for calculating housing need set out by the Government. Yet, Hart Council used the standard method to prepare the Local Plan and in its recent Topic Paper on housing numbers. It beggars belief that Hart Council doesn’t have a consistent position on such a key issue.

However, regardless of the method used to calculate housing need, the Winchfield New Town is not required.

Here is the question, the council’s answer and our response.

Question to Hart Council

For the first time, on 20 September, the Office for National Statistics produced household projections for England, a report previously compiled by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. These latest projections supersede the 2014-based household projections. The projected percentage change in the number of households for Hart, from 2016 to 2041 is 12.4%, a change of 4615 households. What impact will this projection have on the Local Plan at the Examination in November?

Hart Council Answer

Apologies for the style of English, but this is verbatim from the minutes.

The simple answer is it will have no effect at all for two separate reasons: Firstly, under the new NPPF transitional arrangements (para 214) we are primarily being examined under the old NPPF 2012 rules which in effect means that we are being examined under the 2016 Hart/Rushmoor/Surrey Heath SHMA (Strategic Housing Market Area Assessment) and not the Government’s new standard methodology. Taking the SHMA into account the new 2016 population figures, when considering employment uplifts (as recognised in the recent Rushmoor Local Plan examination) our objectively assessed housing need of 388 dwellings/annum is not materially changed.

Secondly, whilst we will be arguing that the Government’s new standard methodology is a material consideration, as everyone knows the Government has decided not at this time that it is not [we don’t know if this is an intentional double negative either -ed] to be used for Local Plan purposes. That is because the Government has realised that it does not significantly boost the supply of new homes as sought by para 59 of the new NPPF.

In the housing white paper the government was clear that reforms set out (which included the introduction of a standard method for assessing housing need) should lead to more homes being built. As the Government itself now realises, the revised 2016 projections are likely to result in the minimum need numbers generated by the method being subject to a significant reduction. That was not the Government’s intention.

In order to ensure that the outputs associated with the method are consistent with this, the Government is now considering adjusting the method so that it’s use is consistent in aggregate with the proposals in Planning for the right homes in the right places consultation and continues to be consistent with ensuring that 300,000 homes are built per year by the mid-2020s.

That means that any housing numbers generated by the use of the standard methodology must go up and given the implications of the reliance on the 2016 population projections the numbers must go up significantly. That’s is exactly why the Council has been prudent in building in a 30% buffer in its housing needs targets to give itself some insurance against these unforeseen changes.

Our response to Hart Council

First, it is wrong to say “we are primarily being examined under the old NPPF 2012 rules”.  This is borne out by the Inspector’s own assessment of the key issues.

Hart Local Plan Examination Matter 3 - Housing Need and Requirement

Hart Local Plan Examination Matter 3 – Housing Need and Requirement

This clearly states that one of the key issues is to decide the basis on which the Local Plan will be examined. That question has not yet been decided by the Inspector. Moreover, the Inspector is going to challenge the uplift the Council has made to the standard method.

Indeed, Hart decided to use the standard method to create the Local Plan in the first place. Notably, the council has also doubled down on this stance in its recent Topic Paper on Housing Numbers.

Hart Council Housing Numbers Topic Paper - Choosing the standard method

Hart Council Housing Numbers Topic Paper – Choosing the standard method

Hart Council has explicitly ruled out using the old SHMA method of calculating housing need after taking advice from experts IPe Intelligent Plans and Examinations. It is quite astonishing that the Council should effectively contradict itself on such an important matter.

It is worth making two additional points:

  1. The SHMA itself can be subject to challenge, not least because it makes a number of spurious assumptions to justify increasing the ‘need’ above the raw population increase.
  2.  The SHMA numbers are very similar (382 dwellings per annum) to the figures in the Local Plan. These numbers would fall slightly if the starting point was updated to take account of the new ONS household projections. The Winchfield new town would still not be required even if the Inspector decide to use the SHMA figures.

Fleet Parish Poll to Save Gurkha Square

Fleet Parish Poll to Save Gurkha Square

Fleet Parish Poll to Save Gurkha Square

Fleet Town Council (FTC) have reluctantly agreed to hold a Fleet Parish Poll to decide whether the new Harlington should be built on Gurkha Square.

We urge eligible voters to vote “No” to the question:

“Do you support the Fleet Town Council proposal to build a new Harlington complex on Gurkha Square?”

Our reasons are:

  • The costs are astronomical. The latest costs are estimated at over £11m, that will be paid back by Fleet residents for 45 years. Longer, if as is usual with projects like this and the costs overrun. We don’t think the finances add up, as described here.
  • Hart residents will lose valuable parking revenue from the existing car park. No alternative car parking arrangements have been agreed.
  • We don’t yet know what assets FTC will have to hand over to recompense Hart for loss of the car park.
  • There are better ways of spending taxpayers money to kick-start the regeneration of Fleet.
  • We also don’t like that fact that Hart residents are not being asked if they would like to give up the Gurkha Square asset, and don’t know what assets they will receive in return.

Fleet residents can vote between the hours of 16:00 to 21:00 on Thursday 13th September at the following polling stations:

  • Ancells Farm Community Center, 1 Falkners Close, Ancells Farm.
  • Church Crookham Baptist Church, 64 Basingbourne Road, Fleet
  • The Harlington Polling Station, Fleet Road
  • St. Philip & St. James Church Hall, Kings Road, Fleet
  • The Lismoyne Hotel, 45 Church Road, Fleet
  • Hart Leisure Centre, Emerald Avenue (off Hitches Lane).

Polling cards are not required.

Fleet Parish Poll resources

A helpful website about the Fleet Parish Poll has been created by concerned residents, and can be found here.

There’s also a leaflet about the  Fleet Parish Poll that can be downloaded below.

Save Gurkha Square in the Fleet Parish Poll

Please help us to save Gurkha Square.

 

 

 

Hart Local Plan Examination Update

Hart Local Plan Examination

Hart Local Plan Examination Update

It looks like quite a lot has been going on in relation to the Hart Local Plan examination. We have updates on:

  • Timing of the Hart Local Plan examination hearings
  • Early stage procedures for the Hart Local Plan examination
  • National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) applying to the examination
  • Impact on Pale Lane (aka Elvetham Chase) appeal

Timing of the Hart Local Plan Examination hearings

Back in June, Hart Council briefed the Parish Councils about the Hart Local Plan examination. The full briefing can be found on the download below. They set the expectation that the Local Plan examination would start in late September and last 2-3 weeks.

Hart Local Plan Examination Briefing 12 June 2018 - Hearing Sessions

Hart Local Plan Examination Briefing 12 June 2018 – Hearing Sessions

We have been in touch with the Programme Officer, a man called Ian Kemp, who can be contacted here. He tells us that he has:

Provisionally scheduled hearings during the weeks of 19/11 and 3/12.

So, the examination is going to be 2 months later than Hart’s estimate.

Early stage procedures for the Hart Local Plan examination

In the June briefing Hart said that the Planning Inspector would issue a note in mid-July explaining the role of the Programme Officer and the status of any modifications to the Local Plan. This note was also to cover the timetable for submitting additional material and how the hearing sessions would work.

Hart Local Plan Examination Briefing 12 June 2018 - Timetable

Hart Local Plan Examination Briefing 12 June 2018 – Timetable

Ian Kemp tells us that he is:

Required to contact all representors six weeks prior to the start of the Examination to relay the details and arrangements. For the moment, the Inspector is in the early stages of his preparation.

So, it looks like we won’t know more details about how the Examination will be conducted around the beginning of October.

NPPF Framework applying to the Hart Local Plan examination

The revised National Planning Policy Framework has been released recently. Fortunately, it contains clause 214 that says:

Policies in the previous Framework will apply for the purpose of examining plans, where those plans are submitted on or before 24 January 2019.

This means that the Hart Local plan will be examined under the old framework. This might be mixed news. On the plus side, they won’t be examined on policies they didn’t know about when they were preparing the plan. On the negative side, it may well mean that the housing numbers that will apply to the examination will be those in the SHMA (8,022 or 382 dwellings per annum or so over the period 2011-2032), rather than the new figures in the Government consultation.

As a reminder, the Government figures were for 292 dpa, which results in a total of 4,672 over the shorter planning period of 2016-2032. However, Hart decided to increase this to 388dpa over the same period. We suspect the housing numbers will become a big debating point in the examination.

Impact on Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) Appeal

The Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) appeal hearing has been scheduled to being on 8 January 2019. This date in contained in a new schedule published on the planning inspectorate website, that can also be found here.

Pale Lane Appeal details APP/N1730/W/18/3204011

Pale Lane Appeal details APP/N1730/W/18/3204011

On the face of it, this looks like good news as it seems most likely to us that the appeal will not be upheld. Assuming the Local Plan is found to be sound in December 2018, and Pale Lane is not on the list of approved sites, then we cannot see how the inspector can uphold the appeal. However, if the Hart Local Plan examination finds the plan unsound, then Pale Lane may go ahead.

 

Hart Local Plan Submission Briefing

Parish Council demolishes Winchfield new town plan

Figure 6 Winchfield New Town Summary of Key Findings

Winchfield new town area not suitable for large scale development

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

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

Winchfield New Town Expert Evidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 1 Winchfield New Town Area of Search and Context

Figure 1 Winchfield new town Area of Search and Context

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

Figure 2 Winchfield New Town Landscape Capacity Study

Figure 2 Winchfield Landscape Capacity Study

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

Figure 3 Winchfield New Town Key Constraints Designations

Figure 3 Winchfield New Town Key Constraints Designations

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

Figure 4 Winchfield New Town Key Constraints Assessment

Figure 4 Winchfield Key Constraints Assessment

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

Figure 5 Winchfield New Town Key Constraints Composite

Figure 5 Winchfield Key Constraints Composite

 

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

The report and appendix can be downloaded here:

Winchfield Site Appraisal
Winchfield Site Appraisal Appendix

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions about Winchfield New Town

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

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

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

Supplementary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Answer:  The DPD will determine

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

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

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

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

 

 

Hart Local Plan Submission details revealed

Hart Local Plan Submission details

Hart Local Plan Submission Details Revealed

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

The full presentation is available on the download below.

Key points include:

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

2. The documents will include:

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

      • Schedule of minor modifications

      • Sustainability Appraisal

      • Statement of Community Involvement

      • Consultation Statement

      • Duty to Cooperate Statement

      • Copies of the representations

      • Habitats Regs Assessment

      • Evidence base documents

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hart Local Plan Submission Briefing

Elvetham Chase Appeal Documents Revealed

Wates Pale Lane aka Elvetham Chase Appeal

Elvetham Chase Appeal Documents

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

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

The key elements of their statement of case are:

Elvetham Chase Appeal – Policies out of date

Elvetham Chase Appeal Policies out of date

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

Elvetham Chase Appeal – Little impact on Fleet

Elvetham Chase Appeal Policies little impact on Fleet

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

Elvetham Chase Appeal – Local Plan too slow

Elvetham Chase Appeal Policies Local Plan too slow

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

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

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

Elvetham Chase Appeal – Our View

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

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

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

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

Appeal statement of case that can be found here.

Draft statement of common ground that can be found here.