Local Plan: Brownfield sites protected from redevelopment

Brownfield site at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hampshire. Hart Council protecting from redevelopment.

Brownfield sites protected from redevelopment

The draft Local Plan put forward by Hart Council includes proposals to make brownfield sites protected from redevelopment. We think this proposal is bonkers and should be challenged in the consultation.

There are two different types of protection proposed in the Local Plan. The first identifies “Strategic Employment Areas”:

  • Bartley Wood, Hook
  • Bartley Point, Hook
  • Cody Park, Farnborough
  • Meadows Business Park, Blackwater
  • Osborne Way, Hook
  • Waterfront Business Park, Fleet

These sites are “given the highest protection and safeguarding against loss to non-B-class employment uses by protecting them for B-class uses”. We would agree that some of these sites should be given some protection. But some of the sites, particularly in Hook suffer from high vacancy rates. Indeed, some of the sites have already been converted to domestic use.  Recently the owners of the Virgin Media offices at Bartley Wood have sought advice on whether planning permission would be required to convert some of those buildings to housing. This demonstrates that there is little demand for offices on even the sites of alleged ‘strategic’ importance.

The trouble with this policy is that it cannot stop conversion of offices to apartments. These types of development require no planing permission. Nor do they bring any S106 or CIL contributions to infrastructure. Moreover, they don’t provide an attractive sense of place. By preventing proper redevelopment Hart is cutting off vital infrastructure funding. This makes no sense whatsoever.

The second type of protection is to “Locally Important Employment Areas”:

  • Ancells Business Park, Fleet
  • Blackbushe Business Park
  • Eversley Haulage Yard
  • Eversley Storage
  • Finn’s Business Park, Crondall
  • Fleet Business Park, Church Crookham
  • Grove Farm Barn, Crookham Village
  • Lodge Farm, North Warnborough
  • Murrell Green Business Park
  • Potters Industrial Park, Church Crookham
  • Rawlings Depot, Hook
  • Redfields Business Park, Church Crookham
  • Optrex Business Park, Rotherwick

These sites are offered a lower level of protection, but nevertheless the council is putting in place barriers to redevelopment.

Poor brownfield sites should not be protected from redevelopment

The reason this is a bad policy is that the Local Plan itself, as well as the Employment Land Review (ELR), acknowledges that there is an over-supply of low grade office space (para 125). The ELR states that investment in this stock is unviable (para 6.17):

Commercial agents note that the costs of refurbishing such stock to a good standard attractive to the market typically costs between £50-£60 per sq ft; and that the current over-supply of office accommodation limits investment in refurbishing such stock as low rent levels made such investment unviable.

Owners of these sites have three choices. First they can keep the wasting asset and collect no rent, which is not an attractive commercial proposition. Second, they can convert the offices into flats. By and large, they need no planning permission for this. However, these types of development carry no obligation for S106 or CIL payments to councils. Nor do they deliver a good ‘sense of place’. Finally, they could apply for planning permission to properly redevelop these sites into attractive homes, with a particular focus on affordable homes for the young. These types of development will be high-density, but with a good sense of place, and will attract some funding for infrastructure.

The consequences of this policy will be to discourage redevelopment of sites and either lead to more sites being simply converted or worse, sitting idle as eyesores.

We believe this policy should be reversed, particularly as it is a direct contravention of a statement made by the council leader, who said there were no plans to restrict the development of brownfield sites at a council meeting in September 2016:

https://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/4_The_Council/Council_meetings/M_Archive/16%2009%20Council.pdf )

Please respond to the Local Plan Consultation

This is our chance to shape the draft Local Plan that is currently our for consultation. Our suggested comments can be found on the link below. Please do download and review them. Please do make amendments into your own words and submit it to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk before the deadline of 5pm on 9th June 2017. All of the Council’s consultation documents can be found here.

Response to the Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation

Conservatives ousted from power at Hart Council

Breaking News: Conservatives ousted from power on Hart Council

Conservatives ousted from power at Hart Council

In a dramatic move the Conservatives have been ousted from power at Hart Council. Even though they are the largest party, they hold only 14 of the 33 seats.

The joint Chief Executive, Patricia Hughes confirm the move in a tweet last night. Liberal Democrat party group leader Dave Neighbour has been elected as leader of the council. He announced the members of his cabinet, but not the respective portfolios. They will be councillors Ambler, Bailey, Cockarill, Collett, Oliver, Kinnell, James Radley. All these councillors are from the Liberal Democrats and CCH. This confirms there will be no places for the Conservatives.

[Update – Portfolio positions announced by Hart Council]

  • Cllr David Neighbour – Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance
  • Cllr James Radley – Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Services
  • Cllr Simon Ambler – Cabinet Member for Partnerships
  • Cllr Stuart Bailey – Cabinet Member for Housing
  • Cllr Graham Cockarill – Cabinet Member for Planning
  • Cllr Adrian Collett – Cabinet Member for Regulatory and Community Safety
  • Cllr Sara Kinnell – Cabinet Member for Leisure, Health and Wellbeing
  • Cllr Alan Oliver – Cabinet Member for Contracts

[/Update]

Liberal Democrat, Gerry Crisp will become chairman. The deputy chair position will be taken by Wendy Makepeace-Brown of CCH.

We understand the following people have been elected as chair of the various committees:

  • Chris Axam (CCH) – 5 councils partnership
  • Gill Butler (CCH) – Licensing
  • Graham Cockarill (Lib Dem) – Planning
  • Ken Crookes (Conservative) – Overview and Scrutiny
  • John Kennett (Conservative) – Staffing
  • Wendy Makepeace-Brown (CCH) – Audit

The council coup has been facilitated by the defection of two Tory councillors, Sara Kinnel and Richard Woods to CCH late last year. We do think that changes of party allegiance should lead to by-elections. Where such ‘crossing of the floor’ leads to a change in administration, the case for by-elections is unanswerable in our opinion.

We are yet to see what impact, if any, there will be on the Local Plan.

Independent Expert says Hart housing target is too high

Alan Wenban-Smith of Urban and Regional Policy blasts Hart housing target

Independent expert, Alan Wenban-Smith has reviewed the latest Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) and concluded that the Hart housing target is way too high.

Regular readers may recall that the same expert examined the previous version of the SHMA and came to similar conclusions.

The crux of his arguments are as follows:

  1. The SHMA uses an inappropriate start-point for analysis. It uses the 2012-based population projections instead of the more up to date 2014-based projections. Making this change would knock around 850 houses off the start point
  2. The adjustments made for so-called market signals and affordable housing are inappropriate.
  3. The massive upwards adjustment for alleged jobs growth would result in loads more people moving to Hart. These people would then work elsewhere which is contrary to the sustainability principles of the National Planning Policy Framework

Taken together, his suggested adjustments would reduce the Hart housing target from around 8,000 to around 4,500. We have already built or planned more then 4,500 houses, so the Local Plan would become irrelevant.

We do not quite agree with all of his conclusions. If it were up to us, we would add some extra social rented housing to help those who cannot afford to even rent their own home.

But nevertheless, it is astonishing that Hart Council has decided to add a further 2,000 houses on to the already inflated SHMA. Hart’s approach is putting unnecessary pressure on our valuable green fields.

We will be compiling our suggested responses to the Local Plan consultation over the next few days. Please do keep checking in as we add further content.

The full report from Alan Wenban-Smith on the Hart housing target can be downloaded from the button below.

Independent Expert critique of Hart SHMA

Motion of No Confidence in Hart District Council submitted

Breaking News: Motion of No Confidence submitted in Hart District Council

Motion of No Confidence submitted in Hart District Council

A motion of no confidence in Hart District Council has been submitted by Community Campaign Hart (CCH), (or as some call them Completely Concrete Hart) and the Liberal Democrats.

Apparently, they are unhappy that a new settlement at Winchfield has not been included in the Local Plan. They plan to push for Winchfield to be re-included if they manage to take over.

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) screwing up Hart Planning since 2004

We think this is a bad idea for a number of reasons:

  1. This will add extra delay to the Local Plan process, adding to the risk that sites like Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) and Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) will be given the go ahead at appeal before the Local Plan can be put in place
  2. Winchfield has failed testing. The main issues with the proposal are:
    • groundwater and surface water flooding,
    • Cost of new road infrastructure and the need to travel to Fleet for main services
    • requirement for new wastewater treatment works
    • too much delivery risk concentrated in one site
    • impact on landscape
    • impact on heritage assets and SSSIs
  3. CCH have completely failed to oppose the main issue: we are being asked to build too many houses. Hart Council have arbitrarily added an extra 2,000 houses to the already inflated SHMA figure of 8,000, giving a total over 10,000 houses. Tackling this would mean we don’t need a new settlement at Winchfield or Murrell Green, nor would we need Pale Lane or Grove Farm
  4. A new settlement at Winchfield will likely have a major impact on congestion in Church Crookham and the western edge of Fleet.

We predict a stormy council meeting on 25 May.

[Update  – Statement from Conservative Council Leader]

Conservative Council Leader Stephen Parker commented:

We have a clear track record of success in running Hart Council. Despite cuts to Hart’s government funding we used Conservative ministerial contacts to reduce the cuts, froze Council tax for 6 years and made minimum increases for the last two years. At the same time we made innovative partnerships to make sure that no cuts were made to our services or to our support to the voluntary sector. We delivered the new Hart Leisure Centre, a superb facility which pays for itself with no increases to Hart’s Council tax. We listened to residents in making our Local Plan which maximises use of brownfield sites and protects our towns and villages from unwanted expansion. At no time in the last eight years of Conservative leadership have they challenged any of these successes. Residents will no doubt look forward to reading their joint manifesto.

[/Update]

[Update 2 – statement from CCH]

Statement about motion to bring about a vote for Council Leader

Until fairly recently Hart District Council had a democratic process of electing the council Leader every year at the AGM. This right was taken away by the then Conservative administration, presumably because they realised that as is the case now there would be times when they did not have a majority on the council.

The Conservatives forced through the instigation of a 4 year term for the council Leader, the maximum period they could have gone for without falling foul of legislation.

Out of 33 councillors there are 14 Conservative, 10 Community Campaign, 8 Lib Dems and 1 Hook Independent. No one party have the 17 councillors required to hold a majority on the council.

The Community Campaign have asked the current Leader if he’d be willing to continue as Leader with a proportional Cabinet made up of 3 Conservatives, 2 Lib Dems and 2 Community Campaign members. Given the proportionality of such a Cabinet it does not seem to be an unreasonable request.

We await his response. However, should the Conservatives not wish to work with a cross party partnership then we believe that the Council should have the right to elect a new Leader.

The nature of the council’s constitution is such that in order to bring about the opportunity to elect a new Leader a motion to withdraw support for the current leadership needs to be lodged 7 clear working days before the council’s AGM.

The full motion moved by Cllr. James Radley of the Community Campaign reads;
The council wishes to use this AGM, as it represents the traditional point in the municipal year, to undertake a vote for the leader of council. To bring about such a vote the constitution requires that a vote to remove the current leader first be tabled. To this end this council retracts support for the current leader and does so as required by the constitution by voting to ‘remove from office the current Leader of the Council and agrees that a new Leader should be elected forthwith’.

[/Update 2]

[Update 3: Lib dems tweet to say they don’t support new settlement at Winchfield]

NE Hants Lib Dems statement about Winchfield

[/Update 3]

Health and Safety Executive criticises Hart Council

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Logo

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Logo

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has criticised Hart District Council for not clearly marking on a map the Major Accident Hazard pipelines that pass through the district.

Regular readers will recall that the Master Plan for the proposed new settlement at Murrell Green does not refer at all to the high pressure gas main that runs through the site.

Murrell Green high pressure gas main

Murrell Green development with high pressure gas pipeline

We alerted the HSE to this and invited them to comment on the Draft Local Plan that is currently out for consultation. They have written to Hart Council and identified two further potential issues:

We have concluded that there is the potential for land allocated in your plan to encroach on consultations zones.  The land allocations that could be effected (sic) are as follows

Map 30 – Murrell Green (Proposed Strategic Housing-led Development Policies SC1-SC4)

This allocation encroaches on the Southern Gas Networks High Pressure Pipeline – HSE Reference: 7067 Gaston Wood/Murrell Green(PO65)

It also has the possibility to encroach on the Southern Gas Networks High Pressure Pipeline – HSE Reference 7069 Crockmore Farm/Bramshill(P067)

Map 7 – Eversley Centre – SC5

This allocation has the possibility to encroach on the Southern Gas Networks High Pressure Pipeline – HSE Reference 7083 Bramshill/The Devil’s Highway(P086)

The HSE then go on to spell out their recommendations for how local authorities should identify such hazards in their Local Plans (emphasis ours)

Identifying Consultation Zones in Local Plans

HSE recommends that where there are major hazard establishments and MAHPs within the area of your local plan, that you mark the associated consultation zones on a map. This is an effective way to identify the development proposals that could encroach on consultation zones, and the extent of any encroachment that could occur. The proposal maps in site allocation development planning documents may be suitable for presenting this information. We particularly recommend marking the zones associated with any MAHPs, and HSE advises that you contact the pipeline operator for up-to-date information on pipeline location, as pipelines can be diverted by operators from notified routes. Most incidents involving damage to buried pipelines occur because third parties are not aware of their presence.

Clearly Hart Council has failed to follow Health and Safety Executive Guidelines.

The full letter from the HSE can be found here.

Hart Council launches Local Plan consultation

Hart District Council Logo

Hart Council has launched a Regulation 18 consultation into the draft Local Plan. The consultation will be open until 5pm on 9 June 2017.

Drop in sessions will be running at the following dates and locations:

  • Tuesday 2 May – 2pm to 8pm – Hook Community Centre, RG27 9NN
  • Wednesday 3 May – 2pm to 8pm – The Harlington Centre, Fleet, GU51 4BY
  • Monday 8 May – 2pm to 8pm – Victoria Hall, Hartley Wintney, RG27 8RE
  • Wednesday 10 May – 2pm to 8pm – The Tythings, Yateley, GU46 7RP
  • Thursday 11 May – 2pm to 8pm – Ridley Hall, South Warnborough, RG29 1RQ
  • Monday 15 May – 4.30pm to 8pm – Hawley Leisure Centre, GU17 9BW

The consultation materials can be found here.

Once we have had chance to absorb all the materials, we will be posting our advice on how to respond to the consultation.

Where is the draft Hart Local Plan?

Hart Local Plan - Keep Calm and Wait until 26 April

Hart Local Plan – Keep Calm and Wait until 26 April

Regular readers maybe wondering what has happened to the Hart Local Plan. On February 9th, Hart Cabinet agreed to a spatial strategy as part of the draft Local Plan that was due to go out to consultation in March. Obviously, there have been further delays. This is what we now understand to be the position:

Hart Local Plan timetable

The draft local plan will be released 26 April for a six-week Reg 18 consultation period after a briefing session with Parish Councillors on the 25th. There will be roadshows at the main settlements. Every house in the district will receive an A5 leaflet advising them of the consultation.

The Reg 19 process will follow in about November with submission of the full plan to the Secretary of State in mid-February 2018. All responses during the Reg 18 will be made public including the names of the individuals but with no contact details.

Hart Local Plan Headlines

Hart Council have decided to build 10,185 houses up to 2032 of which around 50% have already been built or granted permission. Please note that this number is far higher than 8,022 target the recently published Strategic Housing Market Assessment and more than double the requirement generated from demographic change. The numbers are now correct as of 31 January 17 and include all office conversions which have been approved.

Housing Numbers by area

  • Fleet 200 – mostly through office redevelopment
  • Hook was 200 now 10 from office redevelopment plus another 87. However, developers may chance their arm again with Owens Farm (750), and of course around half the Murrell Green site is in Hook Parish.
  • Sun Park 320
  • Hartland Park (Pyestock) 1500. Fleet town council have apparently made the point that the site offers only 20% affordable homes and the density per hectare is up to 97 in places which is equivalent to city centre densities which is of concern to them. OUr view would be to make the most of available brownfield sites.
  • Murrell Green 1800 but with challenges. There are 4 promoters and it will be some 3 to 4 years before planning permission is approved. It includes the site for a secondary school but there won’t be enough developer contributions to pay for it. New school funding rules mean that Hampshire can’t pay for it either.  It’ll probably be an Academy at a cost of circa £36 million. So we get a site for a school, but no money.
  • Crondall 66
  • Crookham Village 100 + 64 predominantly the care village
  • Eversley 124 on two sites
  • Heckfield 86
  • Long Sutton 10
  • Odiham 119 as per NP
  • Hartley Wintney 0. It seems odd that HW’s Neighbourhood Plan will be ignored. It should be noted that Murrell Green directly abuts Hartley Wintney Parish and about half of the proposed Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) development is in HW parish.
  • South Warnborough 34 on two sites
  • Yateley 88
  • An additional 50 via rural exceptions and a further 290 from windfall.
  • Interestingly, no mention of Winchfield, or their Neighbourhood Plan, but roughly half of Murrell Green is in Winchfield Parish.
  • Apparently, Bramshill will be very difficult to develop because of all the complications with the Grade 1 listed site.

Other news

Apparently East Hants have done such a stellar job on the Local Plan, the Planning Policy team is now back in house at Hart, reduced in size from 8 to 2.

There is a risk that developers will continue to pursue Pale Lane and take it to appeal before the Local Plan is adopted.

We await the results of the Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) appeal in June.

Hart Cabinet sell us down the river as they plan for 10,000 houses

Hart Cabinet sell us down the river by planning for far more houses than we need

Hart Cabinet plan for houses we don’t need

Hart Cabinet sold us down the river on Thursday night as they voted to plan for 10,000 houses to be built in Hart District in the period up to 2032.

Aside from vote on the paper some other interesting information was disclosed on a number of subjects:

  • Hart Cabinet vote on the 10,000 houses?
  • Do we need a secondary school?
  • Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) update
  • Hart Cabinet and Council politics

Hart Cabinet vote on the 10,000 houses?

Well, the short answer is we don’t. Our statement was received without challenge and was described as “informed” by the joint Chief Executive. There really is no answer to the points about double counting, nor the extra 1,200 houses on top of the alleged additional affordable housing requirement. To his credit, Ken Crookes asked some challenging questions. He didn’t really receive satisfactory answers.

The cabinet chose to plan for the extra 2,000 houses on top of those set out in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), even though Ken abstained.

The plan was supported by two cabinet members from Hook. They apparently favour a new settlement that will deliver more houses in Hook Parish. But they vehemently oppose the proposed new development to the west of Hook, that is outside the Thames Valley Heath SPA zone of influence.

There is a risk that Hart will no longer have a five year land supply, now it has agreed an uplift to 10,000 houses. Apparently, officers are working on a new document.

The leader and joint chief executive will now proceed to produce a draft Local Plan. A new consultation will be held on this draft will begin some time in March.

Do we need a new secondary school?

One of the justifications for the new settlement at Murrell Green is that the district needs a new secondary school. You may recall that the council voted on a resolution to include a secondary school in the Local Plan.

However, in his statement to cabinet, the joint chief executive said that although:

Hampshire County Council (HCC) welcome the principle of a new school site, the scale of growth envisaged in the Local Plan is not one that would require the delivery a new school in the planning period.

HCC is responsible for planning school places. But HCC is not responsible for delivering new schools as they will now be delivered as free schools, outside local authority control.

Apparently, Hart has also been offered secondary schools by the developers of Winchfield, West of Hook and Rye Common.

In other words, Hart has acted outside its responsibilities in resolving to deliver a site for a school and the authority responsible for planning school places don’t believe we need a new school. So, we are creating a new settlement to create capacity for houses we don’t need and a school we don’t need either.

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) update

In conversation we found out more about the Grove Farm application. The developer has now appealed this case on the grounds of non-determination.

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) screwing up Hart Planning since 2004

To re-cap, the Community Campaign Hart (CCH) chair the planning committee and failed to make a decision on the application at last December’s planning meeting. The council officers has recommended approval.

Hart is going to fight the appeal, probably on the grounds of wishing to maintain the Local Gap between Fleet and Crookham Village.

If Hart does lose its five year land supply, then this will make things difficult at appeal.

Apparently, the risk of losing £1.6m of New Homes Bonus has been mitigated because the indications from Government are that they are no longer going to push through those proposals.

However, there is still a significant risk that Hart will lose this appeal. The expectation is the appeal inquiry will be held in June, with a decision in August.

Hart Cabinet and Council Politics

We have now heard from several sources that one of the reasons Hart Cabinet appears to be so dysfunctional is that the ruling Conservative Party fears a vote of no confidence over the summer. This would entail CCH bidding to oust the Tories, presumably to be replaced by some sort of CCH/Lib Dem coalition. Maybe, the CCH coup is dependent upon the outcome of the Grove Farm appeal.

So, it appears as though we are planning for the extra houses to deliver a new settlement and secondary school we don’t need to appease CCH, who would prefer the new settlement at Winchfield.

It does seem very odd that we are having a new settlement forced upon us by dysfunctional politics.

 

 

Statement to Hart Cabinet

Hart District Council and Hart Cabinet Offices, We Heart Hart. We Love Hart

Statement to Hart Cabinet

The crucial Hart Cabinet meeting to decide the spatial strategy to be incorporated in the forthcoming consultation on the Hart Local Plan will be held tonight at 8pm.

Public participation is allowed and we have been allowed to speak. A copy of our prepared statement is shown below. Please do come along and watch the debate.

Statement to Hart Cabinet 9 February 2017

Thank you for allowing me to speak.

This is an important time for Hart – you are setting out a strategy that will impact the quality of life of Hart residents for many years to come, so it is important you do the best job you can.

Hart Council is in a perilous position and facing the threat of losing around £2m of NHB if the Local Plan is not in place on time and of course the threat of many speculative planning applications. So, it is right that you are risk averse at this time.

However, I would like to use this statement to persuade you to change direction.

I would like you to focus on reducing the housing target of 10,000 by removing the unnecessary uplift of 2,000 extra houses on top of the SHMA target of ~8,000.

The SHMA starts with the ONS population and household projections. It says the “the household projections… are statistically robust and are based on nationally consistent assumptions”. They take account of international migration and migration between districts.

On their own, these projections would point to a need for around 5,300 houses over the planning period. If, however, the SHMA used the more up to date 2014-based figures, the housing need would fall to around 4,500, compared to the 10,000 you are proposing to build.

That’s right, the latest demographic projections point to a need that is less than half of that you are proposing.

However, it is probably right that the housing target should be inflated a little to cater for what is termed suppressed household formation and concealed households.

The SHMA has done this by firstly increasing Hart’s target up to around 6,100 new dwellings to cater for households that are termed ‘can’t rent, can’t buy’ and those who can rent but can’t buy.

Secondly, it then makes a further increase of around 500 affordable homes. This brings the total target to around 6,600.

To my mind 6-6,500 houses would be reasonable overall that would mean we could meet the rest of the target from brownfield sites alone.

To emphasise: The SHMA has met the demographic need and already takes account of suppressed household formation, concealed households and affordable housing.

The SHMA then goes on to add a further 1,400 houses for economic growth, bringing the overall total to 8,000.

This ‘economic growth uplift’ does by definition mean that you are planning for additional inward migration to Hart, people whose needs are supposed to be met elsewhere. Not only that, the SHMA assumes many of these people will also work outside the district and thus put increasing pressure on the creaking transport infrastructure. This is not sustainable development.

Yet, you are now proposing to add a further 2,000 houses to the total to meet extra questionable affordable housing needs.

However, we have already established the SHMA itself has already taken account of the affordable requirement, so this extra 2,000 is double counting.  It will require us concreting over our green fields to meet non-existent housing needs. This is unsustainable over-development.

We wouldn’t need the new Murrell Green settlement if you removed the 2,000 unnecessary houses from the target. I might add the new settlement is entirely unsuitable. It is bordered by the M3 and A30. Criss-crossed by the railway, power lines and a high-pressure gas main. A big chunk of the site is former landfill. Only last year a solar farm was turned down on the grounds it would spoil the view from the Odiham Deer Park and spoil the enjoyment of walkers on the public footpaths. This proposal is far more intrusive than solar panels.

So finally, I urge you, please do the right thing and plan for a sensible housing target. Don’t blight our green fields with so many unnecessary houses. If you really want to help the concealed households, make sure you allocate some of the existing housing target to subsidised social-rented accommodation.

Hart Housing Target increased to 10,000

Hart Council goes through the looking glass as it ups the Hart housing target to 10,000

Through the looking glass as Hart housing target increases to over 10,000

We have gone through the looking glass as the Hart Housing target has been increased to over 10,000.

Hart has now published the document that will be discussed at Cabinet on Thursday 9 February. The main headlines are as follows:

  1. The Hart housing target has been increased to 10,077, with shall we say, questionable justification
  2. The proposed housing allocations are outlined, including a new settlement at Murrell Green

Hart housing target increased

The housing target has been increased to 10,077 as per the table below. This represents a 125% uplift on the 2014-based demographic projections.

ItemItem totalTotal
Housing demand as per 2016 SHMA8,022
Flexibility2,055
Affordable housing rental uplift520
Rural exception site delivery50
Starter homes/shared ownership285
Market housing1,200
Total "Need"10,077
Completions 2011-2016(1,830)
Commitments (to 31 Jan 2017)(3,385)
Windfalls(297)
Remaining to meet need4,565

This is a very questionable increase. The SHMA already factors in a 53% uplift on the ‘natural’ demographic projections, which would give a total requirement of 5,334 dwellings. But if they had used the more up to date 2014-based projections, the start point would fall to 4,473. If we were to use the raw 2014-based figures as our total housing target, we would have already built or permitted the total requirement.

Second, the justification to increase the total to 10,077 is to build 855 extra affordable/starter homes. But the overall increase is set at 2,055 because they don’t expect to build more than 40% affordable properties. This is simply absurd.

Figure 12.2 Stages of Objectively Assessed Need Hart Rushmoor and Surrey Heath SHMA

Third, the SHMA has already made allowance for extra affordable homes (as can be seen above), and then this has already been uplifted for extra so-called jobs growth, which themselves will deliver more affordable homes.  Hart Council seems to be adding uplift on top of uplift in a quite random and arbitrary way. We have already analysed the SHMA here and here.

Fourth, the paper itself says there is no well proven evidence-based formula to uplift the housing target. There is nothing in National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that requires the target to be uplifted in a mechanistic way. Nor that the requirements have to be met in full.

No need to increase the Hart Housing Target to meet afordable homes requirement

Hart Affordable housing uplift

In short, the proposed uplift is double counting uplifts that have already been made that we are under no obligation to meet anyway.

If we were to build at this inflated rate, then this would be carried forward and compounded in future demograpgic projections.

Housing Allocations

The paper sets out the proposed allocations to meet this fictitious target, including 1,800 new houses at Murrell Green.

Housing allocations to meet the Hart Housing Target

Hart District housing allocations

No mention is made of Bramshill or Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse), which are currently under consideration by the COuncil. Indeed we understand that the developers have appealed the Grove Farm application on the grounds of non-determination. Hart were already late in considering the application in December and cancelled the January meeting. Grove Farm is not on the agenda for the February meeting. It is difficult to see how they can defend the appeal.

Conclusions

Hart District Council is in a very perilous position. If it doesn’t get a Local Plan in place soon, it will lose around £2m per year in New Homes Bonus.

So everyone has a strong incentive to get a Local Plan. But by increasing the target to over 10,000 houses, everyone loses for decades to come.

It is difficult to work out the best way forwards. We could either wait until the Regulation 18 Consultation comes out in March and hope that we can influence matters for a better outcome. Alternatively, we can fight now for radical change of both the plan and the people running the process.