Hart squanders £110K on doomed Grove Farm appeal

Grove Farm Appeal - Netherhouse Copse Site Layout

£110K squandered on Netherhouse Copse – Grove Farm  appeal

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

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

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

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

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

Full FOI request on Grove Farm appeal costs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hart Corporate Plan Consultation – please respond

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

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

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

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

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

Community Campaign Hart dominate Hart Corporate Plan

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

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

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

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

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

Local Plan Consultation responses to be published 6 November

Local Plan consultation responses are still being hidden by Hart Council

Local Plan consultation responses are still being hidden by Hart Council

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

Local Plan Consultation Responses History

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hart don’t know cost of Grove Farm appeal

Hart Council knows nothing about Grove Farm Appeal

Hart Council knows nothing about Grove Farm Appeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full questions and answers about Grove Farm appeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application for 700 houses at Owens Farm west Hook

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

Planning application submitted for 700 houses at Owens Farm west Hook

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

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

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

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

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

Owens Farm west Hook consultee comment 17/02317/OUT

Owens Farm west Hook consultee comment

How to object to Owens Farm West Hook

Please lodge you objections to these unnecessary proposals here.

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

 

 

 

Grove Farm decision makes Hart Council a sitting duck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hart keeps 10,185 housing target

Hart keeps 10,185 housing target

Hart keeps 10,185 housing target

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

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

Impact of new housing need methodology on Hart Local Plan

Impact of new methodology on Hart Local Plan

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

Local Plan Update

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

Hart News Local Plan update

Hart News Local Plan update

 

 

Questions to HDC 28 September 2017 about Hart Housing Target

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Significant reduction in Hart Housing need

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

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

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

New Government housing methodology - impact on planning inspectors

New Government housing methodology – impact on planning inspectors

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

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

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

Hart misses another Local Plan deadline

Hart District Council Logo

Hart misses another Local Plan deadline

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hart major planning site update

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

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

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

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

Hart Major Planning Site: Hartland Park (Pyestock)

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

Hart Major Planning Site: Hartland Village

Hart Major Planning Site: Hartland Village

The decision is subject to a number of conditions:

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

Our views on Hartland Park

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

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

We will continue to monitor this development.

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

Hart Major Planning Site: Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase)

Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) planning application dates

Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) planning application dates

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

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

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

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

Hart Major Planning Site: Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse)

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

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

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Appeal Dates

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

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

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Appeal

Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) Appeal

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

Hart Major Planning Site: Cross Farm

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

Hart Major Planning Site: Cross Farm Appeal withdrawn

Cross Farm Appeal withdrawn

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

 

New Government methodology to reduce Hart housing need

Time to celebrate reduction in Hart housing need

New Government methodology reduces Hart housing need

Yesterday, the Government published a consultation (Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places) on its proposals to simplify and standardise the calculation of housing need. The good news is that Sajid Javid’s new  methodology, if adopted, will result in a significant reduction in Hart housing need. There are also reductions for Rushmoor and Surrey Heath.

Significant reduction in Hart Housing need

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

Impact on Hart Housing Need

If this proposal was adopted, the full housing requirement for Hart would fall to 6,132 new dwellings. This compares to the Hart’s current Local Plan total of some 10,185 and the total outlined in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) of 8,022. The new target of 6,132 is above the 5,144 we recommended in the recent Local Plan consultation. But, clearly, if the new figure of 6,132 was adopted, we would welcome it.

The Government now calculates housing need on the basis of the most up to date demographic projections. They then add an adjustment for suppressed households and affordable housing. The affordable housing adjustment is based on local house prices compared to local earnings.

This vindicates the stance we have been taking for years now: Hart’s housing target is ridiculous. The current SHMA takes out of date demographic projections and makes lots of spurious and arbitrary adjustments that don’t address the needs of the district. Then Hart Council added a further 2,000 houses to that. This new approach proposed by the Government is much more sensible.

Impact on Rushmoor and Surrey Heath

This is also good news for Rushmoor and Surrey Heath. Rushmoor’s overall housing target reduces by 2,982 houses. Rushmoor has already said it can meet it’s current target, so this leaves it with significant extra capacity.

Surrey Heath’s target reduces by 630 houses. Surrey Heath has said it will endeavour to meet its current housing target, but if it can’t, then Hart and Rushmoor would be expected to make up any shortfall. Previous estimates of their shortfall were around 1,400 houses. These new proposals make any problems Surrey Heath has much easier to solve.

Taken together, these reductions are very welcome and reduce the risk that Hart will be forced to take any overspill from Surrey Heath.

Impact on the Hart Local Plan

There is further good news. If the current Local Plan is more than five years old or if the new Local Plan is not submitted by 31 March 2018, then the new methodology must be used. This means that Hart should start considering this new methodology immediately.

Impact of new housing need methodology on Hart Local Plan

Impact of new methodology on Hart Local Plan

If the new methodology was adopted, then the Hart housing need drops and Hart would need to build far fewer houses. According to the recent Local Plan consultation, a total of 5,594 houses have already been built or planned for as of January 31 2017. This would 600-700 houses left to plan for, maybe a few more to give scope for taking Surrey Heath over spill. In round numbers, let’s assume 1,000 houses left to plan for. Planning for a few more houses than those demanded by the standard method would mean that the Inspector would have to work on the assumption that the Plan was sound.

New Government housing methodology - impact on planning inspectors

New Government housing methodology – impact on planning inspectors

This could be easily made up from brownfield sites in the draft Local Plan. Sun Park (320) and Hartland Park (1,500) would more than meet the remaining need, with plenty of room to spare. This would mean Hartland Park could be built at a slower rate.

The implication of this is that we would need no new settlement. No building at Murrell Green, no new settlement at Winchfield or at Rye Common. Furthermore, Pale Lane (Elevetham Chase) and Cross Farm wouldn’t be required. It remains to be seen whether the inspector will take account of this new methodology to save Netherhouse Copse (Grove Farm) in the current ongoing appeal.

Impact on Neighbourhood plans

In a further piece of good news, the Government proposes that the way housing need in Neighbourhood plans is calculated should be simplified. It says that it should be based on the proportionate population of the Neighbourhood planning area.

New Government housing methodology - Neighbourhood plans

New Government housing methodology – Neighbourhood plans

This is essentially the same proportionate method that we have been advocating for some time. It will finally mean that David Cameron’s promise that local areas should not simply have new housing estates dumped upon them will be met. This proposal will also effectively mean that existing urban areas should become more dense. This is another policy we advocated in the recent consultation.

Note of caution

So far, this is just a consultation and is not yet adopted. There is therefore a risk that developers will seek to water down the proposals or amend them. We have done a quick analysis of the Government spreadsheet and that shows that roughly half of Local Authorities have had their targets increased and roughly half have seen a reduction. Overall, the housing need identified by the Government is about 266,000 houses per annum, in line with previous estimates of overall national requirements. So, in our view, developers don’t have much of an argument – the proposals seem to redistribute the housing targets where they are most needed.

Moreover, there are some potential pitfalls in planning for certain groups such as the elderly and affordable housing in paras 89 & 90. However, this is really about how to get the total to add up, rather than changing the total.

Conclusion

Overall, we think that if these proposals are adopted it is very good news for Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath. The new Hart housing need would be very achievable and would save many of our precious green fields that are under threat.

We would urge you to respond to the Government’s consultation and give it your support.

We also expect the council to set to work immediately to revise the draft Local Plan to take account of these new developments. This should be easy. They are already planning for far more houses than we need, so striking out the controversial green field developments should be a relatively simple task.