Open letter to Ranil Jayawardena, Sajid Javid and Gavin Barwell

Ranil Jayawardena Stephen Parker and Michael Fallon meet at Pyestock (Hartland Park or Hartland Village

Below is the text of an open letter sent to our Local MP, Ranil Jayawardena asking for his help to make changes to national policy to help Hart come up with a more realistic Local Plan and help fend off the threat of too many houses.

Let’s see what happens.

Dear Ranil,

To date, I have been very impressed with you as our local MP. You seem to be well in tune with your constituents and your campaign to promote more brownfield development in our area is to be commended.

I know that, quite rightly, you are reluctant to get involved in local planning matters because they are the responsibility of the local council. However, I am writing to you today to ask for your support in changing some elements of national policy that should help Hart District Council produce a more realistic Local Plan.

There are four main sections to this letter:

  • Process and outcome of assessing housing need
  • Affordable housing
  • Infrastructure contributions
  • Suggested policy changes

The links in the text take you to more in depth research, mostly from the WeHeartHart.co.uk website, which I run, to support the assertions made. I have also copied this letter to the ministers responsible for this area of policy and the leader and joint-CEO of Hart Council.

Assessing Housing Need

 

The 2012-based government projections of population and number of households points to a need of around 215,000 dwellings per annum, compared to recent delivery of 130-150,000 new dwellings each year. It is clear we need to respond to the objective in the National Planning Policy framework to “boost significantly the supply of housing”. To achieve this, it follows that the sum of all the housing market assessments across the country should add up to the total expected increase in households, or a little more to give some margin of safety.

However, there is increasing evidence that house builders have too strong an influence over the process that is leading to housing market assessments being artificially inflated to a level much higher than that required by the national household projections.

In Hart, the 2014 Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) is currently being revised to take account of more up to date population and household forecasts. However, I believe the process being followed will be largely the same as before.

The way it works is as follows. The raw household forecasts are subject to a set of dubious adjustments and convoluted calculations to arrive at a spurious objectively assessed ‘need’.  In the case of the 2014 SHMA, the outcome was ~7,500 houses. For the SHMA area as a whole this results in an uplift to the raw DCLG household forecasts of more than 50%.

If this were applied across the whole country, then we would be allocating land and allowing the building of some 305,000 new dwellings each year, far above the national requirement. This goes against latest planning guidance that states that housing need should be “principally understood as a measure of future demand rather than aspiration”.  I did make a FOI request to the DCLG to provide the national figures, but this has been refused on the grounds that DCLG “does not hold this information”. Given the importance that is being placed on housing delivery, it is quite staggering that central Government is not collecting the data to allow it to monitor the results of its own housing policy.

The experience of the Hart, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA is by no means unique. Analysis of five other housing needs assessments of planning authorities across Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey and Berkshire reveals an average housing uplift on the baseline household projections of around 42%.

A further illustration of the absurdity of the calculations used in the 2014 SHMA is contained in its own appendix.  This clearly shows that if the more up to date 2012-SNPP number were used, the starting point for Hart would fall from 337 to 247 dwellings per annum or a fall of 1,800 units over the plan period.

Taken together, these results show that the process for producing the SHMAs is fatally flawed and cannot be justified.

There might be some justification if this process had actually resulted in more house building. But it is clear from a recent House of Lords report that it has not:

Nevertheless, we see the gap between planning permissions and housing completions as a fundamental one in respect of securing increased housing supply. In a climate where over 240,000 homes a year are being granted planning permission, it is a fundamental failure of the development system that over 100,000 fewer homes are actually being built. This situation must be addressed.

We believe that the Government must consider measures to help accelerate the delivery of housing on sites with planning permission, such as permitting the charge of equivalent council tax rates when development has not commenced after a specified period of time, subject to safeguards when there are genuine reasons to prevent the development proceeding

This is borne out by local experience, where as of 1 April this year there were over 3,000 unimplemented planning permissions, with over 1,000 of those from 2013 or earlier.

It is clear that creating ever increasing housing targets is merely encouraging ‘land-banking’ by builders, who then build at a rate to maximise their own profits.

Imagine my surprise to find out that one of the outcomes from Hart’s yet to be published revised SHMA is that the housing target is going to be raised again to over 10,000 units (although this is being further examined by the council). Yes, you read that correctly: despite the starting point being based on the more up to date population forecasts described above, that should result in a ‘need’ of 1,800 fewer houses, the target is going to be raised 30% above the earlier ‘need’ and nearly 100% above the new starting point.

Apparently, there are some further arbitrary adjustments, some other sophistry and some new guidance from Government about the provision of so called ‘Affordable Homes’ that means in order to satisfy a shortfall of ~800 affordable homes, we must build over 2,000 more new houses in total because the affordable component cannot be more than 40% of the total.

The consequence of this change is that it will inevitably mean we can no longer meet our remaining housing need from brownfield sites and will have to sacrifice great swathes of our beautiful countryside to satisfy some bureaucratic pen-pushers rather than the actual housing needs of the district.

This is plainly ridiculous and cannot be allowed to stand. But that leads me on to policy improvements  around ‘Affordable Homes’

 

Affordable Homes

 

Many in Government seem to hold the view that merely calling some houses ‘”Affordable” makes them so. This is clearly an absurd position to take.

Let’s take a local example in my own village.  Recently, Bewley Homes built around 90 new houses in a new development called Hartley Row Park at a reasonably sensible add-on to the village.

The lowest price for a 3-bed semi-detached home was set at £465,000. The lowest anticipated price of the 2-bed homes that were due to be released later in 2016 was £370,000. This means that the cheapest 3-bed house is 11.5 times median income, and the cheapest 2-bed home will be 9.2 times median income.  Even with a 20% ‘Affordable’ homes discount, the cheapest new properties will be totally out of reach of middle-income families in the district.

This is further compounded by the lack of measurement and poor controls over the size of properties bring built. There is clear evidence that Hart is under-building 1-bed and 3-bed starter homes and over-building 4+bed properties. This is doing nothing for the younger residents of Hart, whom the Local Plan is supposed to serve, yet encouraging even more inward migration from London into properties that locals cannot afford. Clearly, the controls needed are really a matter for the local council, but there may be something that can be done at a national level to mandate new developments to meet local needs.

However, there are some national policies that need to be examined, not least the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, interest rates and QE.

As any economist will tell you, if you subsidise the price of anything, then demand will go up and prices will follow. I find it quite amazing that a supposedly free-market Conservative Government is borrowing to use taxpayers’ money in the HTB scheme to subsidise higher house prices, especially at a time when we still have a massive budget deficit.

But the bigger impact on house prices has probably come from ultra-low interest rates and QE. This inexorable flow of cheap money has artificially raised the price of all assets and property in particular. You cannot hope to bring house-prices to reasonable levels unless and until you address monetary policy.

 

Infrastructure Contributions

 

Hart, like many other places in the country is suffering from creaking infrastructure. Our schools are full, it is difficult to get appointments at the doctors and road congestion is increasing.

According to the latest figures available Hart is running a £78m infrastructure funding deficit, and this is probably an under-estimate as it was prepared before the current, let alone the new SHMA. Key quotes from the document include:

“It is therefore reasonable to conclude that it is unlikely that there will be sufficient future funds, from both capital programmes and developer contributions, within the plan period, to deliver all of the projects listed in the HCC Transport Statement”

“Although developer contributions will continue to play an important role in helping to bridge the funding gap, it is also clear that the funds raised through developer contributions will only contribute a modest proportion of the total identified funding gap”

 “The South West Main Line (SWML) outer trains, which serve Hart, has significant forecasted future peak crowding, with a capacity shortfall of over 6,100 passengers in the high-peak hour, even if every main line train is at maximum length”

It is true that many developments attract S106 or CIL contributions towards infrastructure. However, it is also clear that both ‘Affordable Homes’ and office conversions using ‘Permitted Development Rights’ deliver no such contributions. Overall, the policy mix has delivered a massive funding gap, yet we are expected to continue to even more houses, when the funding delivered is much less than the funding required to bring the infrastructure up to scratch.

This is clearly unsustainable and must change.

 

Suggested Policy Changes

 

As I see it you can help your constituents by demanding policy changes in several key areas:

  • The Government should collect and analyse all SHMAs across the country to monitor that the total of the local ‘needs’ is in line with the overall national totals
  • There should be some greater controls put on the way that seemingly arbitrary adjustments to the starting points are made to ensure they do not go too far above those levels. 20% would seem like a reasonable level to me.
  • Encourage builders to build existing planning permissions faster by introducing a charge equivalent to council tax rates when development has not completed after a specified period of time.
  • Stop subsidising higher house prices through HTB, QE and ultra-low interest rates.
  • Introduce a ‘planning gain levy’ on land owners who make significant windfalls from selling agricultural land for development to fund infrastructure. This would be similar to the original ideas behind “Garden Cities” where landowners helped fund infrastructure
  • Introduce S106/CIL funding for all new development. Every new home has people in it and they all use local infrastructure, so all new development should include some contribution
  • Introduce ‘open book accounting’ to each development and force developers to make increased S106 contributions if they make more than planned profit on a development.
  • Increase Government funding for smaller, local infrastructure projects such as road widening, junction improvement, bridge widening, school building and surgery building. This would be a much better use of money than building white elephants like HS2.

I do hope you find this letter constructive and helpful in understanding the impact of national policy on your local area.

May I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Time to work together to head off new Hart housing threat

Hart Housing threat: sites under consideration

Hart Housing threat: sites under consideration

Overshadowed by our earlier  story of CCH further delaying the Hart Local Plan was the news of the new Hart housing threat of our target being raised from 7,500 to over 10,000 new houses up to 2032. This comes on top of the potential financial costs of delay.

Details of how this has come about are sketchy. It is related to how Hart should respond to Government rules about how to deal with affordable housing. We understand Hart Council is working on a ‘topic paper’ to give a further explanation.

We have analysed the impact of this new target below. Sadly, most of the large, sensitive green field sites are potentially under threat once again.  In addition, it is likely that Hart would no longer have more than five years of land supply. This exposes us to the threat of speculative planning applications. If most of these additional houses end up being ‘affordable’, they won’t attract contributions from developers to fund vital infrastructure.

So, we have come to the conclusion that it is time for all the politicians and pressure groups to work together to fight off this new threat rather than spend their time arguing over where the new houses should go. This level of development will mean that substantially all of the district will be under threat for some time. Moreover, this increased rate of building will be carried forward into the new planning period making things even worse for decades to come. We need to demand three key actions:

  1. The councillors need to stop squabbling and get a Local Plan in place ASAP
  2. Challenge robustly this new housing target and get the ridiculous new Government rules changed
  3. Pressure the council to properly examine the brownfield options for the district, complete their brownfield study and bring these sites forward instead of the precious green field sites.

Impact of the Hart housing threat on sensitive sites

First we take a look at where we would need to build to meet this new target and compare it to last year’s consultation; the most recent land supply position and our estimate of a ‘fair’ housing target.

Impact of new Hart housing threat on Hart District sites

Impact of new Hart housing threat on sensitive sites

As can be seen above, if the housing target remains around current levels, our remaining housing needs can easily be met from brownfield sites such as Hartland Village (Pyestock), the sites Hart Council identified in the consultation, Bramshill House and some further redevelopment of Ancells Farm and Bartley Wood. Moulsham Lane, Yateley was given the go ahead at appeal over the summer.

For some reason related to the Hop Garden Road appeal, Hart decided to increase our housing requirement up to 8,022 houses.  This is achievable from the 4,000 units we have identified on brownfield sites. But the planners would need to be persuaded to:

  • Redevelop the area around the Harlington and Hart’s offices in Fleet for mixed use.
  • Bring the many other smaller borwnfield sites across the district into the equation.

Failing that, it is inevitable that one of the green field sites is chosen.  For the purposes of this analysis we have used Grove Farm/ Netherhouse Copse as that is up for determination at the moment and the officers have recommended it.

Our estimate of a ‘fair’ housing target is based on the work of Alan Wenban-Smith. This starts with the population projections which on their own would generate a housing need of 5,040 houses over the planning period. A generous allowance is then added for additional economic growth to arrive at a need of 7,140 houses. This is easily achievable on brownfield sites, with some left over for future periods. Note that the new housing target is twice the level of housing required to meet the projected population forecasts.

The new target of 10,177 houses makes it much more difficult to achieve on brownfield. Again, the brownfield capacity could be larger than indicated above if the councillors and planners were to finally deliver on their brownfield study. If they don’t, it is inevitable that most of the sensitive green field sites including Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase), the land west of Hook and one or more of Murrell Green, Winchfield, Lodge Farm or Rye Common come into the equation. As you can see this new housing target will impact everyone.

Impact of Hart housing threat on the land supply

In the absence of the Hart Local Plan and up to date policies, the only defence we have against voracious developers is the five year land supply. This gives some limited control over speculative planning applications. So, we have taken a look at what the new target will mean for our five year land supply.

Impact of new Hart housing threat on 5 year land supply

Impact of new housing target on Hart District 5 year land supply

The left hand columns show the current 5-year land supply that Hart Council use. This shows we are in the relatively comfortable position with over 6 years land supply. If We Heart Hart’s fair housing target was adopted this would rise to 8 years supply.

However, the new housing target would reduce our land supply to below the crucial 5-year threshold leaving Hart very exposed. We would need another 525 additional houses to be granted permission ASAP to bring us back over the threshold.

Conclusion

We are in a very serious position with many of our cherished green fields under grave threat from speculative planning applications. There is no Local Plan and our policies are out of date. Hart is running an infrastructure funding deficit of £78m. The new housing target is double what we need to meet the official Government population forecasts. If the new housing target is adopted, Hart will no longer have a five year land supply. Unless we change tack, all our green fields will be concreted over and lost forever.

To preserve all that makes Hart such a great place to live we need to take serious action:

  1. The councillors need to stop squabbling and get a Local Plan in place ASAP
  2. We need to challenge robustly this new housing target and get the ridiculous new Government rules changed
  3. We need to pressure the council to properly examine the brownfield options for the district, complete their brownfield study and bring these sites forward instead of the precious green field sites.

This can only be done by everyone with a stake in Hart housing development working together to get the best outcome for Hart.

CCH force delay to the Hart Local Plan as housing numbers rise

CCH force delay to Hart Local Plan- this is no time to keep calm

This is no time to keep calm

We Heart Hart has learned that last night’s meeting of the Hart Local Plan Steering Group was a”disaster”.  Concrete Community Campaign Hart (CCH) councillors forced a further delay on to the timetable by insisting that Winchfield New Town is included as an option.

Affordable Housing blow

In a further blow, it appears as though Hart’s housing allocation has been further inflated by up to 2,000 additional houses due to new Government guidelines that may force Hart to build even more ‘Affordable Homes’. This new requirement would be in addition to the 40% of homes that must be ‘Affordable’ in the SHMA target.

Apparently, there are no plans to publish the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) until they are ready to publish the Regulation 18 consultation on the new draft Local Plan. We don’t know the timescale for that yet.

This shows that Hart’s statement in October that Hart had to build 1,500 fewer houses was a total sham.

Impact of Delay to the Hart Local Plan

There were three potential options on the table at LPSG for detailed consideration. However, CCH insisted on a fourth option that included the Winchfield New Town. We don’t know the specifics of the other options, but we suspect they included Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse.

WeHeartHart had been led to believe that the Winchfield New Town option failed testing due to concerns about groundwater flooding and lack of infrastructure. The level of testing that was carried out is now in doubt. It is difficult to see how a further delay and more testing is going to change the viability of the new town.

CCH’s stance is strange because the delay to the Local Plan will weaken Hart’s defences against the speculative applications being submitted by developers. The proposed developments at Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse and Bramshill House are due to be determined at tonight’s Planning Committee meeting. Of course, an application to develop the Pale Lane site into Elvetham Chase has recently been submitted and this will need to be determined in the New Year. If there is no draft Local Plan, then it will be difficult to defend against it.

Conclusion

It is imperative that we get the Hart Local Plan in place quickly so we can manage the inevitable housing growth that we face. CCH should stop their ideological pursuit of the unviable Winchfield New Town and start to work constructively to solve the problems of the whole district.

We would wish to see many new homes that are truly affordable for Hart residents. However, there is strong evidence of developer land-banking in Hart and of not building enough smaller properties. Simply increasing the housing target won’t lead to a meaningful increase in housing supply. Even the smallest properties at recent developments (for instance Rifle Range Farm/Hartley Row Park at Hartley Wintney) were out of reach of most Hart residents. We think the new additional target for affordable homes should be vigorously challenged.

CPRE says most sites yet to be identified on Hart brownfield register

CPRE Hampshire Logo

The CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) have been analysing Hart’s brownfield register. The have concluded that most of the brownfield sites without planning permission are not yet on the register.

CPRE Investigation

Spokespeople for CPRE North East Hampshire, Edward Dawson and Philip Todd said:

“Hart’s pilot Brownfield Register lists all the sites with planning permission that have yet to be built. However, some sites in Hart do not currently have planning permission.

These include a rural site in South Warnborough and the former Pyestock works called Hartland Village.

It suggests that most brownfield sites without planning permission; ones which should form the basis of a new Brownfield Register, are yet to be identified.

CPRE welcomes that Hart has identified sites that can accommodate nearly three times as many homes as it had forecast would come forward from brownfield sites.”

We Heart Hart Analysis

This concurs with our own analysis that showed:

  • All but two of the sites already have planning permission, indeed a number of them have already been built (e.g. Queen Elizabeth Barracks at Church Crookham, Landata House in Hook, and Monachus House in Hartley Wintney).
  • Some of the sites are not even brownfield sites, for example Rifle Range Farm in Hartley Wintney.
  • None of the sites that Hart Council itself identified as brownfield sites in the recent consultation are recorded in the register.
  • None of the other potential sites that have not yet been permitted on Ancells Farm or along Fleet Road have made it on to the register.
  • Very few, if any, of the brownfield sites in the SHLAA that we identified in our brownfield solution, most particularly sites like the former police college at Bramshill House have made it into the register.
  • Over 2,000 of the units in the register have already been granted planning permission, with 1,500 units at Hartland Village (aka Pyestock) and 16 at another site yet to be granted permission.

CPRE in North East Hampshire is encouraging the identification of more brownfield sites across Hart to protect our greenfield sites from unnecessary development.

Hart recommends Grove Farm and Bramshill planning proposals be accepted

Hart District Council recomend approval of Grove Farm Bramshill House planning applications

Hart District Council officers are recommending that the planning application for Netherhouse Copse (aka Grove Farm) and some of the applications to redevelop the former Police College at Bramshill House be granted. This has been revealed in papers recently published to go before the Planning Committee that meets on 14 December 2016. The relevant papers are available for download below.

Netherhouse Copse (Grove Farm)

The Nether House Copse (Grove Farm) application is for 423 dwellings on a green field site on Hitches Lane, Fleet in Hampshire. The controversial proposals have been opposed by a wide range of local community groups including Crookham Village and Dogmersfield Parish Councils and Fleet Town Council. But they have also been supported by various parts of Hampshire County Council and Thames Water amongst others. The planning officers have recommended that the application be granted, subject to certain conditions, and that it should go to full council for ratification. See p176 of the Agenda download below.

Bramshill House Police College

The proposals for the largely brownfield site at Bramshill House are more complex, in that there are a total of 7 applications covering various aspects of the proposed redevelopment.

Applications 2 and 3 (respectively 16/00722/FUL, 16/00724/FUL) cover the conversion of the main Bramshill House, the Stable Block and Nuffield Hall into both a single dwelling house (00722) and offices (00724).  Application 7 (16/01290/FUL) covers the provision of 14.4Ha of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). The officers recommend that these three proposals be granted planning permission, subject to a number of conditions.

Applications 1 (16/00720/FUL), covers converting Bramshill House into 25 dwellings and publically accessible museum space. Application 4 (16/00726/FUL) covers the development of up to 235 dwellings in the grounds of Bramshill House. Application 5 (16/00727/FUL) covers the development of 14 dwellings in a different part of the grounds. Finally Application 6 (16/00728/FUL) is for 9 residential units in an area of the site known as Pinewood.

The officers have asked the Planning Committee for a ‘steer’ on these applications. The applicants have asked that Hart view the development of these additional dwellings as enabling development. This would fund the maintenance of the main Grade I listed building. The Officers have said that applications 1, 4 and 5 are opportunities to recommend the applications for approval, subject to agreeing to total volume of housing. They are not minded to recommend Application 6 for approval.

Analysis

Overall we are opposed to the Netherhouse Copse proposal as this is green field development. We believe there is plenty of brownfield land available to meet our housing needs. We agree in principle that the Bramshill site should be redeveloped. However, we recognise the sensitivity of the site. We would suggest that suitable payments are made for the provision of infrastructure and affordable housing without increasing the number of houses that are built.

We predict fireworks at the Planning Committee, especially after the recent defection of two councillors from the Tories to CCH. The full council meeting on 15 December will be interesting to say the least. As the Kaiser Chiefs might say, “I predict a riot”.

It really is a shame that more councillors and more of the various groups across the district did not get properly behind a brownfield strategy. Plus they did not heed our warnings about the poor management of the Local Plan project. If they had, we might have a brownfield focused Local Plan by now and have a proper defence against the Grove Farm proposals.

Hart Planning Committee Agenda 14 December 2016
Hart Planning Committee Paper about Bramshill House

 

 

Hart Councillors release statement about their defection from Tories to CCH

Richard Woods Sara Kinnell release statement about their defection from Conservatives to CCH

Hart Councillors Richard Woods and Sara Kinnell have released a statement about their move from the Conservative Party to Community Campaign Hart. The statement doesn’t really spell out the policy differences that led to their defection.

The full statement is presented below without further comment:

HART COUNCILLORS LEAVE CONSERVATIVES TO JOIN THE COMMUNITY CAMPAIGN (HART)

Hart District Councillors, Richard Woods and Sara Kinnell, made the difficult decision to leave the Conservatives this week, in a bid to represent their residents fully during the Local Plan process.

The Local Plan, which sets out where development across the District is to be placed, has challenged Hart Councillors to balance the needs of their residents with the long-term sustainability of the wider Hart District.

“It’s a true honour to be elected as a District Councillor” said Cllr Richard Woods. “But when you feel you are unable to represent the residents of your Ward honestly, it’s time to put your political beliefs to one side and do what the people who entrusted you with their vote would want you to do to represent them in the fullest possible way”.

Residents of Fleet West, which includes the Blue Triangle, Calthorpe, Edenbrook and Elvetham Heath; elected Richard in 2014 and Sara in 2015 on the promise they would always prioritise their residents’ needs.

“It’s one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make” said Cllr Sara Kinnell. “I have been a Conservative Councillor for 12 years, initially in Hartley Wintney and now Fleet West, where I live with my family. I have made some great friends and worked on some excellent projects; including the new Hart Leisure Centre and I look forward to continuing my term as a CCH Councillor.”

James Radley, Leader of the Community Campaign (Hart) said “The Community Campaign have long admired Richard and Sara’s integrity and focus on the issues which really matter to residents; always putting those they represent ahead of political agendas. We therefore welcome them both into our team and look forward to them being even more effective for the people of Fleet West now they can be truly independent representatives and not held back by constraints imposed by national politics.”

The Community Campaign (Hart), which saw its first Councillors elected in 2004, is made up of ten independent local Councillors from Fleet & Church Crookham. Richard explained “Sara and I are looking forward to working with the CCH Group. It will be great to be part of a community focused team for the benefit of all residents in Fleet & Church Crookham during the Local Plan process. We look forward to continuing to work with all Members of Hart District Council, regardless of political beliefs, for the good of Fleet & Church Crookham and the wider Hart District.”

Finally, Cllr Sara Kinnell added “This move should be taken in the honest spirit in which it was made. Whilst some people may be disappointed, we trust our residents will understand that our ability to represent them robustly together with our personal happiness must always come before Party politics.”

Tories lose control of Hart Council after 2 defect to CCH

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

Hart Council has been thrown into some disarray after Conservative Councillors Sara Kinnell and Richard Woods have defected to Concrete Community Campaign Hart (CCH). These changes to the balance of power on the Council have not been formally announced by either the council or the parties. However, they are clearly shown on the council website.

[Update]

Hart Council releases short statement:

On Tuesday 29 November we received confirmation that Cllr Sara Kinnell and Cllr Richard Woods had changed political party both from Conservative to Community Campaign Hart (CCH).

There have been no changes in the Leadership of the Council or the Cabinet Members and the allocation of major committees remain unchanged.

[/Update]

[Update 2] Councillors release statement [/Update 2]

Hart Councillor Richard Woods Community Campaign Hart

From Hart Council Website: Councillor Richard Woods, Community Campaign Hart

 

Hart Councillor Sara Kinnell Community Campaign Hart

From Hart Council Website: Councillor Sara Kinnell, Community Campaign Hart

It is not clear why CCH have not announced this coup on their own website. It is also not clear why these councillors have not done the honourable thing and resigned their seats and fought by-elections to reaffirm the support of their constituents.

Impact on Hart Council Power Balance

Prior to the defections, the Tories held 16 of the 33 seats and relied upon independent councillor Rob Leeson for a majority. Now they only hold 14 seats which makes them the largest party but still two short of an absolute majority even if they can continue to rely upon the support of Councillor Leeson.

Hart District Council Party Affiliation

It is unclear why the councillors have made this move. However, at the council meeting of 27 October both councillors voted for the CCH amendment to mandate a new settlement in Hart even though the other Tories (and some Liberal Democrats) voted down that amendment.

Their move is strange for a number of reasons. First, even though the CCH amendment failed, the current position does not preclude a new settlement. Secondly, We Heart Hart understands that the proposed Winchfield New Town has failed testing, so regardless of the opinions of Councillors Kinnell and Woods, this new town won’t go ahead because it is not viable.

Impact on Planning Committee balance

It is not clear what the impact of this move will be on the composition of the Planning Committee. We Heart Hart understands that the composition of this committee should be proportional to the number of seats each party holds on the council. Councillor Woods sat on the committee as a Conservative, but is now CCH.  So, the Tories lose one and CCH gain one seat on the committee, giving each party the same number of seats on the committee, even though CCH have four fewer seats on the council. It would be ironic indeed if Councillor Woods was ejected from the Committee to be replaced by a councillor opposed to the Hartley Winchook New Town. Indeed it would be even more ironic if he was unable to vote on the upcoming planning application about Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse).

Hart Council Planning Committee Composition

It is clear there is huge amount of wrangling going on over the spatial strategy that is due to be unveiled on 13 December. It seems the Tories will be reliant upon some of the Liberal Democrats to carry through their preferred proposals.

MoD frees up more brownfield land in Rushmoor

Clayton Barracks, Aldershot in Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire

The Ministry of Defence has announced the closure of 91 sites across the country as part of the ongoing restructuring to free up more brownfield sites in Rushmoor Borough.

Five of these sites are in Aldershot, which of course is in the Borough of Rushmoor.  The sites are:

  • Fitzwygram House (Royal Army Veterinary Corps Centre), Aldershot
  • Thornhill barracks, Aldershot
  • Aldershot distribution outlet
  • Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Aldershot
  • Clayton barracks, Aldershot

We can understand that these closures will be alarming for those working there. However, the positive news is that more brownfield sites are being freed up in Rushmoor, meaning they have more capacity to meet their own housing needs in future planning periods. This should help Hart Council in the production of the Hart Local Plan.

CPRE find that more than 1 million homes can be built on brownfield sites

CPRE find more than 1 million homes can be built on brownfield land

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) has conducted a new study and found that more than 1 million new homes can be built on brownfield sites across the country.

The CPRE has used the Government’s own pilot brownfield register scheme to calculate that suitable brownfield sites can provide between 1.1 and 1.4 million new homes.

CPRE studied the findings of 53 councils that have published their data on suitable sites, and found that these areas alone could provide 273,000 homes. Comparing this new data with the last available data from 2010-2012, CPRE noted an 11% increase in the number of homes that could be provided on suitable sites. Planning permissions for such sites has increased by 21%. The number of suitable sites being identified has gone up by 50%.

Applying the same 11% increase to the 2010-2012 figures for the whole country gives a new estimated minimum capacity of 1.1 million homes on suitable brownfield sites.

Hart District Council was a participant in the pilot brownfield register scheme, but missed out many brownfield sites from their register, so if anything the CPRE study will underestimate the brownfield capacity.

Let us hope Hart adopts its own brownfield first strategy to meet the remaining housing need in the forthcoming draft Hart Local Plan.

 

CCH bid to mandate a new settlement defeated at Council

Concrete Community Campaign Hart's bid to mandate a new settlement was defeated

Hart District Council Offices

There was a bad tempered meeting of Hart Council yesterday, where they debated a motion designed to give guidance to the planners as they seek to produce the draft Local Plan. Concrete Community Campaign Hart’s (CCH) attempt to mandate a new settlement in Hart was defeated by 19 votes to 13.

The original motion was passed with an amendment to include provisions for providing essential infrastructure and a new secondary school:

That the Council resolves that through its Local Plan it will seek to meet Hart’s full, objectively assessed need for new homes, subject to the inclusion of an appropriate contingency to allow for any delays or the non-delivery of sites, and that it will also seek to accommodate any demonstrated unmet need for new homes from its Housing Market Area partners and additionally provide for essential infrastructure including a site for a secondary school.

There was a second amendment proposed by Community Campaign Hart to mandate the planners to include a new settlement in the Hart Local Plan.  This proposed amendment was vigorously debated and defeated. This means that the planners will not be forced to include a new settlement in their proposals. However, it does not yet mean that a new settlement is entirely ruled out. This shows that support for a new settlement for Hart is losing support, compared to the vote two years ago where almost all councillors voted for Winchfield to be the only new settlement option to be tested. It was gratifying to see a number of Tories and long-standing Liberal Democrats changing their position from two years ago.

Claimed 1,500 housing reduction untrue

In other news, it was confirmed that Hart’s claimed reduction of 1,500 homes is not quite what it seems.  The 1,500 ‘reduction’ is the removal of the potential threat from Rushmoor, not a reduction on Hart’s allocation of 7,534 houses. It is understood that the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) has reduced Rushmoor’s housing allocation but kept Hart’s at about the same level as before. The council would not confirm precise numbers, but it is understood the contingency referred to above is around 120-150 homes, or 15% of the residual 850-1,000 requirement, after assuming Hartland Village (Pyestock) will go ahead.

There were some interesting questions from members of the public, including from representatives of Hook Action Against Over Development and Fleet and Church Crookham Society.

Hook Action were clearly pushing for a new settlement in their questions, which is a strange position to take. We believe that the proposed Winchfield New Town has failed testing. This would leave Murrell Green as a potential candidate for a new settlement which would see 1,850 new houses in Hook Parish.