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.

 

Hart seeking to plan for more houses than we need

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

It has come to light that Hart Council is seeking to plan for more houses than we actually need to build, contrary to the approach taken by neighbouring East Hampshire council.

The agenda for this week’s council meeting has been published and includes the following motion:

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.

There is no reason to argue with meeting the objectively assessed need. However, it is not clear how big the contingency will be, nor how the use of the contingency will be controlled. Indeed, given that earlier this year there were over 3,000 dwellings that had been granted permission, but not yet built, it is not clear why the council must give further ground to the developers by planning for any contingency at all.

We were curious whether the inclusion of a contingency was normal practice. We took a look at neighbouring East Hampshire who are producing the Local Plan for Hart and recently adopted their own Local Plan. It turns out that East Hampshire doesn’t have a contingency and the total of their allocated sites (9,146) doesn’t even appear to add up to the total housing target (10,370). So, the question remains, why does Hart need to plan for a contingency?

East Hampshire Analysis

East Hampshire have a SHMA that identifies a ‘need’ of between 520 and 610 dwellings per annum, or a total of between 8,840 to 10,370 houses in their plan period. See page viii of the non technical summary:

They also had a Joint Core Strategy (JCS) that has settled on an objective need of 10,060 houses, see section 6.7:

It appears as though the JCS was upgraded slightly upon examination to the highest figure in the SHMA of 10,370

Their actual Local Plan uses this 10,060 number as a minimum, states 10,370 as the target, but only allocates sites up to a total of 9,146. That is to say, less than the minimum target. See section 1.24 and Appendix 2:

Please oppose the consultation about the Rye Common new village development

Rye Common new village proposal, Odiham, Hart District, Hampshire

Rye Common new village proposal near Odiham and Crondall in Hart District Hampshire

Bell Cornwell have launched a consultation on proposals to build a 1,600-1,900 new houses on around 140 hectares to form the so-called Rye Common New Village to the south of the A287 between Odiham and Crondall. We urge all We Heart Hart supporters to oppose the proposals by responding to the consultation that can be found here, on the grounds that it is not needed as there are plenty of brownfield sites available and Hart’s declared strategy is to prioritise brownfield development ahead of green field development.

More details about the plans can be found in Bell Cornwell’s consultation microsite,  leaflet and vision document.

We suggest you utilise some of the following arguments in your answer to the first question:

This development is not required as there are plenty of brownfield sites available, as can be seen here:

http://wehearthart.co.uk/2015/11/there-is-a-brownfield-solution-to-harts-housing-needs/

There are at most 2,350 more homes to be granted permission in the plan period (and according to a recent press release from Hart DC this may be further reduced by 1,500), and close to 4,000 dwellings that could be built on brownfield sites.

Hart’s declared strategy is to prioritise brownfield development before green field development as can be seen on page 2 of the recent Refined Housing Options paper.

Thank you for your help.

 

Keep calm and count to 1,500: housing reduction may not be all that it seems

Keep Calm and Count to 1,500

After yesterday’s apparently good news from Hart Council saying that Hart would have to build 1,500 fewer homes, We Heart Hart sought some clarification on how the 1,500 fewer homes had been calculated. Sadly, the answer we received sheds no light at all on the problem and only adds to the confusion. In fact it does appear as though the claimed 1,500 reduction might be entirely made up. It seems that only one day after claiming a 1,500 reduction on housing numbers it is now “inappropriate to speculate about where we stand with regard to housing numbers”.

We asked:

I have just seen the press release about Hart being asked to build 1,500 fewer homes than previously thought.  However, the release is a bit ambiguous as to what the baseline is.

Going back to the previous SHMA, the housing requirement was 7,534.  Is the 1,500 reduction from this baseline, giving a new requirement of 6,034?

Or is the baseline 7,534 plus the potential 1,600-1,800 additional requirement from Rushmoor’s unmet need? If so, then the 1,500 reduction is in fact a net increase on the 7,534 figure.

Can you explain please?  Also, does this mean that the new SHMA is ready to be published, and can I have a copy?

The response we received is as follows (our emphasis):

In light of the unexpected good news from Rushmoor we are reworking all the figures. It now removes any immediate threat that Hart may have to take up to 3,000 overspill homes from either Rushmoor or Surrey Heath.

2014 SHMA is out of date and in our view analysis of the figures is not helpful. Our Planning Officers are concentrating their time on dealing with the nearly but not quite finished new one. In this regard, the new 2016 SHMA is close to sign off but the consultant is doing a last adjustment to reflect what is currently an informal agreement between the respective local authority officers over the approach to employment uplift. It will then require formal sign off at a Duty to Cooperate meeting between the lead councillors of all three Housing Market Area partners. At that point a decision will be have to be made by the three authorities to either publish it straight away or to await the forthcoming Hart Local Plan consultation and release it as part of the draft Local Plan evidence base so that it is not used out of context with its interpretation.

In the meantime, we just have received notification from the M3LEP that it will support our proposed purchase of Bramshott Farm to create a SANG.  Whilst it has no immediate effect it does allow the Planners to revisit the Brownfield Land Register to see if the purchase of the land allows us to include in our Local Plan sites currently in the Register but otherwise held back for lack of SANG reasons only.

At this stage therefore, it would not be appropriate to speculate about where we now stand with regard to housing numbers but I can assure you that the information will be published at the right time and that you will be able to comment on it though the proper consultation channels.

 

 

Breaking News: Hart needs to build 1,500 fewer houses as timeline slips again

Breaking News: Hart needs to build 1,500 fewer houses for the Local Plan

Hart Council has published a press release that suggests Hart will have to build 1,500 fewer houses than was previously thought. This should bring the overall requirement that was stated in the last SHMA down from 7,534 to 6,034. If this is confirmed it is brilliant news and vindicates the independent expert findings and what the We Heart Hart campaign has been saying for months – indeed our target was around 6,100 dwellings.

[Update: The Hart press release may not be all that it appears to be]

However, in other news, the council has also stated that the draft Local Plan will not now be ready for consultation until the New Year. Until today, it was expected that the draft plan would be approved by a special Cabinet on 19 October and endorsed by a special meeting of the Council the following day. This latest delay is just the latest slippage in a long list of missed deadlines. However, the delay in the publication of the draft Local Plan puts the Council at odds with the Government who have threatened to step in and produce Local Plans for Councils who do not have them in place by ‘early 2017’.

Andrew Renshaw, chairman of Winchfield Parish Council, and Hart Councillor for Hartley Wintney ward is delighted at the reduction in overall housing requirement. But he is angry that the draft Local Plan and associated papers have not been made available as promised today. He has been led to believe that the plans for a new town at Winchfield have failed testing, largely due to the significant risk of groundwater flooding amongst other issues. He believes the dark cloud of planning blight that has been hanging over Winchfield residents for over two years should now be lifted by Hart Council without delay.

The consequences of the reduction in housing need are many, including:

  1. We can now build our remaining housing need (less than 1,000 up to 2032) on brownfield sites – all that is required is for a planning application to be made and granted for at least 1,500 dwellings at Hartland Village (Pyestock), which will more than cover our remaining requirement.
  2. Further efforts should be made to identify further brownfield sites in the brownfield register to build up a backlog of unbuilt sites ready for future decades.
  3. The Council should make clear that it will turn down the existing and forthcoming planning permissions at Netherhouse (Nether House) Copse (Grove Farm), Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase), Rye Common and Murrell Green on the grounds that they are not required to meet our housing need.
  4. The 5-year land supply calculation should be revised without delay, because the reduction in overall housing requirement means we have over-built for the past few years and need to build fewer houses into the future, so the number of years of land supply will increase dramatically.

The full press release can be downloaded below:

Hart needs to build 1,500 fewer houses

Rushmoor says it won’t ask Hart to build extra houses

Time to celebrate we don't need so many houses

Time to celebrate we don’t need so many houses

We Heart Hart asked a number of questions at Hart Council’s 29 September meeting. We will come to those in a moment, but the most significant news came from the Leader’s announcement that he had received a letter from Rushmoor Borough Council stating that they would no longer be asking Hart to build extra houses for them.

This is good news in that it either shows that the overall housing numbers for the combined area has been reduced or Rushmoor have found extra capacity, or a combination of the two.

The significance for Hart is that there was a threat that Rushmoor may ask us to build an extra 1,800 houses, on top of our already large allocation of 7,534 houses.  We now know that our remaining requirement will not exceed the current number of around 2,350, and this number may in fact go down if the overall housing target in the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) reduces as we believe it should.

The other significant news from the meeting was that the council believes it will have a SANG capacity of 1,500 homes, over and above the SANG required to deliver Hartland Village (Pyestock). This means that there is now sufficient SANG capacity to bring forward more brownfield sites (of which there are plenty), so we shouldn’t need to grant permission to build on any more of our green fields before 2032 at least.

We also learned that Hart Council has no plans to introduce policy measures to restrict the redevelopment of brownfield sites in the district.

However, we share the council’s concern that if the brownfield sites are delivered as office conversions (as opposed to redevelopments), then there may be a shortage of infrastructure funding.

We await the publication of the revised SHMA, the new policies and the draft Local Plan with interest.