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2014 SHMA is out of date and in our view analysis of the figures is not helpful.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.

Hart outlines new timetable for the Local Plan

Hart District Local Plan delayed again

Hart Council has outlined a new timetable for delivery of the Local Plan after the most recent delays. The new timetable looks quite ambitious:

27 September2016 – There is to be a workshop to go through the draft overarching policies, but not the spatial distribution strategy itself.  The papers for the workshop are due to be published shortly.

17 October 2016 there will be a special meeting of the Local Plan Steering Group,  open to all councillors, to discuss the Spatial Distribution strategy and the final version of the draft Local Plan. It is not yet clear when the documents related to this meeting will be published. [Update: We now expect the spatial strategy to be released on 11 October].

19 October 2016 – Special Cabinet to decide to go to consultation on the draft Local Plan.

20 October 2016 – Special Council to endorse Cabinet decision to go to consultation.

The dates for the Special Cabinet and Council meetings have been added to the official meeting schedule on Hart’s website.

It is not yet clear when the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment will be published, nor is it clear what the process will be if there are disagreements about the draft plan at the LPSG on 17 October.

Frustration at Local Plan delay

frustration-at-local-plan-delay-fleet-nm-7-sept-2016

Fleet News and Mail have covered our story about the further delays in the Hart Local Plan. The full article can be found here.

It is good to see the leader of the council committing to producing a robust plan based on robust evidence.  We look forward to seeing the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) when it is produced.

Hart Local Plan delayed again

Hart District Local Plan delayed again

Hart’s Local Plan has been delayed again. Councillors who were due to go to a Local Plan Steering Group meeting on 30 August have been told that the meeting has been deferred. The reason given is that they cannot decide the ‘spatial strategy’ until the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) has been agreed.

Apparently, Rushmoor are still holding out for Hart to build 1,600 Rushmoor’s allocation. This could be changed by the new SHMA, but the SHMA remains incomplete because they are changing the methodology is being changed and a new piece of work has been commissioned from the consultants, Wessex Economics. Readers may remember we were first promised the new SHMA in February, then May, and subsequently, Rushmoor have indicated the SHMA would be ready in July 2016. But now we don’t have a date for completion.

This is the latest in a long line of delays:

In October, 2013, when the earlier version of the plan was rejected by the planning inspector, the council said:

“Cllr Parker said that while the council operates under the interim strategy, it is working on an updated Local Plan.

“We expect to put this out for consultation early next year, and would look to submit it to an inspector next autumn[2014],” he added.”

In April 2014, the plan was to have a resubmission plan ready for consultation in October 2015.

In February 2015, the plan was to have a resubmission plan ready for Autumn 2015.

In April 2016, the plan was delayed yet again, with the timetable clearly stating that a draft version of the Local Plan would be published in September 2016. No revised date has yet been given for the draft to be published. The timetable they were working to was:

Full Draft Local Plan – September 2016 (Summer 2016, a couple of months slippage) [now slipped again]

Submission Plan – March 2017 (Autumn 2016, at least 3 months slippage)

Submit to Secretary of State – TBA (Winter 2016, unknown slippage)

Examination – TBA (Spring 2017, unknown slippage)

Adoption – TBA (Summer 2017, unknown slippage)

Of course, there is now a significant risk of the Government stepping in and doing the Local Plan for us.

In the light of the loss of the Moulsham Lane appeal, Hart are working hard on a revised set of policies. These will be discussed by councillors at a special meeting on 27 September, but in the meantime, developers will have a field day. because without a Local Plan and without up to date policies, Hart Council is essentially defenceless.

Don’t hold your breath.

 

Hart Council loses Moulsham Lane, Yateley Appeal Decision

Proposed development at Moulsham Lane Yateley Hart District Hampshire GU46 7RA

It has been announced that Hart Council have lost the developer’s appeal about the proposed development at Moulsham Lane in Yateley.

The significant part of the decision is that the inspector has decided that Hart’s five year land supply is not sufficient grounds to turn down the application.  This is contrary to the decision made by the inspector in last year’s Owens Farm, Hook appeal.

The other worrying aspect of the appeal is that the inspector has ruled that the council’s RUR2 policy which seeks to limit development in the countryside has been ruled to be out of date and partially inconsistent with the NPPF so will not offer significant protection until the new Local Plan is in place. This puts at risk place like Winchfield, Hares Lane in Hartley Wintney, Hook and Pale Lane Farm.

This decision shows the damage that can be done by the council not having a Local Plan in place. They have missed all of their self imposed deadlines as documented here. A new draft Local Plan is due to be published next month, but as we have not yet even seen the new SHMA, which was originally promised for February, then May, this timeline needs to be called into question.

We can only hope that they do get a plan published and that it focuses on the plentiful brownfield sites that will more than meet our requirement for decades to come.

Hart Council fights for survival in Hampshire local government reorganisation

Hart District Council fights for survival in Hampshire local government reorganisation

Hart District Council is fighting for its very survival in the Hampshire Local Government reorganisation. Hart has sent a desperate letter and copy of a leaflet to the Hart District Town and Parish Councils setting out the case for its proposals for a ‘Heart of Hampshire’ Combined Authority. This is in stark contrast to the competing Unitary Authority proposal from Hampshire County Council. Both proposals have been put forward in the Hampshire County Council consultation which closes on 20 September 2016.

Hart’s proposal would lead to the introduction of an additional tier of local Government and a directly elected mayor along with a claimed extra £30m per year to be split amongst the participating authorities including Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Hart District Council, New Forest District Council, Rushmoor Borough Council, Test Valley Borough Council and Winchester City Council. Hampshire County Council and the M3 Enterprise LEP would also be involved. In return the COmbined Authority would gain extra powers although it isn’t clear just what these extra powers would be.

Hampshire County are proposing a Unitary Authority approach which would mean the abolition of district councils like Hart and Hampshire County Council and their replacement by new Unitary Councils who would provide all services. These proposals would lead to savings of up to £40m in senior management and councillor costs, optimising services and reduced property costs.

More detail on the pros and cons can be found here and here.

Hart’s letter to the town and parish councils and a copy of the leaflet to be sent to all households can be found on the downloads below.

Hart leaflet to residents
Hart letter to parishes

Hart have set our their own devolution web page here and Hampshire County Council have set up a local government reorganisation web page here.

 

Hart now has 6.3 years land supply

Hart District Council Logo

Hart Council has published a new land supply calculation that shows we have 6.3 years land supply.  The document can be found here.

This is good news as it shows that Hart can still retain a degree of control over granting planning permission to voracious developers up to the point it finally gets a Local Plan in place.

However, there are a number of interesting points coming out of the new calculation:

  1. In the most recent year 2015-16, 705 new dwellings were completed, nearly double the annual requirement expressed in the current SHMA
  2. Hart are using 382 dwelling per annum, for a total of 8,022 houses over the planning period compared to the 7,534 agreed figure for the SHMA.  They say this is to respond to some criticism made in the Hop Garden Road appeal, but we are concerned about it, especially as the new SHMA should reduce the overall requirement.
  3. A total of 4,473 houses have been built or permitted since 2011.

 

Council Leader misleads the public on brownfield register

Brownfield site: vacant offices at Ancells Farm Business Park, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire.

Fleet News and Mail have picked up on our story about Hart Council botching the new brownfield register. They have obtained a quote from Hart Council leader, Stephen Parker (our emphasis):

“One of the pilot requirements is for sites to be ‘deliverable’. The Special Protection Area (SPA) for birds is currently a real barrier to development in Hart.

“The council is working hard with our partners, including Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership, to deliver a big area of SPA mitigation land which, once in place, will allow additional sites to come forward.”

However, the manual for the pilot scheme says that to be regarded as suitable for housing our proposed criteria are that sites must be:

Available. This means that sites should be either deliverable or developable. Sites that are deliverable should be available and offer a suitable location for development now and be achievable with a realistic prospect that housing will be delivered on the site within five years and in particular that development of the site is viable. To be considered developable, sites are likely to come forward later on (e.g. between six and ten years). They should be in a suitable location for housing development and there should be a reasonable prospect the site will be available and that it could be viably developed at the point envisaged.

The terms deliverable and  developable have specific meanings in the NPPF. It appears as though there is a requirement on the council to include sites that meet the less onerous ‘developable’ criteria, which they have failed to do. The manual also says that sites that are entered on the register should be free of constraints that cannot be mitigated. We Heart Hart recognises that the provision of SANG land is a significant constraint, but the council is in the process of purchasing over 30 Ha of land, capable of supporting 1,600 new dwellings. We might add that most of the sites on the pilot register have already been delivered so are not within the spirit of the brownfield register project.

There is also provision for councils to include sites in the register that it doesn’t think are suitable to ensure transparency in the decisions taken by the authority.

We think there’s around 2,500 extra units that can be built on brownfield sites that do not appear in the register. It is time that Hart Council started doing as much as it can to support the brownfield strategy and not as little as it thinks it can get away with.