Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation – Our Response

We Heart Hart Campaign Logo

We have been working hard to produce our response to the Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation. It has taken hours of work to go through the Local Plan document and the associated evidence base. And still more work to formulate what we think is a sensible response.

This is our last chance to shape our district for decades to come. So please do take the trouble to engage and respond.

A great deal of work has gone into the draft Local Plan, but there is much to comment upon and challenge. We have framed our response around several themes:

  1. The outrageous 10,185 housing target, 2,000 houses over the over-inflated 8,022 target outlined in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment.
  2. It is simply wrong to protect our derelict vacant offices from redevelopment
  3. The missed opportunity to regenerate our urban areas, most notably Fleet
  4. The lack of an infrastructure plan
  5. The absence of any financial analysis of the alternative ways of meeting our housing needs
  6. The unnecessary allocation of green field sites to the plan, in particular Murrell Green
  7. Challenge the sustainability assessment that ranks Winchfield as the next best green field option.

Over the coming days and weeks, we will be adding further detail to our comments. But for now, we have produced a summary version of our response. This is available for download below. Please do download it and review it. Please do make amendments into your own words and submit it to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk before the deadline of 5pm on 9th June 2017. All of the Council’s consultation documents can be found here.

The document we have provided is in the Council’s ‘Word’ format, ready for you to add your personal details on the first pages, edit the comments provided and add your demographic details in the last pages.

 

Response to the Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation

 

 

Hart Council launches Local Plan consultation

Hart District Council Logo

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

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

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

The consultation materials can be found here.

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

Where is the draft Hart Local Plan?

Hart Local Plan - Keep Calm and Wait until 26 April

Hart Local Plan – Keep Calm and Wait until 26 April

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

Hart Local Plan timetable

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

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

Hart Local Plan Headlines

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

Housing Numbers by area

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

Other news

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

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

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

Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan adopted

Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan adopted

Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan adopted by Hart District Council

The Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan was formally adopted by Hart District Council at their meeting last night.

Key points in the plan are shown below:

Small scale housing development

Housing is seen by the local community as best delivered by means of the following types of development:
A number of sensitive developments of up to seven houses on existing residential land, even where this may be beyond the current settlement boundaries but otherwise meet Hart DC and NPPF criteria and the policies in this Plan.

On other Brownfield sites in Winchfield, where identified, that meet Hart DC and NPPF criteria and the policies in this Plan. This would replicate the previous successful brownfield site regeneration of the former Winchfield Station Goods Yard.

One or two new unobtrusive developments of a similar size, scale and sensitive location to the existing successfully integrated Beauclerk Green (brownfield site) development, built in 1997. Such new development should not exceed the density of Beauclerk Green as it stands today.

This would seem to rule out vast new housing estates such as those proposed in the centre of Winchfield and in Murrell Green (much of which is in Winchfield Parish). However, the Hart Local Plan would take precedence over the Neighbourhood Plan.

Size and location of housing

Policy A1: Size and Location of New Developments

As a general principle new housing developments should respect the existing scale of the village and should not result in a new development of more than seven homes.

As an exception, a new housing development in excess of seven homes will be considered if on a carefully chosen site, similar in size and density to Beauclerk Green, respecting existing settlements and current local gaps which prevent coalescence with neighbouring villages.

Appropriate redevelopment of brownfield sites will be supported in preference to greenfield sites. The appropriate redevelopment of disused buildings will be supported.

Developers will be required to demonstrate that there is adequate water supply, waste water capacity and surface water drainage both on and off the site to serve the development and that it would not lead to problems for existing or new users. In some circumstances it may be necessary for developers to fund studies to ascertain whether the proposed development will lead to overloading of existing water and/or waste water infrastructure.

Drainage on the site must maintain separation of foul and surface flows.

In the event that there is a water supply, waste water capacity and surface water drainage infrastructure capacity constraint the developers will be required to identify the appropriate improvements that are required and how they will be delivered.

However, the detailed size and location of housing policy adds a further barrier to large scale development. Policies A2 and A5 provide for generous parking and low density housing.

The full Neighbourhood Plan can be downloaded below.

Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan

Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan Adopted Version

 

Hart Tories claim victory despite abject failure

Hart Tories (NE Hampshire Conservatives) claim victory despite abject failure

Hart Tories (NE Hampshire Conservatives) claim victory form abject failure

North East Hampshire Conservatives have managed to claim victory, despite their abject failure to plan for a sensible amount of housing for Hart District.

On Thursday, the Conservative led Hart Cabinet agreed to plan for more than 10,000 houses. This is many more than is required to meet the needs of Hart residents. Yet, because they have managed to avoid putting those houses near Fleet, they claim it as some sort of victory. They show no concern for Hart residents who live in the more rural areas.

Apparently, the Hart Tories are concerned about over-development, transport, traffic, education, loss of green space and the impact of development on existing infrastructure. But only in the immediate area around Fleet. The rest of us will just have to suffer.

To recap, to meet the demographic projections for Hart residents and meet the needs of those who can’t get on the housing ladder, we need to build 6,000-6,500 new dwellings. Anything over and above that requires massive in-migration to Hart. That is, massive in-migration of people whose housing needs are supposed to be met elsewhere. The SHMA also assumes that most of these people will work outside the district, putting even further pressure on local infrastructure.

Hart is planning for more than twice the demographic projections. They are not alone, other nearby districts are planning for 42% more houses than the demographic projections require.

However, their so-called victory may be short lived. The Grove Farm application is being appealed by the developers. The Planning Committee also has to make a decision about Pale Lane soon. It seems likely that they will turn it down. However, it seems equally likely the developer will appeal that decision too. With no Local Plan, out of date policies and a questionable 5-year land supply, the inspector may well grant permission for both these sites.

The only sensible way out of this, is to remove the extra 2,000 houses they voted through on Thursday and demonstrate that the houses are not required.

New Hart SHMA published: housing target rises despite falling population projections

The Scream - 2016 New Hart SHMA also covering Rushmoor and Surrey Heath

The 2016 new Hart SHMA also covering Rushmoor and Surrey Heath has been published and Hart’s housing target has been increased from 7,534 to 8,022. This increase comes despite the forecast population for 2032 being lower than assumed in the 2014 SHMA.

For those uninitiated in the terminology of the Local Plan, the SHMA is the Strategic Housing Market Assessment. This is the totally objective document that is entirely above any criticism because it is produced by consulting only those who have a vested interest in building more houses.

Just like the last SHMA, a number of spurious assumptions and arbitrary uplifts have been applied to artificially increase the housing target to 53% above what we would need if we stuck to the demographic projections.

Essentially, we are being asked to concrete over our green fields to build houses for people who need to move into Hart to fill fictitious jobs that someone thinks might be possible to create in Hart. Other districts should already be planning to house those people.

Here is the summary of how they did it, followed by our critique of the methodology and results:

2016 new Hart SHMA Figure 12.2 Stages of Objectively Assessed Need Hart Rushmoor and Surrey Heath SHMA

2016 New Hart SHMA Figure 12.2 Stages of Objectively Assessed Need Hart Rushmoor and Surrey Heath SHMA

Demographic Startpoint

They have used the 2012-based population projections to arrive at the 785 dwellings per annum for the whole housing market area (HMA), consisting of Hart, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor. This results in a housing need of 254 dwellings per annum or 5,334 for the whole planning period up to 2032. Already most of this target has been built or permitted in Hart. If we stuck to this, we would not need to grant permission on any of the sensitive green field sites like Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse), Elvetham Chase (Pale Lane), Owens Farm (West of Hook), Murrell Green or Winchfield.

However, even this starting point is inflated. The new SHMA states that if they used the 2014-based population projections instead, then the starting point would fall by 94 dwellings per annum for the HMA as a whole. The target would fall by 41 dpa for Hart, or a total of 861 dwellings.

2016 New Hart SHMA Figure 6 Appendix H impact of 2014-based SNPP Hart Rushmoor and Surrey Heath SHMA

2016 New Hart SHMA Figure 6 – Appendix H: Impact of 2014-based SNPP projections

Market Signals Uplift

This starting point is then inflated for ‘market signals’ and affordable housing requirements. We agree that there is evidence that younger people cannot get on the housing ladder, or in some cases cannot even rent properties in the area because property prices are too high. The uplifts they recommend increase the target by ~15%, resulting in 903 dpa for the HMA and 292 dpa or a total of 6,132 for Hart. Again, the remaining target for Hart could easily be met from brownfield development at Pyestock (Hartland Village) and Sun Park.

2016 New Hart SHMA Figure 9.22 adjustments to demographic starting point

2016 New Hart SHMA Figure 9.22 adjustments to demographic starting point

However, we do challenge the methodology they have applied in this case. They run two scenarios to estimate the extra houses required to meet the needs of people who are apparently not forming households at the expected rate. These would result in a 7-14% increase in the number of houses.

However, they arbitrarily choose a 15% uplift, which is larger than either of their modelled scenarios.

Even the SHMA itself calls into question whether this uplift will actually achieve anything:

9.72…Of course, there is no way of knowing in advance exactly how improvements in housing affordability would increase household formation rates (if at all)

Moreover, there is no evidence at all that simply allocating more land for development will either increase the number of houses being built or reduce the price of housing. The same section shows that development land in Hart, with planning permission costs £4.1m per hectare (section 9.12). At Hart’s preferred housing density of 30 dph, this equates to the land cost alone of a new home being around £133,000.  Build costs, S106 contributions and a profit for the developer could easily see the sale price of new homes being around £400,000. If housebuilders cannot achieve this level of pricing, then they simply won’t build the houses.

Affordable Housing Uplift

Some further adjustments are then made to lift the housing target 985 dpa for the HMA, or a further 24 dpa (504 in total) for Hart resulting in a total of 6,636 over the whole planning period. Even if this adjustment were accepted, this would still be easily accommodated on brownfield land in Hart.

2016 New Hart SHMA Figure 10.11 estimate of additional households in need

2016 New Hart SHMA Figure 10.11 estimate of additional households in need

There are two issues with this approach. First, column G shows there is a net negative need across the HMA, but Rushmoor needs to find 84 dpa. These are arbitrarily shared amongst all three districts, even though there is no net need across the three districts as a whole. Second, the whole analysis appears to double count the housing uplift for market signals above in that the ‘concealed families’ are already accounted for in the market signals analysis.

Accordingly, we believe this adjustment should be removed from the calculation.

Jobs Growth Adjustment

The most egregious adjustments come from the jobs growth adjustments. The total housing requirement is increased to 1,200 dpa for the HMA. This results in 382 dpa for Hart or a total of 8,022 new houses over the planning period. This increase means it is likely we will have to allocate green field land for development.

We have a number of issues with this adjustment.

First, the jobs forecasts made by outside bodies are simply taken as read with no analysis or critique. We know they are wrong simply by looking at the forecasts in Appendix D. These show the number of jobs in 2015 to be in the range 158-174K depending upon which forecasting house is used. However, the latest BRES data for 2015 shows the total number of jobs to be 143K for the Housing market area.

Second, the projection of 1,200 jobs per annum is far in excess of the 1998-2015 average of 1,029, and the report itself states that it is unrealistic to expect recent jobs growth to continue at the same rate.

Third, they use a very circular argument to account for the number of jobs. The argument is basically, the forecasts say you should have 1,200 extra jobs per annum in the HMA. They then acknowledge the forecasts are unachievable because there won’t be enough people of working age to fill those jobs. So, they then decide we will need to import some extra people and those people will need houses. Clearly, this is not an expression of the ‘need’ for the district.

However, the population projections already assume inward migration from other areas and international migration from abroad. Note that since the Brexit vote, migration from the EU is likely to fall, so these projections may well overstate the level of international migration.

These additional people must be coming from other areas. However, we know from analysis of other authorities that they are also increasing their housing targets by around 42% above the demographic projections. So, the question remains, where will the people come from to live in the extra houses? All local authorities need to meet their own local needs, so if all local authorities plan for far more than they need, we will have too many houses, but we will have concreted over our countryside.

Essentially, we are being asked to concrete over our green fields to build houses for people who might move into Hart to fill fictitious jobs that someone thinks might be possible to create in Hart. And other districts should already be planning to house those people.

It is a farce. This adjustment to the housing targets should be removed.

2016 New Hart SHMA Conclusions

We believe a realistic housing target for Hart is around 6,000. This would meet the needs identified from the most up to date population projections and give a sensible allowance for additional houses to cater for ‘concealed households’ and the younger people who want to get on the housing ladder. Affordability will come from building more smaller properties and taking advantage of the Government Starter Homes Scheme.

This housing target will mean we can build all of our remaining requirement on brownfield sites and still have many brownfield sites available for future generations.

However, given the perilous state of the Local Plan, we can’t simply ask for this to be redone. We must argue in the consultation about the new Local Plan that the housing target in the SHMA is too high, and therefore the plan does not need to allocate as much green field land for development. We have no doubt that there will be a number of developers arguing for an even higher target.

The new Hart SHMA and appendices are available for download below:

Hart Rushmoor & Surrey Heath 2016 SHMA
Hart Rushmoor & Surrey Heath 2016 SHMA Appendices

 

 

 

 

Hart misses out on brownfield starter homes scheme

Berkeley Homes (St Edward) launches consultation site for new development at Hartland Village, aka Pyestock and Hartland Park

The Government has given the green light for thousands of starter homes to be built on brownfield sites across the country. Rushmoor is one of the 30 Starter Home Land Fund partnerships, but unfortunately, Hart District is not on the list.

The partnerships have been established under the government’s £1.2 billion Starter Homes Land Fund. This scheme supports the development of starter homes on sites across England. They will be built exclusively for first-time buyers between 23 and 40 years old at a discount of at least 20% below market value.

It is a real shame that Hart has not seized the initiative to be part of this scheme, when only last year it was saying:

Hart District Council is proud to be one of a number of local planning authorities who have agreed to first pilot the creation of a Brownfield Land register

Hart has also not yet published the results of their brownfield study. This was supposed to outline the art of the possible with a number of urban brownfield sites in Fleet.

It is also disappointing because Hart is not building enough smaller properties whilst over-building 4+bed houses. A real commitment to starter homes on brownfield sites would go a long way towards meeting the housing needs of the district.

However, all is not lost as the Homes and Communities Agency is seeking expressions of interest from local authorities who are interested in using their land to deliver homes at pace through the recently announced £1.7 billion accelerated construction scheme. This will see up to 15,000 homes started on surplus public sector land this Parliament.

Government announces 14 new garden villages

Government announces new garden villages

Happy New Year everyone. The Government has announced plans for 14 new garden villages across England. In addition, the Government has also announced support for three new garden towns, with over 10,000 homes each. These are located in Aylesbury, Taunton and Harlow & Gilston.

The 14 new garden villages are from 1,500 up to 10,000 homes:

  • Long Marston in Stratford-on-Avon
  • Oxfordshire Cotswold in West Oxfordshire
  • Deenethorpe in East Northants
  • Culm in Mid Devon
  • Welborne near Fareham in Hampshire
  • West Carclaze in Cornwall
  • Dunton Hills near Brentwood, Essex
  • Spitalgate Heath in South Kesteven, Lincolnshire
  • Halsnead in Knowsley, Merseyside
  • Longcross in Runnymede and Surrey Heath
  • Bailrigg in Lancaster
  • Infinity Garden Village in South Derbyshire and Derby City area
  • St Cuthberts near Carlisle City, Cumbria
  • North Cheshire in Cheshire East

The garden villages will have access to a £6m fund over the next 2 financial years to support the delivery of these new projects. The garden towns will be supported to the tune of £1.4m. The new garden projects will also have access to infrastructure funding programmes across government, such as the new £2.3 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund announced in last year’s Autumn Statement.

None of the sites are in Hart District, which is both encouraging and disappointing at the same time. We are encouraged that neither Winchfield nor Murrell Green has made this list, but of course disappointed that the proposed Hartland Village (aka Pyestock) has not yet received Government support.

However, there may be hope for Pyestock yet as the Government also said it may run a further call for expressions of interest in 2017 for other places with proposals for new garden villages.

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,

 

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