Busy time ahead for the Hart Local Plan

Keep Calm and Wait for news about the Hart Local Plan

News about the Hart Local Plan has been sparse lately, but we can expect a flurry of news over the coming weeks.

First, now that the council elections are over, we can expect the results of the recent consultation to be released over the next few weeks.  Of course, we don’t know the results, but whatever the outcome, the results will be of limited value given that Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), has emerged as an additional brownfield site with capacity of around 1,500 dwellings.

Second, the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), together with the related Employment Land Review (ELR) have been in gestation for a few months now and we should hear of the new housing numbers in the next few weeks.  We Heart Hart is hopeful the new SHMA will result in Hart being asked to build 1,000-1,500 fewer houses over the planning period.  Of course, the new SHMA should also reduce the allocation for Surrey Heath and Rushmoor and the new ELR should enable Rushmoor in particular to release more of the brownfield sites it is protecting. The net result should reduce the risk of Hart being asked to build 3,100 extra houses for those districts.

Third, the results of Hart’s brownfield study should be released in the next couple of months and will set out a more sensible view of the brownfield capacity of the district.

Finally, should also expect the revised timetable for the Hart Local Plan to be released, so we will know when we will be asked our views. Expectations are the draft Local Plan should be released in September or October.

Greens set out their position on Winchfield, Pyestock and housing policy

Green Party Logo

The local Green Party have been in touch, setting out their position on the key planning issues impacting the Hart Local Plan and some ideas on broader housing policy.  In short, all of the candidates oppose Winchfield New Town and support redeveloping the brownfield site at Pyestock (aka Hartland Park). This is an important issue for the Hart Local Elections 2016.

We have updated our summary page, and table of candidates accordingly.  The detail of their response is reproduced below.

In brief I can confirm that the local [Green] party, and all its candidates in these elections are opposed to the Winchfield new town, but support the latest proposal for redevelopment of housing in Pyestock.
1. Winchfield – No. It is not required to meet Hart’s own housing targets and  by concreting over such swathes of green space, would be the destruction of Hart as we know it for generations to come. In addition, Winchfield simply does not have the infrastructure to support a New Town – it would put strain on GPs, schools, roads and quality of life – not just in Winchfield but also in Hook, Fleet, Hartley Wintney, etc.
2. Pyestock for housing – Yes. By developing brownfield sites such as Pyestock, Hart’s housing targets can be met through dispersal of home building, and lessen the burden on roads and facilities in a concentrated area. Additionally, such developments are eligible for central Government grants towards infrastructure and do not leave HDC at the mercy of council tax hikes and s106-shy developers.
Our more detailed response will include demands for any new housing to be zero- or negative-carbon and high density, and any new roads to incorporate cycle lanes. But more importantly, we don’t see this as being just about whether or not to build the Winchfield development and need to address the broader policy – how the housing need projections are worked out and allocated. If this area continues to be put under pressure to build new houses, taking in allocations from outside the area, other beautiful rural areas will be hit.
We need to emphasise the importance of rural, countryside for everyone, not just those of us lucky enough to live in villages/ rural areas. There are genuine benefits for non residents too – loads of research on mental health benefits, conservation, getting children engaged with nature, air quality etc.
And we  need to be offering alternatives, and to acknowledge the problems lots of people have in getting onto the property ladder. Is continuing to build in the over-developed South East really the answer? Should we be pushing for a more equal distribution of investment, for example, promoting business growth and sustainable development in northern England?
Consequently we are developing a vision starting with what the area should look like in 2030, and then how to get there.
We Heart Hart welcomes the stance of the Green Party on the local development issues in Hart and broadly accept many of their ideas on wider housing policy.

Ranil supports redevelopment of Pyestock (Hartland Park)

Ranil Jayawardena Stephen Parker and Michael Fallon at Pyestock (Hartland Park)

Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena has published an article on his website showing his support for the redevelopment of the brownfield Hartland Park (formerly the Pyestock, National Gas Turbine Establishment (NGTE) site, near Fleet in Hart District, Hampshire. Readers will remember, that it is proposed to build 1,500 new homes on this site.

He is pictured with the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon and leader of Hart District Council, Stephen Parker.

Ranil Jayawardena, M.P., said: “Pyestock is exactly the sort of brownfield regeneration that should be supported. I am pleased that Hart are working together with HM Government to deliver homes on brownfield sites wherever possible, rather than building on green fields.”

Secretary of State, Michael Fallon, M.P., said: “It’s good to see sites like Pyestock being put forward for development. HM Government is ensuring that brownfield regeneration is central to local areas building new homes. A new ‘brownfield register’ is included in the Housing and Planning Bill, which will ensure that development is prioritised on brownfield sites rather than at the expense of the countryside.

We Heart Hart warmly welcomes Ranil’s support for this project. We understand that a site for Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG), needs to be found before the redevelopment can go ahead.  Let us hope that Michael Fallon can help find some redundant MoD land to help with this, so it can be included in the Hart Local Plan.

 

Prices of new homes out of reach of Hart residents

Bewley Homes 3-bed semi detached Hartley Row Park Hartley Wintney Hampshire

Bewley Homes has released the prices of the new houses it is building at Hartley Row Park, Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, also known as Rifle Range Farm.

The lowest price for a 3-bed semi-detached home is set at £465,000. The lowest anticipated price of the 2-bed homes due to be released later in 2016 is £370,000.

This compares to the median incomes in Hart set out in Figure 4.8 of the SHMA, which is £40,200.

Hart Rushmoor and Surrey Heath Median Incomes Figure 4.8 of SHMA

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 incomes.  The cheapest new properties will be totally out of reach of middle-income families in the district.

We have argued for some time that these types of new developments such as Hartley Row Park, Edenbrook (in Fleet), the proposed new town at Winchfield and the newly proposed urban extension at Pale Lane deliver the wrong type of housing to meet the needs of local people.

We need more smaller, more affordable properties and more specialist accommodation for the elderly. Development of brownfield sites for the remainder of our Local Plan period are much more likely to deliver more cheaper properties that will give our young people more chance of getting on the housing ladder.

Planning Inspector’s Trimmers Farm decision could scupper Winchfield new town plan

Solar Farm at Trimmers Farm, Hook, Hampshire turned down by planning inspectorate

Trimmers Farm solar farm turned down by inspector

The Planning Inspectorate has decided not to allow a solar farm to be built at Trimmers Farm, near Beggars Corner, on a site that straddles Hook and Winchfield parishes.  The implication of this decision is that it also likely scuppers the proposed Hartley Winchook new town. The full decision can be downloaded from the button below.

The main reason given by the planning inspector was that the solar farm “would cause substantial harm to the character and appearance of the surrounding landscape”. Although the inspector did also say that ” the proposal would make a valuable contribution to the cutting of greenhouse gas emissions. It would also assist in securing the ongoing viability of the farm enterprise”. The more detailed assessment of the harm said:

From my own observations and having regard to the appellants’ photomontages and Zone of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV), the solar farm would have an adverse visual impact which would significantly detract from the visual amenity of the area. Having taken into account the presence of the railway, motorway and pylons I consider that the proposal would consolidate the spread of man-made features across the skyline and add to the creeping urbanising effect on the area, thereby exacerbating the resultant harm to the landscape character and visual amenity. In conclusion the level of harm to the character and appearance of the landscape would be significant and would conflict with LP saved Policies GEN10, GEN1, GEN3, CON23, RUR2 and RUR3.

SHL167 SHLAA Map - Beggars Corner, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

SHL167 SHLAA Map – Beggars Corner, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

The implications of this could be quite interesting as the same Beggars Corner site is contained in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment as SHL 167, and is included in the proposals for the proposed new town at Winchfield. We have written before that 772 houses were proposed to be built on the former land fill site.

SHL 167 Landfill details Beggars Corner

SHL 167 Landfill details Beggars Corner, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

However, we find it difficult to believe that 772 houses, many of which might have solar panels on their roofs, would have a lower visual impact or create less creeping urbanisation than a solar farm.  Of course, the challenges of building houses on landfill would be much greater than installing solar panels.

As can be seen from the image below, the removal of SHL167 from the new town plan would effectively isolate two halves of the proposed new town, with the Murrell Green sites being disconnected from the other sites.  This will compromise sustainability and will also reduce the housing capacity.

Winchfield and Hook New Town proposal

Winchfield and Hook New Town proposal

We have previously challenged the viability of the new town plan, as have Winchfield Parish Council. However, to re-cap, the SHLAA suggests that the housing capacity of the new town sites is in the range 6,500-7,500. But not enough space has been set aside for SANG, or for sports facilities, schools, shops, car-parks or community facilities. Making allowance for these elements would reduce capacity to 4,000-5,000. Removing the 772 houses from SHL167 would further reduce the capacity to 3,228-4,228, which is well below the minimum viability threshold of 5,000 dwellings.

 

Trimmers Farm Solar Farm Planning Inspector’s Appeal Decision

link

Wates Developments seeks Environmental Assessment of Pale Lane site

SHL 52 SHLAA Site - Pale Lane, near Elvetham Heath and Hartley Wintney, Hart District Hampshire

Wates Developments has submitted an application for an Environmental Impact Assessment Scoping Report on the Pale Lane site (known as SHLAA site SHL 52 and strategic site STR009) that straddles Elvetham Heath and Hartley Wintney parishes.

Wates have made a presentation to Elvetham Heath Parish Council, and plan to make further presentations to interested groups.  A copy of the slides used can be found on the download below.

The site lies to the west of the existing Elvetham Heath development, and is bounded to the north by the M3 motorway and to the south by the main railway line to London.

Wates Homes Pale Lane Development Proposal, near Elvetham Heath and Hartley Wintney, Hart District, Hampshire.

As part of their submission, Wates have given an indicative layout of the final scheme (reproduced above), that will, if eventually approved, contain around 700 new houses, a local community centre, a new primary school and be called Elvetham Chase.

We don’t oppose an Environmental Assessment being carried out, but we would be very disappointed if this development went ahead because:

  1. Hart currently has a 6.7 year land supply, based on the existing inflated Strategic Housing Market Assessment
  2. The Housing Market Assessment is currently being reviewed, and the expectations are our housing allocation will be reduced
  3. Hart District Council is participating in a Government pilot scheme to create a register of brownfield sites,
  4. Hart has initiated a study to identify the brownfield capacity of the district and
  5. Our figures suggest there is capacity for around 4,000 homes on brownfield sites (including Pyestock aka Hartland Park) compared to only 2,500 further houses need to be permitted to meet our current housing target up to 2032.

So, we see no need to concrete over any more of our greenfields for decades to come.

We also note that Adams Hendry’s assessment determined that there were significant transport issues with the site and suggested that Pale Lane might have to be closed to vehicular traffic saying:

Primary vehicular site access would almost certainly be provided onto the A323, with a potential secondary access to the south on Pale Lane. However, the Pale Lane access is severely constrained by being a single track lane with a narrow single-track tunnel under the railway and single track bridge over the River Hart. If it were to provide an effective access point for development at the site, all of this infrastructure would need to be upgraded, not least to ensure effective and safe pedestrian and cycle access between the site and the Hitches Lane Country Park to the south of the railway. However widening the tunnel under the railway and the bridge over the river are likely to be very costly. Therefore, it would be sensible to test closing Pale Lane to all vehicular traffic as an alternative that would ensure safe pedestrian and cycle access could be achieved.

 

Wates presentation to Elvetham Heath PC about Pale Lane

link

 

Local Labour Party set out their position on Pyestock

North East Hampshire Labour Party set out their position on Pyestock

The North East Hampshire Labour Party have responded to our request for them to set out their position on developing a new sustainable village at the Pyestock (aka Hartland Park) site. This is an important issue for the Hart Local Elections 2016.

Their response can be found here. They say they support the redevelopment of Pyestock, but still support the idea of a new town at Winchfield.

There are a number of points in their post that We Heart Hart disagrees with and a number of inaccuracies that are addressed below:

Not building enough to meet housing targets

First, it is true that taken as a whole, the country is not building enough to meet its overall housing targets. However, not all of the blame can be pinned on Local Authorities or Government. A recent report form the Communities and Local Government select committee, chaired by Labour MP Clive Betts has said:

The real problem isn’t local authorities failing to give planning permission but developers getting planning permission and then, possibly as a way to maximise profits, taking a long to time to fully develop sites. We are calling on the government to review these proposals, and to identify the powers local authorities need in order to require or encourage developers to build out sites in their areas.

We support the development of brownfield sites for housing where it contributes to meeting local housing needs.

This chimes with our research and that of Alan Wenban-Smith. There is also evidence that housing targets across our area are over-stating the real need, being on average 41.9% higher than the official population projections would suggest.

Inaccurate assessment of the remaining housing need and infrastructure funding

Second, the local Labour party say:

Due to this national under-development, Central Government has given Hart a fairly high building target to reach by 2032 of around 7,500 homes. Somewhere in the region of 3,500 homes have had [sic] been granted planning permission, some of which being on brownfield sites. These developments are simply extensions to our existing towns and villages, but crucially don’t come with any money to pay for improvement to our infrastructure, be it our schools or surgeries.

We agree the target is 7,534 new homes are said to be our ‘need’ in the planning period up to 2032. But, they are inaccurate in their inference that 4,000 homes are yet to be granted planning permission for Hart’s Local Plan. Hart Council’s own figures in the recent consultation stated that only 2,500 still needed to be permitted (see here, para 21). Their claim about infrastructure funding is also untrue in that all developments (with the narrow exception of office conversions) attract S106 or CIL payments.

Due to their insistence that 4,000 more homes need to be granted permission, they say it is inevitable we have to build more housing in the countryside. However, as we have shown above, their claim is inaccurate, but even if it were true, our analysis has shown that there is capacity for around 4,000 homes on brownfield sites. It seems rather perverse to on the one hand support brownfield development, but at the same time be in favour of more green field development.

We have done our own analysis to show that the infrastructure costs of a new town will far exceed developer contributions and Winchfield Parish Council commissioned a report from professional planners, John Boyd Associates, into the new town idea and they concluded that:

  1. There is a lack of evidence to justify the need for a new settlement
  2. Winchfield is not a suitable location for a new settlement
  3. A new settlement is not a viable approach
  4. There should be more of a focus on alternatives such as brownfield development and dispersal

All in all it appears as though the local Labour Party has come to the wrong conclusions based on some dodgy data and inaccurate assumptions.  So, We Heart Hart does not support their position. A summary of all of the local candidates’ positions on this can be found here.

 

Hart Council delays the Local Plan again

This is where the miracle occurs

This is where the miracle occurs

In answer to questions put to Hart District Council at the 31 March meeting, it appears as though the Local Plan timetable has slipped again.

We have reported on earlier slippages that occurred last September here and here. The new timetable was given in the minutes of the council that are published here, in the answer to the supplementary to question 1 in Appendix A. Apparently now the draft Local Plan for submission to the inspector will now be published ‘early next year’.

The revised timetable (with prior timetable and movement in brackets) now looks like this:

Full Draft Local Plan – September 2016 (Summer 2016, a couple of months slippage)

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)

Given the delays in publishing the revised SHMA, the re-run of the recent consultation coupled with the change in management, bringing in East Hampshire to run the project, it was probably inevitable that some slippage was going to occur.  However, we now running a significant risk of the Government stepping in and doing the Local Plan for us.

Winchfield Parish Council demolishes the new town idea in their response to the Local Plan Consultation

Hart in Heart of Hart, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

Winchfield Parish Council (WPC) have submitted their response and covering letter (see downloads below) to Hart Council’s Local Plan consultation and effectively demolished all of the arguments supporting Hart’s new town idea.  The response was pulled together with the help of professional planners at John Boyd Planning Associates.

There are four main planks to WPC’s argument:

  1. Lack of evidence to justify the need for a new settlement
  2. Winchfield is not a suitable location for a new settlement
  3. A new settlement is not a viable approach
  4. There should be more of a focus on alternatives such as brownfield development and dispersal

The lack of evidence is demonstrated by the fact that Hart has not yet consulted upon the issues recommended by Peter Village QC namely, employment, retail, transport, and infrastructure. Moreover, it is premature and illogical to be conducting the consultation now when the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) is being revised and we don’t know what the Objectively Assessed Need is going to be. They also note the work done by Alan Wenban-Smith that seriously challenged the numbers in the existing SHMA.

The challenge to the suitability of Winchfield as a location is demonstrated by the significant barriers to delivery outlined by Hart themselves such as education, transport and foul water drainage. They also point out that the main argument used in favour of a settlement at Winchfield, the presence of a railway station, is undermined by the suggestion that the station would have to be relocated to support the new town. There are also significant doubts about the capacity of the available sites to accommodate a new settlement of sufficient size to be viable, especially when one considers the environmental constraints such as SSSIs and SINCs as well as the space that will have to be found for SANGs, shops, car-parks, schools and recreational facilities. Not only that, but the disparate nature of the sites will make it very difficult to plan a coherent and compact nuclear settlement.

WPC also challenge the viability of a new settlement by pointing out the massive costs of infrastructure with no evidence being presented to indicate how these costs would be met.  The NPPF (para 47 & 173) calls for housing and infrastructure to be planned together, so if it cannot be demonstrated that the right infrastructure can be funded and built, then the whole new town idea could be rejected by an inspector and the Local Plan found unsound.

WPC’s submission welcomes Hart’s belated focus on brownfield development, but criticises them for ignoring an important study by Stonegate Homes, the further opportunities presented by the changes to permitted development rights and the results of Hart’s own findings of new “Zones of Brownfield Opportunity”.  They also point out that Hart’s ‘Economic Development Strategy’ (2015) identifies that the District Council must direct its resources to urban regeneration, and that focusing growth in and adjacent to Hart’s main settlements would
boost investment in infrastructure and regeneration in the locations where it is needed most and help close the £78m funding gap.

Finally, they say that it would be inappropriate to try and meet the housing needs of our ageing population through a new town option.

All in all, this is an eloquent and devastating attack on the whole idea of a new town and is very much in-line with what We Heart Hart has been saying for months.  We can only hope that the councillors will take heed of such an important report from professional planning consultants and get the Local Plan back on track to being found sound at inspection.

 

Cover letter:

Winchfield Parish Council Cover Letter

Full response:

Winchfield Parish Council Local Plan Consultation response

response  covering letter

Please respond to the Hart Local Plan consultation by 18 March 2016

Hurry up, time is running out to respond to the Hart Council consultation about the Local Plan.

The consultation has now closed

The deadline for submissions to Hart Council’s Local Plan consultation is tomorrow, Friday 18th March.  So, please do respond.

Here is a quick reminder of the key arguments to help you make up your mind on how to respond:

First, there is a brownfield solution to meet our remaining housing needs that will not require either a new town or new urban extensions. The proposed densities in the brownfield option are not at all demanding, with an average density on the SHLAA sites of around 25 dwellings per hectare.  The proposed densities on the vacant office blocks are no different to some developments that Hart has already permitted on Fleet Road, such as the new McCarthy and Stone development.  Our proposals do not include Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), which could deliver even more houses on brownfield sites into the future if Hart Council is successful in reallocating that site for housing.

Remember that Hart Council themselves said back in September that brownfield capacity was 1,800 units and now they have miraculously lost 75% of them.  Since then, more sites have been identified and Hart has started to work with Government to build a brownfield register.

Second, we need to take a strategic view of the future and recognise that continuing to concrete over green fields equivalent to 25 football pitches each year is not at all sustainable and our children and grandchildren would not thank us for doing that.

The advantages of a brownfield solution are:

  • It preserves the very countryside that makes Hart such a great place to live,
  • Produces a greener solution, making better use of existing infrastructure and more efficient housing,
  • Delivers more of the smaller, more affordable housing of the types that we need to meet the needs of our young people aspiring to gain a foothold on the housing ladder,
  • Delivers more specialist accommodation for the elderly in the right places for them as well as freeing up larger properties for growing families,
  • Delivers infrastructure funding to existing communities where there is currently a £78m funding deficit
  • Lower risk of delivery because it is spread across a large number of sites with multiple developers

Of course, the new town proposal that is in the consultation has been undergoing testing for over a year now, and has identified a number of significant barriers including education, transport and foul water drainage.  The evidence to date shows the new town is simply not viable because the costs of the infrastructure required for a new town are astronomical and would never be met by developer contributions. One of the main arguments used in favour of a settlement at Winchfield, the presence of a railway station, is undermined by the suggestion that the station would have to be relocated to support the new town. If Hart were to choose the new town option, it runs the risk of not passing inspection because infrastructure delivery could not be guaranteed.

Finally, whilst we hope that the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment, (SHMA) when it is eventually delivered in June will result in a lower housing target for Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath. But until then, the threat of Hart having to build 3,000 for those districts is very real.  Support for a new town will create capacity to build these extra houses which will mean we will end up with the worst of all worlds, a new town, urban extensions and dispersal across the district.

So, we urge all residents of Hart to reject a new town, reject urban extensions and get behind a brownfield solution and give Hart Council further encouragement to step up their efforts in this regard by responding to the consultation and putting support for a brownfield solution in the comments.

If you responded to the previous consultation and gave your email address, you should have been contacted by the council asking you whether you want to re-submit your response to the new consultation.  If you have received that e-mail, we recommend you re-submit your prior submission.  This can be done here.

If either you did not respond to the last consultation, want to modify your submission or you did not give your email address before, then you will need to submit a brand new response here. Please make sure all of your friends and family respond too.

We have created a dedicated consultation page and updated our two guides to responding to the consultation that are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided. It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes