Return of the New Town: Winchfield fights back

Return of the New Town - Winchfield fights back

Return of the New Town – Winchfield fights back

We Heart Hart and Winchfield Parish Council (WPC) are fighting back against the decision to award funding for the  new town.

WPC has written to the Secretary of State demanding that the decision to award £150,000 of capacity funding to support the delivery of the Hartley Winchook/ Shapley Heath garden community new town be reversed.   In addition, We Heart Hart has written to MHCLG making a similar request, using slightly different arguments. We understand that the Rural Hart Association will also be making representations to MHCLG.

A summary of the WPC letter is shown below, together with links to the full text. The full text of the WHH letter follows.

Winchfield fights back: WPC Letter

The letter has the support of Hartley Wintney, Dogmersfield, Crondall, Greywell and Long Sutton & Well Parish Councils. The Parish Councils of Eversley, Odiham and South Warnborough have made known to WPC their concerns about the proposed development and will consider adding their full support to the letter when they next meet. WPC’s letter highlights the following concerns:

  1. The Inspector’s findings following the independent examination of the Local Plan rejected the SHGV proposal, which followed HDC’s Garden Village Application in November 2018.
  2. HDC’s ongoing promotion of SHGV is not supported by the Inspector’s findings on the submitted Local Plan and he is quite clear that other options need to be considered in an impartial manner.
  3. The absence of sound justification for bringing forward SHGV (as it is not needed to meet identified housing needs) and the lack of evidence to demonstrate that the proposal is deliverable and sustainable was confirmed by the Inspector’s findings on the submitted Plan.
  4. The numerous shortcomings with HDC’s bid when considered against the Garden Communities prospectus lead us to question how it has been successful.
  5. HDC pre-determined the plan-making process, and failed to provide the evidence to the Inspector to demonstrate that it had impartially assessed reasonable alternatives. If HDC proceed with a Local Plan review as indicated based on SHGV as its chosen long term growth strategy, it will irresponsibly overlook the Inspector’s criticisms of the current Plan’s failure to impartially assess reasonable alternatives, and continue to ignore local opinion. HDC’s bid to be included in the Gardens Community Programme is a further demonstration of their continuation of pre-determine the planning process.
  6. HDC’s ongoing promotion of SHGV is not supported by the local communities directly impacted by this large scale proposal.

The full text of their letter can be found here. And the appendix can be found here.

Winchfield Fights Back: We Heart Hart letter

The full text of our letter is set out below:

Dear Ministers,

 Re: Hart District Shapley Heath Garden Community Funding Award

My name is David Turver. I run a campaign in Hart District called We Heart Hart. We have taken an active role in the Hart Local Plan, and I was invited to speak at the examination hearing. We have successfully campaigned against the new settlement proposal. We believe that urban regeneration and brownfield development is a much more sustainable and better way to deliver Hart’s longer term development needs.

I note that you have recently awarded £150,000 of capacity funding to Hart District Council to support the delivery of the Shapley Heath so-called Garden Village in Winchfield/Murrell Green.

I would like to share with you some extra facts which may cause you to reconsider your decision. The main letter sets out the main points, backed up with links and references in the Appendices. I have copied my local MP, the leader of the Conservatives on Hart Council and your garden communities email address so you can obtain a soft copy of this letter and follow the embedded links if required.

New Settlement Policy SS3 not required and not sound

Hart’s Garden Community bid in November 2018 relied on Policy SS3 being found sound in their Local Plan examination. Policy SS3 proposed a new settlement in the same area of search as the proposed Shapley Heath development. The Local Plan itself acknowledges that the new settlement is not required to meet Hart’s housing needs. The Planning Inspector, Jonathan Manning, found that he had “a number of fundamental concerns with regard to the soundness of Policy SS3”. As a result, Hart Council has removed policy SS3 from the Local Plan to make the plan sound. See Appendix A for more details.

More work required to make new settlement sound leading to a delay of up to five years

The Inspector has said that much more work was required to make the new settlement sound:

I am of the view that a significant level of further supporting work would be required for Policy SS3 to be found sound in its current form, which would need to include appropriate and proportionate area/site assessments, infrastructure considerations, viability testing, evidence in support of deliverability and further SA work, which would need to be done in an impartial manner with sufficient evidence to support its findings and comparisons with alternative options. Any further SA work would also need to include additional standalone consultation….

I am also mindful that following further work, there can be no guarantee that the evidence would support it as the most appropriate long-term growth strategy or that Policy SS3 would be found sound.

There are several alternative options, including alternative sites and alternative strategies such as urban regeneration. So, it is clear that a new SA would be a considerable undertaking in its own right. In the risk assessment accompanying Hart’s bid they anticipated this outcome. Their mitigation was to press-on regardless with the new settlement DPD, independent of the Local Plan. I am not at all convinced that creating a DPD outside of the Local Plan process is in line with the planning regulations.

However, the Inspector makes clear that significant SA work and a standalone consultation ought to precede a new DPD.  Moreover, in Hart’s latest consultation into the modifications required to make the Local Plan sound, they have completely changed their tune. The Sustainability Appraisal Addendum says that “the AoS/DPD process will effectively be replaced by a different process, most likely a new Local Plan” (see Appendix B). The impact of this is that:

  1. The further SA work may conclude that there are better alternatives to delivering longer term growth. I know there are many in the District who support our local MP’s call for urban regeneration.
  2. Even if it is decided that a new settlement is the best long term growth option, the timescales for a new Local Plan process indicate that work on a new DPD will not start for a considerable time; maybe up to five years.

No plans to meet commitments in the Garden Community bid

In their bid, Hart committed to producing a New Settlement DPD in December 2019 if they received the Garden Community funding (see Appendix C). Yet, in response to recent questions at council, they confirmed that they have no current plans to start the additional SA work required by the Inspector; no plans to produce the New Settlement DPD and have not allocated any of the £786K budget set aside for the New Settlement in FY19/20. It might be expected that the wide scope SA work would take at least six months, plus a further 2-3 months for a consultation. It is therefore difficult to see how work can start on a new DPD this financial year. Therefore, it is difficult to see how the Garden Communities grant money can be spent effectively during this financial year.

Deceptive Communications

In addition, I am sorry to report that the Lib Dem/Community Campaign Hart led Hart Council has not been as open and transparent as one would hope in its communications on this matter.  Recently, the council was asked who had been informed that Policy SS3 had been found unsound and removed from the Local Plan. Their answers stated that both Homes England and MHCLG had been kept informed prior to the funding announcement. However, a subsequent release of correspondence shows that the removal of Policy SS3 was a passing comment to an official in Homes England in an email about a different subject. There is no record of MHCLG being contacted directly. I am therefore concerned that MHCLG may not have been aware that the new settlement had been found unsound between Hart Council’s bid and the award of funding in June 2019. It would be a shame if the Government awarded money to fund an unnecessary and unsound white elephant project.

Alternative options

Quite separately, Hart made a recent bid for funds under the Future High Streets scheme and was turned down. Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena is running a campaign to support urban regeneration within Hart.

The catalyst for this could be the publicly owned civic quarter containing the Hart Council offices and the Harlington Centre. The area is ripe for mixed-use redevelopment including offices, homes, social and retail. If all levels of Government got behind this, it would spark interest in redeveloping the rest of the High Street, including the Hart Shopping Centre.

Conclusions

In conclusion, it is clear that the facts have changed since the bid was submitted.

  • Policy SS3 covering the Shapley Heath new settlement has been found to be unnecessary and unsound and removed from the Hart Local Plan.
  • There are no plans to conduct the wide ranging SA work required that might bring the new settlement back on to the agenda.
  • There is no guarantee that such work will conclude that a new settlement is the best option for long term growth.
  • It is inconceivable that such work could be completed during this financial year, meaning that work on a new settlement DPD could not even start before FY20/21, so the funds you have awarded could be wasted.

Therefore, I would be grateful if you could review your decision in the light of new facts. There are many residents of Hart who would be pleased if the Garden Communities funds were redirected towards regeneration of our decaying urban centres instead of concreting over the very green fields that make Hart such a great place to live.

Thank you for your kind consideration of these points. I understand Hart Council representatives are meeting with Homes England this month, so I hope you have time to re-consider the funding decision before that meeting. I look forward to your prompt reply.

Yours faithfully,

 

David Turver

cc:           Ranil Jayawardena MP (by email)

gardencommunities@communities.gov.uk (by email so the embedded links work)

Anne Crampton, leader of Conservative group on Hart Council (by email)

 

Appendix A: – Hart’s Assumptions and Inspector’s Report into Hart Local Plan

Here is Hart’s bid assumption that Policy SS3 would need to be found sound in the Local Plan:

Winchfield Fights Back - Shapley Heath funding assumes Policy SS3 remains in Hart Local Plan

Shapley Heath funding assumes Policy SS3 remains in Hart Local Plan

The Inspector’s post-hearing letter about the examination of the Hart Local Plan can be found here.

May I draw particular attention to paras 17-39. A summary of his findings with respect to the Sustainability Appraisal and the New Settlement are shown below:

  • The ranking of Option 1b (the new settlement) “as the best performing under heritage is not justified”.
  • For land and other resources, the ranking of Option 1b “is also therefore not, in my view, robust”.
  • The Inspector decided that “the decision not to rank the options in terms of flood risk to be very questionable”.
  • On landscape issues the Inspector concluded:

Option 1b was ranked joint highest with Option 1a. However, it is unclear why this is the case, given that the proposed new settlement would result in the development of large areas of open countryside and Option 1a already benefits from planning permission and is largely previously developed land. Further, the post submission SA notes that Pale Lane is ‘relatively unconstrained’, but despite this and it being a smaller site / potential development, Option 3a is ranked lower than Option 1b.

  • The Inspector has this to say on the climate change ranking:

Option 1b has been ranked the highest under the category climate change. This is as a result of the potential for the proposed new settlement to deliver a district heating system. However, there is little evidence to suggest that this is a feasible or realistic option that is being actively pursued by the site promoters. I consider this raises doubt about the appropriateness of such a ranking.

  • The ranking for the impact on water was also criticised by the Inspector.

In conclusion on the SA the Inspector said:

In my judgement the scoring of Option 1b above or equal to other options is not justified by the evidence. As a result, I consider that Policy SS3 and its supporting text are not justified, as, on the currently available evidence, it cannot be determined that it represents the most appropriate long-term growth strategy.

I consider that the post submission SA is therefore not robust and should not be relied upon in support of the Plan.

In addition, the Inspector clearly states:

Given my earlier findings in terms of the housing requirement, Policy SS3 is not required for the Plan to be sound and, in light of my comments above, I consider that the most appropriate course of action would be to remove it (along with any other necessary subsequent changes) from the Plan through Main Modifications (MMs). This would allow the Plan to progress towards adoption without any significant delay to the examination process…

I consider that it would not be unsound for the Plan to retain the Council’s aspirations to plan for long-term needs beyond the Plan period, which could include the delivery of a new settlement. But, the Plan should clearly state that this, as a growth option, would need to be fully considered and evidenced in a future (potentially early or immediate) review of the Plan or a subsequent DPD…

I am of the view that a significant level of further supporting work would be required for Policy SS3 to be found sound in its current form, which would need to include appropriate and proportionate area/site assessments, infrastructure considerations, viability testing, evidence in support of deliverability and further SA work, which would need to be done in an impartial manner with sufficient evidence to support its findings and comparisons with alternative options…

I am also mindful that following further work, there can be no guarantee that the evidence would support it as the most appropriate long-term growth strategy or that Policy SS3 would be found sound.

 

 

Appendix B: Local Plan Modifications and Sustainability Appraisal Addendum

The main modification related to removing Policy SS3, New Settlement from the Hart Local Plan can be found below. The full consultation can be found here.

Winchfield Fights Back - Shapley Heath Policy SS3 removed from Hart Local Plan

Winchfield Fights Back – Shapley Heath Policy SS3 removed from Hart Local Plan

The Sustainability Appraisal Addendum accompanying the consultation into the Main Modifications to the Local Plan can be found here.

I draw your attention to page 2:

Winchfield Fights Back: SA Addendum impact on Winchfield New Town Area of Search

Winchfield Fights Back: SA Addendum impact on Winchfield New Town Area of Search

 

Appendix C: Bid Commitments and Lack of Current Plans

No doubt you already have a copy of their bid commitment. Here is the commitment to produce a New Settlement DPD for consultation by December 2019.

Winchfield Fights Back: Shapley Heath New Town Bid Timeline for DPD

New Settlement Bid Timeline for DPD

The draft minutes from the Hart Council meeting held on 25 July 2019 can be found here. I refer you to Q&A in Appendix A.

Here is the response that shows no plans to carry out the additional SA work required by the Inspector:

Winchfield fights back: No plan for SA work

Winchfield fights back: No plan for SA work

No plans to allocate budget:

Hart Council has no idea how it will spend £786K winchfield new town money

Hart Council Knows Nothing: No idea how much of £786K will be spent or when

No plans for a New Settlement DPD.

Hart Council has no plan for Winchfield New Town proposals

Hart Council Knows Nothing: No plan for New Settlement DPD

 

Appendix D – Deceptive Communications

Statement at Hart Cabinet in July that both Homes England and MHCLG were informed:

Winchfield fights back: Chairman Announcement MHCLG kept informed

Winchfield fights back: Chairman Announcement MHCLG kept informed

Question asking how MHCLG and Homes England were kept informed of the changing status of the New Settlement in Policy SS3 in the Hart Local Plan.

Winchfield fights back: Cockarill MHCLG and civil servant kept informed

Winchfield fights back: Cockarill MHCLG and civil servant kept informed

 

The subsequent release of correspondence shows only one email to Kevin Bourner informing him in passing of the removal of Policy SS3. This can be found here.

Key passage:

Winchfield fights back: HDC email to Homes England

Winchfield fights back: HDC email to Homes England

The only correspondence with MHCLG prior to the announcement is asking for an update on the announcement timetable. This email is not addressed to Simon Ridley who made the award.

 

 

 

 

Hart Local Plan: Restore strategic gaps

Hart Regulation 18 Strategic gaps

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation removes the Regulation 18 Strategic Gaps

This is the sixth and final part of our submission to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation. This article explains how Hart have removed the strategic gaps around Harley Wintney and Hook that were present in the last consultation. We believe they should restore them and policy NBe2 should be amended.  The process for making a submission is as follows:

  1. Go to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 Consultation page of the Council website
  2. From the Hart website, download and complete Response Form Part A (Personal Details). A copy can be downloaded here.
  3. Also download and complete the Response Form Part B (Your Representations), a separate Part B is required for each representation you wish to make. A copy can be downloaded here.
  4. Make sure you include words of this form in each representation. Policy [X] is not sound because it is not [positively prepared, justified, effective or consistent with national policy] (delete as appropriate).
  5. Once you have filled in Part A and Part B, please email them to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk or post them to Planning Policy Team, Hart District Council, Harlington Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 4AE.
Submissions have to be made before 4pm on 26 March 2018. If you are keen to get your submission completed, you can use the summary guide we have pulled together, or for the more adventurous, you can use our full submission. Please edit the text into your own words.

Restore the strategic gaps to the Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 Consultation

The Local Plan identifies strategic gaps between settlements.

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19: Hartley Winchook leads to no strategic gaps around Hartley Wintney nor to the east of Hook

Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 Consultation Strategic Gaps

However, no gaps are proposed to the east of Hook, to the north west of Fleet or anywhere around Hartley Wintney. This is contrary to the Regulation 18 consultation (see top), where strategic gaps were included to the east of Hook and the SW of Hartley Wintney. These should be restored and new ones added to give effective gaps between Winchfield and the west of Fleet/Elvetham Heath to avoid coalescence into a Hartley Winchook urban sprawl.

Remedy: This policy needs to be amended to include:

  1. A gap to the west of Hook from the east bank of the River Whitewater to at least the power line between Hook and Hartley Wintney
  2. A gap to the south and west of Hartley Wintney/Phoenix Green. This should be at both sides of the A30, from the existing end of development to the Murrell Green light-industrial estate and from St Mary’s Park to the motorway
  3. A gap from Elvetham Heath/A323 to the River Hart and from Edenbrook/Hitches Lane to the River Hart
  4. A gap from the east of Taplins Farm Lane/The Hurst to the River Hart.

 

Time to oppose silly Hartley Winchook new town in Local Plan

Policy SS3 Murrell Green and Winchfield Area of search for Hartley WInchook new settlement

We don’t need Hartley Winchook new town so why is it in the Local Plan?

Hart District Council has begun the Regulation 19 consultation on the Local Plan. This is the final version before submission to the Inspector later this year. Unsurprisingly, this still contains Policy SS3, with proposals for the entirely unnecessary Hartley Winchook new town.

The consultation run from 9 February 2018 to 4pm on 26 March 2018. The whole suite of documents can be found here.

We will, of course, oppose the new town elements of the Local Plan. However, we have to take great care in opposing the plan, because the worst outcome would be that the whole plan is failed by the Inspector.

Hart says that representations about the Local Plan should relate to legal compliance, duty to cooperate and tests of soundness. Helpfully, the council has provided a guidance note on how to respond.

We beleive there are grounds to challenge the plan on the grounds of soundness. Overall our objective should be to get Policy SS3 removed, together with the necessary grammar changes to Policy SS1 to ensure consistency.

How will the Inspector assess the Local Plan

We understand the Inspector is going to look at seven key areas:

1. Duty to co-operate / legal compliance
2. Spatial strategy
3. Housing numbers
4. New settlement area of search
5. Town centre regeneration
6. Infrastructure
7. Development management policies

We believe the spatial strategy is flawed, because it includes provision for the new town, which is enitrely unnecessary to meet the still inflated housing numbers.

The housing numbers themselves are based on the new Government methodology. However, they have included an arbitrary 25% uplift to the requirement, which we believe is too high.

The new settlement area of search is very wide and covers areas that have already not passed testing:

  • The area west of Winchfield was ruled out of the sustainability assessment, because it is a more peripheral location relative to the train station, does not offer a central focus and is in close proximity to Odiham SSSI.
  • The area east of Winchfield fared less well that Murrell Green and of course the sustainability assessment grossly understated the flood risk. And of course there were other issues with Historic Environment, Bio-diversity, Landscape and Water Quality.
  • The sustainability appraisal famously did not take account of the high-pressure gas main traversing the site.

Moreover, it is highly likely that the costs to deliver the required infrastructure will far exceed any realistic assessment of developer contributions.

Hart acknowledge that Fleet will face a challenge “to secure investment so that it can compete with the comparable towns in neighbouring districts”. Yet, the local plan contains no plans to regenerate our main town centre.

The infrastructure plan is paper thin, and they offer no solutions on how to close the £73m infrastructure funding deficit and no plans in particular to improve healthcare in the district.

The development plan policies contain a number of strategic gaps around the district, but leave Hartley Wintney totally exposed with no strategic gaps planned.

 

 

Hartley Winchook leads to no strategic gaps around Hartley Wintney nor to the east of Hook

We will pull together a more detailed response in the coming weeks.

Hartley Wintney Neighbourhood Plan launched for consultation

Hartley Wintney Duck Pond. Hartley Wintney Neighbourhood Plan

Hartley Wintney Neighbourhood Plan launched for consultation

The Hartley Wintney Neighbourhood Plan team have launched the latest version for consultation. It is clear that a great deal of work has gone into this plan, so we should thank the team. I would encourage Hartley Wintney residents to respond to it positively.

The consultation runs from 9am on the 8th January to 9am on the 19th February 2018. Copies of the summary and full versions of the Neighbourhood plan can be found here. The online feedback form can be found here.

Our feedback has broadly welcomed the Neighbourhood Plan. However, we have made three recommendations for improvement that you may wish to consider in your own submission.

Hartley Wintney Neighbourhood Plan Improvements

Policy 7 Views. As you may know the Hart Local Plan is due to be published for consultation shortly. This contains Policy SS3 which includes proposals for a new town in an area of search including Murrell Green. I believe you should expand the field of the protected view coming from the West of the village to include the vista to the south of the A30. This might afford us some greater protection later down the line if we are unsuccessful in fending off the new town.

Policy 8 Gaps. Related to the above, the Hart Local plan defines a number of strategic gaps around the district. These are shown as red hashing on the image below.

Hartley Winchook leads to no strategic gaps around Hartley Wintney nor to the east of Hook

It is notable that there are no strategic gaps proposed by Hart around Hartley Wintney. I would suggest that in the absence of such gaps being proposed by HDC, then we as a village should propose our own strategic gaps, particularly to protect against visual and physical coalescence with Murrell Green/Hook to the south west and Elvetham Heath/Pale Lane/Fleet to the south east.

Village Parking. My final comment relates to parking in the village and along Green Lane in particular. The village has grown a lot in recent years, and the infrastructure has not grown with it. There are times of the day that Green Lane becomes impassable due to cars being parked and other cars wishing to travel in both directions along it. There is probably scope to widen the lane between the Church and the WI Hut to allow both parking and two-way traffic. Similarly, there is probably scope to add extra parking spaces along Church Lane between Fleet Road and Oakwood school. Extra parking capacity will help those people who need to drive to work in the village.

Please take the time to examine the document to come up with your own suggestions for the Hartley Wintney Neighbourhood Plan.

Hart Council approve draft Local Plan with Hartley Winchook proposal

Policy SS3 Murrell Green and Winchfield Area of search for Hartley Winchook new settlement

Area of search for Hartley Winchook New Town

At last week’s council meeting Hart Council approved the draft Local Plan including a proposal to build Hartley Winchook new town from as early as 2024.

We are pleased that Hart has taken the next step in getting a Local Plan in place. However, we are angry and disappointed that the draft Local Plan includes proposals for an entirely unnecessary New Town in Winchfield and Murrell Green. We will of course, support the process to get the Local Plan adopted, but we will fight hard to get the New Town proposals removed from the Plan both in the forthcoming consultation and, if necessary, when the Plan is put before the Inspector.

It was confirmed by councillor Cockarill at the council meeting that the Local Plan can proceed without the Hartley Winchook proposals. So, the new town is entirely unnecessary.

We did prepare a statement for the council meeting that was partially read out by Councillor Burchfield.

This is reproduced in full below.

We are at an important point in the history of Hart District. We need to get a Local Plan in place urgently. We need to gain control over speculative planning applications. We need to regain control over developers who are running roughshod over the wishes of local people.

However, you shouldn’t just approve any old Local Plan. The Government has done us a favour by changing the methodology to calculate housing need. The result is a position that We Heart Hart has been advocating for three years, namely a sensible housing target.

The base requirement is 209 dwellings per annum. I can see the logic of planning to lift the ‘affordability cap’ resulting in 310dpa. I can even see a logic in adding a few more houses to cater for a realistic amount of unmet need in Surrey Heath. So, my favoured target would be 335dpa or 5,360 over the new plan period. But we would live with the proposed 388 target. I don’t believe anybody in the district would seriously challenge this outcome.

However, for very dubious reasons, you have decided to plan for even more houses by promising to plan for an unnecessary new town. I and many others cannot live with this outcome, for a number of reasons.

First, the proposed new town is not necessary. It will deliver houses we don’t need from as early as 2024, adding perhaps 100-200 houses per year, resulting in 800-1,600 extra houses.

Second, this additional rate of building will end up being carried forward and compounded in future plans because of the way that the ONS household projections are calculated. Adding gratuitous extra houses now will add extra building pressure on our green fields for decades to come.

Third, the proposed new town will end up starving our urban centres in Fleet, Hook and Yateley of much needed investment in regeneration. The residents of Hart have not been consulted on any regeneration plans. But a sensible regeneration policy could gather widespread support and deliver necessary affordable housing and infrastructure investment where it is most needed.

Fourth, the proposed ‘area of search’ is inappropriate, as we know it includes areas that essentially failed testing in the recent sustainability appraisal, and some land that is definitely not for sale.

Finally, the proposed draft Local Plan is very light on its plans for infrastructure. There are no objectives set for infrastructure, just a set of vague and woolly policies. There is no acknowledgement of the £72m infrastructure funding gap; there are no specific tangible projects and no costings. I fear this is contrary to current NPPF guidance and may render the plan unsound at inspection.

So, I would urge you to modify this draft Local Plan to remove the unnecessary new town proposals. You should also provide greater focus on the plans and objectives for infrastructure: road improvements, healthcare facilities, cultural amenities and allowing appropriate room for expansion of our secondary schools should extra capacity be shown to be required. I believe these modifications would achieve near unanimous support across the district.

Hartley Winchook plan comes back like a terminator

Hartley Winchook new town keeps coming back like a terminator

Community Campaign Hart and Liberal Democrats bring back the Hartley Winchook new town plan, like a Terminator

Happy New Year to everyone. Before Christmas we reported on the details of the forthcoming draft Local Plan.  We thought the new Government approach to calculating housing need had killed off the idea of a Hartley Winchook, but it has returned like a Terminator who doesn’t understand its time has passed.

The CCH/Lib Dem coalition have included plans for a new Hartley Winchook settlement in the draft Local Plan, even though a new town is not required. There are key council meetings on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of January 2018 to discuss these plans. We would urge as many people as possible to go along an oppose this aspect of the proposed Local Plan.

 

Policy SS3 Murrell Green and Winchfield Area of search for new settlement

Policy SS3 Murrell Green and Winchfield Area of search for new settlement

We oppose this element of the proposed Local Plan for the following reasons:

  1. A new town is not needed to meet the required housing numbers. The Council have set the housing target at a generous 6,208 over the planning period from 2016 to 2032. We believe this target is more than is required, but we could live with it. A new town is not required to deliver these numbers. They have identified 6,346 homes to supply this requirement, without the new town being required.
  2. They are intending to plan for a new town that will start delivering even more new houses in 2024. This will lead to significant over-delivery of housing, unnecessarily decimating our countryside and setting an increased target for future generations.
  3. Diverts attention away from the necessary regeneration of our urban centres of Fleet, Hook, Blackwater and Yateley.
  4. We believe the proposal is misleading and potentially unsound because the area of search includes land that is definitely not available, for example Andrew Renshaw’s farm in Winchfield.
  5. Unnecessarily blights the property values of residents in the area of search, which might well be illegal.
  6. No local gaps provided around Hartley Wintney, Winchfield or to the east of Hook, (see image below).
  7. Creates unnecessary extra work and lack of focus at this crucial stage of plan development. It is imperative that the Local Plan is approved as quickly as possible. Everybody would be able to live with the proposals if the Hartley Winchook new town plan were deleted. Including it now, adds unnecessary controversy.

Hartley Winchook leads to no strategic gaps around Hartley Wintney nor to the east of Hook

Please do go along to the following council meeting and make these arguments:

  • Overview and Scrutiny meeting on 2nd January at 7pm
  • Cabinet meeting on 3rd January at 7pm  and finally,
  • Full Council on 4th January at 7pm

It is time to terminate this daft idea. We are sorry that we can’t be there, as we are travelling over this Christmas and New Year period.

 

Is the Murrell Green new settlement viable?

Murrell Green new settlement proposal

Murrell Green new settlement proposal

We wrote yesterday that the council has prioritised the Murrell Green new settlement as part of the Hart Local Plan. However, there are very real questions about the viability of these proposals.

  • Environmental concerns
  • Infrastructure issues
  • Coalescence of Hartley Wintney and Hook
  • Financial stability of the promoter

Environmental concerns about the Murrell Green new settlement

Part of the site includes Beggars Corner which is the triangular piece of land between the railway and motorway. A proposal for a solar farm on this land was turned down at appeal last year. The main reasons for turning it down were:

  1. Harming the enjoyment of those walking the public footpath across the site. This is shown as a dotted red line on the map
  2. Spoiling the view from the Deer Park at Odiham

Houses are obviously taller than solar panels, and indeed some houses might have solar panels on their roofs. So, how can it be sensible to build houses when solar panels were deemed inappropriate?

Furthermore, a significant part of Beggars Corner used to be landfill, with unknown contents

SHL 167 Landfill details Beggars Corner

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

It is not appropriate to build houses on this type of land. Nor should it be promoted as green-space for children or dog walking when we don’t know what toxins lie beneath.

It should also be noted that a 110kV electricity transmission line traverses the site as well as a high pressure gas main. Hardly appropriate for housing or recreation.

Gas Main through Murrell Green new settlement Site

Gas Main through Murrell Green Site

The site is also within the Thames Valley SPA 5km zone of influence. There are three Sites of Interest to Nature Conservation (SINC) on the site plus a further SINC just to the west at the River Whitewater.

Finally, there are a number of public footpaths that currently criss-cross the site and they appear to be destoyed by this new proposal.

Infrastructure Issues

The only access to the south of the proposed Murrell Green new settlement is Totters Lane. This is single track in places with a very narrow bridge over the railway. To the north there is the A30 which is already very busy, with choke points at Phoenix Green, Hartley Wintney and the roundabout in Hook. It is difficult to see how these choke points can be alleviated.

Those of us who use Winchfield station know that the car-park is frequently full to capacity and of course, the whole line to London is running over capacity. The idea that either Hook or Winchfield stations can accommodate the extra passengers from thousands more houses is simply laughable.

In addition, the previous strategic assessment of Murrell Green included concerns about:

  1. Healthcare provision – I can speak from personal experience that Whitewater Health that covers Hook and Hartley Wintney is full
  2. Primary school provision
  3. Availability of supermarkets

Coalescence of Hartley Wintney and Hook

The proposed site abuts the south western boundary of Hartley Wintney parish and is close to what are currently quite widely spaced houses.

Hook SHLAA sites in Hart District, Hampshire

Hook SHLAA sites in Hart District, Hampshire

The western side of the Murrell Green new settlement comes within a couple of hundred metres of the new development to the NE of Hook (sites 1, 2 and 3 on the image above). Note that sites 4 and 126 on the map above are not (yet) included in the new settlement proposal.

In essence, we are creating Hartley Winchook.

Financial viability of the promoter

Last year, it came to light that there was a ‘secret plan‘ for a very large settlement that included both Winchfield and Murrell Green. The Murrell Green part of the proposal was promoted by a company called Pearson Strategic Limited.

There are a number of pertinent facts about this company:

  1. It only has one director, James Turner
  2. It was only incorporated in November 2014 and has no revenue
  3. At the time of its last accounts, it has a negative net worth of £3,240
  4. Its only real asset is promotion rights over Totters Farm that has been mortgaged under a fixed and floating charge to Monopro Limited.

One really has to question whether we should be building the Hart Local Plan around a site with such little backing.

Accounts to Pearson Strategic can be found here.

Fixed and Floating charge document can be found here.

Conclusion

Some Hart Councillors seem hellbent on a new settlement regardless of the suitability or viability. In addition, they have not challenged the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) hard enough. If we are sensible about the housing targets and get properly serious about the brownfield opportunities we don’t need a new settlement anywhere in Hart.

Time to make our voice heard again.

 

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.

Election update: Hook candidates declare their positions

We Love Hart Ballot Box

Hook Action Against Over Development have been in touch with some of the local candidates for Hook ward in the Hart District Council local elections 2016, and managed to get some additional information out of their local candidates and have circulated this in an email to their supporters.

This is reproduced below, with our response where appropriate. The appropriate detailed pages for each party have been updated accordingly as well as our summary page.  The detailed party pages are:

Colin Ive, Liberal Democrat – No election leaflet delivered, local party website has no information on the current elections and no candidate contact details.

Mike Morris, The Conservative Party Candidate:

I joined the council because of the 550 houses that were proposed at NE Hook and out of choice became part of the planning team that is processing that site and others around Hook. As you know none of which I welcomed and said so in front of all that attended the Basingstoke Hotel Hook residents meeting.

I do not support urban extensions as they do not bring forward sufficient new infrastructure capacity but just overload current capacity. Nor do some Brownfield sites under permitted development! However I welcome the proposed development at Hartlands (sic) Park (Pyestock) with its 1000 plus housing which will reduce the housing numbers Hart has to deliver. Nevertheless this hasn’t changed my mind regarding the need for a large settlement site at Winchfield which I support as its deemed the only sustainable and developable site in the district to deliver sufficient housing numbers for the current ( impending ) plan and the future.

As you would expect every District Councillor defends his Ward and therefore some of my Conservative colleagues particularly those serving Wards in and adjacent to Winchfield would naturally be against the proposed Winchfield development. I fully understand their position and I would do the same if it applied to Hook or Rotherwick.

I’m unaware of a party line to vote one way or another on any future development and always intended to vote for and on behalf of Hook and Rotherwick residents within best practice in terms of planning policy.

Our response:

  1. Hart Council has said Hartland Park has capacity for 1,500 homes, not 1,000.  And of course it will not reduce the number of houses Hart has to deliver, but will make a significant contribution to meeting the alleged ‘need’.
  2. All of the sites proposed for the Winchfield new town are classified as “not currently developable” in the SHLAA, so it is misleading to suggest otherwise.  No evidence has been presented to demonstrate that a new town at Winchfield is ‘sustainable’.
  3. Hook is adjacent to Winchfield, and indeed around 1,850 of the proposed 5,000 new houses in the Hartley Winchook new town are actually in Hook parish.  One might hope that Hook councillors would acknowledge this fact and look more closely at our brownfield proposal that would result in fewer new houses in Hook than any of the other proposals.  Now that Pyestock is on the table, this is now self-evident.

Verd Nabbs, The Labour Party Candidate

From printed election material:

Local councillors have surprisingly limited powers, but they can be held to account, so they represent YOUR views. In particular over the proposed Winchfield development. A new development will prevent the irresponsible expansion of existing towns and will come with essential infrastructure improvements. We need to act now, before a solution is imposed upon us!

Dai Rees, UK Independence Party (UKIP)

Statement from local branch website:

On housing, a UKIP representative would weigh up the merits of any particular project and would decide accordingly. We all understand the results of over-development – schools, doctor’s surgeries, roads etc. simply cannot cope with the additional strain being placed upon them but nothing ever seems to get done to curb the problem. A UKIP councillor would introduce a measure of realism into the debate and could be relied upon to listen to residents and take account of any grievances they may have. We recognise that new dwellings do have to be built to cope with the increase in our population – caused largely by a laissez-faire attitude to immigration by subsequent governments – but accommodating additional persons must be done sensibly and UKIP councillors would concentrate on brown field sites as a priority.

A UKIP councillor would support improved infrastructure measures and would seek to ensure that there are better schooling and medical facilities, more parking places especially where doing so helps local businesses, and an improved transport network.

[Update] the UKIP candidate has now said he will oppose a new town in Hook. [/Update]

 

 

 

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