Hart Urban Revitalisation is urgently required

Urban Revitalisation - Blackwater

Hart Urban revitalisation is required in Blackwater

We have already written extensively about why Shapley Heath is a bad idea. However we have to acknowledge that, even with the reduced housing requirement that could be delivered by an early review of the Hart Local Plan, we will need to build some extra housing between now and 2040. We strongly believe that much of this housing can be delivered by revitalising our urban centres in Fleet, Hook, Blackwater and Yateley. We support proportionate development in the other parishes.

There’s plenty of sites to consider:

Hook has already made a start. Its Neighbourhood Plan contains a master plan to revitalise the centre of the village. Overall, this will deliver a market square, better traffic management, much improved commercial premises and 8,916 sq m of residential accommodation, perhaps around 130-150 flats.

Hook Revitalisation Master Plan

Hart Urban Revitalisation in action in Hook

There is promising work starting to look at the civic quarter in Fleet. But CCH’s latest newsletter demonstrates that their heart isn’t in it. They claim Fleet isn’t that bad and offer no support for any sort of regeneration.

Hook Parish Council have done it. It’s time for the the other parish/town councils to follow their lead and shame Hart Council into action. Let’s look at the case for revitalising our town centres.

Rationale for Hart Urban Revitalisation

There are four main reasons to focus on urban revitalisation.

  • Enhance the built environment to enrich all of our lives
  • Address the infrastructure funding gaps
  • Hart in general and Fleet in particular is falling behind neighbouring areas
  • Fleet not valued by visitors and business confidence is low

Sensitive revitalisation, taking advice from companies like Create Streets can transform decaying urban centres into attractive places to live, work and play.

There are acknowledged infrastructure funding gaps in the district. These are concentrated in Hook, Fleet and Yateley and Blackwater.

Urban revitalisation Existing Hart Infrastructure Funding gaps

Existing Hart £78m Infrastructure Funding gap

Building a new town at Shapley Heath/ Winchfield won’t address these funding gaps. But, proper revitalisation will beging to address these issues.

Fleet is falling behind neighbouring towns. Farnham, Wokingham, Basingstoke, Aldershot and Farnborough are attracting hundreds of millions of pounds of investment. Hart Council’s curmudgeonly approach is delivering nothing for Fleet or the wider Hart community.

Urban revitalisation - Fleet falling behind neighbouring towns

Fleet falling behind neighbouring towns

And Hart’s own bid for Future High Streets funding found:

  • 88% say Fleet doesn’t meet their retail and leisure needs
  • 52% would not recommend a visit to the town centre
  • 67% think the poor retail offer reflects badly on the town
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • The confidence of local businesses is extremely low, with 44% reporting declining turnover
Urban revitalisation - Fleet not valued by residents and visitors

Fleet not valued by residents and visitors

If we are to address these issues, we must follow Hook’s lead and develop master plans for our other urban centres.

Benefits of Urban Revitalisation

The benefits of going ahead with these ideas would be large and far reaching:

  • Deliver infrastructure to the areas that need it. Budgets will be limited but we should aim for:
  • Improved Fleet station access and cycle paths connecting Fleet centre to the station and Hartland Park
  • Social facilities such as a multi-purpose venue including theatre/cinema and meeting space and an outdoor public event space
  • Improved Health facilities such as a drop-in health centre for physio, mental health and routine nursing
  • Improved leisure such as restaurants and bars to deliver a thriving night time economy
  • Open green spaces within the town centre
  • Commercial – better retail offer and modern offices
  • Housing that people can afford and social housing for those in need

This can be delivered by focusing on creating attractive places, with no more than 4 or 5 storey development.

 

What is Shapley Heath Garden Village?

What is Shapley Heath

What is Shapley Heath Garden Village?

Shapley Heath Garden Village is a proposal to build up to 10,000 new houses in Winchfield and Hook parishes. If built, it would effectively create a single conurbation joining Fleet, Hartley Wintney and Hook. We have termed this abomination Hartley Winchook. It would virtually obliterate Winchfield as we know it. It is worth noting that earlier very similar proposals would result in around 1,850 houses being built in Hook parish.

Below is a map showing how the proposal fits into the local area.

Shapley Heath in Context

Shapley Heath in Context

The new town would start ~650m west of Edenbrook in Fleet. It would extend west to the Crooked Billet in Hook and be bounded to the north by the A30 & M3 near to St Mary’s Park in Hartley Wintney to the north. It stretches south to the Basingstoke Canal SSSI.

This new town was proposed as Policy SS3 in the Hart Local Plan. It was rejected by the Inspector on the grounds that it wasn’t necessary. Hart Council’s bid to the Government for funding to support this proposal included a housing trajectory.

Nightmare in Winchfield - Shapley Heath Winchfield New Town Housing trajectory

Shapley Heath Garden Village/Winchfield New Town Housing trajectory.

Starting in 2023, over the course of the Local Plan period up to 2032, the Garden Village would result in 2,440 unnecessary houses being built.

Scale of Shapley Heath

Scale of Shapley Heath

When completely built out to up to 10,000 houses it would be 5 times the size of Elvetham Heath, ~4 times the size of Hartley Wintney,  around 3 times the size of Hook, and nearly as many houses as Fleet parish.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses

This is the first of our posts showing:

  • What is Shapley Heath, explaining its location and scale?
  • All the reasons why Shapley Heath is a bad idea
  • An outline of an alternative approach to long term planning in Hart

The master page containing all of these posts can be found here. A link is also provided in the navigation at the top of the page.  Please do keep an eye out for further updates and share them with your friends.

The Shapley Heath Garden Village Vision Document can be downloaded below.

Shapley Heath Garden Village Vision Document

CCH Rhetoric Machine Goes Into Overdrive

CCH's Shapley Heath Rhetoric Machine Goes Into Overdrive

CCH Rhetoric Machine Goes Into Overdrive

The CCH Rhetoric Machine went into overdrive at Thursday’s Cabinet. After claiming their untrue statements about Shapley Heath were just rhetoric, they went on to make more spurious claims in the Cabinet meeting (report here). We have produced a short video to tackle the main claims:

Since then , they have produced a defence of their position on Facebook. Below is their post, together with the RHA response in red.

CCH rhetoric machine goes into overdrive

This post is in response to accusations made against CCH Councillors on certain fb pages.

Do they mean us? Surely not.

If you would like to see for yourself what was said and how it was said, please see the link below for HDC’s live streaming of last night’s cabinet meeting and, Paper H relating to the Garden Community that was to be discussed.

Please take the video to 37 minutes to begin at the start of the Garden Community debate.

https://fb.me/HDCLiveStreaming (We believe this link will expire in a few days).

https://www.hart.gov.uk/…/19%2011%2007%20Garden%20village%2…

Alternatively, you can read our post, with edited highlights from the meeting here.

CCH have been accused of:

– being rude to members of the public.

Not by us. There are many words we could use to describe CCH’s attitude, but on the night they weren’t particularly rude to anybody.

– being prejudicial towards a new settlement.

Not true. Prejudicial has no meaning in this context. The accusation in the QC opinion is of CCH being of ‘closed mind’ and thus having a predetermined attitude to matters relating to Shapley Heath.

– wanting to build houses Hart doesn’t need.

Well, this is true. Their own Local Plan said that the new town wasn’t required. The inspector agreed and threw out Policy SS3. The Garden Village bid document said the same thing. Yet, they still bid for Government money for an unnecessary Garden Village. Now they have agreed to spend up to £650K to flesh out the plans for it having committed to Government that it would deliver 5,000 homes above local requirements with an indication that there is capacity “…for a development of 10,000 homes…”.

– wanting to build 10,000 new homes.

Up to 10,000 houses is stated both in the bid and the accompanying Vision Document.

We say, we were assertive in demonstrating our reasoning, were reactive to correct misinformation and were defensive, when necessary, of ourselves and, the people we represent.

As you decide for yourself, we would like to draw your attention (see below) to just one member of the public’s statement as it has bearing on one of the accusations made against us (We believe this refers to the RHA statement):-

Rural Hart Association (RHA, made up of 3 predominately Winchfield groups),

Not true. WAG is based in Winchfield. We Heart Hart is based in Hartley Wintney and NE Hants Greens are district-wide. In addition, other Hart-wide groups support RHA. 

state they want to regenerate Fleet Town Centre and, have ‘given developers the Hart Centre’.

True. RHA does want to regenerate Fleet and the other urban centres to keep up with neighbouring towns like Camberley, Aldershot, Farnham and Wokingham. RHA came up with several options for regeneration of Fleet. Hart Shopping Centre was put forward as one of these options to developers by RSH.

They then state that their developers will not carry out any work on this ‘regeneration’ scheme ‘unless HDC takes the Garden Village off the table’.

Not true. The developers won’t invest time and money in urban regeneration when the Council has such an obvious bias towards the new town and clearly no interest in looking at urban regeneration.

Is this prejudicial by residents of Winchfield wanting future development away from them and for it to continue in and around Fleet?

Again ‘prejudicial’ has no legal meaning. Residents aren’t the people who actually make planning decisions, so they can’t be predetermined. Of course, they can oppose proposals they disagree with. The Local Plan itself identifies the decline of Fleet as a key issue, yet the policies to address this are feeble. It is the interests of all Hart residents for the countryside to be preserved and for all of the urban centres of Fleet, Hook, Blackwater and Yateley to thrive. Private money is clearly available to support such schemes as evidenced by the regeneration of Camberley, Farnham, Aldershot and Wokingham.

If you live in Fleet, Church Crookham, Crookham Village, Elvetham Heath and Hook, you will know they’ve seen the majority of urban expansion over the last decade.

Compared to their size, Hartley Wintney and Odiham have also seen big new developments. In addition, Fleet has fallen behind its neighbours in terms of retail, leisure and public amenities. 

Do you ‘really’ want more development tagged on, using existing infrastructure… roads, schools, doctors, station that already cannot cope?

No. A masterplan for all of our urban centres will address these issues and should also deliver infrastructure funding in the places that need it. Remember the infrastructure plans for the new settlement were described by the Inspector as “not of any great substance”. Plus, a new town won’t deliver any new infrastructure for existing settlements. At least urban regeneration would deliver funds for infrastructure in the areas that are already creaking under the strain.

Do you want to live in town where it’s centre is high rise apartment blocks offering no outdoor space for families?

The LSH proposal for the Hart Shopping Centre utilised existing sightlines and in no sense was it “high rise”. Additional regeneration opportunities such as the Civic Campus could also deliver outdoor spaces.

That’s what RHA are proposing for you.

More rhetoric that you shouldn’t take too seriously.

We will look at all options open to us but, CCH want to deliver our future housing needs in a way that is high quality, sustainable and right for the majority of Hart not, just for the few.

But you clearly aren’t looking at anything other than a new settlement. The Paper explicitly rules out looking at alternatives. There is nothing ‘high quality’ about any of the new town proposals delivered so far. For instance, three locations for a secondary school have been proposed. One was next to a mental health unit housing sex offenders, the second was directly on top of a high-pressure gas main and the third was under electricity pylons. And of course, the Inspector threw out the last proposal because he wasn’t convinced it was deliverable.

And, as we have said many times before, reiterated by Councillor “it’s only rhetoric” Radley last night, if we don’t ‘need’ to build more houses then we ‘won’t build any more houses.

The CCH Rhetoric machine is up and running again. The bid to Government committed you to building over and above the local requirement. The new town isn’t needed to meet requirements. So, why are you spending £650K of taxpayers money?

Pale Lane Appeal Quashed

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

Elvetham Chase aka Pale Lane Appeal Quashed

Some great news emerged on Monday afternoon. The Pale Lane Appeal has been quashed by the Secretary of State. This means there won’t be any development in that location at least up until 2032. The complete decision document can be found here.

The Secretary of State examined a number of of issues in coming to his decision.

The issue that carried the strongest weight was the Hartley Wintney Neighbourhood Plan (HWNP). The Pale Lane site falls partially within the Hartley Wintney Parish. It was not allocated for development within the HWNP and this carried “significant weight”. So, we must thank Hartley Wintney Parish Council on their efforts that saw the Neightbourhood Plan “made” only last month.

Other issues considered included:

  • The emerging Hart Local Plan, which also does not allocate Pale Lane. However, despite being close to being approved only carried “moderate weight”.
  • He also considered that even if Pale Lane were refused, there would still be more than five years land supply.
  • The potential loss of Best and Most Versatile agricultural land was considered “moderate weight”.
  • Sadly, the highways, health, education and quality of life issues raised by the Stop Elvetham Chase group carried no weight.

The now infamous letter from CCH to Ranil wasn’t even mentioned in the report. So, it seems that the fight against Pale Lane was won irrespective of their efforts. However, the letter they wrote has caused them predetermination problems with their pet Shapley Heath project.

It seems the lesson here is to focus on the real planning issues and get Neighbourhood Plans in place if we want to combat further unnecessary and undesirable greenfield development.

Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena has now come out unequivocally against large scale green field development. This  includes Shapley Heath, Rye Common and West of Hook. He has produced a constituency charter. We ask that you consider signing his charter that can be found here. This complements his call for bold regeneration plans.

 

Why Shapley Heath is a Mistake

10,000 house new town at Shapley Heath garden village mistake

10,000 Shapley Heath Garden Village mistake

Today we have a guest post, authored by Tristram Cary, chairman of the Rural Hart Association. In it, he explains why the proposed 5-10,000 new town in Winchfield and Hook, called Shapley Heath Garden Village (SHGV) is a mistake.

Shapley Heath Mistake

It seems that most of the discussion about SHGV is based on the mistaken idea that Hart has to meet a fixed housing target which reflects anticipated demand. This is not the case: Hart’s housing target is in fact a compromise between anticipated demand and Hart’s ability to fulfil that demand within the scope of its residents’ reasonable plans for development. SHGV is a great mistake because it is an unnecessary capitulation to the demand for housing at the expense of Hart’s Vision and Objectives. The result will be much higher housing numbers than would otherwise be the case. This is a very important and quite complex issue; I hope that the following notes will help to explain it more clearly.

a) Housing Demand: Hart’s housing demand is not fixed. In fact it is to all intents and purposes infinite because throughout the South of England there is a housing shortage, and anything that we can build in Hart will be immediately taken up, either by the growth of Hart’s current population or by people moving into Hart from outside the district. It’s vital to understand that building SHGV will do nothing to avert the demand for more housing growth in the district. On the contrary, by creating new capacity, SHGV will fuel higher housing targets for the future.

b) Housing Market Area: Hart shares a Housing Market Area (HMA) with Surrey Heath (Camberley) and Rushmoor (Farnborough and Aldershot). We have a Duty to Cooperate with Surrey Heath and Rushmoor which means that we are obliged to help them to meet their housing demand if necessary. Surrey Heath has asked for our help, and they feel justified in doing so because their population density is far higher than ours. Hart has a population of 96,000 in 215 sq km (447 people per sq km). Surrey Heath has a population of 89,000 in 95 sq km (934 people per sq km which is just over twice Hart’s population density). Rushmoor has a population of 96,000 in 39 sq km (or 2456 people per sq km which is five and a half times Hart’s population density). There is a perfectly valid argument that over a few decades Hart should accept a substantial portion of the housing demand from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor until our population density has caught up with theirs.

c) Vision and Objectives: However, in practice the housing target imposed on Hart in the Local Planning process (including the Duty to Cooperate with our neighbouring districts) is balanced by an acknowledgement that Hart has a history, a character and a right for its residents to have a say in its development. The Local Plan public consultations establish the residents’ wishes which are expressed as a Vision and Objectives for the District’s development (see paras 93 and 94 of the Local Plan). It is tempting to dismiss these paragraphs as unimportant ‘boiler-plate’. But in fact they are vital, and they arm the council with the ammunition to defend Hart against the erosion of its current state as a relatively sparsely-populated rural district which wants to maintain its countryside and the character of its towns and villages. Key statements from the Vision and Objectives which establish our desire to maintain our rural nature include the following:

Vision:

  • In 2032 the District will still be an attractive, largely rural area….
  • Our countryside will be recognised for its importance to the quality of life, as the setting where people live and work, and for its contribution to biodiversity, leisure and recreation.
  • The character, quality and diversity of our natural, built and heritage assets will have been preserved, and where possible enhanced

Objectives:

  • To maintain the separate character and identity of settlements by avoiding development that would result in their physical or visual coalescence.

[Note: The Vision and Objectives did also include the creation of a new settlement which damaged our ability to defend against a higher-than-necessary housing target – but the Inspector ruled that this was unsound and it has now been removed from the Local Plan]

Hart’s position as a relatively rural district means that we are going to be engaged for the foreseeable future in a constant struggle to defend our rural character against the insatiable demand for housing in the South East of England and against the demands of our Duty to Cooperate with the far more densely-populated districts in our Housing Market Area. Our defence depends entirely on our insistence that we choose to be a rural district. We want to preserve our countryside; we want to preserve the character of our towns and villages; we want to avoid coalescence between our towns by preserving countryside between them.

Supporting the development of an unnecessary Shapley Heath Garden Village flies directly in the face of our Vision and Objectives and undermines our defences against urbanisation. SHGV is in effect an urban extension to Fleet, Hartley Wintney and Hook, and makes a nonsense of the Local Plan objective “To maintain the separate character and identity of settlements by avoiding development that would result in their physical or visual coalescence”. It is certain that Rushmoor and Surrey Heath as well as the SHGV developers will use SHGV as a target for future growth, as they explain on page 15 of the SHVG Vision document:

Technical studies undertaken to date suggest that 5,000 homes can be provided and could be delivered through the Local Plan and DPD process. The developers have identified that around 10,000 homes could be delivered at Shapley Heath. Being part of the Garden Community Programme will enable us to carry out further testing through the DPD process and any subsequent Local Plan review to meet the longer-term needs of the District.

In short, Hart District Council has scored a massive own goal by embarking on the SHGV project in the belief that it will take the pressure off developments elsewhere in the district. In fact, SHGV makes it abundantly clear that we are not serious about our Vision and Objectives, and that we are happy to build massive urban extensions which will forever destroy the character and identity of our biggest settlements.

 

CCH doubles down on Winchfield new town bias

CCH doubles down on Winchfield new town bias

Community Campaign Completely Concrete Hart CCH doubles down on Winchfield new town bias

In a quite astonishing development, Community Campaign Completely Concrete Hart CCH have doubled down on their Winchfield new town bias.

In an update to their website since last night, they have added the following paragraph:

The pressure for new development never goes away and a new settlement is the most effective way to absorb these central government imposed demands while delivering much needed infrastructure. If we don’t start the process of planning for this now we will forever face the blight of urban extensions over and over again.

Community Campaign Completely Concrete Hart CCH Doubles down on Winchfield new town bias

CCH doubles down on Winchfield new town bias

This comes despite the Inspector saying:

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.

Of course, the Inspector said that their infrastructure plans lacked substance. So, they couldn’t even demonstrate the benefits of their main reason for supporting a new town.

The work simply hasn’t been done to demonstrate that a new town at Winchfield is the most effective way of delivering additional housing growth or infrastructure beyond the plan period. Moreover, the Inspector says that even the additional work might not show the new town being found sound:

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.

We simply cannot trust CCH to be impartial on the matter if and when the additional work is carried out.

Alternatives to a new town

There is an alternative to both a new town and urban extensions. That is urban regeneration.

The Local Plan acknowledges that a big problem facing Hart is that it has not kept up with its neighbouring districts. Hart’s shops, restaurants and leisure services are losing out to the competition. This is openly acknowledged in the Local Plan:

  • The outflow of retail expenditure from the District…is relatively high and is likely to remain high in the future”: Local Plan para 65.

The main cause is that no effort has been made to invest in the re-generation of Fleet (where 40% of Hart’s population lives) or Blackwater, Hook or Yateley. This is also openly acknowledged in the Plan:

  • The main centres in Hart have not kept pace with other centres in the wider area. Other centres have strengthened and improved their offering through investment and development. Failure to invest in the centres will see them continue to fall in the rankings”. Retail, Leisure and Town Centre Study Part 1 para 2.15
  • The challenge for Fleet specifically will be to secure investment so that it can compete with the comparable towns in neighbouring districts. All the neighbouring towns are subject to regeneration or expansion projects”. Local Plan Para 66

It is to be welcomed that Hart Council are removing the new town from the Local Plan. Any plan for the future must include the option of regenerating our urban centres. This needs to be properly and impartially evaluated.

Local Plan Examination: Heads Must Roll!

Hart Local Plan Examination is damning: Heads must roll

Hart Local Plan Examination is damning: Heads must roll

As regular readers will recall, the Council announced the preliminary results of the Hart Local Plan Examination a couple of days ago. We have now had time to read the detailed letter from the Inspector and form some conclusions.

The purpose of this post is to summarise the Inspector’s preliminary findings and suggest our own next steps for the Local Plan. In short, the Inspector’s report is damning and heads must roll.

Summary of Local Plan Examination Preliminary findings

First, the Council’s characterisation of “a couple of issues in relation to the Local Plan” understates the ferocity of the Inspector’s criticisms by quite some margin. The Inspector’s full report can be found here.

His criticisms of Policy SS3 and the area of search for the new settlement are deep and comprehensive. He says:

I have a number of fundamental concerns with regard to the soundness of Policy SS3.

He lays out concerns about infrastructure, saying the plans lack substance. He also points out there’s a large tract of land in the middle of the Area of Search is not and will not be available. But he reserves his most scathing attack for the Sustainability Appraisal (SA). Even though there were concerns raised about the legal compliance of the document, these don’t matter, because the document itself was so bad.

Far from being a “couple of issues”, these criticisms explode a cruise missile right at the heart of the Council’s flagship policy.

The criticism of the SA is damning. Hart submitted two sustainability appraisals, one before submission and one after.  Of the first, the Inspector says:

I am not of the view that the pre-submission SA, in its own right, appropriately or robustly considers reasonable alternatives to a new settlement as a long-term growth strategy

The second SA did test reasonable alternatives, but inappropriately. The Inspector cites several examples:

  • 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.

Substantially all of these points were made by We Heart Hart and Winchfield Parish Council during the consultation process. So, all the issues were known to Hart Council before submitting the plan for examination, yet they chose to press on with the doomed policy. In effect, the Council has been caught red-handed trying to gerrymander the SA in what looks to us like a clear case of policy-based evidence making.

It is true that the Inspector has left open the door for the new town to return in future. But this is conditional upon the new town being considered properly alongside all other options for long term growth beyond 2032.

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.

[Update 5/3/2018] But there is a significant caveat from the Inspector:

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.

[/Update]

Budget Impact of New Town Planning

In addition to the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of pounds already spent, we should also note that in the same Council meeting, they agreed to spend £785,990 on the new settlement in the next financial year (Paper B Appendix 3). Residents might reflect on the other important services that might be delivered with this money, like free-parking in Fleet to boost retail footfall.

Hart Council 2019-20 budget for new settlement

Hart Council 2019-20 budget for new settlement

In summary, we have a Council that has botched its flagship policy, had it found unsound but is proposing to squander even more of our hard-earned council tax on the same failed policy.

Next Steps after the Local Plan Examination

The first and most obvious point is that we need to get the Local Plan over the line as soon as possible. This means that the Council should abandon Policy SS3 immediately and agree to take Surrey Heath’s unmet need. They should reply to the Inspector forthwith, agreeing to his demands and get on with changing the plan to make it sound.

This is necessary to protect Pale Lane and Owens Farm in Hook and any other planning appeals that might come along.

Before any further review of the plan to identify and evaluate properly the options for long term growth beyond the plan period, root and branch reform is required.

Root and Branch Reform – Heads Must Roll

Let’s take a look at what is required. First, let’s look at the members.

Liberal Democrats

Hart Local Plan Examination: Liberal Democrats David Dave Neighbour in the pocket of CCH James Radley

Liberal Democrats in the pocket of CCH

The Portfolio Head for Planning, Graham Cockarill and the Council Leader, David Neighbour have allowed themselves to be the puppets of Community Campaign Completely Concrete Hart (CCH). They have preened themselves in positions of power whilst presiding over the car-crash that is Policy SS3. They have wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds, wasted precious time and put at risk more of our green fields. Trying to position the Inspector’s report as a success with only a couple of minor issues to resolve, simply will not wash.

They have lost all credibility and authority and should immediately resign their Cabinet positions and consider whether they should continue in their role as Councillors. Hopefully, their Yateley electors will see through their ineptitude and bring down the guillotine on their political careers.

Community Campaign Hart

Community Campaign Completely Concrete Hart screwing up Hart Planning since 2004

Completely Concrete Hart screwing up Hart Planning since 2004

Then we have the puppeteers in CCH. The main protagonists are James Radley and Alan Oliver. Their track record is woeful. The then ruling Conservatives (who are far from blameless in this affair) had a draft Local Plan, without the new town, in late-2016. CCH scuppered that plan by insisting that a new option to include the new town be included. This was even though surprise, surprise, Winchfield had failed testing due to concerns about flooding and lack of infrastructure. This delayed the Local Plan, put Pale Lane and Bramshill at risk and wasted even more money.

They persisted with the lost cause appeal against Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse, wasting probably over £100,000. Our questions to Council have been censored because they found them uncomfortable (see here and here). They have dismissed We Heart Hart’s concerns, that have now been proven to be right, as “Trump-like diatribes”, “misinformation and outright lies”. They said in Fleet News that they would deliver an “infrastructure-led” Local Plan, yet the plan contains only threadbare infrastructure proposals, with big gaps in costing and funding. Moreover, the Inspector has dismissed the new town partly on the grounds that infrastructure plans lacked substance.

CCH have obstructed brownfield development and won’t even consider urban regeneration seriously. Their pig-headed delusion has resulted in the new town plans being shredded in public by the Inspector. CCH have been revealed as an empty vessel that makes a lot of noise but has no substance. They should immediately resign their Cabinet positions and consider their positions as Councillors. Even Church Crookham electors might begin to recognise the pattern of failure and remove them at the ballot box.

Hart Council Officers

We cannot ignore the role of the officers in this fiasco. In 2012, they recognised that a new town at Winchfield would require new studies, more land, infrastructure assessment and testing. Seven years on, and all that work has either not been completed or failed. We should remember that their 2013 Local Plan failed at Inspection. They too have pursued inappropriate appeals that were doomed to failure. In 2015, they said that there was capacity for only 450 dwellings on brownfield land. Since then permission has been granted for thousands of homes at Hartland Park, Sun Park and many office conversions. Their estimate was out by a factor of at least 5.

They admitted at the Examination that they have been working with the developers on the new town plan for over four years. Now they have been caught out gerrymandering the SA. All this wasted time and money has resulted in their flagship policy ending in abject failure. One must question their judgement, independence and ability to offer sound advice to members and residents.

It is time for a complete replacement of the Planning Team, starting at the top with the joint-Chief Executive.

 

It is only after getting rid of the dysfunctional Cabinet and the failed Planning team that we can start to plan properly for the future beyond the plan period with fresh ideas.  This should include a proper assessment of the regeneration of our urban centres as a much more palatable option than unnecessarily concreting over more of our precious green fields.

Ding Dong! Winchfield new town is dead

Ding Dong the New Town is Dead - New town policy SS3 to be removed from the Hart Local Plan

Ding Dong! Winchfield New Town is Dead

[Update: Inspector’s Letter now published here. Analysis to follow at the weekend – now here]

Hart Council has received a letter from the Planning Inspector giving a provisional assessment of the Hart Local Plan. He has made two recommendations to make the plan sound.

  1. Remove Policy SS3, so we won’t be having a new town in Winchfield within the plan period, because the extra houses are not needed.
  2. We must take around 750 of Surrey Heath’s unmet need, which can be met with the current development plans.

The news was given at tonight’s council meeting by Graham Cockarill. This is obviously very good news for those of us who have been campaigning for this result for years. However, it is clear form Councillor Cockarill’s statement that there are still factions within the council that want to try and sneak the new town back in at a later point. Indeed the body language of the councillors is more of disappointment than jubilation that they are close to getting a sound Local Plan.

The full letter from the Inspector will be published here on Hart’s website tomorrow morning. We will provide updates once we have considered the detail.

A video of the councillor’s statement about the Hart Local Plan is shown below, together with our transcript of what he said (with our emphasis).

Impact of removing the Winchfield new town policy SS3 from the Hart Local Plan

It remains to be seen what the fallout might be form this news. First, the positives.

The Inspector’s view ought to scupper the Pale Lane/Elvetham Chase Appeal. It should also ensure the appeal for the land West of Hook around Owens Farm doesn’t succeed either.

Now on to the negative aspects. One has to think that this whole process would have gone much quicker and cost much less money if the Council had abandoned the unsound idea of the new town much earlier. I am sure that We Heart Hart will not be the only people holding our councillors and officers to account for this waste of our time and money.

Graham Cockarill Announcement about Hart Local Plan 28 February 2019

I have received a message a couple of days ago from the Inspector Jonathan Manning giving us provisional feedback on a couple of issues associated with the Local Plan. I must stress that this is not his final report, but it gives us a clear indication that subject to the council agreeing a couple of important modifications, we are close to having in place a sound Local Plan.

It is a very important milestone because we have never reached this stage before.

The Inspector has accepted our assessment of what is our Objectively Assessed Housing Need of around 388 dwellings per annum. And recognised our positive approach to meeting that need. It is for this reason that the Inspector recommends that we agree to meet Surrey Heath’s unmet need because he considers that it can be done within our projected targets without changing our plan or having to find other sites.

The Inspector’s other key recommendation is that we do not at this time pursue policy SS3. In his view, the new settlement approach is not sufficiently developed to be included in the plan, particularly as the numbers of new homes it may deliver are not necessary to meet the housing numbers within this plan [period].

The important point here is that the Inspector does not rule out a new settlement option in the future. He recognises our clear aspiration to deliver a settlement to meet our long-term housing needs. He accepts that it would be acceptable for the Plan to retain the Council’s aspirations to plan for long term needs beyond the plan period which could refer to the delivery of a new settlement through potentially either an early or immediate review of the Plan or a subsequent Development Plan Document (DPD).

He says that this would not change any timescales.

I intend later tonight, indeed before the end of this meeting, to circulate the Inspector’s letter and it will be published on our web page in the morning. I also intend to work with the respective group leaders and through the Local Plan Steering Group to agree the next steps. But it would seem to me that our best interests lie in getting a sound Local Plan swiftly in place in the form recommended by the Inspector.

This is great news for both the Council and its residents, because having a Local Plan in place gives us a sound basis to make future planning decisions and removes the threat of planning by appeal.

Question: Can you make sure all councillors get a summary of the Bramshill result once it has been studied?

Answer: Yes. An email has been sent by the joint-CEO a couple of weeks ago. I will ask for a more concise version to be circulated.

Question: Could you confirm the number of houses from Surrey Heath that will be accepted.

Answer: [Uncertain], but around 750 over the plan period.

 

Hart Planning Update

 

Keep Calm and Wait for news about the Hart Local Plan

Hart planning update early 2019

Belated Happy New Year and welcome to our Hart planning update. We haven’t published much recently, because there hasn’t been much to say. However, a few people have been in touch to ask how things are going. So, welcome to the New Year and to our update on the major planning issues affecting Hart.

Hart Planning Update: Local Plan

[Update 28 Feb 2019: Plan will be sound if Policy SS3 is removed and Hart takes ~750 of Surrey Heath’s unmet need]

First up is the Hart Local Plan. The examination took place in November and December last year. We Heart Hart participated in the discussion about Infrastructure on 5 December. We understand that the Inspector is due to deliver his opinion in early to mid-February. Until then, we can only speculate on the outcome.

The Inspector can decide one of three outcomes:

  • the submitted Plan is found sound
  • Local Plan is not sound but could be made sound by making modifications
  • the Local Plan is not sound and could not be made sound

The second outcome is the one we hope for. It is to be hoped Policy SS3 related to the Winchfield new town is removed as the main modification.

We understand that during the examination the Inspector asked for changes to the policies related to Local Gaps and SANG. However, he remained inscrutable on the other key issues which we believe are the:

  • Housing numbers
  • New settlement
  • Sustainability Appraisal (SA)

Given the reports we have received about some of the key discussions, we believe Hart is vulnerable on the new settlement and the sustainability appraisal. Hart attempted to present evidence about the new settlement that had been submitted after the deadline. This evidence was rejected. Strong arguments were presented on both sides of the argument. However, we believe a key exchange was when the Inspector got Hart (and we believe the developers) to agree that he could not approve the new settlement unless he found that it was deliverable.

We also understand the SA came in for sustained criticism.

We have to await the Inspector’s judgement. If major changes are required, then there may well be political implications at the council.

Hart Planning Update: Elvetham Chase/Pale Lane Appeal

The Elvetham Chase (aka Pale Lane) appeal took place earlier this month. We understand one of the council’s arguments was that the extra 700 houses were not required were not needed to meet the housing targets in the Local Plan. This is somewhat ironic as the Winchfield New Town is also not required to meet the targets. The proposed site for the new town is only a couple of hundred metres from the Pale Lane site. Yet the council is supporting the new town and opposing Pale Lane.

Of course, we hope the Pale Lane appeal fails.

We understand that the appeal hearing was adjourned, pending the results of the Local Plan examination. Apparently, both Wates and Hart Council will then be given a short period to  respond to the Pale Lane Planning Inspector.  The inspector will then make his recommendation to the Secretary of State who will decide whether to uphold or dismiss the appeal.

Quite a lot will rest on how much weight is given to the Local Plan by the Pale Lane inspector. We understand uncontentious elements will carry significant weight. Contested elements will carry no weight. So, we have to hope that the Local Plan inspector accepts the housing targets presented in the Local Plan (or lower). If he does, we can see no reason why Pale Lane should go ahead. However, if the Inspector accepts Hart’s own argument in the Local Plan that they need to plan for more houses than required, the appeal may succeed.

Hart Planning Update: Bramshill Appeal

We haven’t heard much about this, but believe some appeal hearings have been held. We have no further information on the timing of any decision.

Hart Planning Update: West of Hook Appeal

We understand the appeal will start on 19 March 2019 and will sit for up to 8 days.  More details can be found here.

Again, we hope this appeal fails. However, quite a lot depends upon the results of the Local Plan examination and the weight placed upon it at that time.

 

We will keep you up to date as more information emerges.

 

Developers launch Owens Farm appeal

Developers launch Owens Farm Appeal at Hook, Hart District, Hampshire

Developers launch Owens Farm appeal

We are sad to report that Wilbur Developments have launched an appeal against Hart’s decision to refuse permission to build on Owens Farm, Hook.

Hart announced their decision on 20 June. The decision to refuse planning permission can be found here.

The main reasons given were:

  • Outside Hook settlement boundary
  • Lack of sustainable transport options for the high number of extra cars
  • Within 7km of the Thames Valley Heath SPA
  • No legally binding obligation to provide affordable housing

The developer’s appeal case can be found here, or by searching on Hart’s public access site for reference 17/02317/OUT. The planning inspectorate number is APP/N1730/W/18/3206951 and can be found here.

Owens Farm Appeal APP/N1730/W/18/3206951

Owens Farm Appeal APP/N1730/W/18/3206951

The main arguments in their appeal are:

  • Planning policies out of date
  • They have put forward sustainable transport solutions to upgrade footpaths, cycle-paths and contirbute to the the bus service between Hook, the site and Basingstoke
  • Provision of SANG

Statements have to be made to the Inspector by 11 September 2018.

Impact of Owens Farm Appeal

Given that the date for submissions fals well after the submission deadline for the Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) appeal, we strongly suspect the Owens Farm Appeal hearing will be well after the Pale Lane Appeal hearing of 8 January 2019. Both dates are after the anticipated examination of the Hart Local Plan.

We therefore hope the Local Plan can be made sound (with the removal of Winchfield new town) and the Owens Farm appeal will be refused.