Draft Local Plan has no infrastructure plans or costings

 

Hart Local Plan contains no infrastructure plans or costings

Local Plan contains no infrastructure plans or costings

The draft Local Plan contains no infrastructure plans or costings. We think this is a massive error by the council that makes the draft Local Plan unsound.

If you agree, please download from the link below and review our suggested comments on the draft Local Plan. Please do make amendments into your own words and submit it to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk before the deadline of 5pm on 9th June 2017. All of the Council’s consultation documents can be found here.

Response to the Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation

Here is our analysis of the infrastructure weaknesses in the Local Plan

Local Plan contains no infrastructure plans

Paragraphs 7, 17 and 177 of the NPPF/NPPG make clear that infrastructure should be planned alongside housing. Para 395 of the draft Local Plan says there’s a Draft Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) available for viewing alongside the Local Plan. However, no IDP has been made available.

Given that back in 2013, a £78m infrastructure funding deficit was identified, this is a critical omission. In particular, we think Hart Council should focus on:

  1. The requirement for a new secondary school. The Murrell Green proposal includes a site for a new school, albeit on top of a high-pressure gas main. However, no evidence has been presented to demonstrate a new secondary school is required. WeHeart Hart research shows that a new secondary school may not be required, and the sustainability assessment for Murrell Green mentions a 9% surplus of places.
  2. Railways. SW Trains have indicated that the mainline rail route to London is 20% over-crowded at present and is forecast to be 60% overcrowded by 2043. Para 58 of the Local Plan makes no mention of this, and there is no apparent plan to improve capacity.
  3. Our roads are becoming increasingly congested and generally in a poor state of repair. There is no sign that the council has carried out an overall road transport assessment to establish the level of investment required to improve our roads so they can cope with the scale of development that is being proposed
  4. Paras 65 & 66 make no mention of groundwater and surface water flood risk in Winchfield, which was identified in the Sustainability Assessment
  5. Para 68 provides no plan to fix the acknowledged wastewater capacity issues
  6. None of the plans for the strategic sites include proper plans for sports and community facilities such as allotments.

Local Plan contains no cost analysis for infrastructure requirements

Neither the Local Plan nor the Sustainability Assessment contain a financial assessment of the alternative means of providing the housing need. We think this is a very significant omission.

We already have a £78m infrastructure deficit, so this is a critical issue. The financial analysis should include:

  1. An assessment of the major infrastructure requirements generated by each of the approaches you have considered. These include new roads; road improvements such as roundabouts; railway station and parking improvement; railway line capacity improvements; schools; healthcare; fixed and mobile telecommunications, flood prevention, wastewater disposal and social infrastructure. A high level cost of each item should be provided.
  2. An analysis of the likely contribution that could be expected from developers and other providers to meet these requirements.
  3. An estimate of the likely contributions from Government such as New Homes bonus and grants to support brownfield development.
  4. A calculation of the gap between the requirement and the contributions for each development scenario

Residents should then be able to see the financial impact of the proposals and make decisions based on that.

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.

 

Hartland Village (Pyestock) public exhibitions to be held in November

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

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

St Edwards (part of Berkeley Homes) will be holding public exhibitions in November about its proposed Hartland Village development on the former Pyestock brownfield site to the east of Fleet, Hampshire.

The details of the events are shown below, together with a download of their flyer.

  • Saturday 12th November 2016, 10am-4pm at Harlington Centre, 236 Fleet Rd, Fleet GU51 4BY,
  • Monday 14th November 2016, 3:30pm-8:30pm at Farnborough Community Centre, Meudon Avenue, Farnborough GU14 7LE

More details can be found at the consultation website, here.

We suggest that the people who attend these events focus on:

  • Provision of essential infrastructure, such as primary and secondary schooling
  • Environmentally friendly access to Fleet station and town centre, with cycle lanes
  • Proper road access to the M3 and major road network.

Of course we must also ensure that the design of the new dwellings are attractive and that the nearby Fleet Pond reserve is adequately protected.

Hartland Village public exhibitions

 

Rail capacity is significant barrier to Winchfield new town and Hart development

Rail capacity is significant barrier to Winchfield new town and Hart development

A concerned resident has written to South West Trains asking a series of questions about the capacity of the mainline railway that travels through Hart District and the alternative strategies for increasing capacity. The answers are a significant cause for concern and call into question not only the viability of the proposed Winchfield new town, but also further large scale development across Hart District.

In summary the mainline up to London already is 20% over-crowded at peak times and is forecast to have a 60% capacity shortfall by 2043.  There are no plans to have more trains stopping at Winchfield (and by implication no plans for more trains at Hook or Fleet). There are no plans to extend the station at Winchfield (and by implication Hook too) properly to accommodate 12-car trains. There are no plans to increase car-parking capacity at Winchfield. The mooted solution of double-decker trains is a non-starter because of the infrastructure requirements and increased dwell times. Network Rail would not be responsible for the costs of widening the three tunnels under the railway in Winchfield, nobody has estimated the cost, but it is known to be considerable.

All this leaves the proposal for a new town in Winchfield in tatters, but it also calls into question the viability of so many more houses across Hart as there simply is not the rail capacity to accommodate the increased population.

The answers to the questions were produced under the supervision of a senior executive in South West Trains and in consultation with Network Rail’s Wessex Route Strategy team and are reproduced below:

Q1: Is my assertion that the planning authorities should be considering the capacity of the whole Southampton to Waterloo line rather than the capacity of individual stations is correct?

A1: Network Rail would always look at the capacity of the whole line, particularly in relation to additional services. This is because the impact of increasing capacity through additional services does not just affect an individual station. Additional stops for existing services will have an impact on journey times owing to the time taken to accelerate/ decelerate and dwell time at the platform all adding in time. Those existing services may also be close to capacity and adding extra stops would impact upon the ability for passengers further down the line to get on to the train. Network Rail would encourage a joined up approach between local authorities to ensure that capacity is looked at across the whole line.

Q2: If I am correct, is the line under, at or over capacity? If it is over capacity by how much and when you plan to bring it down to safe levels?

A2: The Wessex Route Study, published in August 2015 (http://www.networkrail.co.uk/long-term-planning-process/wessex-route-study/), states that there is currently 20% overcrowding on Main Line services and that growth to 2043 will see an additional 40% capacity being required. Therefore in the period to 2043 we expect to be required to accommodate 60% extra capacity. The Wessex Route Study sets out the strategy for meeting this growth and mitigating overcrowding. Unfortunately there is no quick fix for what is needed and therefore there are a number of incremental steps that will be taken, including a flyover at Woking, track reconfiguration works between Clapham Junction and London Waterloo, and a major infrastructure such as Crossrail 2. The summary Chapter 6 sets out what is required and Chapter 5 has a bit more of the detail.

Q3: Do you have plans to increase the frequency of trains stopping at Winchfield to soak up additional passengers? It has been suggested that some of the fast trains from Southampton might stop there. If this is not the case are there impediments to so doing?

A3: There are presently no plans to increase the frequency of stopping trains at Winchfield as there is insufficient route capacity and no physical capacity on trains which would take the additional calls. Furthermore to have the faster services calling at Winchfield would be detrimental to journey time from longer distance locations to London such as Salisbury, Winchester and Southampton.

Q4. Are any plans to extend the station at Winchfield? If this did occur would this be the responsibility of SW Trains, Network Rail or the Local Council? Have you any indicative costs for such an activity?

A4: Network Rail currently have no plans to lengthen the platforms at Winchfield. Automatic Selective Door Opening (ASDO) is employed at some stations where the platforms are not long enough to accommodate all carriages of a train; Winchfield is an example. ASDO allows for only some of the doors to open at stations with short platforms negating the need for expensive platform extensions. This is only employed where it is deemed safe to do so. Where platform pedestrian capacity is a problem then ASDO may not be the correct solution because it wouldn’t allow passengers to spread along the platform to spread a crowd waiting for a train.

Q5. Are there any plans to increase the car parking capacity at Winchfield? Again, if this were to occur where would the costs lie and how much would they be?

A5: There are no plans in the present franchise to increase car park capacity at Winchfield.

Q6: Are double-decker trains a serious option to overcome the overcrowding on this line? If they are not please can you tell me if there are any single major obstacles that will preclude their adoption on this line?

A6: Double Decker Trains were investigated as part of the Wessex Route Study. The study looked at Waterloo to Basingstoke as the scope area. This was decided upon as there are relatively few limited clearance structures on this stretch of line and therefore if it wasn’t feasible here, then it wouldn’t work on other parts of the network such as between Basingstoke on Southampton where there are a number of tunnels. In short, the Route Study concluded that the combination of needing to operate bespoke rolling stock (as no rolling stock operated elsewhere in the world would work on our infrastructure), the cost of modifying the infrastructure to accommodate the trains (track lowering, bridge rebuilding, platform adjustments and lineside infrastructure moves and adjustments), the impact on dwell times and the fact that double deck services would only be necessary in the peak mean that the business case was not strong enough to warrant such investment.

Q7: There is an embankment running east of Winchfield Station pierced by three road tunnels. Should road widening be deemed necessary for any or all of these tunnels, what would your reaction be? Who would pay for such works? What would be the indicative costs please?

A7: Network Rail would need to assess the impact of widening the tunnels on the embankment and if it was deemed safe. The Network Rail Asset Protection team would need to be satisfied that Network Rail’s assets were not damaged or compromised in anyway. We do not have foresight of costs for such a scheme and this would not be a cost that Network Rail would expect to be accountable for.

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

Green Party Logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are four main planks to WPC’s argument:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cover letter:

Winchfield Parish Council Cover Letter

Full response:

Winchfield Parish Council Local Plan Consultation response

response  covering letter

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

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

The consultation has now closed

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

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

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

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

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

The advantages of a brownfield solution are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

Response to Face IT article in Fleet News and Mail

 

Vacant Block at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hampshire

FACE IT have been quoted in this week’s Fleet News & Mail, claiming that the “urban extension option may sound like a ‘brownfield’ solution but would actually mean an extra 2,173 homes being built on green fields in Fleet and Hook”.

It does appear that all of the efforts they have put into their campaign around the Hart Council’s Housing Option Consultation has exhausted them to such an extent that they now misunderstand the difference between types of development because nobody is arguing that urban extensions are somehow brownfield development in disguise.

They make spurious claims about school places, after making up their own estimate of how many extra school places might be required without doing a proper population projection.  Note that Hampshire County Council have not put in place any plans beyond 2018, are forecasting a surplus of secondary school places at that time and a reduction in the birth rate as well as admitting that Hart schools are educating many children from outside the district.

They also make some claims about the scale of development that has occurred in Fleet, Church Crookham and Hook and about how many houses would end up being built around Fleet and Hook under each of the options Hart has put forward. It is not clear where they get their numbers from, because they don’t tally with the figures we put together.

However, nobody would dispute that Hook in particular has seen a big rise in housing in both absolute and relative terms. But what we find difficult to understand is why Hook’s Neighbourhood Planning team and Parish Council are advocating the new town option as their first choice which would deliver more than 1,800 houses in Hook Parish and effectively coalesce Hartley Wintney, Winchfield and Hook into a giant conurbation that might be named Hartley Winchook. This is more houses than the urban extension they oppose (730 houses), more than the dispersal option put forward by Hart Council (204 houses) and more than the brownfield solution put forward by We Heart Hart (only 57 new dwellings to be permitted).

FACE IT rightly say that the combination of Fleet, Church Crookham, Elvetham Heath and Ewshot (greater Fleet) has seen a lot of new housing in absolute terms over recent years. However, this is only part of the story as all parts of the district have seen significant development. When you look at the amount of new housing in proportion to size, the percentage increase for greater Fleet over the planning period of 2011-2031 is forecast to be around 17% for the dispersal and urban extension options and 14% with the new town option. This is below the average for the whole district at 21%, 18% and 18% respectively for each option and well below the percentage increases for places like Hartley Wintney which is forecast to see 34%, 39% and 21% increases for each of the options put forward by Hart.

The brownfield option that We Heart Hart has put forward has the potential to meet all of the remaining housing need and results in a more balanced distribution across the district in proportion to the size of existing settlements.  Our solution would result in a 23% increase for the greater Fleet area, 22% for Hartley Wintney and 27% for the smaller parishes that include Winchfield.

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

We do agree with FACE IT, that we need to take a strategic view of the future, but we disagree on what that strategic vision might be.  In our view, continuing to concrete over green fields equivalent to 25 football pitches each year is not at all sustainable and our children and grandchildren would not thank us for doing that.

The advantages of a brownfield solution are:

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

Of course, the new town proposal that is in the consultation has been undergoing testing for over a year now, and has identified a number of significant barriers including education, transport and foul water drainage.  The costs of the infrastructure required for a new town are astronomical and would never be met by developer contributions. If Hart were to choose the new town option, it runs the risk of not passing inspection because infrastructure delivery could not be guaranteed.

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

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

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

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

Response to Hook Action Against Over Development

Which would you rather preserve - derelict eyesore or our wildlife?

Which would you rather preserve – derelict eyesore or our countryside and wildlife?

Hook Action Against Over Development have written an article on their website which has been shared on Facebook, criticising both our support of a brownfield solution to our housing needs and the statement from the CPRE saying that the Winchfield New Town proposal was the worst site and the worst option for development.

We re-produce their article below, together with our responses in blue:

There has been a lot of talk about brownfield development and some claims that a new settlement is not necessary because brownfield housing development can provide for all of Hart’s housing needs. Brownfield housing development is the reuse of property or land for residential use where it was previously used for something else, for example office space, industrial land, military use or farm buildings.

Yes, we do believe that all of Hart’s remaining housing need can be met from brownfield sites, and we have set out the case and our plan here and here.  This draws on sites in the SHLAA at only ~26 dwellings per hectare (dph) and the work of the Stonegate Report, plus we have added the civic area that Fleet Future recommended for redevelopment and Fleet Town Council have raised their council tax to fund the costs of preparing a redevelopment plan.

One group in particular from outside of Hook is putting forward the suggestion that the Hart consultation is a simple choice between brownfield and greenfield development. But no matter how much they repeat it does not make it any more true. The CPRE, an organisation with laudable aims, appears to have now fallen for this fiction and hijacking of the term “sustainable development”.

We believe they are referring to We Heart Hart.  We believe the CPRE have not put forward an actual plan, but have clearly stated that they think that a new town at Winchfield is the worst site and worst option for development in Hart.  Sustainable development was defined by the Sustainable Development Commission as:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The concept of sustainable development can be interpreted in many different ways, but at its core is an approach to development that looks to balance different, and often competing, needs against an awareness of the environmental, social and economic limitations we face as a society.

We believe that sustainable development does not include concreting over the equivalent of 25 football pitches per year of green fields and leaving untouched, vacant, decaying office blocks. A new settlement would compromise future generations by needlessly concreting over hundreds of hectares of green fields, depriving future generations of the health benefits of the countryside. The economics of the proposals don’t stack up, requiring ~£350m of infrastructure spending, money that neither Hart nor Hampshire County Council have, especially now that HCC is facing an £81m per annum funding deficit. 

Hart’s housing strategy is brownfield first, but Hart cannot propose development on sites that are in commercial use or that have not been put forward for housing. If they were to do so then the Local Plan would fail inspection again at the first hurdle and this would be a disaster. Even hypothetically utilising these unavailable brownfield sites would demand construction at inner city density in order to meet Hart’s objectively assessed housing need. We cannot believe that CPRE are promoting building at such a density in Hart. That would not be sustainable.

We agree that sites need to be developable and eventually deliverable and nobody wants to see the Local Plan fail. Back in September, Hart Council said that they thought the brownfield capacity was 1,800 units.  Miraculously, this has fallen by 75% to only 450 units in the consultation. However, as described above, most of the sites we have put forward are in the SHLAA and in no worse state of deliverability than those put forward for consultation. The other sites are in the Stonegate report and we understand Stonegate are working hard to secure these sites.  The average density for the SHLAA sites is less than Hart’s planning rule of thumb at 26dph, and the Stonegate sites are at no higher density than developments that Hart has granted permission for such as the McCarthy & Stone’s recent development on Fleet Road which many people think is an attractive building.

Hart are actually consulting on which of Hart’s green fields should be selected for housing in the event that there is insufficient brownfield land to meet the housing need. Given the vast expansion of the existing towns and villages in Hart already, with Hook alone having a 25% expansion approved for this Local Plan period, the only suitable and truly sustainable option is a new settlement to allow for a planned increase in infrastructure. Just expanding existing towns and villages either piecemeal or with “urban extensions” is still building on green fields, but in a way that will not provide the opportunity to build extra schools, roads and health facilities that the thousands of new Hart residents will require. That would not be sustainable.

The proposed new town will in fact deliver over 1,800 houses in Hook Parish, which is more than the proposed urban extension and more than the undeveloped brownfield sites.  To be clear, we do not support urban extensions either because we believe all of the remaining need can be met on brownfield sites. The infrastructure costs for a new town do not stack up and a new town will do nothing to close the large £12.2m existing infrastructure funding gap in Hook, and £20.7m gap in Fleet and Church Crookham. No evidence has been presented that we need a new secondary school and the funding for a new town will not address existing road bottlenecks, nor will there be sufficient funding to address the roads requirements of a new town. We repeat, we do not believe concreting over 25 football pitches each year is at all sustainable.

Elimination of all potential commercial property space in Hart is in fact extremely short-sighted. Even the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership which is urging more housing would not want to see commercial space becoming rare and expensive. There is already an acknowledged shortage within Hart of small business units and light industrial space. Larger available office space provides options for small local businesses to grow without leaving the area. A thriving local economy needs a balance of housing and business to provide employment opportunities locally and avoid all of these new residents having to take to the roads and railways to commute out of the area for work on already busy transport links. That would not be sustainable.

Nobody is saying that all of the vacant commercial space be handed over to housing.  But even the Employment Land Review, based as it is on the inflated Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) and the inflated jobs forecasts, suggests that there will be around 600,000 sq m of vacant employment space across the Housing Market Area at the end of the plan period and Rushmoor was planning to “protect” 96 Ha of vacant brownfield sites that simply are not needed. If there was such a shortage of offices or of light industrial space, places like the Murrell Green Estate would not have the big vacancies they currently have. Of course it would be more sustainable to free up some of these spaces and redevelop them for residential use rather than leave them to rot and decay.

There is very little brownfield land in Hart but there is an amusing “brownfield site slideshow”, made available by campaigners whose aim is to push development away from their village, to supposedly “demonstrate” how much brownfield land is available for housing. If you happen to see it, do bear in mind that:

  • Several of the sites are already being developed for housing (and therefore counted in existing housing build numbers!) such as Landata House and Greenwell in Hook, Sun Park and others.
  • Several of the sites are being converted to other commercial uses, e.g. Warehousing at Pyestock and retail development on Fleet Road where M&S are looking to move to an expanded new store.
  • Several of the sites are in fact just one vacant floor(or even a partial floor) in an otherwise occupied office building!

Now perhaps the future really is an office building with some adjacent floorspace being residential, but can anyone imagine this being attractive to either residential or commercial tenants?!

The fact that some of the sites have already been taken up for redevelopment simply proves our case and shows it can be done.  Our brownfield solution has taken account of the sites that are already underway. Work at Hartland Park (aka Pyestock) stopped years ago, and there is no sign of it re-starting.  The owners will not wish to keep an expensive site forever generating no returns. Of course if M&S moves into another Fleet Road site, then they will leave behind a different vacant block to go with the many other vacant units in the Hart Centre.

There are plenty of examples of mixed residential and commercial use, both in this country and on the continent.  Nobody is suggesting this should happen without comprehensive redevelopment.

This current consultation is clearly not about a choice between brownfield and greenfield development, it is about the best way to provide Hart’s required housing with essential supporting infrastructure and only a new settlement can achieve that. For more, please refer to our previous article hookdevaction.org.uk/hart-housing-consultation-restarted-your-action-needed.

The Hartley Winchook new town is not required, it not viable because of the flood risks and the massive, unfunded infrastructure costs, and will not be sustainable in any sense of the word. There is a brownfield alternative, and we should seize that opportunity.

 

 

Here are the slideshows of vacant brownfield sites we have found in Hart and Rushmoor:

 

  • We Heart Hart's Mascot - Bravehart
    We Heart Hart's Mascot - Bravehart

 

If you would like to ask Hart to abandon the new town and urban extension ideas and create a brownfield solution to our housing needs, we urge you to respond to the Hart District Council consultation about the Local Plan and ask them to think again. We have created a dedicated consultation page, updated our two guides to responding to the consultation and they are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided. It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

Through the infrastructure looking glass

Comparison of infrastructure costs and contributions of different development scenarios

Comparison of infrastructure costs and contributions of different development scenarios

We had a surreal moment today debating with one of our district councillors revealed that she was strongly in favour of a new town because it would deliver some infrastructure funding, and other development approaches would deliver no funding.  Here is the Facebook post in question:

Wendy Makepeace-Brown No infrastructure from infill

There are a number of issues with this.

First, it is factually incorrect to state that either urban extensions or brownfield development will deliver no funding, as is described here.

Second, it seems very odd to us that councillors are ignoring basic economics and clearly are not looking at the big picture.  Surely the best way to look at this is to compare the incremental infrastructure costs of any particular development approach and the expected incremental developer contributions and, given we have an existing £78m infrastructure funding deficit, seek to minimise the gap.

In questions to the council last March we asked about the level of funding that might be attached to each development option and what the expected level of spending might be. There were no answers of substance.

It is very troubling that a councillor should seek to promote the idea of a new town because of the alleged funding contributions it might deliver, but ignore the overall costs that would be involved.

In the image above, we have shown our estimates of the impact of a new town on the infrastructure funding gap – the £78m deficit increases to £378m.  The costs are so high because the road network in Winchfield was designed for a small settlement, currently only 250 houses, which is clearly very different to that required for a settlement of 5,000 houses, plus there is no mains sewage or mains gas, overhead power lines will need to be moved or buried and a new sewage works will be needed. There is no reliable data on dispersal, brownfield or urban extensions, but we have created two hypothetical scenarios.

Scenario A looks at what the overall gap might be if, for sake of argument, £250m of funding was required to create infrastructure on brownfield sites that were converted, rather than properly redeveloped, so no S106/CIL funding was forthcoming from developers.  We would still be better off than with a new town. And remember it is self evident that the infrastructure requirement for a brownfield solution will be very much lower than for a brand new settlement.

Scenario B looks at what the overall gap might be if, for sake of argument, there was mixed brownfield development, with a more realistic infrastructure estimate of £150m and developer contributions of £40m.  The overall funding gap would be £188m.

Of course, a £188m funding gap would be bad news, but it would be much better news than the new town idea, especially as most of the existing gap is in Fleet, Church Crookham and Hook.

Estimated Infrastructure costs by area March 2013

Hart District Estimated Infrastructure costs by area March 2013

If you would like to ask Hart to abandon the new town and urban extension ideas and create a brownfield solution to our housing needs, we urge you to respond to the Hart District Council consultation about the Local Plan and ask them to think again. We have created a dedicated consultation page, updated our two guides to responding to the consultation and they are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided. It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes