Hart Council refuses to answer infrastructure questions

Hart Council refuse to answer Infrastructure Questions

Hart Council refuses to answer infrastructure questions

Last week, we tabled six infrastructure questions to be answered at tonight’s council meeting. We found out last night that five of them won’t be answered for dubious reasons.  We think this behaviour form the council is dangerously authoritarian. Our questions (in bold), Hart’s reasoning, and our response (in red) are shown below.

In essence, it seems that the CCH/Lib Dem administration does not want to face facts about school and infrastructure provision. This is frankly pathetic, and does not bode well for the quality of the next version of the Local Plan that is due to be published before Christmas, in preparation for a Cabinet meeting in early January.

Infrastructure Questions – Schools

Q1: Hampshire County Council have recently published a school places plan that shows a surplus of secondary school places up to 2021. There is now extra space for expanding Calthorpe Park. Would a new secondary school be required if the Local Plan was based on:

  1. The 10,185 units in the draft Local Plan?
  2. The 8,022 units in the SHMA?
  3. The 6,132 units (or ~6,500 if Hart needs to build some extra for Surrey Heath) implied by the recent Government consultation on the approach to calculating housing need?

Notwithstanding the fact that the question is badly framed because it seeks to compare a short term School Places Plan with a much longer Local Plan which would run to 2032 (therefore there is no possibility of a genuine comparison), Hampshire County Council has a statutory duty to ensure a sufficiency of school places for Hampshire children. Therefore the hypothetical question set out in the question about the need for a secondary school should be put to Hampshire County Council as Hart District Council is not promoting a new secondary school other than working with Hampshire County Council to secure the long term availability of land for a possible future secondary school.

We are therefore rejecting the question as it relates to a matter for Hampshire County Council and also the answer will not inform any current decisions or scenarios that are being considered by Hart District Council.

The question will not be put to Council on Thursday.

For background information Hampshire County Council made comments in respect of 10,185 units. These can be viewed on the Council’s web site at: https://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/4_The_Council/Policies_and_published_documents/Planning_policy/Local_Plan/EM143%20-%20Hampshire%20County%20Council.pdf

Given the Government has published new guidance on how to calculate housing need, we think it is perfectly reasonable to ask questions about how that will impact school place planning. We wish that HCC had done pupil forecasting beyond 2021, but they haven’t. We were not comparing HCC’s time horizon with the Local Plan period, merely noting that up to 2021, no new secondary school is required. The purpose of the question was to find out if this would remain the case up to 2032 under a range of housing target scenarios. We think this analysis is crucial to creating a sound Local Plan. 

Q2: The school places plan also shows continuing pressure on Fleet schools. Given that there is significant development proposed at Sun Park and Hartland Village, have you considered siting a new secondary school, if required, at Hartland Village or using part of the Bramshot Farm SANG?

Apparently, this question will be answered tomorrow.

Q3: HCC has also published an Infrastructure Statement showing the cost of a 150-pupil expansion of Robert Mays to be £7.6m. Scaling this up, a 9-form entry secondary school at Murrell Green or Winchfield would cost ~£68m. The expected developer funding from an 1,800 unit development with 40% affordable would be around £16m. How do you propose to fund the remaining budget for the school plus necessary the road improvements and community infrastructure?

Hampshire County Council has a statutory duty to ensure a sufficiency of school places for Hampshire children. The scenario presented in Q3 about education costs is based upon speculation that does not reflect true costings (benchmarking costs as published on Hampshire County Council’s web site at http://documents.hants.gov.uk/education/NationalSchoolDeliveryCostBenchmarking-PrimarySecondarySENSc.pdf).  

(It will confirm that the scenario of £68m is quite unrealistic)

We have checked this source, and they are quite right, using the median estimate per pupil, a 9-form entry, 1,350 pupil school would cost around £27.3m. However, this is somewhat below Hart’s/HCC’s own assessment in July 2015, of £56-60m. So, we don’t think our £68m estimate is out of the ballpark, given it is based on more recent budget numbers for a school extension. In any event, this is not a reason to refuse to answer the question.

In any event, the question is badly framed. It is not a proper question to put to Council as it is more of a hypothetical and speculative debating point. It starts with a false premise about secondary school cost (£68m for a secondary school that is not being promoted through the emerging Local Plan) and then goes on to make uninformed speculative statements on developer funding and cost without any supporting evidence base. The suggested conclusion is not logical either. The published facts confirm that for Murrell Green for example, the development will, in addition to its own infrastructure costs, deliver 40% affordable homes, £34.5m in S106 contributions, and still leave the developer a healthy and viable surplus.

A new school was certainly being promoted in the draft Local Plan, so we feel the question is entirely reasonable. The estimate of £34.5m S106 contributions for Murrell Green is entirely new to us. We based our calculation as follows. 1,800 units in total, 40% affordable leaves 1,080 units available to make contributions, of around £14,800 per unit. At an average price of £500,000 this would mean arond 3% of revenues, or around 20% of estimated net margin of 15% of selling price. Hart’s estimate of £34.5m assumes £32,000 per unit that sounds on the high side to us.

The next version of the Local Plan at formal Regulation 19 Publication stage will show how much housing we are planning for and where it is going. The accompanying infrastructure plan to support the development proposed will be published alongside it.

The Chairman is, therefore, rejecting the question for the above reasons as we consider that the preparation of an answer to such hypothetical and speculative scenarios would require a disproportionate amount of time, money, and effort in circumstances where the work required to answer the question would not inform any decisions to be made by the Council.

We don’t think it is at all hypothetical to ask about how our infrastructure will be funded. Indeed, James Radley has recently gone on the record calling for an “infrastructure led” Local Plan, which makes our questioning even more relevant.

The question will not be put to Council on Thursday.

Infrastructure Questions – Overall Funding

Q4: The same Infrastructure Statement showed an overall funding gap of £72m for Hart. The figures don’t include healthcare, extra-care places for the elderly nor countryside services. How do you propose to quantify the un-costed items and to close the funding gap?

The question again is badly framed and fundamentally mis-quotes the purpose of Hampshire’s Infrastructure Statement.  It also confuses matters that are not infrastructure funding or relevant to funding from new development. 

We have not misquoted Hampshire’s document. OUr report about it, and relevant images from the document can be found here. All of the elements in our question are in Hampshire’s statement. It is entirely reasonable to ask how the funding gap will be closed, whether through development or other means.

For the record, the HCC Infrastructure Statement set out the requirements identified to support growth, but it does not attempt to set priorities with regard to funding. The Statement also specifically recognises that local authorities cannot require developers to fund existing deficiencies in infrastructure provision.

We never said it did.

In this regard, there is no expectation that development in Hart or any other District should seek to meet the overall funding gap as identified in the Infrastructure Statement (because much of the infrastructure deficit is historic) but infrastructure funding will be required to mitigate the adverse effects arising from the development itself.  

We shall have to agree to disagree. When the Deputy Leader goes on the record calling for an ‘infrastructure led’ Local Plan, then it does set an expectation that our creaking infrastructure will be fixed. The reason why we have an historic funding deficit is continued mismanagement and inability to focus on getting infrastructure right. It seems by refusing to answer questions about it, the council is going to continue in the same vein. Continuing to do the same thing whilst expecting a different result is the definition of stupidity.

The next version of the Local Plan at formal Regulation 19 Publication stage will show how much housing we are planning for and where it is going. The accompanying infrastructure plan to support that development will be published alongside it.

The Chairman is, therefore, rejecting the question for the above reasons as we consider that the preparation of an answer to such hypothetical and speculative scenarios would require a disproportionate amount of time, money, and effort in circumstances where the work required to answer the question will would not inform any decisions to be made by the Council.

The question will not be put to Council on Thursday.

Infrastructure Questions – Alternative Scenarios

Q5: What is the expected incremental infrastructure funding requirement and contribution from developers if you were to construct the Local Plan based on:

  1. The 10,185 units in the draft Local Plan?
  2. The 8,022 units in the SHMA?
  3. The 6,132 units (or ~6,500 if Hart needs to build some extra for Surrey Heath) implied by the recent Government consultation on the approach to calculating housing need?

This question is based upon retrospective or hypothetical scenarios that are not being advanced by the Council.  These again are debating points and not a proper question to be put to Council.  In any event, the next version of the Local Plan at formal Regulation 19 Publication stage will show how much housing we are planning for and where it is going. The accompanying infrastructure plan to support development in the Local Plan will be published alongside it.

These are not hypothetical scenarios. The draft Local Plan called for 10,185 new houses. THe SHMA came up with 8,022. The consequence of the new Government consultation on housing need is 6,132 units. It is perfectly reasonable to expect the council to do some strategic scenario planning to calculate the different costs and contributions to infrastructure that might be expected under each scenario and make decisions accordingly. 

The Chairman is therefore, rejecting the question for the above reasons as we consider that the preparation of an answer to such hypothetical and speculative scenarios would require a disproportionate amount of time, money, and effort in circumstances where the work required to answer the question will would not inform any decisions to be made by the Council.

We asked the question because we thought they would have already done this work. It is fundamental to the decision-making process.

The question will not be put to Council on Thursday.

Pathetic.

Q6: Which of the above options would result in the lowest infrastructure funding gap?

This question is based upon hypothetical scenarios that are not being advanced by the Council.  These again are debating points and not a proper question to be put to Council.  In any event, the next version of the Local Plan at formal Regulation 19 Publication stage will show how much housing we are planning for and where it is going. The accompanying infrastructure plan to support the Local Plan proposals will be published alongside it.

No, it is asking for a conclusion, based on the previous question. I think we all know that we will end up with a lower infrastructure funding gap if we go with a lower housing number. The council has a duty to at the very least consider this and make decisions based on sound data and information. And we as residents should expect no less from our elected representatives.

The Chairman is, therefore, rejecting the question for the above reasons as we consider that the preparation of an answer to such hypothetical and speculative scenarios would require a disproportionate amount of time, money, and effort in circumstances where the work required to answer the question will would not inform any decisions to be made by the Council.

The question will not be put to Council on Thursday.

 

 

Goalposts changed in SWR timetable consultation

South West Trains SWR timetable consultation

South West Trains SWR timetable consultation comparison

The goalposts have been changed in the South West Railway SWR timetable consultation. As you may know already, SWR launched a consultation on the train timetable in late September. However, in response to negative feedback they have revised their proposals.

These new proposals are still unacceptable. Sorry to say this, but even if you have already responded to the first proposals, please respond to these new proposals. Please use the download below to respond to consultation by 22 December 2017. Feedback can be sent to: timetable.feedback@swrailway.com

SWR timetable consultation

Please also sign Ranil’s petition which can be found here.

Impact of South West Railway SWR timetable consultation

The current line to London is already running beyond capacity, and these changes represent a reduction in service at peak hours which cannot be a good idea.

In summary the changes proposed are:

  • Retains the same number of services from Hook and Winchfield to London, however, many of these services now no longer stop at Fleet and Farnborough
  • Keeps the same number of Fleet to London services as now
  • The new proposals result in slightly faster services to London

The impact of these changes will be:

  • School children and students attending Farnborough Sixth form, Salesian and Farnborough Hill will now have far fewer services to choose from to get from Hook/Winchfield to Farnborough.
  • This is likely to lead to both over-crowded trains and increased car journeys, leading to more pollution and congestion
  • No effective increase in capacity from Fleet, Winchfield and Hook to London, even though services are already over-crowded.

Alternative approach to SWR timetable consultation

Thousands of houses have either already been given permission or are proposed in Hart’s Local Plan. These include around 500 dwellings at Sun Park, 1,500 Hartland Village, and 420+ at Grove Farm all near to Fleet station. Moreover, 550 houses are currently being built in NE Hook and 1,800 dwellings are proposed at Murrell Green, both close to both Hook and Winchfield stations. Many hundreds more dwellings are being considered on brownfield sites in Hook. It does seem rather odd that SWR are not proposing to dramatically increase services just at the time when demand is going to increase. I would suggest the following alternative plan:

  • Ensure that many more of the Hook/Winchfield services stop at Fleet/Farnborough to help our kids get to school
  • Increase services from Fleet to London
  • Increase capacity by running more 12-car trains on the whole line at peak times
  • Reduce the number of first class carriages on 8 and 12-car trains to further increase passenger capacity

 

Hart Corporate Plan Consultation – please respond

Hart Corporate Plan: Liberal Democrats David Dave Neighbour in the pocket of Community Campaign Hart James Radley

Hart Corporate Plan: Liberal Democrats in the pocket of Community Campaign Hart

A consultation has been launched on the latest iteration of the Hart Corporate Plan. Whilst this contains some welcome initiatives, there are other developments that are of significant concern.

We rask that you respond to the consultation that can be found here. The deadline is 4pm on 31st October 2017. We suggest you make the following comments:

  1. Communities. Restore the plan to create a Hart-controlled trading company to deliver much needed social housing to the district.
  2. Communities. Drop the idea of delivering more houses than identified in the SHMA, and follow the new Government housing target of 6,132 instead.
  3. Communities: Focus infrastructure spending on the areas most in need: roads, education and healthcare provision. Adopt a Local Plan that minimises the infrastructure funding gap.
  4. Local Economy. Drop the idea to obstruct brownfield development by using Hart controlled SANG to restrict redevelopment of brownfield sites.
  5. Local EconomyRestore the focus on urban regeneration, by appointing a cabinet member with specific responsibility for this area.

Community Campaign Hart dominate Hart Corporate Plan

Anybody who has been to the last two council meetings cannot have failed to notice the domination of Community Campaign Hart (CCH). This is evidenced by:

  1. Council leader passing furtive glances to CCH deputy leader as he answers questions from members.
  2. CCH leader passing notes on how to answer questions to the head of the Planning portfolio.
  3. Submissive body language from Lib Dem cabinet members towards CCH members.

This shows that the changes to the Corporate Plan have been driven by the CCH dominance of the coalition administration.

In particular, the policies to restrict brownfield development, drop the housing trading company and remove the focus on urban regeneration will impact Liberal Democrat voting areas such as Blackwater and Ancells Farm, where they hold both District and County seats.

The Lib Dems should reassert their position and start fighting for policies that will help the areas that vote for them.

Hart Infrastructure Funding Gap as wide as ever

Hart infrastructure funding gap £72m

Hart infrastructure funding gap £72m

New figures have been published by Hampshire that shows the Hart Infrastructure funding gap to be as wide as ever. The overall funding gap for Hampshire is £1.2bn and Hart’s share is £72m.

Hampshire infrastructure spending shortfall

Hampshire infrastructure spending shortfall £1.2bn

Hart’s share of the gap is made up of:

  • Transport, £34m
  • Education: £38m.
  • Countryside: To be Determined.
  • Extra Care places: To be Determined.

No estimate has been made of the requirements or costs of additional healthcare provision.

Hart Infrastructure Funding Gap Transport

Hart District Strategic Infrastructure Schemes – Transport

The transport gap is £34m.

Hart Infrastructure Funding Gap Education and Countryside

Hart District Strategic Infrastructure Schemes – Education and Countryside

Education is the widest gap at £38m. Interestingly, this doesn’t include the costs of a new secondary school. The developers of Murrell Green have promised land and a contribution to a 9-form entry secondary school. This would amount to a 1,350 place school. A 150 place expansion of Robert Mays is indicated to cost £7.6m. It is therefore realistic to expect a 9-form entry, 1,350 place school would cost around £68m. Developer contributions from a 1,800 unit settlement might be expected to be £16m or so. This is calculated by assuming 40% of the development will be affordable housing, which does not attract S106 funding. It is assumed the remaining 1,080 open market dwellings would deliver S106 contributions of £15,000 per unit.

It is therefore clear that all of the developer contributions would be consumed by the new school, before any road improvements were made. And the road funding deficit is already £34m.

Hart Infrastructure Funding Gap Extra Care

Hart District Strategic Infrastructure Schemes – Extra Care

Hampshire identify the need for 221 more extra care units, but don’t identify the cost or say where the money will come from.

What does this mean for the Local Plan?

Community Campaign Hart are promising an “Infrastructure led Local Plan”. It is now obvious that a new settlement will only make the infrastructure funding gap worse. They are sticking to the ridiculous 10,185 housing target. If they adopted the new Government housing target of 6.132, then the infrastructure funding gap would be reduced. There would be fewer houses, therefore less need for road improvements. Fewer people and so less need for a new school. Indeed the latest figures from Hampshire show there’s no need for a new secondary school.

It is time to call them out on their plans and start asking “Show Me the Money”.

 

Community Campaign Hart have not learned lessons

Completely Concrete Hart (CCH) Community Campaign Hart have learned no lessons

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) have learned no lessons

Community Campaign (Hart) – CCH hint at keeping a new town in the Local Plan in an opinion piece in this week’s Fleet News and Mail. The full article can be found here. The summary is:

  • Building more houses won’t lead to a reduction in prices.
  • We need to build more Affordable homes, but set policies that will achieve precisely the opposite outcome.
  • The Grove Farm decision is everybody else’s fault. Yet CCH chaired the meeting that failed to make a decision on time.
  • There’s a conspiracy to derail and delay the Local Plan, yet CCH have frustrated the process.
  • Hint that they must press on with the ridiculous housing target and an unnecessary new town
  • Hart must deliver an Infrastructure led Local Plan (whatever that means). Yet they have no idea how to close the £1.2bn funding deficit across Hampshire and £72m in Hart.

In short, CCH have learned no lessons and are pressing on with their failed policies. No wonder they are becoming known as Completely Concrete Hart.

Let’s deconstruct what James Radley has to say.

Building more houses won’t lead to a reduction in prices

First, let’s start on points of agreement. We do agree that within sensible limits, building more houses will not bring down house prices. This is backed up by research by Ian Mulheirn of Oxford Economics, which we reported on here. We also agree the decision to go ahead and develop Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse), is a bad decision.

Community Campaign Hart policies will achieve the opposite of their objectives

However, we start to part company with Community Campaign Hart when they say we need to build more ‘Affordable’ homes. Yes, we do need more homes that people can afford to buy. But that isn’t the same as building Affordable homes. Take a recent development at Hartley Wintney where the cheapest 3-bed was over 11 times median household income in the district and the cheapest 2-bed was more than 9 times income. Even with a 20% ‘affordable’ discount, these houses are out of reach of most first time buyers in the district.

CCH’s argument is being used to justify Hart’s ridiculous decision to plan to uplift the housing target from the 8,022 in the SHMA to 10,185 units. This is justified on the grounds it will deliver ~800 extra ‘affordable’ homes. As Mr Radley states in his preamble, these extra homes won’t actually reduce prices. All they will do is attract more buyers from London, rather than meet the needs of ordinary people already here. They are doing their best to avoid and ignore the new Government consultation that set Hart’s housing target at 6,132 units, and that includes an affordable housing uplift on the base demographic requirement.

A glut of these ‘affordable’ homes won’t help those who can’t rent or buy, like Mr. Radley’s son. What these young people need is more social housing with cheaper rents. These ‘affordable’ houses won’t help those who can rent, but can’t buy either. These people can probably afford to service a mortgage if they can afford rent, but don’t have enough money for a deposit. Building extra houses won’t help these people either.

We understand that the new Lib Dem/CCH administration has shelved plans for Hart to create its own housing development corporation, which would have provided a significant number of social rented homes. Plans for this company have disappeared from the Corporate Plan consultation, thus reducing supply of social housing.

Moreover, the new Lib Dem/CCH cabinet have recently approved plans to obstruct brownfield development by restricting the supply of council owned SANG. These types of development tend to deliver smaller, cheaper properties. This type of property is more likely to be bought by young people trying to get on the housing ladder.

So, CCH’s actual policies are precisely the opposite of what is required to meet the objectives they have set.

Community Campaign Hart take no responsibility for the Grove Farm decision

Mr Radley blames the inspector for ‘setting aside the democratic expression of will’ in the Grove Farm decision. However, he fails to mention that the council officers recommended that permission be granted. However, we do think Community Campaign Hart is partly culpable because CCH was chair of the planning committee when they failed to determine the planning decision on time. Moreover, CCH caused a delay in the Local Plan last December, when they insisted Winchfield (which had failed testing), be included as an option.

The main reason why the inspector granted permission is that Hart don’t have a Local Plan, and the policies are out of date. The other reason of course is that our housing target is far too high. We have yet to see any public statement from CCH calling for:

  • A reduction in the ridiculous housing target.
  • More brownfield development.

Indeed, we hear on the grapevine that CCH argued in private for fewer houses to be built at Hartland Park (Pyestock). This puts extra pressure on green field development.

It is simply ridiculous to mourn the loss of Grove Farm, but strongly support concreting over green fields elsewhere.

Community Campaign Hart take no responsibility for Local Plan delays

The article says:

I fear there are some who may have deliberately attempted to derail the Local Plan process in order to achieve planning by appeal and so impose all the housing growth on those areas which already have over stretched schools and congested roads

In other words, he is right, everybody else is wrong, and anybody who disagrees with him is conspiring against him. On the one hand, he claims there’s majority support for his view, whilst arguing there’s a conspiracy against him. This is clearly ridiculous.

What Mr Radley overlooks since the last attempt at a Local Plan was thrown out:

  • He has been a councillor for all of that time.
  • Mr Radley himself has been a Cabinet member in 2014/15 and again now, in 2017
  • CCH delayed the Local Plan consultation last December, by insisting a new town at Winchfield be included, even though it was clear that the proposals had not passed testing
  • The previous administration promised a Regulation 19 consultation on the next version of the Local Plan in ‘Winter 2017’. This has now been pushed back until at least January 2018.
  • Despite promising in June this year that the responses to the latest consultation would be published ‘in a couple of months’, there is still no sign of them

It is to be hoped he wasn’t referring to us as part of the conspiracy to “derail” the Local Plan. We Heart Hart first highlighted the project management and governance problems back in April 2015 and again in January 2016 after the consultation omnishambles.

We have never seen a CCH member ask a question at council challenging the persistent missing of deadlines. We have never seen a CCH member challenge the ridiculous housing target. We have never seen Community Campaign Hart support brownfield development.

What is an Infrastructure led Local Plan?

This is the $64,000 question, to which we don’t have a proper answer. We think they mean to continue with a Local Plan that includes an unnecessary new settlement at Murrell Green or Winchfield. However, the justification for this falls away, if they adopt the new Government approach to calculating the housing target. If they do accept this, then the remaining housing needs can be met from Sun Park and Hartland Park.

Meanwhile, SWR are proposing to cut services at Winchfield and Hook train stations. This blows a hole in main main argument for siting a new town near Winchfield station.

Even their arguments for a new school are falling away, with latest Hampshire County Council projections showing a new secondary school is not needed.

Looking at the bigger picture, it’s even worse. The latest infrastructure plan from Hampshire County Council shows a £1.2bn funding deficit across the county. £72m of this shortfall is attributed to Hart.

These figures don’t include healthcare or provision of extra care places for the elderly. The overall numbers should be regarded as a minimum figure.

Hampshire £1.2bn infrastructure funding gap regarded as minimum

Hampshire £1.2bn infrastructure funding gap regarded as minimum

CCH would be much better off working out how to close the existing funding gap. Their policies will result in building more unnecessary housing that will make the problem worse.

It’s time for CCH to realise their mistakes, learn form them and change strategy. They should focus on a realistic housing target and support for brownfield development.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ranil petition to fight #SWRCuts to Winchfield and Hook trains

Ranil petition launched against SWR train cuts at Hook and Winchfield stations

Ranil petition launched against SWR train cuts at Hook and Winchfield stations

UPDATE: See details of new SWR timetable consultation here

Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena has launched a petition to combat the proposed #SWRcuts to services at Winchfield and Hook stations. South Western Railways (SWR) have proposed significant cuts to peak time morning services to London. Ranil has said he is “appalled that SWR have already reneged on the promises that helped them win the franchise.”

Ranil is meeting with SWR on 25th October to discuss the proposed changes to the timetable. It would be helpful if as many people as possible sign his petition and also make specific representations to SWR.

Ranil petition details

Please do sign his petition. It can be found here.

It would also be helpful if you could respond to the consultation directly by emailing your views to timetable.feedback@swrailway.com. We have created a handy template to help you that can be downloaded below.

SWR timetable consultation

Summary of Winchfield Hook train cuts

Hook Winchfield and Fleet SWR timetable comparison 2

Hook Winchfield and Fleet SWR timetable comparison

South Western Railways (SWR) has proposed Winchfield and Hook train cuts. The full document can be found here. They have launched a consultation that:

  • Reduces the number of peak morning services to London from eight to five
  • Increases peak time services from Fleet, but there is no extra car-parking to cope with additional passengers

The impact of the cuts will be to:

  • Three peak-time services from Winchfield and Hook to London cut from the timetable
  • Harder for commuters to get to work and for children to get to school/college
  • Increased pressure on already over-crowded Fleet station
  • More road congestion and increased carbon footprint

SWR proposes Winchfield Hook train cuts

South West Railways (SWR) Fat controller gets it wrong proposing winchfield hook train cuts.

SWR Fat Controller gets it wrong proposing Winchfield Hook train cuts.

UPDATE: See details of new SWR timetable consultation here

[Post updated to correct interpretation of confusing timetable]

Summary of Winchfield Hook train cuts

South Western Railways (SWR) has launched a consultation that proposes Winchfield and Hook train timetable cuts. The full document can be found here. The proposals:

  • Reduce the number of peak morning services to London from eight to five
  • Increase peak time services from Fleet, but there is no extra car-parking to cope with additional passengers

Please use the download below to respond to consultation.

SWR timetable consultation

Please also sign Ranil’s petition which can be found here.

Impact of Winchfield Hook train cuts

Hook Winchfield and Fleet SWR timetable comparison 2

Hook Winchfield and Fleet SWR timetable comparison 2

The current line to London is already running beyond capacity, and these changes represent a reduction in service at peak hours which cannot be a good idea. The impact of the cuts will be to:

  • Three peak-time services from Winchfield and Hook to London cut from the timetable
  • Harder for commuters to get to work and for children to get to school/college
  • Increased pressure on already over-crowded Fleet station
  • More road congestion and increased carbon footprint

Of course, we all know many thousands more houses are planned for the area, so it cannot make sense to reduce capacity just as demand is about to increase.

This goes against the commitments SWR made when bidding for the contract:

As part of our bid we promised new and better trains, more seats, improved service frequencies and quicker journey times.

Their proposals also go against the objectives they set in the consultation:

The new timetable has been designed to deliver more services, more peak capacity and seats, allow the introduction of new suburban rolling stock (starting later in 2019) and increase frequencies on some routes. Most suburban routes have earlier services than now and many routes have later evening trains.

SWR seem to recognise there might be significant issues with their proposed changes to Winchfield and Hook train services. We do think they ought to make ‘some adjustments’ to their proposals.

Issues with Hook and Winchfield train services

Issues with Hook and Winchfield train cuts

How to respond to the consultation

The consultation is open until Friday 22nd December 2017. Comments can be sent to timetable.feedback@swrailway.com. We have produced a download with some suggested comments to be made to SWR. This can be found below:

SWR timetable consultation

Our main alternative suggestions are:

  • Keep the frequency of peak time services to London.
  • Increase capacity by running more 12-car trains.
  • Reduce the number of first class carriages on 8 and 12-car trains to further increase passenger capacity.

Winchfield-Hook train cuts analysis

The current morning timetable is shown below:

Hook and Winchfield to London train timetable

Current Hook and Winchfield to London train timetable

This shows eight trains during the peak morning hours between 6:30 and 8:30 and all of these services are direct to London.

The proposed timetable is shown below:

Proposed South West Railway (SWR) Hook and Winchfield to London timetable

Proposed Hook and Winchfield to London timetable

This has only six morning peak services. Note also that half of the off-peak services now require passengers to change at Woking

There are also changes to evening services. The current evening timetable is shown below:

London to Hook and Winchfield train timetable

Current London to Hook and Winchfield train timetable

This shows eight services in the peak hours 5 and 7pm. All of these services are direct.

The proposed timetable is shown below:

Proposed South West Railway (SWR) London to Hook and Winchfield timetable

Proposed London to Hook and Winchfield timetable

The proposed timetable shows eight services in the peak hours from 5pm to 7pm and these are all direct. This isn’t a significant change.

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