Community Campaign Hart takes aim at the Heart of Hart

Hart District Council takes aim at the Heart of Hart

Community Campaign Hart takes aim at the Heart of Hart

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) have published a new newsletter on their website that calls for a new settlement to destroy the Heart of Hart in Winchfield.

In their article they make criticism of We Heart Hart and the good residents of Winchfield, and come to the conclusion that the only viable option for delivering the housing we need is a new settlement of 3,000-5,000 houses in Winchfield.  In their article they make a number of assertions that we believe are false, and will now seek to correct them, point by point.  But first, it is important that we start with the areas where we agree with CCH.

Points of Agreement

CCH say:

Until Hart have an LDP which meets the approval of a Government-appointed inspector, developers are in effect able to build on almost any greenfield site they choose

We broadly agree with this, although as in the case of Hop Garden Road in Hook, sometimes common sense can prevail especially now that Hart has more than 5 years of land supply.  However, if CCH are so concerned about the lack of a Local Plan, they should work more closely with We Heart Hart and others to ensure that Hart Council takes proper steps to improve the management of the Local Plan project that has slipped its timescale by two years within two years.  They would do better to use their time at council meetings to ask questions about the local plan rather than seek to stifle difficult questions.

Points of Difference

1. CCH say:

There just isn’t enough brownfield land available to accommodate that number of new homes, unless we are going to build high-rise tenement blocks along the length of Fleet Road.

This is simply not true on a number of levels.  First, the council hasn’t even created a proper register of brownfield sites so it hasn’t properly assessed capacity.  Second, our own work has shown there’s capacity for between 2,438 and 3,688 units, compared to the remaining unsatisfied “need” of 2,900 given at the last cabinet.

Derelict Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

Derelict Offices on Fleet Road in Fleet, Hampshire

Third, parts of Fleet Road are a disgrace to the district and should be redeveloped, not with tenements, but with mid-rise (say 3-4 storey) high quality apartments to help young people get on the housing ladder.  Finally, there is brownfield capacity all over the district including Ancell’s Farm, Bartley Wood, Pyestock, Bramshill and Guillemont Park.  They really should get out more and see all of the vacant offices around the district.

2. CCH say:

With a mainline railway station far closer to it than to any other new development in Fleet; with the option to integrate new roads onto the A30 and through to the M3; together with sufficient scale to fund three new primary schools and a new secondary school, Winchfield strikes many as being the best compromise

This is economic incompetence of the highest order.  The council’s own assessment of infrastructure needs points to costs of over £300m for a new town including the schools, but not including improvements to healthcare.  The ballpark estimate for developer contributions made by a senior Hart Councillor is around £40m.  There’s already a £78m infrastructure funding deficit in the district and £1.9bn across Hampshire.  Not only would a new town at Winchfield destroy green fields, it would destroy ancient hedgerows and put at risk SSSI’s and SINCs, but it would no doubt further increase congestion in Fleet and Church Crookham.

3, CCH say:

Consequently they have resorted to social media and other marketing techniques to promote the ‘wehearthart’ message.

However, their messaging is incomplete. They point to the council wishing to build a new town at Winchfield and seek to demonize anyone who may have reached the conclusion, however reluctantly, that a new town at Winchfield is the least worst solution out of an abhorrent set of options. They do not explain what the alternatives are, as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) mandates that this level of housing must go somewhere within Hart’s borders

We do not see what is wrong with communicating with the public using social media on the serious issue of the Local Plan, particularly when the council gets its own facts wrong.  However, We Heart Hart has explained what the alternatives are at some length, and the CCH Chairman of the council sought to have questions that we raised to indicate a different path censored at council meetings.  The alternatives are:

a) Reduce the alleged housing need by challenging the SHMA, particularly taking into account the latest DCLG population forecasts that indicate a lower population in 2031 than assumed in the SHMA and the reducing ridiculous jobs forecasts.  CCH would do well to engage with this debate instead of seeking to censor it.

b) Explore the options for reducing the assessed housing need by exploring so called “policy on” options to protect the environment and ecology.  Note that Winchfield is beautiful countryside in its own right, but is also within the 5km zone of influence of the Thames Valley Heath SPA.

c) Properly get to grips with brownfield options by establishing a brownfield register, actively encouraging landlords to redevelop their derelict sites and exploring the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders on sites that have sat vacant for years with no apparent signs of progress (e.g. Hartland Park aka Pyestock).

Hartland Park (Pyestock) near Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire, warehouse development not started

Brownfield site: Hartland Park (Pyestock) near Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire, warehouse development not started

CCH need to wake up, smell the coffee, listen to Ranil Jaywardena and use their talents to establish a different vision to protect the countryside they profess to love rather than coming out with incomplete, inaccurate nonsense.  Be careful who you vote for in next year’s local elections.

This story now covered in the local press, see here.

How Hart Council should respond to the We Heart Hart petition

Vacant brownfield Block at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire

Vacant Office at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hampshire

As we posted earlier, we have submitted the We  Hart petition to Hart District Council and the council have set out the process by which they will consider the petition.

We have drafted some suggestions as to how the council should respond  and sent them to Council leader, Stephen Parker and they are shown below.  We have a chance to put these ideas to Cabinet on 1 October at 7pm.  Please tell us if you are coming along to give us your support.

Please e-mail your councillors to ask them to support these proposals.

 

Dear Stephen,

Thank you very much for your email.

As you know the petition is from 2,130 signatories, nearly four times the number that responded to Hart Council’s consultation last year and more than ten times the number of people who expressed a first preference for a new town and is therefore a very significant expression of local opinion.

I welcome your approach to treat the petition seriously.  My understanding is that a petition of over 1,000 signatories would trigger an automatic debate at full council.  However, I do believe a debate at Cabinet is more likely to be more productive, so I support the approach you suggest.

As you might expect, I have my own suggestions as to what the appropriate responses to the petition should be and I set them out below for your consideration, interwoven with the petition objectives:

  1. To reduce the overall housing allocation for Hart District

 I think there are two broad approaches to this.  First, challenge the SHMA to reduce the overall housing allocation for the whole HMA.  If this is successful, then it will have a two-fold effect of reducing Hart’s own need and also reducing the risk of overflow from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.  I believe the key arguments are around inward migration assumptions; average household size and in particular jobs growth assumptions which are at a rate nearly double what was achieved over the economic cycle from 1998-2012 and will result in unprecedented levels of participation in the labour market (rising from around 70% to around 86%) for those of employment age.  I gave more detail on these arguments at both the Hop Garden Road appeal and in my response to the Rushmoor Local Plan.  More detail can be found here. However, I do recognise it is difficult for the council to challenge its own document and I await Rushmoor’s response to my strong challenge, but I do understand that the SHMA may be re-visited and it would be helpful if the council would commit to challenging the assumptions set out above as part of that process.

Second, in conversation with a number of professionals in the planning sector, I have been told a number of times, that it is uncommon for councils to explore fully their “policy on” options with regard to environmental and other constraints.  One of the main attractions of Hart as a district is its rural environment with associated SPA, SSSI’s, SINCs, green space and wildlife.  May I suggest that a proper environmental study is carried out to set out the value of Hart’s environment and ecology to build an argument for not meeting the full requirement of the SHMA?  I know that WAG is working on some proposals in this area with some of the rural parishes and would be keen to discuss the matter with you and offer to share the costs of preparation. 

  1. Demand that the Council develops a vision and strategy for Hart that retains its role as a rural, green hinterland for NE Hampshire that respects the separate character and identity of Hart’s settlements and landscapes and preserves the green spaces as amenity space for the urban settlements.

You may recognise the words above as taken from the withdrawn 2013 Core Strategy.  This was, and remains a good vision.  I would ask that as a minimum, the forthcoming Regulation 18 consultation sets out at least one potential “vision” for the district, and that one of the “vision” options includes words to this effect.

  1. To require that the housing need is met by building on brownfield sites and increasing density in our existing urban areas

Last November, the council’s estimate of brownfield capacity over the entire plan period was around 750 units (taken from parts 1 and 3 of the SHLAA as per the FOI request I made) out of the then remaining 4,000 units to build (or grant permission for) up to 2032.  Since then considerable progress has been made in identifying and in some cases granting permission on additional brownfield sites:

LocationNumber of Dwellings
Guillemont Park Phase 1 (not included as brownfield site in SHLAA) 150
Guillemont Park Phase 2320
Ancells Farm, Fleet370
Bartley Wood, Hook200
Fleet Road, Fleet220
Bramshill House350
Fleet Police Station50
Extra dwellings at Landata House28
Total1,688

All of the dwellings above were not included as brownfield sites in the SHLAA.  Guillemont Park (Sun Park) was in the SHLAA but for a lower number of units, and in Part 2, which was not considered to include brownfield locations.  Since last November revised permission has been granted at Landata House for 28 more dwellings than were included in the 5 year land supply calculation.

If the original 750 units were to be added to the 1,688 units identified above, then that amounts to a total of 2,438 potential units on brownfield.  If it were possible to increase the density (from 30dph to a still reasonable 80dph in urban areas) on the original 750 units, the total identified capacity would rise to some 3,688 units.

The remaining requirement of 4,000 has of course been reduced by the unfortunate decisions to allow development at Watery Lane (300 units) and Hawley Park Farm (126 units) leaving the remaining allocation at 3,574.

It is clear that with some creativity and energy, the gap between the remaining allocation of 3,574 and the currently identified brownfield capacity can be closed by working on a combination of reducing the overall allocation by reducing the SHMA or applying environmental “policy on” considerations, increasing density and finding more brownfield sites.

In the light of this, I welcome the paper that is to be put before Cabinet next week, signalling the more positive approach that the council proposes towards building housing on previously developed land.

I would ask though, that you consider some further steps:

  • Creating a new, formal “reasonable suitable alternative” option of meeting the remaining housing allocation solely through brownfield development.  This option should appear in the consultation paper.
  • Creating a complete database of all of the potential brownfield sites in the district, including those not in the October 2014 SHLAA and those not yet formally promoted to the council, including sites such as Bramshill House, Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), Sun Park, Ancells Farm, Bartley Wood, Fleet High St, Fleet Police Station and all of the run down town centres (e.g. Fleet, Yateley, Blackwater and Hook).
  • Inviting leading architects to compete to produce some visionary outline schemes of what a “brownfield solution” might look like for the district, taking into account changing demographics, changing shopping habits driven by the internet and achievable housing densities.
  • Organising a conference with the architects, land owners, developers and local community representatives with the objective of identifying the art of the possible for brownfield development amongst the competing solutions from the architects.
  • This could be done in conjunction with the neighbouring authorities of Surrey Heath and Rushmoor, particularly given the massive amount of current and forecast vacant employment land and Rushmoor seeking to protect 96 Ha.
  1. To request that future housing stock reflects the needs of the changing demographics of the district.

I set out in a question to council earlier this year that Hart will need to deliver around 2,500 housing units to meet the needs of the ageing population.  I contend that a new town will simply build the wrong type of accommodation in the wrong place to meet those needs.  It would be far better if these were built on brownfield sites in more urban areas, close to amenities such as doctors, post offices, shops and so on.  When the elderly move into these types of development, their well-being improves and of course, they free up conventional housing stock for families.  Could I therefore ask that the forthcoming consultation paper contains specific proposals on how the needs of the ageing population will be met?

  1. To demand the council and government do not plan for any new settlement in Hart that will act as a sink for the unmet housing need in neighbouring areas.

Addressing points 1, 2, 3 & 4 will render a new town unnecessary particularly when you consider the:

I do hope you find these suggestions helpful.  I would be grateful if you could circulate them to planning officers and Cabinet members for their consideration.

Hart Council Local Plan behind Schedule

Hart District Local Plan Project Behind Schedule

Hart District Local Plan Project Behind Schedule

Hart Council is falling behind its own schedule for the delivery of the Local Plan.  This is exposing the district to increasing pressures from developers who have more latitude to push through inappropriate development when there is no Local Plan in place. This does not engender a great deal of confidence that the rest of the project will proceed to schedule.

According to their own schedule they are apparently slipping in these areas:

  • The Employment Land Review is not complete – they have consulted, but not published an updated document.  It is based on the same pie in the sky job forecasts as the SHMA.
  • The Retail and Main Town uses should have been finished in March. There is no document about this subject beyond 2012 on Hart’s website.
  • The landscape capacity assessment should have been completed in April, but again nothing published on their website.
  • Settlement hierarchy paper should have been completed in May.
  • A shortlist of strategic sites for Phase 2 testing should have been complete in April, but it is my understanding that this decision has yet to be taken.
  • The Vision should have been completed in May, again nothing published.

After receiving an unsatisfactory response to a question raised at Hart Council back in April, we raised a Freedom of Information request to receive a copy of the project they are following to deliver the Local Plan. The document we received can be found here. It is clear they are suffering from “unwarranted optimism”.

Is Hart District Council Pushing Through the Local Plan without proper consultation?

Hart District Council has made changes to the way it is preparing the Local Plan and dropped one of the consultations it said it was going to carry out.  This leads to the suspicion that it is trying to force through a new settlement (Option 4), without adequately consulting the public or gaining proper support for its proposals.

If you would like to add your voice to those opposing the Council’s approach, please sign and share our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

Back in April 2014, Hart published its Local Development Scheme (LDS), that set out the timetable for producing the local plan.  This clearly shows that there would be two “Regulation 18” consultations with the general public.  The first was to be the consultation on the housing development options paper and the second was to be a consultation on a draft plan, due to take place in March 2015.

Hart District Council Local Development Scheme 3rd Rev April 2014

Hart Council Local Development Scheme 3rd Rev April 2014

However, in a revised Local Development Scheme (LDS), published in February 2015, this second Regulation 18 consultation has been dropped.  The next time the public is going to be consulted is in Autumn 2015 when the Local Plan is complete and there is only six weeks before it is submitted for inspection.

Local Development Scheme Feb 2015

Hart Council Local Development Scheme 4th Rev Feb 2015

This means that Hart District Council is proposing to move from a very general consultation on where to put 7,500 houses to a complete document ready for submission without any further consultation with the public.  They barely raised the risk of Hart becoming a sink for 3,100 extra houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.

As we have already documented, Hart has admitted it has no vision for the district, so it certainly has not consulted us on what we would like Hart to look like in 20 years time.  Moreover, Hart is continuing to test a new settlement at Winchfield without consulting the public on whether they want the northern part of Hart to descend into a single urban sprawl.  In addition, more people have signed our petition opposing its approach than responded to its own, inadequate consultation.

It is difficult to come to a conclusion other than Hart District Council is trying to force through a new town without proper consultation.

We would like to humbly suggest that Hart District Council thinks again and alters its approach to better engage the public in these very important decisions.

 

Impact of Housing Density on Hart Local Plan

Impact of Housing Density on Hart District Local Plan

Impact of Housing Density on Land Required for Hart Local Plan

This diagram shows the impact of the area of land required to meet the housing need of 7,534 houses in the Hart Local Plan.  Hart District Council use a rule of thumb of approximately 30 dwellings per hectare (dph) for new housing density.  However, the study by Gareth Price showed that in urban areas it is quite possible to create vibrant communities with housing densities of 250 dph.

Using Hart’s metric of 30dph would mean we would have to find around 251 hectares (621 acres) of land to meet the housing need.  Whereas if we were to build at a higher density of 250 dph on brownfield sites we would only need to find around 30 hectares of land (around 75 acres).  These approximate areas are shown in the red squares on the map above.

Interestingly, Hartland Park (aka Pyestock), near Fleet is a brownfield site of 119 acres which is larger than we need to meet our total housing requirement.

We have already posted lots of other brownfield sites such as Sun Park near the M3, Ancell’s Farm and the derelict buildings at the end of Fleet Road in Fleet and Bartley Wood in Hook, Hampshire.

This shows that with vision, creativity, energy and political will, we can meet our housing needs for decades to come by properly utilising brownfield land and have no need to concrete over our beautiful green fields by building a new town.

If you would like to join the campaign to ask Hart District Council to think again, please sign our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

 

Official: Hart has no Vision

SHLAA Sites in Hart District Jan 2015

SHLAA Sites in Hart District Jan 2015

It’s official, in an answer to a question to be posed at tomorrow’s council meeting, Hart District Council has disclosed that it doesn’t have a vision.  It is quite simply astonishing that after months of work on the Hart Local Plan they still don’t have a vision for what Hart is going to look like in 2031.

If you want to protest against this staggering lack of leadership, please sign and share our petition.

We Heart Hart posed a number of questions to the council ahead of tomorrow’s meeting.  Among them was a question about their vision for the future of the district that they must prepare in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

One might expect this to be an early part of their work so that they can objectively assess alternative development scenarios against that vision.  However, their approach appears to be the other way round, decide where they are going to dump the houses and then retro-fit a vision to that.  Sadly we seem to be on the slippery slope to a giant, sprawling conurbation in the north east of Hart by default (joining up Fleet, Dogmersfield, Church Crookham, Crookham Village, Hartley Wintney, Hook, Odiham and North Warnborough) because they can’t be bothered to come up with a more positive vision.  Not only that, but they are still insisting on a new town option that will act as a sink for the 3,100 houses that Surrey Heath and Rushmoor say they can’t build.

Other revelations from their answers include:

  • Their belief that the locations of the houses we build won’t change the traffic and congestion impact very much.  I am not sure residents of Hartley Wintney, Hook, Fleet Odiham and Church Crookham will welcome the additional traffic from a new town on their doorstep in Winchfield.
  • Admission that they are being forced to include a new town option in their planning so they can accommodate the overspill from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor
  • Insisting that there is capacity for only 750 houses on brownfield land even though many of the brownfield sites BraveHart photographed are not in the SHLAA despite there being several sites on Ancells Farm up for sale.

The full questions and answers can be found here.

 

We Heart Hart Questions for Hart Council

There is a Hart District Council meeting on 26 February at the Hart Council Offices in Fleet at 7pm.  There is an opportunity for members of the public to ask questions about any subject including the emerging Local Plan.  Great questions would be:

  1. If Hart keeps the new town in its plan, what is the risk it will have to build the new town and strategic urban extensions in Fleet and Church Crookham to accommodate the extra 3,100 houses that Surrey Heath Borough Council and Rushmoor Borough Council are trying to force on to Hart?
  2. What will be the additional traffic and congestion impact of the proposed new town on surrounding settlements of Church Crookham, Crookham Village, Fleet, Hook, Hartley Wintney and Odiham?
  3. What are the criteria, marking scheme and weighting factors Hart are using to evaluate the alternative housing development options?
  4. What is Hart’s vision for the future of the district?
  5. How will Hart evaluate the risk of coalescence of the existing settlements that will effectively happen if a new town is built?
  6. What is Hart DC’s strategy for identifying and analysing and maximising the development of brownfield sites to avoid concreting over our valuable green spaces?
  7. What will be the environmental impact of a new sewage works discharging into the River Hart?
  8. What will be the environmental impact of 5,000 new houses in the SPA zone of influence?
  9. What will be the environmental impact of 5,000 new houses on the SSSI’s at Odiham Common and Basingstoke Canal?
  10. What will be the environmental impact of concreting over the green gaps between the SSSI’s and SINCs in Winchfield?

We Heart Hart has asked a number of these questions already as shown in the download and is aware of others asking questions too.

Please take some time to ask your own questions of the council.  You can use the download below that already has the e-mail addresses in it you need.  Questions need to be submitted by noon on Friday 20 February.

We Love Hart Questions for Hart Council

And if you have not done so, please sign the petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/we-hart

Is this what we want for Hart?

SHLAA Sites in Hart District Jan 2015

SHLAA Sites in Hart District Jan 2015

Is this what we want for Hart? Take a look at the image taken from a document on the council website, that shows all of the sites Hart are looking at for development into the future as at January 2015.

Whilst not all of them will make it into the Local Plan, it is clear that we are on the slippery slope to Hartley Wintney, Hook, Fleet, Dogmersfield, the Crookhams, Winchfield and Odiham coalescing into a single, sprawling conurbation.  Each settlement will lose its distinctive identity and we will lose the green fields, wildlife and rural feel that make Hart such a great place to live.

Many of these sites are within the zone of influence of Thames Valley Special Protection Area and close to other environmentally sensitive areas such as the SSSIs at Basingstoke Canal and Odiham Common and the numerous other Sites of Interest to Nature Conservation (SINCs) that are dotted around the district.

The We Heart Hart campaign says we need to challenge this mindset of building a new town all over our green fields and force a re-think of the whole development strategy, with a much stronger focus on building on brownfield sites and increasing building density in the existing settlements.

Please sign the petition opposing this style of development: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/we-hart

What’s wrong with Hart Council’s Approach?

We have several problems with Hart’s current approach:

  • Lack of overall vision for the district.  Sadly Hart Council is simply reacting to events and not setting out a vision of what it wants the district to look like in 20, 30, 50 or 100 years time.  This means that if we are not careful, we will end up with piecemeal development that will damage the very things that make Hart an attractive place to live.  Ideas for an improved vision are shown here.
  • Opening up the District to being a sink for the unmet housing needs of other districts.  The overall housing allocation plan for the plan period calls for 1,800-2,400 homes to be built in a new town at Winchfield.  However, the Barratts document Vision Document suggests that a new town at Winchfield could entail 5,000 new houses.  By pure coincidence (of course), Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils need to find space for about 3,100 more houses in their districts.  Building a new town anywhere in Hart opens up the strong possibility that we will be forced to take this additional requirement from bordering areas.
  • Lack of provision for elderly and infirm.  According to the SHMA, by 2031, there will be an additional 10,000 people over 60 (including more than 6,850 over 75) expected to be living in the district and an extra 3,620 people who will be suffering from dementia or have some sort of mobility problem. Section 9 of the SHMA suggests that future housing stock should be built to broadly reflect the existing stock.  This new stock will attract more families to the area and crowd out the developments required to meet the needs of the elderly and infirm.

Overall, the lack of strategy, opening up the potential for a new town and not addressing the needs arising from changing demographics amount to very serious flaws in approach which puts our countryside at risk.

We have outlined an alternative approach to producing the local plan here.

Hart District

Hart is a beautiful district made up of a mixture of large urban settlements such as Fleet and smaller village type settlements such as Odiham. The space around these settlements is largely made up of green fields and woodland which give Hart its essential rural feel.

In December 2014, for the fourth year running, Hart was named the best place to live in the country in a survey by the Halifax. Each settlement has a distinctive community feel; the quality of the schools is excellent and the 84 square miles of green fields and wooded landscape are a perfect example of England’s green and pleasant land that is excellent for wildlife, cycling and walking.

This essential nature of Hart is now being put under pressure by the National Planning Policy Framework and Hart Council’s response to it. In the years up to 2031, Hart has to build another 7,500 homes. Hart Council is proposing to meet the bulk of this need by building a new settlement in the heart of Hart at Winchfield destroying over 700 acres of green fields and woodland in the process.

We are mounting a campaign against these proposals because we believe the Strategic Housing Market Assessment that gave rise to the need for 7,534 extra houses (not to mention the extra 3,100 houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor) is flawed and Hart’s response to this is inappropriate.

This is putting all of the parishes of Hart District at risk including:

Blackwater and Hawley; Bramshill;  Church Crookham; Crondall; Crookham Village; Dogmersfield; Elvetham Heath; Eversley; Ewshot; Fleet; Greywell; Hartley Wintney; Heckfield; Hook; Mattingley; North Warnborough; Odiham; Rotherwick; South Warnborough; Winchfield; and Yateley.