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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CPRE Hampshire says Winchfield is a ‘poor option’ in response to consultation

CPRE Hampshire Logo

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England’s (CPRE) Hampshire branch have responded to Hart Council’s Local Plan consultation and condemned the whole idea of a new town at Winchfield. Their full response can be found here.

In it, they say that they do not accept that a new town is a valid approach and describe it as a ‘poor option’. They also challenge the housing need figures, pointing out that the (allegedly) Objectively Assessed Housing Need is 58.6% above the latest Government household projections.

This response, coupled with Winchfield Parish Council’s very strong response, really does call into question the whole idea of a new town in Winchfield.

 

 

 

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

Hart Council still has no idea

Hart District Council (HDC) still has no idea

Hart Council still has no idea.

Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.  And sometimes people who are normally quite sensible and rational as individuals can become delusional and irrational as part of a group, in a phenomenon known as “Groupthink”.

Please bear this in mind as you read about Hart’s plans to embark on a new consultation about the Local Plan.

The Local Elections are to be held on 5 May 2016.  Prior to that, there’s a six week period of ‘purdah’ where the council can make no significant announcements nor take any significant decisions.  This year, purdah starts on 24 March.

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee is examining what went wrong with the abandoned consultation, but won’t report until the end of February at the earliest.

I have been told by someone who spoke to Stephen Parker as Cabinet last night, that the revised Housing Need from the new SHMA is due in late February, with perhaps some highlights being released earlier. Of course, our expectation is that Hart’s (and Rushmoor’s and Surrey Heath’s) housing requirement will be significantly reduced.

However, the Council now plan to start the consultation again, either on 29 January, or a week later and run it for six weeks, taking us to either 11 March or 18 March.  Not only that, they plan to ask those who submitted responses if they want to carry forward their responses to this new consultation, even though the evidence base is going to change mid-way through the consultation. Surely this would be highly irregular.

We think it will take at least two weeks for the results of the consultation to be properly analysed, meaning that they will not be available until after purdah has started, and so will not be able to be released until 6 May at the earliest.

Surely, it would be better for the council to wait until the new housing target is released and they have learned the lessons from the last shambolic consultation before starting the new one.  Interestingly, they could do that, and still be able to publish the results at exactly the same time as if they started the consultation next week, as the graphic below demonstrates.

Hart District Council (HDC) Local Plan Consultation Time Lines

Local Plan Consultation Time Lines

Q. What do you call a blind deer?  A. No idea

Q. What do you call a blind deer with no legs? A. Still no idea.

We suggest that readers who are concerned about this, write to their councillors and see if you can get them to see sense.

Rushmoor responds to criticism by revising evidence base and delaying its Local Plan

Empty Offices at Farnborough, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire.

Empty Offices at Farnborough, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire

While all of our eyes have been on the Hart Consultation about the Local Plan, Rushmoor has also been busy on its own Local Plan.  The most important point is that Rushmoor is revising the SHMA and the Employment Land Review which will:

be beneficial in assisting with a response to a number of comments received through the consultation, which challenged elements of the evidence base, and in particular, raised objection to the fact that the potential shortfall in housing supply in Rushmoor should be accommodated in Hart.

We might add that it was largely We Heart Hart supporters who made these comments – so thank you very much for your contributions.  It does show that reasoned analysis of the evidence base can lead to real change, at least in Rushmoor.

In addition, as well as making reference to the Government’s lower population and household forecasts, Rushmoor say that “all of the three major forecasting houses that produce employment forecasts at local authority level have updated forecasts since those used in the SHMA and the ELR”.  We Heart Hart have strongly challenged the previous jobs forecasts, so we can only hope that these forecasting houses have come up with something more reasonable.

Rushmoor is also revising its land bank database (SHLAA), and this should be available in early 2016.

Interestingly, Rushmoor has also delayed its Local Plan by up to a year in total to cater for these revisions to the evidence base.  Rushmoor’s next consultation, built upon the new evidence base will be in October 2016.

We find it difficult to see how Hart is going to manage to produce a full draft Local Plan by the Summer of this year, when the updated evidence base is not going to be available until the Spring, and it is going to take Rushmoor at least 6 months to process that information and produce the next draft of its Plan.

Rushmoor has also provided a response to Hart’s Housing Options consultation that we will cover in another post.

7 reasons to oppose a new town in Hart

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

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

As the consultation on the Hart District Local Plan draws to a close, it is worth reiterating the main reasons why you should oppose a new town and urban extensions in Hart.

  1. They would open us up to 3,000 extra houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor, and we would get the worst of all worlds, a new town, urban extensions and green field dispersal.
  2. The rate of building would then be used against us in the next planning period, so the problems we create today would be compounded into the future.
  3. It would be bad strategy to commit to a new town now, when we know that the housing needs assessment is being revised, and in all likelihood it will be revise down
  4. The proposed new town location is simply not suitable, in that there isn’t enough land to create the nirvana of a self contained new settlement promised by some HDC councillors, and would lead to a giant Hartley Winchook conurbation.
  5. The infrastructure costs are astronomical, and the developer contributions will not meet these costs, thus pushing up council taxes in the future
  6. There is an alternative brownfield solution that will meet the actual needs of Hart residents through providing specialist accommodation for the elderly and affordable starter homes for the young people struggling to get on the housing ladder.
  7. Brownfield development is a more sustainable, greener alternative that will be kinder to the environment and provide infrastructure funding for our existing communities.

If you would like to ask Hart to abandon the new town alternative 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 and 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

 

 

Letter to the Telegraph – conurbation from London to the south coast

Winchfield SHLAA Sites in Hart District Hampshire

Winchfield SHLAA Sites in Hart District Hampshire

It seems the Telegraph has picked up on the amount of houses we need to build in Hart, and has published a letter from a Mr Andrew Robinson of Hart District.  The letter and other similar letters from other parts of the country can be found here.

Mr Robinson’s letter reproduced below:

SIR – I see that Hart, in Hampshire, where I happen to live, has come top once again in an annual survey of the best place to live in Britain.

However, its reign will soon end, as the local council is about to plonk 7,500 houses – or more if we are forced to accept a proportion of neighbouring areas’ allocation – in the district over the next 15 years.

The council is simply carrying out the Government’s orders, which go against David Cameron’s pledges on localism and sustainable development.

We in Hart have had over 35 years of urbanisation without infrastructure, mostly imposed via sham public inquiries. Housing and population have grown by around 11 per cent every 10 years, with an additional increase of up to 37 per cent predicted by 2030, by which time Hart’s roads will be almost permanently gridlocked.

This is a small district and these housing impositions should be tailing off by now. Instead we have a Government committed to infinite expansion in a finite land mass. We are going to end up with a Conservative conurbation stretching from London to the south coast.

 

Well said Mr. Robinson.

We have created a dedicated consultation page and 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

 

There is a brownfield solution to Hart’s housing needs

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

Vacant Office at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hampshire

We have done some further analysis on Hart’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) and come to the conclusion that Hart’s housing needs can be met from brownfield sites alone.  We believe this is a potentially viable solution that should form part of the forthcoming Housing Options consultation as part of the Local Plan.  Instead Hart Council have ignored the wishes of 2,130 people who signed the WeHeartHart petition and only put forward solutions that involve concreting over vast swathes of our countryside.

Hart District Brownfield Development Target

[Updated 2 March 2016 to add in the new brownfield SHLAA sites as described here]

[Updated 31 March 2016 to include Pyestock (aka Hartland Park)]

[Updated 30 August 2016 to re-set target to 2,350 now that Moulsham Lane, Yateley has been given the go ahead]

So, how have we arrived at our conclusion?

Brownfield sites in the SHLAA

We have been through the SHLAA and identified those sites that are mostly or wholly brownfield in nature, and added up total capacity as recorded in the SHLAA.  Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), is now also an official SHLAA site.  In total, these sites amount to between 3,208 and 3,250 homes at an average density of a relatively modest 28 dwellings per hectare (dph). The detail is shown in the table below:

ParishRef.NameBrownfield Capacity in Table 1 in DLPSite Assessment Capacity (Low)Site Assessment Capacity (High)Size (Ha.)Low Density (dpa)
Total3,2083,25011727.9
Blackwater and HawleySHL21Linkwater Cottages, Blackwater12120.6418.75
Blackwater and HawleySHL100Sun Park, Guillemont Park North3003203201226.66
BramshillSHL106Bramshill (Police Training Centre)2502501025
Church CrookhamSHL2826/32 Bowenhurst Road8660.4214.28
Crookham VillageSHL158Crondall House, Fleet27271.1323.89
DogmersfieldSHL39Fermoy, Farnham Road5102.232.24
DogmersfieldSHL55Land at Church Lane, Dogmersfield20200.8224.39
Elvetham HeathSHL104Land at Elvetham Heath4545452.2520
EversleySHL127Land at Paul’s Field, Eversley70702.825
EversleySHL140Land off Warbrook Lane53531.7630.11
EwshotSHL36Dachs Lodge, Redfields, Church Crookham29291.224.16
EwshotSHL80Tanglewood, Ewshot770.3122.58
EwshotSHL174Peacocks Nursery Garden Centre1051053.530
EwshotSHL235Land at Willow Croft, Church Crookham50502.7518.18
FleetSHL41Imac Systems, Fleet6660.05120
FleetSHL42Camden Walk, Fleet9880.2433.33
FleetSHL50Waterfront Business Park, Fleet60601.4641.09
FleetSHL6918 Church Road, Fleet10100.07142.85
FleetSHL102Land at Bramshot Lane45451.825
FleetSHL113Thurlston House1712120.6817.64
FleetSHL245Land at 154-158 Albert Street & Fleet Road14880.1844.44
FleetSHL275Land at Little Mead, Fleet12171.0611.32
FleetSHL320Fleet Town Centre Zone 2201501501.883.33
FleetSHL322Fleet Town Centre Police Station1737370.6160.65
FleetSHL357Land at Sankey Lane, Fleet20200.6431.25
FleetTBAPyestock (aka Hartland Park)1,5001,50048.238.1
Hartley WintneySHL95Nero Brewery, Hartley Wintney660.1540
Hartley WintneySHL216Land adj. to James Farm Cottages, Hartley
Wintney
660.2920.68
HookSHL111Hook Garden Centre, Reading Road, Nr. Hook57574.4712.75
Long SuttonSHL296Old Dairy, Long Sutton550.225
OdihamSHL29Land at Butts End660.415
OdihamSHL66Rear garden of 4 Western Lane, Odiham16160.6425
OdihamSHL119Land at the rear of Longwood, Odiham990.3129.03
South WarnboroughSHL70Stables at Lees Cottage, South
Warnborough
550.2520
South WarnboroughSHL172Granary Court, South Warnborough16160.6923.18
WinchfieldSHL34Land adjoining Winchfield Court18251.0616.98
WinchfieldSHL84Land at Winchfield Lodge60603.815.78
WinchfieldSHL114Trimmers Cottage, Winchfield Hurst12120.4924.48
Church CrookhamSHL81Vertu, Beacon Hill Road, Church Crookham65701.7636.93
Blackwater and HawleySHL176Hawley House, Hawley8100.326.66
CrondallSHL178Broden Stables & Stable Yard, Crondall14271.410
CrondallSHL179Bowenhurst Lane, Crondall30351.520
Hartley WintneySHL189Land at James Farm, Hartley Wintney880.3125.8

A number of these sites are “not currently developable” according to Hart.  But most of the green field sites they have put forward are also not currently developable.  We believe that the issues surrounding brownfield sites should capable of being resolved more easily than those for green field sites.

Sites not in the SHLAA

There are a number of sites not in the SHLAA that nevertheless should be considered that amount to around 785 additional homes.  These include the parts of Ancells Farm, Bartley Wood and Fleet High Street that have not already been permitted or counted elsewhere. We have also counted the complex of under-utilised offices that include Admiral House, Flagship House, Hart Offices and Harlington centre in Fleet.  Much of this site was recommended by Fleet Future, but for some reason Hart Council have ignored it.  But we can think of no reason why a council that was truly committed to a brownfield first strategy would not offer up its own under-utilised offices to be part of new, mixed use development and move to one of the other vacant office blocks in the district.  These sites, with an allowance for parts of sites that have already been permitted, are shown in the table below.

ParishSite DescriptionEstimated capacityNote
Total785
FleetAdmiral House, Flagship House, Hart Offices and Harlington centre350Paper by Gareth Price identified 775 units on a larger site incorporating much of this area
FleetAncells Farm370From Stonegate report
FleetFleet vacant offices220From Stonegate report
HookBartley Wood200From Stonegate report
Less units already granted permission or already counted-355Part of Ancells Farm and Barley Wood already granted. SHL 320 already counted

Conclusions

Drawing this together, there’s capacity for between 3,993 and 4,035 units on brownfield sites, without increasing the density on any of the SHLAA sites.

Now, according to Hart, we have to find space for a further 2,350 homes (now that 150 houses have been approved at Moulsham Lane, Yateley), according to the current Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA).  This shows that we have now more than met our remaining needs from brownfield sites alone. We certainly do not need a new town at Winchfield or any new urban extensions in Hook, Fleet or Elvetham Heath.

However, we also know that Alan Wenban-Smith has challenged the SHMA and said that we need around 2,000 fewer houses.  If this were accepted by the inspector, we would have an even bigger surplus of brownfield capacity to take into the next planning period.

We also know that the SHMA is being revised, and the Government has published revised population and household forecasts earlier this year and these showed much lower figures for Hart.  Again, this should result in a lower housing allocation, and we would end up with a surplus of brownfield sites until the next planning period.

This begs the question why Hart Council is not including a formal brownfield option in its forthcoming consultation, when that was the clear view of the 2,130 people who signed the WeHeartHart petition.  Persisting with new town and urban extension solutions is untenable.  Please do get involved with this consultation and respond to it using our guide on our dedicated page about this consultation here.

Hart Council’s new consultation still likely to leave it in a hopeless position

Scales of Justice weigh against Hart District Council

Scales of Justice weigh against Hart District Council

It seems likely that Hart Council is about to launch a new consultation on housing options for the district as part of the Local Plan.  We are following this closely, and will publish some additional materials to help residents make up their mind once the full consultation has been made public.

But having reviewed the materials already on Hart’s website (cabinet meeting materials for 18 November 2015), it seems clear that the council have taken no notice of the legal opinion they received from top QC Peter Village, that described their position as “hopeless”.

That opinion said:

…there is no evidence that to date there has been any consideration by the Council of the “reasonable alternative[s]” of providing less than the OAN, on environmental grounds…

There has been no regulation 18 consultation at all on issues such as employment, retail, transport, infrastructure (or, indeed, anything other than housing distribution). It is inconceivable that a coherent and sound local plan could emerge without addressing most (at least) of these issues. Thus, the Council presently appears to be in a hopeless position if it maintains its current course. Either it will proceed with a plan that does not address fundamental matters (thereby exposing itself on the “soundness” issue), or it will incorporate matters which have indisputably not been the topic of any regulation 18 consultation.

We have been through the consultation materials in some detail, and we can find no reference to the council considering providing fewer houses on environmental grounds, and no sign of consulting us residents on employment, retail, transport or infrastructure.

Coupled with the issues we raised to the council on Friday, it is looking like this consultation is going to be an expensive waste of time and taxpayers’ money because we are still not being offered a proper consultation on all the issues that matter. Please do get involved with this consultation and respond to it using our guide on our dedicated page about this consultation here.

Independent Expert says we are being asked to build too many houses

Time to celebrate we don't need so many houses

Time to celebrate: Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath don’t need so many houses

An independent expert, Alan Wenban-Smith has taken a look at our housing needs assessment and concluded that Hart District is being asked to build too many houses.  He says that the overall house-building rate for the combined area of Hart, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor should more than halve from 1,180 dwellings per annum (dpa) to 558 dpa, and that for Hart should fall from 370 to 268dpa.  This would reduce the overall housing need for the housing market area from 23,600 to 11,160 and that for Hart from 7,500 to around 5,500.  This calls into question the validity of carrying out a new “Housing Options” consultation now when there is serious doubt about the accuracy of the housing numbers we need to deliver. Please do get involved with this consultation and respond to it using our guide on our dedicated page about this consultation here.

This is very good news in that if this analysis is upheld at inspection it should lead to the following conclusions:

  • We can meet all of our remaining housing need from brownfield sites alone.
  • We definitely would not need a new town in Winchfield or anywhere in Hart, nor would we need any urban extensions.
  • The risk of needing to build 3,000 houses to cater for the unmet needs of Surrey Heath and Rushmoor should fall away.
  • There may be an opportunity to ask Surrey Heath and Rushmoor to build more houses for Hart, so we could keep our beautiful countryside.

Mr Wenban-Smith’s full report was commissioned by We Heart Hart and Winchfield Action Group can be downloaded here:

Critique of Hart SHMA

Critique of the Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath SHMA by Alan Wenban-Smith

The summary of his argument, together with the implications is discussed below:

The starting point for assessing housing need in Hart used the 2011-based population projections from the Government and then made a series of changes to extend those projections out to 2031; adjust for higher inward migration estimates and for smaller average household size.  These 2011-based projections have been superseded by more recent 2012-based figures that already make projections to 2031 and already include the adjustments made above.  The effect of this is to reduce the start-point considerably.

Hart has already commissioned a review of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) to take account of these latest Government figures and so should include this reduction.  We should know the results of this work early in 2016.  However, this does call into question the validity of conducting a new consultation now when the numbers are subject to such a large degree of change.

Then Mr Wenban-Smith challenges the jobs forecasts in the SHMA, concluding that the level of jobs growth we achieved in the period 1998-2008 would be a “good result” and the increases in jobs and houses needed to support economic growth should be reduced.

Finally, he then goes on to say that the level of house need shown in the SHMA cannot be delivered by the market.  If the amount of land required to meet the need is allocated by the council, then this will lead to housebuilders cherry picking the best sites and building at a rate that gives them most profit,  not at the rate required to meet the needs. So, he concludes that the level of housing proposed is unsustainable, and therefore contrary to the NPPF and should be reduced.  This is in-line with current guidance about SHMAs from the Planning Advisory service that says:

Based on these reasons, we conclude that the OAN should be principally understood as a measure of future demand rather than aspiration. Accordingly we propose a working definition as follows:

‘The housing that households are willing and able to buy or rent, either from their own resources or with assistance from the State’.