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.


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.


Secret Winchfield New Town plan emerges

Winchfield Consortium Preferred Development Option

Winchfield Consortium Preferred Development Option

A secret Winchfield new town plan has emerged from Hart District Council.  The document was produced in February 2015 by the Winchfield Consortium who appear to be promoting land around Murrell Green (as Pearson Strategic) alongside the land promoted by Barratts in Winchfield to create the Hartley Winchook settlement.  The document, which is available for download below, contains a number of interesting points that appear to undermine the case for a new settlement at those sites:

First, the total capacity of the proposed ‘settlement’ is 4,883 units (which is somewhat below the minimum size of 5,000 units for new eco-towns) spread across four loosely connected development zones.  One would have to be quite generous to term this type of development a new ‘settlement’ as there is no defined centre, or heart.

Second, the infrastructure contribution looks to be very limited, with the document talking of the “majority of the infrastructure will be delivered through S106 agreement”, with the infrastructure being defined as a spine road, a primary school, the secondary school and the local centres. This appears to mean that the Winchfield Consortium/Barratts/Pearson Strategic will contribute only 50.1% of the cost of these specific elements.  It is notable that there is no mention of healthcare or sports facilities, no upgrades to the connecting road network and no upgrades to the railway station. And of course, these contributions will do nothing to address the infrastructure deficit in out existing settlements.

Third, it is clear that the Murrell Green sites, which are largely in Hook parish, are required to make the proposal work, and these sites are in the first phase of development (see pages 26-27), contrary to the expectations of the Hook community groups.

Fourth, this is now the third document (others here and here) we have seen that shows a proposed secondary school adjacent to the Mildmay Oaks hospital.

Compare Flood Risk to development sites

Comparison of development sites to flood risk areas

Finally, comparing Hart’s strategic site assessments to this document shows that much of the proposed development is in an area susceptible to varying degrees of groundwater flooding.  We have seen only this week the dangers of building close to flood zones.

Development site on a Flood Plain near Whalley, Lancashire

Development site on a Flood Plain near Whalley, Lancashire

The Winchfield Concept document can be found on the download below:

Winchfield Consortium Concept Paper

If these plans concern you, 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