Return of the New Town: Winchfield fights back

Return of the New Town - Winchfield fights back

Return of the New Town – Winchfield fights back

We Heart Hart and Winchfield Parish Council (WPC) are fighting back against the decision to award funding for the  new town.

WPC has written to the Secretary of State demanding that the decision to award £150,000 of capacity funding to support the delivery of the Hartley Winchook/ Shapley Heath garden community new town be reversed.   In addition, We Heart Hart has written to MHCLG making a similar request, using slightly different arguments. We understand that the Rural Hart Association will also be making representations to MHCLG.

A summary of the WPC letter is shown below, together with links to the full text. The full text of the WHH letter follows.

Winchfield fights back: WPC Letter

The letter has the support of Hartley Wintney, Dogmersfield, Crondall, Greywell and Long Sutton & Well Parish Councils. The Parish Councils of Eversley, Odiham and South Warnborough have made known to WPC their concerns about the proposed development and will consider adding their full support to the letter when they next meet. WPC’s letter highlights the following concerns:

  1. The Inspector’s findings following the independent examination of the Local Plan rejected the SHGV proposal, which followed HDC’s Garden Village Application in November 2018.
  2. HDC’s ongoing promotion of SHGV is not supported by the Inspector’s findings on the submitted Local Plan and he is quite clear that other options need to be considered in an impartial manner.
  3. The absence of sound justification for bringing forward SHGV (as it is not needed to meet identified housing needs) and the lack of evidence to demonstrate that the proposal is deliverable and sustainable was confirmed by the Inspector’s findings on the submitted Plan.
  4. The numerous shortcomings with HDC’s bid when considered against the Garden Communities prospectus lead us to question how it has been successful.
  5. HDC pre-determined the plan-making process, and failed to provide the evidence to the Inspector to demonstrate that it had impartially assessed reasonable alternatives. If HDC proceed with a Local Plan review as indicated based on SHGV as its chosen long term growth strategy, it will irresponsibly overlook the Inspector’s criticisms of the current Plan’s failure to impartially assess reasonable alternatives, and continue to ignore local opinion. HDC’s bid to be included in the Gardens Community Programme is a further demonstration of their continuation of pre-determine the planning process.
  6. HDC’s ongoing promotion of SHGV is not supported by the local communities directly impacted by this large scale proposal.

The full text of their letter can be found here. And the appendix can be found here.

Winchfield Fights Back: We Heart Hart letter

The full text of our letter is set out below:

Dear Ministers,

 Re: Hart District Shapley Heath Garden Community Funding Award

My name is David Turver. I run a campaign in Hart District called We Heart Hart. We have taken an active role in the Hart Local Plan, and I was invited to speak at the examination hearing. We have successfully campaigned against the new settlement proposal. We believe that urban regeneration and brownfield development is a much more sustainable and better way to deliver Hart’s longer term development needs.

I note that you have recently awarded £150,000 of capacity funding to Hart District Council to support the delivery of the Shapley Heath so-called Garden Village in Winchfield/Murrell Green.

I would like to share with you some extra facts which may cause you to reconsider your decision. The main letter sets out the main points, backed up with links and references in the Appendices. I have copied my local MP, the leader of the Conservatives on Hart Council and your garden communities email address so you can obtain a soft copy of this letter and follow the embedded links if required.

New Settlement Policy SS3 not required and not sound

Hart’s Garden Community bid in November 2018 relied on Policy SS3 being found sound in their Local Plan examination. Policy SS3 proposed a new settlement in the same area of search as the proposed Shapley Heath development. The Local Plan itself acknowledges that the new settlement is not required to meet Hart’s housing needs. The Planning Inspector, Jonathan Manning, found that he had “a number of fundamental concerns with regard to the soundness of Policy SS3”. As a result, Hart Council has removed policy SS3 from the Local Plan to make the plan sound. See Appendix A for more details.

More work required to make new settlement sound leading to a delay of up to five years

The Inspector has said that much more work was required to make the new settlement sound:

I am of the view that a significant level of further supporting work would be required for Policy SS3 to be found sound in its current form, which would need to include appropriate and proportionate area/site assessments, infrastructure considerations, viability testing, evidence in support of deliverability and further SA work, which would need to be done in an impartial manner with sufficient evidence to support its findings and comparisons with alternative options. Any further SA work would also need to include additional standalone consultation….

I am also mindful that following further work, there can be no guarantee that the evidence would support it as the most appropriate long-term growth strategy or that Policy SS3 would be found sound.

There are several alternative options, including alternative sites and alternative strategies such as urban regeneration. So, it is clear that a new SA would be a considerable undertaking in its own right. In the risk assessment accompanying Hart’s bid they anticipated this outcome. Their mitigation was to press-on regardless with the new settlement DPD, independent of the Local Plan. I am not at all convinced that creating a DPD outside of the Local Plan process is in line with the planning regulations.

However, the Inspector makes clear that significant SA work and a standalone consultation ought to precede a new DPD.  Moreover, in Hart’s latest consultation into the modifications required to make the Local Plan sound, they have completely changed their tune. The Sustainability Appraisal Addendum says that “the AoS/DPD process will effectively be replaced by a different process, most likely a new Local Plan” (see Appendix B). The impact of this is that:

  1. The further SA work may conclude that there are better alternatives to delivering longer term growth. I know there are many in the District who support our local MP’s call for urban regeneration.
  2. Even if it is decided that a new settlement is the best long term growth option, the timescales for a new Local Plan process indicate that work on a new DPD will not start for a considerable time; maybe up to five years.

No plans to meet commitments in the Garden Community bid

In their bid, Hart committed to producing a New Settlement DPD in December 2019 if they received the Garden Community funding (see Appendix C). Yet, in response to recent questions at council, they confirmed that they have no current plans to start the additional SA work required by the Inspector; no plans to produce the New Settlement DPD and have not allocated any of the £786K budget set aside for the New Settlement in FY19/20. It might be expected that the wide scope SA work would take at least six months, plus a further 2-3 months for a consultation. It is therefore difficult to see how work can start on a new DPD this financial year. Therefore, it is difficult to see how the Garden Communities grant money can be spent effectively during this financial year.

Deceptive Communications

In addition, I am sorry to report that the Lib Dem/Community Campaign Hart led Hart Council has not been as open and transparent as one would hope in its communications on this matter.  Recently, the council was asked who had been informed that Policy SS3 had been found unsound and removed from the Local Plan. Their answers stated that both Homes England and MHCLG had been kept informed prior to the funding announcement. However, a subsequent release of correspondence shows that the removal of Policy SS3 was a passing comment to an official in Homes England in an email about a different subject. There is no record of MHCLG being contacted directly. I am therefore concerned that MHCLG may not have been aware that the new settlement had been found unsound between Hart Council’s bid and the award of funding in June 2019. It would be a shame if the Government awarded money to fund an unnecessary and unsound white elephant project.

Alternative options

Quite separately, Hart made a recent bid for funds under the Future High Streets scheme and was turned down. Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena is running a campaign to support urban regeneration within Hart.

The catalyst for this could be the publicly owned civic quarter containing the Hart Council offices and the Harlington Centre. The area is ripe for mixed-use redevelopment including offices, homes, social and retail. If all levels of Government got behind this, it would spark interest in redeveloping the rest of the High Street, including the Hart Shopping Centre.

Conclusions

In conclusion, it is clear that the facts have changed since the bid was submitted.

  • Policy SS3 covering the Shapley Heath new settlement has been found to be unnecessary and unsound and removed from the Hart Local Plan.
  • There are no plans to conduct the wide ranging SA work required that might bring the new settlement back on to the agenda.
  • There is no guarantee that such work will conclude that a new settlement is the best option for long term growth.
  • It is inconceivable that such work could be completed during this financial year, meaning that work on a new settlement DPD could not even start before FY20/21, so the funds you have awarded could be wasted.

Therefore, I would be grateful if you could review your decision in the light of new facts. There are many residents of Hart who would be pleased if the Garden Communities funds were redirected towards regeneration of our decaying urban centres instead of concreting over the very green fields that make Hart such a great place to live.

Thank you for your kind consideration of these points. I understand Hart Council representatives are meeting with Homes England this month, so I hope you have time to re-consider the funding decision before that meeting. I look forward to your prompt reply.

Yours faithfully,

 

David Turver

cc:           Ranil Jayawardena MP (by email)

gardencommunities@communities.gov.uk (by email so the embedded links work)

Anne Crampton, leader of Conservative group on Hart Council (by email)

 

Appendix A: – Hart’s Assumptions and Inspector’s Report into Hart Local Plan

Here is Hart’s bid assumption that Policy SS3 would need to be found sound in the Local Plan:

Winchfield Fights Back - Shapley Heath funding assumes Policy SS3 remains in Hart Local Plan

Shapley Heath funding assumes Policy SS3 remains in Hart Local Plan

The Inspector’s post-hearing letter about the examination of the Hart Local Plan can be found here.

May I draw particular attention to paras 17-39. A summary of his findings with respect to the Sustainability Appraisal and the New Settlement are shown below:

  • The ranking of Option 1b (the new settlement) “as the best performing under heritage is not justified”.
  • For land and other resources, the ranking of Option 1b “is also therefore not, in my view, robust”.
  • The Inspector decided that “the decision not to rank the options in terms of flood risk to be very questionable”.
  • On landscape issues the Inspector concluded:

Option 1b was ranked joint highest with Option 1a. However, it is unclear why this is the case, given that the proposed new settlement would result in the development of large areas of open countryside and Option 1a already benefits from planning permission and is largely previously developed land. Further, the post submission SA notes that Pale Lane is ‘relatively unconstrained’, but despite this and it being a smaller site / potential development, Option 3a is ranked lower than Option 1b.

  • The Inspector has this to say on the climate change ranking:

Option 1b has been ranked the highest under the category climate change. This is as a result of the potential for the proposed new settlement to deliver a district heating system. However, there is little evidence to suggest that this is a feasible or realistic option that is being actively pursued by the site promoters. I consider this raises doubt about the appropriateness of such a ranking.

  • The ranking for the impact on water was also criticised by the Inspector.

In conclusion on the SA the Inspector said:

In my judgement the scoring of Option 1b above or equal to other options is not justified by the evidence. As a result, I consider that Policy SS3 and its supporting text are not justified, as, on the currently available evidence, it cannot be determined that it represents the most appropriate long-term growth strategy.

I consider that the post submission SA is therefore not robust and should not be relied upon in support of the Plan.

In addition, the Inspector clearly states:

Given my earlier findings in terms of the housing requirement, Policy SS3 is not required for the Plan to be sound and, in light of my comments above, I consider that the most appropriate course of action would be to remove it (along with any other necessary subsequent changes) from the Plan through Main Modifications (MMs). This would allow the Plan to progress towards adoption without any significant delay to the examination process…

I consider that it would not be unsound for the Plan to retain the Council’s aspirations to plan for long-term needs beyond the Plan period, which could include the delivery of a new settlement. But, the Plan should clearly state that this, as a growth option, would need to be fully considered and evidenced in a future (potentially early or immediate) review of the Plan or a subsequent DPD…

I am of the view that a significant level of further supporting work would be required for Policy SS3 to be found sound in its current form, which would need to include appropriate and proportionate area/site assessments, infrastructure considerations, viability testing, evidence in support of deliverability and further SA work, which would need to be done in an impartial manner with sufficient evidence to support its findings and comparisons with alternative options…

I am also mindful that following further work, there can be no guarantee that the evidence would support it as the most appropriate long-term growth strategy or that Policy SS3 would be found sound.

 

 

Appendix B: Local Plan Modifications and Sustainability Appraisal Addendum

The main modification related to removing Policy SS3, New Settlement from the Hart Local Plan can be found below. The full consultation can be found here.

Winchfield Fights Back - Shapley Heath Policy SS3 removed from Hart Local Plan

Winchfield Fights Back – Shapley Heath Policy SS3 removed from Hart Local Plan

The Sustainability Appraisal Addendum accompanying the consultation into the Main Modifications to the Local Plan can be found here.

I draw your attention to page 2:

Winchfield Fights Back: SA Addendum impact on Winchfield New Town Area of Search

Winchfield Fights Back: SA Addendum impact on Winchfield New Town Area of Search

 

Appendix C: Bid Commitments and Lack of Current Plans

No doubt you already have a copy of their bid commitment. Here is the commitment to produce a New Settlement DPD for consultation by December 2019.

Winchfield Fights Back: Shapley Heath New Town Bid Timeline for DPD

New Settlement Bid Timeline for DPD

The draft minutes from the Hart Council meeting held on 25 July 2019 can be found here. I refer you to Q&A in Appendix A.

Here is the response that shows no plans to carry out the additional SA work required by the Inspector:

Winchfield fights back: No plan for SA work

Winchfield fights back: No plan for SA work

No plans to allocate budget:

Hart Council has no idea how it will spend £786K winchfield new town money

Hart Council Knows Nothing: No idea how much of £786K will be spent or when

No plans for a New Settlement DPD.

Hart Council has no plan for Winchfield New Town proposals

Hart Council Knows Nothing: No plan for New Settlement DPD

 

Appendix D – Deceptive Communications

Statement at Hart Cabinet in July that both Homes England and MHCLG were informed:

Winchfield fights back: Chairman Announcement MHCLG kept informed

Winchfield fights back: Chairman Announcement MHCLG kept informed

Question asking how MHCLG and Homes England were kept informed of the changing status of the New Settlement in Policy SS3 in the Hart Local Plan.

Winchfield fights back: Cockarill MHCLG and civil servant kept informed

Winchfield fights back: Cockarill MHCLG and civil servant kept informed

 

The subsequent release of correspondence shows only one email to Kevin Bourner informing him in passing of the removal of Policy SS3. This can be found here.

Key passage:

Winchfield fights back: HDC email to Homes England

Winchfield fights back: HDC email to Homes England

The only correspondence with MHCLG prior to the announcement is asking for an update on the announcement timetable. This email is not addressed to Simon Ridley who made the award.

 

 

 

 

Hart fails to win share of Future High Streets Fund

Harlington Centre, Fleet Hampshire, could be a target for Future High Street Fund?

Harlington Centre – could have been target for Future High Streets Fund

The Government has announced the winners of the Future High Street fund. 50 areas have won support to develop plans to show how they can regenerate their high streets. Sadly, Hart is not among the winners. The objective of the fund is to “renew and reshape town centres and high streets in a way that improves experience, drives growth and ensures future sustainability.”

The Hart Local Plan acknowledged that the “challenge for Fleet specifically, will be to secure investment so that it can compete with the comparable towns in neighbouring districts”. (para 66)

Hart Council Cabinet resolved to consider making a bid back in February. It is unclear whether a bid was eventually made, but Hart didn’t win, even if they tried.

The winners can be found here.

Future High Streets Details

The scheme was launched back in December 2018. The deadline for expressions of interest as 22 March 2019.

It’s a real shame that Fleet did not win, because the key investment themes expected were:

  • Investment in physical infrastructure
  • Acquisition and assembly of land including to support new housing, workspaces and public realm
  • Improvements to transport access, traffic flow and circulation in the area
  • Supporting change of use including (where appropriate) housing delivery and densification
  • Supporting adaptation of the high street in response to changing technology

Most would agree that Fleet needs infrastructure investment and improvements in transport. Perhaps if the officers and councillors spent more effort on this bid, rather then focusing on the unsound new settlement, they might have been more successful.

History of Fleet regeneration

Over a period of years, Fleet Town Council has pursued a doomed proposal to replace the Harlington Centre by concerting over Gurkha Square car-park with taxpayers money. This has been rightly rejected by the people of Fleet.

Last Autumn, The Rural Hart Association put forward draft proposals for regenerating the Hart Shopping Centre as the first step to a broader regeneration of Fleet. This could have been achieved with private funding. So far, sadly, this has not been taken up by Hart Council.

Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena has called for regeneration of our urban centres. He has raised a petition, but so far, it isn’t clear what progress has been made.

 

 

 

 

Affordable homes blocked by Hart’s restrictive brownfield policies

Affordable homes blocked at Zenith House, 3 Rye Close, Fleet, Hampshire by Hart's restrictive brownfield policies

Affordable homes blocked by Hart’s brownfield policies

The delivery of 36 affordable homes is being blocked by Hart’s restrictive brownfield policies. Magna Group is seeking to convert Zenith House on Rye Close on Ancell’s Farm in Fleet into 36 relatively affordable properties, designed to retail at £175,000 to £300,000. But they are being blocked by Hart’s restrictive SANG policy.

The council has given its prior approval to the development. However, Hart is effectively blocking the development by refusing to allocate any of its SANG.

redevelopment of Old Police Station,Crookham Road, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire being blocked by restrictive brownfield policies

Proposals to redevelop Fleet Police station being blocked by restrictive brownfield policies

We understand the same developer owns the old Fleet Police station on Crookham Road in Fleet and plans to replace it with 14 new dwellings. However, we understand the council planning officers have been instructed to refuse planning permission for even compliant proposals.

This has the effect of:

  • Restricting the supply of housing that would be affordable for many young people trying to get on the housing ladder
  • Adding extra pressure to build on green field land
  • Stopping the market dealing with the problem of the over-supply of dilapidated office blocks in the district

This policy is also blocking Ranil’s ideas for regenerating Fleet. His petition can be found here.

It transpires that Hart’s SANG policy may well be illegal. We understand that legal representations have been made that cast doubt on Hart’s SANG policy:

First the policy is clearly intended to frustrate the delivery of housing rather than to facilitate development.  The policy confers on the head of the regulatory services absolute discretion to allocate SANG but makes clear that SANG will not be allocated to any development unless the Council considers it to be acceptable.

That means that if Planning Permission is granted on appeal the Council will nevertheless use its powers in relation to SANG to thwart that development.

The policy may result in the Council preventing people from exercising the rights they have been granted by Parliament through the permitted development process. In effect the Council is removing a property right from them in breach of the terms of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Furthermore the Council is in breach of its duty to make proper provision to facilitate the delivery of housing.

It certainly looks like the council is setting itself up for more expensive legal battles.

 

 

 

 

 

Ranil calls for Fleet regeneration

Ranil Jayawardena MP calls for Fleet regeneration and revitalisation of Hook and Yateley

Ranil calls for Fleet regeneration

Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena has called for the regeneration of Fleet, Hook and Yateley.

We warmly welcome this initiative. Ranil has begun a petition to promote his cause, and we urge readers to sign it. The petition can be found here. An article about this also appeared in Fleet News and Mail.

Ranil said:

Looking to some of our local, district and town centres, however, it is clear to see that Fleet, Yateley and Hook are all in real need of revitalisation and regeneration. I’ve been spending time speaking to your local Councillors about this and taking a look at the work that needs to be done.

I am more convinced than ever that all three places have great potential – be that simply as shopping destinations or, with the right infrastructure improvements, as great places for our young people to get their foot on the housing ladder.

The trouble is that there is no ‘masterplan’ for any of these places. I will be raising this with Hart District Council personally – but I need your help. If you want smart new shops, some new flats for local young people to buy above them and better car parking, then act now.

This is in stark contrast to the current Completely Concrete Community Campaign Hart/Lib Dem coalition, who are pressing ahead with plans for an unnecessary new town across Winchfield and Murrell Green. Their plans do not include any significant new infrastructure. Plus, there’s no ideas on how to revitalise our town centres or improve our cultural facilities. There are no plans to remove the eyesores that blight our environment.

Ranil Jayawardena MP calls for Fleet regeneration and revitalisation of Hook and Yateley

Derelict Offices on Fleet Road in Fleet, Hampshire – time for Fleet regeneration

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) says that planning policies should promote competitive town centre environments and set out policies for the management and growth of centres over the plan period. The current draft plan does not address this requirement.

Fleet Regeneration is necessary and desirable

As we have explained before, Fleet is one of the richest towns in the country. It has the lowest density development of comparative towns and one of the worst retail offers. It is time these problems were addressed.

When the consultation on the new Local Plan emerges, we will continue to urge residents to reject the plans for the completely unnecessary new town. Instead, we should push for a new policy to regenerate our town centres. This should not put the draft Local Plan at risk. Councillor Cockarill confirmed at Council on 4th January that the Local Plan should stand without the new town policy.

Reply received from local MP Ranil Jayawardena

Ranil Jayawardena at a brownfield site

Ranil Jayawardena at a brownfield site

You may recall that before Christmas we wrote to our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena setting out concerns about how the planning system is working for Hart. The letter we sent can be found here.

We have now received a reply from Ranil which is reproduced below. We don’t agree with some of it, but it is good to see that he has produced a substantive reply. Links to even larger versions of the images are at the bottom of the post. We will produce a more substantive reply soon.

Reply from Ranil Jayawardena Page 1 of 3

 

Reply from Ranil Jayawardena Page 2 of 3

 

Reply from Ranil Jayawardena Page 3 of 3

 

Page 1, here

Page 2, here

Page 3, here.

Open letter to Ranil Jayawardena, Sajid Javid and Gavin Barwell

Ranil Jayawardena Stephen Parker and Michael Fallon meet at Pyestock (Hartland Park or Hartland Village

Below is the text of an open letter sent to our Local MP, Ranil Jayawardena asking for his help to make changes to national policy to help Hart come up with a more realistic Local Plan and help fend off the threat of too many houses.

Let’s see what happens.

Dear Ranil,

To date, I have been very impressed with you as our local MP. You seem to be well in tune with your constituents and your campaign to promote more brownfield development in our area is to be commended.

I know that, quite rightly, you are reluctant to get involved in local planning matters because they are the responsibility of the local council. However, I am writing to you today to ask for your support in changing some elements of national policy that should help Hart District Council produce a more realistic Local Plan.

There are four main sections to this letter:

  • Process and outcome of assessing housing need
  • Affordable housing
  • Infrastructure contributions
  • Suggested policy changes

The links in the text take you to more in depth research, mostly from the WeHeartHart.co.uk website, which I run, to support the assertions made. I have also copied this letter to the ministers responsible for this area of policy and the leader and joint-CEO of Hart Council.

Assessing Housing Need

 

The 2012-based government projections of population and number of households points to a need of around 215,000 dwellings per annum, compared to recent delivery of 130-150,000 new dwellings each year. It is clear we need to respond to the objective in the National Planning Policy framework to “boost significantly the supply of housing”. To achieve this, it follows that the sum of all the housing market assessments across the country should add up to the total expected increase in households, or a little more to give some margin of safety.

However, there is increasing evidence that house builders have too strong an influence over the process that is leading to housing market assessments being artificially inflated to a level much higher than that required by the national household projections.

In Hart, the 2014 Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) is currently being revised to take account of more up to date population and household forecasts. However, I believe the process being followed will be largely the same as before.

The way it works is as follows. The raw household forecasts are subject to a set of dubious adjustments and convoluted calculations to arrive at a spurious objectively assessed ‘need’.  In the case of the 2014 SHMA, the outcome was ~7,500 houses. For the SHMA area as a whole this results in an uplift to the raw DCLG household forecasts of more than 50%.

If this were applied across the whole country, then we would be allocating land and allowing the building of some 305,000 new dwellings each year, far above the national requirement. This goes against latest planning guidance that states that housing need should be “principally understood as a measure of future demand rather than aspiration”.  I did make a FOI request to the DCLG to provide the national figures, but this has been refused on the grounds that DCLG “does not hold this information”. Given the importance that is being placed on housing delivery, it is quite staggering that central Government is not collecting the data to allow it to monitor the results of its own housing policy.

The experience of the Hart, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA is by no means unique. Analysis of five other housing needs assessments of planning authorities across Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey and Berkshire reveals an average housing uplift on the baseline household projections of around 42%.

A further illustration of the absurdity of the calculations used in the 2014 SHMA is contained in its own appendix.  This clearly shows that if the more up to date 2012-SNPP number were used, the starting point for Hart would fall from 337 to 247 dwellings per annum or a fall of 1,800 units over the plan period.

Taken together, these results show that the process for producing the SHMAs is fatally flawed and cannot be justified.

There might be some justification if this process had actually resulted in more house building. But it is clear from a recent House of Lords report that it has not:

Nevertheless, we see the gap between planning permissions and housing completions as a fundamental one in respect of securing increased housing supply. In a climate where over 240,000 homes a year are being granted planning permission, it is a fundamental failure of the development system that over 100,000 fewer homes are actually being built. This situation must be addressed.

We believe that the Government must consider measures to help accelerate the delivery of housing on sites with planning permission, such as permitting the charge of equivalent council tax rates when development has not commenced after a specified period of time, subject to safeguards when there are genuine reasons to prevent the development proceeding

This is borne out by local experience, where as of 1 April this year there were over 3,000 unimplemented planning permissions, with over 1,000 of those from 2013 or earlier.

It is clear that creating ever increasing housing targets is merely encouraging ‘land-banking’ by builders, who then build at a rate to maximise their own profits.

Imagine my surprise to find out that one of the outcomes from Hart’s yet to be published revised SHMA is that the housing target is going to be raised again to over 10,000 units (although this is being further examined by the council). Yes, you read that correctly: despite the starting point being based on the more up to date population forecasts described above, that should result in a ‘need’ of 1,800 fewer houses, the target is going to be raised 30% above the earlier ‘need’ and nearly 100% above the new starting point.

Apparently, there are some further arbitrary adjustments, some other sophistry and some new guidance from Government about the provision of so called ‘Affordable Homes’ that means in order to satisfy a shortfall of ~800 affordable homes, we must build over 2,000 more new houses in total because the affordable component cannot be more than 40% of the total.

The consequence of this change is that it will inevitably mean we can no longer meet our remaining housing need from brownfield sites and will have to sacrifice great swathes of our beautiful countryside to satisfy some bureaucratic pen-pushers rather than the actual housing needs of the district.

This is plainly ridiculous and cannot be allowed to stand. But that leads me on to policy improvements  around ‘Affordable Homes’

 

Affordable Homes

 

Many in Government seem to hold the view that merely calling some houses ‘”Affordable” makes them so. This is clearly an absurd position to take.

Let’s take a local example in my own village.  Recently, Bewley Homes built around 90 new houses in a new development called Hartley Row Park at a reasonably sensible add-on to the village.

The lowest price for a 3-bed semi-detached home was set at £465,000. The lowest anticipated price of the 2-bed homes that were due to be released later in 2016 was £370,000. This means that the cheapest 3-bed house is 11.5 times median income, and the cheapest 2-bed home will be 9.2 times median income.  Even with a 20% ‘Affordable’ homes discount, the cheapest new properties will be totally out of reach of middle-income families in the district.

This is further compounded by the lack of measurement and poor controls over the size of properties bring built. There is clear evidence that Hart is under-building 1-bed and 3-bed starter homes and over-building 4+bed properties. This is doing nothing for the younger residents of Hart, whom the Local Plan is supposed to serve, yet encouraging even more inward migration from London into properties that locals cannot afford. Clearly, the controls needed are really a matter for the local council, but there may be something that can be done at a national level to mandate new developments to meet local needs.

However, there are some national policies that need to be examined, not least the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, interest rates and QE.

As any economist will tell you, if you subsidise the price of anything, then demand will go up and prices will follow. I find it quite amazing that a supposedly free-market Conservative Government is borrowing to use taxpayers’ money in the HTB scheme to subsidise higher house prices, especially at a time when we still have a massive budget deficit.

But the bigger impact on house prices has probably come from ultra-low interest rates and QE. This inexorable flow of cheap money has artificially raised the price of all assets and property in particular. You cannot hope to bring house-prices to reasonable levels unless and until you address monetary policy.

 

Infrastructure Contributions

 

Hart, like many other places in the country is suffering from creaking infrastructure. Our schools are full, it is difficult to get appointments at the doctors and road congestion is increasing.

According to the latest figures available Hart is running a £78m infrastructure funding deficit, and this is probably an under-estimate as it was prepared before the current, let alone the new SHMA. Key quotes from the document include:

“It is therefore reasonable to conclude that it is unlikely that there will be sufficient future funds, from both capital programmes and developer contributions, within the plan period, to deliver all of the projects listed in the HCC Transport Statement”

“Although developer contributions will continue to play an important role in helping to bridge the funding gap, it is also clear that the funds raised through developer contributions will only contribute a modest proportion of the total identified funding gap”

 “The South West Main Line (SWML) outer trains, which serve Hart, has significant forecasted future peak crowding, with a capacity shortfall of over 6,100 passengers in the high-peak hour, even if every main line train is at maximum length”

It is true that many developments attract S106 or CIL contributions towards infrastructure. However, it is also clear that both ‘Affordable Homes’ and office conversions using ‘Permitted Development Rights’ deliver no such contributions. Overall, the policy mix has delivered a massive funding gap, yet we are expected to continue to even more houses, when the funding delivered is much less than the funding required to bring the infrastructure up to scratch.

This is clearly unsustainable and must change.

 

Suggested Policy Changes

 

As I see it you can help your constituents by demanding policy changes in several key areas:

  • The Government should collect and analyse all SHMAs across the country to monitor that the total of the local ‘needs’ is in line with the overall national totals
  • There should be some greater controls put on the way that seemingly arbitrary adjustments to the starting points are made to ensure they do not go too far above those levels. 20% would seem like a reasonable level to me.
  • Encourage builders to build existing planning permissions faster by introducing a charge equivalent to council tax rates when development has not completed after a specified period of time.
  • Stop subsidising higher house prices through HTB, QE and ultra-low interest rates.
  • Introduce a ‘planning gain levy’ on land owners who make significant windfalls from selling agricultural land for development to fund infrastructure. This would be similar to the original ideas behind “Garden Cities” where landowners helped fund infrastructure
  • Introduce S106/CIL funding for all new development. Every new home has people in it and they all use local infrastructure, so all new development should include some contribution
  • Introduce ‘open book accounting’ to each development and force developers to make increased S106 contributions if they make more than planned profit on a development.
  • Increase Government funding for smaller, local infrastructure projects such as road widening, junction improvement, bridge widening, school building and surgery building. This would be a much better use of money than building white elephants like HS2.

I do hope you find this letter constructive and helpful in understanding the impact of national policy on your local area.

May I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Ranil supports redevelopment of Pyestock (Hartland Park)

Ranil Jayawardena Stephen Parker and Michael Fallon at Pyestock (Hartland Park)

Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena has published an article on his website showing his support for the redevelopment of the brownfield Hartland Park (formerly the Pyestock, National Gas Turbine Establishment (NGTE) site, near Fleet in Hart District, Hampshire. Readers will remember, that it is proposed to build 1,500 new homes on this site.

He is pictured with the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon and leader of Hart District Council, Stephen Parker.

Ranil Jayawardena, M.P., said: “Pyestock is exactly the sort of brownfield regeneration that should be supported. I am pleased that Hart are working together with HM Government to deliver homes on brownfield sites wherever possible, rather than building on green fields.”

Secretary of State, Michael Fallon, M.P., said: “It’s good to see sites like Pyestock being put forward for development. HM Government is ensuring that brownfield regeneration is central to local areas building new homes. A new ‘brownfield register’ is included in the Housing and Planning Bill, which will ensure that development is prioritised on brownfield sites rather than at the expense of the countryside.

We Heart Hart warmly welcomes Ranil’s support for this project. We understand that a site for Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG), needs to be found before the redevelopment can go ahead.  Let us hope that Michael Fallon can help find some redundant MoD land to help with this, so it can be included in the Hart Local Plan.

 

Local Elections 2016: Where do Hart candidates stand on new town and Pyestock redevelopment?

We Love Hart Ballot Box

The Local elections will be held on Thursday 5th May, and we thought it would be a good idea to compile a database of local candidates and ask where they stand on two key planning issues facing the district:

  1. Do they still support a new town at Winchfield and,
  2. Do they support the redevelopment of Pyestock (aka Hartland Park) as housing

Community Campaign Hart have launched their election page and have now answered our questions making clear they support the development of Pyestock, but want to ensure safeguards on school places and roads as well as ensuring the SSSI’s and SPA are protected.  However, they still also support a new town in Winchfield.  Their detailed answers and our responses can be found here.

The North East Hampshire Conservatives have always been split on the issue, with many councillors voting in favour of the new town in November 2014, but notably all of the opposition to the new town came from local Conservatives. Of course, our local MP Ranil Jayawardena has opposed the new town idea too. We have had responses from many of the Tory candidates now and it is clear support for the Winchfield new town is weakening, with strong support for the proposed Pyestock development. The detailed answers we have received can be be found here.

The local Greens have now said that all of their candidates oppose the Winchfield New Town and support the redevelopment of Pyestock (aka Hartland Park).  They have also set out some interesting ideas on broader housing policy. The detailed answers we have received can be found here.

North East Hampshire Labour have recently published an article in favour of the new town at Winchfield, stating it is the settled position of all of their candidates. They have also published an article supporting redeveloping Pyestock for housing, but make clear they also support a new town at Winchfield. Our response to that can be found here.

All of the sitting Liberal Democrats on Hart Council all voted in favour of the new town in November 2014.  The Lib Dem County Councillor (David Simpson) opposes the new town, and some local candidates stood on a platform opposing the new town in May 2015. The local Lib Dems have published a newsletter in Hartley Wintney and Eversley opposing the new town idea. They later published a leaflet supporting the redevelopment of Pyestock. We do not yet know if this represents the views of Lib Dems across the district. The posts related to their leaflets are here and here.

We only know the position of the local UKIP candidate for Hook. He opposes the Winchfield new town and supports a brownfield first policy, but has made no definitive statement about Pyestock. However, UKIP have made a statement on their website, supporting a brownfield first strategy, which is recorded in this post.

We have contacted all of the local parties and asked them to clarify their views on the new town and Pyestock.  We will update the table below when we receive answers from the parties or individual candidates.  If any of the candidates want to get in touch to clarify their current position, we will happily make any corrections requested. Our contact email address can be found here.

WardNamePartyPosition on Winchfield new townPosition on Pyestock
Blackwater and HawleyBLEWETT, Brian Frederick Liberal Democrat Voted in favour Nov 2014?
Blackwater and HawleyCULLEN, Amy LouiseThe Labour Party Candidate All Labour candidates in favour of new townSome support Pyestock, but prefer Winchfield
Blackwater and HawleyDICKENS, Jane ElizabethThe Conservative Party Candidate Keeping her views to herselfKeeping her views to herself
Blackwater and HawleyFRANCIS, Steven JohnGreen Party OpposeSupport
Blackwater and HawleyGASCOIGNE, MikeUK Independence Party (UKIP) ?Brownfield sites as a priority, but no definitive position on Pyestock
Crookham EastBUTLER, Helen Rosalind The Conservative Party Candidate Not the right way forwardSupports redevelopment for housing
Crookham EastRADLEY, Edward JamesCommunity Campaign (Hart) Still support new townSupport, but want safeguards on school places, traffic and environment
Crookham EastWILLIAMS, Ruth AnnThe Labour Party Candidate All Labour candidates in favour of new townSome support Pyestock, but prefer Winchfield
Crookham West and EwshotAMBLER, Simon RoryCommunity Campaign (Hart) Still support new townSupport, but want safeguards on school places, traffic and environment
Crookham West and EwshotMOORS, DawnUK Independence Party (UKIP) ?Brownfield sites as a priority, but no definitive position on Pyestock
Crookham West and EwshotSIMMONS, ChrisThe Conservative Party Candidate Does not supportDoes not support
Crookham West and EwshotSMYTH, MoiraThe Labour Party Candidate All Labour candidates in favour of new townSome support Pyestock, but prefer Winchfield
Crookham West and EwshotSPRADBERY, Charles JohnGreen Party OpposeSupport
Fleet CentralBOBETSKY, MaxThe Conservative Party Candidate Opposed when stood for General Election 2015?
Fleet CentralGAWTHORPE, John GrantThe Labour Party Candidate All Labour candidates in favour of new townSome support Pyestock, but prefer Winchfield
Fleet CentralHOPE, Howling LaudThe Official Monster Raving Loony Party ??
Fleet CentralMAKEPEACE-BROWNE, Wendy LouiseCommunity Campaign (Hart) Still support new townSupport, but want safeguards on school places, traffic and environment
Fleet CentralOWENS, Major DavidUK Independence Party (UKIP) ?Brownfield sites as a priority, but no definitive position on Pyestock
Fleet EastBUTLER, SamThe Labour Party Candidate All Labour candidates in favour of new townSome support Pyestock, but prefer Winchfield
Fleet EastDEVONSHIRE, Peter WilliamUK Independence Party (UKIP) ?Brownfield sites as a priority, but no definitive position on Pyestock
Fleet EastWALTON, Neil ChristopherLiberal Democrat ??
Fleet EastWRIGHT, Jonathan BruceThe Conservative Party Candidate YesYes
Fleet WestBENNISON, JohnCommunity Campaign (Hart) Still support new townSupport, but want safeguards on school places, traffic and environment
Fleet WestBUCKLAND, Lesley RuthThe Labour Party Candidate All Labour candidates in favour of new townSome support Pyestock, but prefer Winchfield
Fleet WestEINCHCOMB, Paul Stephen WalterLiberal Democrat ??
Fleet WestFORSTER, SteveThe Conservative Party Candidate Voted in favour Nov 2014. Still supports if not enough brownfield available, but only if it comes with proper infrastructureSupports redevelopment for housing, provided it comes with improvements to roads, busses and new schools
Fleet WestRUTTER, KarinUK Independence Party (UKIP) ?Brownfield sites as a priority, but no definitive position on Pyestock
Hartley WintneyCRAMPTON, AnneThe Conservative Party Candidate Voted against Nov 2014In favour
Hartley WintneyHAMILTON, Ruth StellaUK Independence Party (UKIP) ?Brownfield sites as a priority, but no definitive position on Pyestock
Hartley WintneyJARMAN, Ruth ElizabethGreen Party OpposeSupport
Hartley WintneyWILLIAMS, Ieuan MonThe Labour Party Candidate All Labour candidates in favour of new townSome support Pyestock, but prefer Winchfield
Hartley WintneyWOOLFORD, Alan MauriceLiberal Democrat Opposed to new townIn favour
HookIVE, ColinLiberal Democrat Voted in favour Nov 2014. No specific comment in this election.?
HookMORRIS, MikeThe Conservative Party Candidate Voted in favour Nov 2014. Still in favourSupports
HookNABBS, VerdThe Labour Party Candidate All Labour candidates in favour of new townSome support Pyestock, but prefer Winchfield
HookREES, DaiUK Independence Party (UKIP) No new town in WinchfieldBrownfield sites as a priority, but no definitive position on Pyestock
OdihamAFFLECK-CRUISE, Amanda JaneThe Labour Party Candidate All Labour candidates in favour of new townSome support Pyestock, but prefer Winchfield
OdihamGORDON, Rosalyn JaneLiberal Democrat ??
OdihamKENNETT, John RichardThe Conservative Party Candidate Voted in favour Nov 2014. Now not convinced it is necessaryRedevelopment of Pyestock is very welcome
OdihamOLIVER, KevinUK Independence Party (UKIP) ?Brownfield sites as a priority, but no definitive position on Pyestock
Yateley EastBURTON, John Peter SimonThe Conservative Party Candidate ??
Yateley EastCOCKARILL, GrahamLiberal Democrat Voted in favour Nov 2014?
Yateley EastGANTLEY, FrankGreen Party OpposeSupport
Yateley EastSTILL, Joyce EdnaThe Labour Party Candidate All Labour candidates in favour of new townSome support Pyestock, but prefer Winchfield
Yateley WestCRISP, GerryLiberal Democrat Voted in favour Nov 2014?
Yateley WestHALL, PeterThe Conservative Party Candidate ??
Yateley WestHOWE, John WilliamUK Independence Party (UKIP) ?Brownfield sites as a priority, but no definitive position on Pyestock
Yateley WestSUTHERLAND, Alistair WilliamThe Labour Party Candidate All Labour candidates in favour of new townSome support Pyestock, but prefer Winchfield

Fleet Town Council seeks to mislead the public

Fleet Town Council Leaflet

Fleet Town Council Leaflet

Fleet Town Council have distributed a leaflet that, in our view, seeks to mislead the public.  The leaflet suggests that a new settlement in Hart would be a “long term sustainable solution to the housing and infrastructure needs” of the district as an “official recommendation”.

We think this is misleading and wrong on many levels:

  • Concreting over the equivalent of 25 football pitches a year is not in any way sustainable, and this approach would lead to another new town being required every 10-15 years and destroy the green spaces that make Hart such a great place to live.
  • The type of housing in a new town estate is exactly the wrong type of housing to meet the needs of our growing elderly population and the needs of our young people struggling to get on the housing ladder
  • A new town will require over £300m of infrastructure funding, with only £50m of developer contributions, and of course will do nothing to address the £78m infrastructure funding deficit across the district.

Surely, it would be much better to follow Ranil’s advice and redevelop our ageing and vacant office blocks in a brownfield solution that will meet the needs of Hart residents as opposed to those wishing to move here from London and deliver infrastructure funding for our existing communities.  Of course, Fleet Town Council offer no evidence at all to support their assertions.

We are of course flattered that they have chosen to make their leaflet in the style of the leaflet we distributed at the end of last year.

Housing Options consultation leaflet

If you would like to make your voice heard and object to the new town idea, 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

The case for a brownfield solution to Hart’s housing needs

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

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

As you know, Hart Council has begun a new consultation asking us where we would prefer to build the remaining 2,500 houses we are being asked to build as part of the Local Plan. This has generated some lively debate with some councillors and community groups favouring a new town. Whilst We Hart has a lot of sympathy with the residents of Fleet and Church Crookham, who have suffered from some poor planning decisions over the past years, we aim to show why it would be wrong to consider a new town or urban extension now and make a bad situation even worse.

We have to deliver over 370 houses per year up to 2032.  If these were to be built on green field sites it would mean we would be concreting over the equivalent of 25 football pitches each and every year for 20 years.  This is simply not sustainable, and it is clear something needs to change.

Eminent architects such as Richard Rogers, academics such as Professor Dieter Helm and journalists such as Simon Jenkins have called for our green spaces to be protected and for more building on brownfield land.  The Government is also actively encouraging brownfield development.

The benefits are clear, in that less infrastructure investment is required to support this type of development, urban living makes better use of scarce resources, so is kinder to the environment and town and city dwellers use their cars less and so don’t cause as much congestion.

So, having established the general case for brownfield over green field development, what about the specifics of the proposals before us in Hart?

First, it can be done. We have gone through Hart Council’s data and shown that there are sufficient sites to meet our remaining needs on brownfield site alone, and if we can bring Pyestock into play and Hart are successful in their quest to find even more sites, we will have a surplus of brownfield sites.

Supporters of a new town point to the supposed infrastructure benefits, but we believe this argument is flawed.  There is no doubt that there is a need for more infrastructure investment in our existing towns and villages, as is shown by the current £78m funding deficit.  Even Hart Council acknowledge that new schools would cost £80-100m, but then when you add up the costs of new and improved roads, roundabouts, bridges, sewage works, and railway station, it is clear that a new town will require over £300m of infrastructure spending before you even get to providing new sports and community facilities. But a reasonable expectation of developer contributions is only around £50m.  So, it is clear that a new town, or indeed an urban extension, could not get the infrastructure it needs and more importantly, would not do anything to address the problems in our existing communities .

By contrast, properly designed brownfield redevelopments (not office conversions) would generate developer contributions for local communities and if Hart Council followed Ranil Jayawardena’s advice, they could use compulsory purchase powers to buy up some of these sites and use the profits from development to fund even more local infrastructure.

When you look at travel to work patterns of Hart residents, it is clear that many people work in Fleet, Surrey Heath, Rushmoor and Waverley.  So, residents of a new town will need to travel through Fleet, Church Crookham and Hartley Wintney adding to congestion.  Other workers will travel through Hook to get to work in places like Basingstoke.  Dispersal throughout the district will ease the congestion problem, and brownfield development to the east of Fleet will place workers closer to their jobs and offer greener transport alternatives.

Our housing needs assessment calls for 60-70% of new build properties to be 1 or 2-bedroomed and also calls for over 2,000 units of specialist accommodation for the elderly to be built up to 2031.  A new town or urban extension is likely to continue to build predominantly larger properties at prices of over £500,000 which will no doubt be attractive to those who want to move from London, but will be out of reach of middle income households in Hart and so do nothing for local people.  Well planned development of smaller properties on brownfield sites will do more to help our young people to get on the housing ladder and help older people when they want to down-size to free up their larger properties for growing families.

Of course planning for a new town or urban extension would also open us up to building 3,000 houses for Rushmoor and Surrey Heath.  Whereas a vision and strategy to protect our green lungs in the heart of Hart would offer us some protection.

We also have to challenge the viability of the new town and urban extension plans.  The new town would coalesce our villages into a massive urban sprawl that would effectively become Hartley Winchook.  The proposed urban extensions would add further unwelcome development outside existing settlement boundaries. The professionals who have looked at the new town proposal have said “it would be challenging to plan a compact nuclear settlement on this site”, and of course there are other significant constraints such as lack of mains gas or sewage, flood risk and environmental damage.  All of the new town and urban extension sites have been classed as “not currently developable” by Hart Council.

It is time to make a break from the past mistakes and change to a more sustainable strategy, with a planning horizon of 50 years ahead and realise that more and more housing estates in the countryside are simply not sustainable.  We need to go for dispersal of our housing needs on brownfield sites across the district to build more affordable homes for our young people, create better specialist accommodation for the elderly and generate much needed infrastructure funding for local communities.

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