Hart misses out on brownfield starter homes scheme

Berkeley Homes (St Edward) launches consultation site for new development at Hartland Village, aka Pyestock and Hartland Park

The Government has given the green light for thousands of starter homes to be built on brownfield sites across the country. Rushmoor is one of the 30 Starter Home Land Fund partnerships, but unfortunately, Hart District is not on the list.

The partnerships have been established under the government’s £1.2 billion Starter Homes Land Fund. This scheme supports the development of starter homes on sites across England. They will be built exclusively for first-time buyers between 23 and 40 years old at a discount of at least 20% below market value.

It is a real shame that Hart has not seized the initiative to be part of this scheme, when only last year it was saying:

Hart District Council is proud to be one of a number of local planning authorities who have agreed to first pilot the creation of a Brownfield Land register

Hart has also not yet published the results of their brownfield study. This was supposed to outline the art of the possible with a number of urban brownfield sites in Fleet.

It is also disappointing because Hart is not building enough smaller properties whilst over-building 4+bed houses. A real commitment to starter homes on brownfield sites would go a long way towards meeting the housing needs of the district.

However, all is not lost as the Homes and Communities Agency is seeking expressions of interest from local authorities who are interested in using their land to deliver homes at pace through the recently announced £1.7 billion accelerated construction scheme. This will see up to 15,000 homes started on surplus public sector land this Parliament.

Rushmoor seeks to protect brownfield sites from redevelopment

Brownfield sites to be protected from development by Rushmoor Borough Council

Rushmoor Borough Council is to seek to protect many of its brownfield sites from redevelopment using ‘Permitted Development Rights’. The list of sites they are seeking to protect are listed in the image above.

A paper has been submitted to the Cabinet meeting due to take place on 15 November seeking to make a non-immediate Article 4 direction to withdraw permitted development rights related to the change of use of offices, light-industrial units, and storage or distribution units to residential use within the Strategic Employment Sites and the Locally Important Employment Sites.

Our view

We agree that we should not release all of our employment sites for housing, but equally it seems rather odd to be seeking to protect most of the employment sites in Rushmoor. There are literally dozens of vacant offices and light industrial blocks.

Even though Rushmoor Borough Council have committed to met their  housing need within their own borough, this extended level of protection may mean they will seek to offload future housing needs, beyond the current plan period, on to Hart District.

Rushmoor have not sought to protect the sites below, due to their proximity to the Thames Valley Heath SPA:

Brownfield sites not to be protected from development by Rushmoor Borough Council due to proximity to Thames Valley Heath SPA. We Heart Hart

Here is a set of images showing some of the vacant buildings in Rushmoor that Bravehart found last year:

  • We Heart Hart's Mascot - Bravehart
    We Heart Hart's Mascot - Bravehart

MoD frees up more brownfield land in Rushmoor

Clayton Barracks, Aldershot in Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire

The Ministry of Defence has announced the closure of 91 sites across the country as part of the ongoing restructuring to free up more brownfield sites in Rushmoor Borough.

Five of these sites are in Aldershot, which of course is in the Borough of Rushmoor.  The sites are:

  • Fitzwygram House (Royal Army Veterinary Corps Centre), Aldershot
  • Thornhill barracks, Aldershot
  • Aldershot distribution outlet
  • Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Aldershot
  • Clayton barracks, Aldershot

We can understand that these closures will be alarming for those working there. However, the positive news is that more brownfield sites are being freed up in Rushmoor, meaning they have more capacity to meet their own housing needs in future planning periods. This should help Hart Council in the production of the Hart Local Plan.

CCH bid to mandate a new settlement defeated at Council

Concrete Community Campaign Hart's bid to mandate a new settlement was defeated

Hart District Council Offices

There was a bad tempered meeting of Hart Council yesterday, where they debated a motion designed to give guidance to the planners as they seek to produce the draft Local Plan. Concrete Community Campaign Hart’s (CCH) attempt to mandate a new settlement in Hart was defeated by 19 votes to 13.

The original motion was passed with an amendment to include provisions for providing essential infrastructure and a new secondary school:

That the Council resolves that through its Local Plan it will seek to meet Hart’s full, objectively assessed need for new homes, subject to the inclusion of an appropriate contingency to allow for any delays or the non-delivery of sites, and that it will also seek to accommodate any demonstrated unmet need for new homes from its Housing Market Area partners and additionally provide for essential infrastructure including a site for a secondary school.

There was a second amendment proposed by Community Campaign Hart to mandate the planners to include a new settlement in the Hart Local Plan.  This proposed amendment was vigorously debated and defeated. This means that the planners will not be forced to include a new settlement in their proposals. However, it does not yet mean that a new settlement is entirely ruled out. This shows that support for a new settlement for Hart is losing support, compared to the vote two years ago where almost all councillors voted for Winchfield to be the only new settlement option to be tested. It was gratifying to see a number of Tories and long-standing Liberal Democrats changing their position from two years ago.

Claimed 1,500 housing reduction untrue

In other news, it was confirmed that Hart’s claimed reduction of 1,500 homes is not quite what it seems.  The 1,500 ‘reduction’ is the removal of the potential threat from Rushmoor, not a reduction on Hart’s allocation of 7,534 houses. It is understood that the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) has reduced Rushmoor’s housing allocation but kept Hart’s at about the same level as before. The council would not confirm precise numbers, but it is understood the contingency referred to above is around 120-150 homes, or 15% of the residual 850-1,000 requirement, after assuming Hartland Village (Pyestock) will go ahead.

There were some interesting questions from members of the public, including from representatives of Hook Action Against Over Development and Fleet and Church Crookham Society.

Hook Action were clearly pushing for a new settlement in their questions, which is a strange position to take. We believe that the proposed Winchfield New Town has failed testing. This would leave Murrell Green as a potential candidate for a new settlement which would see 1,850 new houses in Hook Parish.

 

Rushmoor says it won’t ask Hart to build extra houses

Time to celebrate we don't need so many houses

Time to celebrate we don’t need so many houses

We Heart Hart asked a number of questions at Hart Council’s 29 September meeting. We will come to those in a moment, but the most significant news came from the Leader’s announcement that he had received a letter from Rushmoor Borough Council stating that they would no longer be asking Hart to build extra houses for them.

This is good news in that it either shows that the overall housing numbers for the combined area has been reduced or Rushmoor have found extra capacity, or a combination of the two.

The significance for Hart is that there was a threat that Rushmoor may ask us to build an extra 1,800 houses, on top of our already large allocation of 7,534 houses.  We now know that our remaining requirement will not exceed the current number of around 2,350, and this number may in fact go down if the overall housing target in the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) reduces as we believe it should.

The other significant news from the meeting was that the council believes it will have a SANG capacity of 1,500 homes, over and above the SANG required to deliver Hartland Village (Pyestock). This means that there is now sufficient SANG capacity to bring forward more brownfield sites (of which there are plenty), so we shouldn’t need to grant permission to build on any more of our green fields before 2032 at least.

We also learned that Hart Council has no plans to introduce policy measures to restrict the redevelopment of brownfield sites in the district.

However, we share the council’s concern that if the brownfield sites are delivered as office conversions (as opposed to redevelopments), then there may be a shortage of infrastructure funding.

We await the publication of the revised SHMA, the new policies and the draft Local Plan with interest.

Hart Council proposes to buy Bramshot Farm for SANG

Proposed SANGs at Bramshot Farm and MoD land near Fleet Hampshire for Sun Park and Pyestock (Hartland Village).

At their meeting on 16 July, Hart Council Cabinet resolved to grant authority to the Chief Executive to:

  • To secure an interest free loan from the LEP to cover the cost of procuring Bramshot Farm to set up and administer a Strategic SANG [currently owned by RSPB]
  • Subject to securing an interest free loan from the LEP to complete the purchase of Bramshot Farm for the purposes of delivering a SANG.
  • To invite the developers of Sun Park to contribute towards the procurement and setting out of Bramshot Farm as SPA mitigation for their potential residential development at Sun Park.
  • To facilitate the procurement of land to the north of Pyestock (Hartland Park) at no cost to the Council to provide SANG mitigation for the potential Pyestock/Hartland Park development opportunity

This means that there will now be more than enough SANG land to support the development of Pyestock and Sun Park, with maybe some left over to support development within Rushmoor Borough boundaries. This is an important step in demonstrating that the forthcoming Local Plan is deliverable.

The council paper can be found here, and a map of the proposed SANG sites is shown here and in the image above.

Developers call for Hart’s housing target to be doubled

The new age of crony capitalism

We have taken a brief look at the submissions made by developers to the Hart Council Refined Housing Options Consultation, found some worrying results. Barratt Homes, Berkeley Homes and Martin Grant homes all call for Hart’s housing target to be increased, and some call for it to be doubled. It is important that everyone in Hart unites to challenge these ridiculous figures. We should also challenge the developers to build the houses that are already permitted and not ‘land-bank’.

According to the current Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), Hart must build 7,534 homes in the planning period up to 2032. This amounts to around 370 per annum. This number was arrived at by using the 2011-based population projections as a starting point. Since then the 2012-based population projections have been published and they show a lower population projection than the older numbers

However, Barratt Homes have come up with their own assessment of Hart’s housing need which is 730 homes per annum.

Berkeley Homes have also come up with their own housing target for Hart in the range of 540-685 dwellings per annum

Finally, Martin Grant Homes also say that Hart’s housing ‘need’ is 730 dwellings per annum, nearly double the currently assessed need.

What is particularly galling about these projections put forward by the developers is that they are not even building at anywhere near the 370 per annum rate required to meet the 7,534 target,

Hart District Housing Completions by year

Hart District Housing Completions by year

even though there are 1,075 homes that were granted permission in or before 2013, out of the over 3,000 outstanding permissions. It is ridiculous to suggest that these developers are going to double their build rate, because prices would collapse along with their profits.  This is just a way for developers to try and gain more planning permissions and then sit on them and produce houses at a rate that suits them.

Outstanding permissions in Hart District as of 20 April 2016 by year of grant

Outstanding permissions in Hart District as of 20 April 2016 by year of grant

We hope that all campaigning groups in Hart unite to challenge these ridiculous notions of housing ‘need’ coming from the developers. If we don’t then there is a strong risk we will be forced to build even more houses for Rushmoor and Surrey Heath and end up having to build Pyestock (aka Hartland Village) and all three of the options in the consultation.

 

 

Busy time ahead for the Hart Local Plan

Keep Calm and Wait for news about the Hart Local Plan

News about the Hart Local Plan has been sparse lately, but we can expect a flurry of news over the coming weeks.

First, now that the council elections are over, we can expect the results of the recent consultation to be released over the next few weeks.  Of course, we don’t know the results, but whatever the outcome, the results will be of limited value given that Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), has emerged as an additional brownfield site with capacity of around 1,500 dwellings.

Second, the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), together with the related Employment Land Review (ELR) have been in gestation for a few months now and we should hear of the new housing numbers in the next few weeks.  We Heart Hart is hopeful the new SHMA will result in Hart being asked to build 1,000-1,500 fewer houses over the planning period.  Of course, the new SHMA should also reduce the allocation for Surrey Heath and Rushmoor and the new ELR should enable Rushmoor in particular to release more of the brownfield sites it is protecting. The net result should reduce the risk of Hart being asked to build 3,100 extra houses for those districts.

Third, the results of Hart’s brownfield study should be released in the next couple of months and will set out a more sensible view of the brownfield capacity of the district.

Finally, should also expect the revised timetable for the Hart Local Plan to be released, so we will know when we will be asked our views. Expectations are the draft Local Plan should be released in September or October.

Response to Face IT article in Fleet News and Mail

 

Vacant Block at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hampshire

FACE IT have been quoted in this week’s Fleet News & Mail, claiming that the “urban extension option may sound like a ‘brownfield’ solution but would actually mean an extra 2,173 homes being built on green fields in Fleet and Hook”.

It does appear that all of the efforts they have put into their campaign around the Hart Council’s Housing Option Consultation has exhausted them to such an extent that they now misunderstand the difference between types of development because nobody is arguing that urban extensions are somehow brownfield development in disguise.

They make spurious claims about school places, after making up their own estimate of how many extra school places might be required without doing a proper population projection.  Note that Hampshire County Council have not put in place any plans beyond 2018, are forecasting a surplus of secondary school places at that time and a reduction in the birth rate as well as admitting that Hart schools are educating many children from outside the district.

They also make some claims about the scale of development that has occurred in Fleet, Church Crookham and Hook and about how many houses would end up being built around Fleet and Hook under each of the options Hart has put forward. It is not clear where they get their numbers from, because they don’t tally with the figures we put together.

However, nobody would dispute that Hook in particular has seen a big rise in housing in both absolute and relative terms. But what we find difficult to understand is why Hook’s Neighbourhood Planning team and Parish Council are advocating the new town option as their first choice which would deliver more than 1,800 houses in Hook Parish and effectively coalesce Hartley Wintney, Winchfield and Hook into a giant conurbation that might be named Hartley Winchook. This is more houses than the urban extension they oppose (730 houses), more than the dispersal option put forward by Hart Council (204 houses) and more than the brownfield solution put forward by We Heart Hart (only 57 new dwellings to be permitted).

FACE IT rightly say that the combination of Fleet, Church Crookham, Elvetham Heath and Ewshot (greater Fleet) has seen a lot of new housing in absolute terms over recent years. However, this is only part of the story as all parts of the district have seen significant development. When you look at the amount of new housing in proportion to size, the percentage increase for greater Fleet over the planning period of 2011-2031 is forecast to be around 17% for the dispersal and urban extension options and 14% with the new town option. This is below the average for the whole district at 21%, 18% and 18% respectively for each option and well below the percentage increases for places like Hartley Wintney which is forecast to see 34%, 39% and 21% increases for each of the options put forward by Hart.

The brownfield option that We Heart Hart has put forward has the potential to meet all of the remaining housing need and results in a more balanced distribution across the district in proportion to the size of existing settlements.  Our solution would result in a 23% increase for the greater Fleet area, 22% for Hartley Wintney and 27% for the smaller parishes that include Winchfield.

The proposed densities in the brownfield option are not at all demanding, with an average density on the SHLAA sites of around 25 dwellings per hectare.  The proposed densities on the vacant office blocks are no different to some developments that Hart has already permitted on Fleet Road, such as the new McCarthy and Stone development.  Our proposals do not include Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), which could deliver even more houses on brownfield sites into the future if Hart Council is successful in reallocating that site for housing.

We do agree with FACE IT, that we need to take a strategic view of the future, but we disagree on what that strategic vision might be.  In our view, continuing to concrete over green fields equivalent to 25 football pitches each year is not at all sustainable and our children and grandchildren would not thank us for doing that.

The advantages of a brownfield solution are:

  • It preserves the very countryside that makes Hart such a great place to live,
  • Produces a greener solution, making better use of existing infrastructure and more efficient housing,
  • Delivers more of the smaller, more affordable housing of the types that we need to meet the needs of our young people aspiring to gain a foothold on the housing ladder,
  • Delivers more specialist accommodation for the elderly in the right places for them as well as freeing up larger properties for growing families,
  • Delivers infrastructure funding to existing communities where there is currently a £78m funding deficit
  • Lower risk of delivery because it is spread across a large number of sites with multiple developers

Of course, the new town proposal that is in the consultation has been undergoing testing for over a year now, and has identified a number of significant barriers including education, transport and foul water drainage.  The costs of the infrastructure required for a new town are astronomical and would never be met by developer contributions. If Hart were to choose the new town option, it runs the risk of not passing inspection because infrastructure delivery could not be guaranteed.

We hope that the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment, (SHMA) when it is eventually delivered in June will result in a lower housing target for Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath. But until then, the threat of Hart having to build 3,000 for those districts is very real.  Support for a new town will create capacity to build these extra houses which will mean we will end up with the worst of all worlds, a new town, urban extensions and dispersal across the district.

So, we urge all residents of Hart to reject a new town, reject urban extensions and get behind a brownfield solution and give Hart Council further encouragement to step up their efforts in this regard by responding to the consultation and putting support for a brownfield solution in the comments.

We have created a dedicated consultation page and updated our 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

New Housing Market Assessment delayed again

Hart District Strategic Housing Market Assessment SHMA delayed again

According to an email we have seen from Rushmoor Borough Council, it appears as though the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) for Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath has been delayed again until June 2016.

Back in January, Rushmoor said that the new SHMA and Employment Land Review (ELR) would be published in May 2016.  Around that time, Hart were saying “late-February” with perhaps some highlights a little earlier. Now, according to an email we have seen, dated today, the new SHMA and ELR have been pushed back until June, with publication of their draft submission Local Plan due in October or November 2016.  An extract of the email is shown below:

Key Milestones Dates
Publication of updated SHMA June 2016
Publication of updated ELR June 2016
Publish draft submission Local Plan October / November 2016
Submission of Local Plan, Sustainability Appraisal (SA) Report and Proposals Map to Planning Inspectorate February 2017
Hearing sessions May 2017
Receipt of Inspector’s Report October 2017
Adoption and publication of Local Plan and Proposals Map December 2017

Hart Council plans to publish a draft Local Plan (a plan in a similar state to the Local Plan Rushmoor sent out for consultation last Summer) in Summer 2016.  We find it difficult to believe that they will be able to stick to this timetable if the new evidence base is not going to be published until June.

Hart is now at significant risk of the Government stepping in and doing the Local Plan for them, as Government minister Brandon Lewis has said that Local Authorities may have their Local Plans written for them if they are not in place by early 2017.

As regular readers will know, this is not the first time the timetable has slipped as we reported here and here.