Top QC says Hart Council’s position on the Local Plan is “hopeless”

Scales of Justice weigh against Hart District Council

Scales of Justice weigh against Hart District Council

 

Top planning QC, Peter Village has produced a devastating legal opinion on Hart District Council’s Local Plan process and pronounced that they are in a “hopeless position“.  Hart Council have received this opinion, but have refused a meeting to discuss ways of improving the plan.  In fact, at last night’s council meeting, council leader Stephen Parker dismissed the report as “just one opinion among many”.

It is imperative that Hart gets a high quality local plan in place quickly and fends off the demands from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils to build an extra 3,100 houses in Hart.  The council’s attitude displays a staggering level of arrogance and complacency that can only lead to more delays and extra costs to get the plan right.  We urge all voters to press their council candidates to push to get the Local Plan process back on track by adopting our 5-point plan and dropping all ideas of a new town in Hart District.

The essence of the opinion is:

  • The Regulation 18 public consultation in the autumn of 2014 addressed housing options and did not consider other vital issues such as employment, retail, transport and infrastructure.
  • Hart District Council said in April 2014 that they would conduct a second Reg 18 consultation in March 2015, which they have since dropped and now intend to proceed directly to a Regulation 19 consultation on the Draft Plan for Final Inspection.  This plan is likely to fail because either the Local Plan will not contain all the elements it should, or they will not have consulted on all of the things they should consult upon.
  • Hart have not consulted upon the demands from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor that Hart build 3,100 houses for them.
  • Hart have not considered a medium growth “policy on” scenario of not meeting the full housing need on environmental grounds.
  • Hart have not properly considered the brownfield capacity of the district, highlighting that the capacity could be up to 3,500 dwellings, far more than the 750 dwellings Hart is still insisting upon.

Reader may recall that set out a 5-point plan to address these issues and this is summarised below:

  • Create a medium growth scenario with a lower housing requirement than the current high growth scenario to give an option to reduce the environmental impact of development.
  • Create a formal brownfield option and invite a competition to design the best way of using our brownfield land.
  • Do the work and consult upon the additional elements of a proper Local Plan such as employment, education, transport, retail and other infrastructure.
  • Consider the Environment and Landscape by carrying out proper habitat studies and landscape character assessments.
  • Fix the management and governance problems within Hart Council that have resulted in the past failure and current hopeless position.

If you want to press for change, please sign our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

The full Legal Opinion and our latest Press Release can be found below:

Peter Village QC Legal Opinion
We Heart Hart Press Release 1 May 2015

This has been covered in the Basingstoke Gazette.

 

QC Opinion

Press Release

 

How to make a better Local Plan for Hart District

Protect our green fields

Protect our green fields

We know that progress on the Local Plan for Hart District is slow and that it is not going in the direction many would like to see.  We thought it was time to outline an alternative approach, and see if Hart Council and the candidates for election will change their minds. Below we set out a five point plan for change:

  • Create a medium growth scenario
  • Create a formal brownfield option and invite a competition to design the art of the possible
  • Do the work and consult upon the additional elements of a proper Local Plan
  • Consider the Environment and Landscape
  • Fix the management and governance problems

1.  Create a Medium Growth Scenario

We need to work on creating a reasonable, alternative “medium growth” scenario to go alongside the current “high growth” scenario. We have posted earlier about why we believe the SHMA is flawed (as shown here and here) and is forcing us to build too much –  7,534 houses in Hart plus 3,100 extra from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.  Hart District Council should work with Rushmoor and Surrey Heath work to create a joint new, “policy on” lower housing requirement for the whole Housing Market Area that:

  • Takes account of the environmental damage that large scale over-development would cause to our valuable countryside and the green belt in Surrey Heath
  • Uses more realistic jobs growth assumptions of say around 650-750 jobs per annum over the cycle which is above what was achieved over the last economic cycle as opposed to the existing assumption in the SHMA of 1,130 jobs per annum
  • Uses more realistic inward migration and household size assumptions.

The more realistic assumptions above could reduce the overall housing “need” for the combination of Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath by around 8,000 dwellings from 23,600 to 15,790. We believe this would relieve the pressure on all three districts, and in particular, reduce the pressure on Hart to take the unmet needs of Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Boroughs.

2. Create a formal brownfield option and invite a competition to design the art of the possible

We have already demonstrated that Hart has no effective brownfield strategy.  Hart Council should create a new, formal “reasonable suitable alternative” option of meeting the housing need solely through brownfield development. This should involve the following:

  • Creating a complete database of all of the potential brownfield sites in the district, including those not yet in the SHLAA and those not yet formally promoted to the council, including sites such as Bramshill House, Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), Sun Park, Ancells Farm, Bartley Wood, Fleet High St and all of the run down town centres (e.g. Fleet, Yateley, Blackwater and Hook).
  • Inviting leading architects to compete to produce some visionary outline schemes of what a “brownfield solution” might look like for the district, taking into account changing demographics, changing shopping habits driven by the internet and achievable housing densities.
  • Organising a conference with the architects, land owners, developers and local community representatives with the objective of identifying the art of the possible for brownfield development amongst the competing solutions from the architects.

This could be done in conjunction with the neighbouring authorities of Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.

3. Do the work and consult upon the additional elements of a proper Local Plan

Hart District Council needs to work on the other elements that should make up a local plan such as education, retail, transport, employment, meeting the needs of the ageing population and other infrastructure.  Hart should conduct suitable, high level strategic analysis to build an evidence base to answer the following questions:

  • Education. How many school places will we need and where in both the current “high growth” and proposed “medium growth” alternative requirement scenarios? How might these be delivered and what are the costs of the alternatives?
  • Retail. What is the range, type and location of shops required across the district, taking into account changing shopping habits, the growth of the internet, changing demographics and the alternative growth scenarios?  How will we regenerate our high streets?
  • Transport. What investment will be required in the major road and rail infrastructure under both growth scenarios? Considering alternative sites for each of the development options (including the new “brownfield option”), what investment will be required in minor roads, making broad assumptions on the location of alternative sites?
  • Employment. This review should be conducted across the Hart, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.  What types and quantities of employment land will be required under the alternative growth scenarios, taking into account changing work structures and habits; what is the current forecast surplus/deficit in 2032? Would any extra employment land need to be found?  How much current employment land could be released for housing?
  • Other infrastructure. It is likely that a new town, particularly in Winchfield, would require even further infrastructure spending due to its current lack facilities such as mains sewage and mains gas. What is the cost of providing additional infrastructure for a new town such as sewage, gas, roads, electricity, rail etc?
  • Ageing Population.  What type of housing is required to meet the needs of the 6,850 extra people aged over 75 and the extra 3,620 people who will be suffering from dementia or have some sort of mobility problem and where should it be located?

For each option and scenario Hart should outline the total cost of infrastructure spending required and the likely contribution from developers so that a proper financial model can be created.

4.  Consider the Environment and Landscape

Fourth, Hart should conduct the other studies that are required to update the evidence base such as the landscape character assessment and an assessment of the potential damage caused to our wildlife by over-development.

 

Once this work has been completed, Hart District Council should carry out a new Regulation 18 consultation on the above that includes both a medium and high growth scenario and the properly evaluated options for meeting the housing need including the new proposed “brownfield” option. It would be preferable if the current “Option 4 – New town at Winchfield” (or indeed a new settlement anywhere in Hart) was dropped as an option. It will be important for the council to step up its engagement efforts during this period to ensure that a much larger proportion of the public responds to the consultation.

After the results of the consultation is known, firm up a preferred growth scenario and delivery option(s) to work up into a more detailed Local Plan and conduct an exercise to ensure democratic endorsement of the preferred option. This could take the form of a district wide referendum or a series of Parish Polls, followed by a Regulation 19 consultation before submission to the inspector.

 

5.  Fix the management and governance problems

Finally, Hart need to work on the setting up the Local Plan project properly and address the governance deficiencies. There is clearly no properly defined scope or deliverables as the recent questions to the Planning Inspector demonstrate.  Moreover, the timeline keeps slipping as we were originally supposed to have been consulted on a draft plan in March 2015, and it is clear that Hart is nowhere near that milestone even though it has dropped that consultation from its plan.  This indicates the Local Plan project is not properly resourced. The Council needs to appoint a suitably qualified, experienced project manager, follow a properly recognised project management methodology such as Prince 2 and invest in the proper resources required to carry out the project on time to proper quality standards.

Given the prior failure of the earlier Local Plan at inspection and the current hopeless path the new Plan is taking, it is also clear that the governance of the Local Plan is deficient, with power effectively concentrated into the hands of only two people. The Council needs to explore ways of separating powers so that there is better transparency and accountability on both the “officer” and “member” sides. We suggest that the project should report to the joint chief executive who is not also in charge of planning; that roles of council leader and portfolio head for planning are carried out by two separate people and the council members elect a more proactive and capable chairman. This should lead to a wider range of opinions to be heard and appropriate checks and balances to be implemented.

It remains to be seen if our Parliamentary candidates or our Hart District Council candidates will endorse this plan.

If you would like to join the campaign to change Hart’s mind, please sign and share our petition.

 

Go to Petition

 

 

We Heart Hart Presentation to Crondall Parish Council

We Heart Hart were delighted to be invited to speak at tonight’s parish council meeting at Crondall.

 

The presentation went well with lots of interest in the Hart Local Plan and how we might persuade Hart Council to think again, particularly to focus on brownfield development and fight off the demand for us to build 3,100 extra houses for Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils.  Lots of interest in our leaflet too.

 

A copy of the presentation and leaflet are available for download below.

 

We Heart Hart Presentation to Crondall Parish Council

 

We Heart Hart Campaign Flyer

 

Presentation

We Heart Hart petition is now twice as big as Hart District Council consultation

The We Heart Hart petition is now really taking off, now exceeding 1,200, adding more than 280 since Friday night. This is more than twice the number of valid responses (550) to the Hart District Council consultation that took place in Autumn 2014 and more than 5 times the number of people (220) of said they favoured a new settlement.

It seems that the people of Hart are waking up to the reality that the Council’s plans will:

  • Turn the northern part of Hart District will turn into a single urban sprawl when there is an alternative of building higher density in urban areas to help rejuvenate our high streets
  • Ignore many brownfield sites untouched all over the district where we could build housing
  • Destroy our environment and the very nature of Hart’s unique appeal – the reason we all love living here.

 

If you would like to join our campaign, please sign and share our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

Surely it is now time for Hart Council to think again and listen to the people.

Hart District Council in disarray over infrastructure costs and funding

Hart Existing Infrastructure Funding Gap

£78m Funding Gap

In a piece of bad news from last Thursday’s council meeting, Hart District Council admitted that it had no idea how much the infrastructure for the local plan would cost, nor how much it would raise from developers to pay for it, despite sitting on an existing funding gap of £78m. The detailed questions and answers can be found here.  This comes alongside the revelation that Hampshire County Council has a £1.9bn infrastructure funding deficit, and Rushmoor Borough Council, £80m.

If you would like to ask Hart to think again, please sign and share our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

We have posted before our estimate of an £150m cost of infrastructure for a new town at Winchfield, which would lead to the existing £78m funding gap being extended to £188m.  We asked questions about this at the council meeting on 26 March and received some staggeringly vague answers.  New analysis from Hart indicates that infrastructure costs could escalate to £300m.

First we asked how much money would be raised from developers.  Answer: we don’t know.  And they also didn’t know how much the funding would vary according to the development strategy adopted.

Hart doesn't know how much cash it will raise from developers

Hart doesn’t know how much cash it will raise from developers

We also asked about how the infrastructure costs would vary according to the development strategy adopted.  Answer: no idea.

Hart District Council does not know how much it will cost to deliver the infrastructure required

Hart doesn’t know how much it will cost to deliver the infrastructure

Finally, we asked if Hart understood the impact on our infrastructure of the massive development due to take place in neighbouring districts.  Answer: We don’t know.

Hart District Council does not know the impact of development in neighbouring districts

Hart doesn’t not know the impact of development in neighbouring districts

We find it quite staggering that Hart as got as far as settling upon a preferred development strategy without understanding what infrastructure will be required, how much it will cost nor how it will be funded, especially as there is already a £78m funding gap.

It is fairly self evident that the infrastructure required for brownfield development will be very much less than that required for a new town.

It has now transpired that Hampshire as a whole has an infrastructure funding deficit of £1.9bn and Rushmoor has an £80m shortfall.

 

Hart District Council gets its facts wrong on the Local Plan

Hart District Council Local Plan Update Spring-Summer 2015

Hart District Council Local Plan Update Spring-Summer 2015

Hart District Council has published an article in the latest copy of Hart News that gets its facts wrong on how many houses we have to build under the emerging Local Plan.

As can be seen from the above image, Hart Council is saying we only need to build 4,000 houses up to 2032.  However, this is in direct contradiction to the strategic housing market assessment and the evidence presented to Cabinet back in November 2014 that clearly states we need to build 7,534 houses in the period up to 2032.

Hart District Council Housing Requirement from Cabinet Meeting November 2014 or Local Plan; SHMA

Hart District Housing Requirement from Cabinet Meeting Nov 2014

Even 7,534 houses is probably an understatement, because Rushmoor Borough Council and Surrey Heath Borough Council have told Hart that they cannot build all of their allocation on their own patches and want Hart to build a further 3,100 houses for them.  This would give a total of 10,634 houses to be built in Hart up to 2032.

Hart District acts as sink for 3,100 houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor

Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Housing Shortfall

Hart’s strategy of building a new settlement (option 4) in Winchfield creates additional capacity that makes it much more likely that we will have to take these additional houses.

The article in Hart News also further illustrates that Hart is not serious about its brownfield strategy as they are continuing to ignore the large number of vacant office blocks and sites such as Sun Park and Hartland Park and are still assuming only 30 dwellings per hectare. Furthermore, they make no mention of the need to build specialist housing for our ageing population which a new town won’t deliver.

Finally, Hart Council were supposed to be consulting on the draft plan now, with a view to modifying it during the Summer before publication of the actual plan for a further round of consultation in the Autumn.  But now they have skipped one of the consultations.

We can only speculate as to the motives behind this mistake and the skipping of one round of consultation. However, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Hart District Council are hiding the truth, and trying to push through a disastrous strategy without proper consultation.

If you would like to oppose Hart’s approach to the Local Plan, please sign and share our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

 

 

Rushmoor could take all of Hart’s allocation and more

Example High Density Brownfield Development - Arundel Square, London

Example High Density Brownfield Development – Arundel Square, London

 

If we used our brownfield land better we could meet our existing housing needs and more without concreting over our green fields.  A study by trainee architect, Gareth Price shows that Rushmoor Borough Council is not making the most of its brownfield sites, and if it showed more vision, it could meet its own housing needs and those of Hart District using brownfield sites only.

If you would like to add to the pressure to Hart to change tack and take brownfield more seriously, then please sign our petition.

Typically, suburban developers and councils use a metric of around 30 dwelling per hectare (dph) as a rule of thumb for how many houses can be fit on to  any particular space. However, a study of London has shown that in central areas, densities of between 160-405 dph can be achieved and deliver viable, vibrant social communities with amenity space incorporated into the design.

This study has been used by Gareth Price, a final year architecture student, to propose an alternative set of schemes for Rushmoor (see download below).  His work shows that it is entirely possible for Rushmoor to not only build their own housing need, but could also take all of Hart’s requirement and more.

Of course, these concepts could equally be applied to Hart.  Bravehart has already found loads of brownfield sites that don’t even appear on the land database of Hart council. These include derelict buildings in the heart of Fleet and Hook.

Derelict Offices in Fleet

Derelict Offices in Fleet

Not only that, we know that Fleet town centre is dying with many vacant shops in the shopping centre and on the High Street. Surely the best way to rejuvenate our town centres is to build vibrant communities at their heart, rather than concreting over the countryside on their outskirts.  Using the same metrics, it is probable, that all of Hart’s housing need could be met by using brownfield sites.

Empty Shop in Hart Shopping Centre, Fleet

Empty Shop in Hart Shopping Centre, Fleet

Another advantage of the types of schemes that Gareth proposes is that on average, the dwellings are likely to be smaller and so more affordable for our young people.  We could also build mixed use developments with some schemes dedicated to specialist homes for older people.

Surely it is time we ask our councillors in Rushmoor Borough Council, Surrey Heath Borough Council and Hart District to break from the past, think out of the box, get more creative and take brownfield much more seriously instead of proposing endless urban sprawl across our countryside.

A Sustainable Approach to Housing on Brownfield

We Heart Hart Questions for Hart Council

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

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

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

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

We Love Hart Questions for Hart Council

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

Fleet and Church Crookham to be devastated by congestion from new town

Estimated Extra Daily Journeys

Extra Daily Journeys

5,000 extra houses in a new town in Hart District will dramatically increase congestion all over the district, including Fleet and Church Crookham with 10’s of thousands of extra journeys per day.   It is clear that those councillors who think they are getting a free-ride from a new town in Winchfield need to think again and campaign for fewer houses to be built overall.

If you think the council should think again, please sign the petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/we-hart

Hart District Council have been asked by Winchfield Action Group (WAG), as part of their Neighbourhood Planning process to provide some figures on the current road usage on roads in and around the proposed new town at Winchfield and for an assessment of the impact on neighbouring areas.  Astonishingly, it seems Hart doesn’t have any traffic monitoring data.

Helpfully, the appendices in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) give an analysis of the travel to work patterns of Hart residents and the Department of Transport has conducted a National Travel Survey (NTS) that has helped the We Heart Hart (aka We ♥ Hart and We Love Hart) campaign to calculate the impact of all of these extra houses and extra cars.

The SHMA says that we can expect around 2.5 people per household, the SHMA appendix gives a split of how Hart residents travel to work and the NTS says that work related travel accounts for only 18% of journeys.  Of course people need to go shopping, play sports, visit friends and relatives, go to clubs and societies and ferry around their children and so on.

Using the 2011 numbers it is possible come up with the extra journeys 5,000 extra houses will generate.  Of course, these numbers will need to be doubled if they go ahead with the new town and Hart has to act as a sink for the 3,100 extra houses that Surrey Heath and Rushmoor say they cannot build.  This is shown below.

Extra Journeys Arising from New Town in Hart

Extra Journeys Arising from New Town in Hart

Using this data, you can come up with an estimate of the impact of all these extra journeys will have in terms of increased traffic in Fleet, Church Crookham, Hartley Wintney and Hook because of the routes people will have to follow to get to those destinations.  Of course, there will be also extra train journeys, giving rise to 775 extra commuters going to London each day without even estimating the other non-work related journeys:

Impact on Fleet, Church Crookham, Hartley Wintney and Hook

Impact on Fleet, Church Crookham, Hartley Wintney and Hook

This is of course a very rough and ready estimate, and Hart will no doubt have to find a way of doing some better modelling.  But this gives an indication of the impact which is far from trivial.

Surely it is very important that the impact of building 5,000 houses in a new town, or more than 10,000 if Surrey Heath and Rushmoor get their way, is properly assessed by the council before they finalise the local plan.  Not only that there are going to be thousands of new houses in neighbouring areas like Basingstoke and Deane, Reading and Waverley.  All of these houses are bound to increase the traffic even further in Hart too.

Of course everyone has sympathy for the level of development Fleet, Church Crookham, Crookham Village  and Hook have had to endure over the past few years.  But it is clear that building a new town in Winchfield will only add to the problem of congestion for those areas and the councillors who think they are getting a free-ride from a new town need to think again and start campaigning for fewer houses to be built in Hart.

Download a poster: http://wehearthart.co.uk/home/get-involved/

Sign the petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/we-hart

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/IHeartHart/

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/WeHeartHart

3,100 Reasons to Oppose a New Town in Hart

Hart becomes Housing Sink for Surrey Heath and Rushmor

Hart becomes sink for 3,100 houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor

A new town in Hart District, whether in Winchfield or anywhere else, will open up Hart to be a sink for 3,100 overflow houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils. Yet Hart District Council’s strategy for the Local Plan has set us on the path for a new town which makes this inevitable and will destroy our green fields and wildlife habitats and clog up all of our infrastructure.

If you disagree with this strategy please sign the We Love Hart (We ♥ Hart) petition.

The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), calls for Hart to build a total of around 7,500 houses in the district up to 2031.  Our neighbouring districts, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor also have demanding targets and are saying that they cannot build all of their own allocation in their districts.  So, they want to pass over an extra 3,100 or so houses (1,700 from Rushmoor and 1,400 from Surrey Heath) to Hart that will push our target up to around 10,600 houses.  See answers to questions here, page 17.

In their housing options paper the council says that we would need to deliver 1,800-2,400 houses on a new settlement (Option 4). However, the Barratts New Town proposal document says that such a new settlement would have capacity for 5,000 houses, more than twice the size of Elvetham Heath,  and could start building as early as 2017.  This leaves a convenient surplus  of around 3,000 dwellings in the new settlement that could be used to fill the shortfall  from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.

The We Heart Hart campaign believes this is a grave strategic error on the part of Hart Council because they are following a policy that means there is a real risk we will have to build even more houses in Hart and concrete over our green fields.

The impact of this could be enormous:

  • Massive increase in congestion throughout all of the district.
  • Increased stress on already creaking infrastructure
  • Overcrowding of trains already running over capacity
  • Massive environmental harm to the SSSI’s, SINCs and the Thames Valley Heath SPA
  • Coalescence of Fleet, Church Crookham, Crookham Village, Dogmersfield, Winchfield, Hartley Wintney, North Warnborough and Odiham into a giant conurbation.