What’s wrong with Hart Council’s Approach?

We have several problems with Hart’s current approach:

  • Lack of overall vision for the district.  Sadly Hart Council is simply reacting to events and not setting out a vision of what it wants the district to look like in 20, 30, 50 or 100 years time.  This means that if we are not careful, we will end up with piecemeal development that will damage the very things that make Hart an attractive place to live.  Ideas for an improved vision are shown here.
  • Opening up the District to being a sink for the unmet housing needs of other districts.  The overall housing allocation plan for the plan period calls for 1,800-2,400 homes to be built in a new town at Winchfield.  However, the Barratts document Vision Document suggests that a new town at Winchfield could entail 5,000 new houses.  By pure coincidence (of course), Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils need to find space for about 3,100 more houses in their districts.  Building a new town anywhere in Hart opens up the strong possibility that we will be forced to take this additional requirement from bordering areas.
  • Lack of provision for elderly and infirm.  According to the SHMA, by 2031, there will be an additional 10,000 people over 60 (including more than 6,850 over 75) expected to be living in the district and an extra 3,620 people who will be suffering from dementia or have some sort of mobility problem. Section 9 of the SHMA suggests that future housing stock should be built to broadly reflect the existing stock.  This new stock will attract more families to the area and crowd out the developments required to meet the needs of the elderly and infirm.

Overall, the lack of strategy, opening up the potential for a new town and not addressing the needs arising from changing demographics amount to very serious flaws in approach which puts our countryside at risk.

We have outlined an alternative approach to producing the local plan here.

What’s Wrong with the Housing Target?

[These arguments have been expanded and refined on this page]

The December 2014 version of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) for Hart District Council, and Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Borough Councils (together the Housing Market Area) can be found here.

The SHMA above calls for around 7,534 houses to be built in Hart District over the period from 2011-2031 and 23,600 over the whole area. It is built on a process mandated by the Government, but at almost every stage the decisions taken err on the side of building more houses.  Examples of this are:

  • The starting point for the housing need is population projection.  The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) population projections would lead to an overall need for 790 houses per annum across the whole Housing Market Area, or 15,800 houses in total.  This approach in itself essentially says that if you have carried out lots of development in the past (such as Elevetham Heath, Queen Elizabeth Barracks and St. Mary’s Park), you must continue to develop at that rate even though there has been net migration out of the area in recent years.
  • However, the report then states that the ONS usually understates these requirements so cherry picks inward migration data from the time we were building most housing, reverses the recent trend in average household size makes an arbitrary adjustment upwards to 925 houses per annum, leading to a need for 2,700 additional houses over the plan period and taking the total to 18,500.
  • During the unsustainable economic boom from 1998 to 2008, the whole housing market area created jobs at  around 720 per annum.  Over the full economic cycle from 1998 to 2012 the whole area generated jobs at a rate of 529 per annum.  The report assumes that up to 2031 the area will create jobs at more than double this, at a rate of 1,130 per annum.  This has the effect of increasing the number of houses required to 1,180 per annum, or a total of 23,600 houses.  Over the plan period this leads to a need for a further 5,100 extra houses being required.

The combination of these and other assumptions is that the combined area of Hart, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor needs to build an additional 7,800 houses (of which around a third is allocated to Hart District) over and above the government starting point which adds to the pressure on our green spaces and adds to congestion.

The impact on Hart is we have to build 7,534 houses.  But Surrey Heath and Rushmoor have said that we need to build 3,100 houses that they say they can’t build in their own area.  This pushes up our target to around 10,600 houses.  If the questionable assumptions in the SHMA were taken away, our housing target would fall substantially to around 6,100 houses, but there may be opportunities to shift some of our remaining target on to Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.

Hart District

Hart is a beautiful district made up of a mixture of large urban settlements such as Fleet and smaller village type settlements such as Odiham. The space around these settlements is largely made up of green fields and woodland which give Hart its essential rural feel.

In December 2014, for the fourth year running, Hart was named the best place to live in the country in a survey by the Halifax. Each settlement has a distinctive community feel; the quality of the schools is excellent and the 84 square miles of green fields and wooded landscape are a perfect example of England’s green and pleasant land that is excellent for wildlife, cycling and walking.

This essential nature of Hart is now being put under pressure by the National Planning Policy Framework and Hart Council’s response to it. In the years up to 2031, Hart has to build another 7,500 homes. Hart Council is proposing to meet the bulk of this need by building a new settlement in the heart of Hart at Winchfield destroying over 700 acres of green fields and woodland in the process.

We are mounting a campaign against these proposals because we believe the Strategic Housing Market Assessment that gave rise to the need for 7,534 extra houses (not to mention the extra 3,100 houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor) is flawed and Hart’s response to this is inappropriate.

This is putting all of the parishes of Hart District at risk including:

Blackwater and Hawley; Bramshill;  Church Crookham; Crondall; Crookham Village; Dogmersfield; Elvetham Heath; Eversley; Ewshot; Fleet; Greywell; Hartley Wintney; Heckfield; Hook; Mattingley; North Warnborough; Odiham; Rotherwick; South Warnborough; Winchfield; and Yateley.