Hart Council flying blind on meeting the needs of the young and the elderly

Hart Council Flying Blind on Housing Requirements

It has emerged that Hart Council have no effective way of monitoring how many dwellings of different types that have been built or permitted as part of the Local Plan. They have admitted that essentially they are flying blind and do not know how many 1 & 2-bed properties have been built or permitted and similarly do not know how many specialist units for the elderly are in the pipeline. This is despite the fact that the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) is very clear on how many homes of different types have to be built as part of the overall 7,534 requirement.

We asked questions at Council about this on 28 January and received short shrift, with the chairman refusing to allow the question about 1 & 2-bed homes to be put, and the question about accommodation for the elderly was not answered.  We followed up with FOI requests on both questions and have been told that the the information was available on Hart’s Planning portal.  It transpires that what they mean by this is that they expect members of the public to wade through hundreds of planning applications and hundreds of building control records to manually collate and report on the data, and even then, not all of the data required to answer the questions is available.

At first, we thought this was just obfuscation on the part of the council, but subsequent discussions with officers has revealed that Hart Officers would have to do exactly the same work to get at the answers.

What is particularly astonishing is that none of the councillors appear to have any interest at all in this and appear to be content to allow the council to fly blind. We don’t think this approach will stand up to scrutiny by an inspector, because the SHMA is very clear on the different types of housing that needs to be built.

To re-cap, according to the current Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), Hart needs to build 7,534 dwellings in the plan period running from 2011-2032.

The SHMA is also very clear on the sizes and types of housing that needs to be built, including the number of affordable homes for the young and specialist housing for the elderly.

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 9.8

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 9.8

First, the quantity of houses that needs to be built by the number of bedrooms is covered in Figure 9.8, reproduced above. Working through the arithmetic reveals that we need to build around 3,800 1 & 2-bed dwellings, using Hart’s target of 40% affordable. Hart has built or permitted around 4,600 dwellings since 2011 and has no idea what the split is by number of bedrooms, and so has no idea how many more smaller, starter properties need to be built out of the remaining 2,934 to be permitted.

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 10.15

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 10.15

Second, the number of specialist units for the elderly is covered in Figure 10.15.  Between 2012 and 2030, Hart needs to provide 1,390 specialist units for the elderly and infirm. Extending this back to 2011, and out to 2032 at the 80 dwellings per annum rate identified in the report would give 1,650 units. To this must be added the further 940 registered care places in the graphic above. This gives a total of 2,590 additional units for the ageing population.  Hart has built or permitted around 4,600 dwellings since 2011 and has no idea how many specialist units for the elderly are in that 4,600. Consequently, Hart has no idea how many more of these specialist units need to be built out of the remaining 2,934 to be permitted.

Surely we cannot continue to go on with basic management tools missing from the Local Plan process and seemingly none of the councillors being at all concerned.

We live in hope that soon the council will be able to provide data on what has been built since 2011, but there doesn’t appear to be an easy way to get at the data for what has been permitted for the future.

If you would like to ask Hart to get a grip on the situation, and create a brownfield solution to meet the housing needs of the young and elderly in Hart, 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, updated our two guides to responding to the consultation and they 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

If a new town is the answer, then Hart Council is asking the wrong question – CPRE

Winchfield in Hart District, Hampshire

Winchfield

Hampshire Campaign to protect Rural England (CPRE) have published a new article on their website saying, “If a new town is the answer, then Hart is asking the wrong question”.

The article goes on to note that a new town at Winchfield will not deliver many homes during the plan period and so will be futile.  The CPRE also notes that there is evidence that the housing market assessment maybe 30-50% too high, echoing our analysis of a number of SHMAs in the South of England.

They also note that a new town is likely to build the wrong type of housing in the wrong place to meet the needs of the district, saying “Those in need of a £200,000 property close to urban amenities, public transport and employment may not be in the market for a £300,000 property in a remote dormitory village”.

We wholeheartedly agree with CPRE’s sentiments.

If you would like to give Hart Council more encouragement to persist in getting Pyestock released and create a brownfield solution to our housing needs, 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, updated our two guides to responding to the consultation and they 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.

Ideas to oppose the Watery Lane Development in Church Crookham

Some of the opponents of the proposed Watery Lane development in Church Crookham have criticised We Heart Hart for not joining them in opposing building a housing estate there.  We cannot get involved in each and every planning application, but the material below outlines what we believe would be useful material for Face IT and other groups to use as they see fit to add to their case.

1. We don’t need this development

Hart is being asked to build too many houses, because the SHMA is flawed.  It starts with the 2011-based population projections, whereas the 2012-based projections would reduce the starting point by 1,800 dwellings (SHMA appendices p75).  The jobs forecasts are too optimistic, calling for a near doubling of the job creation rate over the plan period.  See the links below for more detail:

http://wehearthart.co.uk/2015/06/hart-is-being-asked-to-build-too-many-houses/

http://wehearthart.co.uk/2015/11/independent-expert-says-we-are-being-asked-to-build-too-many-houses/

http://wehearthart.co.uk/2015/05/revised-submission-to-owens-farm-hop-garden-road-appeal/

As a result of the over-stated need in the SHMA, the current land supply statement understates the land-supply position, therefore the Watery Lane development is not needed now.

2. Brownfield Solution

There is an alternative brownfield solution to meet the housing needs of the district. Our local MP also supports a brownfield solution:

http://wehearthart.co.uk/2015/11/there-is-a-brownfield-solution-to-harts-housing-needs/

http://wehearthart.co.uk/2015/10/ranil-says-no-to-winchfield-new-town-and-yes-to-brownfield/

3. Wrong type of Housing in the Wrong Place

A development such as Watery Lane would build the wrong type of housing in the wrong place to meet the needs of the district. Hart’s policy is to build 40% affordable and 60% market housing, or a split of about 3,014 affordable and 4,520 market to meet our overall need of 7,534. The SHMA (Figure 9.8) calls for 40.8% 1-bed and 33.2% 2-bed properties from our affordable housing target and 6.7% 1-bed and 28% 2-bed properties from our market housing target. This gives a total target of 1,532 1-bed and 2,266 2-bed properties.  No data has yet been forthcoming on how well or badly we are doing against these targets, but perhaps Face IT could join We Heart Hart in asking Hart to produce the information to allow us to know one way or the other.  More traditional housing estates in the countryside are likely to under-deliver on both affordable and smaller properties.

Similarly, the SHMA (Figure 10.15) calls for around 2,500 specialist units for the elderly, split into various categories to be built in Hart under the Local Plan.  We do not know how many have been built or permitted to date, but again it is self-evident that a housing estate in the country would not deliver specialist units for the elderly. Again, perhaps Face IT can join We Heart Hart in requesting that this information is released.

We do hope that the team opposing Watery Lane find this information helpful.

Response to Hook Action Against Over Development

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

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

Hook Action Against Over Development have written an article on their website which has been shared on Facebook, criticising both our support of a brownfield solution to our housing needs and the statement from the CPRE saying that the Winchfield New Town proposal was the worst site and the worst option for development.

We re-produce their article below, together with our responses in blue:

There has been a lot of talk about brownfield development and some claims that a new settlement is not necessary because brownfield housing development can provide for all of Hart’s housing needs. Brownfield housing development is the reuse of property or land for residential use where it was previously used for something else, for example office space, industrial land, military use or farm buildings.

Yes, we do believe that all of Hart’s remaining housing need can be met from brownfield sites, and we have set out the case and our plan here and here.  This draws on sites in the SHLAA at only ~26 dwellings per hectare (dph) and the work of the Stonegate Report, plus we have added the civic area that Fleet Future recommended for redevelopment and Fleet Town Council have raised their council tax to fund the costs of preparing a redevelopment plan.

One group in particular from outside of Hook is putting forward the suggestion that the Hart consultation is a simple choice between brownfield and greenfield development. But no matter how much they repeat it does not make it any more true. The CPRE, an organisation with laudable aims, appears to have now fallen for this fiction and hijacking of the term “sustainable development”.

We believe they are referring to We Heart Hart.  We believe the CPRE have not put forward an actual plan, but have clearly stated that they think that a new town at Winchfield is the worst site and worst option for development in Hart.  Sustainable development was defined by the Sustainable Development Commission as:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The concept of sustainable development can be interpreted in many different ways, but at its core is an approach to development that looks to balance different, and often competing, needs against an awareness of the environmental, social and economic limitations we face as a society.

We believe that sustainable development does not include concreting over the equivalent of 25 football pitches per year of green fields and leaving untouched, vacant, decaying office blocks. A new settlement would compromise future generations by needlessly concreting over hundreds of hectares of green fields, depriving future generations of the health benefits of the countryside. The economics of the proposals don’t stack up, requiring ~£350m of infrastructure spending, money that neither Hart nor Hampshire County Council have, especially now that HCC is facing an £81m per annum funding deficit. 

Hart’s housing strategy is brownfield first, but Hart cannot propose development on sites that are in commercial use or that have not been put forward for housing. If they were to do so then the Local Plan would fail inspection again at the first hurdle and this would be a disaster. Even hypothetically utilising these unavailable brownfield sites would demand construction at inner city density in order to meet Hart’s objectively assessed housing need. We cannot believe that CPRE are promoting building at such a density in Hart. That would not be sustainable.

We agree that sites need to be developable and eventually deliverable and nobody wants to see the Local Plan fail. Back in September, Hart Council said that they thought the brownfield capacity was 1,800 units.  Miraculously, this has fallen by 75% to only 450 units in the consultation. However, as described above, most of the sites we have put forward are in the SHLAA and in no worse state of deliverability than those put forward for consultation. The other sites are in the Stonegate report and we understand Stonegate are working hard to secure these sites.  The average density for the SHLAA sites is less than Hart’s planning rule of thumb at 26dph, and the Stonegate sites are at no higher density than developments that Hart has granted permission for such as the McCarthy & Stone’s recent development on Fleet Road which many people think is an attractive building.

Hart are actually consulting on which of Hart’s green fields should be selected for housing in the event that there is insufficient brownfield land to meet the housing need. Given the vast expansion of the existing towns and villages in Hart already, with Hook alone having a 25% expansion approved for this Local Plan period, the only suitable and truly sustainable option is a new settlement to allow for a planned increase in infrastructure. Just expanding existing towns and villages either piecemeal or with “urban extensions” is still building on green fields, but in a way that will not provide the opportunity to build extra schools, roads and health facilities that the thousands of new Hart residents will require. That would not be sustainable.

The proposed new town will in fact deliver over 1,800 houses in Hook Parish, which is more than the proposed urban extension and more than the undeveloped brownfield sites.  To be clear, we do not support urban extensions either because we believe all of the remaining need can be met on brownfield sites. The infrastructure costs for a new town do not stack up and a new town will do nothing to close the large £12.2m existing infrastructure funding gap in Hook, and £20.7m gap in Fleet and Church Crookham. No evidence has been presented that we need a new secondary school and the funding for a new town will not address existing road bottlenecks, nor will there be sufficient funding to address the roads requirements of a new town. We repeat, we do not believe concreting over 25 football pitches each year is at all sustainable.

Elimination of all potential commercial property space in Hart is in fact extremely short-sighted. Even the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership which is urging more housing would not want to see commercial space becoming rare and expensive. There is already an acknowledged shortage within Hart of small business units and light industrial space. Larger available office space provides options for small local businesses to grow without leaving the area. A thriving local economy needs a balance of housing and business to provide employment opportunities locally and avoid all of these new residents having to take to the roads and railways to commute out of the area for work on already busy transport links. That would not be sustainable.

Nobody is saying that all of the vacant commercial space be handed over to housing.  But even the Employment Land Review, based as it is on the inflated Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) and the inflated jobs forecasts, suggests that there will be around 600,000 sq m of vacant employment space across the Housing Market Area at the end of the plan period and Rushmoor was planning to “protect” 96 Ha of vacant brownfield sites that simply are not needed. If there was such a shortage of offices or of light industrial space, places like the Murrell Green Estate would not have the big vacancies they currently have. Of course it would be more sustainable to free up some of these spaces and redevelop them for residential use rather than leave them to rot and decay.

There is very little brownfield land in Hart but there is an amusing “brownfield site slideshow”, made available by campaigners whose aim is to push development away from their village, to supposedly “demonstrate” how much brownfield land is available for housing. If you happen to see it, do bear in mind that:

  • Several of the sites are already being developed for housing (and therefore counted in existing housing build numbers!) such as Landata House and Greenwell in Hook, Sun Park and others.
  • Several of the sites are being converted to other commercial uses, e.g. Warehousing at Pyestock and retail development on Fleet Road where M&S are looking to move to an expanded new store.
  • Several of the sites are in fact just one vacant floor(or even a partial floor) in an otherwise occupied office building!

Now perhaps the future really is an office building with some adjacent floorspace being residential, but can anyone imagine this being attractive to either residential or commercial tenants?!

The fact that some of the sites have already been taken up for redevelopment simply proves our case and shows it can be done.  Our brownfield solution has taken account of the sites that are already underway. Work at Hartland Park (aka Pyestock) stopped years ago, and there is no sign of it re-starting.  The owners will not wish to keep an expensive site forever generating no returns. Of course if M&S moves into another Fleet Road site, then they will leave behind a different vacant block to go with the many other vacant units in the Hart Centre.

There are plenty of examples of mixed residential and commercial use, both in this country and on the continent.  Nobody is suggesting this should happen without comprehensive redevelopment.

This current consultation is clearly not about a choice between brownfield and greenfield development, it is about the best way to provide Hart’s required housing with essential supporting infrastructure and only a new settlement can achieve that. For more, please refer to our previous article hookdevaction.org.uk/hart-housing-consultation-restarted-your-action-needed.

The Hartley Winchook new town is not required, it not viable because of the flood risks and the massive, unfunded infrastructure costs, and will not be sustainable in any sense of the word. There is a brownfield alternative, and we should seize that opportunity.

 

 

Here are the slideshows of vacant brownfield sites we have found in Hart and Rushmoor:

 

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

 

If you would like to ask Hart to abandon the new town and urban extension ideas and create a brownfield solution to our housing needs, 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, updated our two guides to responding to the consultation and they 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

House of Lords says Government housing policy is short-sighted

House of Lords says Government Housing Policy is short-sighted

House of Lords says Government Housing Policy is short-sighted

A House of Lords Select Committee has described Government housing policy as ‘short-sighted’.  Baroness O’Cathain said:

It is increasingly clear that we need to build more houses in England and we wholeheartedly support that objective. However if we build those houses in the wrong place, to a poor standard, without the consent of local communities we are only storing up future misery for the people in those houses and others nearby.

That is why we are recommending local authorities are once again empowered both to build new homes of their own, and to ensure all developments are of a suitably high quality. Spending a little bit extra on good quality design at the outset can avert massive costs to people, society and Government in the long-run.

The Government should review the National Planning Policy Framework to make sure developers aren’t using financial viability to play fast and loose with design quality and sustainability. If developers submit substandard plans local authorities should be able to ask them to think again without builders falling back on questionable viability assessments to get their way

The full report can be found here.

Developers come in for some damning criticism, with the report saying that they build at a rate to suit themselves and optimise their return on investment (para 268). They also point out that houses are being built at a much slower rate than planning permission is being granted and call for sanctions to be placed on developers who don’t build at the rate required:

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.

The report also calls for a review of compulsory purchase powers (Para 283), suggests that there might be a different taxation regime for landowners selling land (para 280).

The report also calls for the reintroduction of a formal, national brownfield first policy (para 295).

This report is very much in line with the views of Alan Wenban-Smith who provided the independent critique of the SHMA.

In other news, our submission to the House of Commons Economic Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the Economics of the Housing Market has been published.

Hart Council: Keep Calm and Hide the Facts

Hart District Council (HDC) Keep Calm and Hide the Facts 2

Hart Council Keep Calm and Hide the Facts

Readers will recall that at the Hart Council Meeting last week, senior councillors refused to answer some questions and gave vague and unsatisfactory answers to those questions.  The council has now published the full exchange on their website.  We give our view on what they really meant below.  We ask readers to bear in mind Hart’s Code of Corporate Governance which has as its four key principles:

  • Openness: openness is required to ensure stakeholders can have confidence in the decision making and management processes of the Council.
  • Inclusiveness: an inclusive approach ensures that all stakeholders and have the opportunity to engage effectively in the decision-making processes and actions of the Council.
  • Integrity: is based upon honesty, selflessness and objectivity, and high standards of propriety and probity in the stewardship of public funds and management of the Council’s affairs.
  • Accountability: accountability is the process whereby the Council, members and staff are responsible for their decisions and actions regarding all aspects of the Council’s work

Here is the full set of questions and answers, abridged and with our interpretation below in blue:

Question 1: Given that a) in October 2013, you were quoted as saying we would submit a new version of the Local Plan to the Inspector in Autumn 2014 and b) in each subsequent year this has slipped by a further year, with the current LDS indicating a local plan ready for submission in Winter 2016, will you now publish the detailed project plan to support this target, so we can be assured that project management processes have improved?

Answer: It was our intention to proceed with a revised Core Strategy after the withdrawal of the 2013 version. However, as many will well know, the Government changed the nature of Local Plans and we also had to address the issue of a new SHMA to overcome the defects blah….blah….blah…

Blah…blah..blah…The Local Development Scheme is the council’s three-year project plan that identifies which local development documents will be produced, in what order, and when. We do not propose to publish more background information on internal workings because that offers no practical advantage to anyone. There is already proper scrutiny of the Local Plan progress with all members of the Council having the opportunity to be actively engaged.

We also last summer enlisted the support of Chris Dorn to lend project management support. His work has been invaluable and he gave positive and independent feedback to the Hart District Association of Parish and Town Councils.

Finally, we have now full project management arrangements from our neighbours at East Hampshire District Council, who have recent and relevant experience of bringing a local plan through Examination to adoption.

What they really meant: Here’s some blather and vague implausible excuses why we haven’t been able to publish a Local Plan when 82% of Local Councils have managed to do it. There’s no way that we are going to publish the project plan, because we don’t want to be held accountable for any future slippage.

Question 2: Given that in January 2015, HDC commissioned work to test the proposed new settlement and urban extensions with the objectives to test the “deliverability of a new settlement and/or urban extension (ie [sic] suitability, availability and achievability)”, including a land use budget; provide “indicative costing of the major infrastructure items needed”; and consider viability including the “infrastructure requirements of sites to identify likely infrastructure impacts, subsequent costs and potential funding sources”, can you explain if these objectives have been met, and say when the results will be published?

Answer: The current position on testing is set out in the Refined Housing Options Paper. It specifically highlights and comments on where we have got to with the issue of testing. As paragraph 12 we say:

“The testing we decided to undertake is still ongoing as is the testing of all other options. The testing will go on in some form or other right up until we finalise the submission Local Plan. There is still much work to be done, but we have reached a point where we can now ask you if we are on the right track”.

We then go on to summarise on pages 9 and 10 what outcomes have been received from the testing that we have carried out so far.

The outcome of the testing will therefore, inform both the draft Local Plan and will inform the submitted Local Plan in that it will comprise part of the evidence base. All these documents will be published at the appropriate time and everyone will have the right to comment upon them when the Local Plan is independently examined by an Inspector appropriated by the Secretary of State.

What they really meant: No, we haven’t met the objectives.  If we actually finished the testing, it would likely show that a new town in Winchfield is not viable and we wouldn’t want to be transparent about that would we?

Supplementary Question: All of the sites identified to make up the new town and urban extensions are listed in the SHLAA as “Not currently developable”, we have no costing of roads, bridges, railway improvements, sewage, sports or community facilities and we have no land use budget that includes SANG, so why are you consulting on a new town that is not deliverable, as well as excluding brownfield sites for the same reason?

Answer: This is part of the consultation. Brownfield sites are only deliverable if the landowner puts them forward for development. Brownfield sites may not be deliverable for other reasons, but once they are put forward as a SHLAA site they can be considered. [Note:  Although not recorded in the minutes Cllr Parker did go on to say words to the effect that many of the green field sites put forward were not currently developable because to do develop them would be contrary to current policies and they would look to change their policies as part of the Local Plan]

What they really meant: How dare you ask me for facts? Of course, we will change our policies to get a new town at all costs, just like we changed the questions in the consultation.

Question 3: Given that an FOI request to elicit the evidence to support the assertion made at cabinet (Paper E 5.2) in September 2015, and in Hart news (p2), that brownfield capacity for the district was 1,800 units has failed, are we to conclude that the council and public were misled in September, or will you now produce the evidence and ensure that any new consultation includes a proper stand-alone option for brownfield sites?

Answer: Nobody was misled by this council. The FOI request did not fail.

The Freedom of Information requests were dealt with blah…blah.blah…

Blah..blah..One key point that seems to be missed in the question is that there can be no standalone option for “brownfield sites” because the evidence suggests that there is not enough deliverable ‘brownfield land’ available to meet all our need for new homes because too few suitable sites are being promoted as being available by developers or landowners. Blah…blah…

[Note: Here is the answer given to the FOI request: “With regards to the first request, we do not hold that information.” and also note that none of the other options put forward were able to meet the remaining needs on their own either.]

What they really meant: Of course, it was a mistake to publish the real brownfield capacity, but we’re not going to publish how we arrived at the figure. We are doing our best to erase that from history and push on for a new town. 

Question 4: You will recall that I wrote to you on 20 November 2015, highlighting discrepancies between the consultation materials and SHLAA, the most important point being point 4 (and appendix) showing the very different site capacities in the New Homes Booklet compared to the official evidence base, the SHLAA; can you now give an explanation of those discrepancies and will they be corrected before any new consultation is carried out?

Answer: I understand from the Council’s Planning Policy Manager that you have already received
an explanation about the differences between the SHLAA and the New Homes Sites Booklet regarding site capacities (email from the Planning Policy Manager sent on 23rd December 2015).

That response explained that:

“In preparing the consultation papers we drew on not only the SHLAA but also more recent information where it was available. Such information includes the high level site assessments prepared by Adams Hendry and the shortlisting exercise work (available at http://www.hart.gov.uk/Evidence-base ), pre-application plans, recent planning permissions, and any recent changes to site boundaries. These can all influence the sites that are shown in the documents. The SHLAA itself will be updated next year.”

The plan is to publish an updated SHLAA in the summer of 2016 to reflect the best information available at that time including data on annual completions which becomes available around June each year. [Note:  I did point out that I had written back to them on 12 January making clear that Point 4, amongst others, had not been answered].

What they really meant: We deliberately make it all very confusing, and who cares if the material we send out to the electorate doesn’t match the official evidence we spent loads of your money to produce and published at the same time as the consultation.

Question 5: Given that the SHMA (section 9.33) calls for 60-70% of our 7,534 housing need (or around 4,900) to be met from 1 & 2-bed properties, can you give a breakdown by number of bedrooms, of the 4,500 or so dwellings built or permitted since 2011 and tell us how many more 1 & 2 bed homes need to be built out of the remaining ~3,000 to be permitted to meet the need expressed in the SHMA? [Note: is has subsequently emerged that the preamble to this question did contain a mistake, and the need for 1 & 2-bed properties is ~3,800 units, but that doesn’t take away the need for Hart Council to measure how well it is meeting the need, nor does it stop the question being answered].

Answer by Chairman: This is a technical research question and does not form part of any current Council workstream. This is not the proper forum to be used to elicit the use of Council resources in pursuit of your own personal research. I say this because the information that you seek is already published.

You can obtain the information by accessing all the planning application details of applications submitted and determined which is published on the online Public Access system.

I would also point out that section 9.33 of the SHMA relates to affordable housing and not general housing mix. It may be you have missed out a few words which fundamentally alters the meaning of your question. [Note: I asked by email immediately after the meeting where this information can be found and have received no response].

What they really meant: You just don’t get it do you?  This isn’t about facts or meeting the needs of Hart residents it’s about getting a new town. Of course we’re not going to tell you how well or badly we are meeting the needs of local residents nor information that might suggest that a new town is not the right answer.  Where would we be if we were transparent?

Question 6: Given that the SHMA (Figure 10.15) calls for around 2,500 specialist units for the elderly, split into various categories to be built in Hart under the Local Plan, can you tell us how many of these units have been built or permitted since 2011, how many remain to be permitted and what you consider to be the best types of location for these types of accommodation?

Answer: The part of the question seeking statistics is appropriate to an FOI request and thus specifically outside the scope of a question at council. I have therefore asked that this request is handled under FOI rules. You will thus receive a formal response under that protocol. Blah…blah…

Blah…blah…This approach is exactly in accordance with government policy as set out in Paragraph: 003 Reference ID: 12-003-20140306 of the updated September 2015 National Planning Policy Guidance.

What they really meant: Meeting the needs of the elderly is not our priority and you must be joking if you think we are going to publish any information that shows we’re not meeting their needs.  We want loads more detached houses in the countryside from a new town and urban extensions.

Supplementary: How can the young who need the affordable 1 & 2-bed dwellings and elderly have confidence in the Local Plan process when the leader doesn’t know what we need to build to meet their needs?

Answer: This will be dealt with under the FOI request.

What they really meant: How many more times do we have to explain, we don’t do facts? This isn’t about meeting the needs of local people.  It’s all about getting a new town at all costs.

Question 7: What are the risks that a second consultation “anticipated to be run again from late January”, will be a further waste of Hart residents’ money, when the revised SHMA is due “early in 2016” and a revised employment land review is also being prepared, thus meaning that the evidence base is likely to change significantly during the consultation, leading to a further consultation being required?

Answer: It would be premature to speculate on the outcome of the refresh of the SHMA. Data sets change all the time and all we are looking at is one single snap shot of a combination of changing data sets…blah…blah…

What they really meant: I don’t care about risks and I don’t care about your money, I want a new town. The new SHMA will likely show a big reduction in the housing need so we won’t need to build 3,000 houses for Surrey Heath and Rushmoor and we’ll be able to meet all Hart’s remaining needs from brownfield sites. If that were put to residents they wouldn’t vote for a new town or urban extensions and where would that leave us?

Question 8: Who instigated, who authorised and who will take responsibility for each decision to repeatedly change the materials in the recent consultation part way through?

Answer by Chairman: I am directing that this question is not to be answered. This is because, as Mr Turver knows, it forms the basis of a separate investigation by Overview and Scrutiny and indeed, Mr Turver has been party to representations made pursuant to that investigation. It would therefore be wholly inappropriate to enter into discussions in public without all the facts surrounding the events that resulted in the early curtailment of the Refined Housing Options consultation having first been investigated by Overview and Scrutiny Committee. [Note: Cllr Bailey did make the point that the O&S work is a review, not an investigation and he did not intend that review to act as block on members of the public asking questions].

What they really meant: How dare you ask us to be open, transparent and accountable for our actions? 

Supplementary: We’ve heard tonight that you have failed with the last consultation, haven’t got a grip on the timeline, project management or the quality and content of the outputs, isn’t it time that you and the rest of the Local Plan Steering Group did the decent thing and resigned?

Answer: I do intend to do the decent thing and deliver the local plan.

What they really meant: We can’t have someone in charge who might actually look at the evidence and try and meet the real needs of Hart residents can we?  

 

Hart misses another deadline

This is where the miracle occurs

This is where the miracle occurs

In the immediate aftermath of the consultation debacle, Hart Council said that the consultation was “anticipated to be run again from late January“.  Of course, the last working day of January has now passed and there is no sign of the revised consultation and their website has been updated to say the consultation will run “from early Feb into mid March 2016”.

This now makes it a racing certainty that the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) will be released during the proposed new consultation period.  We believe that the new SHMA will reduce the housing need for the whole Housing Market Area, thus heading off the risk that we will have to build extra 3,000 houses for Rushmoor and Surrey Heath as well as reducing Hart’s own allocation.  This would of course render the whole consultation irrelevant as it would have been run on the wrong evidence base.

As we have written before, it would be better to wait until the new SHMA is released and run the consultation using the revised housing need numbers.  Due to the purdah rules, the results of the revised consultation could even be released at about the same time as if the consultation were started next week.

Hart District Council (HDC) Local Plan Consultation Time Lines

Local Plan Consultation Time Lines

It is time Hart Council too a leaf out of Rushmoor’s book and waited for the new SHMA before carrying on with the consultation.

 

 

Questions to Hart Council 28 January 2016

Hart District Council Offices, We Heart Hart. We Love Hart

Hart District Council Offices in Fleet, Hampshire.

After the Local Plan consultation debacle, we have put a series of questions to Hart Council that will be answered at their meeting on 28 January 2016.  Please do come along if you can.

The full questions can be found on the download below, and cover whether Hart Council has a project plan we can believe in; the progress (or otherwise) made in testing the Winchfield new town proposals; what happened to the 1,800 dwellings that Hart said in September could be built on brownfield sites; discrepancies between the consultation documents and the official SHLAA; how well we are meeting the needs of the young and elderly; the risks of re-running the consultation now, given the housing target (SHMA) is about to change and of course, seeking clarity on who instigated and authorised the fateful changes to the consultation materials part way through.

Questions for Council 28 Jan 16

link

Hart Council still has no idea

Hart District Council (HDC) still has no idea

Hart Council still has no idea.

Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.  And sometimes people who are normally quite sensible and rational as individuals can become delusional and irrational as part of a group, in a phenomenon known as “Groupthink”.

Please bear this in mind as you read about Hart’s plans to embark on a new consultation about the Local Plan.

The Local Elections are to be held on 5 May 2016.  Prior to that, there’s a six week period of ‘purdah’ where the council can make no significant announcements nor take any significant decisions.  This year, purdah starts on 24 March.

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee is examining what went wrong with the abandoned consultation, but won’t report until the end of February at the earliest.

I have been told by someone who spoke to Stephen Parker as Cabinet last night, that the revised Housing Need from the new SHMA is due in late February, with perhaps some highlights being released earlier. Of course, our expectation is that Hart’s (and Rushmoor’s and Surrey Heath’s) housing requirement will be significantly reduced.

However, the Council now plan to start the consultation again, either on 29 January, or a week later and run it for six weeks, taking us to either 11 March or 18 March.  Not only that, they plan to ask those who submitted responses if they want to carry forward their responses to this new consultation, even though the evidence base is going to change mid-way through the consultation. Surely this would be highly irregular.

We think it will take at least two weeks for the results of the consultation to be properly analysed, meaning that they will not be available until after purdah has started, and so will not be able to be released until 6 May at the earliest.

Surely, it would be better for the council to wait until the new housing target is released and they have learned the lessons from the last shambolic consultation before starting the new one.  Interestingly, they could do that, and still be able to publish the results at exactly the same time as if they started the consultation next week, as the graphic below demonstrates.

Hart District Council (HDC) Local Plan Consultation Time Lines

Local Plan Consultation Time Lines

Q. What do you call a blind deer?  A. No idea

Q. What do you call a blind deer with no legs? A. Still no idea.

We suggest that readers who are concerned about this, write to their councillors and see if you can get them to see sense.