Rushmoor responds to criticism by revising evidence base and delaying its Local Plan

Empty Offices at Farnborough, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire.

Empty Offices at Farnborough, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire

While all of our eyes have been on the Hart Consultation about the Local Plan, Rushmoor has also been busy on its own Local Plan.  The most important point is that Rushmoor is revising the SHMA and the Employment Land Review which will:

be beneficial in assisting with a response to a number of comments received through the consultation, which challenged elements of the evidence base, and in particular, raised objection to the fact that the potential shortfall in housing supply in Rushmoor should be accommodated in Hart.

We might add that it was largely We Heart Hart supporters who made these comments – so thank you very much for your contributions.  It does show that reasoned analysis of the evidence base can lead to real change, at least in Rushmoor.

In addition, as well as making reference to the Government’s lower population and household forecasts, Rushmoor say that “all of the three major forecasting houses that produce employment forecasts at local authority level have updated forecasts since those used in the SHMA and the ELR”.  We Heart Hart have strongly challenged the previous jobs forecasts, so we can only hope that these forecasting houses have come up with something more reasonable.

Rushmoor is also revising its land bank database (SHLAA), and this should be available in early 2016.

Interestingly, Rushmoor has also delayed its Local Plan by up to a year in total to cater for these revisions to the evidence base.  Rushmoor’s next consultation, built upon the new evidence base will be in October 2016.

We find it difficult to see how Hart is going to manage to produce a full draft Local Plan by the Summer of this year, when the updated evidence base is not going to be available until the Spring, and it is going to take Rushmoor at least 6 months to process that information and produce the next draft of its Plan.

Rushmoor has also provided a response to Hart’s Housing Options consultation that we will cover in another post.

Hartley Wintney residents turn out to oppose Winchfield new town

Hartley Wintney residents turn out to oppose WInchfield new town

Hartley Wintney residents turn out to oppose Winchfield new town

About 150 concerned Hartley Wintney residents came out to hear about Hart Council’s Local Plan consultation this morning at Victoria Hall.  It was very pleasing to see such a large number of people opposing the plans for a new town at Winchfield.

We Heart Hart is very grateful to Hartley Wintney Parish Council for organising the event, and for letting us speak. We had many messages of support and encouragement, before. during and after the meeting.  We only ask that these messages of support are converted into actual votes in the consultation.

We reiterated our main points that:

Hart is being asked to build too many houses. Hart councillors should be thorough in their analysis of the revised Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), and be robust in challenging the housing numbers and in asking Rushmoor and Surrey Heath to meet their own needs.

Second, there is a brownfield solution to our housing needs, even if we accept the current housing numbers.  We showed how a combination of the brownfield SHLAA sites and the disused offices identified by Stonegate, can be used to meet our remaining housing need in full.

Third, there is a lot of misinformation being spread about the supposed infrastructure benefits of a new town.  We currently have a £78m infrastructure funding deficit which a new town will do nothing to address, and of course, Hart Council have not been able to explain how they will fund the £300m costs of a new town.

Finally, a new town won’t meet the needs of the elderly and won’t deliver starter homes for the young.

Councillor Steve Forster did turn up to speak as well, but was politely asked to sit down again after alienating most of the people in the room.  Some interesting insight and support for We Heart Hart ideas was also given by COunty Councillor David Simpson and district councillor Andrew Renshaw.  Tristram Cary of Winchfield Action Group also spoke, setting out four key reasons to oppose the new town, in line with our thinking.

If you would like to join these Hartley Wintney residents in objecting to the new town idea, we urge you to respond to the Hart District Council consultation about the Local Plan and ask them to think again. We have created a dedicated consultation page and two guides to responding to the consultation that are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided. It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

 

 

Letter to the Telegraph – conurbation from London to the south coast

Winchfield SHLAA Sites in Hart District Hampshire

Winchfield SHLAA Sites in Hart District Hampshire

It seems the Telegraph has picked up on the amount of houses we need to build in Hart, and has published a letter from a Mr Andrew Robinson of Hart District.  The letter and other similar letters from other parts of the country can be found here.

Mr Robinson’s letter reproduced below:

SIR – I see that Hart, in Hampshire, where I happen to live, has come top once again in an annual survey of the best place to live in Britain.

However, its reign will soon end, as the local council is about to plonk 7,500 houses – or more if we are forced to accept a proportion of neighbouring areas’ allocation – in the district over the next 15 years.

The council is simply carrying out the Government’s orders, which go against David Cameron’s pledges on localism and sustainable development.

We in Hart have had over 35 years of urbanisation without infrastructure, mostly imposed via sham public inquiries. Housing and population have grown by around 11 per cent every 10 years, with an additional increase of up to 37 per cent predicted by 2030, by which time Hart’s roads will be almost permanently gridlocked.

This is a small district and these housing impositions should be tailing off by now. Instead we have a Government committed to infinite expansion in a finite land mass. We are going to end up with a Conservative conurbation stretching from London to the south coast.

 

Well said Mr. Robinson.

We have created a dedicated consultation page and two guides to responding to the consultation that are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided.  It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

 

How developers have gained a stranglehold over Local Plans

The new age of crony capitalism

The new age of crony capitalism has gained a hold over our planning system

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

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

By way of example, in Hart, the only consultees outside of the council in the work to produce the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) were housebuilders, their representatives and registered providers. The resulting objectively assessed “need” was nearly 50% above the starting point identified by the DCLG’s 2011-based population projections. A series of adjustments were made to the raw forecasts to take account of inward migration to the area, average household size and a near doubling of the historic job creation rate. Many of these adjustments have been shown to be erroneous by the release of the DCLG 2012-based population forecasts that are much lower than those identified in the needs assessment.

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

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

As a group of local residents, we looked at the housing needs assessment for Hart and came to the conclusion that many of adjustments and the resulting “need” were inappropriate and challenged the Council. But, as we were lay people and not planning “experts” our views fell on deaf ears. So, we decided to seek the opinion of professional planning consultants to provide an independent challenge to the objectively assessed need. Our experience indicates that many planning consultants are reluctant to get involved in challenging these assessments because they get most of their work from developers and do not wish to bite the hand that feeds them. We approached a number of planning consultants and they either did not reply to us, were conflicted or said they normally act for developers and would be unable to help. Eventually, we found Alan Wenban-Smith.

Once a Local Plan gets to the stage of being examined by the Planning Inspector, the situation gets worse. Because housing needs assessments are usually produced for a combination of planning authorities but Local Plans are examined at the planning authority level, the actual housing need numbers are effectively unchallengeable. The examination focuses on the process for arriving at the housing need and the actual content is immune from challenge. Residents and environmental interests are being crowded out of inspections by the expensive hordes of lawyers, agents and consultants hired by builders and landowners who share an interest in a narrow discussion focused on achieving the maximum possible increase in estimated housing needs.

In effect, the whole process of assessing housing need through to inspecting the resulting Local Plans has been hijacked by the development industry and their narrow interests. This is in direct contravention of the NPPF which states that local people should be empowered to shape their surroundings, with succinct local and neighbourhood plans setting out a positive vision for the future of their area.

The consequence of this is that local planning authorities are being bounced into allocating green field sites for development because they are easier to develop than brownfield sites. This will result in an over-supply of land and lead to land-banking by the developers, who will only build at a rate consistent with maximising their profits. If they supplied new housing at a rate that meant house prices fell, they would immediately reduce output because their business model and in particular the price they pay for land is predicated on steadily increasing house prices. So, in effect we are being asked to allocate too much of our most valuable green field land for housing, but will not actually increase the supply of housing to meet the needs of our neighbourhoods and we leave acres of vacant and derelict brownfield sites.

We need to take action now to remove the stranglehold of developers have on this process, put more power back in the hands of local people and take further measures to mandate the development of brownfield sites and protect our countryside. This might involve increasing the powers of local authorities to compulsorily purchase derelict sites and use the profits to invest in our creaking infrastructure.

We must stiffen the resolve of our local representatives to resist the self-interest of developers and work instead for their electorate.  We must also stand up and fight for brownfield only development to protect our countryside from urbanisation. We must vote against a new town.

We have created a dedicated consultation page and two guides to responding to the consultation that are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided.  It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

 

There is a brownfield solution to Hart’s housing needs

Vacant brownfield Block at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire

Vacant Office at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hampshire

We have done some further analysis on Hart’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) and come to the conclusion that Hart’s housing needs can be met from brownfield sites alone.  We believe this is a potentially viable solution that should form part of the forthcoming Housing Options consultation as part of the Local Plan.  Instead Hart Council have ignored the wishes of 2,130 people who signed the WeHeartHart petition and only put forward solutions that involve concreting over vast swathes of our countryside.

Created using the Donation Thermometer plugin https://wordpress.org/plugins/donation-thermometer/.2,350Hart District Brownfield Development Target3,993Hart District Brownfield Development Target170%

[Updated 2 March 2016 to add in the new brownfield SHLAA sites as described here]

[Updated 31 March 2016 to include Pyestock (aka Hartland Park)]

[Updated 30 August 2016 to re-set target to 2,350 now that Moulsham Lane, Yateley has been given the go ahead]

So, how have we arrived at our conclusion?

Brownfield sites in the SHLAA

We have been through the SHLAA and identified those sites that are mostly or wholly brownfield in nature, and added up total capacity as recorded in the SHLAA.  Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), is now also an official SHLAA site.  In total, these sites amount to between 3,208 and 3,250 homes at an average density of a relatively modest 28 dwellings per hectare (dph). The detail is shown in the table below:

ParishRef.NameBrownfield Capacity in Table 1 in DLPSite Assessment Capacity (Low)Site Assessment Capacity (High)Size (Ha.)Low Density (dpa)
Blackwater and HawleySHL21Linkwater Cottages, Blackwater12120.6418.75
Blackwater and HawleySHL100Sun Park, Guillemont Park North3003203201226.66
BramshillSHL106Bramshill (Police Training Centre)2502501025
Church CrookhamSHL2826/32 Bowenhurst Road8660.4214.28
Crookham VillageSHL158Crondall House, Fleet27271.1323.89
DogmersfieldSHL39Fermoy, Farnham Road5102.232.24
DogmersfieldSHL55Land at Church Lane, Dogmersfield20200.8224.39
Elvetham HeathSHL104Land at Elvetham Heath4545452.2520
EversleySHL127Land at Paul’s Field, Eversley70702.825
EversleySHL140Land off Warbrook Lane53531.7630.11
EwshotSHL36Dachs Lodge, Redfields, Church Crookham29291.224.16
EwshotSHL80Tanglewood, Ewshot770.3122.58
EwshotSHL174Peacocks Nursery Garden Centre1051053.530
EwshotSHL235Land at Willow Croft, Church Crookham50502.7518.18
FleetSHL41Imac Systems, Fleet6660.05120
FleetSHL42Camden Walk, Fleet9880.2433.33
FleetSHL50Waterfront Business Park, Fleet60601.4641.09
FleetSHL6918 Church Road, Fleet10100.07142.85
FleetSHL102Land at Bramshot Lane45451.825
FleetSHL113Thurlston House1712120.6817.64
FleetSHL245Land at 154-158 Albert Street & Fleet Road14880.1844.44
FleetSHL275Land at Little Mead, Fleet12171.0611.32
FleetSHL320Fleet Town Centre Zone 2201501501.883.33
FleetSHL322Fleet Town Centre Police Station1737370.6160.65
FleetSHL357Land at Sankey Lane, Fleet20200.6431.25
FleetTBAPyestock (aka Hartland Park)1,5001,50048.238.1
Hartley WintneySHL95Nero Brewery, Hartley Wintney660.1540
Hartley WintneySHL216Land adj. to James Farm Cottages, Hartley
Wintney
660.2920.68
HookSHL111Hook Garden Centre, Reading Road, Nr. Hook57574.4712.75
Long SuttonSHL296Old Dairy, Long Sutton550.225
OdihamSHL29Land at Butts End660.415
OdihamSHL66Rear garden of 4 Western Lane, Odiham16160.6425
OdihamSHL119Land at the rear of Longwood, Odiham990.3129.03
South WarnboroughSHL70Stables at Lees Cottage, South
Warnborough
550.2520
South WarnboroughSHL172Granary Court, South Warnborough16160.6923.18
WinchfieldSHL34Land adjoining Winchfield Court18251.0616.98
WinchfieldSHL84Land at Winchfield Lodge60603.815.78
WinchfieldSHL114Trimmers Cottage, Winchfield Hurst12120.4924.48
Church CrookhamSHL81Vertu, Beacon Hill Road, Church Crookham65701.7636.93
Blackwater and HawleySHL176Hawley House, Hawley8100.326.66
CrondallSHL178Broden Stables & Stable Yard, Crondall14271.410
CrondallSHL179Bowenhurst Lane, Crondall30351.520
Hartley WintneySHL189Land at James Farm, Hartley Wintney880.3125.8
Total3,2083,25011727.9

A number of these sites are “not currently developable” according to Hart.  But most of the green field sites they have put forward are also not currently developable.  We believe that the issues surrounding brownfield sites should capable of being resolved more easily than those for green field sites.

Sites not in the SHLAA

There are a number of sites not in the SHLAA that nevertheless should be considered that amount to around 785 additional homes.  These include the parts of Ancells Farm, Bartley Wood and Fleet High Street that have not already been permitted or counted elsewhere. We have also counted the complex of under-utilised offices that include Admiral House, Flagship House, Hart Offices and Harlington centre in Fleet.  Much of this site was recommended by Fleet Future, but for some reason Hart Council have ignored it.  But we can think of no reason why a council that was truly committed to a brownfield first strategy would not offer up its own under-utilised offices to be part of new, mixed use development and move to one of the other vacant office blocks in the district.  These sites, with an allowance for parts of sites that have already been permitted, are shown in the table below.

ParishSite DescriptionEstimated capacityNote
FleetAdmiral House, Flagship House, Hart Offices and Harlington centre350Paper by Gareth Price identified 775 units on a larger site incorporating much of this area
FleetAncells Farm370From Stonegate report
FleetFleet vacant offices220From Stonegate report
HookBartley Wood200From Stonegate report
Less units already granted permission or already counted-355Part of Ancells Farm and Barley Wood already granted. SHL 320 already counted
Total785

Conclusions

Drawing this together, there’s capacity for between 3,993 and 4,035 units on brownfield sites, without increasing the density on any of the SHLAA sites.

Now, according to Hart, we have to find space for a further 2,350 homes (now that 150 houses have been approved at Moulsham Lane, Yateley), according to the current Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA).  This shows that we have now more than met our remaining needs from brownfield sites alone. We certainly do not need a new town at Winchfield or any new urban extensions in Hook, Fleet or Elvetham Heath.

However, we also know that Alan Wenban-Smith has challenged the SHMA and said that we need around 2,000 fewer houses.  If this were accepted by the inspector, we would have an even bigger surplus of brownfield capacity to take into the next planning period.

We also know that the SHMA is being revised, and the Government has published revised population and household forecasts earlier this year and these showed much lower figures for Hart.  Again, this should result in a lower housing allocation, and we would end up with a surplus of brownfield sites until the next planning period.

This begs the question why Hart Council is not including a formal brownfield option in its forthcoming consultation, when that was the clear view of the 2,130 people who signed the WeHeartHart petition.  Persisting with new town and urban extension solutions is untenable.  Please do get involved with this consultation and respond to it using our guide on our dedicated page about this consultation here.

Lock, stock and two smoking barrels

lock stock and two smoking barrels

Lock, stock and two smoking barrels

I present without further comment the contents of a letter I sent to Hart District Council yesterday (Friday 20 November 2015). Please do get involved with this consultation and respond to it using our guide on our dedicated page about this consultation here.

Errors, omissions and anomalies in the (Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment) SHLAA and consultation materials

Dear Messrs Daryl Phillips and Stephen Parker,

It is clear that Hart Council has been very busy, publishing a vast array of new material about the SHLAA and the materials to be used in the forthcoming consultation about Housing Options.  I have burned a considerable amount of midnight oil going through those materials in some detail, and I have identified material errors, omissions and anomalies that give me serious cause for concern that I would like to share with you.  The Excel workbook containing the amalgamation of the SHLAA Master List, the NHB data and the SHLAA detail is attached for reference. These fall into several broad categories:

  • Assessment of brownfield site capacity and delivery
  • Deliverable and developable sites not included in the Developing a Local Plan for Hart paper (DLP) nor the New Homes Sites Booklet (NHB)
  • Sites missing from NHB but in the SHLAA
  • Discrepancies between capacity shown in NHB compared to SHLAA detail
  • Sites shown in detailed assessment but not in master list
  • Sites assessed as “not currently developable”, but have been granted planning permission
  • Range of meanings of “not currently developable”
  • Lack of consideration of the economic aspects of housing options 
  1. Assessment of brownfield site capacity and delivery.

There are a number of components to this:

In Hart News in September, and again at cabinet on 1 October, it was said that brownfield capacity had increased to 1,800 units. Now, this has miraculously fallen by 75% to 450 units on some dubious grounds. First, para 41 of the DLP states correctly that years 6-10 need only “developable” sites to be included, beyond that you can be more vague about sites.  We are already 4 years into the plan period and, according to the land supply calculation based on the current inflated SHMA, we have 5.7 years of land supply.  Yet, you are only selecting sites to be included in your calculations that meet the most onerous criterion of being “deliverable”.  As you know I have two FOI requests outstanding with you, the first is inquiring about the disposition of the 750 brownfield units that we were told were achievable back on November 2014, and the second asking for the analysis to support the 1,800 figure.  It seems to me you have inappropriately applied criteria that are too onerous in order to artificially reduce the potential brownfield capacity.  An example of this would be excluding Bramshill, when everyone knows it will be preferable for this site to undergo some sort of redevelopment to stop the Grade 1 listed building decaying and of course the hideous 1970’s accommodation blocks need replacing too.

You have under-stated the brownfield capacity in the DLP, compared to the assessed capacity in the SHLAA documents. This is shown in the table below:

Parish/Ref Sum of Site Assessment Capacity (Low) Sum of Site Assessment Capacity (High) Sum of Brownfield Capacity in Table 1 in DLP doc
Blackwater and Hawley 320 320 300
SHL100 320 320 300
Church Crookham 6 6 8
SHL28 6 6 8
Elvetham Heath 45 45 45
SHL104 45 45 45
Fleet 221 221 83
SHL113 12 12 17
SHL245 8 8 14
SHL320 150 150 20
SHL322 37 37 17
SHL41 6 6 6
SHL42 8 8 9
Grand Total 592 592 436

 

This shows that the capacity shown in the DLP (excluding the 20 units from the sites with planning permission) is some 156 units lower than your own assessments in the SHLAA documents with most of the discrepancy arising from sites SHL320 & 322.  Correcting this would reduce the net requirement by 156 units.

In Figure 2 of the DLP, you assert that 52% of the development completed or where permission has been granted since 2011 is on brownfield sites. Yet at September Council, a question was asked along similar lines and the response was “these figures exclude brownfield sites that require planning permission, because those are not currently split between greenfield and brownfield developments”.  This leads one to conclude either that you have simply made up the figures in the DLP, or you knowingly misled the Council and the public in September.  Which is it?

  1. Deliverable and developable sites not included

[updated with this note]

There’s a large number of deliverable and developable sites that are in the SHLAA but not apparently referred to in the DLP or the NHB.  A list if these is shown in the table below (some of which are in the NHB):

Parish/Ref Sum of NHB Capacity Sum of Site Assessment Capacity (Low) Sum of Site Assessment Capacity (High)
Blackwater and Hawley 320 320
SHL100 320 320
Church Crookham 6 6
SHL28 6 6
Elvetham Heath 45 45
SHL104 45 45
Fleet 25 243 248
SHL113 12 12
SHL245 8 8
SHL275 25 12 17
SHL320 150 150
SHL322 37 37
SHL41 6 6
SHL42 8 8
SHL69 10 10
Hartley Wintney 6 6
SHL95 6 6
Hook 550 550
SHL1&2 550 550
South Warnborough 16 16 16
SHL172 16 16 16
Grand Total 41 1,186 1,191

The land supply document shows a total of 3,878 units built, permitted or deliverable up until 1 April 2015, some 722 below the 4,600 figure you assert in the DLP.  I accept that 340 units from SHL1 & 2 and 10 from SHL69 are included in the land supply.  But the land supply does not include 300 units from Watery Lane.  Netting all of this off, then there are around 5,000 units already accounted for by being completed, permitted or deliverable, which would reduce the current net requirement by ~400 units compared to what you assert in the DLP.

  1. Sites missing from NHB but in the SHLAA

There are 76 units on sites in the SHLAA that are not already on the brownfield list and not strategic sites that do not appear in the NHB.  These are shown in the table below:

Parish/Ref Sum of NHB Capacity Sum of Site Assessment Capacity (Low) Sum of Site Assessment Capacity (High)
Fleet 10 10
SHL69 10 10
Hartley Wintney 6 6
SHL95 6 6
Heckfield 5 5
SHL157 5 5
Mattingley 48 48
SHL160 48 48
Yateley 7 7
SHL18 7 7
Grand Total 76 76

 

This raises the question as to why these sites have not been included in the NHB process either as selected or rejected sites.

 

  1. Discrepancies between capacity in NHB and SHLAA

There are material discrepancies between the site capacities shown in the NHB and those in the SHLAA.  Sometimes the NHB can be above the SHLAA figures and sometimes below.  But overall, adding up all of the sites where the NHB capacity is outside the range of SHLAA lower and upper limits, the NHB shows a lower capacity of some 1,500 units.  This demonstrates that the potential capacity of dispersal sites is being materially under-stated.  These sites are shown in the table in Appendix 1.

 

  1. Sites present in the detail of the SHLAA but not on the master list, and hence not in the NHB, nor mentioned in the DLP.

There are three sites, SHL167, 168 and 169 appear in the detailed assessments of sites, but not on the master list.

  1. Sites shown as “not currently developable” but have in fact been granted planning permission

Sites SHL68 and SHL117 are listed in the detail SHLAA documents as “not currently developable”, but according to the master list of sites have been granted planning permission.

  1. Range of meanings of “not currently developable”

It is clear from the above that the term “not currently developable” is a somewhat elastic phrase that can include sites that are just an administrative stroke of the pen away from deliverability as well as sites that face very significant challenges.  Many sites in the NHB and of course many of the strategic sites face very significant challenges that it is difficult to see how they can be remedied, such as proximity to flood zones, SSSI’s, SINCs, TPOs and the SPA and lack of proximity to existing settlements whereas others are much closer to deliverability.

However, the main materials being circulated for the consultation do not make this distinction clear.

  1. Lack of discussion about economics

The discussion about infrastructure costs in the DLP, with the only mention of costs being the woefully [inadequate] £30m for a new motorway junction – I would think there is little chance of change out of £100m.  But even so this misses out other important infrastructure items like the local road system, new or upgraded railway station, widening of the railway bridges over the local roads, new sewage farm, burying overhead power lines, new schools and new healthcare facilities to name but a few.  Hart currently has a £78m infrastructure funding deficit, Hampshire as a whole £1.9bn and the local NHS is predicted to have a large annual funding deficit.

These issues associated with a new town should be spelled out in detail, and I would think many of the same issues will arise with urban extensions.

It is certainly true that these issues will need to be resolved before the Local Plan can be found sound at examination.

So, what are we to conclude from the above?  First, the discrepancies outlined above, once corrected will make a very material difference to the calculation of how many more houses we need to build on green field sites (if any) and the capacity of each parish to deliver them.  I do not wish to subscribe to conspiracy theories.  However, the sum-total of the above, coupled with the obvious single-minded desire on the part of some members to push through a new town at all costs, leads me to conclude that either the people who created these consultation documents were incompetent or they are by their omission or intent about to mislead the public.   It is also clear that whatever systems and processes you are using to plan, manage, monitor and control the SHLAA are completely inadequate with such large discrepancies between different views of the same data.

It is clear to me that the forthcoming consultation should be postponed until these discrepancies are ironed out.

I would like you to treat this letter as a formal complaint and respond according to LGO guidelines.  I might also add that I will copy this letter to the chairman of the Standards Committee to ask him to set up an investigation and to our Local MP.  You might expect this letter and your response to be presented as evidence in any examination of the Local Plan.

Yours sincerely,

 

cc:           Peter Kern, Chairman of Hart DC Standards Committee

Ranil Jayawardena, MP

 

Appendix 1:

Parish/Ref Sum of NHB Capacity Sum of Site Assessment Capacity (Low) Sum of Site Assessment Capacity (High)
Blackwater and Hawley 15 12 12
SHL21 15 12 12
Bramshill 300 250 250
SHL106 300 250 250
Crondall 112 130 130
SHL159 65 100 100
SHL72 16 18 18
SHL76 31 12 12
Crookham Village 70 100 100
SHL53 70 100 100
Dogmersfield 40 5 10
SHL39 40 5 10
Eversley 91 123 123
SHL127 50 70 70
SHL140 41 53 53
Ewshot 120 187 187
SHL174 63 105 105
SHL355 48 75 75
SHL80 9 7 7
Fleet 706 881 886
SHL102 43 45 45
SHL275 25 12 17
SHL333 500 750 750
SHL50 46 60 60
SHL51 92 14 14
Hartley Wintney 208 287 301
SHL155 117 194 194
SHL216 8 6 6
SHL35 34 3 17
SHL45 25 51 51
SHL91 10 11 11
SHL97 12 10 10
SHL99 2 12 12
Heckfield 169 45 65
SHL109 44 5 5
SHL257 62 20 30
SHL259 63 20 30
Hook 2,090 3,849 3,849
SHL123 13 20 20
SHL3 543 1,000 1,000
SHL4 458 1,800 1,800
SHL5 1,065 1,000 1,000
SHL6 11 29 29
Long Sutton 63 65 65
SHL296 6 5 5
SHL335 34 35 35
SHL336 23 25 25
Mattingley 130 40 60
SHL239 55 20 30
SHL240 75 20 30
Odiham 3,308 2,894 2,904
SHL108 387 160 160
SHL110 2,160 1,900 1,900
SHL138 204 261 261
SHL228 48 75 75
SHL29 10 6 6
SHL328 25 30 30
SHL329 44 30 30
SHL57 47 75 75
SHL59 115 175 175
SHL60 11 12 12
SHL65 36 50 50
SHL67 53 80 80
SHL78 168 40 50
Rotherwick 130 200 200
SHL86 130 200 200
South Warnborough 36 20 25
SHL70 7 5 5
SHL75 29 15 20
Winchfield 119 32 42
SHL114 11 12 12
SHL262 108 20 30
Yateley 9 60 60
SHL13 0 8 8
SHL149 0 10 10
SHL17 0 30 30
SHL303 9 12 12
Grand Total 7,716 9,180 9,269

See more at our consultation page:

link

Independent Expert says we are being asked to build too many houses

Time to celebrate we don't need so many houses

Time to celebrate: Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath don’t need so many houses

An independent expert, Alan Wenban-Smith has taken a look at our housing needs assessment and concluded that Hart District is being asked to build too many houses.  He says that the overall house-building rate for the combined area of Hart, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor should more than halve from 1,180 dwellings per annum (dpa) to 558 dpa, and that for Hart should fall from 370 to 268dpa.  This would reduce the overall housing need for the housing market area from 23,600 to 11,160 and that for Hart from 7,500 to around 5,500.  This calls into question the validity of carrying out a new “Housing Options” consultation now when there is serious doubt about the accuracy of the housing numbers we need to deliver. Please do get involved with this consultation and respond to it using our guide on our dedicated page about this consultation here.

This is very good news in that if this analysis is upheld at inspection it should lead to the following conclusions:

  • We can meet all of our remaining housing need from brownfield sites alone.
  • We definitely would not need a new town in Winchfield or anywhere in Hart, nor would we need any urban extensions.
  • The risk of needing to build 3,000 houses to cater for the unmet needs of Surrey Heath and Rushmoor should fall away.
  • There may be an opportunity to ask Surrey Heath and Rushmoor to build more houses for Hart, so we could keep our beautiful countryside.

Mr Wenban-Smith’s full report was commissioned by We Heart Hart and Winchfield Action Group can be downloaded here:

Critique of Hart SHMA

Critique of the Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath SHMA by Alan Wenban-Smith

The summary of his argument, together with the implications is discussed below:

The starting point for assessing housing need in Hart used the 2011-based population projections from the Government and then made a series of changes to extend those projections out to 2031; adjust for higher inward migration estimates and for smaller average household size.  These 2011-based projections have been superseded by more recent 2012-based figures that already make projections to 2031 and already include the adjustments made above.  The effect of this is to reduce the start-point considerably.

Hart has already commissioned a review of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) to take account of these latest Government figures and so should include this reduction.  We should know the results of this work early in 2016.  However, this does call into question the validity of conducting a new consultation now when the numbers are subject to such a large degree of change.

Then Mr Wenban-Smith challenges the jobs forecasts in the SHMA, concluding that the level of jobs growth we achieved in the period 1998-2008 would be a “good result” and the increases in jobs and houses needed to support economic growth should be reduced.

Finally, he then goes on to say that the level of house need shown in the SHMA cannot be delivered by the market.  If the amount of land required to meet the need is allocated by the council, then this will lead to housebuilders cherry picking the best sites and building at a rate that gives them most profit,  not at the rate required to meet the needs. So, he concludes that the level of housing proposed is unsustainable, and therefore contrary to the NPPF and should be reduced.  This is in-line with current guidance about SHMAs from the Planning Advisory service that says:

Based on these reasons, we conclude that the OAN should be principally understood as a measure of future demand rather than aspiration. Accordingly we propose a working definition as follows:

‘The housing that households are willing and able to buy or rent, either from their own resources or with assistance from the State’.

Hart Council missing out key information about housing options

Hart District Council Offices

Hart District Council issuing misleading information about housing options

Hart Council has just published its new Housing Options paper in relation to the Local Plan, in preparation for running a consultation from November 23 2015 to January 15 2016. We believe the information contained in that paper is misleading for a number of reasons and have some suggestions on how you might respond to the consultation.  In summary the issues are:

  1. The SHMA is currently being revised and likely to reduce the housing need, so why are we being consulted on a housing requirement that is no longer valid?
  2. The SHMA has been challenged by an independent expert who says we don’t need so many houses.
  3. Hart’s estimate of brownfield capacity is way too low, and far lower than they said as recently as October 1 2015.
  4. Government rules have been changed to encourage more brownfield development and this paper makes no mention of this.
  5. The infrastructure costs of a new town are enormous, but the paper doesn’t clearly set out the economic consequences of the choices we make on housing options.

Housing allocation out of date

The housing need assessment is based on the current version of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), and they do not mention in the paper that the SHMA is currently being revised to take account of new Government population and household projections.  These new projections show a big reduction in forecast population from 322K used in the SHMA to 289K for the whole housing market area and a reduction of 1,602 in Hart household projections.  It seems reasonable to assume that Hart’s housing allocation will therefore fall, but this is not mentioned at all in the consultation paper.

SHMA is invalid

The Housing Options paper does not take account of the opinion of independent expert, Alan Wenban-Smith that the SHMA says we are being asked to build too many houses.  This means that the paper is asking us to consider how we might build houses that aren’t needed and is therefore invalid.

Estimate of brownfield capacity is too low

Back in November 2014, Hart Council said we had capacity for 750 dwellings on brownfield sites. Very few or none of those sites have been granted permission since then. At cabinet on October 1 2015, the joint-CEO of Hart Council said that he thought the brownfield capacity had increased to around 1,800 units. We said at the time we thought this was a low estimate and it could be in the range of 2,400-3,688. However, the new paper says that brownfield capacity is now only 400 units.  The paper pours cold water on the notion that the former police college at Bramshill can be re-developed, but who in their right mind would want to see a Grade 1 listed building start to decay, and who would want to preserve the hideous 1970’s accommodation blocks?  This is clearly a site ripe for redevelopment, and the environmental impacts should be low compared to the prior use of the site.  So, the question remains, what has happened to the other 1,400+ units and why aren’t Hart taking account of them?

Government has made brownfield development more attractive

The Government has also just relaxed the rules about building on brownfield sites to make it more attractive.  This makes it more likely that the brownfield capacity identified in the Stonegate report can be delivered.  The Hart paper fails to mention this. The paper also fails to mention that Hart has kicked off a process to identify even more brownfield sites across the district, but the results of that study won’t be known for some time.  It does seem odd to be so definitive about the so-called lack of brownfield capacity when there are so many positive developments underway.

Astronomical Infrastructure Costs

Hart have published some analysis to show the infrastructure requirements of a new settlement.  They haven’t been definitive about how much this would cost, but it would include a new motorway junction, significant changes to existing roads and bridges, a new sewage works, 4 new schools and a new railway station.  Our estimate of the cost of this infrastructure is £300m+.  A realistic expectation of the developer contribution for 4,000-5,000 houses would be £40-50m.  Hart already have an infrastructure funding deficit of £78m.  It is clear that we cannot afford the infrastructure costs of a new town, and that existing settlements would be starved of investment if it went ahead. The new housing options paper makes very little reference to the economics of development for any of the approaches it identifies.  Surely, we should know about the economic consequences of the housing options choices we make?

It is becoming increasingly clear that the housing options paper and the associated consultation is a pig-in-a-poke, but nevertheless as it is there we must respond to it.  It looks increasingly like a faction of the council is hellbent on concreting over large swathes of our countryside, despite all the evidence that we don’t need to.

We urge you to Vote against Approach 3 (a new settlement at Winchfield).  But when asked for any other comments, use this article to ask them to think again about brownfield. Please do get involved with this consultation and respond to it using our guide on our dedicated page about this consultation here.

Housing targets systematically over-stating housing need

Is this what we want Hart to turn into?

Is this what we want our countryside to turn into?

A review of a sample of Strategic Housing Market Assessments (SHMAs) across the south of England has indicated that on average, local planning authorities are being asked to plan for 41.9% more houses than the needs identified by DCLG population projections. The consequence of this is it is likely that far more green field land is being allocated for housing than is necessary to meet our housing need.

Regular readers will know that for some time we have been concerned about the overall level of housing Hart District is being asked to deliver.  To this end,  we have been analysing our Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), and together with Winchfield Action Group (WAG), we have commissioned an independent look at Hart’s SHMA.

However, we have also been inspired by the work of Alan Wenban-Smith criticising the Vale of the White Horse SHMA. This has led us to take a look at a number of SHMAs around the area, comparing the starting point of the official Government population and household forecasts to the end point of the recommended housing need after taking into account a number of additional elements like additional inward migration to the area, affordable housing, changes in average household size and jobs forecasts.

The findings are quite alarming and lead to a number of conclusions, some of which should be relevant for national planning policy.

We have looked at 6 SHMAs covering large areas of Hampshire, Berkshire, Surrey and Oxfordshire.  Overall the total “starting point need” for these areas is 272,200 houses, and the end point “need” is 386,286 houses, or an uplift of 41.9%.  This is shown in the table below:

 

SHMA AreaLoca Authorites coveredAuthorStarting year yearEnd point yearStarting point "need"Ending point "Need"% Uplift over starting pointNotes
HRSHHart, Rushmoor Surrey HeathWessex Economics20112031158002360049.4Starting point is 2011 DCLG and SNPP projections
South HampshirePortsmouth, Fareham, Gosport, Chichester, Bognor Regis, Southampton (West Centre), Southampton (East), Winchester, Eastleigh, Lymington, Totton, HavantGL Hearn201120368710513161151.1Starting point is 2011 DCLG and SNPP projections
East HampshireEast HampshireNathaniel Lichfield & Partners201120288105960518.5Start point 2010 SNPP
WaverleyWaverleyGL Hearn201120317670940022.6Start point 2011 SNPP and CLG projections
BerkshireBracknell Forest, Reading, West Berks, Wokingham, Slough, South Bucks, RBWMGL Hearn201320369577211201017.02012-based SNPP
OxfordshireCherwell, Oxford, South Oxon, Vale of White Horse, West OxonGL Hearn201120315774810006073.32011-based projections
Total27220038628641.9

 

The DCLG population and household forecasts “are statistically robust and are based on nationally consistent assumptions“, so the net effect of adjustments across all SHMAs should be close to zero.  If this sample is indicative of what is going on across the country, then councils will be planning for far more houses than we need and as a consequence will be allocating for development far more green field land than is necessary to meet our housing requirements, with disastrous consequences for our countryside. Current housing delivery is around 150K per annum, and the DCLG figures suggest an underlying need of 220K per annum. If my analysis of this sample is indicative of what is going on across the whole country, councils will end up planning for about 312K houses which would be a big waste of national resources.

We would like to see this analysis repeated on a national basis.  However, an FOI request to the DCLG has not been successful because they don’t collate this data at a national level.  For a Government that wants to focus on brownfield development, this looks to us to be a reckless omission.

The SHMAs on which this analysis is based are:

Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath, here.

South Hampshire, including Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport, Southampton, Eastleigh and Havant, here.

East Hampshire, here.

Waverley, here.

Berkshire, here.

Oxfordshire, here.

 

 

Hart Council Leader stonewalls questions about revisions to the SHMA

Hart District Council Offices

Hart District Council Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

Regular readers may remember that we put a number of questions to the Hart Council meeting on 29 October about changes in household, population and jobs forecasts that should be incorporated into the revised SHMA.  All of these questions were met with a wall of silence and peremptory answers.  The Q&A can be found on the council website, with the relevant questions and answers re-produced in full below.

We have not yet received an answer from the Joint Chief Executive to back up his assertion that the brownfield capacity of the district is only 1,800 units.

Question: Given that the baseline estimate of the number of households in Hart in 2011 and 2031 used in the SHMA was 35,760 and 42,220 respectively, but the new DCLG 2012-based household projections (Table 406) for 2031 show that Hart will have only 40,618 households, a reduction of 1,602, can you confirm that these revised figures will lead to a corresponding reduction in Hart’s assessed housing need?

Response: A revision of the SHMA is currently under way and this document is part of the evidence base which will inform the assessment. I do not intend to anticipate the result of the assessment of this and other evidence.

Question: When will the 6,560 excess housing requirement for the whole HMA be removed from the assessed need in the SHMA given that the new DCLG 2012-based population projections (Table 426) show a population projection of only 289K for the HMA for 2031, compared to the SHMA (Appendix F, Figure 2) starting assumption of 307K and the final population estimate of 322K used to determine housing need?

Response: A revision of the SHMA is currently under way and this document is part of the evidence base which will inform the assessment. I do not intend to anticipate the result of the assessment of this and other evidence.

Question: What justification is there for assuming the significant social changes implied in the SHMA given that the SHMA increases the number of houses that need to be built based in part on very ambitious jobs forecasts which when combined with the population projections in the SHMA results in a massive increase in the proportion of people of working age who will be in employment (see table below)?

Data Point2011 (Census)2011 (BRES)2031 (PROJ 2)2031 (PROJ 5)
SHMA Population (a) 272,394 272,394 307,578 322,278
People in employment (b) 122,300 125,000 162,233 170,223
Overall % in employment (b/a)44.9%45.9%52.7%52.8%
People over 70 (c) 28,559 28,559 51,164 51,164
People 5-19 (d) 67,375 67,375 73,206 73,206
People of working age (a-c-d)=e 176,460 176,460 183,208 197,908
% working age in employment (b/e)69.3%70.8%88.6%86.0%

Response: A revision of the SHMA is currently under way and this document is part of the evidence base which will inform the assessment. I do not intend to anticipate the result of the assessment of this and other evidence.

Question: What steps will be taken to adjust the jobs forecasts in the SHMA given that, a) the revised BRES job numbers for 2013 show that the compound annual growth rate in jobs we have achieved since the recession ended in 2009 is ~0.5% which is much lower than the ~0.8% growth rate assumed in the SHMA for the period 2011-2031, b) this comes at a time when the UK is creating more jobs than the rest of the EU put together and c) it is inevitable we will experience at least one more recession during the plan period?

Response: A revision of the SHMA is currently under way and this document is part of the evidence base which will inform the assessment. I do not intend to anticipate the result of the assessment of this and other evidence.

Question: What steps are being taken to accelerate the delivery of the Local Plan given that the recent Government announcement indicated that Local Plans need to be brought into force by 2017 and the current LDS shows the Local Plan being adopted in Summer 2017 and other DPD’s in Autumn 2018 and the track record of past slippage?

Response: Section 99 of the Housing and Planning Bill which provides for the reserve powers for the SoS at DCLG to recover a local plan does not have any dates. The operative wording is “if the Secretary of State thinks that a local planning authority are failing or omitting to do anything it is necessary for them to do in connection with the preparation, revision or adoption of a development plan document”. The Joint Chief Executive, who is the planning lead on the District Councils Executive network, has ascertained that provided that councils are making reasonable progress towards a local plan, the SoS does not intend to intervene. The powers are intended for a small minority of councils who are making little or no effort to establish a plan. I have independently validated this with my own contacts on the Environment, Economy and Housing Board at the Local Government Association among others. We therefore don’t think the Government will intervene if we meet our new timetable given we will already be at examination in the Spring of 2017.