Hart Council launches important brownfield study

Derelict Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

We are delighted to announce that Hart Council will today launch a study to give a strategic overview of the brownfield capacity in the District that can be used to meet our housing needs.  We Heart Hart has worked with Daryl Phillips to help set the terms of reference for the study, and the project will draw on some of the work carried out by Stonegate Homes, We Heart Hart and supporters like Gareth Price.

This news comes hot on the heels of yesterday’s announcement that M&G have entered into a joint venture with Berkeley Homes to redevelop Pyestock (aka Hartland Park).  Taken together with this new study, it should mean that we have sufficient capacity to meet our housing needs on brownfield sites alone for decades to come.

The purpose of the work is to ensure that the supply of deliverable brownfield land is boosted significantly by seeking a commercial market view as to what can be realistically expected to be delivered  over the Local Plan period.  This information can be used to demonstrate to the Planning Inspector that the resultant capacity is deliverable.

The work will also look to demonstrate through case study examples that higher density levels of development can be delivered in a pleasing environment compatible with surrounding development.  Hopefully, these concept schemes can be used to assuage the fears of some of the urban councillors about higher density development.

Hart has chosen to work on this project with three partners.  Eastleigh Borough Council’s urban regeneration unit will lead the work, supported by Hollis Hockley and Hurst Warne who will give commercial advice.

We warmly welcome this initiative and will work collaboratively with Hart Council and provide any assistance that we can. It shows that Hart is slowly accepting that there is much more brownfield capacity in the district than they previously thought and this project should help to unlock the barriers to delivery.  This should mean we can meet all of our remaining housing need from brownfield sites alone, so won’t need a new town, nor will we need any urban extensions.  Hopefully, all of the campaign groups across the district can get behind this project.

The detailed terms of reference of the study are:

Objectives

The primary objective is to assess the extent to which Hart is able to meet its growth requirements through the use of Previously Developed Land (PDL).

Understanding the suitability and availability of PDL to accommodate growth will in turn help determine the requirement for the release of green field land. The identification of sites for development must also be founded on a robust and credible assessment of the suitability and availability of land for particular uses or a mix of uses and the probability that it will be developed. As a result of exploring this primary objective, the following objectives will also be addressed:

  • To identify the potential obstacles to delivery of PDL and outline strategies for overcoming these obstacles and levers that planning authorities can pull to encourage sites to come forwards
  • To produce high-level illustrative concept schemes for three of the identified sites covering town centre locations and vacant office blocks to demonstrate as examples that high density developments can be attractive places to live and add to the vitality of the district

Scope

  • Assess locations across the district with particular focus on the urban centres of Fleet, Hook, Yateley and Blackwater and the employment zones including Ancells Farm, Bartley Wood and Waterside.
  • Prepare high-level illustrative concept schemes for three sites including Ancells Farm, Fleet Road (between tackle shop and new McCarthy and Stone development) and the civic area including Flagship House, Admiral House, Hart’s Offices, Victoria Road Car Park and the Harlington Centre and Library. [We understand that since these terms of reference were written, the civic area has been changed to look instead at how Church Road car-park and the surrounding area could be redeveloped into mixed use, including an underground car-park].

 Approach

  • Identify shortlist of partners and select appropriate architect/urban planner partner(s) to work with
  • Share existing material with partner(s), (New sites put forward as part of consultation (such as Gareth Price work), background reports from various sources including Stonegate report, existing SHLAA and sustainability assessments)
  • Desk-based study of broad locations to work up areas and capacities
  • Targeted contact with land-owners and commercial agents to identify obstacles to delivery
  • Create high-level illustrative concept schemes for three locations focusing on how high density development can be delivered in a pleasing environment whilst also meeting functional needs

Deliverables

  • Schedule of sites to include site name, location, size, capacity and type of housing and likely delivery timelines from which total PDL capacity can be derived
  • Three sample high-level schemes
  • Report of obstacles and strategies for overcoming the obstacles

Timeline

  • 8-12 weeks after partner selection

 

Winchfield Parish Council demolishes the new town idea in their response to the Local Plan Consultation

Hart in Heart of Hart, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

Winchfield Parish Council (WPC) have submitted their response and covering letter (see downloads below) to Hart Council’s Local Plan consultation and effectively demolished all of the arguments supporting Hart’s new town idea.  The response was pulled together with the help of professional planners at John Boyd Planning Associates.

There are four main planks to WPC’s argument:

  1. Lack of evidence to justify the need for a new settlement
  2. Winchfield is not a suitable location for a new settlement
  3. A new settlement is not a viable approach
  4. There should be more of a focus on alternatives such as brownfield development and dispersal

The lack of evidence is demonstrated by the fact that Hart has not yet consulted upon the issues recommended by Peter Village QC namely, employment, retail, transport, and infrastructure. Moreover, it is premature and illogical to be conducting the consultation now when the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) is being revised and we don’t know what the Objectively Assessed Need is going to be. They also note the work done by Alan Wenban-Smith that seriously challenged the numbers in the existing SHMA.

The challenge to the suitability of Winchfield as a location is demonstrated by the significant barriers to delivery outlined by Hart themselves such as education, transport and foul water drainage. They also point out that the main argument used in favour of a settlement at Winchfield, the presence of a railway station, is undermined by the suggestion that the station would have to be relocated to support the new town. There are also significant doubts about the capacity of the available sites to accommodate a new settlement of sufficient size to be viable, especially when one considers the environmental constraints such as SSSIs and SINCs as well as the space that will have to be found for SANGs, shops, car-parks, schools and recreational facilities. Not only that, but the disparate nature of the sites will make it very difficult to plan a coherent and compact nuclear settlement.

WPC also challenge the viability of a new settlement by pointing out the massive costs of infrastructure with no evidence being presented to indicate how these costs would be met.  The NPPF (para 47 & 173) calls for housing and infrastructure to be planned together, so if it cannot be demonstrated that the right infrastructure can be funded and built, then the whole new town idea could be rejected by an inspector and the Local Plan found unsound.

WPC’s submission welcomes Hart’s belated focus on brownfield development, but criticises them for ignoring an important study by Stonegate Homes, the further opportunities presented by the changes to permitted development rights and the results of Hart’s own findings of new “Zones of Brownfield Opportunity”.  They also point out that Hart’s ‘Economic Development Strategy’ (2015) identifies that the District Council must direct its resources to urban regeneration, and that focusing growth in and adjacent to Hart’s main settlements would
boost investment in infrastructure and regeneration in the locations where it is needed most and help close the £78m funding gap.

Finally, they say that it would be inappropriate to try and meet the housing needs of our ageing population through a new town option.

All in all, this is an eloquent and devastating attack on the whole idea of a new town and is very much in-line with what We Heart Hart has been saying for months.  We can only hope that the councillors will take heed of such an important report from professional planning consultants and get the Local Plan back on track to being found sound at inspection.

 

Cover letter:

Winchfield Parish Council Cover Letter

Full response:

Winchfield Parish Council Local Plan Consultation response

response  covering letter

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

Remaining Hart District housing target can be met from brownfield sites alone

Vacant block at Bartley Wood in Hook, Hampshire

Bartley Wood Estate in Hook

New facts have come to light since Hart Council planning department put together their estimate of brownfield capacity which show that Hart’s remaining housing target can be met from brownfield development alone. Please support us in getting a brownfield only option included in the forthcoming consultation by attending the Hart Cabinet on 1 October where Hart’s response to the We Heart Hart petition will be agreed.

Last November, the council’s estimate of brownfield capacity over the entire plan period was around 750 units (taken from parts 1 and 3 of the SHLAA as per the FOI request we made) out of the then remaining 4,000 units to build (or grant permission for) up to 2032.

Since then, a number of interesting things have happened:

  • An important study by Stonegate Homes has shown that brownfield capacity is much larger
  • Planning permission has been applied for or granted on other sites that were either not in the SHLAA or were not counted as brownfield sites.
  • New potential sites have come to light that were not included in the SHLAA
LocationNumber of Dwellings
Guillemont Park Phase 1 (not included as brownfield site in SHLAA) 150
Guillemont Park Phase 2320
Ancells Farm, Fleet370
Bartley Wood, Hook200
Fleet Road, Fleet220
Bramshill House350
Fleet Police Station50
Extra dwellings at Landata House28
Total1,688

All of the dwellings above were not included as brownfield sites in the SHLAA.  Guillemont Park (Sun Park) was in the SHLAA but for a smaller number of units, and was shown in Part 2, which was not considered to include brownfield locations.  Since last November revised permission has been granted at Landata House, Hook for 28 more dwellings than were included in the 5 year land supply calculation.

The Bramshill House and Fleet Police station sites were not included in the SHLAA.

The Stonegate report identified 370 units at Ancell’s Farm in Fleet, 200 units at Bartley Wood in Hook and a further 220 units on Fleet Road in Fleet.

Derelict Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

Derelict Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

However, the proposals for Ancells Farm cover only 7 of the 23 office buildings in the business park which shows that there is additional capacity there.  Moreover, there are even more vacant office blocks in Hook so there is more capacity there too.  Of course, across Hart, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor, there is currently 500,000 sq m of vacant office space, and forecasts for even more vacancies, so there is no danger of restricting jobs growth by redeveloping offices.

If the original 750 units were to be added to the 1,688 units identified above, then that amounts to a total of 2,438 potential units on brownfield.  If it were possible to increase the density (from 30dph to a still reasonable 80dph in urban areas) on the original 750 units, the total identified capacity would rise to some 3,688 units.

Hartland Park (Pyestock) near Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire, warehouse development not started

Brownfield site: Hartland Park (Pyestock) near Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire, warehouse development not started

Moreover, these figures do not include the massive potential of the 119 acre Hartland Park (or Pyestock) site where planning permission for a big warehouse was given years ago, but no activity is visible.  Surely, the developers of this site want to earn some return on their investment and would change to residential.

The remaining requirement of 4,000 has of course been reduced by the unfortunate decisions to allow development at Watery Lane (300 units) and Hawley Park Farm (126 units) leaving the remaining allocation of at most 3,574.

It is clear that it is easily possible to meet the entire remaining of 3,574 from brownfield alone.  It will take some creativity and energy, but a combination of increasing density and allocating more vacant offices is easily within reach, so we don’t need a new town and can protect our countryside.

We have put proposals to Hart Council to include a formal brownfield option in their forthcoming consultation on the Hart Local Plan.  Please support us by coming along to the Hart Cabinet on 1 October where Hart’s response to the We Heart Hart petition will be agreed.

Brownfield Capacity in Fleet and Hook Keeps on Rising

Derelict Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

Derelict Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

Back in November Hart Council insisted (p15) that the brownfield capacity for the district over the next 20 years was around 700-750 dwellings.  However, a number of recent developments show that this is assumption is incorrect and the available capacity is much larger and we could meet all of our remaining housing allocation through brownfield development alone.

 

LocationNumber of Dwellings
Guillemont Park Phase 1 (not included as brownfield site in SHLAA) 150
Guillemont Park Phase 2320
Ancells Farm, Fleet370
Bartley Wood, Hook200
Fleet Road, Fleet220
Bramshill House350
Fleet Police Station50
Extra dwellings at Landata House28
Total1,688

 

First, planning permission has recently been granted for 150 dwellings at Guillemont Park (former Sun Park site), an increase of 48 over the SHLAA estimate, near the J4a of the M3.  In addition, a developer has submitted a preliminary application for a further 320 houses on the same site, bringing the total up to 470 dwellings on just one site.

In addition, Stonegate Homes Limited have produced a report on on the potential capacity for converting offices to residential under permitted development rights in Fleet and Hook.  They have come to the conclusion that there’s an extra 790 units that could be delivered quite easily, with further additional capacity available at Ancells Farm.

Furthermore, discussions are underway to deliver about 350 new homes at the former Police College site at Bramshill House.

This brings a total of 1,610 of new brownfield capacity identified since November 2014, more than double Hart’s assessment of the capacity for the 20-year planning period. Notably, none of the 1,610 units above are on sites designated as brownfield in the SHLAA of October 2014, so all of these units are incremental to their original 750 estimate, bringing the current total up to 2,360.  We have started a tracker to monitor future progress.

Update: Fleet police station has now become available creating a new brownfield site for perhaps 50 apartments and Landata House has a planning application in place to increase the units by 28, bringing the total up to 2,438 units.

We have already shown that Hart has also under-estimated the available capacity on the sites it has identified because it has used a very conservative density assumption of only 30 dwellings per hectare (dph), whilst separately admitting it could go to 80-160dph in urban areas.  This would push its own estimate of 700-750 to 2,800-3,000 units meaning the total residual requirement of 4,000 units is within grasp.

Taken together, the sites in the table above and the potential increase in capacity from the sites Hart originally counted, then the full remaining housing allocation could be met in full on brownfield sites.

There is still no sign that Hart is taking brownfield development seriously enough, so if you would like to join our campaign to change the approach and adopt our 5-point plan, then please sign and share our petition:

 

Go to Petition