CCH reveal plan to Completely Concrete Hart

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) reveal plans to Completely Concrete Hart

CCH reveal plans to Completely Concrete Hart

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) have revealed their plan to Completely Concrete Hart by sticking to the ridiculous 10,185 housing target in the draft Local Plan. This comes despite the new Government method for calculating housing need results in a much lower housing target for Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath.

It is time to up the pressure on CCH to come up with a strategy to take account of this new information. They should build a Local Plan that is good for the whole of Hart that everybody can live with. It is time to drop their plan to Completely Concrete Hart.

To be clear, in our view, Hart’s housing target should be reduced to around 6,500, to take account of the new Government approach, plus a few hundred for Surrey Heath. Using the figures in the draft Local Plan consultation (para 104), this would leave 906 new houses left to plan for. This could be made up from

  • Sun Park (320), from Local Plan para 109
  • Grove Farm (423), sadly
  • The forthcoming Rawlings depot site in Hook (123)
  • The remaining 40 can come from any number of brownfield sites for instance:
    • Hartley Wintney (Nero Brewery – 10)
    • Winchfield (Winchfield Court extension – 17)
    • The derelict eyesores on Fleet Road – up to 200.

We can save Hartland Village (Pyestock) for the 2030’s.

The revelations came in a reply to an email sent to CCH by a concerned correspondent on Facebook. We reproduce the question, James Radley’s answer and our commentary in red below.

Question to Community Campaign Hart (CCH)

I write to you ask a question about your party’s policy towards supporting (or not) a reduced housing total for Hart District. Specifically, in regard of this statement on the We Heart Hart (WHH) Facebook page:

If Hart followed the latest Government approach to calculating housing need, even Hartland Park wouldn’t be needed. The remaining housing need could be met from Sun Park and any number of other small brownfield sites.

Answer from CCH revealing commitment to Completely Concrete Hart

I am probably the best placed to explain the CCH position on housing numbers. It is true that as a rule we do not engage in social media debates, mainly due to a lack of time. As well as trying to fit in my day job I also expect to spend over 6 hours in total in the council offices today and similarly tomorrow.

One has to ask why the council Deputy Leader and portfolio holder for Services is spending quite so much time in council offices working on the Local Plan. One would hope this time would be put in by the portfolio holder for planning, Lib Dem councillor Graham Cockarill. It obviously takes a lot of effort to Completely Concrete Hart.

Social media debates are very time consuming in order to stay on top of all the posts and then the debate tends to descend to the lowest common denominator. I for one would certainly rather put the time and effort in where it matters and unless one is going to invest all that precious time in the social media arena, better not to engage at all.

This sounds like CCH want to stay in their own bunker and not actually engage with anyone who disagrees with them. They are afraid to engage because they don’t have any facts or arguments to back up their new town ideology.

Unfortunately WHH are wrong in their assessment of housing numbers.

No, we are not wrong in our numbers. Here is the relevant section of the Government consultation document.

Para 15 of Planning for the right homes in the right places - baseline plus maket signals

Para 15 of Planning for the right homes in the right places

Working through this. The demographic baseline is the latest DCLG household projections (Table 406) that can be found here. These show that over the period 2011-2032, Hart requires 218 dwellings per annum, or 4,536 in total. In the reference period of 2016-2026 used by the Government, Hart requires 209 dwellings per annum. This 209 dpa is then modified to account for market signals and results in a new Government figure for Hart of 292 dpa. Scaling up to the full planning period results in 6,132 new houses for Hart. And that’s it. No more further adjustments for changes in household size. No more houses for people we have to import who then go and work in London. This compares to the 8,022 in the SHMA and 10,185 in the draft Local Plan.

Hart housing targets under alternative scenarios

Hart housing targets under alternative scenarios

They are citing a baseline figure in a government consultation paper which is not part of the planning policy framework in effect at this point in time and is a figure which even if it was policy is taken as a starting point on top of which other factors will add to the housing numbers needed.

We have answered the point about the baseline above. The baseline is the demographic projection. The Government then already made the upwards adjustment for market signals in the 292 dpa figure. It is true that these figures are so far only part of a consultation paper, but the feedback we have received is that the Government is committed to pushing these through. It would seem prudent to us for Hart to take these figures into account now and prepare a Local Plan with two scenarios:

  • The first scenario should be based upon the 6,132 outlined above. Plus a few hundred to give some flexibility to build some new houses for Surrey Heath. They may still have a problem meeting their new, lower housing target. This would give a total of around 6,500.
  • The second scenario should be based solely on the SHMA figure of 8,022.

To be clear, the daft 10,185 target in the draft Local Plan should be dropped forthwith. Even James Radley admits the extra 2,000+ houses on top of the SHMA won’t affect house prices. As the Government position becomes clear, Hart can make the decision on which scenario can be submitted to the inspector. There is no need to Completely Concrete Hart.

We lost the fight against Grove Farm because we don’t have a local plan in place. We don’t have a local plan because the Conservatives have allowed it to drift for years in a sea of procrastination driven by their internal in fighting.

True, Grove Farm was lost because we don’t have a Local Plan. It was also lost because our policies are out of date and because the application was not determined on time. Yes, the Tories missed all their own deadlines. But CCH have also played their part by forcing a delay in the Local Plan last December.

The main reason for taking control was to get the local plan out and to do so by a total focus and not letting the intentional disruptions from WHH to deflect us from that.

At no time have we sought to delay the Local Plan. We Heart Hart first highlighted the project management and governance problems back in April 2015 and again in January 2016 after the consultation omnishambles.

It is quite clear that if we don’t get a local plan out that is based on realistic and future proof housing numbers, then Fleet & Church Crookham will continue to be blighted by bolt on developments such as Grove Farm, Pale Lane and whatever is next.

Yes, we need a Local Plan. And quickly. The realistic numbers to use are the Government’s new numbers. These are already future proofed by the extra houses to take account of market signals. We have suggested a modest further uplift to help out Surrey Heath.

It is interesting that the Deputy Leader for the whole of Hart is only concerned about Fleet and Church Crookham. We are also concerned about Owens Farm to the west of Hook. We are also concerned about the long term impact of adopting a ridiculously high housing target. This will then be compounded for decades to come, putting even more of our green fields under threat, including Pale Lane and Crookham Village.

WHH know this and are trying to undermine the new settlement option in the full knowledge that they are condemning us to yet more incremental developments which do not produce any retrospective infrastructure.

We are opposed to the new settlement because we don’t believe it is needed. And we certainly don’t believe it will solve the infrastructure problems facing the district. And we don’t want to Completely Concrete Hart. If we adopt the new Government housing numbers, it will be better for everyone.

I hope that my brief explanation helps.

It does, but not in the way he thinks. It confirms CCH is in the driving seat, dragging the Lib Dems along with disastrous policies to Completely Concrete Hart. The explanation confirms CCH is in a bunker, unwilling and unable to debate the real issues. CCH is locked into its new town ideology and is trying to justify it by sticking to a ridiculous housing target.

CPRE concerned about new Government housing targets

CPRE concerned about new Government housing targets.

CPRE concerned about new Government housing targets.

In an article appearing in today’s Fleet News and Mail, the CPRE is concerned about new Government housing targets.

The Fleet N&M has picked up on our article that shows Hart’s housing target will fall to 6,132 new dwellings under new Government proposals. This compares to the Hart’s current Local Plan total of some 10,185. The total outlined in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) of 8,022.

CPRE is concerned about the impact of the new guidelines in southern and east Hampshire and in Basingstoke and Deane. Whilst we share some of this concern, we are delighted about the result for Hart, RUshmoor and Surrey Heath.

We have asked some questions of council that will be tabled at tomorrow’s meeting, so we will find out how Hart plans to respond to these new proposals.

The full Fleet N&M article can be found here.

 

New Government methodology to reduce Hart housing need

Time to celebrate reduction in Hart housing need

New Government methodology reduces Hart housing need

Yesterday, the Government published a consultation (Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places) on its proposals to simplify and standardise the calculation of housing need. The good news is that Sajid Javid’s new  methodology, if adopted, will result in a significant reduction in Hart housing need. There are also reductions for Rushmoor and Surrey Heath.

Significant reduction in Hart Housing need

Government Housing Need Consultation results in reductions for Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath

Impact on Hart Housing Need

If this proposal was adopted, the full housing requirement for Hart would fall to 6,132 new dwellings. This compares to the Hart’s current Local Plan total of some 10,185 and the total outlined in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) of 8,022. The new target of 6,132 is above the 5,144 we recommended in the recent Local Plan consultation. But, clearly, if the new figure of 6,132 was adopted, we would welcome it.

The Government now calculates housing need on the basis of the most up to date demographic projections. They then add an adjustment for suppressed households and affordable housing. The affordable housing adjustment is based on local house prices compared to local earnings.

This vindicates the stance we have been taking for years now: Hart’s housing target is ridiculous. The current SHMA takes out of date demographic projections and makes lots of spurious and arbitrary adjustments that don’t address the needs of the district. Then Hart Council added a further 2,000 houses to that. This new approach proposed by the Government is much more sensible.

Impact on Rushmoor and Surrey Heath

This is also good news for Rushmoor and Surrey Heath. Rushmoor’s overall housing target reduces by 2,982 houses. Rushmoor has already said it can meet it’s current target, so this leaves it with significant extra capacity.

Surrey Heath’s target reduces by 630 houses. Surrey Heath has said it will endeavour to meet its current housing target, but if it can’t, then Hart and Rushmoor would be expected to make up any shortfall. Previous estimates of their shortfall were around 1,400 houses. These new proposals make any problems Surrey Heath has much easier to solve.

Taken together, these reductions are very welcome and reduce the risk that Hart will be forced to take any overspill from Surrey Heath.

Impact on the Hart Local Plan

There is further good news. If the current Local Plan is more than five years old or if the new Local Plan is not submitted by 31 March 2018, then the new methodology must be used. This means that Hart should start considering this new methodology immediately.

Impact of new housing need methodology on Hart Local Plan

Impact of new methodology on Hart Local Plan

If the new methodology was adopted, then the Hart housing need drops and Hart would need to build far fewer houses. According to the recent Local Plan consultation, a total of 5,594 houses have already been built or planned for as of January 31 2017. This would 600-700 houses left to plan for, maybe a few more to give scope for taking Surrey Heath over spill. In round numbers, let’s assume 1,000 houses left to plan for. Planning for a few more houses than those demanded by the standard method would mean that the Inspector would have to work on the assumption that the Plan was sound.

New Government housing methodology - impact on planning inspectors

New Government housing methodology – impact on planning inspectors

This could be easily made up from brownfield sites in the draft Local Plan. Sun Park (320) and Hartland Park (1,500) would more than meet the remaining need, with plenty of room to spare. This would mean Hartland Park could be built at a slower rate.

The implication of this is that we would need no new settlement. No building at Murrell Green, no new settlement at Winchfield or at Rye Common. Furthermore, Pale Lane (Elevetham Chase) and Cross Farm wouldn’t be required. It remains to be seen whether the inspector will take account of this new methodology to save Netherhouse Copse (Grove Farm) in the current ongoing appeal.

Impact on Neighbourhood plans

In a further piece of good news, the Government proposes that the way housing need in Neighbourhood plans is calculated should be simplified. It says that it should be based on the proportionate population of the Neighbourhood planning area.

New Government housing methodology - Neighbourhood plans

New Government housing methodology – Neighbourhood plans

This is essentially the same proportionate method that we have been advocating for some time. It will finally mean that David Cameron’s promise that local areas should not simply have new housing estates dumped upon them will be met. This proposal will also effectively mean that existing urban areas should become more dense. This is another policy we advocated in the recent consultation.

Note of caution

So far, this is just a consultation and is not yet adopted. There is therefore a risk that developers will seek to water down the proposals or amend them. We have done a quick analysis of the Government spreadsheet and that shows that roughly half of Local Authorities have had their targets increased and roughly half have seen a reduction. Overall, the housing need identified by the Government is about 266,000 houses per annum, in line with previous estimates of overall national requirements. So, in our view, developers don’t have much of an argument – the proposals seem to redistribute the housing targets where they are most needed.

Moreover, there are some potential pitfalls in planning for certain groups such as the elderly and affordable housing in paras 89 & 90. However, this is really about how to get the total to add up, rather than changing the total.

Conclusion

Overall, we think that if these proposals are adopted it is very good news for Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath. The new Hart housing need would be very achievable and would save many of our precious green fields that are under threat.

We would urge you to respond to the Government’s consultation and give it your support.

We also expect the council to set to work immediately to revise the draft Local Plan to take account of these new developments. This should be easy. They are already planning for far more houses than we need, so striking out the controversial green field developments should be a relatively simple task.

 

 

 

 

Developers call for Hart’s housing target to be doubled

The new age of crony capitalism

We have taken a brief look at the submissions made by developers to the Hart Council Refined Housing Options Consultation, found some worrying results. Barratt Homes, Berkeley Homes and Martin Grant homes all call for Hart’s housing target to be increased, and some call for it to be doubled. It is important that everyone in Hart unites to challenge these ridiculous figures. We should also challenge the developers to build the houses that are already permitted and not ‘land-bank’.

According to the current Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), Hart must build 7,534 homes in the planning period up to 2032. This amounts to around 370 per annum. This number was arrived at by using the 2011-based population projections as a starting point. Since then the 2012-based population projections have been published and they show a lower population projection than the older numbers

However, Barratt Homes have come up with their own assessment of Hart’s housing need which is 730 homes per annum.

Berkeley Homes have also come up with their own housing target for Hart in the range of 540-685 dwellings per annum

Finally, Martin Grant Homes also say that Hart’s housing ‘need’ is 730 dwellings per annum, nearly double the currently assessed need.

What is particularly galling about these projections put forward by the developers is that they are not even building at anywhere near the 370 per annum rate required to meet the 7,534 target,

Hart District Housing Completions by year

Hart District Housing Completions by year

even though there are 1,075 homes that were granted permission in or before 2013, out of the over 3,000 outstanding permissions. It is ridiculous to suggest that these developers are going to double their build rate, because prices would collapse along with their profits.  This is just a way for developers to try and gain more planning permissions and then sit on them and produce houses at a rate that suits them.

Outstanding permissions in Hart District as of 20 April 2016 by year of grant

Outstanding permissions in Hart District as of 20 April 2016 by year of grant

We hope that all campaigning groups in Hart unite to challenge these ridiculous notions of housing ‘need’ coming from the developers. If we don’t then there is a strong risk we will be forced to build even more houses for Rushmoor and Surrey Heath and end up having to build Pyestock (aka Hartland Village) and all three of the options in the consultation.

 

 

Busy time ahead for the Hart Local Plan

Keep Calm and Wait for news about the Hart Local Plan

News about the Hart Local Plan has been sparse lately, but we can expect a flurry of news over the coming weeks.

First, now that the council elections are over, we can expect the results of the recent consultation to be released over the next few weeks.  Of course, we don’t know the results, but whatever the outcome, the results will be of limited value given that Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), has emerged as an additional brownfield site with capacity of around 1,500 dwellings.

Second, the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), together with the related Employment Land Review (ELR) have been in gestation for a few months now and we should hear of the new housing numbers in the next few weeks.  We Heart Hart is hopeful the new SHMA will result in Hart being asked to build 1,000-1,500 fewer houses over the planning period.  Of course, the new SHMA should also reduce the allocation for Surrey Heath and Rushmoor and the new ELR should enable Rushmoor in particular to release more of the brownfield sites it is protecting. The net result should reduce the risk of Hart being asked to build 3,100 extra houses for those districts.

Third, the results of Hart’s brownfield study should be released in the next couple of months and will set out a more sensible view of the brownfield capacity of the district.

Finally, should also expect the revised timetable for the Hart Local Plan to be released, so we will know when we will be asked our views. Expectations are the draft Local Plan should be released in September or October.

Response to Face IT article in Fleet News and Mail

 

Vacant Block at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hampshire

FACE IT have been quoted in this week’s Fleet News & Mail, claiming that the “urban extension option may sound like a ‘brownfield’ solution but would actually mean an extra 2,173 homes being built on green fields in Fleet and Hook”.

It does appear that all of the efforts they have put into their campaign around the Hart Council’s Housing Option Consultation has exhausted them to such an extent that they now misunderstand the difference between types of development because nobody is arguing that urban extensions are somehow brownfield development in disguise.

They make spurious claims about school places, after making up their own estimate of how many extra school places might be required without doing a proper population projection.  Note that Hampshire County Council have not put in place any plans beyond 2018, are forecasting a surplus of secondary school places at that time and a reduction in the birth rate as well as admitting that Hart schools are educating many children from outside the district.

They also make some claims about the scale of development that has occurred in Fleet, Church Crookham and Hook and about how many houses would end up being built around Fleet and Hook under each of the options Hart has put forward. It is not clear where they get their numbers from, because they don’t tally with the figures we put together.

However, nobody would dispute that Hook in particular has seen a big rise in housing in both absolute and relative terms. But what we find difficult to understand is why Hook’s Neighbourhood Planning team and Parish Council are advocating the new town option as their first choice which would deliver more than 1,800 houses in Hook Parish and effectively coalesce Hartley Wintney, Winchfield and Hook into a giant conurbation that might be named Hartley Winchook. This is more houses than the urban extension they oppose (730 houses), more than the dispersal option put forward by Hart Council (204 houses) and more than the brownfield solution put forward by We Heart Hart (only 57 new dwellings to be permitted).

FACE IT rightly say that the combination of Fleet, Church Crookham, Elvetham Heath and Ewshot (greater Fleet) has seen a lot of new housing in absolute terms over recent years. However, this is only part of the story as all parts of the district have seen significant development. When you look at the amount of new housing in proportion to size, the percentage increase for greater Fleet over the planning period of 2011-2031 is forecast to be around 17% for the dispersal and urban extension options and 14% with the new town option. This is below the average for the whole district at 21%, 18% and 18% respectively for each option and well below the percentage increases for places like Hartley Wintney which is forecast to see 34%, 39% and 21% increases for each of the options put forward by Hart.

The brownfield option that We Heart Hart has put forward has the potential to meet all of the remaining housing need and results in a more balanced distribution across the district in proportion to the size of existing settlements.  Our solution would result in a 23% increase for the greater Fleet area, 22% for Hartley Wintney and 27% for the smaller parishes that include Winchfield.

The proposed densities in the brownfield option are not at all demanding, with an average density on the SHLAA sites of around 25 dwellings per hectare.  The proposed densities on the vacant office blocks are no different to some developments that Hart has already permitted on Fleet Road, such as the new McCarthy and Stone development.  Our proposals do not include Pyestock (aka Hartland Park), which could deliver even more houses on brownfield sites into the future if Hart Council is successful in reallocating that site for housing.

We do agree with FACE IT, that we need to take a strategic view of the future, but we disagree on what that strategic vision might be.  In our view, continuing to concrete over green fields equivalent to 25 football pitches each year is not at all sustainable and our children and grandchildren would not thank us for doing that.

The advantages of a brownfield solution are:

  • It preserves the very countryside that makes Hart such a great place to live,
  • Produces a greener solution, making better use of existing infrastructure and more efficient housing,
  • Delivers more of the smaller, more affordable housing of the types that we need to meet the needs of our young people aspiring to gain a foothold on the housing ladder,
  • Delivers more specialist accommodation for the elderly in the right places for them as well as freeing up larger properties for growing families,
  • Delivers infrastructure funding to existing communities where there is currently a £78m funding deficit
  • Lower risk of delivery because it is spread across a large number of sites with multiple developers

Of course, the new town proposal that is in the consultation has been undergoing testing for over a year now, and has identified a number of significant barriers including education, transport and foul water drainage.  The costs of the infrastructure required for a new town are astronomical and would never be met by developer contributions. If Hart were to choose the new town option, it runs the risk of not passing inspection because infrastructure delivery could not be guaranteed.

We hope that the new Strategic Housing Market Assessment, (SHMA) when it is eventually delivered in June will result in a lower housing target for Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath. But until then, the threat of Hart having to build 3,000 for those districts is very real.  Support for a new town will create capacity to build these extra houses which will mean we will end up with the worst of all worlds, a new town, urban extensions and dispersal across the district.

So, we urge all residents of Hart to reject a new town, reject urban extensions and get behind a brownfield solution and give Hart Council further encouragement to step up their efforts in this regard by responding to the consultation and putting support for a brownfield solution in the comments.

We have created a dedicated consultation page and updated our 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

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.

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.

 

 

7 reasons to oppose a new town in Hart

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

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

As the consultation on the Hart District Local Plan draws to a close, it is worth reiterating the main reasons why you should oppose a new town and urban extensions in Hart.

  1. They would open us up to 3,000 extra houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor, and we would get the worst of all worlds, a new town, urban extensions and green field dispersal.
  2. The rate of building would then be used against us in the next planning period, so the problems we create today would be compounded into the future.
  3. It would be bad strategy to commit to a new town now, when we know that the housing needs assessment is being revised, and in all likelihood it will be revise down
  4. The proposed new town location is simply not suitable, in that there isn’t enough land to create the nirvana of a self contained new settlement promised by some HDC councillors, and would lead to a giant Hartley Winchook conurbation.
  5. The infrastructure costs are astronomical, and the developer contributions will not meet these costs, thus pushing up council taxes in the future
  6. There is an alternative brownfield solution that will meet the actual needs of Hart residents through providing specialist accommodation for the elderly and affordable starter homes for the young people struggling to get on the housing ladder.
  7. Brownfield development is a more sustainable, greener alternative that will be kinder to the environment and provide infrastructure funding for our existing communities.

If you would like to ask Hart to abandon the new town alternative 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 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