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

 

 

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

 

 

The case for a brownfield solution to Hart’s housing needs

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

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

As you know, Hart Council has begun a new consultation asking us where we would prefer to build the remaining 2,500 houses we are being asked to build as part of the Local Plan. This has generated some lively debate with some councillors and community groups favouring a new town. Whilst We Hart has a lot of sympathy with the residents of Fleet and Church Crookham, who have suffered from some poor planning decisions over the past years, we aim to show why it would be wrong to consider a new town or urban extension now and make a bad situation even worse.

We have to deliver over 370 houses per year up to 2032.  If these were to be built on green field sites it would mean we would be concreting over the equivalent of 25 football pitches each and every year for 20 years.  This is simply not sustainable, and it is clear something needs to change.

Eminent architects such as Richard Rogers, academics such as Professor Dieter Helm and journalists such as Simon Jenkins have called for our green spaces to be protected and for more building on brownfield land.  The Government is also actively encouraging brownfield development.

The benefits are clear, in that less infrastructure investment is required to support this type of development, urban living makes better use of scarce resources, so is kinder to the environment and town and city dwellers use their cars less and so don’t cause as much congestion.

So, having established the general case for brownfield over green field development, what about the specifics of the proposals before us in Hart?

First, it can be done. We have gone through Hart Council’s data and shown that there are sufficient sites to meet our remaining needs on brownfield site alone, and if we can bring Pyestock into play and Hart are successful in their quest to find even more sites, we will have a surplus of brownfield sites.

Supporters of a new town point to the supposed infrastructure benefits, but we believe this argument is flawed.  There is no doubt that there is a need for more infrastructure investment in our existing towns and villages, as is shown by the current £78m funding deficit.  Even Hart Council acknowledge that new schools would cost £80-100m, but then when you add up the costs of new and improved roads, roundabouts, bridges, sewage works, and railway station, it is clear that a new town will require over £300m of infrastructure spending before you even get to providing new sports and community facilities. But a reasonable expectation of developer contributions is only around £50m.  So, it is clear that a new town, or indeed an urban extension, could not get the infrastructure it needs and more importantly, would not do anything to address the problems in our existing communities .

By contrast, properly designed brownfield redevelopments (not office conversions) would generate developer contributions for local communities and if Hart Council followed Ranil Jayawardena’s advice, they could use compulsory purchase powers to buy up some of these sites and use the profits from development to fund even more local infrastructure.

When you look at travel to work patterns of Hart residents, it is clear that many people work in Fleet, Surrey Heath, Rushmoor and Waverley.  So, residents of a new town will need to travel through Fleet, Church Crookham and Hartley Wintney adding to congestion.  Other workers will travel through Hook to get to work in places like Basingstoke.  Dispersal throughout the district will ease the congestion problem, and brownfield development to the east of Fleet will place workers closer to their jobs and offer greener transport alternatives.

Our housing needs assessment calls for 60-70% of new build properties to be 1 or 2-bedroomed and also calls for over 2,000 units of specialist accommodation for the elderly to be built up to 2031.  A new town or urban extension is likely to continue to build predominantly larger properties at prices of over £500,000 which will no doubt be attractive to those who want to move from London, but will be out of reach of middle income households in Hart and so do nothing for local people.  Well planned development of smaller properties on brownfield sites will do more to help our young people to get on the housing ladder and help older people when they want to down-size to free up their larger properties for growing families.

Of course planning for a new town or urban extension would also open us up to building 3,000 houses for Rushmoor and Surrey Heath.  Whereas a vision and strategy to protect our green lungs in the heart of Hart would offer us some protection.

We also have to challenge the viability of the new town and urban extension plans.  The new town would coalesce our villages into a massive urban sprawl that would effectively become Hartley Winchook.  The proposed urban extensions would add further unwelcome development outside existing settlement boundaries. The professionals who have looked at the new town proposal have said “it would be challenging to plan a compact nuclear settlement on this site”, and of course there are other significant constraints such as lack of mains gas or sewage, flood risk and environmental damage.  All of the new town and urban extension sites have been classed as “not currently developable” by Hart Council.

It is time to make a break from the past mistakes and change to a more sustainable strategy, with a planning horizon of 50 years ahead and realise that more and more housing estates in the countryside are simply not sustainable.  We need to go for dispersal of our housing needs on brownfield sites across the district to build more affordable homes for our young people, create better specialist accommodation for the elderly and generate much needed infrastructure funding for local communities.

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