Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact

Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact

Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact

In the light of the focus on the environment in the General Election campaign, we thought it would be a good idea to look at the Shapley Heath Climate Change impact.

Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact: Summary

  • 1,000,000 tonnes of CO2 emitted from construction
  • 312,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum from the occupants
  • Loss of pasture carbon sink
  • Damage to SSSIs, Ancient Woodland and heritage

Yet, Hart has agreed the “serious impact of climate change globally” and recognises “the need for urgent action”.  Councillor Graham Cockarill is standing in the General Election as a Liberal Democrat candidate. They say “the UK should be leading the world on tackling the environment crisis”.

Why are they pursuing an unnecessary new town that goes against their own climate change policies?

Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact: CO2 emissions

According to this article in the Guardian, construction of an average 2-bed cottage emits around 80 tonnes of CO2.  The average size of Shapley Heath dwellings is likely to be larger, so let’s assume 100 tonnes of CO2 per dwelling.  The vision and bid documents both suggested the eventual size of Shapley Heath will be 10,000 houses. So, building 10,000 houses will emit around 1,000,000 tonnes of CO2. There will of course be additional emissions from building new roads, supermarkets and office blocks.

These 10,000 houses will house around 24,000 people, and each of them will emit on average ~13 tonnes of CO2 per annum each. So, there will be 312,000 tonnes of CO2 emitted by the occupants of the houses.

Moreover, the existing pasture acts as a carbon sink, so this benefit will be lost too.

Remember, the Hart Local Plan, the Inspector’s report and even the bid document said that Shapley Heath isn’t required to meet our housing targets, so all of these emissions are entirely avoidable.

Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact: Damage to Nature

The area of search contains or borders many important natural sites. These include:

  • Odiham Common SSSI
  • Basingstoke Canal SSSI
  • Numerous ancient woodland sites that are also Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation
Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact - Damage to nature

Shapley Heath Climate Change Impact – Damage to nature

Hart District Council and Lib Dem Climate Change Policies

Back in September, Hart Cabinet decided the following in respect of climate change (our emphasis):

  1. Recognises the serious impact of climate change globally and agrees that there is a need for urgent action; and

  2. Agrees that a cross party Climate Change Member Working Group be established and that the Terms of Reference for that Group as set out in Appendix 1 be agreed in principle; and

  3. That a Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan led by the Member Working  Group be prepared by January 2020 based on Hart District Council becoming a net zero carbon emitter by 2040 at the latest.

Councillor Graham Cockarill is standing in the General Election as a Liberal Democrat candidate. They say:

The UK should be leading the world on tackling the environment crisis. Our planet is on the brink of being irreparably damaged and we are responsible for that damage.

Why are they pursuing an unnecessary new town that goes against their own climate change policies?

Return of the New Town: Winchfield fights back

Return of the New Town - Winchfield fights back

Return of the New Town – Winchfield fights back

We Heart Hart and Winchfield Parish Council (WPC) are fighting back against the decision to award funding for the  new town.

WPC has written to the Secretary of State demanding that the decision to award £150,000 of capacity funding to support the delivery of the Hartley Winchook/ Shapley Heath garden community new town be reversed.   In addition, We Heart Hart has written to MHCLG making a similar request, using slightly different arguments. We understand that the Rural Hart Association will also be making representations to MHCLG.

A summary of the WPC letter is shown below, together with links to the full text. The full text of the WHH letter follows.

Winchfield fights back: WPC Letter

The letter has the support of Hartley Wintney, Dogmersfield, Crondall, Greywell and Long Sutton & Well Parish Councils. The Parish Councils of Eversley, Odiham and South Warnborough have made known to WPC their concerns about the proposed development and will consider adding their full support to the letter when they next meet. WPC’s letter highlights the following concerns:

  1. The Inspector’s findings following the independent examination of the Local Plan rejected the SHGV proposal, which followed HDC’s Garden Village Application in November 2018.
  2. HDC’s ongoing promotion of SHGV is not supported by the Inspector’s findings on the submitted Local Plan and he is quite clear that other options need to be considered in an impartial manner.
  3. The absence of sound justification for bringing forward SHGV (as it is not needed to meet identified housing needs) and the lack of evidence to demonstrate that the proposal is deliverable and sustainable was confirmed by the Inspector’s findings on the submitted Plan.
  4. The numerous shortcomings with HDC’s bid when considered against the Garden Communities prospectus lead us to question how it has been successful.
  5. HDC pre-determined the plan-making process, and failed to provide the evidence to the Inspector to demonstrate that it had impartially assessed reasonable alternatives. If HDC proceed with a Local Plan review as indicated based on SHGV as its chosen long term growth strategy, it will irresponsibly overlook the Inspector’s criticisms of the current Plan’s failure to impartially assess reasonable alternatives, and continue to ignore local opinion. HDC’s bid to be included in the Gardens Community Programme is a further demonstration of their continuation of pre-determine the planning process.
  6. HDC’s ongoing promotion of SHGV is not supported by the local communities directly impacted by this large scale proposal.

The full text of their letter can be found here. And the appendix can be found here.

Winchfield Fights Back: We Heart Hart letter

The full text of our letter is set out below:

Dear Ministers,

 Re: Hart District Shapley Heath Garden Community Funding Award

My name is David Turver. I run a campaign in Hart District called We Heart Hart. We have taken an active role in the Hart Local Plan, and I was invited to speak at the examination hearing. We have successfully campaigned against the new settlement proposal. We believe that urban regeneration and brownfield development is a much more sustainable and better way to deliver Hart’s longer term development needs.

I note that you have recently awarded £150,000 of capacity funding to Hart District Council to support the delivery of the Shapley Heath so-called Garden Village in Winchfield/Murrell Green.

I would like to share with you some extra facts which may cause you to reconsider your decision. The main letter sets out the main points, backed up with links and references in the Appendices. I have copied my local MP, the leader of the Conservatives on Hart Council and your garden communities email address so you can obtain a soft copy of this letter and follow the embedded links if required.

New Settlement Policy SS3 not required and not sound

Hart’s Garden Community bid in November 2018 relied on Policy SS3 being found sound in their Local Plan examination. Policy SS3 proposed a new settlement in the same area of search as the proposed Shapley Heath development. The Local Plan itself acknowledges that the new settlement is not required to meet Hart’s housing needs. The Planning Inspector, Jonathan Manning, found that he had “a number of fundamental concerns with regard to the soundness of Policy SS3”. As a result, Hart Council has removed policy SS3 from the Local Plan to make the plan sound. See Appendix A for more details.

More work required to make new settlement sound leading to a delay of up to five years

The Inspector has said that much more work was required to make the new settlement sound:

I am of the view that a significant level of further supporting work would be required for Policy SS3 to be found sound in its current form, which would need to include appropriate and proportionate area/site assessments, infrastructure considerations, viability testing, evidence in support of deliverability and further SA work, which would need to be done in an impartial manner with sufficient evidence to support its findings and comparisons with alternative options. Any further SA work would also need to include additional standalone consultation….

I am also mindful that following further work, there can be no guarantee that the evidence would support it as the most appropriate long-term growth strategy or that Policy SS3 would be found sound.

There are several alternative options, including alternative sites and alternative strategies such as urban regeneration. So, it is clear that a new SA would be a considerable undertaking in its own right. In the risk assessment accompanying Hart’s bid they anticipated this outcome. Their mitigation was to press-on regardless with the new settlement DPD, independent of the Local Plan. I am not at all convinced that creating a DPD outside of the Local Plan process is in line with the planning regulations.

However, the Inspector makes clear that significant SA work and a standalone consultation ought to precede a new DPD.  Moreover, in Hart’s latest consultation into the modifications required to make the Local Plan sound, they have completely changed their tune. The Sustainability Appraisal Addendum says that “the AoS/DPD process will effectively be replaced by a different process, most likely a new Local Plan” (see Appendix B). The impact of this is that:

  1. The further SA work may conclude that there are better alternatives to delivering longer term growth. I know there are many in the District who support our local MP’s call for urban regeneration.
  2. Even if it is decided that a new settlement is the best long term growth option, the timescales for a new Local Plan process indicate that work on a new DPD will not start for a considerable time; maybe up to five years.

No plans to meet commitments in the Garden Community bid

In their bid, Hart committed to producing a New Settlement DPD in December 2019 if they received the Garden Community funding (see Appendix C). Yet, in response to recent questions at council, they confirmed that they have no current plans to start the additional SA work required by the Inspector; no plans to produce the New Settlement DPD and have not allocated any of the £786K budget set aside for the New Settlement in FY19/20. It might be expected that the wide scope SA work would take at least six months, plus a further 2-3 months for a consultation. It is therefore difficult to see how work can start on a new DPD this financial year. Therefore, it is difficult to see how the Garden Communities grant money can be spent effectively during this financial year.

Deceptive Communications

In addition, I am sorry to report that the Lib Dem/Community Campaign Hart led Hart Council has not been as open and transparent as one would hope in its communications on this matter.  Recently, the council was asked who had been informed that Policy SS3 had been found unsound and removed from the Local Plan. Their answers stated that both Homes England and MHCLG had been kept informed prior to the funding announcement. However, a subsequent release of correspondence shows that the removal of Policy SS3 was a passing comment to an official in Homes England in an email about a different subject. There is no record of MHCLG being contacted directly. I am therefore concerned that MHCLG may not have been aware that the new settlement had been found unsound between Hart Council’s bid and the award of funding in June 2019. It would be a shame if the Government awarded money to fund an unnecessary and unsound white elephant project.

Alternative options

Quite separately, Hart made a recent bid for funds under the Future High Streets scheme and was turned down. Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena is running a campaign to support urban regeneration within Hart.

The catalyst for this could be the publicly owned civic quarter containing the Hart Council offices and the Harlington Centre. The area is ripe for mixed-use redevelopment including offices, homes, social and retail. If all levels of Government got behind this, it would spark interest in redeveloping the rest of the High Street, including the Hart Shopping Centre.

Conclusions

In conclusion, it is clear that the facts have changed since the bid was submitted.

  • Policy SS3 covering the Shapley Heath new settlement has been found to be unnecessary and unsound and removed from the Hart Local Plan.
  • There are no plans to conduct the wide ranging SA work required that might bring the new settlement back on to the agenda.
  • There is no guarantee that such work will conclude that a new settlement is the best option for long term growth.
  • It is inconceivable that such work could be completed during this financial year, meaning that work on a new settlement DPD could not even start before FY20/21, so the funds you have awarded could be wasted.

Therefore, I would be grateful if you could review your decision in the light of new facts. There are many residents of Hart who would be pleased if the Garden Communities funds were redirected towards regeneration of our decaying urban centres instead of concreting over the very green fields that make Hart such a great place to live.

Thank you for your kind consideration of these points. I understand Hart Council representatives are meeting with Homes England this month, so I hope you have time to re-consider the funding decision before that meeting. I look forward to your prompt reply.

Yours faithfully,

 

David Turver

cc:           Ranil Jayawardena MP (by email)

gardencommunities@communities.gov.uk (by email so the embedded links work)

Anne Crampton, leader of Conservative group on Hart Council (by email)

 

Appendix A: – Hart’s Assumptions and Inspector’s Report into Hart Local Plan

Here is Hart’s bid assumption that Policy SS3 would need to be found sound in the Local Plan:

Winchfield Fights Back - Shapley Heath funding assumes Policy SS3 remains in Hart Local Plan

Shapley Heath funding assumes Policy SS3 remains in Hart Local Plan

The Inspector’s post-hearing letter about the examination of the Hart Local Plan can be found here.

May I draw particular attention to paras 17-39. A summary of his findings with respect to the Sustainability Appraisal and the New Settlement are shown below:

  • The ranking of Option 1b (the new settlement) “as the best performing under heritage is not justified”.
  • For land and other resources, the ranking of Option 1b “is also therefore not, in my view, robust”.
  • The Inspector decided that “the decision not to rank the options in terms of flood risk to be very questionable”.
  • On landscape issues the Inspector concluded:

Option 1b was ranked joint highest with Option 1a. However, it is unclear why this is the case, given that the proposed new settlement would result in the development of large areas of open countryside and Option 1a already benefits from planning permission and is largely previously developed land. Further, the post submission SA notes that Pale Lane is ‘relatively unconstrained’, but despite this and it being a smaller site / potential development, Option 3a is ranked lower than Option 1b.

  • The Inspector has this to say on the climate change ranking:

Option 1b has been ranked the highest under the category climate change. This is as a result of the potential for the proposed new settlement to deliver a district heating system. However, there is little evidence to suggest that this is a feasible or realistic option that is being actively pursued by the site promoters. I consider this raises doubt about the appropriateness of such a ranking.

  • The ranking for the impact on water was also criticised by the Inspector.

In conclusion on the SA the Inspector said:

In my judgement the scoring of Option 1b above or equal to other options is not justified by the evidence. As a result, I consider that Policy SS3 and its supporting text are not justified, as, on the currently available evidence, it cannot be determined that it represents the most appropriate long-term growth strategy.

I consider that the post submission SA is therefore not robust and should not be relied upon in support of the Plan.

In addition, the Inspector clearly states:

Given my earlier findings in terms of the housing requirement, Policy SS3 is not required for the Plan to be sound and, in light of my comments above, I consider that the most appropriate course of action would be to remove it (along with any other necessary subsequent changes) from the Plan through Main Modifications (MMs). This would allow the Plan to progress towards adoption without any significant delay to the examination process…

I consider that it would not be unsound for the Plan to retain the Council’s aspirations to plan for long-term needs beyond the Plan period, which could include the delivery of a new settlement. But, the Plan should clearly state that this, as a growth option, would need to be fully considered and evidenced in a future (potentially early or immediate) review of the Plan or a subsequent DPD…

I am of the view that a significant level of further supporting work would be required for Policy SS3 to be found sound in its current form, which would need to include appropriate and proportionate area/site assessments, infrastructure considerations, viability testing, evidence in support of deliverability and further SA work, which would need to be done in an impartial manner with sufficient evidence to support its findings and comparisons with alternative options…

I am also mindful that following further work, there can be no guarantee that the evidence would support it as the most appropriate long-term growth strategy or that Policy SS3 would be found sound.

 

 

Appendix B: Local Plan Modifications and Sustainability Appraisal Addendum

The main modification related to removing Policy SS3, New Settlement from the Hart Local Plan can be found below. The full consultation can be found here.

Winchfield Fights Back - Shapley Heath Policy SS3 removed from Hart Local Plan

Winchfield Fights Back – Shapley Heath Policy SS3 removed from Hart Local Plan

The Sustainability Appraisal Addendum accompanying the consultation into the Main Modifications to the Local Plan can be found here.

I draw your attention to page 2:

Winchfield Fights Back: SA Addendum impact on Winchfield New Town Area of Search

Winchfield Fights Back: SA Addendum impact on Winchfield New Town Area of Search

 

Appendix C: Bid Commitments and Lack of Current Plans

No doubt you already have a copy of their bid commitment. Here is the commitment to produce a New Settlement DPD for consultation by December 2019.

Winchfield Fights Back: Shapley Heath New Town Bid Timeline for DPD

New Settlement Bid Timeline for DPD

The draft minutes from the Hart Council meeting held on 25 July 2019 can be found here. I refer you to Q&A in Appendix A.

Here is the response that shows no plans to carry out the additional SA work required by the Inspector:

Winchfield fights back: No plan for SA work

Winchfield fights back: No plan for SA work

No plans to allocate budget:

Hart Council has no idea how it will spend £786K winchfield new town money

Hart Council Knows Nothing: No idea how much of £786K will be spent or when

No plans for a New Settlement DPD.

Hart Council has no plan for Winchfield New Town proposals

Hart Council Knows Nothing: No plan for New Settlement DPD

 

Appendix D – Deceptive Communications

Statement at Hart Cabinet in July that both Homes England and MHCLG were informed:

Winchfield fights back: Chairman Announcement MHCLG kept informed

Winchfield fights back: Chairman Announcement MHCLG kept informed

Question asking how MHCLG and Homes England were kept informed of the changing status of the New Settlement in Policy SS3 in the Hart Local Plan.

Winchfield fights back: Cockarill MHCLG and civil servant kept informed

Winchfield fights back: Cockarill MHCLG and civil servant kept informed

 

The subsequent release of correspondence shows only one email to Kevin Bourner informing him in passing of the removal of Policy SS3. This can be found here.

Key passage:

Winchfield fights back: HDC email to Homes England

Winchfield fights back: HDC email to Homes England

The only correspondence with MHCLG prior to the announcement is asking for an update on the announcement timetable. This email is not addressed to Simon Ridley who made the award.

 

 

 

 

Winchfield floods yet again 4th Feb 2019

Winchfield Floods again. Bagwell Lane 4 February 2019

Winchfield Floods again. Bagwell Lane 4 February 2019

Winchfield floods again. Yet another 1 in 30 year event hit Winchfield again yesterday. The photo shows the bottom of Bagwell Lane near the junction with Station Road. I can confirm that the flooding on Taplins Farm Lane was even worse around 6.45pm last night. However, it was too dark for taking photos and too dangerous to stop.

[Update: we have now been sent a picture of the flooding on Taplins Farm Lane yesterday]

Winchfield Floods again. Taplins Farm Lane 4 February 2019.

Winchfield Floods again. Taplins Farm Lane 4 February 2019.

This comes despite the sustainability assessment claiming:

There was some evidence of wet ground at the far east of SHL183, but “no other obvious evidence of current or past flooding”.

Winchfield Strategic Assessment - Flood Risk 1

The detailed assessment also says there’s only a one in 30 year chance of surface water flooding.

Winchfield Strategic Assessment - Flood Risk 3

This is of course complete nonsense. The area of Taplins Farm Lane near the railway bridge flooded in April 2018 and three times in 2016 alone. Evidence documenting the 2016 flood events can be found here (4 Jan) , here (7 Jan)here (9 March on Station Road) and here (28 March due to #StormKatie).  These Winchfield floods are obviously more than one in 30 year events.

It appears as though this latest flood was caused by rain melting the snow on the already saturated ground. Surely, everybody can see this area is not suitable for new housing. Let’s hope the Planning Inspector sees sense in his assessment of the new town proposal in the Local Plan.

Wates launch Elvetham Chase aka Pale Lane appeal

Wates launch Elvetham Chase aka Pale Lane appeal

Elvetham Chase aka Pale Lane appeal

[Update 1: 29/5/2018: We understand that the developers have stated they intend to appeal, but have not yet submitted the appeal documentation]

[Update 2: 6/6/2018: Story now confirmed by Fleet News and Mail. Copy here.]

[Update 2: 8/6/2018: Appeal documents published here.]

We understand that the agents for the developers have submitted a Pale Lane appeal. The site, also known as Elvetham Chase was, quite rightly in our view, turned down for development of 700 new houses by Hart Council back in February. The developers, Wates, were apparently quite angry.

The Pale Lane appeal comes despite the recent Hart Local Plan Regulation 19 consultation. Of course, the draft Local Plan doesn’t include Pale Lane in the housing plans. We understand that Hart plan to submit the Local Plan to the inspector on 18 June. The plan published as part of the consultation has some weight to fend off this unwelcome development. That weight should increase when the plan is submitted to the Inspector. But it won’t have the same weight as a plan declared sound by the Inspector.

We don’t yet know the timeline for the Local Plan inspection hearing. Nor do we know the timeline for the Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) appeal.

Impact of Pale Lane Appeal

So, this move sets in train some complex legal and procedural manoeuvres and a race agaisnt time for both Hart and Wates. Clearly, Wates believe they can win or they wouldn’t be spending the money on the appeal. They are clearly hoping their appeal will be heard prior to the Local Plan being inspected and declared sound.

Despite opposing the development, we think the grounds for rejecting the proposed development were quite weak. The grounds for the decision can be found here. Unfortunately, Hart doesn’t have a good track record in defending appeals.

We have to hope that the current state of the Local Plan will provide stronger defence that the Council’s current outdated policies.

Fleet Regeneration – Yes we can!

Candidate for Fleet Regeneration: Brownfield site at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hampshire. Hart Council protecting from redevelopment.

We must deliver Fleet Regeneration

A guest post from Tristram Cary, chairman of the Rural Hart Association, setting out why we must and how we can deliver Fleet Regeneration.

Fleet Regeneration Report

40% of the population of Hart live in Fleet, and yet, in the Local Plan, Fleet is only taking only 21% of the housing development. This massive imbalance puts a huge strain on Hart’s countryside. It is extraordinary that Hart is preventing the regeneration of Fleet when you consider that:

Fleet housing density versus towns of similar size

Fleet housing density versus towns of similar size

  1. Fleet is the most sparsely populated town of its size in Britain (see above)
  2. Hart admits in para 236 of the Local Plan that, without regeneration, “it is unrealistic for Fleet to try to compete” for comparison shopping with neighbouring towns such as Camberley (which is the same size as Fleet)
  3. The new National Planning Policy Framework (para 86) requires districts to “take a positive approach to the development of Town Centres” and to “recognise that residential development often plays an important role in ensuring the vitality of Town Centres”

Hart’s extraordinary lack of ambition for Fleet is explained by Councillor Cockarill’s statement at the 4 January Council Meeting that any serious Fleet regeneration was “a pipedream”. Hart claims that Fleet is full, and that it would not be possible to raise any serious money for its regeneration.

The Rural Hart Association (RHA) commissioned a study from Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH), a leading Town Centre regeneration specialist, to analyse the potential for Fleet regeneration. This study was submitted to Hart in response to the Reg 19 Consultation, and the full document is available on the link above. The key findings of the study are that:

  1. Fleet has ample opportunities for re-generation if only Hart would consider mixed-use (residential and retail) developments
  2. It is hopeless for Fleet to resist the residential conversion of redundant office blocks – there is no realistic prospect of these ever being revived for business use.

It’s worth reading the following summaries provided by directors of LSH.

“As has been widely reported the growth of online retail sales is having a major impact on the retail landscape – online sales are currently circa 16% of all UK sales and growing annually. There is a fundamental structural change in our shopping habits which in turn is having a major impact on retailers and town centres. The retail centres that are thriving tend to be those regional locations offering a high quality experiential mix of retail and leisure or the smaller centres that are able to provide easily accessed, convenience retail facilities in an aesthetically pleasing environment.

Interestingly, we have started to witness retail assets (shopping centres and retail parks) particularly in the South East being acquired or redeveloped for their residential potential.  In some instances, we are seeing retail being proposed above shopping centres and in other instances the complete redevelopment for residential – examples include Forbury Park in Reading which has consent for 765 homes and Whitley’s Shopping Centre in Bayswater which is to be redeveloped for a mixed retail and residential scheme. This trend is likely to continue especially in areas where residential values are high and the retail assets are stagnating.

The Hart Shopping Centre could offer such potential in the future – retaining strong convenience retail facilities at ground floor level with retailers such as Waitrose but with residential accommodation on the upper parts.

What is clear, is that on a national basis we have too many shops and alternative uses, in particular residential, is a desirable way of regenerating our town centres”.

Sean Prigmore, Retail Director, Lambert Smith Hampton

And,

“I have been actively involved in the Fleet office market for more than 30 years.

The office market in Fleet has been in decline for a number of years as larger corporates have vacated to consolidate occupation in larger centers and locations benefitting from more amenity – such as Farnborough Business Park. Key Business centres such as Reading and Basingstoke have prospered whilst the smaller satellite office location such as Fleet are finding it harder to prove their relevance as office locations. M3 HQ, 70,000 sq ft on ABP, has been vacant for many years and is unlikely to be occupied as offices again. There is the potential to enable redevelopment of larger unwanted office stock for residential and to focus B1 provision in locations better served by public transport and amenity and in buildings which will allow business space for the SME sector where what demand there is lies.”

Paul Dowson , Director, Lambert Smith Hampton

Fleet Regeneration Sites

Fleet Regeneration Sites

The Lambert Smith Hampton report identifies eight sites in Fleet Town centre which between them could provide 990 homes in mixed-use developments, and LSH is confident that these sites would attract developer investment. [Personally, I would add the entire civic quarter – ed]. It is shocking that Hart has turned its back on mixed use developments in Fleet without even investigating their potential. We hope that Hart Council will restructure its Local Plan to take account of the LSH report before submitting it for Inspection.

[Note that this is exactly in line with Ranil’s call for regeneration of our urban centres – ed]

Elvetham Chase refused, Wates on the warpath

Wates image Elvetham Chase aka Pale Lane

Wates image of Elvetham Chase (Pale Lane)

Thankfully, last week Hart District Council decided to refuse the Elvetham Chase (Pale Lane) proposal. Whilst this is good news, it is clear from Wates’ press release that they are very disappointed. They are likely to be on the warpath and launch an appeal.

Here is their statement in full, my emphasis:

Wates Developments today expressed disappointment at Hart District Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for its Elvetham Chase proposal without giving it the chance for proper consideration at Committee.

Emma Gruenbaum from Wates Developments said, ‘Housing in Hart is in crisis, with the District Council relying on 22 year old Local Plan, and the emerging Plan remaining untested and therefore a long way off adoption.  With homes costing 12 times average household income, the simple fact is Hart needs more homes now.  This decision prevents 280 new affordable homes being delivered to help the 1,300 families currently registered on the housing waiting list. The Council’s decision to refuse this sustainable, high quality, proposal offering a total of 700 homes, delivering an outstanding new community, is simply astonishing.’

The proposal which has no technical constraints and no statutory objections would have provided a vast array of community benefits including;

  • £10 million of investment to local primary and secondary schools
  • Facilitation of a new on-site primary school for 420 children
  • A new on-site 60 place pre-school nursery
  • £600k of investment to existing medical facilities
  • £6 million to essential local highway improvements as well as physical works across many local road, cycle and footpath routes, improving safety and easing congestion to address local concerns
  • A new community bus servicing both the new and existing communities of Elvetham Chase and Elvetham Heath to Fleet railway station and other local destinations
  • 82 acres of public open space including; on-site SANG, areas of play, woodland walks and informal space

Emma added, ‘this exemplar landscape led scheme would, we believe, become as loved locally as its predecessor Elvetham Heath. We remain 100% committed to the site and are reviewing our next steps.

They are obviously less than complimentary about Hart Council. We think that it is inevitable that Wates will appeal this decision. The full statement can be downloaded here.

Impact of Local Plan timetable on Elvetham Chase (Pale Lane)

Separately, we understand that the Government has postponed its planned publication of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) indefinitely. The new NPPF and associated new approach to calculating housing need was supposed to have been finalised by the end of January.

We understand that Hart District Council will press ahead with the consultation on the draft Local Plan. This will run from 9 February until 26 March 2018. This will be to test the soundness, legal compliance and the duty to cooperate.

This means that is is unlikely that the Plan will be examined by the Inspector until September 2018, or later.

This may well be enough time for Wates to lodge an appeal, for it to be heard and decided before the Local Plan is examined. There may not be sufficient grounds for the appeal to be rejected.

We have to hope that the right planning reasons can be found to overturn the appeal. And of course get the Local Plan in place on time, without the unnecessary new town.

Hart squanders £110K on doomed Grove Farm appeal

Grove Farm Appeal - Netherhouse Copse Site Layout

£110K squandered on Netherhouse Copse – Grove Farm  appeal

It has come to light that Hart spent nearly £110,000 on lawyers and consultants in the course of defending the doomed Grove Farm appeal.

Regular readers may remember that the council failed to answer our questions about this at the last council meeting. However, a recent FOI request from a concerned resident has finally turned up some answers.

In total the council spent £109,858.59 on external legal and consultant costs. Astonishingly, Hart Council does not seem to track the time spent by its own staff on such matters and can’t tell us the costs incurred by internal officers. The good news is that it seems the developer did not press to be awarded its own costs of running the appeal.

However, it appears as though the council did not seek an external view on the chances of success of the appeal. We said back in December 2016 that the failure to determine the application would lead to an appeal and that Hart would likely lose the appeal.

£110,000 represents about 1% of Hart’s spending budget, and they are strapped for cash. Even though we oppose the Grove Farm development, we don’t think the council should be wasting money trying to fight lost causes.

Full FOI request on Grove Farm appeal costs

The full questions and answers (in red) are shown below:

Can you please set out the cost of defending the appeal including:

a) External legal and consultant costs: The Council holds the information that you seek. The costs were £109,858.59. 

b) Internal time costs of officers. The Council does not hold the information that you seek. 

c) Any potential loss of New Homes Bonus. The Council does not hold the information that you seek.

d) Lost time on the Local Plan due to resources being diverted to defend the appeal. The Council does not hold the information that you seek.

e) Appellant costs. The Council does not hold the information that you seek 

Did the council receive legal advice on the chances of success in defending the appeal?  The Council does not hold the information that you seek 
a) What, in summary, did the advice say? The Council does not hold the information that you seek. 

b) Will you make the advice public? The Council does not hold the information that you seek 

c) Was the provider of this legal advice the same organisation that helped
defend the appeal? The Council does not hold the information that you seek

d) How much did the advice cost? The Council does not hold the information that you seek 

 

Hampshire Local Government consultation inconclusive

Hampshire Local Government Consultation Results

The results of the Hampshire Local Government consultation have been published. The consultation was to seek our views on how Hampshire might meet its budget challenges. The results are inconclusive, or as Hampshire County Council (HCC) likes to say, ‘nuanced’.

The Hampshire Local Government consultation took three forms. First, there was the open consultation that we talked about here with 3,354 respondents. Second, there was a telephone survey of a representative sample of 1,504 Hampshire residents. Finally, HCC carried out three ‘deliberative workshops’ with 90 Hampshire residents.

HCC have published a detailed report here. A paper to be discussed at Cabinet on 14 November is published here. The results of the consultations are shown in the graphic above.

Analysis

Interestingly, in the open consultation, there was quite strong support (38%) for a single combined authority, but very strong opposition to an elected mayor (61%). However, Central Government insist that combined authorities cannot go ahead without an elected mayor. There was slightly more support (39%) for a single unitary authority across Hampshire. There was quite strong opposition (33%) to any new unitary authority and even stronger opposition to any new combined authority (40%).

Overall, we are in a mess, because the most favoured option of maintaining the status quo is not an option because of budget pressures. It is clear there is no consensus on the way forward.

Hart District not building enough smaller properties to meet the needs of local people

Hart District building too many large houses to meet the needs of local people

We have now received the data from Hart District Council to show how many properties have been built or permitted since 2011 by the number of bedrooms. This shows that we have built only about half of the number of 1-bed properties we need and we haven’t built enough 3-bed properties. We have built nearly twice as many 4+bed properties than we need.

Hart District Housing completions by number of bedrooms compared to target

Hart District Housing completions by number of bedrooms compared to target

Outstanding permissions show that we will continue to over-build 4+bed properties and under-build 3-bed properties, although we will build about the right proportion of 1 and 2-bed properties.

This shows that of the remaining homes we need to build to meet our overall target of 7,534 homes, we need to increase the proportion of smaller 1, 2 and 3-bed properties to meet the needs of local people.

Overall we think that Hart Council needs to get smarter about how it monitors planning permissions so the Hart Local Plan gets as close as possible to meeting the needs of local people set out in the SHMA, as opposed to simply building houses that will maximise developer profits. It is also clear that we need to keep up the focus on brownfield development as that is much more likely to deliver more of smaller properties we need to help the younger generation on to the housing ladder.

The analysis to support these conclusions is shown below.

First, according to the current Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), Hart needs to build 7,534 dwellings in the plan period running from 2011-2032. The SHMA is also very clear on the sizes and types of housing that needs to be built, including the number of affordable homes for the young and specialist housing for the elderly.

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 9.8

Hart Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA Figure 9.8

Working through the arithmetic, and using HArt’s target of 40% affordable homes, we need to build in total the following number and proportion of properties by number of bedrooms:

Target Housing Need by number of bedrooms
Number of beds 1-bed 2-bed 3-bed 4+bed Total
% need  as affordable 40.8% 33.2% 23.5% 2.5% 100.0%
% need as market 6.7% 28.0% 44.4% 20.8% 100.0%
Affordable Need             1,230               1,001                708                    75               3,014
Market Need         304         1,267             2,008                 941              4,520
Total Need                  1,533                  2,268                  2,717                  1,016                  7,534
% Total Need 20.4% 30.1% 36.1% 13.5% 100.0%

We can compare these proportions to the dwellings that have been built since 2011:

Gross Completions by year and number of bedrooms
Year 1-bed 2-bed 3-bed 4+bed Grand Total
2010-11 35 43 14 25 117
2011-12 58 159 79 39 335
2012-13 5 42 92 96 235
2013-14 4 91 94 84 273
2014-15 22 94 121 103 340
Grand Total 124                     429                     400                     347                  1,300
% of Total 9.5% 33.0% 30.8% 26.7% 100.0%
Target % 20.4% 30.1% 36.1% 13.5%

This shows that we have built less than half of the proportion of 1-bed properties and have built nearly twice as many 4+bed properties compared to the target.

If we now look at the outstanding planning permissions, we can see there are over 3,000 dwellings permitted but not yet built as at 20 April 2016:

Gross Outstanding permissions by year of decision and number of bedrooms
Year 1-bed 2-bed 3-bed 4+bed Grand Total
2003-4 4 1 5
2004-5 1 1
2006-7 1 1
2008-9 1 1
2009-10 1 1 2
2010-11 1 3 5 5 14
2011-12 4 13 22 23 62
2012-13 68 115 234 176 593
2013-14 132 207 78 58 475
2014-15 140 302 274 242 958
2015-16 273 309 221 166 969
2016-17 -1 2 4 5
Grand Total 623 949 838 676 3,086
% of Total 20.2% 30.8% 27.2% 21.9% 100.0%
Target % 20.4% 30.1% 36.1% 13.5%  

This shows the outstanding permissions will deliver about the right proportion of 1 and 2-bed properties, but not enough to make up the shortfall of those already built and will continue to under-build 3-bed properties and over-build 4+bed properties.

The data does not show the proportion of open-market versus affordable housing, nor does it show the proportion of specialist homes for the elderly. Overall we think this means that Hart needs to get smarter about how it monitors planning permissions so that we get as close as possible to meeting the needs of local people set out in the SHMA, as opposed to simply building houses that will maximise developer profits.

Thanks to Hart Council for putting in the effort to dig the raw data out of their systems, which I know has been a difficult task.

 

Evidence shows developer ‘land-banking’ in Hart District

Crony capitalist builder banking planning permissions and not building houses

New data from Hart District Council shows that crony capitalist builders are banking their planning permissions and not building at a high enough rate to meet our housing needs. Surely, it is time for local councils to be given more powers to force developers to build out their sites on a timely basis or transfer them to another builder who can.

First, let’s take a look at the net completions each year since the planning period started in 2011.

Year Net Completions
2010-11 92
2011-12 106
2012-13 197
2013-14 264
2014-15 338
Grand Total 1,195

Note, that according to the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), we should be building at around 375 dwellings per annum to meet our housing needs, and in fact at a higher rate in the early years of the Local Plan period.

Now let’s take a look at the outstanding, uncompleted dwellings, by year of the decision to grant planning permission.

Year of grant Net uncompleted dwellings
2003 5
2005 1
2006 0
2008 1
2009 2
2010 14
2011 58
2012 591
2013 402
2014 793
2015 1,066
2016 148
Grand Total 3,081

This shows there are 1,074 dwellings that were granted permission on or before 2013 and have yet to be built, nearly the entire amount of new homes built since 2011. It is well known that the construction industry has long lead times, but surely more than 3 years from granting permission to completion is simply too long.

It is surely not right that developers turn up to planning appeals and seek to blame Hart Council for not building enough houses and use that to try and justify why their pet project should be granted permission, when it is clear the builders are simply storing up these planning permissions and not getting on with building the houses we need.

Sadly, this is in-line with the House of Lords Select Committee that said:

We see the gap between planning permissions and housing completions as a fundamental one in respect of securing increased housing supply. In a climate where over 240,000 homes a year are being granted planning permission, it is a fundamental failure of the development system that over 100,000 fewer homes are actually being built. This situation must be addressed.

It is also in-line with our own research that shows how developers have taken control of the planning system for their own ends.

Thanks to Hart Council for putting in the effort to dig the raw data out of their systems, which I know has been a difficult task.