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.

 

Planning Inspector’s Trimmers Farm decision could scupper Winchfield new town plan

Solar Farm at Trimmers Farm, Hook, Hampshire turned down by planning inspectorate

Trimmers Farm solar farm turned down by inspector

The Planning Inspectorate has decided not to allow a solar farm to be built at Trimmers Farm, near Beggars Corner, on a site that straddles Hook and Winchfield parishes.  The implication of this decision is that it also likely scuppers the proposed Hartley Winchook new town. The full decision can be downloaded from the button below.

The main reason given by the planning inspector was that the solar farm “would cause substantial harm to the character and appearance of the surrounding landscape”. Although the inspector did also say that ” the proposal would make a valuable contribution to the cutting of greenhouse gas emissions. It would also assist in securing the ongoing viability of the farm enterprise”. The more detailed assessment of the harm said:

From my own observations and having regard to the appellants’ photomontages and Zone of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV), the solar farm would have an adverse visual impact which would significantly detract from the visual amenity of the area. Having taken into account the presence of the railway, motorway and pylons I consider that the proposal would consolidate the spread of man-made features across the skyline and add to the creeping urbanising effect on the area, thereby exacerbating the resultant harm to the landscape character and visual amenity. In conclusion the level of harm to the character and appearance of the landscape would be significant and would conflict with LP saved Policies GEN10, GEN1, GEN3, CON23, RUR2 and RUR3.

SHL167 SHLAA Map - Beggars Corner, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

SHL167 SHLAA Map – Beggars Corner, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

The implications of this could be quite interesting as the same Beggars Corner site is contained in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment as SHL 167, and is included in the proposals for the proposed new town at Winchfield. We have written before that 772 houses were proposed to be built on the former land fill site.

SHL 167 Landfill details Beggars Corner

SHL 167 Landfill details Beggars Corner, Winchfield, Hart District, Hampshire

However, we find it difficult to believe that 772 houses, many of which might have solar panels on their roofs, would have a lower visual impact or create less creeping urbanisation than a solar farm.  Of course, the challenges of building houses on landfill would be much greater than installing solar panels.

As can be seen from the image below, the removal of SHL167 from the new town plan would effectively isolate two halves of the proposed new town, with the Murrell Green sites being disconnected from the other sites.  This will compromise sustainability and will also reduce the housing capacity.

Winchfield and Hook New Town proposal

Winchfield and Hook New Town proposal

We have previously challenged the viability of the new town plan, as have Winchfield Parish Council. However, to re-cap, the SHLAA suggests that the housing capacity of the new town sites is in the range 6,500-7,500. But not enough space has been set aside for SANG, or for sports facilities, schools, shops, car-parks or community facilities. Making allowance for these elements would reduce capacity to 4,000-5,000. Removing the 772 houses from SHL167 would further reduce the capacity to 3,228-4,228, which is well below the minimum viability threshold of 5,000 dwellings.

 

Trimmers Farm Solar Farm Planning Inspector’s Appeal Decision

link

Hook Herald covers Pyestock and brownfield study stories

Hook Herald 8 April 2016 Housing Reprieve

Hook Herald has covered the Pyestock (aka Hartland Park) redevelopment story, that we covered here and Fleet News and Mail covered yesterday.  They also quote We Heart Hart as signalling that this new development effectively kills off the plan for a new town at Winchfield.

It is also encouraging to see that Hook Herald have covered the other significant story of Hart District Council (HDC) launching a new project to find out how to make the most of the brownfield sites in the district. We understand that HDC will now make a full announcement about this next week.

Full size image of the story here.

 

Season’s Greetings – remember a new town is for life, not just for Christmas

Winter in Winchfield The Hurst 2010

Winter in Winchfield The Hurst 2010

Season’s greetings to everyone, and a big thank you to all those who have supported the We Hart Campaign during 2015.  Can we ask everyone to respond to the consultation, and ask themselves whilst doing it, would you like to redevelop some of the derelict eyesores in the district or would you like to concrete over the green lung at the heart of Hart in Winchfield? Remember, a new town is for life, not just for Christmas.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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

Which parishes have seen most development Hart District?

Elvetham Heath near Fleet, Hampshire

Elvetham Heath near Fleet, Hampshire

There has been much controversy about how much development there has been in Hart District over the past few years, so inspired by a post on the Winchfield Action Group site, we thought we’d take a closer look at the data.

We have compiled a list by parish and ward of the number of dwellings in each area in 2001 and 2011, according to the census and the results are shown in the table below:

ParishWard2001 Census (Dwellings)2011 Census (Dwellings)% Increase
Total34170373369.3
Blackwater & Hawley177218675.4
Bramshill9863-35.7
Church Crookham330933280.6
Crondall6887387.2
Crookham Village156316304.3
Dogmersfield1241283.2
Eversley5996508.5
Ewshot2292352.6
FleetCentral2235256514.8
FleetCourtmoor188819282.1
FleetNorth (inc Elvetham Heath)13602947116.7
FleetPondtail182018984.3
FleetWest185719786.5
Fleet Total91601131623.5
Greywell1041040
Hartley Wintney212622224.5
Heckfield137135-1.5
Hook2718311114.5
Mattingley2322382.6
Odiham & Long Sutton271228806.2
Rotherwick2052123.4
South Warnborough21326223
Winchfield2392587.9
Yateley79427959.2

It should be noted that the data only runs up to 2011 and so misses out most or all of certain developments such as QEB in Church Crookham, Dilly Lane and Rifle Range Farm in Hartley Wintney, Edenbrook and the planned new developments at Hawley Park Farm, new development to the North East of Hook and at Watery Lane.

It does show that the area with the largest increase is what was known as Fleet North, which has now been split after incorporating Elvetham Heath.

It is not really for us to point fingers at different areas of the district.  We will let readers make up their own mind and draw their own conclusions from the data.

If anyone finds an error in any of the data, then please do get in touch and we will make any corrections that are needed.

[Update]

I was asked to provide updated data of the permissions and completions since 2011.  There is no easy way to get this data.  This is a copy of what I received:

The majority of the information (with details of location and parish) on housing completions and permissions for the next few years can be found in the following two published documents :

Appendix 2&3
http://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/4_The_Council/Policies_and_published_documents/Planning_policy/Hart%205%20yr%20supply%20statement%20at%201st%20October%202015.pdf

And http://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/4_The_Council/Policies_and_published_documents/Planning_policy/Final%20Dwelling%20Completion%20Figures%202014-15_for%20website.xlsx

It’s regrettable  that you only used figures from the superseded five year land supply (2001-2011) calculation in the Interim Housing Delivery Strategy which was superseded by the Five Year Land Supply Position Statement:
Five Year Housing Land Supply Position Statement, 1st October 2015
2014-15, and the Completions list from Hampshire County Council (1st April 2015) both of which were linked on the  council website “Current planning policy and guidance” referring to the local plan consultation, and also discussed at a council meeting.

I’m glad got said you’d incorporate the latest numbers, and look forward to seeing this. I believe you’ll find disproportionate housing allocation to the North and East of the region whilst minimal development in the centre, West or south.

I can confirm that I used neither of the Housing Land Supply documents to produce the table above.  As the original post says, the source for the above is the census.

The link to the pdf just gives a long list of sites in a form that it is impossible to analyse in any meaningful way, least of all by parish.  The spreadsheet contains a list of starts, completions and losses for 2014-2015, a summary of which by Parish is shown below.

Dwellings started completed and lost in Hart District 2014-15

[/Update]

We Heart Hart to present to Odiham Parish Council

Odiham High Street, Hart District Hampshire

Odiham High Street, Hampshire

We Heart Hart has been asked to present to Odiham Parish Council about the Rushmoor and Hart Local Plans on Monday 7 September at 7:30pm at The Bury, Odiham. RG29 1NB. The presentation we will give is available for download below:

We Heart Hart presentation to Odiham Parish Council

link

Hart Council revises the timetable for the Local Plan

Hart District Council Offices

Hart District Council Offices

Hart District Council’s planning department is working on revising the process and timetable for producing the Local Plan, introducing a new consultation step, but adding further delay to the process.

Back in February, Hart changed the Local Development Scheme (LDS), so that they were due to produce a complete draft Local Plan prior to submission in Autumn 2015.

However, we now understand that the process and timetable will be revised so that:

  • A revised “Housing Options Paper” will be produced in late October 2015 and will be consulted upon through to December 2015.  We believe this will be a Regulation 18 consultation, but it will also be an opportunity for everyone to put forward alternative ideas as to how we should meet the assessed housing requirement.
  • The council will then move quickly to produce a fully worked up Local Plan in early Spring 2016 which will also be subject to consultation.  We believe this will be a final Regulation 19 consultation.
  • Once the Local Plan has been amended to take account of the feedback received it will be submitted for inspection in the Autumn of 2016.

It is to be welcomed that the council is introducing this extra consultation step, but we are concerned that this revised timetable is getting very close to the time when the Government has said it might step in and write the Local Plan for councils that haven’t met the end 2016 deadline it has set.

This presents a real opportunity for our ideas on the council’s response to the We Hart petition to be incorporated into the consultation document due to be published in October 2015.