Hampshire residents say protecting our towns and villages is a key election issue

Election demands from Hampshire residents

Election demands from Hampshire residents according to Get Hampshire

A survey of Hampshire residents by Get Hampshire has shown the protection of our green and pleasant land and historic towns and villages is a key election issue.  This issue ranked third behind controlling immigration and  helping our small businesses.

Looking at the questions and answers in more detail, a staggering 77.7% of people thought either that our green and pleasant land was of paramount importance or there were other legitimate sites available for development that councils should look at rather than using green space.

Get Hampshire Housing Crisis Questions and Answers

Get Hampshire Housing Crisis Questions and Answers

This shows an overwhelming majority in favour of protecting our historic towns and villages and protecting our green fields from over-development.

How to tackle the housing crisis from Get Hampshire

How to tackle the housing crisis from Get Hampshire

Only 12.3% of people wanted us to build thousands of houses in new towns and garden cities, whilst 36.4% of people wanted tax breaks to encourage building on brownfield sites.

Surely it is time for Hart District Council to think again about a new town at Winchfield, reject Option 4 and focus instead on creative use of the many brownfield sites in the district.  Time also for Ranil Jayawardena and Gerald Howarth to take a message back to Conservative Central Office (and Parliament if they are elected) about changing the National Planning Policy Framework to reduce the pressure on local councils.

Focusing on brownfield and regeneration of our town centres will make better use of that land and build more critical mass to support the local retailers so would help with meeting two of the top 3 election issues.

If you would like to join our campaign to ask Hart Council to think again, please sign and share our petition:

 

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As an addendum, protection of greenbelt by building on brownfield sites is a key issue for Surrey residents too.

Surrey Election Demands from Get Surrey

Surrey Election Demands from Get Surrey

We can win this campaign – County Durham SHMA rejected because of too many houses

We Love Hart Campaign Logo

We Love Hart Campaign Logo

A recent highly critical interim report from the inspector of County Durham’s local plan demonstrates we can win the We Heart Hart campaign against Hart District Council’s Local Plan.

The Durham report has a number of interesting points:

  • The Objectively Assessed Need (OAHN) has been found too high because it was based on unrealistic jobs growth and inward migration assumptions.  This finding is relevant to Hart District, Hampshire because our Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) relies upon inward migration numbers from the time we were building the most and on jobs growth assumptions that are nearly double those achieved in the boom times of 1998-2008.
  • County Durham carried out a very extensive consultation process, but they were criticised for demonstrating “little evidence of willingness to respond positively to contrary views or to simplify the process to encourage genuine public engagement”.  It seems that despite having a wide ranging consultation process, the Local Plan failed.  Given that Hart is carrying out less consultation than Durham, even less than it originally said it would, and seems impervious to suggestions of focusing more strongly on brownfield sites, then this would seem to be a significant risk to the current Hart District Local Plan.
  • Finally one consultee  said “that a comparison should have been made with alternatives such as a ‘moderate growth’ alternative accommodated on brownfield sites….The Council has dismissed such an alternative which seems to me to have significantly diminished the credibility of the SA”.  Again the significance for Hart is obvious in that Hart has refused to consider seriously an alternative solution of building higher density developments on the many vacant brownfield sites in the district.

If you would like to join our campaign to get Hart to think again, then please sign and share our petition:

 

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Hart District Council in disarray over infrastructure costs and funding

Hart Existing Infrastructure Funding Gap

£78m Funding Gap

In a piece of bad news from last Thursday’s council meeting, Hart District Council admitted that it had no idea how much the infrastructure for the local plan would cost, nor how much it would raise from developers to pay for it, despite sitting on an existing funding gap of £78m. The detailed questions and answers can be found here.  This comes alongside the revelation that Hampshire County Council has a £1.9bn infrastructure funding deficit, and Rushmoor Borough Council, £80m.

If you would like to ask Hart to think again, please sign and share our petition:

 

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We have posted before our estimate of an £150m cost of infrastructure for a new town at Winchfield, which would lead to the existing £78m funding gap being extended to £188m.  We asked questions about this at the council meeting on 26 March and received some staggeringly vague answers.  New analysis from Hart indicates that infrastructure costs could escalate to £300m.

First we asked how much money would be raised from developers.  Answer: we don’t know.  And they also didn’t know how much the funding would vary according to the development strategy adopted.

Hart doesn't know how much cash it will raise from developers

Hart doesn’t know how much cash it will raise from developers

We also asked about how the infrastructure costs would vary according to the development strategy adopted.  Answer: no idea.

Hart District Council does not know how much it will cost to deliver the infrastructure required

Hart doesn’t know how much it will cost to deliver the infrastructure

Finally, we asked if Hart understood the impact on our infrastructure of the massive development due to take place in neighbouring districts.  Answer: We don’t know.

Hart District Council does not know the impact of development in neighbouring districts

Hart doesn’t not know the impact of development in neighbouring districts

We find it quite staggering that Hart as got as far as settling upon a preferred development strategy without understanding what infrastructure will be required, how much it will cost nor how it will be funded, especially as there is already a £78m funding gap.

It is fairly self evident that the infrastructure required for brownfield development will be very much less than that required for a new town.

It has now transpired that Hampshire as a whole has an infrastructure funding deficit of £1.9bn and Rushmoor has an £80m shortfall.

 

Council concedes that we could build at higher density on brownfield land

Derelict Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

Derelict Offices in Fleet, Hampshire

In a piece of good news on Thursday night, Hart District Council conceded that it would be possible to build at higher density than they previously planned on brownfield sites in the district.  The detailed questions and answers can be found here.

Hart District Council uses a rule of thumb of 30 dwellings per hectare (dph) for most sites in its database.  We Heart Hart put to them that it might be possible to plan for up to 250dph in urban areas and still create vibrant communities.  Hart rejected such high densities, but did concede that densities of 80-160dph might be possible.

Hart District Council answer to brownfield question March 2015

Hart District Council answer to brownfield question

This is a very significant move.  Currently Hart District Council have said the capacity of brownfield is around 700 dwellings, based on 30dph.  However, if the capacity was scaled up to an average of say 120dph, the capacity increases to 2,800 dwellings.  Moreover, there are a number of brownfield sites such as at Ancell’s Farm in Fleet and Bartley Wood in Hook that are not in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), and so there is even more capacity available.

This could take us within spitting distance of meeting the remaining 4,000 houses that have yet to be granted planning permission for the Local Plan, without concreting over our green fields.  This would mean we would not need a new town in Winchfield nor do we need more strategic urban extensions in Fleet, Church Crookham or Hook.  A further advantage would be that the centre of Fleet could be rejuvenated and could sustain more shops and amenities.

This is clearly good news, but it remains to be seen whether Hart District Council will take this opportunity seriously as there answer to the supplementary questions were not particularly encouraging.

Hart District Council gets its facts wrong on the Local Plan

Hart District Council Local Plan Update Spring-Summer 2015

Hart District Council Local Plan Update Spring-Summer 2015

Hart District Council has published an article in the latest copy of Hart News that gets its facts wrong on how many houses we have to build under the emerging Local Plan.

As can be seen from the above image, Hart Council is saying we only need to build 4,000 houses up to 2032.  However, this is in direct contradiction to the strategic housing market assessment and the evidence presented to Cabinet back in November 2014 that clearly states we need to build 7,534 houses in the period up to 2032.

Hart District Council Housing Requirement from Cabinet Meeting November 2014 or Local Plan; SHMA

Hart District Housing Requirement from Cabinet Meeting Nov 2014

Even 7,534 houses is probably an understatement, because Rushmoor Borough Council and Surrey Heath Borough Council have told Hart that they cannot build all of their allocation on their own patches and want Hart to build a further 3,100 houses for them.  This would give a total of 10,634 houses to be built in Hart up to 2032.

Hart District acts as sink for 3,100 houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor

Surrey Heath and Rushmoor Housing Shortfall

Hart’s strategy of building a new settlement (option 4) in Winchfield creates additional capacity that makes it much more likely that we will have to take these additional houses.

The article in Hart News also further illustrates that Hart is not serious about its brownfield strategy as they are continuing to ignore the large number of vacant office blocks and sites such as Sun Park and Hartland Park and are still assuming only 30 dwellings per hectare. Furthermore, they make no mention of the need to build specialist housing for our ageing population which a new town won’t deliver.

Finally, Hart Council were supposed to be consulting on the draft plan now, with a view to modifying it during the Summer before publication of the actual plan for a further round of consultation in the Autumn.  But now they have skipped one of the consultations.

We can only speculate as to the motives behind this mistake and the skipping of one round of consultation. However, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Hart District Council are hiding the truth, and trying to push through a disastrous strategy without proper consultation.

If you would like to oppose Hart’s approach to the Local Plan, please sign and share our petition:

 

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Is Hart District Council Pushing Through the Local Plan without proper consultation?

Hart District Council has made changes to the way it is preparing the Local Plan and dropped one of the consultations it said it was going to carry out.  This leads to the suspicion that it is trying to force through a new settlement (Option 4), without adequately consulting the public or gaining proper support for its proposals.

If you would like to add your voice to those opposing the Council’s approach, please sign and share our petition:

 

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Back in April 2014, Hart published its Local Development Scheme (LDS), that set out the timetable for producing the local plan.  This clearly shows that there would be two “Regulation 18” consultations with the general public.  The first was to be the consultation on the housing development options paper and the second was to be a consultation on a draft plan, due to take place in March 2015.

Hart District Council Local Development Scheme 3rd Rev April 2014

Hart Council Local Development Scheme 3rd Rev April 2014

However, in a revised Local Development Scheme (LDS), published in February 2015, this second Regulation 18 consultation has been dropped.  The next time the public is going to be consulted is in Autumn 2015 when the Local Plan is complete and there is only six weeks before it is submitted for inspection.

Local Development Scheme Feb 2015

Hart Council Local Development Scheme 4th Rev Feb 2015

This means that Hart District Council is proposing to move from a very general consultation on where to put 7,500 houses to a complete document ready for submission without any further consultation with the public.  They barely raised the risk of Hart becoming a sink for 3,100 extra houses from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor.

As we have already documented, Hart has admitted it has no vision for the district, so it certainly has not consulted us on what we would like Hart to look like in 20 years time.  Moreover, Hart is continuing to test a new settlement at Winchfield without consulting the public on whether they want the northern part of Hart to descend into a single urban sprawl.  In addition, more people have signed our petition opposing its approach than responded to its own, inadequate consultation.

It is difficult to come to a conclusion other than Hart District Council is trying to force through a new town without proper consultation.

We would like to humbly suggest that Hart District Council thinks again and alters its approach to better engage the public in these very important decisions.

 

Questions for Hart District Council from We Heart Hart

There’s another Hart District Council meeting next week on 26 March at 7pm.  We Heart Hart has tabled some questions about the planned housing density, planning for an ageing population and infrastructure costs.

Deadline for submission of your own questions is tomorrow at noon.

Please feel free to use the download below as inspiration for your own questions.

Questions for Hart District Council Meeting Mar 26 2015

Answers to our previous questions have now been published on here and here on Hart District Council’s website.

Answers to the questions we put have now been published in draft minutes on the Hart Council website.

Impact of Housing Density on Hart Local Plan

Impact of Housing Density on Hart District Local Plan

Impact of Housing Density on Land Required for Hart Local Plan

This diagram shows the impact of the area of land required to meet the housing need of 7,534 houses in the Hart Local Plan.  Hart District Council use a rule of thumb of approximately 30 dwellings per hectare (dph) for new housing density.  However, the study by Gareth Price showed that in urban areas it is quite possible to create vibrant communities with housing densities of 250 dph.

Using Hart’s metric of 30dph would mean we would have to find around 251 hectares (621 acres) of land to meet the housing need.  Whereas if we were to build at a higher density of 250 dph on brownfield sites we would only need to find around 30 hectares of land (around 75 acres).  These approximate areas are shown in the red squares on the map above.

Interestingly, Hartland Park (aka Pyestock), near Fleet is a brownfield site of 119 acres which is larger than we need to meet our total housing requirement.

We have already posted lots of other brownfield sites such as Sun Park near the M3, Ancell’s Farm and the derelict buildings at the end of Fleet Road in Fleet and Bartley Wood in Hook, Hampshire.

This shows that with vision, creativity, energy and political will, we can meet our housing needs for decades to come by properly utilising brownfield land and have no need to concrete over our beautiful green fields by building a new town.

If you would like to join the campaign to ask Hart District Council to think again, please sign our petition:

 

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NE Hants Greens find more potential brownfield sites in Hart

Old Police Station in Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire

Old Police Station in Fleet, Hampshire

 

The Greens from North East Hampshire have been busy today taking pictures of a number of sites across the district. Like We Heart Hart, they think it is madness to be focusing the Hart Local Plan on building a new town on our beautiful green fields in Winchfield when there is so much under-utilised brownfield land.

However, some of the sites identified are quite probably not suitable as for example, Tweseldown and Hawley Lake are in or near the Thames Valley Basin SPA and the site near Basingstoke Canal is an SSSI.

If you would like to ask Hart District Council to think again, please sign our petition:

 

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Nevertheless it is important we stretch every sinew to find brownfield sites and make the most of them.  Hart assume a meagre 30 dwelling per hectare on brownfield land, when studies have shown that it is possible to create thriving communities with densities nearly 10x that level.

Thank you to Andrew Johnston from the North East Hampshire Green Party for the images.  He has posted them on his Twitter feed.

What is your manifesto for North East Hampshire?

We Love Hart Ballot Box

The website of the Fleet News and Mail is running an on-line questionnaire to find out what is important to the people of North East Hampshire (and Hart District) at the forthcoming general and local elections.  The questionnaire is open until tomorrow, Sunday 15 March 2015.

There are a number of questions in there about planning (including the Local Plan)  and housing.

Please make your voice heard and ask our politicians to think again an focus on building fewer houses and building them on brownfield sites by signing our petition:

 

Go to Petition

 

We Heart Hart will be increasing its coverage as we run up to the election.