FT: Housebuilding boom will not make houses cheaper

Today, the FT has run a very important article about the proposed housebuilding boom in the UK. This echoes the work of Ian Mulheirn that we highlighted back in February. The key takeaways are:

  1. There is no housing crisis. The housing market is adequately supplied and there is no shortage
  2. Other than in London, rents have risen less quickly than consumer prices
  3. House prices are high because of low interest rates and easy availability of credit
  4. The way to reduce housing costs, if not house prices, is to increase the supply of homes for rent
  5. More of the same tweaks to the planning system and housing market are doomed to fail.

We do hope Hart Council take notice of this article. Because carpeting out green fields with 10,185 houses isn’t going to make them any more affordable for local people. All they will do is add to the £72m infrastructure funding gap, increase waiting times at doctor’s surgeries and add to our already bad road congestion.

It is time to adopt the new Government approach to calculating Hart’s housing target so we can meet local needs and address our infrastructure problems. This will cut our housing target to around 6,500 after we make allowance to build some houses for Surrey Heath.

The article in reproduced in full below.

Lex in depth: The false promise of a UK housebuilding boom

Chancellor Philip Hammond is under pressure to commit billions of pounds to build more affordable housing. But what if a lack of houses is not the real problem?

© AFP

The cost and availability of housing has become a potent political issue in the UK, where younger people especially are being priced out of the market as their parents and grandparents benefit from decades of above-inflation rises in home values.

The ruling Conservatives, traditionally the party of home ownership, now find themselves shunned by millennial voters frustrated by spiralling housing costs. So far, the response has been to provide subsidy to renters and buyers, and to exhort the construction industry to build more. Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is under pressure to announce more money for housing in Wednesday’s budget.

Yet building more homes is unlikely to meaningfully reduce prices, especially in the short term. One reason is that, whatever the other dysfunctions of the housing market there is — nationally at least — no shortage of homes.

To suggest this is to challenge a prevailing, almost universally accepted wisdom: that British house prices are high because the country has for many years failed to build enough houses. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, new home construction fell by more than a third, and even their pre-crisis levels were a far cry from the halcyon days of the 1960s or the 1930s, when completions were higher, both absolutely and relative to population.

Those on the left attribute this to the sharp fall in the construction of social housing since the 1980s. Those on the right blame the planning system for throwing sand in the wheels of the free market. Both broadly agree that the solution is to build many more homes. In 2015, ministers set a target of 1m new dwellings by 2020. On Sunday, Mr Hammond pledged to build 300,000 homes a year, though he did not specify a timeframe.

That number echoes the promise made by Harold Macmillan, housing minister in the 1951-55 Conservative government, whose achievements are hailed by those in the ruling party calling for more ambition on housing. The 1951 administration came to power on a promise to “give housing a priority second only to national defence” and presided over a construction boom in an era when austerity included food rationing.

Many prognostications about the housing market cite government data on new builds. But what matters more is the net change in overall supply, which includes property converted to residential from other uses, and subtracts the homes demolished.

The gap between these two was substantial in the Macmillan era and in the 1960s, when housebuilding was at its peak but thousands of condemned homes were also being flattened in slum clearances. It is still fairly wide today, but in the opposite direction. In the year to March 31 2017, 183,570 homes were built in England, the most since 2008. But conversions and changes of use took the total net new supply to 217,350.

All that would be academic if the supply were consistently behind demand, which at first glance does appear to be the case. In recent years, net new supply has been below the 210,000 dwellings that the government estimates will be needed each year from 2014 to 2039 in England. But long-range forecasts on household formation require big assumptions about longevity, fertility, household size and migration, and are subject to large margins of error. In 2008, the government estimated that 280,000 homes would be needed in the UK each year until 2016. In 2012, after the global financial crisis, that had dropped to 231,000 a year.

Not only are the figures a moving target — the statisticians now have to factor in the impact of Brexit on migration, for instance — but they are also some way off the reality. The 2012 forecasts predicted 27.7m households by 2016. Figures from the Office for National Statistics say there are now 27.2m households — around 500,000 fewer than predicted.

As for dwellings, there were 28m in 2014, the last year for which UK-wide figures are available. Even allowing for second homes — around 200,000 in England, down from over 300,000 a decade ago — and those that are temporarily empty, there are clearly more dwellings than there are households. That may be because there is a surplus of housing in some areas, such as old industrial towns. But Ian Mulheirn, director of consulting at Oxford Economics, says that even London and the south-east added more dwellings than households from 2001 to 2015.

One possible explanation for this contradiction is that high prices have suppressed household growth. Households cannot form because 30-year-olds are still living in their parents’ spare bedrooms. The data do not really bear out the anecdotal evidence of the “boomerang generation”. Around a quarter of people aged 20-34 still live in the parental home. In 1996, when house prices were much lower relative to earnings, the proportion was still a fifth.

But many more young people are now renting. A study by the Resolution Foundation in September found that two in five millennials (those born between 1981 and 2000) were living in private rented accommodation at the age of 30. For baby boomers (born 1946 to 1965), the equivalent figure was one in 10. Rented households are still households, but it may be that the individuals who rent together may prefer to have bought individually. The Resolution Foundation also found that, on average, renters were living in less space further from their place of work than would have been the case in the past.

Julie Rugg, a research fellow at the University of York’s Centre for Housing Policy, also cautions that national data on rents conceal wide regional variations. “There are parts of the country with housing oversupply, and where private rents may sit somewhere below social housing rents,” she says. Nevertheless, aggregate rents have risen far more slowly than aggregate prices — suggesting that high prices are about something more than just the supply and demand of homes.

For Toby Lloyd, director of housing policy at Shelter, the housing charity, that something is actually two things, “land and money”. Not just the cheap credit that followed the global financial crisis and pushed up real estate prices in cities around the world, but a whole series of policy interventions over several decades.

In Macmillan’s era, only building societies could extend mortgages, and only then on conservative terms. Liberalisation of credit and tax cuts led to the “Barber boom” of the early 1970s, where wages and prices (including house prices) rose sharply. More relaxing of credit regulation at the start of the 1980s drove an even larger expansion in lending. Mortgage securitisation facilitated further growth, as did the Basel II reforms cutting the risk weights applied to real estate. This made mortgage lending less capital-intensive for banks.

The fuelling of the housing boom

UK housing charts
  1. 1963 Tax on imputed rents scrapped
  2. 1969 Mortgage interest relief at source (Miras) introduced
  3. September 1971 Competition, Credit & Control Act (allows banks to borrow from wholesale market)
  4. October 1980 Housing Act gives council tenants right to buy their homes
  5. 1988 Assured shorthold tenancies introduced, giving landlords more rights
  6. 1996 First buy-to-let mortgages sold
  7. 2000 Miras scrapped
  8. 2007 Collapse of Northern Rock and onset of financial crisis

A similar thing happened in other European countries, notably Spain and Ireland. “After about 2003 [the boom] became more about rates and money,” says Kieran McQuinn, a research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin. “Lots of overseas banks set up shop in Ireland. More of the buying became about investment and retirement. Even business loans were increasingly tied to property.” In the peak year for home construction, 2006, this country of just 4m people built over 90,000 homes — yet prices still rose 11 per cent that year.

The expansion of credit was only one part of what Neal Hudson, a property market analyst, calls the “financialisation of housing”. In 1963, “schedule A” personal income tax, an annual levy on the imputed rent of an owned home, was abolished. Housing profits were exempted from the new capital gains tax. In 1969 came “Miras”, a tax break on mortgage interest that endured until 2000.

Council house sales in the 1980s gave rise to a private rental market, whose development was accelerated by the reform of assured shorthold tenancies and the advent of buy-to-let mortgages in the 1990s. These came with their own advantages: landlords only paid the interest, not principal, and until this year interest costs could be offset against profit in full. More recently came the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, and increased allowances for property within inheritance tax.

Such favourable treatment of property in the legal and tax systems, and the ready availability of cheap credit and government support, did more than just nurture a long house price boom. They created behavioural effects that no econometric house price model could capture.

“People like houses as an investment because they are tangible,” says Greg Davies, a behavioural economist. “They feel they understand them far more than funds or shares or bonds. People assume that property is safe because of its familiarity.”

They may also feel that policymakers are standing behind the market. The government spends £24bn a year on housing benefit, and recently earmarked another £10bn to the Help to Buy scheme. Andrew Lilico, an economist who subscribes to the idea that there is no housing crisis, points to a key Bank of England meeting in August 2005 when, according to the minutes, “the ongoing adjustment in the housing market” was one factor that resulted in a narrow vote to cut rates to 4.5 per cent. “We took a decision to protect those who had paid too much for houses at the expense of those who wanted to buy,” says Mr Lilico.

© Getty

From the mid-19th century until the start of the 1970s, the price of land moved more or less in line with the prices of homes, according to Paul Cheshire, professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics. After that, land prices tended to act as a leveraged play on house prices, with considerable volatility.

This was partly down to credit conditions. But it was also due to changes in the planning regime, especially the 1961 Land Compensation Act. This forced local authorities to pay a price for land that reflects its likely future use, rather than its current value, and gradually curtailed the involvement of local authorities in constructing new housing.

The steep rises in the value of land as it moves through the planning process are a major driver of profits for landowners and housebuilders, who have the legal expertise and financial resources to endure the often lengthy process. But the fact that land with permission to build is so costly, up to half the final selling price in some areas, is a major reason why British houses are small, poor-quality and expensive.

The existence of “green belts” around many conurbations, designed to limit further development, makes it hard for councils to approve new housing in response to local conditions. In the five years to 2017, more homes were built in Barnsley (3,480) a former mining town in South Yorkshire, than were built in booming Cambridge (2,490).

Few would dispute that building more homes is a good idea, even if aggregate data suggest there is no acute shortage. “All of the other problems become easier to solve if there are more houses to start with,” says Mr Lloyd. But few expect that building more homes to buy will reduce prices in anything but the long term — meaning over five years.

The problem for Mr Hammond is that other options are either ineffectual or politically difficult. No politician is going to turn off the credit tap. Appropriating unearned property profits from older homeowners — who in aggregate are under-occupying housing — results in howls of outrage from voters. Reforming the planning system to permanently lower the cost of development land risks incurring the wrath of voters in the leafy, prosperous counties that surround London.

Interventions such as taxing foreigners who buy UK property play well politically but have little impact. The same pattern is evident elsewhere; overseas investors buying property in Hong Kong, Singapore, Vancouver and some Australian cities pay additional stamp duty of up to 15 per cent, but such eye-watering levies have done little to stem the appetite for real estate in those cities.

Perhaps the most promising way to reduce housing costs — if not house prices — is to increase the supply of homes for rent. “The nub of the whole debate is that the market in housing assets is different from the market in housing services,” says Mr Mulheirn. “House prices do not set rents. Landlords charge what the tenant market will bear.” Yet even here, the current administration lacks the pragmatism of past ones.

© AFP

Harold Macmillan encouraged private developers, but also thought nothing of mobilising the resources of the state to ensure that his target of 300,000 homes a year was met. In some of the most open markets in the world, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, the state owns most of the land and up to half the population is housed in government-owned apartments.

Some have lobbied for more state intervention. Last week Sajid Javid, the UK secretary of state for communities and local government, said he would alter the rules so that housing associations are treated as private companies and can borrow more freely. But this is a timid reform compared with the one that many academics, think tanks and even former ministers have advocated: legislating to change planning rules so that the cost of land comes down. Mr Hammond appears unmoved. His comments so far suggest the Budget will offer more of the same: relying on benefits, mortgage subsidies, tweaks to planning rules and increased private-sector construction to improve the affordability of houses to buy. Like previous attempts, it looks doomed to fail.

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 

 

Why the 10,185 ridiculous housing target is a bad idea

Why the 10,185 ridiculous housing target is a bad idea

Why the 10,185 ridiculous housing target is a bad idea

We challenged a number of groups who did not oppose the ridiculous housing target. This led to one of the accused groups saying we were spreading “negative waves, man”. We think it is very negative to support the 10,185 housing target, but were surprised that many did not understand the full impact.  This post aims to explain why the housing target in the draft Hart Local Plan is such a bad idea.

This analysis shows that, given the way Government household projections are calculated, if we continued to follow the 10,185 target in the Local Plan, the compounding effect would mean we end up building over 12,000 houses. However, if we followed the new Government methodology, we would end up building around 8,200 new houses, which could be accommodated on brownfield sites.

The only possible reason to continue with this ridiculous housing target is CCH’s ‘new town at all costs’ ideology that will end up destroying what all most love about living in Hart district.

The detailed analysis is shown below:

How are the Government household projections calculated

The primary driver of household projections is the ONS population forecast.

Methodology for calculating DCLG household projections

Methodology for calculating DCLG household projections

The sub-national population forecasts are in turn calculated as follows (emphasis mine):

Data for up to 6 preceding years are used, so for the 2014-based projections trends were based on data from the years 2009 to 2014. The projections based on these trends are constrained to the assumptions made for the principal 2014-based national population projection for England.

….

The civilian population from the previous year is then aged-on, local fertility and mortality rates are applied to calculate projected numbers of births and deaths, and the population is adjusted for internal (movement between areas within England), cross-border (movements between England and the other countries of the UK), and international (movements between England and countries outside of the UK) migration.

Impact of higher migration into Hart from other districts

We know that the SHMA is already planning for more houses than we need, and the SHMA itself acknowledges that these extra people will come from other districts. Hart have then compounded this problem by planning for 2,000 more houses than the SHMA calls for.

The impact of planning for more houses than we need is that inward migration is artificially inflated and then used in later years to inflate the future housing requirement even further. This is compounded each time the population and household projections are made. Remember also that Local Plans are supposed to be reviewed every five years and the revised household forecasts taken into account.

Hart housing target model

We have done some simple modelling to illustrate the impact of this over the plan period. This is illustrated in the data table below:

Hart housing target data table

Hart housing requirement data table

The table shows four baseline numbers for 4 different scenarios:

  1. The raw 2014-based DCLG household projections which give a total of 4,586 new houses over the plan period
  2. The new Government methodology, using their rate of 292 per annum from 2016-2026 over the whole plan period of 2011-2032. This gives a total of 6,132.
  3. The SHMA, which gives a total of 8,022
  4. The ridiculous 10,185 in the draft Local Plan

The first thing to note is the draft Local Plan figure is more than twice the raw household projections. The second point to note is the figures in the new Government methodology already include a 40% ‘market signals’ uplift over the raw household forecasts. This is  because Hart’s house prices are very expensive compared to local earnings.

However, these numbers are not the end of the matter, because the Local Plan has to be reviewed every five years. We have modelled what might happen in 2021 and 2026 under two scenarios. When we get to 2021, the DCLG household forecasts will look backwards at the rate of population and household growth from 2016 to 2021 and project this rate of growth forwards. Similarly, in 2026, the forecasts will project forwards the 2021-2026 rate of growth.

Hart housing target using new Government methodology

Hart housing requirement using new Government methodology

Under the first scenario, we have assumed that Hart builds at the rate of 292 per annum from 2016 to 2021. This rate of growth won’t have any impact on house prices, unless there is a significant recession. So, house prices will still be very high compared to earnings. Even James Radley agrees with this. Therefore, the ‘market signals’ upwards adjustment will apply again. This will inflate the required build rate. Similarly, in 2026, the 2021 build rate will then be further adjusted. This will result in a total build in the period 2011-2032 being 8,239. This is slightly more than is in the current SHMA.

Hart housing target using Local Plan figures

Hart housing requirement using Local Plan figures

Under the second scenario, we have started with the 485 build rate in the Local Plan. We then made adjustments in 2021 and 2026 as above. The result is that the total build in the period 2011-2032 will be 12,185 units. Or 2.6 times the baseline household projections.

This is clearly an unsustainable proposition. We must reject the current Local Plan target and use the new Government figures as soon as possible. The only possible reason to continue with this ridiculous housing target is CCH’s ‘new town at all costs’ ideology that will end up destroying what all most love about living in Hart district.

Fleet and Crookham groups fail to oppose ridiculous housing target

The Scream - Hart Rushmoor and Surrey Heath SHMA

Fleet and Crookham groups fail to oppose ridiculous housing target

The responses to the draft Local Plan consultation have finally been published and it is clear that groups from Fleet and Church Crookham groups have failed to oppose the ridiculous housing target.

We have looked at the responses from the following groups and can find no mention of their objection to the housing target:

  • Face IT
  • Fleet and Church Crookham Society
  • Church Crookham Parish Council
  • Fleet Town Council

Many of these groups strongly oppose the now withdrawn Cross Farm proposal that was included as a strategic site in the draft Local Plan. Their message seems to be: go ahead and build thousands of houses we don’t need, but don’t put them in Fleet or Church Crookham.

Councillors fail to challenge the ridiculous housing target

Completely Concrete Hart CCH fail to challenge the ridiculous housing target

Community Campaign Hart CCH councillors fail to challenge the ridiculous housing target

Moreover, three Community Campaign Hart councillors have responded to the consultation without opposing the ridiculous housing target of 10,185 in the draft Local Plan:

Between them, these councillors argued for:

  • Fewer homes at the brownfield site Hartland Village (Pyestock), which would add to pressure for green field development
  • Dropping Murrell Green in favour of Winchfield East, even though the Murrell Green sites were in the area of search in the 2015 consultation (see image below)  and the Winchfield East sites fared less well in testing.
  • Removing Cross Farm from the Local Plan. This application for this site has now been withdrawn.

No wonder they are being nicknamed Completely Concrete Hart

Winchfield and Hook New Town proposal

Area of search for Winchfield new settlement opportunity

Brian Blewett of the Liberal Democrats has also responded, supporting the position of Blackwater and Hawley Town Council and Neighbourhood Plan group. Neither of these groups opposed the housing target. As far as we can tell, Hook and Crondall Parish Councils did not oppose the housing target either.

We struggle to understand the logic of this position. We can’t understand why members who purport to stand for the good of the whole of Hart support the ridiculous uplift from the SHMA total of 8,022. The Government consultation is clear, Hart’ new housing need is going to be 6.132 units. The remaining target can be met from brownfield sites alone.

Some councillors and local groups oppose the ridiculous housing target

In better news, Andrew Renshaw, member for Hartley Wintney argued for a lower overall housing target. As did the following groups:

  • Crookham Village Parish Council
  • Dogmersfield Parish Council
  • Eversley Parish Council
  • Hartley Wintney Preservation Society
  • Odiham Society
  • Rotherwick Parish Council
  • Rural Hart Association
  • Whitewater Valley Preservation Society
  • Winchfield Action Group
  • Winchfield Parish Council

Alastair Clarke, chair of the Hart District Association of Parish and Town Councils (HDAPTC), also opposed the housing target in his personal response.

It’s great that such a diverse set of groups has seen the logic of opposing the ridiculous 10,185 housing target.

Conclusion

It is time all parishes and groups within Hart united behind the opportunity that the new Government consultation brings. This will benefit the whole of Hart and help stop the needless playing off of one parish against another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winchfield new town – EIA requested by developers

Developers request EIA Assessment of Winchfield New Town

Developers request screening opinion EIA Assessment of Winchfield New Town

Barton Willmore have submitted an application for an Environmental Impact Assessment screening opinion on Winchfield New Town (aka Garden Community). The application can be found here and searching for application number 17/02592/EIA.

As far as we can tell, the proposed site directly abuts the proposed Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) development. The proposal is for:

  • 2,000 new dwellings
  • A new secondary school
  • Up to 2 new primary schools
  • Children’s nursery
  • Two local/neighbourhood centres
  • 4 Ha of employment land
  • Provision of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace

Reasons to oppose Winchfield New Town

As might be expected, we oppose this new development on  number of grounds:

Flood Taplins Farm Lane Winchfield 28 March 2016 #StormKatie Storm Katie.

Flood Taplins Farm Lane Winchfield 28 March 2016

  1. The site is not in the draft Local Plan, and to change the Local Plan so significantly would require another round of consultation and more delay, putting at risk other sensitive sites such as Pale Lane and West Hook.
  2. Development of this scale is simply not required. The new Government approach to calculating housing needs would result in 6,132 new houses for Hart compared to the unnecessary and ridiculous 10,185 in the draft Local Plan.
  3. The site is totally unsuitable for such large scale development due to flood risk as we documented here (4 Jan) , here (7 Jan)here (9 March on Station Road) and here (28 March due to #StormKatie). The area of Taplins Farm Lane near the railway bridge flooded three times in 2016 alone.
  4. Lack of road infrastructure
  5. Historic Environment
  6. Bio-diversity
  7. Landscape
  8. Water Quality

We suggest that you add your comments by logging on to Hart’s public access system on this link, and searching for 17/02592/EIA.

Goalposts changed in SWR timetable consultation

South West Trains SWR timetable consultation

South West Trains SWR timetable consultation comparison

The goalposts have been changed in the South West Railway SWR timetable consultation. As you may know already, SWR launched a consultation on the train timetable in late September. However, in response to negative feedback they have revised their proposals.

These new proposals are still unacceptable. Sorry to say this, but even if you have already responded to the first proposals, please respond to these new proposals. Please use the download below to respond to consultation by 22 December 2017. Feedback can be sent to: timetable.feedback@swrailway.com

SWR timetable consultation

Please also sign Ranil’s petition which can be found here.

Impact of South West Railway SWR timetable consultation

The current line to London is already running beyond capacity, and these changes represent a reduction in service at peak hours which cannot be a good idea.

In summary the changes proposed are:

  • Retains the same number of services from Hook and Winchfield to London, however, many of these services now no longer stop at Fleet and Farnborough
  • Keeps the same number of Fleet to London services as now
  • The new proposals result in slightly faster services to London

The impact of these changes will be:

  • School children and students attending Farnborough Sixth form, Salesian and Farnborough Hill will now have far fewer services to choose from to get from Hook/Winchfield to Farnborough.
  • This is likely to lead to both over-crowded trains and increased car journeys, leading to more pollution and congestion
  • No effective increase in capacity from Fleet, Winchfield and Hook to London, even though services are already over-crowded.

Alternative approach to SWR timetable consultation

Thousands of houses have either already been given permission or are proposed in Hart’s Local Plan. These include around 500 dwellings at Sun Park, 1,500 Hartland Village, and 420+ at Grove Farm all near to Fleet station. Moreover, 550 houses are currently being built in NE Hook and 1,800 dwellings are proposed at Murrell Green, both close to both Hook and Winchfield stations. Many hundreds more dwellings are being considered on brownfield sites in Hook. It does seem rather odd that SWR are not proposing to dramatically increase services just at the time when demand is going to increase. I would suggest the following alternative plan:

  • Ensure that many more of the Hook/Winchfield services stop at Fleet/Farnborough to help our kids get to school
  • Increase services from Fleet to London
  • Increase capacity by running more 12-car trains on the whole line at peak times
  • Reduce the number of first class carriages on 8 and 12-car trains to further increase passenger capacity

 

Hart Corporate Plan Consultation – please respond

Hart Corporate Plan: Liberal Democrats David Dave Neighbour in the pocket of Community Campaign Hart James Radley

Hart Corporate Plan: Liberal Democrats in the pocket of Community Campaign Hart

A consultation has been launched on the latest iteration of the Hart Corporate Plan. Whilst this contains some welcome initiatives, there are other developments that are of significant concern.

We rask that you respond to the consultation that can be found here. The deadline is 4pm on 31st October 2017. We suggest you make the following comments:

  1. Communities. Restore the plan to create a Hart-controlled trading company to deliver much needed social housing to the district.
  2. Communities. Drop the idea of delivering more houses than identified in the SHMA, and follow the new Government housing target of 6,132 instead.
  3. Communities: Focus infrastructure spending on the areas most in need: roads, education and healthcare provision. Adopt a Local Plan that minimises the infrastructure funding gap.
  4. Local Economy. Drop the idea to obstruct brownfield development by using Hart controlled SANG to restrict redevelopment of brownfield sites.
  5. Local EconomyRestore the focus on urban regeneration, by appointing a cabinet member with specific responsibility for this area.

Community Campaign Hart dominate Hart Corporate Plan

Anybody who has been to the last two council meetings cannot have failed to notice the domination of Community Campaign Hart (CCH). This is evidenced by:

  1. Council leader passing furtive glances to CCH deputy leader as he answers questions from members.
  2. CCH leader passing notes on how to answer questions to the head of the Planning portfolio.
  3. Submissive body language from Lib Dem cabinet members towards CCH members.

This shows that the changes to the Corporate Plan have been driven by the CCH dominance of the coalition administration.

In particular, the policies to restrict brownfield development, drop the housing trading company and remove the focus on urban regeneration will impact Liberal Democrat voting areas such as Blackwater and Ancells Farm, where they hold both District and County seats.

The Lib Dems should reassert their position and start fighting for policies that will help the areas that vote for them.

Local Plan Consultation responses to be published 6 November

Local Plan consultation responses are still being hidden by Hart Council

Local Plan consultation responses are still being hidden by Hart Council

The recent Local Plan consultation responses were being hidden by Hart Council. However, thanks to questions at Thursday’s Council meeting and pressure from an open Freedom of Information request, the results will now be published. Hart Council cabinet member, Graham Cockarill announced that the consultation comments will be released on 6 November 2017.

Local Plan Consultation Responses History

The consultation on the draft Local Plan completed on 9 June 2017. The pro-forma response form said:

All valid comments (electronic or written) and the name(s) of the respondent will be made publically (sic) available. Personal contact details will remain confidential.

In answer to a question made at the council meeting held on 29 June asking when the consultation comments would be made public, the answer was:

We hope to be able to publish this information in the next couple of months

One of Hart’s own Code of Corporate Governance principles calls for “Ensuring openness and comprehensive stakeholder engagement”. More than four months have now elapsed since the close of the consultation, and the consultation responses have not yet been published.

Hart’s website says:
It is our intention to publish all the responses received when we publish a Pre-Submission Local Plan for comments in Winter 2017.
 Hart Council to publish Local Plan Consultation responsesHowever, at September Cabinet, they said that the next round of consultation would not start until January 2018:
It was confirmed that the next stage on the Reg 19 consultation is expected to start in January
We have now submitted a Freedom of Information request to get these comments out in the public domain. The deadline they have set themselves for response is 16 November 2017.
Let’s see if they now stick by their commitments.

 

Hart don’t know cost of Grove Farm appeal

Hart Council knows nothing about Grove Farm Appeal

Hart Council knows nothing about Grove Farm Appeal

Hart Council have admitted they don’t know the cost of the Grove Farm appeal. They don’t know how much they spent on lawyers and consultants. They don’t cost the internal time costs of Hart Officers. Thankfully, there won’t be any loss of New Homes Bonus and the inspector did not award appellant costs against Hart.

Hart Council is very short of money, and the costs of this appeal must represent a significant proportion of Hart’s spending budget of £9m this year (see budget book p14). It is scandalous that they have no ability to track the costs of such large expenditures.

We warned back in December 2016 that the failure to determine the application would lead to an appeal and that Hart would likely lose the appeal.

It is still highly likely the developers will appeal the decision anyway because the officers recommended approval. Realistically, it is likely Hart would lose the appeal.

Apparently, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee won’t be looking into the decision to defend the Grove Farm appeal. Councillors apparently have no plans to forgo any of their allowance to help replenish public funds.

More worrying, Hart have no plan to avoid being a sitting duck in planning appeals between now and when the Local Plan is finally adopted.

Full questions and answers about Grove Farm appeal

Here is our list of questions and our recollection of the answers in red received at Council on Thursday (answers to be updated when the minutes are published):

Q1: It is of course a highly regrettable that the Grove Farm planning application was granted at appeal. However, given that officers recommended that planning permission be granted and the planning committee failed to make a determination on time, it is not unexpected that the appeal was allowed. Can you please set out the cost of defending the appeal including:

  1. External legal and consultant costs. A lot of words that amounted to “Don’t know”.
  2. Internal time costs of officers. Don’t identify internal costs.
  3. Any potential loss of New Homes Bonus. £0.
  4. Lost time on the Local Plan due to resources being diverted to defend the appeal. Don’t know.
  5. Appellant costs. £0.

Q2: Did the council receive legal advice on the chances of success in defending the appeal? In accordance with the Hart Code of Conduct objectives for openness and transparency, can you answer the following:

  1. What, in summary, did the advice say?
  2. Will you make the advice public?
  3. Was the provider of this legal advice the same organisation that helped defend the appeal?
  4. How much did the advice cost?

Answer: It’s a planning matter so we didn’t take legal advice on the chances of success

Q3: A recent joint Chief Executive statement said “In terms of the impact for planning across the District this appeal decision tells us little that is new.  The Inspector used the same reasons that had previously been used by the Inspector at Moulsham Lane”. In accordance with the Code of Conduct statements about “Managing risks and performance through robust internal control and strong public financial management”, will the Overview and Scrutiny Committee be examining the decision to defend the Grove Farm appeal and making recommendations to avoid future waste of public funds?

Answer: Overview and Scrutiny only examine decisions from the Executive, not of committees, so no.

Supplementary: Will councillors and officers who made the decision to proceed with the appeal forego all or part of their allowance or bonus to show solidarity with hard pressed council taxpayers by helping to replenish public funds? No.

Q4: Given the saved policies have been ruled to be out of date twice now, what steps can the council take to avoid becoming a sitting duck in future planning decisions and appeals in advance of the Local Plan being adopted? Lots of words that amounted to “None”.

Hart major planning site update

Hart Major Planning Site: Planning application submitted for 700 houses at Owens Farm west Hook 17/02317/OUT

Hart Major Planning Site Update

This post will provide a Hart major planning sites update. We will cover:

  • West of Hook – Owens Farm
  • Bramshill
  • Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase)
  • Hartland Park (Pyestock)
  • Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse), Fleet

Hart Major Planning Site: Owens Farm West of Hook

A planning application has been made for 700 houses at Owens Farm, west of Hook. The deadline for comments and objections has been set for 1st November 2017. The application can be found at Hart’s public access system and searching for reference 17/02317/OUT.

Hook Action Against Over-Development have published some excellent guidance on how to respond. This can be found here.

We don’t think this development is either desirable or necessary and would urge you to oppose it.

Hart Major Planning Site: Bramshill

Hart Major Planning Site: Former police college, Bramshill House in Bramshill Parish Hart District Hampshire 16/00720/ful

This is the application for around 250 units at the former Police College at Bramshill. This application was turned down in March 2017. However, the developer has appealed and the appeal hearing will be held in the main house starting at 10am on 31st October.

The application can be found at Hart’s public access system and searching for reference 16/00720/FUL.

We support the redevelopment of this brownfield site. In particular, we would like to see Grade I listed main Bramshill House preserved in some way. We recognise that the developer will probably have to make money elsewhere to properly fund the redevelopment. However, we do have reservations about the scale of development proposed elsewhere on the site which is in the SPA.

Hart Major Planning Site: Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase)

Hart Major Planning Site: Wates Homes Elvetham Chase (Pale Lane) Development Proposal, near Elvetham Heath and Hartley Wintney, Hart District, Hampshire.

Elvetham Chase (Pale Lane)

This is the application for 700 new houses at Pale Lane aka Elvetham Chase. The site lies between Elvetham Heath, the railway and the M3. The controversial planning application was submitted for this site back in November 2016.

We understand that the deadline for determination has been extended to 10 November 2017. There is a Planning Meeting at council planned for 8 November 2017.

The application can be found at Hart’s public access system and searching for reference 16/03129/OUT.

We hope and expect that Hart Council will reject this application. However, we would not be at all surprised if the developer appealed the decision. It would be difficult to defend the appeal after the Grove Farm decision, unless they manage to get the Local Plan in place before the appeal is heard.

Hart Major Planning Site: Hartland Park (Pyestock)

Hart Major Planning Site: Hartland Park (Pyestock) Master Plan

Hartland Park (Pyestock) Master Plan

This is the site of former Pyestock National Gas Turbine Establishment. We have no further update since Hart Council’s planning committee agreed to the principle of building up to 1,500 new homes on this brownfield site.

We agree with this decision in principle, but echo the council’s concern about a number of items:

  • The developer is proposing only 20% Affordable Housing. We would like to see more affordable housing and especially some social housing for those who can’t rent and can’t buy.
  • We are concerned about the road network and therefore think Kennels Lane should be upgraded to provide a relief road around the site
  • There should be a proper cycle/walking route installed to provide easy access to Fleet station.

We will continue to monitor this development.

The application can be found at Hart’s public access system and searching for reference 17/00471/OUT.

Hart Major Planning Site: Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse)

Hart Major Planning Site: Grove Farm - Netherhouse Copse Fleet and Church Crookham Hampshire Site plan

Grove Farm – Netherhouse Copse Site plan

Sadly, this site was approved for development by the planning inspector. This is an application for 423 new houses on the site off Hitches Lane in Fleet. The appeal for this site was heard back in July.