Government to force Hart to increase housing target

Increased housing target will lead to more £1m houses like this at Hartley Row Park, Hartley Wintney, Hart District, Hampshire.

Government to force Hart to increase housing target.

The Government will force Hart to increase its housing target says Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, it is reported in the Telegraph today. The article says:

Families living in some of the most sought-after parts of the country will be forced to accept more homes being built near them to tackle the housing crisis, the Communities Secretary has said.

Sajid Javid said that he wants communities which have benefited from soaring property prices to play their part in solving the housing crisis.

New rules to force councils to increase their housing targets will be published in the next three weeks.

Excerpts from his speech have been tweeted. It is clear Mr Javid has in mind councils that have yet to produce a Local Plan.

We don’t agree with Government that Hart needs to build even more houses. The 10,185 target adopted in the recent Local Plan Consultation is clearly ridiculous. It is already more than twice the need identified by the Government’s own population forecasts. What we need is more social housing for those who can’t rent and can’t buy. We also need more 1 and  3-bed properties to help the young get on the housing ladder

Hart District Completions compared to target by number of bedrooms

We certainly don’t need more £1m houses like those for sale in Hartley Wintney at the moment.

Land-banking causing delays to building

We might also address the land-banking in the district, where thousands of houses have not been built, even though planning permission has been granted.

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

It remains to be seen if the new Hart Council administration can stand up to this bullying from central Government. We need a lower, more realistic housing target.

 

Gallagher propose schools under power lines

Gallagher propose schools under power lines

Gallagher propose schools under power lines

In a desperate attempt to influence the Local Plan Consultation, a ‘newsletter’ has been issued in which Gallagher propose new schools under power lines. This is a last minute attempt to try and shoehorn a new settlement at Winchfield into the draft Local Plan. Apparently, the newsletter has only been issued to residents of Fleet and Church Crookham.

We have seen the newsletter and compared the schematic to the local OS map. As far as we can tell, the high voltage power line goes directly over the school grounds. Moreover, there is a pylon directly on top of the sports pitches. Our best attempt at showing the location of the school, and powerline is shown in the graphic above. Aside from the obvious electrocution risk, overhead power lines have been linked to increased risk of childhood cancers such as leukaemia. The secondary school is also right next to the mainline railway line.

The document has been issued by Curtin & Co on behalf of Gallagher. They apparently specialise in the ‘Politics of Planning’. The contact given is David Scane, who can be reached at davids@curtinandco.com. We deplore this crony corporatism. We recommend that WeHeartHart supporters email this man. We should let him know that we don’t approve of these shabby tactics and how ridiculous it is to propose schools in such an unsafe location.

Of course, no evidence has been produced in the Local Plan to show a new school is required. Even if such evidence is produced, it isn’t clear why we can’t simply allocate land for a school without the hundreds of acres for housing.

We have updated our guidance with this new information in our suggested response to the consultation that can be found on the download link below. Please do make amendments into your own words and submit it to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk before the deadline of 5pm on 9th June 2017. All of the Council’s consultation documents can be found here.

Response to the Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation

CPRE slams Hart Local Plan

CPRE Murrell Green has slammed the draft Hart Local Plan

CPRE slams Hart Local Plan

The local CPRE has slammed the draft Hart Local Plan, saying it is incoherent and lacks regard for the countryside.

They say:

CPRE’s District Group for North East Hampshire are concerned that the Local Plan has no coherent strategy but is instead a series of tactics to deliver a housing and development supply without any recognition of the role of countryside and the value of the natural environment.

The rural areas seem to have been completely missed in that there is no recognition of the role or function of the countryside and rural communities in this part of the county. Hart’s Vision ignores landscape value, the value of historic or heritage assets, as well as the social and health value the countryside provides for recreation.

Employment site assessment and policies appear to be ill-considered, especially in the rural areas. There are no criteria to support the policies and this results in some sites that employ few people being designated as important for jobs yet other vibrant employment sites in the villages are allocated for housing. This is in direct conflict with the Plan’s aim to protect employment sites particularly in the rural areas.

Murrell Green, which lies close to Hartley Wintney, Winchfield and Hook, is a potential greenfield settlement for 1,800 houses and a secondary school. The site contains endangered woodland, ancient lanes and hedgerows, and lakes and ponds. The proposals show no regard for these natural features and there are concerns about water supply for the high level of proposed housing

We agree with the CPRE, and many of their ideas are incorporated in our suggested response to the draft Local Plan consultation. Please ask the council to think again  by downloading the link below and review our suggested comments on the draft Local Plan. Please do make amendments into your own words and submit it to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk before the deadline of 5pm on 9th June 2017. All of the Council’s consultation documents can be found here.

Response to the Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation

Local Plan misses opportunity to regenerate urban centres

Hart Local Plan to regenerate urban centres

Hart Local Plan to regenerate urban centres

The consultation on the Draft Local Plan misses an opportunity to regenerate urban centres in Hart District.

This is contrary to Para 131 of the Plan that says “The delivery of town centre redevelopment opportunities must be a priority”. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) indicates (paragraph 23) that planning policies should promote competitive town centre environments and set out policies for the management and growth of centres over the plan period.

This can be best illustrated by using Fleet as an example.

Fleet is the lowest density town of its size in the country. The chart below that there is significant scope for increasing development density in Fleet.

Fleet housing density versus towns of similar size

Fleet housing density versus towns of similar size

 

The retail offer in Fleet is poor, the cultural facilities (e.g. Harlington Centre) are outdated and there is no proper cinema.

Fleet Health score versus benchmarks

Fleet Health score versus benchmarks

 

However, Fleet has the highest average earnings per person of comparative towns by quite a large margin (eg 9% more than Camberley). High earnings should give Fleet a significant advantage over the comparison towns.

 

Fleet earnings versus competitors

Fleet earnings versus competitors

The Local Plan Vision and Objectives fail to take advantage of the opportunity to modernise Hart’s urban centres while at the same time protecting Hart’s countryside.

We believe that the Vision for the Local Plan should be centered on the proposition that Fleet and other urban centres will be re-generated. With Hart District Council’s full and active support, a plan based on urban regeneration would achieve the following benefits:

  1. An ambitious Hart Urban Re-generation Project (HURP) would attract private investment and thus be affordable
  2. Private investment would allow for Hart’s infrastructure to be upgraded in line with the urban re-generation
  3. Good urban design principles would achieve a higher population density in the urban centres while at the same time providing an improved ‘sense of place’ and making the urban centres more desirable places to live.

A similar approach could be adopted in Yateley to provide a proper retail-led centre and improvements could be made to Blackwater. The requirement for additional retail facilities in Hook, identified in the Local Plan could also be met.

Apparently, Hart did have a plan to conduct a brownfield study to evaluate the ‘art of the possible’ in our urban centres. This project has not delivered.

 

In addition, Yateley lacks a defined centre, Blackwater is indistinct and Hook lacks good quality restaurants and shopping facilities.

The council should be setting out a bold plan to improve the retail, cultural and recreational amenities in the district. We should also develop plans for a theatre and cinema in Fleet as part of an attractive mixed-use redevelopment. There will be significant cash available from developers to fund such an ambitious plan.

Moreover, the council should work collaboratively with developers to regenerate other urban areas such as Blackwater and redevelop the centres of Yateley and Hook.

Please ask the council to think again  by downloading the link below and review our suggested comments on the draft Local Plan. Please do make amendments into your own words and submit it to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk before the deadline of 5pm on 9th June 2017. All of the Council’s consultation documents can be found here.

Response to the Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation

Draft Local Plan has no infrastructure plans or costings

 

Hart Local Plan contains no infrastructure plans or costings

Local Plan contains no infrastructure plans or costings

The draft Local Plan contains no infrastructure plans or costings. We think this is a massive error by the council that makes the draft Local Plan unsound.

If you agree, please download from the link below and review our suggested comments on the draft Local Plan. Please do make amendments into your own words and submit it to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk before the deadline of 5pm on 9th June 2017. All of the Council’s consultation documents can be found here.

Response to the Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation

Here is our analysis of the infrastructure weaknesses in the Local Plan

Local Plan contains no infrastructure plans

Paragraphs 7, 17 and 177 of the NPPF/NPPG make clear that infrastructure should be planned alongside housing. Para 395 of the draft Local Plan says there’s a Draft Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) available for viewing alongside the Local Plan. However, no IDP has been made available.

Given that back in 2013, a £78m infrastructure funding deficit was identified, this is a critical omission. In particular, we think Hart Council should focus on:

  1. The requirement for a new secondary school. The Murrell Green proposal includes a site for a new school, albeit on top of a high-pressure gas main. However, no evidence has been presented to demonstrate a new secondary school is required. WeHeart Hart research shows that a new secondary school may not be required, and the sustainability assessment for Murrell Green mentions a 9% surplus of places.
  2. Railways. SW Trains have indicated that the mainline rail route to London is 20% over-crowded at present and is forecast to be 60% overcrowded by 2043. Para 58 of the Local Plan makes no mention of this, and there is no apparent plan to improve capacity.
  3. Our roads are becoming increasingly congested and generally in a poor state of repair. There is no sign that the council has carried out an overall road transport assessment to establish the level of investment required to improve our roads so they can cope with the scale of development that is being proposed
  4. Paras 65 & 66 make no mention of groundwater and surface water flood risk in Winchfield, which was identified in the Sustainability Assessment
  5. Para 68 provides no plan to fix the acknowledged wastewater capacity issues
  6. None of the plans for the strategic sites include proper plans for sports and community facilities such as allotments.

Local Plan contains no cost analysis for infrastructure requirements

Neither the Local Plan nor the Sustainability Assessment contain a financial assessment of the alternative means of providing the housing need. We think this is a very significant omission.

We already have a £78m infrastructure deficit, so this is a critical issue. The financial analysis should include:

  1. An assessment of the major infrastructure requirements generated by each of the approaches you have considered. These include new roads; road improvements such as roundabouts; railway station and parking improvement; railway line capacity improvements; schools; healthcare; fixed and mobile telecommunications, flood prevention, wastewater disposal and social infrastructure. A high level cost of each item should be provided.
  2. An analysis of the likely contribution that could be expected from developers and other providers to meet these requirements.
  3. An estimate of the likely contributions from Government such as New Homes bonus and grants to support brownfield development.
  4. A calculation of the gap between the requirement and the contributions for each development scenario

Residents should then be able to see the financial impact of the proposals and make decisions based on that.

Local Plan: Brownfield sites protected from redevelopment

Brownfield site at Ancells Farm, Fleet, Hampshire. Hart Council protecting from redevelopment.

Brownfield sites protected from redevelopment

The draft Local Plan put forward by Hart Council includes proposals to make brownfield sites protected from redevelopment. We think this proposal is bonkers and should be challenged in the consultation.

There are two different types of protection proposed in the Local Plan. The first identifies “Strategic Employment Areas”:

  • Bartley Wood, Hook
  • Bartley Point, Hook
  • Cody Park, Farnborough
  • Meadows Business Park, Blackwater
  • Osborne Way, Hook
  • Waterfront Business Park, Fleet

These sites are “given the highest protection and safeguarding against loss to non-B-class employment uses by protecting them for B-class uses”. We would agree that some of these sites should be given some protection. But some of the sites, particularly in Hook suffer from high vacancy rates. Indeed, some of the sites have already been converted to domestic use.  Recently the owners of the Virgin Media offices at Bartley Wood have sought advice on whether planning permission would be required to convert some of those buildings to housing. This demonstrates that there is little demand for offices on even the sites of alleged ‘strategic’ importance.

The trouble with this policy is that it cannot stop conversion of offices to apartments. These types of development require no planing permission. Nor do they bring any S106 or CIL contributions to infrastructure. Moreover, they don’t provide an attractive sense of place. By preventing proper redevelopment Hart is cutting off vital infrastructure funding. This makes no sense whatsoever.

The second type of protection is to “Locally Important Employment Areas”:

  • Ancells Business Park, Fleet
  • Blackbushe Business Park
  • Eversley Haulage Yard
  • Eversley Storage
  • Finn’s Business Park, Crondall
  • Fleet Business Park, Church Crookham
  • Grove Farm Barn, Crookham Village
  • Lodge Farm, North Warnborough
  • Murrell Green Business Park
  • Potters Industrial Park, Church Crookham
  • Rawlings Depot, Hook
  • Redfields Business Park, Church Crookham
  • Optrex Business Park, Rotherwick

These sites are offered a lower level of protection, but nevertheless the council is putting in place barriers to redevelopment.

Poor brownfield sites should not be protected from redevelopment

The reason this is a bad policy is that the Local Plan itself, as well as the Employment Land Review (ELR), acknowledges that there is an over-supply of low grade office space (para 125). The ELR states that investment in this stock is unviable (para 6.17):

Commercial agents note that the costs of refurbishing such stock to a good standard attractive to the market typically costs between £50-£60 per sq ft; and that the current over-supply of office accommodation limits investment in refurbishing such stock as low rent levels made such investment unviable.

Owners of these sites have three choices. First they can keep the wasting asset and collect no rent, which is not an attractive commercial proposition. Second, they can convert the offices into flats. By and large, they need no planning permission for this. However, these types of development carry no obligation for S106 or CIL payments to councils. Nor do they deliver a good ‘sense of place’. Finally, they could apply for planning permission to properly redevelop these sites into attractive homes, with a particular focus on affordable homes for the young. These types of development will be high-density, but with a good sense of place, and will attract some funding for infrastructure.

The consequences of this policy will be to discourage redevelopment of sites and either lead to more sites being simply converted or worse, sitting idle as eyesores.

We believe this policy should be reversed, particularly as it is a direct contravention of a statement made by the council leader, who said there were no plans to restrict the development of brownfield sites at a council meeting in September 2016:

https://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/4_The_Council/Council_meetings/M_Archive/16%2009%20Council.pdf )

Please respond to the Local Plan Consultation

This is our chance to shape the draft Local Plan that is currently our for consultation. Our suggested comments can be found on the link below. Please do download and review them. Please do make amendments into your own words and submit it to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk before the deadline of 5pm on 9th June 2017. All of the Council’s consultation documents can be found here.

Response to the Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation

FOI request reveals Winchfield failed testing

Flood Taplins Farm Lane 28 March 2016 shows why Winchfield failed testing

Flood risk means Winchfield failed testing

The documents that reveal why Winchfield failed testing have been revealed by persistent efforts from Winchfield Action Group. A Freedom of Information request has revealed the results of a new testing document. The full document can be downloaded on the link below.

In summary, the main issues were impact on:

  1. Historic Environment
  2. Bio-diversity
  3. Landscape
  4. Water Quality
  5. Flood risk

However, in our opinion, the impact of flood risk was massively downplayed in the report. More detail is given in the analysis below. Moreover, some of the alleged positives in the report are also complete nonsense.

For instance, they claim that building a “renewable and low-carbon energy generation and transfer” plant will diversify energy supply. What they mean is expanded upon in the Sustainability Assessment – they mean building a wood-burning power station utilising locally sourced timber (p74). Such a plant would be extremely undesirable since burning wood produces more CO2 than burning coal, and none of the proposed master plans include such space for such a plant.

They also claim that building 3,000 new houses, with associated traffic will somehow “reduce the
emissions of greenhouse gases and manage the impacts of climate change”. Again, complete and utter nonsense. They completely ignore research that shows higher density development in urban areas is much more sustainable than green field development.

This leaves the Local Plan in something of a pickle. Their preferred green field site of Murrell Green has been severely impaired by the presence of a Major Accident Hazard pipeline and their obvious second choice is not viable.

This puts at risk the other green field sites in the district, namely Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) and Netherhouse Copse (Grove Farm). At the same time, Hart Council is seeking to protect our brownfield sites from redevelopment. These problems arise because they are proposing a ridiculous housing target of over 10,000 dwellings.

This is our chance to shape the draft Local Plan that is currently our for consultation. Our suggested comments can be found on the link below. Please do download and review them. Please do make amendments into your own words and submit it to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk before the deadline of 5pm on 9th June 2017. All of the Council’s consultation documents can be found here.

Response to the Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation

Detail of how Winchfield failed testing

Winchfield SHLAA Sites in Hart District Hampshire

Winchfield SHLAA Sites in Hart District Hampshire

First, they say 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

This is of course complete nonsense. The detailed assessment also says there’s only a one in 30 year chance of surface water flooding. The area of Taplins Farm Lane near the railway bridge flooded three times in 2016 alone. The image at the top of this post documents just one of those events. The posts documenting the flood events can be found here (4 Jan) , here (7 Jan), here (9 March on Station Road) and here (28 March due to #StormKatie).

They seem to gloss over the flood risk being over 55 on a 74 point scale for five of the eight SHLAA sites they consider.

Winchfield Strategic Assessment - Flood Risk 2

Winchfield Strategic Assessment - Flood Risk 3

Winchfield Strategic Assessment - Flood Risk 4

Winchfield fails testing – Strategic Assessment

Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation – Our Response

We Heart Hart Campaign Logo

We have been working hard to produce our response to the Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation. It has taken hours of work to go through the Local Plan document and the associated evidence base. And still more work to formulate what we think is a sensible response.

This is our last chance to shape our district for decades to come. So please do take the trouble to engage and respond.

A great deal of work has gone into the draft Local Plan, but there is much to comment upon and challenge. We have framed our response around several themes:

  1. The outrageous 10,185 housing target, 2,000 houses over the over-inflated 8,022 target outlined in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment.
  2. It is simply wrong to protect our derelict vacant offices from redevelopment
  3. The missed opportunity to regenerate our urban areas, most notably Fleet
  4. The lack of an infrastructure plan
  5. The absence of any financial analysis of the alternative ways of meeting our housing needs
  6. The unnecessary allocation of green field sites to the plan, in particular Murrell Green
  7. Challenge the sustainability assessment that ranks Winchfield as the next best green field option.

Over the coming days and weeks, we will be adding further detail to our comments. But for now, we have produced a summary version of our response. This is available for download below. Please do download it and review it. Please do make amendments into your own words and submit it to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk before the deadline of 5pm on 9th June 2017. All of the Council’s consultation documents can be found here.

The document we have provided is in the Council’s ‘Word’ format, ready for you to add your personal details on the first pages, edit the comments provided and add your demographic details in the last pages.

 

Response to the Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation

 

 

Independent Expert says Hart housing target is too high

Alan Wenban-Smith of Urban and Regional Policy blasts Hart housing target

Independent expert, Alan Wenban-Smith has reviewed the latest Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) and concluded that the Hart housing target is way too high.

Regular readers may recall that the same expert examined the previous version of the SHMA and came to similar conclusions.

The crux of his arguments are as follows:

  1. The SHMA uses an inappropriate start-point for analysis. It uses the 2012-based population projections instead of the more up to date 2014-based projections. Making this change would knock around 850 houses off the start point
  2. The adjustments made for so-called market signals and affordable housing are inappropriate.
  3. The massive upwards adjustment for alleged jobs growth would result in loads more people moving to Hart. These people would then work elsewhere which is contrary to the sustainability principles of the National Planning Policy Framework

Taken together, his suggested adjustments would reduce the Hart housing target from around 8,000 to around 4,500. We have already built or planned more then 4,500 houses, so the Local Plan would become irrelevant.

We do not quite agree with all of his conclusions. If it were up to us, we would add some extra social rented housing to help those who cannot afford to even rent their own home.

But nevertheless, it is astonishing that Hart Council has decided to add a further 2,000 houses on to the already inflated SHMA. Hart’s approach is putting unnecessary pressure on our valuable green fields.

We will be compiling our suggested responses to the Local Plan consultation over the next few days. Please do keep checking in as we add further content.

The full report from Alan Wenban-Smith on the Hart housing target can be downloaded from the button below.

Independent Expert critique of Hart SHMA

Motion of No Confidence in Hart District Council submitted

Breaking News: Motion of No Confidence submitted in Hart District Council

Motion of No Confidence submitted in Hart District Council

A motion of no confidence in Hart District Council has been submitted by Community Campaign Hart (CCH), (or as some call them Completely Concrete Hart) and the Liberal Democrats.

Apparently, they are unhappy that a new settlement at Winchfield has not been included in the Local Plan. They plan to push for Winchfield to be re-included if they manage to take over.

Community Campaign Hart (CCH) screwing up Hart Planning since 2004

We think this is a bad idea for a number of reasons:

  1. This will add extra delay to the Local Plan process, adding to the risk that sites like Grove Farm (Netherhouse Copse) and Pale Lane (Elvetham Chase) will be given the go ahead at appeal before the Local Plan can be put in place
  2. Winchfield has failed testing. The main issues with the proposal are:
    • groundwater and surface water flooding,
    • Cost of new road infrastructure and the need to travel to Fleet for main services
    • requirement for new wastewater treatment works
    • too much delivery risk concentrated in one site
    • impact on landscape
    • impact on heritage assets and SSSIs
  3. CCH have completely failed to oppose the main issue: we are being asked to build too many houses. Hart Council have arbitrarily added an extra 2,000 houses to the already inflated SHMA figure of 8,000, giving a total over 10,000 houses. Tackling this would mean we don’t need a new settlement at Winchfield or Murrell Green, nor would we need Pale Lane or Grove Farm
  4. A new settlement at Winchfield will likely have a major impact on congestion in Church Crookham and the western edge of Fleet.

We predict a stormy council meeting on 25 May.

[Update  – Statement from Conservative Council Leader]

Conservative Council Leader Stephen Parker commented:

We have a clear track record of success in running Hart Council. Despite cuts to Hart’s government funding we used Conservative ministerial contacts to reduce the cuts, froze Council tax for 6 years and made minimum increases for the last two years. At the same time we made innovative partnerships to make sure that no cuts were made to our services or to our support to the voluntary sector. We delivered the new Hart Leisure Centre, a superb facility which pays for itself with no increases to Hart’s Council tax. We listened to residents in making our Local Plan which maximises use of brownfield sites and protects our towns and villages from unwanted expansion. At no time in the last eight years of Conservative leadership have they challenged any of these successes. Residents will no doubt look forward to reading their joint manifesto.

[/Update]

[Update 2 – statement from CCH]

Statement about motion to bring about a vote for Council Leader

Until fairly recently Hart District Council had a democratic process of electing the council Leader every year at the AGM. This right was taken away by the then Conservative administration, presumably because they realised that as is the case now there would be times when they did not have a majority on the council.

The Conservatives forced through the instigation of a 4 year term for the council Leader, the maximum period they could have gone for without falling foul of legislation.

Out of 33 councillors there are 14 Conservative, 10 Community Campaign, 8 Lib Dems and 1 Hook Independent. No one party have the 17 councillors required to hold a majority on the council.

The Community Campaign have asked the current Leader if he’d be willing to continue as Leader with a proportional Cabinet made up of 3 Conservatives, 2 Lib Dems and 2 Community Campaign members. Given the proportionality of such a Cabinet it does not seem to be an unreasonable request.

We await his response. However, should the Conservatives not wish to work with a cross party partnership then we believe that the Council should have the right to elect a new Leader.

The nature of the council’s constitution is such that in order to bring about the opportunity to elect a new Leader a motion to withdraw support for the current leadership needs to be lodged 7 clear working days before the council’s AGM.

The full motion moved by Cllr. James Radley of the Community Campaign reads;
The council wishes to use this AGM, as it represents the traditional point in the municipal year, to undertake a vote for the leader of council. To bring about such a vote the constitution requires that a vote to remove the current leader first be tabled. To this end this council retracts support for the current leader and does so as required by the constitution by voting to ‘remove from office the current Leader of the Council and agrees that a new Leader should be elected forthwith’.

[/Update 2]

[Update 3: Lib dems tweet to say they don’t support new settlement at Winchfield]

NE Hants Lib Dems statement about Winchfield

[/Update 3]