We have already written extensively about why Shapley Heath is a bad idea. However we have to acknowledge that, even with the reduced housing requirement that could be delivered by an early review of the Hart Local Plan, we will need to build some extra housing between now and 2040. We strongly believe that much of this housing can be delivered by revitalising our urban centres in Fleet, Hook, Blackwater and Yateley. We support proportionate development in the other parishes.
There’s plenty of sites to consider:
Hook has already made a start. Its Neighbourhood Plan contains a master plan to revitalise the centre of the village. Overall, this will deliver a market square, better traffic management, much improved commercial premises and 8,916 sq m of residential accommodation, perhaps around 130-150 flats.
There is promising work starting to look at the civic quarter in Fleet. But CCH’s latest newsletter demonstrates that their heart isn’t in it. They claim Fleet isn’t that bad and offer no support for any sort of regeneration.
Hook Parish Council have done it. It’s time for the the other parish/town councils to follow their lead and shame Hart Council into action. Let’s look at the case for revitalising our town centres.
Rationale for Hart Urban Revitalisation
There are four main reasons to focus on urban revitalisation.
- Enhance the built environment to enrich all of our lives
- Address the infrastructure funding gaps
- Hart in general and Fleet in particular is falling behind neighbouring areas
- Fleet not valued by visitors and business confidence is low
Sensitive revitalisation, taking advice from companies like Create Streets can transform decaying urban centres into attractive places to live, work and play.
There are acknowledged infrastructure funding gaps in the district. These are concentrated in Hook, Fleet and Yateley and Blackwater.
Building a new town at Shapley Heath/ Winchfield won’t address these funding gaps. But, proper revitalisation will beging to address these issues.
Fleet is falling behind neighbouring towns. Farnham, Wokingham, Basingstoke, Aldershot and Farnborough are attracting hundreds of millions of pounds of investment. Hart Council’s curmudgeonly approach is delivering nothing for Fleet or the wider Hart community.
And Hart’s own bid for Future High Streets funding found:
- 88% say Fleet doesn’t meet their retail and leisure needs
- 52% would not recommend a visit to the town centre
- 67% think the poor retail offer reflects badly on the town
- Lack of affordable housing
- The confidence of local businesses is extremely low, with 44% reporting declining turnover
If we are to address these issues, we must follow Hook’s lead and develop master plans for our other urban centres.
Benefits of Urban Revitalisation
The benefits of going ahead with these ideas would be large and far reaching:
- Deliver infrastructure to the areas that need it. Budgets will be limited but we should aim for:
- Improved Fleet station access and cycle paths connecting Fleet centre to the station and Hartland Park
- Social facilities such as a multi-purpose venue including theatre/cinema and meeting space and an outdoor public event space
- Improved Health facilities such as a drop-in health centre for physio, mental health and routine nursing
- Improved leisure such as restaurants and bars to deliver a thriving night time economy
- Open green spaces within the town centre
- Commercial – better retail offer and modern offices
- Housing that people can afford and social housing for those in need
This can be delivered by focusing on creating attractive places, with no more than 4 or 5 storey development.