We have several problems with Hart’s current approach to the Local Plan:
- Proposal to build a new town we don’t need that will lead to a massive conurbation linking together Hartley Wintney, Winchfield and Hook, that might end up being called Hartley Winchook. Plus, they are proposing urban extensions, when there’s plenty of brownfield sites available.
- Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena has come out strongly against a new town and large-scale developments and called for councils to take a more proactive approach to funding infrastructure.
- Lack of overall vision for the district. Sadly Hart Council is simply reacting to events and not setting out a vision of what it wants the district to look like in 20, 30, 50 or 100 years time. This means that if we are not careful, we will end up with piecemeal development that will damage the very things that make Hart an attractive place to live.
- Opening up the District to being a sink for the unmet housing needs of other districts. The overall housing allocation plan for the plan period calls for 1,800-2,400 homes to be built at Winchfield. However, the Barratts Vision Document suggests that a new town at Winchfield could entail 5,000 new houses. By pure coincidence (of course), Surrey Heath and Rushmoor need to find space for about 3,100 more houses in their districts. Building a new town anywhere in Hart opens up the strong possibility that we will be forced to take this additional requirement from bordering areas. Hart is now starting to plan to take 1,600 houses from Rushmoor and we need to challenge Rushmoor’s plan.
- Not making the most of brownfield land. There’s loads of brownfield land all over the district that doesn’t even appear in the council’s land database and they make very unambitious assumptions about how many dwellings can be built on it.
- Inadequate provision for infrastructure with Hart currently running a £78m infrastructure deficit and Hampshire as a whole a £1.9bn infrastructure funding deficit. Hart’s analysis indicates costs for a new town may go up to £300m.
- Lack of provision for elderly and infirm. According to the SHMA, by 2031, there will be an additional 10,000 people over 60 (including more than 6,850 over 75) expected to be living in the district and an extra 3,620 people who will be suffering from dementia or have some sort of mobility problem. Section 9 of the SHMA suggests that future housing stock should be built to broadly reflect the existing stock. This new stock will attract more families to the area and crowd out the developments required to meet the needs of the elderly and infirm. Hart District Council is already running the risk of not meeting this need.
Overall, the lack of strategy, opening up the potential for a new town, not maximising the use of brownfield land and not addressing the needs arising from changing demographics amount to very serious flaws in approach which puts our countryside at risk.
We outline an alternative 5-point plan to make a better Local Plan here.