The Government has climbed down after its proposed changes to the method of calculating housing need were strongly criticised. These proposals would have pushed up Hart’s annual housing target to 512 dwellings per annum, which would have made it very difficult to defend against building Shapley Heath. However, after the Government climbdown, Hart’s housing target will be cut to 286 dpa, much less than the 423 in the current Local Plan. This makes the case for Shapley Heath simply untenable.
Government Housing Target Climbdown
On 6 August 2020 the Government published a set of proposed changes to the Planning System and to the way in which housing need was to be calculated. We covered the proposals here. These proposals would have led to Hart’s housing target rising to 512 dpa. However, the responses to their consultation were overwhelmingly negative. The Government has therefore decided to stick with the “old” standard method, with a few minor tweaks.
Impact on Hart
Hart now has a Local Plan in place that calls for 423 dpa to be built out to 2032. However, the Government has published new housing targets for each local authority under their revised proposals.
Hart’s requirement under the new Government proposals falls to 286 dpa. The housing targets for neighbouring Rushmoor and Surrey Heath have also been cut. Rushmoor’s Local Plan (s 6.12) calls for 436dpa and their target has been cut to 260 dpa. Surrey Heath’s Draft Local Plan (s2.29) calls for 352 dpa and the target has been set at 328 dpa. Hart’s Local Plan includes a provision to build some excess for Surrey Heath. This reduced excess can now be more than met by the surplus housing in Rushmoor.
Readers will probably remember that Shapley Heath Garden Village was removed from the Hart Local Plan on the grounds that it wasn’t necessary to meet our housing needs and was unsound. To be clear, even if we need to build at 423dpa, Shapley Heath is not required. So, it’s definitely not needed at 286 dpa.
The ruling CCH/Lib Dem coalition has justified the decision to continue with Shapley Heath on the grounds that the Government were bound to increase our housing target. Now that it is clear that in fact our housing target has been cut, there can be no justification for continuing with the project. We have covered the multitude of other reasons why Shapley Heath is a bad idea here.
The leader of the CCH group has said that if the houses aren’t needed, then Shapley Heath won’t go ahead. Will he keep his word?