Hot on the heels of the Prime Minister’s announcement last week, Hart Council seems to be taking brownfield options more seriously. A paper is going to be considered by Overview and Scrutiny next week about the Local Plan review. There are some interesting ideas in there:
- Shapley Heath.
- Regeneration and Brownfield Capacity.
- Financial Implications.
Shapley Heath Project “Concluded”
The paper makes clear that the standalone Shapley Heath project has “concluded”. This does not mean they will stop consideration of a new settlement altogether, because they will consider it again in the Local Plan Review. But for now, work has ceased.
They have also committed to publish the survey results and baseline studies. The studies are:
- Agricultural land classification.
- Flooding, Drainage, and Water Management.
- Air Quality.
- Ecology and Biodiversity.
- Woodland, trees, and Hedgerows.
However, the timeline is somewhat ambiguous. Section 4.11 says (our emphasis):
It is intended that these surveys and technical baseline assessments continue to completion and that they are all published promptly as and when they become available. This exercise should be complete early in the new year.
However, later in the document, section 5.2 says:
The project itself is concluded but existing baseline studies and surveys will proceed to completion and will be published early in the new year.
So, there is some ambiguity about the publication date. We know that a number of the studies were complete as early as March this year, and of course the survey was completed in July. The studies and survey were due to be considered by the Opportunity Board in the cancelled September meeting. We can see no reason why those documents should not be published immediately.
Hart Sees the Light: Regeneration and Brownfield Capacity Study
The section on the capacity study begins with:
The new housing and communities secretary has recently said that “urban regeneration” and building homes on “neglected brownfield sites” will be a priority for the government. This is a clear sign that the focus on future growth will be directed at seeking to prioritise the opportunity to deliver growth wherever reasonably possible within the settlement areas.
This is a clear echo of what this campaign has been suggesting for years. Finally, the Government is using similar language and Hart is following suit. Only time will tell if this is a genuine “Hart Sees the Light” moment or whether they are paying lip service to the prevailing political winds.
The scope of the study is very wide ranging:
The proposal, therefore, is that the Council should commission a far ranging and robust study that assesses the opportunity and capacity for the district’s settlements to deliver regeneration, brownfield renewal, and general development intensification.
Examples of capacity sources are:
- Subdivision of existing housing.
- Flats over shops.
- Empty homes.
- Previously developed vacant and derelict land and buildings (non-housing).
- Intensification of development within existing areas.
- Redevelopment of existing housing.
- Redevelopment of car parks.
- Conversion of commercial buildings.
- Review of all existing land use allocations in plans.
- Vacant land not previously developed.
The study is going to be carried out with “policy off”, meaning that they not apply existing policy designations to the initial assessment.
It seems the work will not commence until the new Planning Bill has been passed. It is expected they will start in FY22/23.
The paper says that there are no financial implications of the paper. This is odd, given that the budget for Shapley Heath was £279K this year (before grants), and as of the end of September, they had only spent £81K. We might have hoped for a saving to be made.
The business case for the Local Plan is not included in the potential “Level 2 savings” in another paper put to the same meeting. This is odd, because it was clearly billed as such by Councillor Radley at Cabinet last month.